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Thread: Has there ever been a historical or scientific analysis of torture?

  1. #1 Has there ever been a historical or scientific analysis of torture? 
    Forum Masters Degree DianeG's Avatar
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    "It wasn’t torture," former vice president Dick Cheney told an audience at American University on Thursday. And what's more: "If I would have to do it all over again, I would," he said. "The results speak for themselves."

    "Enhansed interrogation" was a topic on the Daily Show tonight. Aside from the obvious moral principle that the ends do not justify the means, I've always wondered whether anyone has ever tried to study whether the information gleaned from torture is reliably accurate, "saves lives" or provides any critical piece of information that couldn't be obtained any other way. Are there any historical examples of tortured derived information that saved lives?


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    ps. I'm not suggesting anyone actually do scientific experiments to see if it works, I mean an objective historical analysis.


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    Yes, studies have been done.
    Carl Levin - United States Senator for Michigan: Issues - Treatment of Detainees in U.S. custody

    You should be able to find the Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody report online as a downloadable pdf if you want to actually read it, complete with lots of black ink.
    http://www.armed-services.senate.gov/download/inquiry-into-the-treatment-of-detainees-in-us-custody
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    EVERY TIME I WALK INTO A DOCTOR'S OFFICE? *chuckle*...my blood pressure which is normally really good shoots through the roof!
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope sculptor's Avatar
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    Diane
    long ago and far away
    I read that medieval torturers learned that just "showing the instruments" elicited the desired results.
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    I know that in the Vietnam War there were prisoners that were helped to get information about certain things. Don't forget about other countries who routienly do this to their own people as well as others.
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    The U.S. Army assessed the value of torture back in the 1970s. Their analysis determined that torture was an unreliable technique because it got the detainee to say whatever the detainee thought the interrogator wanted to hear, regardless of whether it is the truth or not. As a result of that study, the Army's doctrine for interrogation of prisoners prohibited torture. I was trained by the U.S. army in interrogation in the late 1990s and performed interrogations at Guantanamo Bay for a number of years, we never used torture techniques. Despite the media's guilt by association labeling Guantanamo Bay as a place torture took place, all the evidence of torture came from Abu Gharib. What the mainstream media selectively chose not to report despite being told, was that the commander of Abu Gharib was booted off Guantanamo Bay for his desire to implement interrogation policies that violated both Geneva Conventions and the white house authorizations. He was reassigned to Abu Gharib where it was expected that commander would be kept under a tighter leash. We all know how well that turned out. Working at Guantanamo gave me a healthy destain for mainstream media and I lost a lot of faith in the "freedom of the press" as a result of how we were treated like witches living in the Salem MA area of 1600, but I'm digressing.

    To further address your question, a second round of analysis was done recently and reconfirmed the Army's original 1970s findings. In 2008 the Army's policy was expanded to cover the entire department of defense. Our allies who have been fighting terrorism a lot longer than we have (meaning Turkey, Israel, Jordan, and Egypt) don't use torture either and for the same reasons. Their interrogators are better at dealing with Islamic extremists because they have a better grasp of Islamic and middle eastern culture. We could have learned a lot from them in those early days had we received their assistance in terms of training and sitting in the interrogation booth with us to help us work smarter rather than harder, but as I understand it the senior leaders of the U.S. government never asked for that assistance.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    Diane
    long ago and far away
    I read that medieval torturers learned that just "showing the instruments" elicited the desired results.
    Your mention of medieval torture points to the rich irony that historically torture was primarily used to force people to say things that weren't factually accurate: "I am a witch!' "My neighbor Sarah slept with the Devil!" "The earth does not revolve around the sun." "I renounce my country!" Why should it be any different today?
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    Another aspect of torture is it is used as a terror tool.
    This use of torture has nothing to do with information gathering.
    It has everything to do with winning the hearts and minds of the people you conquered.

    South American dictators, drug cartels, and in Iraq after the invasion, tortured to death bodies were dumped where they would be seen by the general public.
    In medieval Europe the purpose of a public execution was not simply to kill the heretic.
    It was to show anybody else who was thinking about rebelling just how painful a death could be. It was also true the threats of torturing victims to death could be directed towards friends, relatives and even whole towns.
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  11. #10  
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    If you are being tortured, and yes, waterboarding is a form of torture, you will be made willing to identify your own mother as Satan. How is this useful to anyone ? It is an indefensible act. And it is used regularly by nearly every nation/state. We humans are not as civilized as we like to think. Drones are a form of murder, with unfortunate "collateral damage". Nice euphamism, isn't it ?
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    The difference always has been with the reason why the torture was being performed. In the past, torture used as punishment / coercion to force someone to (atleast outwardly) change their position on a controversial issue. In the past the Spanish Inquisition wasn't interested in the truth, they were interested in conversion and protecting the faith. This motivation for torture still exists, but its done my Al Qaida and other such oppressive groups / governments who will use force against their own populations to remain in power.

