Is it Torture or Training?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Imagine enduring several days of muscle strain, chilled to the bone, starving from lack of food, tired beyond belief and recovering from random acts of humiliation. Would you live under such inhumane treatment? Am I describing the effects of enhanced interrogation? The answer is, NO! I’m talking about SEAL training.

That’s right! Training for the Navy SEALs is so strenuous that they have doctors on hand for hell week to ensure no one’s health is in danger. The training is meant to break down and weed out the average person and push recruits to the limit. The SEALs want only the most dedicated and those willing to push their bodies to the physical limits. Recruits are intentionally stressed with physical activity, sleep deprived, restricted food and diet, forced to physically deal with cold temperatures and humiliated and degraded the whole way through training.

Sounds a lot like another government program, doesn’t it? Yes, the enhanced interrogation methods are quite similar. Surprising that our government uses similar methods to weed out and test Special Forces as they do to interrogate terrorists? After all, these methods have been tried and true in breaking people down. However, the methods of interrogation and Special Forces training are not only similar in practice, but the same legal statute that allows the military to conduct hell week is the same one that shields former President Bush from prosecution.

Thanks to William Jacobson’s, associate professor at Cornell and author of the blog Legal Insurrection, the legal statute is listed below (Seriously Thanks! It would have taken me hours trying to navigate and find the statute in West Law. Jacobson also has a post explaining the statute)

18 U.S.C. sec. 2340 provides the definitions of what constitutes torture (emphasis mine):

As used in this chapter--

(1) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;

(2) “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from--
(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
(B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
(C) the threat of imminent death; or
(D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality; and

(3) “United States” means the several States of the United States, the District of Columbia, and the commonwealths, territories, and possessions of the United States.

Now the lefties reading the statute need to read carefully. Lawyer speak is not like the same language we use everyday. They often leave a few loop holes in order to create some wiggle room. The wiggle room in this case is the word intentional. Intent is very important in this statute. This is the key between training our SEALs and torturing them. Since the administration took drastic action to prevent the infliction of severe physical pain and suffering, there is a strong argument that there was no intent.

“But, Bush was toeing the line.” The lefties will say. You would be right. The Bush administration was certainly pushing the envelope, but was also trying not to cross the legal line that was drawn out by this statute. This may be considered morally bankrupt or indecent, but not illegal in the context of the statute.

You will notice that whether or not the subjects to these methods volunteer is not part of the legal definition. If there is one thing the lefties lack in their political thought, it is consistency. If we are to determine that sleep deprivation, physical and mental fatigue, humiliation and food restrictions are torture, then we must also prosecute SEAL trainers. However, the lefties aren’t going to make the debate on legal arguments, but Hate Bushism arguments. We are a nation of laws and that means that if the laws were not broken, we do not prosecute.

In the interest of informing, the NY Times has done a great job providing easy access to the enhanced interrogation memos. Feel free to check them out!


Devrim said...

A little flaw with your argument, SEALs volunteer for that training, Gitmo detainees didn't have a choice.

April 27, 2009 at 10:01 PM


You might be right. To some degree I am BSing and law was never my best subject. However, in law they like to apply tests. I see that volunteering in not in the statute. So let's test your theory.

I say to you, "Devrim, I'm going to torture you." For some odd reason, you say "ok." I tie you down and cut off one of your thumbs. You say, "ouch, I didn't think it would hurt so bad, let me go." After a few minute, I let you go. I think you could still have me arrested for torture, even with your consent. Likewise, stating that sleep deprivation is torture may allow any wash out from the SEALs later complain, "hey, I was tortured."

If anyone knows for sure, let me know.

April 27, 2009 at 11:08 PM
The Law said...

I don't know if I'm reading this right, but are you actually defending torture??? I don't care if there are 50 doctors in the room, "enhanced interrogation technique" or whatever euphemism they want to use is dead wrong.

In a Conservative Generation first, I actually 100% agree with Devrim!

When I was in high school, I decided if I didn't get into the college I wanted, I was going to join the Navy because I wanted to fly F-14s. I got the pamhplet and video of how they train the soldiers. Perhaps we can use the adjective "torturous" to descibe the intense training, but it is NOT the same. Take the Marine's crucible for example. That capstone endurance mission simulates a real war senario where a soldier may be in a firefight and must perform under extreme stress with no sleep. The context under which our soldiers endure such a physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing task is COMPLETELY different than torture.

Plus, one has to be really naive if they think that we use "enhanced interrogation techniques" by the book. Testimony from soldiers who spoke out about Guantanamo revealed that inmates were beaten for nothing else other than malice. It is a reasonable assumption that similar acts took place during interrogation.

April 28, 2009 at 12:01 AM


We may be on two different subjects. I was not arguing the morality of the methods or whether or not they should be used. The purpose of the post was to inform on the legal definition of torture and put the methods used in the memos into perspective. I have not made up my mind on whether I agree with them.

