Thursday, 9 July 2009

Three of his fingernails were missing II

I've posted before on this issue. There's a strong suspicion that agents of the British government have been complicit in torture, perhaps deliberately 'outsourcing' it to Pakistan to avoid direct responsibility. David Davis MP - who I'm not a fan of most of the time - did us all a valuable service in raising the issue in the House of Commons earlier this week. His statement is here and sums up most of my own thoughts.

I think it's of critical importance we get to the bottom of this issue. We need full disclosure in the matter and the bringing to account - prosecutions if at all possible - of any people involved in complicity with torture. I suspect there was at least a turning of a blind eye at very high levels.

Davis's statement ends with this moral summation:

'The battle against terrorism is not just a fight for life; it is a battle of ideas and ideals. It is a battle between good and evil, between civilisation and barbarism. In that fight, we should never allow our standards to drop to those of our enemies. We cannot defend our civilisation by giving up the values of that civilisation.'

Yes, but I would add a more pragmatically self-interested rationale. Our government mustn't be allowed to get anywhere near torture. It's not a precedent we, as citizens, can afford to tolerate.


Bunny Smedley said...

Hear, hear! Excellent post. Although I share your reservations about David Davis MP in general, he's got a point in this case - while your final sentence gets it exactly right.

Hey Skipper said...

Our government mustn't be allowed to get anywhere near torture. It's not a precedent we, as citizens, can afford to tolerate.

That final sentence has it exactly wrong.

The torture under discussion here is within the context of a war; therefore, it is an act of war.

The problem facing you (and Appleyard, and Brit, usw) is that you have prima facie condemned torture, without troubling yourselves to explain why this particular act of war, as opposed to all others, is uniquely always worthy of absolute prohibition.

I don't think you can get there from where you are standing.

Gaw said...

Bunny: Good to know others feel as strongly (and I've got the spelling of DD right now!). I would be interested to know your opinion of how this debate is playing out in the US particularly in the context of what appears to be a nervous breakdown in Republicanism (the Palin soap opera and the extreme paranoia over Obama also being symptoms).

Skipper: It's like deja vu all over again! I think a fundamental issue with your argument is that you're 'problematising' something that until Cheney got torture redefined as 'enhanced interrogation' wasn't considered a problem. I simply don't believe the intervention of Dick Cheney is sufficient to introduce definitional doubt where previously there was none.

There have been numerous comparisons between the US under Bush and Cheney and the policy of the Churchill Govt in WWII. Despite the situation in the UK being more serious by multiples than that of the US post-9/11, the definition of torture remained what it had been.

Hey Skipper said...


No, I'm not problematising anything. I will take it as stipulated that torture exists. Heck, I'll even grant that the coercive techniques the Bush administration green-lighted amounted to torture

That still leaves completely undisturbed the question I posed above.

Try reasoning from basic principles: what is war; why do we engage in it; within the conduct of a war, why do we engage in any particular act of war.

A blanket condemnation of torture is superficially appealing, but I doubt it will stand up to rigorous analysis.

Sean said...

I am with Skip on this one, Sadly. War is war.
Its sadly not a battle of ideas, its a battle of who is still standing at the end. Us or them.

It not a very wise choice for any agent of the British state to hand over people to the Pakistani secret services, but it is also not very wise to tie the hands of the people trying to defend us.

As for Gitmo, if I was to waterboard you gaw, I would have everything I wanted out of you within the hour, or if not you would be dead, I would not have to redo it 200 times, so what does that tell you about what the Gitmo? torture of psychological harassment?

Here is something to worry about, the Pakistani state has around 150 small nuclear weapons with miniaturized delivery systems. lets all hope they keep them safe.

Bunny Smedley said...

