Saul Singer at PostGlobal

Saul Singer

Jerusalem, Israel

Saul Singer, a columnist and former editorial page editor at the Jerusalem Post, is co-author of the forthcoming book, Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle. He has also written for the Wall Street Journal, Commentary, Middle East Quarterly, Moment, the New Leader, and bitterlemons.org (an Israeli/Palestinian e-zine). Before moving to Israel in 1994, he served as an adviser in the United States Congress to the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Banking Committees. He is also on Twitter. Close.

Saul Singer

Jerusalem, Israel

Saul Singer is a columnist and former editorial page editor at the Jerusalem Post. more »

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Torture, Unlike Terror, Can Be Justified

Jerusalem, Israel - Torture is the flip side of terrorism. Some justify terrorism for the right cause, others say its always unacceptable. Similarly, some support torture under certain circumstances, others are always opposed. But there is a profound difference in...

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All Comments (130)

John Elfed Hughes :

I am afraid I disagree with the author of this article. It is ludicrous to suggest that democracies "will not engage in terror". You only have to look at the Israeli Defence Force's deliberate targeting of citizens. You also have to look at how the IDF deliberately limit Palestinian freedoms. Also, if you look at Britain's Northern Ireland campaign against the IRA there is strong evidence to suggest that British intelligence agents were involved in terrorist acts against Catholics. Furthermore, any human rights abiding democracy cannot justify abuses in any circumstances not even in a 'supreme emergency', as the Convention against torture (etc.) states. Finally, if you want to fight against terrorism then every person should have the right to a fair trial. Sadly, Guantanamo Bay shows vividly that democracy after September 11th is very different to the one that was before it.

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His name is Rasputin, he can see into my head.:

If you know what I'm trying to say, (and even what I'm trying not to) I fail to see a purpose for my presence here.

The things I dont' say:

" guess what you're trying very hard NOT to say is that Al-Queda in Iraq amd Hamas suicide bombers' murdering of innocent women and children is justifiable as they are merely adhering to the Geneva convention in resisting foreign occupation. If you are so sure of your moral authority, just state your case, instead of running around in circles. Given all your weighty and "reasonable" arguments, surely the majority of the world's population have similar viewpoints. Yeah sure, even the most radical Muslim friend/relative i know condemn the targeting of women and children by any party, agrieved or otherwise. I propose that you appoint yourself as official spokesperson for the Palestinian and Iraqi resistance, because of your "persuasiveness". Heck, your arguments make me want to strap-on some bombs and head out to the local synagogue immediately! I rest my case"

no, no, no. just rest.

Harry Lee:

I guess what you're trying very hard NOT to say is that Al-Queda in Iraq amd Hamas suicide bombers' murdering of innocent women and children is justifiable as they are merely adhering to the Geneva convention in resisting foreign occupation. If you are so sure of your moral authority, just state your case, instead of running around in circles. Given all your weighty and "reasonable" arguments, surely the majority of the world's population have similar viewpoints. Yeah sure, even the most radical Muslim friend/relative i know condemn the targeting of women and children by any party, agrieved or otherwise. I propose that you appoint yourself as official spokesperson for the Palestinian and Iraqi resistance, because of your "persuasiveness". Heck, your arguments make me want to strap-on some bombs and head out to the local synagogue immediately! I rest my case.

Anonymous:

Terrorists are not funded by the United States.

The government decides, the media publishes, and minds are made up.

It is really that simple.

According to the Geneva Convention and the Rules of War, resistance to an occupation is not only expected, it is required. Failure to attempt it, or in the case of POW's to escape has led to court martials of the commanding officer in a POW camp.

To put it another way; where you stand on an issue depends on where you sit to deterimine your stance.

Anonymous:

Let me ask you this:
Do you know the diffence between a terrorist and a freedom fighter?

It's very simple.

I'll give you fifteen minutes and then reveal the answer

Harry L:ee:

"I don't think anyone is arguing that it is."

I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you did not read all the previous postings as you missed some truly warped moral equivalence which i was responding to, or were you just ignoring them. 2 examples being :-

"Interesting point here. . . let's flip it, and see why the Arabs have issues with America and Israel (the new kid in a different region)." and "In fact this quote works for my point too. Just remove the word suicide." Posted by: Thom | September 18, 2006 03:30 PM

This one is my favourite:-

"A "terrorist" is really someone who uses asymmetric warfare against a state or regime. "

All your rantings about circular political spectrum, moral authority and the unmistakable leftist utopian ideals mindset, rings hollow in light of the fact that you consider murderous acts such as 9/11, suicide bombings of innocent women and children as part of an uprising, your words not mine). Frankly, it stopped being an uprising when they started killing innocent women and children, many who were their own.
At least now we know where you stand.....! So much for moral authority.

Saulong, C Ya:

1. I didn't say you were racist. I said you spout racist invective. Are you saying that because you have a certain ancestry you cannot be racist? That's hogwash. Some of the most racist people are of mixed ancestry, and blame one side of their family or another for whatever reason.

2. I am not affiliated with any party.

3. I'll just attack the basic premise you attacked me with.

"The notion that the occupation of Palestine is justification in itself for the 50 years of global mayhem and massacre is abominable."

I don't think anyone is arguing that it is. Especially since you have your facts wrong. What fifty years of global mayhem? Are we talking about Earth here? What fifty years?

If you want to get extreme, you could have said the last 1300 years (the time since Islam was revealed by the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) or to be realistic, you could have said the last 10 or 15 years, which is really when the uprising started.

"leftist multicultural apologist"

I'm not entirely sure what a leftist is, the politcal spectrum is not linear but circular. The farther one goes in one direction, the closer (s)he gets to the extremists on the other side. If you doubt that, compare President Bush and (his name is not short for Richard) Dick Cheney's rhetoric, with that of Extremists. Kinda scary, ain't it?

The only culture I have the moral authority to apologize for is American, and I have, I do, and I will. At least until we come to our senses.

Harry Lee:

I was hesitant to accuse you of being a leftist multicultural apologist dummucrat, but i guess your stripes are finally showing and i can literally hear the "A dummucrat, YIKESS!!! No wonder, he is such a retard!" exclamations throughout the blog.
Which part of my arguments were racist by the way? May I remind you that there are Muslims of all races, so your argument is a moot point. Furthermore, I am of Chinese-Arab-Malay ancestry, which makes it kinda complex to prove that i am racist against the Arabs, because I am also one (i.e. 1/4 actually) and yes, my mom is muslim. So have you any other argument besides the racist retort, because it is atypical of leftist slow-wits to do so and if you haven't notice, you're the only one who is spewing garbage and has yet to counter my suicide bomber argument. Plus you've made quite a fool of yourself in the process already. Wait until i tell my mates, I've been called a racist!

Harry Lee:

For someone who subscribes to such reasoning as the mass murder of innocent women and children as a justifiable response to the Crusades, Israel's inhumane occupation of Palestine and the unwavering US support for Israel, we should somehow give a F.F. about what you think?... Any and/or all of these viewpoints...reasoning, i mean, will no doubt enjoy widespread support the world over, so PLEASEeee.... go sell it somewhere else....!!! Just don't bomb me and my family!!! Just don't behead us!..I promise that we will convert to Islam and support your cause.......REAALLLYYyyyyy!!!! SO please go away already.

Anonymous:

Chill Winston is a quote from "Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" a British movie about drugs and violence. (I can hear you now, kill the British to get rid of violence)

About your blanky: It was a clear (I thought) refence to your infantile reasoning skills. And, from them, the conclusions you draw.

Harry Lee:

"Did a dog eat your blanky?"
"Chill, Winston."
Want to look these choice words up to?

I should think you've had enough time to dream-up a comeback to my argument that cross-dressing suicide bombers are indefensible. In fact the cross-dressing thing is a bit funny, especially when he suddenly appears in front of 72 virgins, in drag!!!!!!!
I must say the "measured" reaction to the Pope's comments was not exactly consistent with the nature of the faith of peace, tolerance and respect. Must be those minority extremist elements of Islam again?

Anonymous:

I will refer you to

Pope's Comments About Islam

Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 19, 2006; 11:00 AM

To prove you wrong yet again. gosh it's fun arguing with a guy who lacks the wherewithal to think and merely spouts racist invective.
Please run for President on the Republican ticket. We need another moron in office.

Anonymous:

My mother is dead. Thank you for your kind words.

