When a New Englander Hears a Texan Make a Torture Joke

March 6, 2008

Overheard while strolling down Main Street in Santa Monica:

Guy with clipboard: “Stop torture?”

Woman entering cafe: “I like torture.”

Me, to myself: (Tee hee.)

Woman: “I’m from Texas.”

Me: (She was kidding… right?)


8 Responses to “When a New Englander Hears a Texan Make a Torture Joke”

  1. jonolan Says:

    I’ve a simple attitude about it. If it’s necessary and useful, do it. If not, don’t. Dead Americans are far worse than a few “traumatized” terrorists and their sympathizers and supporters.

  2. Emily Says:

    Hi Jonolan! Now that habeas corpus has been effectively suspended, no reason to draw the line at torturing foreigners – Americans are eligible for the fun too! With any luck, they’ll start with you!


  3. jonolan Says:

    Emily, look up SERE training – been there, done that ;)

  4. Emily Says:

    Ah yes, SERE training. Why else would our “interrogators” ideas so closely resemble outmoded Russian and Japanese tactics designed to terrify people?

    Torture is designed for punishment or to keep populations quiescent. Not to make people talk.

  5. jonolan Says:

    Incorrect, Emily. Torture can be used as a means of interrogation. In that usage, I find no problem other than it is less than totally reliable for anything other than immediate tactical intelligence.

    Torture is actually quit ineffective as a means of population control, as history has proven time and time again. It’s a decent punishment though.

  6. Emily Says:

    Jonolan, I don’t expect that an appeal either to logic or to human decency is going to change your mind. Nonetheless, I feel obliged to make those arguments. When you say “torture can be used as a means of interrogation” but that it is “less than totally reliable” – which, as you know, is a complete understatement – you deny the main meaning of “interrogation” which is to produce truthful answers. In the interrogation context, torture is principally used to force people to give false confessions which can be used to convict them publicly and thereby undermine their reputations.

    I can only imagine that with your extensive SERE training you were able to gain perfectly reliable immediate tactical intelligence through torturing someone, because that’s the only way that you could correctly assert that claim. The effectiveness of torture for even that limited kind of information has been entirely understudied in a non-anecdotal way, because the vast majority of people who are sophisticated enough to be interested in unbiased information about causes and effects also picked up the message somewhere around kindergarten that HURTING PEOPLE ON PURPOSE IS WRONG. People who lack that basic piece of social wisdom often tend to mess up on some of the more complicated follow-throughs on the consequences of misguided national policy, like how giving expensive weapons to people for a short-term goal might come back to bite you in the ass (e.g., Afghanistan), how removing leaders you don’t like in order to install a friendly dictator might lead to genocide and other unpleasantness (e.g., Guatemala, Iran) and how torturing people might create even more antagonized citizens, aka “terrorists”, and result in nasty, multi-decade wars (e.g., Algeria).

  7. jonolan Says:

    You got part of that backwards; SERE training is Survive, Evade, Resist, Escape training. I was the one being subjected to the interrogation.

    You approach this from an absolute Right vs. Wrong standpoint. That’s fine, since you’re not likely to be in a position where that attitude and its associated limitations will be a hazard. I approach this from the standpoint of what is needed to protect people from enemies.

  8. Emily Says:

    OK, I was really done with this conversation – after all, what kind of person stands for being accused of having a sense of right and wrong? – but I have just been validated by the Times and Harvard, which means I’m Right.

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