Your points are well taken. However, we have a legal definition of torture. We can change them, we can rewrite them, but we are also looking at prosecuting the Bush administration with them. To do so we must, by law, hold them accountable to the legal definition of torture at the time. I do not believe anything in the memos crossed the legal definition.

Point #1: My SEAL analogy was in defense of this point. Since the legal definition is inflicting severve physical pain or suffering. Do the techniques used to train SEALs equate with this definition? If it does, then how immoral are we to put our special forces recruits through torture? I do not believe that consent has anything to do with it. As you said on your blog tL, if it is, it is. If these methods are severe pain and suffering and someone volunteers, then perhaps they need mental help?

Point #2: You also need intent. The memos were very careful to try and not cross the legal line so intent would be hard to prove here.

I certainly don't agree with beating people out of malice. If this is the concern then why is Obama giving the interrogators amnesty? If we don't want them beaten, why are we looking to put them in American prisons where that will be the obvious outcome?

The administration can only be held accountable for what they wrote. I've read the memos and beating a prisoner within an inch of their life was not in them.

April 28, 2009 at 8:09 AM
Devrim said...

Look, I am not saying we should treat Gitmo prisoners nicely, I have a nice graph here including a 12 volt battery, doorbell and some "balls". If that is what it takes to stop the next 9/11, let's go ahead and do it. I would be sleeping rather soundly being the guy ringing the doorbell than the guy watch people jump from 100th floor of a building.

tL, training for a SEAL is much different than a Coast Guard, and guess what, the training of a SEAL includes those methods because there is a risk that he might be captured by the enemy, and those very techniques would be used on him. People volunteer to be in the SEALs, people do not volunteer to be in the 100th floor of a burning building.

We need to stop all this BS by just saying, "yes we do torture to keep us safe so what ?". And than instead of a blanket statement of "we don't torture", we can sign treaties with individual governments saying "You don't torture my citizens, I won't torture Yours".

April 28, 2009 at 8:12 AM

Great post, should we have hearings on the people responsible for this Navy Seal 'training'? Witch trials? Makes nearly as much sense.....

April 28, 2009 at 12:19 PM
The Law said...

Combat simulation and POW torture is not the same thing. SEAL training lasts for a few months. Some of these prisoners have been there for a few years.

There are two problems here. One is the double standard we practice. When a US solider is captured and tortured, we call the enemy immoral SOB, and seek retribution and swift justice. When we capture the enemy and torture him, well hell it's ok! it's in the best interest of our national security!

Problem two, and recent commentary has enlightened me to this idea, every country has been torturing each other for a long time. And all of this is in the deepest depths of classified information. So I can agree with the fact that opening the pandora's box is probably not in our best interest, especially if we are trying to unify the nation. The issue here, is that there is strong evidence that would indicate the law we had regarding torture had been, at best modified, to legalize extreme techniques, and apparently forced confessions (though the verdict is still out on this).

So let's just put this in perspective. We are beating these prisoners within a half inch of their life because we're pissed that they attacked us. The 1993 World Trade Center bombing was ineffective and only blew up some cars. The bombing of the US Embassy was far away so the attack wasn't close enough to home to resonate. But 9/11? That was a kick straight to our teeth. As a New Yorker (I marched in the labor day parade in NYC 3 days before 9/11) seeing that mushroom cloud on the horizon for all those months was one of the scariest things I've ever seen.

So let's not get it twisted here, we want to jack those futha muckas up. We couldn't find bin laden, and someone needs to pay. Let's be real about it. This lame justification for our actions: we torture our own soliders for training; what *is* torture really?; Throwing prisoners into walls is ok because it's flexible!; making them stand naked before a pack of starving dogs is just psychological breakdown!'s all lame justification.

We need to stop all this BS by just saying, "yes we do torture to keep us safe so what ?". And than instead of a blanket statement of "we don't torture", we can sign treaties with individual governments saying "You don't torture my citizens, I won't torture Yours".We're 2 for 2 Devrim... I have long argued that the Geneva Convention treaty was long outdated, and doesn't account for modern warfare. Maybe individual treaties is the solution.

April 28, 2009 at 1:39 PM
Devrim said...

tL , have we used any "enhanced" interrogation tactics on a Swedish ? Or a Dutch ? Or a German ?

The people we captured, and used the "enhanced" interrogation tactics didn't have any problems beheading a journalist (Daniel Pearl), who never wielded a weapon against them.

Your own words " Some of these prisoners have been there for a few years " , please do remind me, what was the time frame Sen. John McCain (R-AR) spent in the Hanoi Hilton ? Would you describe his living conditions as hospitable ? If what happened to Sen McCain is acceptable, why are we not breaking couple joints of Moktada al-Sadr ?

More important than that why have we not dragged Kim Jong-il to the war crimes court at the Hauge ?

April 28, 2009 at 9:22 PM
The Law said...