Anonymous:

Pun:

1.the humorous use of a word or phrase so as to emphasize or suggest its different meanings or applications, or the use of words that are alike or nearly alike in sound but different in meaning; a play on words.

rea‧son‧ing 
-noun
1.the act or process of a person who reasons.
2.the process of forming conclusions, judgments, or inferences from facts or premises.
3.the reasons, arguments, proofs, etc., resulting from this process.

So: no other meaning, no pun

Anonymous:

I'm sure it was intended. One problem: It's not a pun.

Harry Lee:

My mother is fine thanks, but more importantly how is your mother? And I bet she is so proud of your reading/writing skills. Now that is an insult! I don't own a dog, you have my name wrong or you can't read (i.e. nor write, by the looks of it), so......YOU chill!
NOW!..., do you have a "reasonable" argument to enligten us with? Preferably in relation to my last posting? Something along the lines of ....it did not happen, US forces in Iraq just made it up, staged it or doctored the photos...something lame like that would be atypical. If not, run along and find another blog more suited to your level of "reasoning", pun intended.

Anonymous:

Okay, I was wrong. . . THAT'S insulting

Anonymous:

What is it with you?

Did your mother not breast-feed you long enough.

Did a dog eat you blanky?

Chill, Winston

Harry Lee:

Advocating for Jihadist suicide bombers who dress up as women in order to kill as many women and children as possible is reasonable, I suppose. Get real!

Anonymous:

Wow that's insulting.

If you can't be reasonable, why bother?

Harry Lee:

"Interesting point here. . . let's flip it, and see why the Arabs have issues with America and Israel (the new kid in a different region)."
Your reply as above is point in case of how warped your (i.e. To collectively include all those who advocate terrorism as a justified response to their grievances,perceived or otherwise)sense of moral equivalence. The notion that the occupation of Palestine is justification in itself for the 50 years of global mayhem and massacre is abominable. If your voice is the purported representative voice of reason, moderation, peace and tolerance in the Islamic context, this war is inevitable. I have no interest in the Middle-East conflict at all, as I work in South East Asia as an expatriate, but to think that me and my family risk being blown to bits because of USA and Israel's inhumane treatment of the Palestinians, is something that stirs an intense and primal revulsion in me against such stone-age rhethoric BS


"In fact this quote works for my point too. Just remove the word suicide."
As a security consultant involved in field operations, my response to bombers who disguise themselves as women to gain access to high-density gatherings, plus those who hide behind their grannies corsettes (i.e. hijabs)are best resolved by well-aimed headshots.

In your case, keep up the extreme viewpoints and propaganda, it sure is working effectively. Add to all your BS, the doctored Reuters pics, staged footage... I am seriously considering cancelling my auto. debit instruction for monthly contributions to the ICRC for their work in the occupied territories.

Thom:

"That is my main gripe with those who tend to always play the victim card like those who migrate to the West and enjoy it's modern/western comforts of life, but refuse to assimilate in rejecting the new norms, rules and regulations applicable in their new home country."

Interesting point here. . . let's flip it, and see why the Arabs have issues with America and Israel (the new kid in a different region).

"Some of these ingrates will even go to the point where they would not hesitate to murder their new country-mates in suicide bombings"

In fact this quote works for my point too. Just remove the word suicide.

Harry Lee:

Of course not, there are no South Americans suicide bombers...only Sri Lankan Tamils and...... I'll stop here for fear of being blown-up.

Anonymous:

H. Lee "That is my main gripe with those who tend to always play the victim card like those who migrate to the West and enjoy it's modern/western comforts of life, but refuse to assimilate in rejecting the new norms, rules and regulations applicable in their new home country. Some of these ingrates will even go to the point where they would not hesitate to murder their new country-mates in suicide bombings"

Are you talking about people from South America?

Harry Lee:

As if Israel, Palestine's point on Canada's immigration policy is the trump card that will skew this debate in his favour. The facts are borne-out that those who criticise the US cannot survive without it's charity. And it is beyond contempt to receive aid on one hand from anyone and then backstab that person in return with the other. That is my main gripe with those who tend to always play the victim card like those who migrate to the West and enjoy it's modern/western comforts of life, but refuse to assimilate in rejecting the new norms, rules and regulations applicable in their new home country. Some of these ingrates will even go to the point where they would not hesitate to murder their new country-mates in suicide bombings. Lastly, given your slanted views on the Israeli-Palestine conflict and since you are Canadian, you would probably be the best example of these suicidal hypocrite-type ever. There is age-old Chinese proverb which states that." Even a rabid dog will not bite it's owner.

Harry Lee:

To Billy of Dubai, Iran remained "neutral" from the onset of hostilities leading to WWII, but there were actually biased in favour of the Nazis as all their armed forces officer corps. were german-schooled/trained. Only after an invasion by the UK and Russia in late 1941 did Iran becane a part of the Allied Forces. The British armed forces planned, developed and executed rhe infrastructural improvements in Iran inuch as the network of roads, railway tracks and communication, critical to the survival of the besieged Russians retreating from Nazi Gernamny's Operation Barbarossa invasion of their motherland.

We The People:

The acid test that resolves all the "contextualization" and "ends justifies the means" debate is as follows:

If your brother were being subjected to these "alternative" interrogation practices, would you consider your brother to have been tortured?

If your sister were detained indefinitely, without charge and without trial, would you consider your sister's rights had been violated?

If your father were held in secret, without access to family, a lawyer, or the Red Cross, with no official acknowledgement of their whereabouts or status for years on end, would you call your father's treatment barbaric and inhumane?

If your loved ones are being subjected to Bush's "alternative" interrogation practices, including "attention slaps", "pulpified legs", waterboarding, would you describe your family's treatment as anything other torture?

No? I thought not.

Bottom line: If you are willing to inflict such practices on other people, you have to be willing to subject yourself and your loved ones to them too.

No, yoy cannot claim moral superiority. At best, you may claim superior firepower, something that allows you to force your will onto others.

If you in turn were the one who's will and dignity and rights were being imposed upon, you'd have a very different perspective on it: you'd use very different language to describe it, and you'd do everything in your power to stop it.

Thom:

The problem with the euphemism of targeted assassination is that they are not. A targeted assassination is one done by, say, a sniper. One person is supposed to be killed, and one person is. no innocents are killed, there is no so-called colateral damage (another innacurate euphemism, collateral damage is when a building is destroyed by accident, not a human being)

Targeted assasination, at least as we, and the Israelis use it, is not. A smart bomb, dropped on the head of the person it is supposed to be dropped on, will kill anyone nearby. Their innocence or complicity is not the issue. If anyone other than the "target" dies, it is then NOT targeted assasination.

Anyway, why is it your right to decide if this person lives anyway. We are not God, nor frankly do I want to be.

lennybruce:

Chris chris chris, my poor chris. I now realize you dont realize what targeted assassinations are perhaps. They are not killing on the field of battle but targeting wanted suspects, usually for alleged terrorists acts, outside of the field of battle. extrajuducial killings, in other words, killing a suspected terrorist without the benefit of arrest, charge or trial - i repeat, not killing on the field of battle.

Chris Kavanau:

Unfortunately, Singer is using the same tired old class of arguments that were routinely used to justify torture during the Dark Ages (and other backward periods of human history). Recognizing this, of course, is one of the advantages of seriously studying human history. In general, a knowledge of history allows us to learn from the past so we can avoid repeating terrible mistakes over and over. It is too bad that Singer cannot be transported into the past where he could employ his extraordinary reasoning skills to help justify the Inquisition and other related horrors of human history that he would no doubt align himself with. The past is where Singler belongs...certainly not the future, or the present.

Israel, Palestine:

Bravo Karim (*A)you have shown that the Washington Post refuses to drop the "Israel" from Jerusalem. In Canada, passport applicants born in Jerusalem can only list that city and no country is listed next to Jerusalem. It's the right thing to do when you are objective (B) Amusing how your opinion has aroused Harry Lee from the depths of his immaturity? Lalaland, I laughed so hard it's made my day! Lalaland!!!

me:

Morally repugnant and intellectually dishonest, this article isn't even worth debating.

Jim Huebner:

If torture is 0kay let's do it RIGHT. We can do it has a REALITY TV episode.PLACE-World Trade Center Site. Time-Prime Time Sunday. TV-FOX,CNN,ABC,CBS&NBC.Moderaters-POTUS-Bush&VP Cheney.The Torturers-The NEO-CONS.It would be bigger than Super Bowl Sunday.