No idea about the USA, Gareth - I have a UK passport now, not a US one, and in fact haven't set foot in the USA since, from memory, 1997 or thereabouts. Nor do I follow the mysterious political goings-on there any more. So I'm probably not your best source!
More to the point, though, I don't agree with this whole 'war is war' point, for a variety of reasons, in no particular order: (1) there ARE rules of warfare, that even very bad regimes have, historically, accepted at least some of the time, which surely has, to a large extent, been a good thing; (2) as a military tactic I don't accept that torture 'works', in the sense of getting the 'truth' out of someone rather than simply what the torturer wants to hear; (3) as a point both of military discipline and civil governance, the effect of torturing people on the torturer is, by every account I've ever seen, appalling, and not great when it comes to peacetime re-integration with the civilian population.

But then in a sense it comes down to a nursery-type sort of proposition - just because someone else is doing something horrible, that doesn't mean we have to do it. Heaven knows, the UK has a proud record of success in asymmetric conflicts, and in general hasn't made a policy of stooping to some of the tactics its armed forces (and civilians) have encountered. Why, as a matter of policy, change that now?

Actually, I'm also a bit disturbed that there's anyone out there who is willing, in essence, to imply that as long as something helps one win a war, well, that's fine, just do it. In any event, claiming that 'this particular act of war, as opposed to all others, is uniquely always worthy of absolute prohibition' is just wrong - there's nothing 'unique' about 'absolute prohibition' amongst first-world, professional forces on plenty of practices that might otherwise be used as intentional, sactioned military tactics: using civilians as human shields, just to pick an obvious example, or using biological or chemical weapons on civilian populations.

Please keep pursuing this issue, Gareth. Of all this country's many proud traditions, the prohibition on torture is one very much worth preserving.

Gaw said...

Skipper and Sean: Bunny has expressed better than I was about to why I think your arguments are wrong. The only thing I'd add is that in one instance I'm sure you're right, Sean. I'm sure that if you had a suspicion that I'd murdered Michael Jackson you would have me confessing within the hour...I've no idea why they had to use waterboarding so many times at Guantanamo - perhaps they didn't indicate clearly what answers were expected?

Bunny Smedley said...

Sorry to keep worrying over this, but I've thought of several more practices on which there is an 'absolute prohibition' as a matter of intentional behaviour on the part of first-world, professional armed forces: rape, the mutilation of enemy dead, and killing prisoners of war. As ever, the reasons for this have more or less nothing to do with being sweet and cuddly to the enemy, but everything to do with maintaining discipline, morale and a sense of professional pride amongst our own forces. Refusing to engage in torture - and of course there are definitional issues there, as there are with everything I've listed above - fits the same model.

And now I'm going to try to think about something a bit more cheerful.

Sean said...

Of course Gaw some folks are sadistic shits, but profesional soldiers dont want to waste time and will be very aware of people telling them what they want to hear. People are just being idealistic in beliving that torture does not work, I am afraid its devistatingly effective, if its done right and not to sadistic ends, thats why all the worlds armies train their men to resist it as much as they can, its why war planners keep their counsel so the troops fighting are as much in the dark as the enemy is.

My grandfather was one of the first troops to reach Belsen, and I can tell Bunny has a very glorifed and nobel narrative of British military operations, but the bit the historians miss out is the tactics we used to find the officers and commanders who ran Belsen, they also miss out the same tactics we used to go Nazi hunting in occuped Germany.

Sure Bunny and yours are perfect rational arguments, but we dont live in a rational world, its often ugly and at the end of the day the thing that sepeartes us from our cosy but bankrupt western liberal world and the sorry folks who live in huts and have to fetch water 3 times a day is just a few days without electricity.

My Wife puts it best, in China they have a saying, paddy to paddy in three generations, first generation works hard to get out of the paddy, second generation builds the wealth to keep them out of the paddy, third generation lives a cosy life without any idea about what work in the paddy is like and blows the lot and ends up back in the paddy.

