Another entrant in the disturbingly popular “most indefensibly brutal to prisoners” contest

An interesting philosophical and ethical question: is making prisoners kiss a bear’s backside a worse form of torture than insects placed in a confinement box and waterboarding or even running a car over a prisoner’s legs and rubbing sand into the wounds? They’re all nasty – but which is the MOST ridiculously appalling and indefensible?

wspa-asiatic-black-bear
Bears: #1 threat to Serbian prisoners

Seriously, Serbia, the United States of America, and the United Arab Emirates – you’re great disappointments to the rest of humanity, all three of you. Look around you: do you like the company you’re keeping in the previous sentence? Do you? No?

For god sake, let this be a wake-up call.

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44 responses to “Another entrant in the disturbingly popular “most indefensibly brutal to prisoners” contest

  1. Jeremy careful mate I see you lifted that first story straight out of a news paper.But not the Hun, so onward, I gotta tell ya looking at Dragon’s kisser if there was a choice I would rather kiss the bears arse than his.

    Water boarding I should think would be the less dangerous after all, you don’t want the fucker to die on you before you get all the information you want.

    Now insects in a confinement box is probably similar to a good dose of the crabs.Walking dandruff as it’s called in the circles I mix in. My son had a dose he had to call on a flame thrower to get rid of them them.Caught them in Pt Hedland as I remember it.

    Now running over some ones legs and then rubbing sand in them seems like a good waste of sand to me.Is that brickies sand or garden sand?

    Of course you could always use the sand by putting it in sand bags, and tying them around a persons feet before hanging them.After all those barbaric Arabs are mostly on the light side:)

  2. I saw in The Age a couple of days ago that The Taliban have generously handed back the decapitated head of a Polish man they imprisoned for, umm, actually they were unclear as to why he was imprisoned. But off with his head anyway.

    So what was the question? Ah yes, who are the barbarians?

    I wouldn’t mind kissing a bear’s arse, as long as I’d had a few beers first.

    Mind you, I was detained in a guraded lockup in Serbia for one night back in 1993. I only had to metaphorically kiss arse, and hand over a lot of cigarettes.

    So, I reckon the running over one is the worst.

  3. They all make me sick.

  4. Id rather kiss a bear’s arse than get run over by a car any day.

  5. So… Serbia’s been outclassed in the field of indefensible torture by the US and one of its allies?

  6. Of course this appears in the papers around the same time as the torture memos were released.
    “Look, other countries do it too!”
    Sorry, but I’m not distracted.

    If the Taliban do something horrible, apparently we’re allowed to suspend our humanity and get medieval on their asses.

    You think waterboarding is the safest? The torturers kept a tracheotomy kit in the dungeon. Throat spasms happen a lot, and they didn’t want their drowning victims to die prematurely.

    After a few years of relentless, mind melting torture, I’m sure they got lots of juicy information.
    “I shot JFK…caused the economic crisis…saw Elvis in a roadside diner…”

  7. Waterboarding is horrible and indefensible Karl, but I’d rather suffer 1,000 throat spasms than have my head cut off at the throat.

    You should be satisfied that American torture makes front page of our daily papers and the western world gets to voice their disapproval, whereas the constant beheadings and slayings perpetrated by apocalyptic psychopaths makes page 22. From reading your comments on other posts, I understand that US aggression hurts you more than the aggression of its enemies. I don’t understand why, but you just seem to be think that way.

  8. If a pedestrian walks out in front of a car and is killed through no fault of the driver, the driver is still a killer. As is, say, Jack the Ripper. But no sane person would equate the actions of Jack the Ripper and the driver.

    The perversion of logic evident in this thread is to define some marginal action into a category and then treat it as being equal to all other actions within that category.

    The idiot position is that it is worth sacrificing the lives of thousands to avoid discomforting someone who has already killed 3,000 people. If we could be sure that only the idiots prepared to take that risk would be killed, it might not be such a bad thing.