Chris, Pickering, Ontario:

Lennybruce - "And what do you call targetted assassinations - meting out the death penalty without charge or trial?"

My response was that "lennybruce" was a clueless Lefty likely never in the military who confuses killing enemy in war w/o trial with a lack of respect for enemy criminal due process rights.

Still confused, "lennybruce" replies:

"I hate to disappoint you but I have been in the military and I have fought in one full-fledged war and participated in cross-border incursions with combat characteristics. So perhaps I have earned my right to my opinion with experience of seeing my friends killed and having been forced to take the lives of others. And you?"

Just being a Vet, and keep in mind that many on the Left love to pose as Vets since they think it gives them added credibility - earns you the "right to your opinion" as much as it does Vets like Churchill, Hitler, McCain, Kerry, Sharon, your Benedict Arnold...etc. Being a Vet doesn't make you any righter or less clueless. Few Vets characterize targeting and killing the enemy in war without 1st clearing it with one of your ACLU or human rights lawyers as "illegal extrajudicial execution" or "targeted assassination".

Those are Lefty terms missing from the real rules and laws of warfare soldiers fall under. As any real Vet should know.

geoffrey james:

Lennybruce,

Not so. The US military is foursquare against torture, as the new manual on intelligence gathering shows. General Jeff Kimmons made an eloquent statement about how abusive techniques produce poor intelligence and are hugely damaging to the country that uses them. The things Mr. Singer advocates are not part of the arsenal of a civilized country.

Shalom Freedman:

It is interesting that it is those who have some experience of war and have seen directly the results of terror, are those who believe the use of torture should be permitted in certain carefully supervised circumstances.
The 'idealists' who morally equate the suffering of the terrorists with their victims or potential victims , fit the warning of the old Jewish adage that by being kind to the cruel, they will be cruel to the kind.

Lennybruce:

To Chris Pickering:

You wrote sir, "Lennybruce - "And what do you call targetted assassinations - meting out the death penalty without charge or trial?"

Clueless Lefties like yourself ignorant of the nature of war forget it is all about killing the enemy in the field of ops without trial. Never having been in a war or the military, you keep insisting on force-fitting it into your "law enforcement/criminal justice" paradigm."

I hate to disappoint you but I have been in the military and I have fought in one full-fledged war and participated in cross-border incursions with combat characteristics. So perhaps I have earned my right to my opinion with experience of seeing my friends killed and having been forced to take the lives of others. And you?

Harry Kee:

Mr. Pickering,
Although I doubt that the US's intervention in WWII was pretty much inconsequential to the Allied's ultimate victory as per your argument. However, it we are talking about the same Stalin, please google both "Stalin and "second front" to get a more realistic account of how desperate Stalin was at the time and his constant demands for men and material from the ALlied forces.

Billy (Dubai):

To Harry Lee

Iran stepped up to the plate and saved the Allies from the Nazis --read about Tehran Conference, The Bridge of Victory.

Chris, Pickering, Ontario:

I have noticed on visits to America that wierd propagandist conceit they have that they alone won WWII and nations like France and the UK should have gratitude that they don't speak German. It irritates a bit, though I'm conservative..probably because Canada has been overloked, but not nearly to the extent that Cold War politics sought to minimize Russia doing 80% of the work needed for victory against the Nazis. If you look at the great battles of the Eastern Front, D-Day, Monte Cassino, Battle of the Bulge are minor in comparison...

The Red Army had turned the German advance in the early summer of 1942, before any large amount of US aid arrived on the Murmansk route. The Soviets alone would have beaten the Germans. It just shortened the War to have the US, Commonwealth (folks like us Canadians were fully committed), and Britain fighting as well. We didn't hurt the German war production that much with our bombing, but it did largely pull German air cover off the Eastern Front to defend the Homeland, and that and all the US stuff that came in was enormously helpful to the Red Army's rate of advance.

The answer to your question would be that without the US, France would be speaking French though all French would have had to learn Russian to advance under the "Soviet Bloc". England's great Navy would have kept the Germans off them long enough for the Russians to sweep through Germany. The Brits certainly would still be speaking English, and probably maintained sovereignity despite the Russians running the Continent for a while in the 2nd half of the 20th Century.

BTW, WWII ended with Canada the world's 4th largest military. Bet none of you knew that! We've of course slid considerably down from there since..

The Americans have a better case to make in the war on Japan, where they had the lead role in that Theater that the Soviets had against the Nazis.

Harry Lee:

Karim,
Is it Karim from LALALAND? Which Islamic Nation then stepped-up to the plate and saved us from the Nazis in WWII, LALALAND? Must have kept a low profile then, Jihad mode perhaps?
It is beyond adolescent to even suggest that the US role in the Allied victory was merely important and others could have done it (i.e. the Germans)without US's intervention. Even before US officially declared war on Japan and Germans declaring war on the US when there were only 2 active opponents of Germany were, the British and the Russians, US industries provided supplies that became a lifeline for these forces, coming all the way across the Pacific & Atlantic. Even in the Battle of Britain (i.e. Look in up), US pilots joined the RAF to defend England against the Luffwaffe. By the way, thid so-called myth is supported by a multitude of sources within and outside the US, so look it up already! On the point of limited bombing during the Nazi's invasion of France, try googling "Maginot Line". But i am open to any suggestions otherwise (i.e. no matter how moronic), but do you have any empirical proof to support your argument Karim? Oh..I forgot....it is an "only if" argument. That is perhape the most weighty and well-thought-out posting here so far. Tee Hee! From Africa perhaps?

Karim:

Harry Lee:

It is an American myth (spread by the US government and its military) to claim the US alone defeated the Nazis. It has a become a legend that can't be backed with any evidence.

Many nations fought the Nazis and certainly the US intervention was very important.

You don't know what would have happened if Germany stayed in France. Perhaps the Germans themselves could have revolted against the Nazi regime.

The Nazis took over Paris illegally (with no much bombing if you care to remember), the same way the US took over Baghdad (with a lot of bombing).

Anonymous:

Or the Aussies?

Anonymous:

And the British?

Harry Lee:

Isn't it ironic how the French, Germans, Italians, Africans are screaming bloody murder when the US of A whoop some jihadist behind?

For the French, consider the fact that France would not even exist if not for the blood and sweat of US fighting men during WWII. And let's not forget the many US lives lost in defense of Indo-China when the "gentlemen" cut and ran. Please save us your rhetoric and criticism!

The Germans, sigh.....Marshall Plan & European US troops....will they never learn?

The Africans, teehee, always good for a giggle! Their gall in condemning the US for military intervention in Iraq! At the same time, they also condemn the US for NOT militarily intervening in Rwanda and Darfur. Criticism from such principled sources is pretty jaw-droppingly shocking. If you hate the US and it's policies, African countries should reject USAID's food and medicine in protest. Let's see you shoot your mouth off on an empty belly!

Anonymous:

If we only torture their right hands. . . they can all be lefties ;^)

Anonymous:

I'm beggining to think we ought to forget
Iran and invade Canada. Torture a few of them, see how they like it.

Chris, Pickering, Ontario:

KJ blovinates -

"senseless torture and murder of those who senselessly torture and murder would never continue an idiotic cycle of ruthless bloodshed."

Ah, the old Lefty "cycle of violence theory".

" if we apply wanton torture & murder to terrorists, they'll think "Oh wow they weren't kidding, we better run away and hide..."

It appears they have indeed decided to run away and hide. The survivors, that is, of the relentless killing that you call "murder of terrorists" that we have inflicted on them.

"These people do not fear death. By giving them a death sentence, you're only making them a hero in the eyes of their brethren."

Ah, the old Lefty theory that "killing and defeating the enemy only makes them stronger."

"Fighting fire with fire does NOT put the fire out."

Of course it does, even in your strained metaphor of firefighting. Forest fires are mostly extinguished by setting backfires or bulldozing firelanes to isolate and eliminate the burning enemy - not by dumping water or words of appeasement on the blaze front. In the case of war, be it on the battlefield or a place like Flight 93, it is indeed all about fighting fire with fire.

"If Abu Ghraib taught us anything, it'll only make them angrier."