Why? Because the moral highroad line has to be drawn somewhere. What is going on here is political gang warfare. The bloods beat the crap of the crips. The crips are like we gotta blast them fools. The bloods gotta maintain their respect and shoot back. The crips lose a couple of their guys so the grab their "peacemakers" and get their justice. and so on and so forth.

The problem with this they torture us so we'll torture them back is the cycle NEVER ends. All it does it drags us deeper into this tangled web in a war we don't belong in. We're taking sides in what is ultimately a theo-political war, and we don't belong in it. But that's a battle for another day. The main point is the continual this perpetual cycle of torture only makes as feel better, and serves as a excellent recruitment tool for them. Al qaeda would like nothing more than proof positive that Americans are the dogs they think we are. If we did not live by Hammurabi's code, it is really the best tool to weaken the cause for terrorism.

But here is what I don't get. My apologies in advance for taking this topic to level 50. But I thought the right wing was supposed to champion moral principles and the law of God. So if there is any reason why we shouldn't torture them if they tortured us, is because that's not what our morals teach us. Americans were up in arms when Obama said we wasn't a Christian nation. And here we are so eager to exact swift justice. What happened to he who lives by the sword dies by the sword? Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy?

Isn't it a bit ironic that these left wing god forsaken atheists are calling for us to take the moral highground, while the religious right are calling for their heads?

April 28, 2009 at 11:02 PM
Devrim said...

tL "a theo-political war, and we don't belong in", I beg to differ, we didn't meddle in Afghanistan's inner politics (save from that one time when we helped them against the Russians) before 9/11. They thought we were dogs back in 2001 because we dressed as we pleased (god bless Heidi Klum), we ate as we pleased (god bless the Baconator), we drank as we pleased (god bless Absolut), and we fucked as we god damn pleased. Why, we have the bill of rights which promises us " life, liberty and pursuit of happiness " instead of a "Religion of Peace" which says you can rape your wife and it is your duty to convert others into your religion, and if they resist, it is your duty to kill them.

Releasing documents about these enhanced techniques is just like throwing gas into an open fire. They already have enough reasons to hate us. Therefore this administration is just giving them more reasons to hate us / recruit by their actions.

We didn't torture to extract justice, we did so in order to prevent further attacks on our people. That is the "life" part of the Bill of Rights for you. Last time I poured myself some Scotch nobody came around slashing my throat with a sword, that is the "liberty" part of the Bill of rights for you. And the last time I checked both Disneyland and the Playboy Mansion (and the Oval Office) were open for business, that is the "pursuit of happiness" part of the Bill of Rights for you. My memory is a bit of fuzzy correct me if I am wrong, but somewhere in that document it mentions " We, the people " not nutmegs who want to kill us for we value "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".

Want me to take this to level 51 and bring my religious beliefs in this too ?

BTW, you have still not answered my questions :

1. What was the time frame Sen. John McCain (R-AR) spent in the Hanoi Hilton ?

2. Why have we not dragged Kim Jong-il to the war crimes court at the Hauge ?

3. What happened to Daniel Pearl (an American Jewish journalist) is OK ?

April 29, 2009 at 1:55 AM
The Law said...

The very day that we successfully make a domestic energy source more cost efficient than oil, you better believe we're gonna drop the middle east like a hot potato. As long as oil is still valuable, we will continue to be dragged into their mess. I find it hard for anyone to deny this. This is the theo-political war I'm talking about. We can be as American as we want so long as it doesn't interfere with their lifestyle. Fighting for their "democracy" and securing our national interests are two completely different battles, that we tie into one to legitimize our stake on their oil. Let us not confuse righteousness with fulfilling our energy needs. Plain and simple, if we up and left Iraq tomorrow, they'd consider it mission accomplished, and we don't have to worry about terrorism anymore. (Of course we can't just up and leave, and for human rights sake, we should probably do something, but I digress)

I mean, where do we draw the line? Why not torture someone convicted of homicide? Waterboard OJ until we get a confession? If Americans DO NOT TORTURE, then why are we doing it. And if we did it, why not just say, we got hit, we freaked the freak out, and we won't do it again? If you have to rationalize and justify somethign so hard, it probably wasn't the right thing to do.

1. He was in Hanoi Hilton for 2 months. He was a POW for 5 and a half years.

2. Kim Jong-il is not an American. You constantly suggest we should be in line with ideals of other nations/factions of lower or no moral standing. Americans are not Iraqis, nor are we North Koren. This point is irrelevant.

3. Of course not. I'm a bit insulted that you insinuate that I'd be OK with something like that. Again, if we **torture** we do nothing but continue the cycle of violence. If you think Americas morals are on par with terrorists and a nutbag dictator, then it is what it is. I believe America is better than that. And if we show we are better than that, we can pick turn enemies into allies, and build a stronger coalistion to fight this war. If we continue to beleive America is infallable, then we are destined to lose the respect as a world leader.

2 for 3 ain't bad I suppose

April 29, 2009 at 2:38 AM
Lynne said...

what a waste of time, space and words that was.

May 4, 2009 at 8:04 AM

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