  9. Ignoring the very strong argument that torture does not actually work, even if the criterion is simply “does it provide us with useful intelligence?” – the main issue is that a civilised society has lines it will not cross. It doesn’t torture because it is wrong, and the true test of our humanity is how we treat the people we most despise.

  10. I think I’d choose the bear, (hopefully they might find me a pretty one) — it sounds considerably less painful and I reckon I’d probably recover from a bit of humiliation a lot quicker than having multiple bones broken.

    To answer your question Jeremy, I reckon the UAE entrant wins the prize for the most appalling.

    Karl…

    You really are the gift that keeps on giving aren’t you….I’m sure in some circles it’s very de rigeur to be all anti-USA, but in the commonsense world most people realise that the US isn’t really evil incarnate.

  11. What if the bear had swine flu?

  12. Swine flu could make it haram, thereby greatly increasing the gravity of the torture in the case of muslim prisoners. Perhaps you should obtain a fatwa on this issue.

  13. Hopefully they might find me a pretty one.

    Hey GavinM

    Does one of these float your boat?

    Sorry mate, couldn’t resist.

    Cheers.

  14. I’m not sure why people would defend the US on the grounds that other nations are even worse. It’s like defending your garden-variety murderer for not being Martin Bryant.
    And on some issues, the US is worse than other nations. It’s ‘war’ on drugs and every other crime means that about 25% of the world’s prison population resides within the US. And for all the ‘democracy’ that supposedly happens domestically, US foreign policy the past few decades is easily more brutal than that of China, or the former USSR.

  15. GavinM – If being against torture is anti-USA, then yes I’m guilty as charged.

    Yelling from the rooftops about crimes in the UAE isnt going to change anything. But we can make people aware whats happening on this side of the fence…and clean up our own backyard. Our crimes are just as hideous (but much better concealed).

  16. “I’m not sure why people would defend the US on the grounds that other nations are even worse.”

    Not defending, just wondering why Karl finds it less conscionable than the tactics employed by others far more barbarous.

    “US foreign policy the past few decades is easily more brutal than that of China, or the former USSR”

    Poppycock.

    “Our crimes are just as hideous (but much better concealed).”

    POPPYCOCK in capitals. Our crimes are less hideous, and much worse concealed.

  17. Poppycock? Since WWII, I can’t think of a nation that has done more to suppress democracy around the world. The record of US-sponsored atrocities in Latin America alone is horiffic, and by itself eclipses the crimes of the other major powers.

  18. THEY tell me a bear-arse steak is lovely to eat.

  19. Hi Marek,

    Lol — Cripes, they’re even scarier than the real bears :)

    THR,

    You certainly have an interesting take on history, don’t you…Stalin and Mao really were jolly old fellas weren’t they, true champions of democracy, freedom and civil rights, and their successors equally so.

    “US foreign policy the past few decades is easily more brutal than that of China, or the former USSR”

    Perhaps you could try telling that to the people of – in no particular order – Tibet, Mongolia, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Afghanistan, South Korea, Chechnia (spelling ?), and the Ukraine not to mention Chinese and Russian citizens themselves…and the numerous African nations in which Russia in particular actively worked to establish regimes friendly to their government throughout the Cold War era and beyond.

    We could also perhaps include the presence of Russian military “advisors” manning Egyptian missile launchers during the 1956 Middle Eastern war.

  20. I pretty clearly distinguished between US domestic and foreign policy. Nobody is saying that Stalin and Mao were nice guys.

    You’re right to point out that the USSR also had a brutal foreign policy. Russia continues in this vein toward Chechnya. The war with Georgia last year was more complex, and can’t really be included.

