Saturday, July 05, 2008

Christopher Hitchens - water broading

If you've ever had an asthma attack or anything like it then you may have some hint of what water boarding is really like. We are so surrounded by air that we readily forget how frequently we require it. Christopher Hitchens in writing for Vanity Fair decided to see what it was like for himself.

This is the article from Vanity Fair which is well worth the read (only 2 pages) and below is some video of part of the experience he had. It is not disturbing to watch in itself but it comes more unsettling once you start to consider how you would feel in the same position.

The key point missed by folks who think this sort of thing is just plain dandy because of the war on terror is that the people it is used on are merely suspects who have not yet stood trail in most cases much less been convicted of anything. It is worth remembering that with all the time and resources available to them compared to the time pressures that the military operate under the justice system in the US has placed people on death row who have been exonerated later. And indeed executed some who were later found to be not guilty. So a goodly portion of those subjected to water boarding are most likely innocent of what they are suspected of.

The reason we have all the safe guards we do in our legal system is not to protect the guilty but to ensure that the innocent don't pay a price on behalf of others. I've long held the view, that when it comes to the death penalty, that those who seek to restore it should offer themselves as collateral in case of mistakes. When a single innocent person is executed then 12 of those who supported the restoration of the death penalty should be randomly selected and added to the line of those to be executed with no leave to appeal. After all, if you believe in the system so much why should you expect another innocent person to pay a price you wouldn't pay to ensure the system continues. So, let's do the same with water boarding. For every person who is subjected to this practice and not found guilty of anything then 12 supporters of the practice should be subjected to it too. I would include in that figure of 12 at least one lawmaker in congress and then work my way down into the state legislatures. After all if the price in civil liberties is supposedly worth paying shouldn't those deciding it must be paid also be the ones to pay at least some of it?


dudleysharp said...

Hitchens need be made aware that innocents are more at risk when we fail to execute murderers.

By Hitchen's reasoning, Hitchen's should be amn innocent sacrificed because of his opposition to the death penalty.

Mr. Hitchen' death warrent?

The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below

Often, the death penalty dialogue gravitates to the subject of innocents at risk of execution. Seldom is a more common problem reviewed. That is, how innocents are more at risk without the death penalty.
Living murderers, in prison, after release or escape or after our failures to incarcerate them, are much more likely to harm and murder, again, than are executed murderers.
This is a truism.
No knowledgeable and honest party questions that the death penalty has the most extensive due process protections in US criminal law.

Therefore, actual innocents are more likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment and more likely to die in prison serving under that sentence, that it is that an actual innocent will be executed.
That is. logically, conclusive.
16 recent studies, inclusive of their defenses,  find for death penalty deterrence.
A surprise? No.

Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.
Some believe that all studies with contrary findings negate those 16 studies. They don’t. Studies which don’t find for deterrence don’t say no one is deterred, but that they couldn’t measure those deterred.
What prospect of a negative outcome doesn’t deter some? There isn’t one . . . although committed anti death penalty folk may say the death penalty is the only one.
However, the premier anti death penalty scholar accepts it as a given that the death penalty is a deterrent, but does not believe it to be a greater deterrent than a life sentence. Yet, the evidence is  compelling and un refuted  that death is feared more than life.

“This evidence greatly unsettles moral objections to the death penalty, because it suggests that a refusal to impose that penalty condemns numerous innocent people to death.” (1)
” . . . a serious commitment to the sanctity of human life may well compel, rather than forbid, (capital) punishment.” (1)

“Recent evidence suggests that capital punishment may have a significant deterrent effect, preventing as many as eighteen or more murders for each execution.” (1)
Some death penalty opponents argue against death penalty deterrence, stating that it’s a harsher penalty to be locked up without any possibility of getting out.
Reality paints a very different picture.
What percentage of capital murderers seek a plea bargain to a death sentence? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.
What percentage of convicted capital murderers argue for execution in the penalty phase of their capital trial? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.
What percentage of death row inmates waive their appeals and speed up the execution process? Nearly zero. They prefer long term imprisonment.
This is not, even remotely, in dispute.
Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.
Furthermore, history tells us that “lifers” have many ways to get out: Pardon, commutation, escape, clerical error, change in the law, etc.

In choosing to end the death penalty, or in choosing not implement it, some have chosen to spare murderers at the cost of sacrificing more innocent lives.
Furthermore, possibly we have sentenced 20-25 actually innocent people to death since 1973, or 0.3% of those so sentenced. Those have all been released upon post conviction review. The anti death penalty claims, that the numbers are significantly higher, are a fraud, easily discoverable by fact checking.

6 inmates have been released from death row because of DNA evidence.  An additional 9 were released from prison, because of DNA exclusion, who had previously been sentenced to death.

The innocents deception of death penalty opponents has been getting exposure for many years. Even the behemoth of anti death penalty newspapers — The New York Times — has recognized that deception.