If WWII bombing of German or Japanese cities taught us anything, or invading the South in the Civil War taught us anything, it is pursuing victory does indeed make the enemy angrier and more committed.

Chris, Pickering, Ontario:

Amer - At Abu Ghraib we know now that US forces rounded up many people in their raids and just stuck them in prison; there was a large proportion of innocents, including children. Some of the torture that took place at Abu Ghraib then was visited on people who clearly were not 'terrorists'.

1. Only clueless liberals still persist in calling armed 15 year old gang members in N America, or 16 year olds launching mortar rounds at Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan ---"Children". The nature of raids, even police ones in the USA, is that innocents are rounded up along with the guilty, sorted out later, then held for judicial review or trial if it is believed probable cause exists.

2. Your right, some of the abuse the West Virginia hillbilly goons did at Abu Ghraib, according to the investigators, was on criminals who had just been caught committing a jailhouse gangrape on a younger detainee. The rapists did indeed - it was determined after investigation - have nothing to do with any confirmed act of terror, though one was whacked later planting an IED. (Not surprising, criminals with no terror ideology are frequently the ones paid to kill American soldiers). My heart just aches for him...

Amer - "You sanction torture and I guarantee you it will spiral out of control. You cannot control such an evil behaviour. I wont even elaborate on the psychic consequences such behaviour will have on both populations."

Funny, the most pervasive recent practicioners of torture are the totalitarian nations that the Left loves so...Cuba, China, the "heroic people's resistance of Vietnam", and of course, the Lefts Muslim pals.

I see no evidence of the Lefts buddies spiraling totally out of control. But they know their friends better than I do. The Vietnamese and Chinese I've met in those countries seem free of the psycho Lefty babble of "psychic consequences" - great hosts, actually, as are the regular torture practicioners, the French.
*********************
Lennybruce - "And what do you call targetted assassinations - meting out the death penalty without charge or trial?"

Clueless Lefties like yourself ignorant of the nature of war forget it is all about killing the enemy in the field of ops without trial.
Never having been in a war or the military, you keep insisting on force-fitting it into your "law enforcement/criminal justice" paradigm.

Shalom Freedman:

It is one thing to disagree with Singer's main contention that there may be circumstances in which in order to save human lives, torture becomes reluctantly permissible, and another to write abusive, hate- filled, ignorant condemnations not only of Mr. Singer , but all Israelis, and all Jews.( As if his words represent each and every one of us.)
The kind of prejudice and bigotry evidenced in this discussion by many who ostensibly oppose torture raise the question of whether they understand how contradictory and hypocritical their own abusive utterances are.

KJ:

Nice post Harry Lee, because the senseless torture and murder of those who senselessly torture and murder would never continue an idiotic cycle of ruthless bloodshed. Not at all.

In your mind, if we apply wanton torture & murder to terrorists, they'll think "Oh wow they weren't kidding, we better run away and hide..."

These people do not fear death. By giving them a death sentence, you're only making them a hero in the eyes of their brethren. Fighting fire with fire does NOT put the fire out.

If Abu Ghraib taught us anything, it'll only make them angrier.

Harry Lee:

Those who are naive enough to suggest that by torturing our enemies, it will result in inhumane treatment of our own soldiers when they in turn are captured. Allow me to debunk this lie, once and for all, especially when dealing with Al-Queda types. Every US military personnel captured by the terrorists in the Iraq war to-date have been tortured and murdered. The last two victims had their tongues SAWED off and their eyes litterally dug out with a blunt tool!
And we want to give these darlings Geneva convention treatment, HEY EVERYONE, WAKE-UP!!! Then grow a spine, face your enemies, and fight back.

Amer:

Just wanted to jar mr. singer out of his fantasy land. At Abu Ghraib we know now that US forces rounded up many people in their raids and just stuck them in prison; there was a large proportion of innocents, including children. Some of the torture that took place at Abu Ghraib then was visited on people who clearly were not 'terrorists'.

You sanction torture and I guarantee you it will spiral out of control. You cannot control such an evil behaviour. I wont even elaborate on the psychic consequences such behaviour will have on both populations.

Mr Singer, there are no untermenschen in this world..........nobody derserves torture.

Lennybruce:

You write sir, "... democracies will not engage in terrorism -- despite the libelous abuse heaped on the U.S. and Israel accusing them of just that -- even if terrorism were shown to be an effective way to fight terrorists and the states that support them."

And what do you call targetted assassinations - meting out the death penalty without charge or trial?

And you comment further, "Also, if terrorism did not exist, the need for torture would be largely eliminated, but if democracies did not employ physical pressure on terrorist suspects..."

All of a sudden you use the term 'physical pressure' when the word 'torture' should have stood there. Even you are uncomfortable with the concept so you use a symantic trick to soften what you are saying, perhaps for your reader or perhaps to quiet your own conscious.

You see, it is impossible to say one is waging a war for freedom and democracy while sacrificing the very tenets of our freedom and democracy in order to wage that war. If one needs to trample on our principles in order to save them, then there is something wrong somewhere with the logic.

Fisch, BN, Germany:

Torture is not the right topic, the topic should be human dignity, to treat the other as a person. It has a parallel in German history. The KZs were not so important, however bad they were, they were just industrial killing, "Made in Germany". The main point was the 9. November 1938, when it was de facto allowed to loot Jewish shops etc. What is "Made in Israel" today compared to average arrogance towards the Arabs, the "others", "barbars" in the sense of Hannah Arendt?

Chris, Pickering, Ontario:

Saul - "withholding all forms of physical and psychological pressure on terrorist suspects -- even for the limited purpose of prevention, not punishment -- would constitute a skewed moral calculus and a "luxury" that even the most human rights-conscious democracies cannot afford."

There are three problems, as I see it:

1. Well-meaning fools with no idea that global terrorism seeking WMD and mass death of innocent infidels was coming a generation later decided to broaden the definition of torture to any "cruel, or degrading, or humiliating treatment". Diplomats and human rights lawyers, alien to any battlefield or military experience, decided it was an incredibly noble and compassionate idea to vote to approve it. They thought it a wonderful noble goal - that they knew full well that most outside the progressive democracies would ignore, but that the democracies would take to with no real cost because the only menace advanced nations faced in war was of the strategic, thermonuclear kind with the Communists.

This broadened definition has gotten all sorts of liberal anal retentives saying "THE LAW!" is now set in stone, backed by the Supreme Moral Authority of the UN itself..that anything other than hugging a terrorist and fetching what they want without "humiliation"...is all "legal torture". Which is flat out ridiculous and untenable, as the author suggests, in fighting barbarous butchers that obey no law and where we know effective coerced interrogations that give minor discomfort to the terrorist but can and have saved hundreds or even thousands of innocent lives.

2. The Left is now locked into this ideologically. Without thinking, they condemn ANYTHING, from panties on the head to playing Red Hot Chili Peppers to "acts of Qu'ran abuse" (touching one with a filthy infidel hand for example) - as torture. The Left is also locked into ridiculous absolutes - "Torture Never Works!!" that demand ideological solidarity from other Lefties as absolute truths rather than simply being Lefty opinion disconnected from the historical reality of how effective police and military interrogations are.

2. An absence of perspective, attempting to treat coerced interrogations - or "torture" of the faux Lefty or real variety as a phenomenon that can be isolated from all other factors at play in a war - where the overriding objective must be to defeat the enemy and save as many of your own at the least cost. Confronted with the reality, the Lefty again retreats into brainless maxims..."I'd rather die and see my family die than to let a terrorist who is part of the operation to kill us be sleep-deprived". Yeah, right...SUUUURE you'd rather see everyone you cared about die! The Lefty says that because they judge (unwisely) that they believe they are resonably safe, or terrorism is just a Bush invention and a Rovian Plot...

*********************
Up in Canada it was so nice to see a bunch of liberals walking around like they had been kicked in the nuts after realizing that despite Canada's "anti any torture" stance, opposition to the Iraq War, aid to the Palestinians and voting ever so politically correctly - that the radical Islamists in our own country still hated us, saw us as infidel filth, and sought to kill large numbers of us.