    In any case, none of this alters the carnage that the US has wrought in Latin America, Indochina, the Middle East, etc. It continues to this day – aside from being at war in 2 countries, the US directly sponsors a number of dictatorships around.
    One reason why I think it’s valid to single out the US is that the US is simply the biggest superpower on the planet (for now). Another reason is that Australia has a very different relationship to the US than to Russia or China (though we have a close trading relationship with the latter). US foreign policy isn’t merely an abstract concern in Australia, given that we have signed ourselves up to the War on Terror, and our politicians have more or less endorsed the US as purveyors of Good Western Values and democracy.

  21. I’m not by any means saying the USA is perfect, it does have its fair share of dubious dealings, but then, what major country doesn’t — but I reckon given the choice I’d rather live under it’s principles than those of either Russia (past or present), or China.

    I think Russia certainly has had it’s fingers in the Latin American pie as well, and appear to be continuing to work on establishing relationships with various countries there, Cuba of course springs immediately to mind and I suspect that the USA’s dealings there have come about from a mindset of not allowing another Communist regime establishing itself on it’s doorstep — of course they have Venezuela now, so they haven’t entirely succeeded.

    I think that both China and Russia did a fair bit of meddling in Indo-China as well.

    Lets be honest, all of the “super-powers” have tried to influence other countries by fair means or foul, such is the way of the world and Real-politiks.

  22. I dont know what wonderous fairyland you are comparing the US to, to be honest.

    Compare any of the current or past superpowers to the US – England, France, Japan, Russia, China and the US looks pretty good in comparison.

  23. True, but only because they were utter arseholes.

  24. You would think that if someone wanted to eliminate torture they might start with the most egregious cases. Not the ‘hate America’ left.

    Those morons expand the category of torture and then direct their venom to the fact that the US has discomforted three mass-murderers.

    Here Liz Cheney wipes the floor with a hyperventilating airheaded presenter. This piece just tells it like it is.

  25. Actually, I’m not sure they would. For two reasons.

    1. Only in democratic societies that hold themselves to a higher standard is there any prospect of actual change; and
    2. It’s important for those who hold themselves out to be the good guys to set an example.

    If we ignore anything the US does so long as it’s not as bad as China, and put all our hopes in China suddenly remembering human rights, then things will never improve.

    The end goal is NO TORTURE, not degrees of torture. That battle is probably – or at least ought to be – winnable in the US sooner than it will be in the brutal dictatorship that is China.

  26. As for Liz Cheney – two questions:
    1. If waterboarding or insects in a confinement box is not “torture” then what is? What do you define as torture?

    2. Say it “works” and gets useful information (she admitted being a witch! Burn her!) – where do you draw the line? What is unacceptable to do to a prisoner if you think you’ll get information? Anything at all?

  27. There is little doubt that Obama will play nice with captured terrorists. Sadly it is unlikely that he will pay with is life as some of his fellow citizens will.

  28. Torture doesn’t include scaring the shit out of someone.

    Waterboarding is obviously more severe than a good talking to. Its use should be proportionate to the potential benefits and tightly controlled. We need to take a more nuanced approach.

    This is a dishonest method of argument whereby something is shoe-horned into a particular category of nastiness purely for rhetorical purposes. The only reason this is done is to circumvent any discussion of other relevant factors. It is more of a blunt instrument than mandatory sentences for particular classes of crime.

  29. No, it isn’t. It is entirely legitimate to ask where a person arguing on the topic draws the line.

    When the person is saying that the Geneva Conventions don’t apply, then what is the line they will not cross? IS there one?

  30. There’s no “nuanced approach” to torture, it’s a simple question: is it right or wrong?

    If you think its acceptable, would you be prepared to suffer torture if you were suspected of a crime?

  31. Jeremy:

    No, it isn’t. It is entirely legitimate to ask where a person arguing on the topic draws the line.

    Waterboarding is a severe but legitimate interrogation method. It would be wrong to use it in a trivial case and it would also be wrong not to use it where there is the very real possibility of saving many lives.

    It is just far more appetising for the hate America left to bash America than for them to attempt to do something more difficult in relation to much more serious matters.