She says to our children, "my grandfather fled china with burnt feet, my father fled Malaysia with a whipped back and now you have to look after what you have or the story comes true"

I think its three generations on since WW2 and the horrors of what has to be done to save your life and existance are now a long gone memory, and clinging to ideals however nobel will be manor from heaven for the very people who wish our part of human civilisaition dead and gone.

I grew up in the cold war with the threat of nuclear devestation the lingering backdrop, but at the back of my head was the thought that the Russians no matter what the ideology where human too and would wish to survive. Now we live in the age of Nuclear proliferation and we live in an age where living and the value of life means nothing to the very people who would wish us death, using something like a nuclear weapon will come naturually to the 9/11 hijackers.

Another problem not widley understood in the West is that Eastern and especially Middle eastern powers have long fought proxy wars, a good example is Iran and Hizbullah in Lebanon, using such weapons though surrogates will come nauturally to some people.

I will leave you to your perfect rational and obviously correct arugments, What I expect is my government and its agents take all nessesary steps to protect what we have from the irrational world as much as they can.

Gaw said...

Sean: You also make comparisons between now and WWII. We faced a true existential threat then, but official policy didn't approve torture. Of course, in war people will 'freelance' sometimes for very understandable reasons, such as those provided by Belsen. However, this sort of thing must always be a transgression from what's legally permitted. Churchill often deserved his 'warmonger' tag but never countenanced torture: I'm happy to be in his camp, which in no way could be described as irresolute.

sean said...

Offical policy never apporoves Torture, but it is a white lie. N Ireland, Cyprus, Falklands, Iraq ect, I could go on and give many examples of information gained from harsh interogation by British forces. What simply happens is the higher command looks away.

If you consider the tactics used at Gitmo as torture the logical conclusion is that this is a war crime, thus Churchil ordering the bombing of Dresden was also a war crime as its results and justification and operation were both questionable.

If you think Churchil did not know Britsh secret service operations in Kensington in WW2 you must be living in fantasy land,

Google , the secrets of the London cage, Guardian 12 Nov 2005.

Sorry Hisotry says Churchil would have gone much further than Cheney and Bush.

Once agian to understand went on at Gitmo you have to understand special forces training, none of this was more than we put our soldiers through, its not nice, not pretty and is sickening, but making inmates wear Hindu Orange, women mensteral blood being thrown, and simulated water boarding (200 times?)is NOT torture. if its was they are not doing it right.

So do you also want the SAS stopped from learning how to "torture" people? thats the logic of your argument.

Gaw said...

Sean: this suggests the issue of the London cage is not black and white:

Churchill's likely attitude to the cage can be guessed at if you read these other articles on Churchill and torture. It's clear he was opposed to it, not just on moral grounds but because it doesn't work at all effectively or reliably:

Re history's judgement on Churchill: it is clear that he didn't approve of torturing captured German spies and that this didn't happen anyway, despite what was at stake.

I think you'll find Gitmo (and Abu Ghraib, etc.) was a lot worse than you suggest. An disproportionately large number of captives have died. It may be that the interrogators 'not doing it right'. But this is surely a pretty inevitable consequence of letting this thing loose.

Finally, there's an obvious subjective difference between being tortured by an enemy and being trained to resist torture by experiencing it from your own side.

sean said...

Dont get your facts from Sullivan, he is piss poor on history. I suggest you read andrew roberts "how torture won WW2"

My grandad was part of the de-nazification program after ww2 and sent many captives back to london, Churchil and atlee both knew what was going on, my grandfather told me they were assured of political and top brass support and got medals for filling the docks at Nurenburg.
Ill spare you the details of what they did, as you proberbly regard my grandfather as a war criminal.

As for Gitmo, from what I know many have tried and succeded in commiting suicide, its par for the course with islamists.

LOGIC, if I train you to resist tortue then you will become aware of the techniques used and their effectivness. Ill put that one down to congantive bias, along with torture does not work.

So when I was in the RAF and I sat in on mission briefings about urgent human intelligence accuired by the special forces in the first Iraq war, Am I a war criminal too for loading the weapons onto the tornados, does that make me complicit to torture?