My own feeling is that despite a blundering, deservedly unpopular President in America and reverses that the Republicans who mismanaged so much have coming, and the reverses of conservatives in some venues in Europe....that the Left is crawling way out on a limb and in danger of long term fatal damage from their ill-advised alliance with radical Islamists in rallies, actions taken, and their unthinking support of Jihadi rights. Because the radical Islamist threat is real, it stretches from Canada through Africa and Europe all the way to Pacific islands and existed before Bush and will exist after Bush. It is on the move, seeking to kill, and hell bent on acquiring the most lethal weapons. Another 9/11 or Jihadi action even larger up to the unthinkable horrible sneak nuke attack
- and all this high minded talk of "no stern questions of terrorists ever since it's torture" and "Precious terrorist civil liberties" will end.

Cayambe:

Saul,
Following is an extract from an excellent post.

Posted by: Jason Yackee | September 10, 2006 10:10 PM
THE PROBLEM IS THAT BEFORE WE TORTURE WE OFTEN DON'T KNOW IF THE POOR FELLOW IS A TERRORIST!

This is an important point that you have managed to ignore entirely.

You wrote:
"I am using the word torture widely, to include almost any form of physical or even psychological pressure as a means of interrogation. I find it hard to believe that those who are so sure that this question is "simple," and that all forms of torture must be ruled out, would say that it is morally preferred to allow 10 innocent people to die rather than deprive a terrorist suspect of sleep."

Well, lets narrow things to something coming a bit closer to reality shall we? Let us suppose we are talking about 100 innocent people vs. an electrical current through the bugger's testicles? What are YOU going to do Saul? He screams in pain and tells you he doesn't know what you are asking; he is just a taxi driver. Now what are YOU going to do Saul? He screams in more pain and cries and begs you to believe him; he doesn't know anything about terrorists. What are YOU going to do Saul? Of course you know he is lying because yesterday, when you put the juice to Abdul's nuts, he gave you this guy's name and address as the leader of the cell. So maybe Abdul is lying and this turkey really is just a cabbie; does that let YOU off the hook for frying his nuts for no good reason? Oh well, everyone has to sacrifice a little in war, right?

People who like the notion of torture always create these artificial situations where you know the subject knows what you need to know to save umpteen lives or avoid some catastrophe. But in the practice of torture this is almost never the case. Often the poor sod knows nothing and was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Often he just doesn't actually know anything you want to know. The trouble is, you can't distinguish that condition from the condition where he does know and is successfully resisting your torture. Get it into your head Saul. If you open the door to torture you are opening the door to brutally TERRORIZING innocent individuals along with guilty ones. And this is precisely what we unfortunately had happen in Afghanistan and Iraq, if you bothered to pay attention to the bad news below the fold. Of course our "alternate procedures" are guaranteed safe. The only people that die under our torture are the ones who were going to die of natural causes regardless.

"I don't know where the line should be drawn."
Now that is a definite copout. Just decide what level of agony, degradation, and/or humiliation is benign enough that you are willing to inflict it on an innocent man or woman, say your brother or your wife maybe.

Having been raised in Sud America, I've seen torture more up close and personal than we usually encounter in this country. It produces good intelligence and bad intelligence. Unfortunately it is really hard to distinguish one from the other in time to make it useful. It also produces a deep and abiding hatred.

Regardless of what any other country or group does, I want my country to just say NO to torture. We just won't do that. Right?????????

Cayambe:

To Beren:

As usual, a very good post, well thought out, well written. Do stick around. :o)

jap219:

Drivel, pure drivel. Torture is acceptable in the Middle East - in autocratic Arab states and the "only democracy" in the Middle East - Israel. Not in the free world.

Anonymous:

When you are an innocent person being tortured, I bet it matters.

And what ever happened to Innocent until Proven Guilty? The administration readily uses it, but in the case of suspected terrorists it doesn't apply?

Should we then condone torture for suspected murderers in the US as the next step? Murderers in our country are taking innocent lives every day, why not torture every murder suspect even though they may be innocent - we won't know until we torture them for sure if DNA evidence doesn't prove otherwise? People are innocent on a reasonable doubt, but that also means there is a chance they are guilty. Let's extend how we use torture! (that's sarcasm).

Anonymous:

Torture is WRONG!!!!

Period.

Adam:

About torture.

Regardless of whether or not it can be morally justified, just how effective could it ever really be, even if it was employed in the most favorable of circumstances? That is, how could any information gleaned from a suspected "terrorist" be accurately corroborated to the degree that it could, perhaps, justify its execution? On TV, of course, the bad guys being tortured (think "24") always manage to reveal where the bomb's stashed or the nuke's deactivation code is just in the nick of time. I'm inclined to think it's not quite so simple in real life. What are the realistic odds that a suspect who is being tortured is simply lying and willing to say anything in order to stop his interrogation? Lying or not, it'd be nearly impossible for any interrogator to verify the full authenticity of his (or her, wouldn't dare leave out the lovely Lynndie England) extracted information. Meaning, the costs - which I don't think need to be stated - of this already extraordinarily ambiguous practice even further outweigh its potential utility.

Beren:

Just to clear up a couple of points:

I think torture is always morally wrong and I think it's usually pretty clear what qualifies as torture. But just for the sake of argument, Mr. Singer, let's assume that you're right and that there are some practices that are torture that can legitimately and morally be used against terrorists. In that case, I want to know why you limit this to terrorists.

After all, terrorists are not the only ones who take lives. A suicide bomber might kill ten people in a restaurant. A serial killer might kill as many or more. Should we also torture those who have evidence about serial killings? But for that matter, what about a murderer of any sort? If you really think that torture is a legitimate procedure, how do you explain to the parents whose son was killed by a gang that you could perhaps have prevented his murder by torturing a gang member, and that you _do_ at other times use torture, but that you weren't willing to do so for their son's sake?

Part of why we have to make torture illegal is that any practice that is legal will soon become obligatory. Police are supposed to use all means legally at their disposal to keep us safe. If torture is a legal means available to them, they will be not only permitted, but even compelled to use it. They won't want to say that there was something they could legally have done, but didn't do.

So, I'd ask, Mr. Singer, is it only in the context of preventing terrorism that you support the use of torture, and if so, why?

Second, you write: "While torture may be used to prevent terrorism, terrorism is never a tool to prevent torture."

I'm at a loss as to what you're trying to prove here. Some of the posters have pointed out that your claim is factually wrong, but even if it were correct, what would it prove? You can't prove anything about the relative severity of immoral acts A and B, just by showing that A is sometimes done with the intention of preventing B, but B is never done with the intention of preventing A. For example it's probably more common that people (jealous spouses) commit murder to prevent adultery than it is for people to commit adultery to prevent murder. But that doesn't prove that adultery is a worse crime than murder. The argument is strictly a non-sequitur. Perhaps more people use torture to prevent terrorism than use terrorism to prevent torture; that doesn't do anything to prove that torture is somehow less bad than terrorism.

Actually, torture and terrorism have quite a lot in common. Both seek to use violence and pain, followed by a threat of future violence and pain, to instill fear/terror in their object, in order to change the object's behavior and get that object to do something that the torturer/terrorist wants. In that sense, terrorism is basically how you torture a country, and torture is how you terrorize an individual. Both say, "If you don't do what we want, we'll (blow up another restaurant / pull out another fingernail)." The moral reasoning that condones torture is uncannily similar to the moral reasoning that condones terrorism.

Finally, you say in several places that it is a hallmark of a good, civilized democracy is that we are tormented by these questions and we debate them. That's true, but it's not enough. If that's all that makes us different, then really our distinguishing mark is just our hypocrisy; we'll torture, just like other countries, but we'll feel bad about it, or something like that.

No, the difference has to be one of practice as well as attitude. The hallmark of a civilized country is that even in times of danger when the temptation to use torture grows, and debates like this one arise, the country still refuses to use torture.

Karim:

The witting:

Regarding "Jerusalem, Israel", please complain to:

postglobal@washingtonpost.com

I did few times but no success. It seems that the editors of this blog do concur with the Israeli position on Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is not in Israel.

Western Jerusalem is in Israel

Eastern Jerusalem is illegally occupied by Israel.

Its residents are not Israeli citizens and have been living under a military occupation since 1967 in violation of many UN resolutions.

If we don't defend the rights of these people who are de-facto imprisoned by the state of Israel, who will.

Protest injustice.

