Rudy (Wrong) On Torture

Recently, we examined the story of Sadeq Mohammed Saeed, a Jihadist who had, after being detained in Guantanimo Bay, was transferred to Yemen and subsequently released as a result of being held without charge.

Failures in the Sadeq story occurred on two levels.  On the first level was the fact that he was being held without any kind of formal charges.  This failure resulted in a Jihadist being released when further detainment could possibly be warranted.  Make no mistake, I’ve no qualms with people who are legally and properly identified as threats and criminals to be held, and the release of Saeed is a direct reflection upon the inadequacies of the Administration to maintain a system that follows these standards.

But the second failure occurred in his treatment.

Saeed returned to his friends and family missing an eye, a harsh and ugly reminder that his treatment in Gitmo was not in good faith and keeping with the principles of decency that the US is supposed to uphold.  While such a matter as losing an eye will no doubt fail to gain the sympathies of those whose blood lust towards anything even resembling a terrorist, what they fail to take into account is the effect that latter repurcussions will have on the complex conflict we find ourselves in.

While there is, I suppose, an argument to be made that Saeed should never have been released, the fact that he was released can’t be changed, and the condition he was released in is indicative in the problem that torture exhibits that even those not sympathetic to decency should take into account.

Here is a man who was both physically and spiritually abused, and then returned to his family; do you think that they got the message that, “this is what happens when you mess with the US”, and will therefore change their evil ways?  No.  The message they got was, “this is what they do to people, we are fighting the right war against the right monstrous enemy.”

Had Saeed been dealt with properly from day one, he may still be under custody right now, and if he should have found his way back to his family, he would not have tales of American evil to tell.  He would not have given those around him even MORE reason to hate the US, and, in fact, had we engaged in proper treatment of him, he may have told a story much in conflict with the narrative that the myriad of anti US militant organizations abroad extoll to their followers in order to reinforce their ranks with new and zealous recruits.

This is what we talk about when we talk about torture not being right for Americans to employ due to the dangerous repurcussions it has on US credibility and integrity.  It is necessary to imagine how national sentiment would react to finding one of our guys coming home after receiving the same kind of treatment.  And if you want peace, if you want stability, this is all important, for the more we stir the hornet’s next with a big fat stick with “torture” written all about it, the more we can expect the hornets to swarm and try and sting us.

It should also be understood that this is no thin and fuzzy line; there is no gray area.  You either torture or you don’t, and if you approach the topic honestly and prudently, there should have to be no equivocations as to what is torture and what is not.

Apparently Rudy Giuliani does not feel that way.

Mr. Giuliani said: “Well, I’m not sure it is either. I’m not sure it is either. It depends on how it’s done. It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it. I think the way it’s been defined in the media, it shouldn’t be done. The way in which they have described it, particularly in the liberal media. So I would say, if that’s the description of it, then I can agree, that it shouldn’t be done. But I have to see what the real description of it is. Because I’ve learned something being in public life as long as I have. And I hate to shock anybody with this, but the newspapers don’t always describe it accurately.”


“If I can’t figure out that there’s been a significant media bias against this war, then I shouldn’t be running for president of the United States.”

“Sometimes they describe it accurately. Sometimes they exaggerate it. So I’d have to see what they really are doing, not the way some of these liberal newspapers have exaggerated it.”

“Now, on the question of torture. We should not torture. America should not stand for torture, America should not allow torture. But America should engage in aggressive questioning of Islamic terrorists who are arrested or who are apprehended. Because if we don’t we leave ourselves open to significant attack.”

It is not enough for Rudy to engage in the same precise verbal maneuvering that the current administration has continued to employ in order to defend its unacceptable practices, but he also has to blame most of it on the “liberal media”.  Further, he not so subtly implies that if you don’t torture these people, you, the American people, will be killed by terrorists.

And in true Rudy fashion, he passes the buck (this time quite subtly) on to the troops.

“I know the liberal media paints them like, you know – These are the good guys, not the bad guys. They really are. I mean these are the people who put their lives at risk to protect you and me. These are people of scruples, honor, decency. They don’t want to torture anybody. They have no desire to harm anybody. What they are dealing with sometimes are these enormously difficult life and death situations, in which there is a possibility of getting information about a group of troops that are going to be killed, and they’re going to have to go tell their mothers and fathers that they were killed and there’s a chance maybe of stopping it. Or there are these – I mean, suppose some of the people who were going to do Sept. 11 had been captured beforehand. We sure as heck would want some very aggressive questioning to find out what they knew.’’