Once again its a white lie, of course Winston and Bush and everyone else is not going to say "yup hands up, guilty as charged" get real.

Gaw said...

Sean, I don't think people should have been tortured to fill the docks in Nuremburg. Defeats the object a bit, doesn't it?

I'm sorry, I don't understand your point about Iraq. But I don't think you should assume that I would call you and your nearest and dearest war criminals.

As I've said elsewhere (in another very long blog debate on torture) I think whilst it should be prohibited legally, I can think of mitigating circumstances. If a jury decides that someone was situationally justified in torturing they could provide what's known as a 'perverse verdict' and they may be right to do so. But the trial should happen.

I'm not sure what your view is on the legality of torture. Do you think it should be made legal?

Gaw said...

Just read the Andrew Roberts piece. Very weak - a lack of evidence just for starters.

sean said...

MY gradfather was Polish and spoke perfect german with a german accent so was signed up, after the mock hangings, ect he would sit down with the suspects and do the good cop routine, he was very sure that between 80 and 90 percent of info gained was true and useful, as he told me, it was just a matter of giving them no where else to go.

And this is how torture/harsh techniques (delete as appropriate) works, its not about thumb screws, its about breaking suspects down, it comes down to a straight judgement does the good outway the bad, the answer I think In what i regard as the most dangerous time politicaly in my life is yes, any basic understanding of the nexus between the Pakistani armed forces, the ISI and the Taliban would I am sure agree, the ends do justify the means.

"human intelligence from special forces" means in general terms some poor soul got their head kicked in for it. And we tended to prize their intelligence over others for it accuracy especially in the Scud hunt saga, so was I complicit? I acted upon it as did we all, should we have asked how they got it?

Interesting no prosecutions for Stockwell, how so? was it that fact that any charges brought would have resulted in Mets armed response units threatening to walk away?

As too special forces and intelligence services, you can have all the laws you like, you tie their hands and you will not have a service, prosecutions are never going to happen, the white lie will be maintained, and my opinion is it should be maintained, see no evil speak no evil?

So AR not good enough for you then? fair enough, mI enjoyed his masters and commanders book, it rang true.

According to Richard Langworth, Churchill scholar, Obama quoting Sullivan "we dont torture" was a sham. unatributated and incorrect, the only mention of torture by Churchill was in regard to the cat o nine tails in prison. Also quoting Churchills daughter first hand, Langworth says she told him Churchil would have done anything to win the war.

Of course you are never going to have any documentry evidence on such an issue, but we know Churchill was a very intelligent man who had total command of even very small details espically about intelligence matters, which he regarded as the hammer to knock the door down.

But fakery from Sullivan is not unknown. Has he decided what side he is on yet? is it extinction or fighting with two hands tied behind your back?

Strangly enough I am up early this monday morning to catch a plane as it happens to Germany, I will catch up later in the week.

Gaw said...

Your grandfather wasn't complicit in torture in my view as he was interrogating spies who could quite properly have been executed. Threatening to hang them was not an idle threat. I suspect we'd describe what happened as plea bargaining.

Your second example about bashing heads in the field, in the heat of battle, I also don't think of as torture. It's certainly not comparable with Gitmo.

It's probable we won't know for certain about Churchill. But I read the contextual evidence one way, you read it another.

I have sympathy with Sullivan's change in attitude - unsurprisingly, as it mirrors my own! I was in favour of the Iraq war but turned against the Bush administration when it became clear the WMD was bollocks, they had no post-war plan worth speaking of and they were torturing. It's clear now that Abu Ghraib (and others) were, along with Gitmo, a product of policy. What happened in Abu Ghraib was an inevitable extension of having a permissive attitude to torture. If justice isn't seen to be done vis-a-vis Cheney and others we can look forward to other instances where despicable acts are carried out for no benefit and at the cost of demoralising ourselves and our cause. You said earlier it's not about ideas, it's about 'last man standing'. But the last man standing will only be standing if he, his home population and his allies believe it's worth it. Whether you like it or not, I feel sure a majority of people in the UK would not approve of the torture conducted at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib. Your robust approach is self-defeating.

