The phrase “enhanced interrogation” has been used by the Bush Administration to justify the torture of Iraqi insurgents, often with the claim that since they are not uniformed military, they are not subject to the Geneva Conventions. This is not the first use of this kind of this kind of language to defend this kind of act:

The phrase “Versch?rfte Vernehmung” is German for “enhanced interrogation”. Other translations include “intensified interrogation” or “sharpened interrogation”. It’s a phrase that appears to have been concocted in 1937, to describe a form of torture that would leave no marks, and hence save the embarrassment pre-war Nazi officials were experiencing as their wounded torture victims ended up in court. The methods, as you can see above, are indistinguishable from those described as “enhanced interrogation techniques” by the president. As you can see from the Gestapo memo, moreover, the Nazis were adamant that their “enhanced interrogation techniques” would be carefully restricted and controlled, monitored by an elite professional staff, of the kind recommended by Charles Krauthammer, and strictly reserved for certain categories of prisoner. At least, that was the original plan.

Also: the use of hypothermia, authorized by Bush and Rumsfeld, was initially forbidden. ‘Waterboarding” was forbidden too, unlike that authorized by Bush. As time went on, historians have found that all the bureaucratic restrictions were eventually broken or abridged. Once you start torturing, it has a life of its own.

Andrew Sullivan has more (a lot more) documenting exactly what was going on under German supervision, and how shockingly similar it is to what is going on under George W. Bush. He closes with this critical observation (emphasis mine):

Critics will no doubt say I am accusing the Bush administration of being Hitler. I’m not. There is no comparison between the political system in Germany in 1937 and the U.S. in 2007. What I am reporting is a simple empirical fact: the interrogation methods approved and defended by this president are not new. Many have been used in the past. The very phrase used by the president to describe torture-that-isn’t-somehow-torture – “enhanced interrogation techniques” – is a term originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death.

Americans need to understand exactly what they support when they support “enhanced interrogation”.

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  • Semantics aside, here is no limit to what I would support in the pursuit of intelligence gathering. A terrorist is, by definition, outside of the law, hides among civilians, purposefully targets innocent civilians- he an unlawful combatant- Since he fights outside of the rules of law, he deserves no protection.

    And sure- the ticking timebomb situation is an extreme, unlikely example. But there should be no question if torture should be allowed or not in that situation- In fact, it would be a moral obligation to hang him by his thumbs and beat the info out of him.

  • Would you support torture of innocents? Like the Chinese Uighur men held in Guantanamo for years before being released as “innocent”? I mean, if they ended up in Guantanamo I thought they had to be terrorist, right?

    What about torturing a terror suspect’s wife? Kids? You did, after all, say no limit…

    At any rate, you are ignoring the well-documented fact that torture does not work.

  • So, torturing the innocent Chinese Uighyr men that were held at Guantanamo is cool? What about the wives and children of terrorists?

    What about the fact that torture does not work?

  • What about torturing the innocents known to be held at US facilities? How about terror suspect’s wives, or children?

    What about the fact that torture does not work?

  • #1: Love your logic. Using same, it would be OK then to beat the hell out of someone after they were pulled over for speeding since they are now “outside of the rules of law”.

    Treating people with dignity and affording them rights is something you do regardless of what it is they’ve done, plan to do, or think about doing. It’s universal. It’s what sets us apart. It is, indeed, what many have fought and died for. To engage in “enhanced interrogation” techniques or to hang people by their thumbs and beat them, makes us unworthy of of whatever moral high ground we might claim.

    Matt’s comment and the continued actions of this administration should point clearly to the fact that Neocons should never be allowed to run this country. This is why, this is why, this is why we fight.

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