Killing SpiesDecember 21 2009 at 10:12 AM
|Kevin Green |
Response to XX System & Kevin Green
This thread took an interesting turn. I have avoided jumping in as I note that famous quote by George Bernard Shaw "Arguing on the internet is like running in the Special Olympics, you may win, but you're still retarded".
Still, this has been interesting, if acrimonious and I think Ken has answered my question well with facts and by dint of forceful argument.
Just thinking of a few examples that spring to my mind; Japanese soldiers defending their island strongholds fought with tremendous motivation, convinced by their own leadership that if they were caught by the Americans, they would be killed and eaten. In WW2 Russia, poorly trained soldiers were motivated by the fact that there was a party official following them on the battlefield with the intention of shooting anybody who retreated.
Granted, these are both cases of being terrorized by your own leadership, not tortured.
As for torture, the British knew full well that torture worked and show that realization with their actions. They sent operatives on to the continent with only a rudimentary knowledge of what their network looked like and quite often knowing only one contact person. This was because the leadership knew if a person was captured and tortured, they stood a good chance of having the whole network collapse. In my mind, that's an admission that torture works.
As for the big picture, the notion that torture may not be that effective a tool could certainly be argued and probably sucessfully so, but as a battlefield expedient, if you have a prisoner and want to know something he knows, the thought of being shot in the knee and then the other knee etc. etc is going to convince him. Fortunately, most soldiers would not do that to other soldiers but I can not be convinced it never happened and as for asking for concrete examples, well, who is going to admit to that? It is very likely the type of thing some men may have done but it's never going to end up in the regimental diary nor in a soldiers field notes so don't ask for examples of torture that worked.
The British term "dirty tricks" that goes back perhaps hundreds of years is one of those clever little Brit understatements like calling Hitler a "Silly little Man". Dirty tricks encompassed murder, threat, deception, torture, abandonment etc. etc. They were likely better at covering their tracks than a lot of other people but don't say it didn't happen. It's been a long time since I read "A Man Called Intreped" but if I'm not mistaken, Stephenson admitted to at least two killings in the pre-war USA when he was over there setting up the OSS office with Wild Bill Donovan. One was a fellow they knifed in a subway or under a bridge of something, the other was a fellow they shot from the window of a building into the window of an adjacent building with a 30-30. (yes, I wondered about the choice of cartridge too). Those were both "dirty tricks". Well, murder, actually.
There is no powerful or credible opposition to Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe because he employs torture and murder to achieve his ends. The white regime in South Africa was brought down through international sanctions, not some ethically motivated revolution from within. No, those were all squelched; nipped in the bud by capturing, torturing and murdering their leaders such as Stephen Biko.
The society living within Soviet Russia was oppressed by a massive structure of intelligence gathering, arrest and torture. The Stalinist purges set the stage for that system but then the subsequent "party apparatus" took fulladvantage of a cowed population by maintaining the threat of arrest, jailing and torture as well as expulsion to the gulags.
I don't pretend to know military tactics with any level of sophistication, not even close to the fellows on this forum, but I'm afraid I can't be convinced that torture had no value. It has been used to control enitre populations of millions of people up to this present day and quite effectively so.