    As for "why should it be any different today" is because today torture was considered by a "civilized" country with the intent of genuinely gaining the truth. George Bush didn't tell the intelligence community to torture terrorists because they're bad people who deserved it or because he thought it should be used as a means of converting them to Christianity. He wanted them to provide accurate information on potential future attacks in as short a time as possible, because torturing one terrorist to save the lives of thousands was a trade-off that makes sense on paper. Unfortunately this over-simplification of interrogations and torture isn't an accurate representation of how it works in the real world. Instead of gaining the truth, that administration just gained a lot of bad publicity and undermined its own efforts to protect the American people.
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope cosmictraveler's Avatar
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    I've seen men with their backs torn to shreads due to torture.
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    "If you fucking beat this prick long enough, he'll tell you he started the goddamn Chicago fire, now that don't necessarily make it fucking so!"- Nice Guy Eddie (Reservoir Dogs)

    If a petty criminal can understand this idea where does that put Cheney on the smart list?
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    So how do you define the torture of a 15 year old seeing their cousin shot in front of them in WWII?

    Is that torture?
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    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    So how do you define the torture of a 15 year old seeing their cousin shot in front of them in WWII?

    Is that torture?
    No, that's just unfortunate
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    Quote Originally Posted by motgnisrep View Post
    The difference always has been with the reason why the torture was being performed. In the past, torture used as punishment / coercion to force someone to (atleast outwardly) change their position on a controversial issue. In the past the Spanish Inquisition wasn't interested in the truth, they were interested in conversion and protecting the faith.
    I understand that, but if torture doesn't result in reliably accurate information either way, that's a poor justification for those who claim that it saves lives and is morally the lesser of two evils.
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  18. #17  
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    Numerous:

    - it doesn't work

    - It causes psychological and physical trauma (duh..lol..)
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  19. #18  
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    No amount of analysis on torture is going to guarantee its termination. Humans have enough fire? power to slaughter each other.
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  20. #19  
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    Torture makes sense in "emotional logic". The traumatized American public wanted to express their frustration, and so they passively accepted the idea of torturing prisoners on the basis of a thin logical justification. It never really mattered whether we get any intel from it. It was really all about punishing the bad guys (with an additional "intel gathering" justification to sugar coat it, so we could swallow the pill more easily.)

    Really what we need to ask ourselves is whether torturing prisoners is a viable means of intimidating the enemy. Lots of evidence suggests that it works, but the downside is the enemy is likely to retaliate in kind by torturing your people when they're taken prisoner also.
    Some clocks are only right twice a day, but they are still right when they are right.
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  21. #20  
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    ...
    Really what we need to ask ourselves is whether torturing prisoners is a viable means of intimidating the enemy. Lots of evidence suggests that it works, but the downside is the enemy is likely to retaliate in kind by torturing your people when they're taken prisoner also.
    Where do you stop once you justify barbarism as intimidation.
    The Britons hung Romans up in wicker baskets and burned them alive so their cohorts could watch them die. The Romans did their part by impaling the captured Britons on the palisades of the Roman encampments so the Britons could watch their compatriots die.

    So where should it stop. Should we cook and eat the families of rebels at public banquets when we invade their countries?
    (only as an act of intimidation intended to win the hearts and minds of the general population of course)
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  22. #21  
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    ...
    Really what we need to ask ourselves is whether torturing prisoners is a viable means of intimidating the enemy. Lots of evidence suggests that it works, but the downside is the enemy is likely to retaliate in kind by torturing your people when they're taken prisoner also.
    Where do you stop once you justify barbarism as intimidation.
    The Britons hung Romans up in wicker baskets and burned them alive so their cohorts could watch them die. The Romans did their part by impaling the captured Britons on the palisades of the Roman encampments so the Britons could watch their compatriots die.

    So where should it stop. Should we cook and eat the families of rebels at public banquets when we invade their countries?
    (only as an act of intimidation intended to win the hearts and minds of the general population of course)

    American combat theory has already gone pretty far in that direction. In part the teaching to soldiers about psyops in the US Military already involves lessons on how to intimidate a group by killing the first few in a quick and grievous fashion.