“To be sure, 30 or 40 categorically innocent people have been released from death row . . . “. ‘ (2) This when death penalty opponents were claiming the release of 119 “innocents” from death row. Death penalty opponents never required actual innocence in order for cases to be added to their “exonerated” or “innocents” list. They simply invented their own definitions for exonerated and innocent and deceptively shoe horned large numbers of inmates into those definitions - something easily discovered with fact checking.

There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since 1900.

If we accept that the best predictor of future performance is past performance, we can reasonable conclude that the DNA cases will be excluded prior to trial, and that for the next 8000 death sentences, that we will experience a 99.8% accuracy rate in actual guilt convictions. This improved accuracy rate does not include the many additional safeguards that have been added to the system, over and above DNA testing.

Of all the government programs in the world, that put innocents at risk, is there one with a safer record and with greater protections than the US death penalty?
Full report -  All Innocence Issues: The Death Penalty, upon request.

Full report - The Death Penalty as a Deterrent, upon request
(1) From the Executive Summary of
Is Capital Punishment Morally Required? The Relevance of Life-Life Tradeoffs, March 2005
Prof. Cass R. Sunstein,   Cass_Sunstein(AT)
 Prof. Adrian Vermeule ,   avermeule(AT)
Full report 
(2) “The Death of Innocents’: A Reasonable Doubt”,
New York Times Book Review, p 29, 1/23/05, Adam Liptak,
national legal correspondent for The NY Times

Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail,  713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O’Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
Pro death penalty sites 


www(dot) (Sweden)

Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part,  is approved with proper attribution.

dudleysharp said...

Pardon, it was Dan Sullivan I was speaking to, not Hitchen's.

Dan Sullivan said...

People who are alive are more likely to murder than those who are dead is indeed a truism, does that mean we should just kill the entire human population just to be on the safe side?

You know you could just have posted this to your own site and linked back to it rather than dumping it in the comments area. None of your various links work in the comments area because they get truncated.

Actually death is not always feared more than life otherwise no one would ever take their own lives.

There is a basic fact that you miss when taking about the deterrence value of the death penalty. The US has the death penalty but also has high rates of crime and murder than countries with a similar level of economic development that do not have the death penalty. Why is that the case if the death penalty is an effective deterrent? Are Americans just more criminally inclined by nature? I don't think so. Truth is fear of getting caught is a good deterrent the death penalty isn't.

Dan Sullivan said...

You might want to think about being more specific about which pieces you were referring to me rather than Christopher Hitchens. Cos we tend to take a pretty dim view in Ireland of comments where someone seeks to engage in debate by starting off with expressions like

"By X's reasoning, X should be amn innocent sacrificed because of his opposition to the death penalty.

Mr. X's death warrent?"

Threats are for those who can't argue their case.

dudleysharp said...

Mr. Sullivan. I thought it was clear that I was speaking solely in the context of those that had been tried and convicted for committing murder and then sentneced to death. That was the context, as opposed to "killing the entire human population just to be on the safe side?"

I am sorry you are so weak that you must argue this way and waste time with innane context and no reasoning.

dudleysharp said...

Mr. Sullivan writes:

"Actually death is not always feared more than life otherwise no one would ever take their own lives."

Mr. Sullivan, please, again, I was speaking in the context of those tried for murder, subject to a death sentnece, and those sentenced to death fearing a death sentnece more than a life sentence.

Of course suicide vicitm don't fear death more than life. Of course horribly ill people in great pain may wish to die and may actually fulfill that goal.

Please, be more serious and less childish. If you don't want an adult conversation, go to the kiddie pool.

Dan Sullivan said...

You offered a truism that is so ridiculous I simply took it to its natural conclusion. Is it not also true that people who have committed a serious assault and served time for same are more likely to commit murder than the rest of the population? Perhaps we should head them off at the pass and execute them too.

You didn't respond to a single point I made. Also, it's inane not 'innane'. You're using a computer and they come with variety of spell checking supports, you might want to try using them. I must admit having very real doubts if you're really the person you're claiming to be as I suspect that as a professional political advocate Dudley Sharp would be somewhat sharper than this.

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dudleysharp said...

Sullivan writes: "Truth is fear of getting caught is a good deterrent the death penalty isn't."

There is no fear of getting caught if there is no fear of the sanction.

Death is feared more than life. Life is preffered over death.

You misunderstand deterrence and crime and/or murder rates.

3) "Death Penalty, Deterrence & Murder Rates: Let's be clear"

All prospects of a negative outcome deter some. It is a truism. The death penalty, the most severe of criminal sanctions, is the least likely of all criminal sanctions to violate that truism.

1) 25 recent studies finding for deterrence, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation,

2) "Deterrence & the Death Penalty: A Reply to Radelet and Lacock"

4) This is out of date, but corrects a number of the misconceptions about deterrence.

"Death Penalty and Deterrence"

5) "The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents"