“Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,
Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.”
— from “Burnt Norton” by TS Eliot
Indeed humankind cannot bear very much reality! Why else, I wonder, has the “torture” debate not yet mentioned the obvious: sadism and racism? Did the perpetrators of torture experience delight or remorse or both from their activities? Delight during, remorse afterwards? Would they have experienced less delight and more remorse if the victims had not also elicited a race-feeling, a race-consciousness? The victims after all were all “the other”, not one’s own.
One needs to be candid and not pussy-foot around if one wants to comprehend reality.
Twenty years ago, I wrote in Philosophy of Economics (Routledge, London & New York, 1989) quoting from Solzhenitsyn’s experience:
“….the received theory of economic policy… must be silent about the appropriate role of the expert not only under conditions of tyranny (Solzhenitsyn: “The prison doctor was the interrogator’s and executioner’s right-hand man. The beaten prisoner would come to on the floor only to hear the doctor’s voice: ‘You can continue, the pulse is normal’” ); but also where the duly elected government of an open and democratic society proceeded to do things patently wrong or tyrannical (the imprisonment of the Japanese Americans). Hence Popper’s “paradox of democracy” and “tyranny of the majority”..… A theory of economic policy which both assumes a free and open society and bases itself upon a moral scepticism cannot have anything to say ultimately about the objective reasons why a free and open society may be preferred to an unfree or closed society, or about the good or bad outcomes that may be produced by the working of democratic processes…”
“When the CIA began what it called an “increased pressure phase” with captured terrorism suspect Abu Zubaida in the summer of 2002, its first step was to limit the detainee’s human contact to just two people. One was the CIA interrogator, the other a psychologist. During the extraordinary weeks that followed, it was the psychologist who apparently played the more critical role. According to newly released Justice Department documents, the psychologist provided ideas, practical advice and even legal justification for interrogation methods that would break Abu Zubaida, physically and mentally. Extreme sleep deprivation, waterboarding, the use of insects to provoke fear — all were deemed acceptable, in part because the psychologist said so. “No severe mental pain or suffering would have been inflicted,” a Justice Department lawyer said in a 2002 memo explaining why waterboarding, or simulated drowning, should not be considered torture. The role of health professionals as described in the documents has prompted a renewed outcry from ethicists who say the conduct of psychologists and supervising physicians violated basic standards of their professions. Their names are among the few details censored in the long-concealed Bush administration memos released Thursday, but the documents show a steady stream of psychologists, physicians and other health officials who both kept detainees alive and actively participated in designing the interrogation program and monitoring its implementation. Their presence also enabled the government to argue that the interrogations did not include torture. Most of the psychologists were contract employees of the CIA, according to intelligence officials familiar with the program. “The health professionals involved in the CIA program broke the law and shame the bedrock ethical traditions of medicine and psychology,” said Frank Donaghue, chief executive of Physicians for Human Rights, an international advocacy group made up of physicians opposed to torture. “All psychologists and physicians found to be involved in the torture of detainees must lose their license and never be allowed to practice again.” The CIA declined to comment yesterday on the role played by health professionals in the agency’s self-described “enhanced interrogation program,” which operated from 2002 to 2006 in various secret prisons overseas. “The fact remains that CIA’s detention and interrogation effort was authorized and approved by our government,” CIA Director Leon Panetta said Thursday in a statement to employees. The Obama administration and its top intelligence leaders have banned harsh interrogations while also strongly opposing investigations or penalties for employees who were following their government’s orders. The CIA dispatched personnel from its office of medical services to each secret prison and evaluated medical professionals involved in interrogations “to make sure they could stand up, psychologically handle it,” according to a former CIA official. The alleged actions of medical professionals in the secret prisons are viewed as particularly troubling by an array of groups, including the American Medical Association and the International Committee of the Red Cross. AMA policies state that physicians “must not be present when torture is used or threatened.” The guidelines allow doctors to treat detainees only “if doing so is in their [detainees’] best interest” and not merely to monitor their health “so that torture can begin or continue.” The American Psychological Association has condemned any participation by its members in interrogations involving torture, but critics of the organization faulted it for failing to censure members involved in harsh interrogations. The ICRC, which conducted the first independent interviews of CIA detainees in 2006, said the prisoners were told they would not be killed during interrogations, though one was warned that he would be brought to “the verge of death and back again,” according to a confidential ICRC report leaked to the New York Review of Books last month. “The interrogation process is contrary to international law and the participation of health personnel in such a process is contrary to international standards of medical ethics,” the ICRC report concluded….” (emphasis added)
Twenty-five years ago, the draft-manuscript that became the book Philosophy of Economics got me into much trouble in American academia. As I have said elsewhere, a gang of “inert game theorists”, similar to many (often unemployable ex-mathematicians) who had come to and still dominate what passes for academic economics in many American and European universities, did not like at all what I was saying. A handful of eminent senior economists – Frank Hahn, T W Schultz, Milton Friedman, James M Buchanan, Sidney Alexander – defended my work and but for their support over the decade 1979-1989, my book would not have seen light of day. Eventually, I have had to battle over years in the US federal courts over it – only to find myself having to battle bribery of court officers and the suborning of perjury by government legal officers too! (And speaking of government-paid psychologists, I was even required at one point by my corrupt opponent to undergo tests for having had the temerity of being in court at all! Fortunately for me that particular psychologist declined to participate in the nefariousness of his employer!).
I find all this poignant today as Philosophy of Economics may have, among other things, described the general theoretical problem that has been brought to light today. I was delighted to hear from a friend in 1993 that my book had been prescribed for a course at Yale Law School and was strewn all over an alley in the bookshop.
Separately, I am also delighted to find that a person pioneering the current work is a daughter of our present PM. I have been sharply critical of Dr Singh’s economics and politics, but I have also said I have had high personal regard for him ever since 1973 when he, as a friend of my father’s, visited our then-home in Paris to advise me before I embarked on my study of economics. My salute to the ACLU’s work in this – may it be an example in defeating cases of State-tyranny in India too.
If anything, the ten American authors of the 25-pages of the RAND text have among them two prominent advocates of better US-India relations. This is helpful to truthfulness because of the simple fact India has been in this case a victim of aggression that originated in Pakistan. Whether elements of the Pakistan Government were involved is almost the wrong question – if some retired underemployed former soldier drawing a Pakistan Army pension helped the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s commando training of the Mumbai terrorists, the existence of Pakistani state involvement is proved. Commando training requires technical skills of a sort that can only originate with a military.
In Pakistan as in any other large populous country including India, the state tends to be a hydra-headed monster and it may be foolish to imagine instead a rational, unified, well-informed or even a benevolent political entity. State involvement in Pakistan, India, China or elsewhere is something hard to isolate when there is so much mixing of private and public property or misuse of resources arising from the public exchequer.
What Pakistan’s PR campaign has done after Mumbai is not so much raise the Kashmir dispute as to obfuscate things by shedding crocodile tears and pretending to share victimhood saying, oh we sympathise with you but please sympathise with us too as we have been victims of even bigger terrorist attacks by the same kind of people, we have lost Benazir, we have lost many more people than you have, therefore cooperate with us and we will try to do what we can to help you in this matter. English-speaking liberals educated at places like Karachi Grammar School have then appeared on Indian TV stations (owned by Delhi people from places like Doon School) purporting to represent Pakistan on “the Mumbai incident”; none of them can have much credibility because the real India-haters in Pakistan might cheerfully make them murder victims too given half a chance.
The RAND study deserves credit for avoiding all misleading Pakistani rhetoric about the Mumbai massacres and at least intending to try to get to the bottom of things in a systematic manner. Beyond that, unfortunately, it has made logical and factual and methodological errors which cause it to fail to do so.
The key logical error made by the RAND authors arises from combining a central front-page statement
“Evidence suggests Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist group based in Pakistan, was responsible for the attack”
with assertive suggestions about Mumbai’s police being backward, incompetent, cowardly etc (“passive”). Yet how precisely did evidence about LeT culpability come to light? Only because Mumbai’s police and the Railway police engaged, injured and then captured Kasab using their antiquated equipment the best they could. There is no evidence of police cowardice at CST Station; to the contrary, it took courage to aim .303’s at adversaries firing back with assault rifles. Kasab received his first hand injury there. ATS Chief Karkare and his fellow-officers may seem foolhardy in hindsight to have been driving in the same vehicle but they did engage their unknown enemy immediately they could and died doing so, crippling Kasab badly enough that he could be captured in due course at Chowpatty. [Correction: it appears that though Kasab was fired upon by the police at CST Station he received both his hand injuries from the firing by the ATS squad.] And the Chowpatty police action showed obvious bravery in absorbing injury and death in order to kill Ishmail and capture Kasab. (Kasab, among the youngest, had been paired with Ishmail, the apparent leader of the group.)
Furthermore, Kasab upon capture was treated humanely and lawfully. His injuries were treated, he was produced before a magistrate within a week who asked him if he was being mistreated to which he said no. Slumdog millionaire may get undeserved Oscars portraying torture of a British actor by Mumbai police but it is ridiculous fiction – Kasab the captured Pakistani terrorist mass murderer was not tortured by Mumbai’s police.
Contrast such Indian police behaviour with the “enhanced interrogation techniques” the Bush Administration used with negative results in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib – which President Obama has now started to end. Kasab, an ignorant misguided youth, was grateful enough for the humane and civilized treatment to start singing like the proverbial canary. The result of that has been precisely all the evidence the Government of India has now presented to the world and Pakistan about the LeT’s culpability.
