Sunday, November 06, 2005

Saving Lives

There is an interesting discussion over at the Inter-Galactic Jester regarding torture, and I posted a comment there in the midst of the discussion. I've decided to repost the comment here, though it's worthwhile to read through the always smart discussion that is going on over there. Check it out. [Previous post on this subject here.]
...It's hard to measure what the Shin-Bet does: Their results are so incredible, it's tough to argue. When I was in Israel for a couple of years, there were a couple months where there was a bomb or two a day. I've heard bombs go off, I've seen smoke from a suicide bomber. My friends were at bombings, my cousin's brother-in-law was in a coma for a year, my wife was shot at, a car blew up in front of my cousin on the highway, and a guest who ate here recently was shot in the back repeatedly while trying to run away from a gunman. When you know and experience all that, and you read of the sheer numbers of attacks they foil a day, it's tough to complain about the treatment of terrorists. There are mind-boggling numbers: stopping over 250 attacks in a week, finding a 48-kilo bomb and defusing it in a crowded neighborhood, catching an attempt to bomb a major gas facility next to a highway (estimates were that 10,000 would have been blown to pieces if at rush hour), etc. They find bombs every day. They stop would-be bombers all the time. In a country where everyone has experienced an attack and everyone knows a victim, it's hard to worry about levels of interrogation of a terrorist.

My friends serve in the army. One walked out of his bunker to start his shift as a guard. The bunker blew up behind him, and his commander was killed. My best friend, meanwhile, had one job where he explained his duty: Stall the terrorist, get off a couple shots to warn the students inside the school, and try to take as long as possible to get killed. He also said that doing border duty makes you feel for and understand why the Palestinians feel so pathetic and hateful - and you want to just let them through faster. Until one tries to stab your friend or blow up the guard bost.

While all these examples are true, it's not a particularly dangerous country. But that's because the Shin Bet is so successful. It's hard to argue with success when it comes to saving lives.


  1. When a person decides to become a terrorist he/she should know what the consequences of thier actions will be..torture being a possibility. I love the people who worry about how we treat terrorists. Let's see how worried they are when it's thier child who got killed in a bomb attack.

  2. I should note that the commenters on the IGJ are undoubtedly concerned with a different issue: Under what circumstances and to what extent should a democratic nation take away people's rights; and are the interrogations truly effective, or do they foster more hate and less safety. They are valid questions. Read the discussion there, it's quite good. It's a very intelligent group of friends who run the IGJ.

  3. Ezzie,

    What is the difference in responsibilities of the Shin Bet and the Mossad?

    Jewish Blogmeister,

    I'm not sure that too many, if any, people feel too sorry for the actual terrorists being tortured. The heart of our argument at the IGJ centers around questions about the effectiveness, necessity, and oversight of HUMINT operations. Ezzie makes the best argument we've seen for flexibility in the rules of what interrogators may do: thwart future operations and save lives, especially those of innocent civilians.

    The problems with most interrogations are that they are done in secret and no one knows how far Shin Bet, Mossad, CIA, KGB, or anyone else is going in their persuasion. The major concerns of those in the "keep it legal" camp are the facts that international treaties may be broken, and the supposed "leaders of the free world" can be labelled as using the barbaric tactics of our worst enemies.

    No easy answers...

  4. I believe the Shin Bet operates within Israel's borders, and the Mossad outside, though neither are exclusive. It's much like the CIA vs. FBI (CIA = Mossad, FBI = Shin Bet).

  5. Ezzie- careful with the "borders" talk. ;).

  6. R2J: LOL - it's okay, I said they overlap sometimes.