Hey Skipper said...


I reason from basic principles: war is politics by other means. War itself consists of acts of war. The intent of every act of war is to promote the attainment of the war's political goals. (The consequences may, of course, differ.)

To properly assess torture/coercion (strikeout A/R), or any other act of war, requires deciding whether engaging in that act gains more than it costs. You have taken the a priori position that all torture, at all times, will cost more in attaining a war's goals than it gains. That position also assigns a sui generis aspect to torture as opposed to all the other acts considered part of war.

Consider this not-so-hypothetical: we have captured two men known to be high up in the al Queda hierarchy. We already know a little bit from independent sources, but neither detainee knows what we know, or what the other has said. We start by asking questions to which we know the answers as corroboration, as well as playing off each detainee against the other.

Let's assume we are after communication and funding information. To what lengths will you go to get that info? What does it do to your odds of getting it if the detainees know that coercion is off the table? Does your refusal to engage in coercion help, or harm, attaining the war's political goals? Since these are non-state actors (without highly visible bureaucracies), is there any other way to get the information?

I don't think Abu Ghraib was anything other than a leadership error -- the chain of command up to the General (a woman whose name I cannot remember) failed. That happens.

Also, I have absolutely no sympathy with Sullivan's change of attitude. There was a great deal more at stake than WMD -- the war was perfectly justifiable without them. However, to get to that conclusion requires understanding the entire status quo ante, and considering the alternatives.

Sullivan's reconsideration is empty moral posturing masking the amorality beneath it. Worse, it deprives the Iraqis themselves of any responsibility for their own decisions.

It is entirely possible that in five years, Iraq will be a reasonably stable, benign country (a la Jordan), Iran will no longer be a theocracy, Wahabbi Islam will be in eclipse, and Afghanistan will be emerging from the stone age.

Will the anti-war left be prepared to blame that all on Bush?

Gaw said...

So you would make torture legal? And trust our politicians (ultimately) to decide who was going to be tortured and why? You must be kidding.

I referred not just to WMD for changing attitudes to the Iraq War. For me (can't speak for Sullivan) what made me think the war could no longer be justified was not the lack of WMD - this just led to resentment about being lied to and led me to no longer give Blair or Bush the benefit of the doubt.

What did change my attitude was the Bush administration's negligence, arrogance, incompetence, hubris, ignorance, and recreation of a highly politicised 'spoils' system with respect to post-war Iraq. The consequence of this was that an act that could have been on balance a good thing created more death and misery than the continuance of Saddam. I agree that all the good things that you refer to in the penultimate paragraph may happen. However, they will happen in spite of Bush. He wasn't the only politician in favour of intervention but he and his cronies were just about the only ones responsible for the disastrous lack of planning and seriousness in the aftermath of the war.

Intervention could only be justified if it were done with the greatest circumspection. A reckless approach fatally undermined the initial rationale.

Finally, you exhibit a characteristic I see a lot in the US: the insistence that your opponent is making his arguments in bad faith. You accuse Sullivan (and, I assume, me) of empty moral posturing, i.e. there is no moral content to our arguments and in any event we're only putting them forward to grandstand.

Why should this be the case? With regard to torture I can't see how it's sustainable to claim opposition has no moral content. It's ridiculous. The vast majority of Christians strongly oppose torture (at least over here), but their morality is 'empty'?

And your vigorous assertion of your moral take on this issue is genuine, where people like Sullivan and me are just showing off? It's a weak, disingenuous tactic that is seriously corrosive of democracy and pluralism.

I'm quite worried about the US, where the idea of a 'loyal' opposition is being abandoned by parts of the polity, especially in the Republican party. This will be productive of violence at some point, I fear.

