Clearing the Fog
in the
War of Words


  logomachy--1. A dispute about words. 2. A dispute carried on in words only; a battle of words.
logomachon--1. One who argues about words. 2. A word warrior.



Torture is bad? Torture is Twinkies!

One night as we were proofing page paste-ups of our college paper, another SEA vet and I were chatting about napalm. A rather wussy undergrad on the other side of the table said primly “Ya know, guys, that’s not the most pleasant topic of conversation”. To which we replied, “Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.”

Same for torture.

Another story. There were a couple of engineering students, also Vietnam vets, whom I took a lot of classes with, especially computer science. This was back when we would punch holes in the cards with rocks, hand in the deck, check to see how many hours it would take for the job to run, then walk up the hill for coffee at the student center. So we had time to chat and tell war stories.

One of the guys had learned Cambodian at Army language school and was assigned as an interrogator to a unit operating along the border, where a lot of the VC were ethnic Cambodian. He told us that although coercion was against the rules, if the CO told him to get information from a captive, say, about booby traps on the trails ahead, he “got out his water bucket”.

I think he was right. Let me be clear that we are not talking about prisoners of war covered by international conventions. This is about unlawful combatants, in Vietnam and in the war on terror. The argument against mistreatment of such prisoners is the general moral one that they are no longer combatants. They can’t hurt you. But that isn’t true. They have information--immediate, tactical information--that can mean the death of your soldiers. By not providing that information, the prisoner is still fighting, almost as much as he would be if he set off a grenade hidden in his shirt. I think some mental and physical coercion is appropriate to get that information.

How about behind the lines, say with the terrorists at Guantánamo Bay? The liberal Hive has been buzzing with two truisms that are not true: “stress” techniques don’t work and US interrogators engage in torture. If you believe that, then you just don’t know what you are talking about, and you won’t until you read Heather Mac Donald's article.

No Oil for Pacifists has a good work up with good comments and links. But here is how the great All-American torture machine that liberals are certain their countrymen are running really works:
So what were these cruel and degrading practices? For one, providing a detainee an incentive for cooperation—such as a cigarette or, especially favored in Cuba, a McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich or a Twinkie unless specifically approved by the secretary of defense. In other words, if an interrogator had learned that Usama bin Ladin’s accountant loved Cadbury chocolate, and intended to enter the interrogation booth armed with a Dairy Milk Wafer to extract the name of a Saudi financier, he needed to “specifically determine that military necessity requires” the use of the Dairy Milk Wafer and send an alert to Secretary Rumsfeld that chocolate was to be deployed against an al-Qaida operative.



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