The Witting:

"Jerusalem, Israel" - A subtle instance of torture that has gone largely unoticed by a self-avowed purveyor of torture. If ever there was torture to deplore it's torture of facts and of reality, made all the more repugnant when abetted by the very institutions erected to enlighten and educate. This newspaper should be ashamed!
Dubai

Karim:


Torture (of Palestinians) was officially legal in Israel until 1999. Yes, in Israel, the land of honey and milk.

http://www.stoptorture.org.il/eng/background.asp?menu=3&submenu=1

"Until the High Court of Justice ruling of September 1999, Israel's security forces annually tortured hundreds of Palestinian detainees. According to official data the security forces interrogated approximately 23,000 Palestinians during the Intifada (1987-1993). The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel estimates that almost all the above detainees suffered from some form of torture during their interrogation."

Please do not use this to denigrate the Jewish people.

Keep the criticism focused on Israeli governments and its supporters in Israel and in the US (AIPAC and co).

Ramsey Badawi:

Mr Singer says "While torture may be used to prevent terrorism, terrorism is never a tool to prevent torture". Hmmm.

While my grandparents sheltered Jews in their attic, my uncles fought the Nazis as members of the Dutch Resistance. They put bombs in cinemas where off-duty Wehrmacht soldiers were having socials. As a tactic this is not so very different to blowing up recruiting lines in Iraq, and I'm sure the Nazis would have defined them as terrorists.

They did what they did to fight the crimes of the Nazi occupiers - amongst them, torture. Torture is certainly what they would have suffered if they had been caught.

A "terrorist" is really someone who uses asymmetric warfare against a state or regime. Most would agree that it was OK for my uncles to use such tactics against the Nazis.

I think what Mr Singer means by "terrorists" are "enemies". For example, if Syria were planning a conventional attack on Israel, and Mr Singer was standing over a captured Syrian intelligence officer with knowledge of plans, I suspect he would feel quite justified in paying a little visit to "the Dark Side".

So what he should really say is

"While torture may be used to prevent acts of my enemies, acts of my enemies are never a tool to prevent torture"

Torture then becomes the flip-side of having enemies. This state of affairs is exactly what the Geneva Conventions are supposed to prevent.

Ramsey Badawi,
Sacramento, CA

Curtiss Calleo:

Shameless.

Torture is not the flipside of terrorism. Torture is terrorism. It is the infliction of physical, mental and psychological pain on a individual, rather than a group. It morally and ethically erodes the torturer and physically erodes the victim.

The rest of this article is simple brutal anger and frustration wrapped in pesudo-moral sophistry. We are better than this, Saul Singer. We have to be, even if you can't.

Curtiss Calleo
Brooklyn, NY

Rory:

How about this for a simple solution - make torture legal anywhere and anytime, but make the person who authorises it subject to an automatic criminal charge. The charge can be mitigated by what came out of the torture itself.

So if George W authorises the torture of a suspected terrorist who reveals nothing then George would almost certainly be convcted of torture.

On the other hand, if the suspect reveals the details of a plot to kill 1,000 people, and this results in the thwarting of the plot then the charge against the Ppresident would be quashed.

Direct personal accountabilty for one's actions - could this work ?

Realist:

A person generally acts honestly, justly, and morally, unless it costs too much. This is true for a number of aspects in life, including torture. What is the cost of nuclear or dirty bomb exploding in the center of a large city? What if "only" a conventional truck bomb is involved? Or a car bomb? Or a suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest?

Torture, be it physical or mental, can be effective, and in some conceivable circumstances, will be considered by most to be a means justified by the end result. Whether the end that justifies the means is a potentially world-ending device versus a device that can only kill a few depends on your values, and, the potential costs of inaction. Even if you have strong convictions against torture, your values may be tested if your spouse, child, or parent is placed in danger. Personally, if I were in law enforcement, and I reasonably thought that placing a gun to the head of a known terrorist would save the life of a family member, I would do so without hesitation. If I thought the same action would save 10,000 lives, I would also do so willingly. If the same action would only save a few lives...the situation becomes less clear.

The original text of the Constitution does not ban torture -- one needs to go to the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to find Constitutional support for the banning of torture. Even then, the prohibitions are couched with qualifiers such as "unreasonable", "without due process of law", and "cruel and unusual". Would it be unreasonable, cruel/unusual, or an illegal violation of due process to torture a known terrorist in a time of emergency? Maybe. Should it be done? That depends on the cost.

Hillrat:

Mature, civilized democracies don't torture, as they know or have learned their is little empirical evidence that torture is ever effective.

Less mature, and less civilized democracies might find value in torture, but let's call it what it is in those cases -- revenge.

In the case of Israel, their decades long no-end-in-sight policy vis-a-vis terrorism is proof positive their approach is an abject failure. Vengeance through torture may be satisfying to some, but it does not fix the inherent problems or sources of terrorism. Nor does it end them.

John:

Setting aside the morality of torture (or the lack thereof), one must decide what one is trying to accomplish by torturing a subject. Most interrogation experts assert quite clearly that torture does not really work. The subject will talk, but will tell the interrogator what he thinks the interrogator wants to hear, not the truth.

Even if torture did work, one has to ask what price we must pay for obtaining the information we seek. It was quite interesting to me to watch a story about an Arab American who was caught plotting the bombing of a New York subway. His motive: His outrage at the tortures of Abu Ghraib. By torturing prisoners, we actually added to the leagues of those who seek to do us harm.

Third, one of the great things about the United States is that we have been a model for the rest of the world to follow. That has brought us friends in every country, even when some of those countries governments opposed us. Torture erodes the moral high ground that made us that model.

So, by using torture in interrogating prisoners, we pay a price by creating enemies and eroding our moral standing in the world. Add to that the fact that most experts don't even think torture works, and one has to wonder why anybody would even suggest that torture is a good idea.

Srikanth Raghunathan, Washington, D. C.:

Saul:

Torture SIMPLY DOES NOT pay in the long rung. Yes, you may get short-term results, but WILL indeed suffer long-term, adverse consequences. Have you ever been captured and tortured? Then is easy for you (as it is for me to say "no, it is not justified"), to say that torture is justified. Perhaps, we should people like Sen. John McCain and others for their opinion. The best course of action is to understand the fundamental issued underlying the causes, before we study the effects of something. Do you really think that the Founders of Israel were not terrorists? (Just ask the British Governors of that age.) Remember the old adage that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.


I am an ardent hawk and pugnacious person. However, I do not see an end to this vicious cycle of terrorism and the concomitant violence, without a rational, busines-like, even-handed approach. Since you are influential journalist in Israel, perhaps, you could ask your goverment to sit down with the so-called terrorist groups (whomever they may be) and hash out the issues.

Like it, or not, we WILL, sooner, or later, have to deal with these "terrorists." Terrorists have been involved in every country's origins and founding.

Karen Stone:

all of this commentary makes me want to cry
for the loss of our values
Judeo-Christian, my ass

Anonymous:

Mr Singer,
I cannot believe you belong to same people who gave birth to Spinoza. I cannot believe that the people who survived the Shoa could become zionazi.

Thom:

"Now after further thought I can think of instances where this is true too."

I meant further instances where this is untrue. . . OOPS

Thom:

"Terrorism is never a tool to prevent torture." Saul Singer

I know I posted about the earlier portion of his message and disagreed with it. Now after further thought I can think of instances where this is true too.

When Gilad Shalit was taken prisoner by the Palestinians they offered to exchange him for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

As Mr. Singer has just admitted, those Palestinians were/are being tortured. Had an exchange taken place, might that not refute his second point?

I will repost my first point here for ease of reference.

[". . . Torture may be used to prevent terrorism. . . ," Saul Singer.

Yes, but it also creates more.

Mr. Singer has shown an incredibly myopic world view, and a shocking lack of understanding of the problems facing America.

Torturing someone might get him to tell you something of import, preventing ONE terror attack in the short run. It will however lead to more hatred and vitriol in the long run.

This in turn leads to a more dangerous situation, in which more terror attacks are planned to get back at the "people who did this to my brother (or father, son or mother)."

Mathematically, the more attacks that are planned the harder it will be to stop them all, even if we torture more and more.

This is refered to as a vicious circle, out of which it becomes increasingly difficult to emerge unscathed.

Let's not go any further down this slippery slope than we already have.

Posted by: Thom | September 11, 2006 11:27 AM ]

Anonymous:

As far as I can tell, American values are at the point where an unborn, unwanted American child has more of a right to life than anybody living in the Middle East, except for the Israelis.