As for the anti-terrorist actions of the Indian Army, Navy and NSG, the RAND study is right to point to multitudinous errors and it is useful to have these listed in orderly fashion. But many of these errors were obvious to millions of lay Indian citizens who watched events on TV. The central fault was the scarcity of trained NSG officers and men, and the failure to apply standard emergency management protocols.
The RAND study, by relying overly on government sources, has failed to point to what ordinary Indian citizens already know – the NSG is being utterly wasted protecting our politicians. India has no proper equivalent of the US “Secret Service”, and even if we did, we would probably waste that by spreading it too thinly among politicians. As it happens if almost any politician in India today did happen to be unfortunately assassinated, the main mourners would be family-members and not the general Indian public. Despite politicians constituting rather “low-value targets” for terrorists, India’s scarce anti-terrorist and police resources have been misallocated to protecting them.
Finally, the RAND study makes the lazy-man’s methodological error of supposing outfits like the LeT think and behave in a manner explicable by American political science textbooks, or ought to do so. What Western analysts may need to do instead is learn from the old Arabist and Orientalist traditions of how to think and see the world from Eastern points of view. But that may require greater self-knowledge than the modern world tends to permit.
My December 6 2008 analysis here titled “A Quick Comparison Between the September 11 2001 NYC-Washington attacks and the November 26-28 2008 Mumbai Massacres (An Application of the Case-by-Case Philosophical Technique of Wittgenstein, Wisdom and Bambrough)” is republished below. I have corrected “Rome Airport” with “Lod Airport” on the basis of reading the RAND report, though may not have received the courtesy of aknowledement for the reminder of the Japanese Red Army attack.
“In my book Philosophy of Economics (Routledge, 1989) and in my August 24 2004 public lecture in England “Science, Religion, Art and the Necessity of Freedom”, both available elsewhere here, I described the “case-by-case” philosophical technique recommended by Ludwig Wittgenstein, John Wisdom and Renford Bambrough. (Bambrough had also shown a common root in the work of the American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce.) Herewith an application of the technique to a contemporary problem that shows the “family resemblance” between two modern terrorist attacks, the September 11 2001 attack on New York and Washington and the Mumbai massacres last week.
Similarity: In both, a gang of motivated youthful terrorists acted as a team against multiple targets; their willingness to accept suicide while indulging in mass-murder may have, bizarrely enough, brought a sense of adventure and meaning to otherwise empty lives.
Difference: In the 9/11 attacks, Mohammad Atta seemed to have been a single predominant leader while each of the others also had complex active roles requiring decisions, like piloting and navigating hijacked jumbo-jets. In the Mumbai massacres, the training and leadership apparently came from outside the team before and even during the operation – almost as if the team were acting like brainwashed robots under long-distance control.
Similarity: Both attacks required a long prior period of training and planning.
Difference: The 9/11 attacks did not require commando-training imparted by military-style trainers; the Mumbai massacres did.
Difference: In the 9/11 attacks, the actual weapons used initially were primitive, like box-cutters; in the Mumbai massacres, assault rifles and grenades were used along with sophisticated telecommunications equipment.
Difference: In 9/11, the initial targets, the hijacked aircraft, were themselves made into weapons against the ultimate targets, namely the buildings, in a way not seen before. In the Mumbai massacres, mass-shooting of terrorized civilians was hardly something original; besides theatres of war, the Baader-Meinhof gang and the Japanese Red Army used these in the 1970s as terrorist techniques (e.g. at Rome Airport Lod Airport; Postscript January 26 2009: I make this correction after reading and commenting on the RAND study which unfortunately did not have the courtesy of acknowledging my December 6 2008 analysis) plus there were, more recently, the Columbine and Virginia Tech massacres.
Similarity: In both cases, Hollywood and other movie scripts could have inspired the initial ideas of techniques to be used.
Similarity: In both cases, the weapons used were appropriate to the anticipated state of defence: nothing more than box-cutters could be expected to get by normal airport security; assault rifles etc could come in by the unguarded sea and attack soft targets in Mumbai. (Incidentally, even this elementary example of strategic thinking in a practical situation may be beyond the analytical capacity contained in the tons of waste paper produced at American and other modern university Economics departments under the rubric of “game theory”.)
Similarity: In both cases, a high-level of widespread fear was induced for several days or more within a targeted nation-state by a small number of people.
Similarity: No ransom-like demands were made by the terrorists in either case.
Similarity: Had the single terrorist not been captured alive in the Mumbai massacres, there would have been little trace left by the attackers.
Difference: The 9/11 attackers knew definitely they were on suicide-missions; the Mumbai attackers may not have done and may have imagined an escape route.”
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