  32. On what basis do you say it’s “legitimate”? Where do you draw the line? Is anything “legitimate” if it has a “very real possibility of saving many lives”?

  33. I think waterboarding is legitimate in certain circumstances because there is little chance of physical injury and it does not involve the infliction of pain on the subject.

    It does cause the subject fear as they believe that they are drowning, and as such should be reserved for serious cases.

    Apart from use in training their own soldiers, the US has used waterboarding only in cases where there is a real prospect of saving lives, and only at the express consent of the president. Oversight was provided by congressional committee consisting of members of both major parties.

  34. So it’s no holds barred on psyscological torture/sensory deprivation as there is no physical injury or pain??

    Contrary to what some seem to think, there is no such thing as a little bit of torture.

  35. I don’t think torture is acceptable simply to gain a confession. That is why we have courts.

    I think in the “ticking bomb” scenario though, there are situations where it can be.

    If you think someone has information that may save thousands of lives then you have a responsibility to get that information out of them.

    However – as Jeremy has already pointed out – it’s not really definite that the information you get will be reliable anyway, as many people would just make stuff up if they think it would stop the torture.

  36. Christopher Hitchens certainly thought that waterboarding was torture, suggesting that there must be something to it, given he is one of the biggest apologists for US brutality.

  37. The ‘ticking bomb’ scenario is always dragged out in these cases because it’s the only vaguely plausible justification – even then it’s sanitised and idealized way beyond reality.

  38. SB: “Waterboarding is a severe but legitimate interrogation method…”

    Are you aware that there’s been a little kerfuffle in the US on this recently?

    In fact that the US executed Japanese during the Tokyo Trials after WWII for employing waterboarding?

    So it’s ok for us to execute people for using it, but then legitimate for us to use it ourselves?

    Why?

  39. Belated reference for my last comment:

    http://crooksandliars.com/david-neiwert/correction-we-actually-did-execute-j

    The video at that link shows Paul Beluga (a journalist) making the point to Ari Fliesher (ex Bush press spokesman). There was confusion for a few days about whether Beluga was actually correct, but he was.

    The key passage in the following talks about John McCain’s comments last year during the Presidential campaign on the topic:

    “McCain is referencing the Tokyo Trials, officially known as the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. After World War II, an international coalition convened to prosecute Japanese soldiers charged with torture. At the top of the list of techniques was water-based interrogation, known variously then as ‘water cure,’ ‘water torture’ and ‘waterboarding,’ according to the charging documents. It simulates drowning.” Politifact went on to report, “A number of the Japanese soldiers convicted by American judges were hanged, while others received lengthy prison sentences or time in labor camps.”

    Water torture was also used during the Korean War but I don’t know if anyone was ever charged as the result of that war was inconclusive.

    However when I was a kid watching TV shows like “Combat” water torture was an occasional theme and presented as a horror on the scale of anything the Gestapo did.

    It’s torture. It’s one of the worst forms in the modern world as it is surpassingly more efficient than medieval techniques that leave marks and permanent physical injury – ie. evidence.

  40. Are there any actual examples where those techniques have been used in a “ticking time bomb” scenario? Are there any real life examples where thousands of lives have been saved thanks to the use of waterboarding?

  41. Yes there are – the TV series “24″.

    Oh, you meant non-fictional ones. There are some vague hypothetical ones you can sometimes hear about on right-wing websites where waterboarding SAVED MILLIONS OF LIVES. But they’re light on citation or specifics, largely because they’re imaginary.

  42. Well at least one uber-conservative blogger, Jim Manzi, of The Corner, agrees with you.

    Therefore, since you agree with Jim Manzi, you must be a pro-American right-wing warmonger.
    Jeremy Sears’ true colours revealed at last! :-)

  43. AS my Aussie Vietnam veteran mate use to tell me, he was more afraid of the Yanks in Vietnam, then the Viet -Cong—he died a bitter man from the effects of Agent Orange.

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