Richard Katz:

Yes, better said. Human Rights

For today what are American values? Illegal wars? Stupid People who believe whatever they see on Television or are told by the President or their pastor? Lying? Proganda maybe?

Killing innocent people thinking they deserve it (because they are Islamic)?? Torture? Or better yet, religious bigotry in the Christian Nation?? Got me, maybe we should be discussing that.

Anonymous:

"Is this what they mean by "full circle"?" ondelette.

No, Full circle would be the Jews doing it to the Germans. I beleive the Psychological term is transferrence.

Anonymous:

Therefore Mr. Singer, your suggestion that sleep deprivation might be okay, flys in the face of [HUMAN] Values.

Richard Katz:

And in addition, our Founding Fathers recognized the need to protect their citizen against an over zealous Government by granting each citizen the right to be protected from self incrimination.

WELL OFFICER YOU KNOW AS WELL AS I DO THAT I DON'T HAVE TO ANSWER THAT QUESTION AND YOU HAVE NO RIGHT IN INSIST THAT I ANSWER.

Therefore Mr. Singer, your suggestion that sleep deprivation might be okay, flys in the face of American Values.

Bev:

This is sickening. There's a difference between living a decent, honourable life and surviving, and we shouldn't have to explain to human beings what that difference is. If being tortured is bad, what do you think happens to those we ask to do our torturing?

It isn't a "luxury" for humans to be moral, it is a necessity - especially in democracies.

w.Lightfoot:

And one of the most frightening things about all of this is that Singer, according to his bio, before moving to Israel, funtioned as an advisor to the US congress for ten years. We have governmental "advisors" such as Singer, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Pearle, Scooter Libby and the like and then wonder why elements of the US government have been supporting torture. Following the "advice" of people such as the above, this has become a very different United States in the last ten years or so and anyone with half a brain knows why. Certainly, Thom, Dick and Hal Carpenter know why.

ondelette:

How incredibly sad.

We have a German with uncles in the Wehrmacht advocating values and restraint, and a Jew who should know better advocating torture and brutality when the end justifies the means.

Is this what they mean by "full circle"?

Paul:

I am one who believes that a free society should not torture those who are suspected of criminality. Pragmatically, I also believe that torture is counter-productive. However, I'm willing to consider that there might be extreme situations where torture might be a moral choice.

What if torture were a legal interrogation tool, as long as there was complete transperancy and accountability? In other words, if the whole chain of command - up to and including the president - would be responsible for whatever actions were taken and whatever results were obtained?

I'm not saying that the president would have to approve in advance individual decisions by interrogators, but that he would have to be comfortable with taking responsibility for his subordinates' actions.

Hal Carpenter:

To Saul Singer:

What a Mengele!! Only racists, religious fanatics and Zionazis support torture. Support of torture presupposes the inferiority of ones enemy and it also presupposes that your enemies are oppressed and will never get their filthy sub-human hands on your precious ass.

Maybe you'll be lucky enough to find yourself on the instructional end of a torture session some day. One can only hope. Happy waterboarding and testicular shocks to you.
Hal Carpenter

Dick Weed:

Torture is terrorism you blood mad Zionist.

Thom:

". . . Torture may be used to prevent terrorism. . . ," Saul Singer.

Yes, but it also creates more.

Mr. Singer has shown an incredibly myopic world view, and a shocking lack of understanding of the problems facing America.

Torturing someone might get him to tell you something of import, preventing ONE terror attack in the short run. It will however lead to more hatred and vitriol in the long run.

This in turn leads to a more dangerous situation, in which more terror attacks are planned to get back at the "people who did this to my brother (or father, son or mother)."

Mathematically, the more attacks that are planned the harder it will be to stop them all, even if we torture more and more.

This is refered to as a vicious circle, out of which it becomes increasingly difficult to emerge unscathed.

Let's not go any further down this slippery slope than we already have.

Saul Singer:

Stegman made a point that is important for understanding my original post: "Torture exists along a continuum. ... Depriving someone of sleep could be seen as torture, but most would agree it is less severe than beating them. The question is to decide upon the point along the continuum of torture that is justified in order to prevent terrorist attacks."

I am using the word torture widely, to include almost any form of physical or even psychological pressure as a means of interrogation. I find it hard to believe that those who are so sure that this question is "simple," and that all forms of torture must be ruled out, would say that it is morally preferred to allow 10 innocent people to die rather than deprive a terrorist suspect of sleep.

That said, I can't see how many of the tortures that tyrants and terrorists routinely use on their opponents and victims can be used by democracies, even for the purpose of saving lives.

I don't know where the line should be drawn. All I am saying is that it is easy to say that the line must be drawn at zero physical pressure on terrorist suspects, but that the moral consequences of such a position - like the consequences of pacifism - cause it to collapse of its own weight.

It is an interesting question whether the bombings of cities like Dresden and Hiroshima should be considered a terrorist acts, as Brendan suggests. I would say that, if anything, they were war crimes, which is not quite the same thing. If the allies knew that these bombings were not necessary to defeat Germany and Japan during WWII, then I suppose they were. But what if, absent these bombings, the Allies would have lost the war?

I believe that what makes democracies different is that they grapple seriously with these questions, that they seek peace, and that they produce people who are horrified by war, torture, and terrorism. It is wrong for those of us lucky enough to live in freedom to pretend there is no difference between societies that do make such distinctions and those that glorify suicide bombings and other forms of terrorism, and where torture of dissidents, let alone captured combatants, is commonplace.

Bahuba:

It must be a horrible shame for members of the Jewish faith to have the only advocate for torture come from their ranks. The terrorists won a long time ago if you've lost your humanity.

Shalom Freedman:

One of the odd things about this discussion is that it focuses on 'Israel' and the 'United States' as the 'torturers'. Perhaps it is because there is real debate within these societies and their military and legal establishments over whether torture should be permitted, and how precisely it is to be limited. What is odd is that the biggest torturers are the terror- societies who of course have no debates on such subjects but who torture their own people as well as that of their enemies. The Syrian, Iranian, Palestinian, Sudanese, North Korean, regimes are built and sustained on cruelty against their own people. These are the same people who indiscriminately aim to kill civilians of the other side.
Torture , once again , has its sole justification as a way of extracting information to prevent murder of innocents.
As Terry writes from Baghdad anyone who has seen or known the victims of such terror certainly understands this necessity.

Lily:

Has any form of torture ever worked? If it did, why would there even be a need for it that you seem to think exsists?

I think most people know the difference between punishment and torture. It's the line between what makes us human and what makes us inhuman.

Could YOU ever torture anybody? I couldn't. And I'd put anybody who could in the same category as terrorists.

Cristi:

Frankly, I'm disgusted that by the ideea that:

"While torture may be used to prevent terrorism, terrorism is never a tool to prevent torture."

I'm disgusted that a human being, sorry for the name calling in this case, can even think that torture ca be somehow justified and useful.

W. Lightfoot:

Saul Singer says there is "no easy answer" as regards whether or not it is right to torture people. In fact, this is one of the few cases where there is an easy answer and the answer is, it is wrong to torture people. It is wrong to torture arabs and it is wrong to torture jews. It is wrong catholics and it is wrong to torture protestants. It is wrong to torture muslims and it is wrong to torure christians.
And, so far the theory that it is OK to torture terrorists, if someone who drops a 2,000 lb bomb on a refugee camp isn't a terrorist, I don't know who is.

W. Lightfoot:

Saul Singer says there is "no easy answer" as regards whether or not it is right to torture people. In fact, this is one of the few cases where there is an easy answer and the answer is, it is wrong to torture people. It is wrong to torture arabs and it is wrong to torture jews. It is wrong catholics and it is wrong to torture protestants. It is wrong to torture muslims and it is wrong to torure christians.
And, so far the theory that it is OK to torture terrorists, if someone who drops a 2,000 lb bomb on a refugee camp isn't a terrorist, I don't know who is.

Israel, Palestine?:

Alert!a typically sneaky insertion: Mr Singer
purports to write from Jerusalem, Israel.
Jerusalem is NOT a part of Israel.
May I be just as sneaky and say that Mr. Singer must be writing from Jerusalem, PALESTINE? Shame should especially be on the Washington Post for allowing Singer to use such an address: until the Jerusalem question is resolved stick to the truth and call it just Jerusalem.