    But also the USA employs various weapons that kill people in horrendous ways, like "ballistically superior" ammunition that will tumble about inside its target's body, so even a limb shot can result in death (a few hours later). Shrapnel weapons that initially only wound their target, but the target dies a few days later from complications. Rather inhumane ways to die, where it hurts a lot and takes a long time to ultimately happen.

    It can be argued that the reason for those weapons is to improve the kill ratio, but they also strike fear and hatred into the hearts of anyone against whom they are employed. After a tribal kid in Afghanistan watches his older brother die a long, excruciatingly painful, death while his mother, sisters and kinsmen watch, - it's going to be pretty hard to win that kid's "heart and mind". If a parent must lose a child, they'd like to at least hope they didn't suffer.
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  23. #22  
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    ...
    Really what we need to ask ourselves is whether torturing prisoners is a viable means of intimidating the enemy. Lots of evidence suggests that it works, but the downside is the enemy is likely to retaliate in kind by torturing your people when they're taken prisoner also.
    Where do you stop once you justify barbarism as intimidation.
    The Britons hung Romans up in wicker baskets and burned them alive so their cohorts could watch them die. The Romans did their part by impaling the captured Britons on the palisades of the Roman encampments so the Britons could watch their compatriots die.

    So where should it stop. Should we cook and eat the families of rebels at public banquets when we invade their countries?
    (only as an act of intimidation intended to win the hearts and minds of the general population of course)

    American combat theory has already gone pretty far in that direction. In part the teaching to soldiers about psyops in the US Military already involves lessons on how to intimidate a group by killing the first few in a quick and grievous fashion.
    In a quick fashion....sure. It's more about the target selection than about how it goes down. In fact a bloodless removal of the right target probably has the most impact on the enemy which is the purpose of psyops.

    But also the USA employs various weapons that kill people in horrendous ways, like "ballistically superior" ammunition that will tumble about inside its target's body, so even a limb shot can result in death (a few hours later). Shrapnel weapons that initially only wound their target, but the target dies a few days later from complications. Rather inhumane ways to die, where it hurts a lot and takes a long time to ultimately happen.
    BS. Ballistics has nothing do with the tumble ability. In fact I used to test munitions and it's not even a criteria in anyway. Ballistic measures are much more mundane and have to do with consistent accuracy (MOA), energy and drop off maintained at different ranges. In fact the US military cancelled several programs in it's past, flirting with small caliber flechette rounds which had great ballistic numbers but were easily deflected by brush and bone--the Israeli army still debates their use because of the unpredictable harm they they do with exit hole often being far from the entry point.
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  24. #23  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post

    But also the USA employs various weapons that kill people in horrendous ways, like "ballistically superior" ammunition that will tumble about inside its target's body, so even a limb shot can result in death (a few hours later). Shrapnel weapons that initially only wound their target, but the target dies a few days later from complications. Rather inhumane ways to die, where it hurts a lot and takes a long time to ultimately happen.
    BS. Ballistics has nothing do with the tumble ability. In fact I used to test munitions and it's not even a criteria in anyway. Ballistic measures are much more mundane and have to do with consistent accuracy (MOA), energy and drop off maintained at different ranges. In fact the US military cancelled several programs in it's past, flirting with small caliber flechette rounds which had great ballistic numbers but were easily deflected by brush and bone--the Israeli army still debates their use because of the unpredictable harm they they do with exit hole often being far from the entry point.

    Your statement motivated me to do some research on it. I was repeating something I had heard from some friends who had been in the service, but now I'm starting to see that it is quite possible that they were ill informed. I notice on this other discussion thread, one soldier telling another that the "tumble" is just "BS they tell you in basic".

    It seems the real effectiveness of M-16 bullets is because they break apart (though not always). And even that effect was not anticipated by its designers, but may have been one of the reasons why the weapon was adopted.

    Do .223 rounds really tumble? - AR15.COM


    Another possible explanation for the story of M-16 being so lethal is that Colt was going bankrupt around the beginning of the Vietnam war, and dreamed up a lot of propaganda, claiming their .223 caliber bullet "tumbles" and is therefore more effective at killing enemy soldiers, in order to pitch the weapon to the DoD.

    Which has now gone on to become a self-perpetuating myth.

    Articles: The Last 'Big Lie' of Vietnam Kills U. S. Soldiers in Iraq
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