Hey Skipper said...


So you would make torture legal?

Clearly, you are against torture. My point was to determine, reasoning from basic principles what you are for, instead. I find it singularly odd that there is, in your view, never any case for pulling several fingernails off, yet killing and maiming people is OK.

Bunny makes my point for me (10 July, 2325), although he did not intend to.

Yes, there are rules of warfare. Western nations tend to adhere to them for two reasons. First, almost exclusively, the acts considered to be breaches of those rules do not actually contribute to attaining the war's goals. Second, as a consequence, engaging in those acts violates one of the primary principles of war: economy of force.

In almost all cases, particularly for nation states, there is very little actionable information to be gained from a captive, and almost all of it is time sensitive. Torturing such people would be an empty exercise -- it would do nothing to advance the war's aims, and would waste resources.

However, that isn't always the case, particularly when dealing with non-nation state actors. The hypothetical I gave above is really not hypothetical. The US really did get its hands on two highly placed Islamists, and was able therefore to corroborate information gained from them. The problem facing you, and Brit, and Appleyard, etc, is this: if non-coercive interrogation doesn't work, and you won't allow torture (although I don't think waterboarding applies), then by definition you are in favor of not obtaining information which, given the cellular nature of terrorist organizations is both extremely important, and probably unattainable any other way.

Now, as to whether I would make torture legal: Yes, absolutely. Why? Because there are bound to be a few cases where doing so advances our warm aims. Making torture illegal will not stop it happening; rather, it will put it under the table and out of the way of true accountability.

On the other hand, if coercion and torture are legal, with approval level consistent with the degree of coercion, then people know what they are allowed to do, while also providing accountability for those cases where failing to obtain information will hinder our war aims (which means, again by definition, aiding the enemy's).

Torture is indeed a serious thing, but because a priori prohibition is an empty posture -- empty because devoid of context -- you advocate putting others in an impossible position.

Hey Skipper said...

The WMD issue needs to be put to rest. Recently released transcripts of Saddam's interrogation (reported, but not very loudly, by the New York Times) clearly show he very much intended to give the impression he had WMD, because he was afraid of the Iranians.

Bush, Blair, etc (and there are a lot of people in that etc) did not lie, they were misled by Saddam's own actions. Those are two very different things.

Post hoc mind changing based upon the lack of a post-war plan suffers several serious shortcomings. First, the reasons for engaging in the war (i.e., is it a just war) are entirely independent from how competently the war, or its aftermath, were handled. Sullivan completely fails to understand this distinction.

Second, it fails to acknowledge context. Within the previous decade, a whole series of authoritarian/totalitarian regimes had fallen virtually without bloodshed. It is a shame that the collapse of the Iron Curtain led to unreasonably benign expectations, but it is very understandable.

Last, and worst, is this: The consequence of this was that an act that could have been on balance a good thing created more death and misery than the continuance of Saddam. Not only is that highly debatable, given that some of our "allies" were undermining the sanctions, but you have eliminated Iraqi agency: almost all the Iraqis killed since the invasion were killed by other Iraqis, or jihadis. They could have chosen to create a civil society; instead, they preferred sectarian slaughter. Since Saddam would have passed from the scene eventually, so would that mayhem have come to pass. Just later, and probably worse.

Hey Skipper said...

Finally, you exhibit a characteristic I see a lot in the US: the insistence that your opponent is making his arguments in bad faith.

Actually, I didn't. I am saying that you are taking an emotionally satisfying position that will not survive analysis. That is not at all the same thing as making an argument in bad faith, or grandstanding.

I said arguments were amoral because, in both cases, they are very much against something without being for something.

Blanket opposition to torture is, in fact, an empty position. If you were to learn that the repeated waterboardings of two Islamists rolled up a half dozen cells, and allowed intercepting communications for twenty more, were those waterboardings immoral? What if pulling those fingernails led to those results: still immoral? If you were the decision maker provided with a good case (multiple overlapping sources) that torture was required to provide such information, what is your answer?

