McCain "doesn't understand" torture

The torture debate among second-tier GOP hopefuls continues, with a surprising choice of words from former Sen. Rick Santorum.

Check out this exchange between radio host Hugh Hewitt and Santorum (bold mine):

Advertisement

HH: Now your former colleague, John McCain, said look, there’s no record, there’s no evidence here that these methods actually led to the capture or the killing of bin Laden. Do you disagree with that? Or do you think he’s got an argument?

RS: I don’t, everything I’ve read shows that we would not have gotten this information as to who this man was if it had not been gotten information from people who were subject to enhanced interrogation. And so this idea that we didn’t ask that question while Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was being waterboarded, he [McCain] doesn’t understand how enhanced interrogation works. I mean, you break somebody, and after they’re broken, they become cooperative. And that’s when we got this information. And one thing led to another, and led to another, and that’s how we ended up with bin Laden. That seems to be clear from all the information I read. Maybe McCain has better information than I do, but from what I’ve seen, it seems pretty clear that but for these cooperative witnesses who were cooperative as a result of enhanced interrogations, we would not have gotten bin Laden.

McCain, you'll remember, was tortured (or was it enhanced-interrogated?), and he has made it clear that torture played no role whatsoever in the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden. Santorum, a Catholic who supports the use of torture, obviously disagrees.

When McCain's staff was asked for a reply to Santorum's statement, they offered one word:

Who?

Michael J. O'Loughlin

 

 

 

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Matthew Pettigrew
7 years 5 months ago
Mr. Cosgrove writes "This whole thing has nothing to do with moral indignation ...." I disagree and, in fact, I believe that's exactly what we're talking about. Proponents of torture - John Yoo comes to mind - used to talk about the ticking time bomb scenario overriding the immorality of torture. Now some of same proponents seem to have changed the conversation to include simply the gathering of useful information. Have we really reached the point where we'll torture a captive just to obtain non-critical, non-urgent facts? Moral indignation seems perfectly appropriate.
7 years 5 months ago
''Boy Cosgrove, you like to use the word ''nonsense'' a lot!''


Yes, I use it a lot because I see it a lot on this site.  Your answer is a non sequitur so is that nonsense?  What McCain did is meaningless but he did say that all men have a breaking point.


The evidence is that enhanced interrogation do work and led to Bin Laden's courier among other things.
Vince Killoran
7 years 5 months ago
I think "non sequitur" is being used too loosely as well.

When McCain wrote "breaking point" he meant what he wrote-i.e., that he did more than provide them with name, rank, & serial number. He did not give them useful information (by then he had been captive for years). The so-called "confessions" extracted from U.S. POWS, in fact, are well known for their useless quality.  They were mostly gibberish made by men broken by deprivation & torture.

Torture does not work.  A few years ago U.S. military officials visited the set of "24" to request that the show's writers' and producers cease portraying torture as effective since it was not and West Point cadets might get the wrong idea. [Jane Meyer, "Whatever It Takes," THE NEW YORKER, Feb. 19, 2007].
Vince Killoran
7 years 5 months ago
Time for you to register for a refresher course in logic Cosgrove.

Meanwhile we can all benefit from the comics: www.gocomics.com/nonsequitur.

Have a nice weekend!
7 years 5 months ago
Intellectually dishonest post. 
Matthew Pettigrew
7 years 5 months ago
It is in large part because of breathtakingly stupid and arrogant statements such as this one about Senator McCain that the voters of Pennsylvania emphatically rejected Santorum.
ed gleason
7 years 5 months ago
I think Michael Brooks is angry that Santorum is just another one of the  GOP hopefuls
{Trump, Newt, Huckabee, lets leave Palin out] who has shot himself in the foot. I suggest that all GOPers turn in their NRA guns as these self inflicted wounds, that I once thought were humorous, are now getting downright sad. I think these gaffs are the real/hidden cause of Boehners crying jags.
7 years 5 months ago
''I had learned what we all learned over there: Every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine.''

Senator John McCain 
Stanley Kopacz
7 years 5 months ago
There's one place where torture always works.  TV shows.  It makes for great revenge porn like "24".  It doesn't matter if it works, it's satisfying.  It's visual and it punishes at the same time.  It's  simple and uncomplicated.  It's the microcosm version of war.  Look, they're doing something we  can see. Doesn't matter if it works.  Look at all the cool explosions.  All that violence just HAS to accomplish something, doesn't it?
 