The only problem with this statement is that many of us (and I would consider myself as a part of the liberal media, all be it an incredibly small part) have not leveled the charge of torture against the lower ranks of the military.  We have, instead, laid the onus upon the upper ranks of the military and the Administration who define and enforce policy.  That is where the blame has always resided, and continues to rest to this day.

But shifting blame away from the Oval Office is, as I have hinted at above, all old hat for the Mayor who would be King.

Regarding the missing weaponry at Al QaQaa:

The Bush campaign also sends former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a frequent Bush campaign partner, onto television and radio shows to address the issue.

Mr Giuliani says the troops in Iraq, not Mr Bush, bore the responsibility for searching for the explosives.

“No matter how you try to blame it on the president, the actual responsibility for it really would be for the troops that were there. Did they search carefully enough – didn’t they search carefully enough?” Mr Giuliani tells NBC’s Today programme.

Courtesy Talk Left, Jon Turley gives an ample analogy to what we are talking about here:

Taking the opposite and more accurate view on waterboarding is law professor Jonathan Turley in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times, writing about the inadequate response of Michael Mukasey at his confirmation hearing:

At first, he repeatedly stated that he does not support torture, which violates the U.S. Constitution. This is precisely the answer given so often by President Bush like a mantra. The problem is that Bush defines torture to exclude things like water-boarding.

It is like saying you do not rob banks, but then defining bank robbery in such a way that it does not include walking in with a gun and demanding money from the cashier.

Giuliani and Mukasey are two peas in a pod.

The point simply being this, if you even have to make mention of a gray area, if you have to equivocate about where the line between right and wrong are being drawn, then you are pretty wrong.

And in the case of the other method of torture that Rudy Giuliani scoffs at, sleep deprivation, there is even further incentive to not equivocate; that being that the line has already been drawn, and the verdict is in.

Giuliani should familiarize himself with the US Army Field Manual on Interrogation, which describes “abnormal sleep deprivation” as a form of mental torture. Both the European Court of Human Rights and the Supreme Court of Israel have ruled sleep deprivation to be inhumane and unlawful.

Even John Yoo, the prime author of the administrations infamous torture memo, has conceded that sustained sleep deprivation can “amount to a violation of the Geneva Convention.”

Giuliani’s dismissive joke echoes a similarly tasteless joke made by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 2002. In the margins of an “action memo” declaring “stress positions,” such as standing for up to 4 hours, to be acceptable interrogation techniques, Rumsfeld scrawled “I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to four hours?“

In his book American Torture, Michael Otterman details some of the medical maladies that could result from the techniques that the administration and Giuliani would have us believe are utterly benign.  But as a report released earlier this year indicates (h/t Mike Otterman), not only are these techniques anything but benign, but are, despite the best efforts of White House Lawyers, still illegal.

Physicians for Human Rights and Human Rights First, the two non-governmental organizations that collaborated on the report, released it yesterday in Boston. Both organizations have been leaders in the fight against torture.

“What we found was that it’s pretty clear these techniques the administration has argued are not harmful, in fact, are quite harmful,” said Allen. “There are long-term consequences — things like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder); psychosis, substance abuse, and suicide.”

The report examines what are believed to be 10 techniques included in the Central Intelligence Agency’s “enhanced” interrogation program: stress positions; beating; water-boarding (mock drowning); exposure to extreme cold or heat; threat of humiliation to self, family or friends; sleep deprivation; sensory bombardment; violent shaking, sexual humiliation, and prolonged isolation.

The report notes that while the Bush administration’s executive order interprets the application of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions “to a program of detention and interrogation by the CIA,” but does not clarify what techniques the CIA can and cannot lawfully engage in, “and fails explicitly to rule out the use of the ‘enhanced’ techniques that the CIA authorized in March 2002.”

In a phone interview, Allen said one of the report’s main accomplishments “is to introduce objective data to the discussion, including scientific evidence and clinical expertise.” Too often, the discussions have been hypothetical, Allen said, “and there have even been “some false impressions” created through the entertainment media, such as the popular TV series, 24.