Anthony Damiani:

"When they have had to wash the blood and fragments of the torn and battered bodies of the victims out of their hair and cloths or worse, bury a family member whos life has been stolen by the real monsters, terrorists, I wonder if they will still be so opposed to "torture" in all it's manifold forms."

Possibly, but this an experience foreign to, conservatively, 99.9% of Americans. Exaggerating the threat we face as justification for overriding our longstanding tradition of respect for human rights is deeply counterproductive.

Anthony Damiani:

The torture-can-fight-terror but terror-can't-fight-torture paralell is false on the face of it.

Nelson Mandela was on US lists of global terroists as late as 2003. Clearly his actions were designed to fight a regime that was opressing and torturing its citizens.

If we accept that torture is justified under certain circumstances because the net good will outweigh the net evil, we are taking a consequentialist position. We cannot adopt a consistent form of consequentialism without likewise entertaining that terror is, under certain circumstances, a justified tool.

I want to clarify that I am not making the case that terrorism is ever justified, but your attempt is a philosophical attempt to have your cake and eat it too. You want our actions to be judged on a sliding scale based on circumstances, while the actions of our enemies must be judged as absolute, deontological evil.

This sort of sloppy double-standard is profoundly dangerous, as it permits us to excuse, in ourselves, behavior we would objectively decry as monsterous were it conducted by a third party.

QQ:

What an absurd attempt to justify a pratice that is universally condemned! If you are a real believer, you should volunteer to replace a Palestinian prisoner in Israeli jails run by your so-called security services? Video games, it ain't!

Brendan:

Mr Singer's contention that democracies do not use terrorism is clearly untrue as the bombing of civilian areas of Lebanon by Israel was clearly designed to terrorise the population. Benjamin Nethanyahu on British television sought to justify Israeli actions by pointing to the carpet bombing of German cities towards the end of WW2 by the Allies. In this he is right the Allies did bomb German cities, where the killing of innocent civilians could not be justified from a military standpoint. These actions were clearly terrorism.

I have no doubt that democracies also use torture as the US has done in Iraq and elsewhere and as the French did in Algiers. Advocates of torture and bombing of cilivians should at least be honest about it and not try to pretend that they are better than "terrorists".

Brigitte Meier, Everett, USA:

Mr. Singer and all who commented on his article talk of terrorists, as if from an accepted definition of who and what is a terrorist. The question for them turns around whether terrorists can or should be tortured for any cause. But who or what are terrorists?

Bush and Olmert glibly label any opponent to their regimes and geopolitical intentions as terrorists, all the while preaching the freedoms of democracy. But looked at from the other side, from the millions of Muslims killed by the western goals, what makes the US and Israel be different from the Muslims who oppose their intentions?

The US indulges in unending lament about 3000 victims of 9/11, but never mentions the 1.7 m Iraqis who died as a direct consequence of US imposed sanctions; nor the 250'000 Afghan civilians who were killed in the US war to capture Bin Laden and oust the Taliban (with what right?); nor the approximately 100'000 Iraqis killed in the US war to date; nor the millions of Africans killed in civil wars bankrolled and incited by the US.

Hezbollah killed some 60 civilians, which makes them terrorists. Israel killed 1200 Lebanese civilians. Why should that not make them terrorists?

In light of these completely disproportionate losses, who and what are the terrorists? Are they the people who accept death to defend their freedom from western subjugation because, short of comparable weapons to defend themselves, they use suicide bombings, or are they the western aggressors, who like Bush, cite offense of US policy as a license to kill?

If it is acceptable to torture terrorists to obtain information, then it is acceptable to torture anyone, anytime, for any cause, because there will always be opponents.

Maybe there is a reason why US criminal law forbids use of evidence gained from any form of coercion. The worst enemies of democracy are not those labeled terrorists, but those who claim to defend their citizens from terrorism to justify wars for oil and power.

rk:

The arguement that torture is ok to
prevent terrorism is like saying that terrorism is ok to prevent terrorism and torture is ok to prevent torture, because, when one
sides terrorist is another sides freedom fighter, then also, one sides torturer is the other sides
skilled intelligence officer.Lets just agree that war is a nasty business and leave it at that.

Sherzad:

I would have writen much about this,if had not been Isreal .

Terry From Baghdad:

The kneejerk namecalling directed at Mr. Singer ("Monster", "Mengele") seem to be coming primarily from people who's lives have been thus far blissfully isolated from the bloody realities of terrorism.

When they have had to wash the blood and fragments of the torn and battered bodies of the victims out of their hair and cloths or worse, bury a family member whos life has been stolen by the real monsters, terrorists, I wonder if they will still be so opposed to "torture" in all it's manifold forms.

Once the fight lands on their doorstep, I have no doubt that they would approve heartily in the application of "pressure tactics" to aid in aprehending the perpetrators of a crime aimed at them or their loved ones, and to prevent futher acts of predation.

From the comfort and percieved safety afforded by isolation do they pass judgement.

Jason Yackee:

I don't see the need to attack zionists on this, though it is somewhat ironic that a people who have suffered the brunt of horrendous torture apparently and as a general matter seem to be the most frequent and eloquent supporters of the cause. I would instead simply ask what recourse the "terrorist suspect" -- and our commenter deserves kudos for actually admitting to that qualifier -- has after he has been tortured and it is found out that - gasp - he wasn't actually a terrorist. A pat on the back and a "sorry, mate, wrong guy"?

Moral apologists for terror consistently overlook this dreadful consequence -- that non-terrorists will be routinely tortured. They say, "terrorists torture, so it is morally a-ok that we torture terrorists"...sure, all well & good I suppose -- but even that is not so clear, at least to me. I've never found the "stoop to their level" argument to be all that admirable. But that is not the problem. THE PROBLEM IS THAT BEFORE WE TORTURE WE OFTEN DON'T KNOW IF THE POOR FELLOW IS A TERRORIST!

Until we devise a way of infallibly (or nearly so) determining this all-important threshold question in a fair, just, and transparent way, and in advance of the actually setting of the screws, the "Israeli" position will be far from convincing to me and to lots of others.

Petro:

Shalom -

The author simply states that the end justifies the means. I disagree. You can not have it both ways. You can not argue the moral high road while you partake in the same activity as those that you dispise. This is exactly what Mr. Singer suggests. Arguing for torture on the basis that the bad guy's also do it is hypocritical. On this point, Mr. Singer simply argues, "Heh, they do it, let's do it too!"

On a side note, I've given some thought to the notion of the meaning of "democracies" and innocent "civilians". First off, Israel nor the U.S. is a democracy. It's a Republic, but that's a side point really. In a Republic we elect leaders. I think the terrorists argue that since we vote for these leaders, the act of voting make us part of the state, and thus, a person that is a target.

Of course, this doesn't excuse killing children because they can't vote. But I think it does explain some of the rationale that the terrorists use as their basis to attack civilians since the civilians, as the ultimate governing body of the Republic (by their ability to vote for the leaders), have the final deciding role in our form of government. Thus, in the terrorists eyes making us a target.

Shalom Freedman:

The hysterical name- calling against Saul Singer is shameful. It also indicates the incapacity to read and listen to what another is saying.
Singer is not calling for blanket right to 'torture'. He is pointing out that a democracy has a duty to defend its citizens. And that there are circumstances which must be defined as clearly as possible legally, in which the threat of violent injury to the society is so great as to justify torture in those cases.
That is all he is saying.
He is not calling for torture to be made an everyday practice. He is saying that it must be monitored carefully, and permitted rarely.
The name- calling hatred against him is once again shameful.
By the way don't those who use such verbally abusive language understand that there is more than one way to 'hurt' others gratuituously?

stegman:

Torture exists along a continuum. Some would say waking up for work on Monday morning is torture. In a way, it is torture to be in jail. Depriving someone of sleep could be seen as torture, but most would agree it is less severe than beating them. The question is to decide upon the point along the continuum of torture that is justified in order to prevent terrorist attacks.

Richard Katz:

Under no circumstances can torture be justified. Our founding fathers realized that a civilied people must be protected against "cruel and unusual" punishment in order to respect their Government or for that matter, even endure such a Government

John M. Wilkins:

I say you are absolutely wrong. The line is very easy to define. It is very disturbing that now "torrture is the only way." I would much rather the United States or israel endure a terrist attack than give in to the insanity of promoting torture. My God-where are we going? Can you draw a line to this? I don't think so.

PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and washingtonpost.com, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send us your comments, questions and suggestions.