Vince Killoran
7 years 5 months ago
Santorium is just plain fun!  I hope he's around public life-but not in any position of power-for many years to come.

As for Cosgrove's "gotcha" quote: McCain wasn't talking about revealing important military information to the enemy.  Here's what he goes on to write:" The information was of no real use to the Vietnamese, but the Code of Conduct for American Prisoners of War orders us to refrain from providing any information beyond our names, rank and serial number." 
Matthew Pettigrew
7 years 5 months ago
I apologize. I just quoted Mr. Cosgrove, but after I posted my comment I noticed that the comment of his to which I was responding was no longer there. Sorry for the confusion.
7 years 5 months ago
Not your fault, Matt.  The editors are in ultra-censor mode today.  Not sure whether they are protecting themselves or trying to protect their readers, but in any case, if anyone believes that this is an unbiased open comments blog, they are sorely mistaken.

If the America editors do not want open comments, then they should have the courtesy of letting its readers know, for each post, which position on the issue they will allow to appear in the comments and which position they will delete.
Vince Killoran
7 years 5 months ago
"Uber-censor"? I don't know Michael-I read some irreverent and irrelevant postings on IAT.  Compared to other Catholic blogs this one has a generous range of views.

The only time I have noticed posts being deleted is when someone contributes a crude comment that could not be considered in any reasonable way as furthering debate.
7 years 5 months ago
''I just quoted Mr. Cosgrove, but after I posted my comment I noticed that the comment of his to which I was responding was no longer there''

I still have it.  I wonder why my comment was taken down.  It is not something new for comments to be taken down.  I was essentially pointing out how some comments here are not driven by reason but by something else and therefore lack any element of intelligence in them.  I am quite happy to have a discussion of torture or whatever it is.  I find no consistency in the debate and all apparently is meant for one objective, to undermine someone politically and does not reflect any moral indignation.  If there were moral indignation there would be all sorts of complaints at things far worse which go on so I find hypocrisy as the more attributable adjective for the comments.


Is there a threshold where on one side, questioning techniques are not torture and on the other it is?  And if so what is that point and why?
Michael Kelly
7 years 5 months ago
McCain’s opinion is not the last word on waterboarding from POWs who experienced torture in North Vietnam. See: “McCain’s fellow POWs support waterboarding” By Marc A. Thieesen, Washington Post, 5/16/11.
 http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/post/mccains-fellow-pows-support-waterboarding/2011/05/16/AF0f374G_blog.html
 Also, contrary to Mr. O’Loughlin’s statement that McCain “has made it clear that torture played no role whatsoever in the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden”,see “John McCain’s misleading speech” by Marc Thiessen, Washington Post, 5/17/11
 http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/john-mccains-misleading-speech/2011/05/16/AFirJy4G_story.html
  See also: 
 “Mukasey Fires Back at McCain” by Andrew McCarthy, 5/13/11
http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/267149/mukasey-fires-back-mccain-andrew-c-mccarthy
Helena Loflin
7 years 5 months ago
Chickenhawks are particularly fond of torture/enhanced interrogation (e.g., waterboarding).

Santorum is the third "presidential candidate" to have imploded in as many days.
Kang Dole
7 years 5 months ago
Good thing McCain's man asked "who?" and not "what?" when confronted with Santorum. The answer ain't pretty.
7 years 5 months ago

McCain admits enhanced interrogation works and so does Obama and Panetta. 
 
We get the nonsense comments that enhanced interrogation does not work and people use McCain as a source.  But McCain has admitted it works by his careful dodging of the question.  He uses accurate but irrelevant comments to say that enhance interrogation did not reveal the courier but by doing so he is tacitly admitting they do work.  Why not a direct denial.  He does not do that instead he issues a tortuous irrelevant explanation but in the end the only conclusion is that McCain is not to be trusted on this and has admitted that it works.
 
Obama and Panetta also admit that they work because they know the true source of the information and how the technique works.  There has been no denial by the great accuser of CIA torture so what are we to make of this.  That they indeed worked and we have gotten cooperation as a result of these techniques.  Read the articles listed by Michael Kelly above
 
McCain also said that everyman has his breaking point and when that is  presented we get a non sequitur reply.  Here is most of what was in my comment that was deleted. 


McCain broke and did something he did not want to do so he knows that even the best will give in on something.  But to use the experiences of one person resisiting is in no way indicative of what others will do.  Does anyone here believe in the entire history of interrogation that some methods reveal things that others do not.  And that harsher methods have no affect at all.  