The morality of any action can be judged only with respect to not taking that action. Failing to consider the flip side of the coin is what makes opposition, whether to torture or the invasion of Iraq, empty and amoral.

My assertions are "vigorous" because they are analytical. (Full disclosure: I am a retired Air Force officer, flew in Desert Storm, spent time in the Pentagon, and have an undergraduate degree in International Relations. I have spent a lot of time with this stuff.) That doesn't make me right, but it does mean I have presented an argument that can be rebutted.

So when I say your position (and Sullivan's, or the vast majority of Christians) fails, that means I find it analytically inadequate. That is not weak or disingenuous, nor is it corrosive of democracy and pluralism; rather, that is making an argument and following it to its conclusion.

Gaw said...

Skipper: I think you'll find that your argument that actions such as torture can only be judged in a particular context is applicable to many, many acts we currently judge morally unacceptable. I'm sure you could justify murder in certain contexts. Or chopping people's hands off. Perhaps we should make these acts legal as long as it's judged OK on a case-by-case basis by our politicians?

The taboos and prohibitions that we hedge around our acts of military violence are critical in acting as bulwarks against this violence spilling over into the civil realm.

The process would prove ineluctable: torture is admitted as acceptable against 'enemy combatants', then against 'non-state actors', then against 'renegade citizens'. (In the US, you're already quite far down this process). Ultimately torture is set loose on any citizen judged as holding critical, life-or-death information - as judged by the authorities. Timothy Veigh would probably have been tortured if we took your path. Possibly his mother and father too? And friends, I mean, you can't be too sure. I can't believe you're OK with this.

You talk about people being put in an 'impossible' position by my argument - well, it's a position that's been around for quite a while now and we seem to have managed.

Iraq War: Blair clearly misrepresented his evidence of WMD with the intention of scaring people into supporting the war.

The decision to wage a just war is independent of the means to do so? What if doing so would be suicidally reckless, for instance? Is that a good decision?

Comparisons with Eastern Europe were always dismissed over here. Totally different.

I think there's a lot in the Hobbesian view of society, particularly in cases where law and order actually consist of gangsterism and naked violence. We removed Leviathan in Iraq - what did you expect?

Re the morality of your overall argument, it seems very straightforward: you believe the end justifies the means. To criticise opposition to this on the grounds of absence of moral content is wonderfully perverse.

Sean said...

Sorry I forgot about this post.

Just to point out, My grandfather interrogated civilians, judges, civil servants, and well as military personal and indeed spies.

mock executions, sleep deprivation, hosing with water, humiliation, deliberate poor food and sanitation conditions, and silence, apparently not having someone talk to you for a few weeks really gets to a lot of people, as too at Gitmo making the Islamists dress in Hindu Orange, that apparently is an absolute soul breaker.

He told be all this stuff in the Pub the day before I went to the Gulf, previous to that apart from his experiences at Belsen I only had an outline of what he did.

As skip points out, to NOT do this would have given the Nazi insurgency wings (yes there was one) and not given Germany the clean break it needed from its history, and not given the Allied populations the justice that they needed from Nuremberg.

Ive always been struck by Ibn Khalduns definition of government, "an institution which prevents injustice other than such as it commits itself "The Historian Ernest Gellner thought this to be the best description in all political history.

From my Blog thingy

War is a nasty thing, its best from my limited experience to try and avoid it. The day after the Gulf war finished, we jumped in a helicopter and went to have a look at some of the targets in southern Iraq we had hit, including the infamous Basra road, where the fleeing Iraqi army was smeared into the concrete, its a bit like the scene in Full Metal jacket where they are hunched over a pit of bodies and one by one they say something profound, until the last guy "better them than me", sadly that the way it really is, no law or lawyer, judge or jury will ever change that.

I am enjoying your blog btw :0)

Gaw said...

Thanks Sean.