Unfortunately, we know all too well that the methodology of Jack Bauer is exactly what much of the Republican field (sans of course John McCain who is reasonable on this issue for obvious reasons) believes is in order.

However, it should not be forgotten that the kind of sixty minute television drama that the champions of torture talk about is likely to happen only on television.  As pointed out in Mark Sidel’s More Secure, Less Free, the mere statistical probability that you will have someone in custody who has critical knowledge of a lifetaking event that will happen in such a short amount of time that you will have to resort to less than ethical treatment whether it be torture or civil rights infringing surveillance is simply astronomical.

Meanwhile, these folks who aren’t even sure what is or is not torture treat every situation as though they have to get the vital information out of the bad guys before the commercial break.

The lack of knowledge on waterboarding, and the verbal acrobatics is, as Steve Benen puts it, is “crazy talk.”

At the risk of sounding impolite, these are the words of a crazy person.

Remember, Giuliani is running for president as an expert on counter-terrorism and national security policy. And yet he told this Iowa audience that he doesn’t know whether waterboarding is torture, and doesn’t know if newspapers can be trusted to describe the torture technique. Apparently, reality continues to have a “well-known liberal bias.”

Giuliani, adding to his thoughts on waterboarding, also said:

“Sometimes they [journalists] describe it accurately. Sometimes they exaggerate it. So I’d have to see what they really are doing, not the way some of these liberal newspapers have exaggerated it.”

It’s like listening to Bush without the charm.

While the Heretik points out the absurdity of trying to muddy what should be a very clear and distinct line:

The line between the two is very delicate, but the Geneva Conventions are very blunt. Those who don’t deem the treaties clear muddy the lines of distinction so they can do indelicate things. More Rudy:

“And the powers of the president are pretty significant in protecting the national security of the United States. They always have been. So I think what he was also trying to do was protect the powers of the United States to deal with unforeseen circumstances like the hypothetical we were asked during one debate – I’ve forgotten which one: If there was a terrorist attack on an American city, and it was clear that there were all going to be additional attacks, some of them were going to be nuclear, and they were planned for the next couple of days and one of the people involved in it was arrested, and the head of the C.I.A. came to you and said we have to do certain things to get the information from him, would you authorize it? And I think most of us answered it, yes we would, we would authorize doing whatever we thought was the most effective to get that information.”

We would authorize . . . whatever. Trust the right man to do the right thing, unless you have the wrong man.

“The president has to have that kind of leeway. We’ve got to trust our president well enough to allow that. If we surround this so much with procedure, we’re going to have some unforeseen circumstance in which a president’s not going to feel comfortable making the right decision, particularly if you have the wrong person there. “

“So I think America should never be for torture. America should be against torture.”

Thanks, Rudy. The torture of language and of logic will continue. Brought to you by the same people who believe others should be tortured not for what they do, but what they intend, while those who torture should be judged not by what they do, but by what they intend.

There are a multitude of reasons why we have such strong restrictions on our behavior towards suspects and criminals in the US, ranging from the moral (it is simply wrong to enact cruel and unusual treatment on people), to the more legalistic and logical (such as torture does not provide credible information).

One would think that given Rudy’s history as a law enforcement professional, he would remember that, but then, I think he does.

“That comes from people who have never investigated a real criminal case, never investigated organized crime. You know how I put hundreds of Mafia people in jail? And I helped to put thousands in Italy in jail? You know how I did it? I did it by electronic surveillance and aggressive questioning. None of them wanted to give me the information. They didn’t walk into my office and say, ‘I want to tell you about all of those Mafia murders…”

“They got ‘em because we arrested them, we got very significant charges on them, and we questioned them for long, long periods of time. With very aggressive techniques. Never ever tortured anybody. I can tell you that. Would never allow it. Don’t know of any situation in which the F.B.I. did it.’’

Which now makes me question not only Rudy Giuliani’s viability as a potential President of the United States, but also the integrity of his work in the past.

One Response to “Rudy (Wrong) On Torture”

  1. Jeff says:

    You should take a look at the Wounded Warriors Project. It raises awareness for severely wounded combat U.S. combat veterans in Iraq and Afghanistan. It really puts a face on the cost of this war. Here’s a link:


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