Some will have you believe that polite interrogation will get anything one wants.  This is nonsense.  Let me relate a conversation I had with someone subjected to Israeli intelligence questioning.  They said it went on for hours and they would repeat the same questions over and over.  He said they were stupid because he already told them the answers over and over again.  What the person did not understand is that if one is not telling the truth or is hiding anything there will often be small variations in what they say so consistency is one of the things they look for.  Israeli intelligence let this person go and tour the Holy Land but he doubts he will ever get near there again.


 If you can remain consistent even through enhanced interrogation then they may start to believe you.  But after certain types of interrogation techniques the consistency fades away if there had been evasion and then that very fact leads to avenues you did not have before and indcates the hiding of something, maybe something important.  And then some tell everything while others will go to their death resisting.  


But we do not send them to their deaths or even permanent harm.  This whole thing has nothing to do with moral indignation and mainly to do with political gotcha.  There is no coherence in the objections to waterboarding or enhanced interogation techniques. 
Vince Killoran
7 years 5 months ago
Boy Cosgrove, you like to use the word "nonsense" a lot!

The evidence is that "enhanced interrogation" does not work.  McCain writes that he gave them useless information. 
Kang Dole
7 years 5 months ago
I believe it's in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus, addressing a crowd in Capernaum, said, "Yo, it works, so let's just do it already."

It's somewhere in the middle, I think.

Kang Dole
7 years 5 months ago
Lol. That's nice, coming from a guy who keeps saying that the probem of definitions makes the discussion meaningless.

7 years 5 months ago
''I think ''non sequitur'' is being used too loosely as well.''


You just used a non sequitur to refute the use of the term ''non sequitur.''
7 years 5 months ago
'' JRC, on the other hand, means that the kind of coercion that works, does work.''


Well the logic of the statement is that if there is one instance where it works, it means that it can work with some people some times as opposed to say it never works because it did not work on one person in one instance.  I am just using logic, as it was taught to me by Jesuits in college. 


Is the following statement true, ''In the history of mankind, torture (let's just use the rack here for example of what is torture) never forced anyone to reveal anything that they didn't want to while straight forward questioning has been able to get anything one wanted out of another.  That is the equivalent of what the people have been arguing here.  I find it ''________.''  Substitute whatever word you want, the one I have in mind has 8 letters and two syllables and is relatively polite.  But I can think of others.
Stanley Kopacz
7 years 5 months ago
It would seem that all the new techniques for detecting and mapping brain activity in conjunction with some intelligent interrogation would work better and more efficiently than torture.  Of course, where's the fun in all that?
7 years 5 months ago
''It would seem that all the new techniques for detecting and mapping brain activity in conjunction with some intelligent interrogation would work better and more efficiently than torture.''


Mr.  Kopacz,

If you go to the post by Fr. Schroth a few days ago he refers to a review of Sam Harris's books.  Harris is a big believer in neuroscience as he recently got his Ph.D in it and that brain patterns tell us a lot of what we are thinking and feeling.  So maybe you and Sam Harris could get together and come up with a new technique that analyzes brain patterns to find out when someone is lying or withholding information.  I doubt any conservatives would object to it but you never know where objections will come from.  Libertarians might object but my experience is that there all sorts of ranges within libertarian thought so some might not.


You could show them reruns of Seinfeld or go way back and get some old I Love Lucy shows and see if this tortures them.  Or how about the Three Stooges or Bonanza.  Or how about the logic used by posters on America,  that would have tortured the Jesuits that taught me.

Advertisement

The latest from america

The tête-à-tête between Paul Krugman and Nancy Pelosi in Manhattan was like a documentary about a once-popular rock band. (Rod Morata/Michael Priest Photography)
Speaking in a deep blue stronghold, the Democratic leader of the House calls for “civility” and cautiously hopes that she will again wield the speaker’s gavel in January.
Brandon SanchezOctober 16, 2018
The lecture provoked no hostile reaction from the students who heard it. But a media firestorm erupted.
John J. ConleyOctober 16, 2018
Though the current synod appears to lack the sort of drama and high-stakes debates of the previous two, the role of conscience appears to be a common thread.
Michael J. O’LoughlinOctober 16, 2018
When Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists on the Olympic podium, their act drew widespread criticism. Now Colin Kaepernick is the face of Nike.
Michael McKinleyOctober 16, 2018