September 17, 2006

Mr. President: Don't You Dare Disband The CIA Interrogation Program

I try hard to respect the Office of the President of the United States, but it is truly a miserable wretch of a man who would threaten to disband the CIA interrogation program if he doesn't get his wish to eviscerate a good deal of Article 3 compliance thereto, as the President threatened at a press conference last week. This hullabaloo about "outrages against personal dignity" versus "shocking the conscience" is a tempest in a teapot. Outrages against personal dignity are like pornography, which is to say, you know it when you see it (sometimes, indeed, they fuse somewhat, like Rumsfeld's Pentagon authorized tactic at Guantanamo of having female guards rub their breasts in the face of a male detainee, before smearing fake menstrual blood on him, in a particularly noxious use of our military personnel).

Article 3 compliant interrogations have stood us in good stead for decades, and there is absolutely no convincing reason for a carve-out allowing the CIA to avoid compliance with its provisions. We know that Army Field Manual compliant interrogations are more than effective, and we know further that torture often leads to false confessions and unreliable information. So if Congress has the will to face the President down (which they must), the CIA interrogation program should be allowed to continue, but with the interrogations pursued in accordance with the requirements of the Geneva Convention. This is, after all, how the uniformed services are again now (after belated remedial action) satisfactorily interrogating detainees. Bush, like a petulant adolescent who risks not having his way, is threatening to shut down the entire CIA progam if his gutting of portions of Article 3 doesn't prevail through Congress. Then, the cowardly pro-torture crowd, should god forbid a terror attack subsequently occur, will blame those noted anti-American appeasers and defeatists like John Warner, Colin Powell, Jack Vessey, Lindsay Graham and John McCain for allowing the carnage.

One would think even this President would not be so reckless as to shut down an important interrogation program merely because he'd have to comply with Article 3, which would be more than effective regardless. Or so one would at least hope. But he will likely disingenuously argue he cannot abide risking CIA interrogators facing criminal liability because of vague and confusing standards, as if "shocking the conscience" is crystal-clear black-letter law, and "outrages against personal dignity" constitute some amorphous, hyper-confusing morass of conflicting standards. For decades these standards have been more than clear, so this rationale must be seen for what it is, utter and complete claptrap. Appropriate legal safeguards for interrogators can be drafted into the law, but the bedrock principle here must be total fidelity to Article 3 norms, not so we here can preen as detainee rights purists, but rather so as to preserve America's moral leadership on an issue so critical to the ideological component of the war on terror, so as to prevent other governments from rushing to a race to the bottom on detainee and interrogation treatment standards, and not least, to better be able to protect our own POWs, from a position of moral strength, when they are, as they inevitably will be, captured by foreign forces.

Of course, very little if anything surprises me anymore with this White House. If Bush actually attempts to cynically shut down this program, we must all passionately shout from the rooftops for it to be kept active, of course in a Geneva compliant incarnation. And if he does nevertheless shut it down, because he insists on enshrining a right to torture in American law, via Addingtonian subterfuge, and a terror attack does occur, let him not dare accuse those who fought for the preservation of basic standards of American dignity and morality with the bloodshed. We will not tolerate this cynical demagoguery, and if it comes to it we will have to turn it on him, and argue his disbanding of the program, if anything, was more of a contributing factor.

Posted by Gregory at September 17, 2006 06:28 PM
Comments

Greg,

call it like it is. This is blackmail. Bush is saying to Congress, if you don't pass the law I want, I am shutting the program down and blaming it on you!

Call it like it is.

Posted by: Dan at September 18, 2006 11:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,

call it like it is. This is blackmail. Bush is saying to Congress, if you don't pass the law I want, I am shutting the program down and blaming it on you!

Call it like it is.

Posted by: Dan at September 18, 2006 11:10 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Article 3 compliant interrogations have stood us in good stead for decades, and there is absolutely no convincing reason for a carve-out allowing the CIA to avoid compliance with its provisions.

I guess my question here is whether CIA intterogations have really been Article 3 compliant for all these years, or if, in fact, the CIA has engaged in some "black ops" where torture was used.

The problem is that the Bush regime has institutionalized torture -- rather than (possibly) using it only in extreme circumstances, mistreatment of prisoners has become just another tool in the War on Terror toolbox. And rather than take responsibility for his illegal actions, Bush was to implicate us all by providing legislative sanction to the use of torture. (Not that the vast majority of Americans are innocent here -- there were precious few of us in the wake of 9-11 who understood Bush's character and opposed Bush's vision of a "War on Terror").

Posted by: p.lukasiak at September 18, 2006 12:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The pro-torture nutjobs are way ahead of you, Greg. On Friday, Rush was already laying the groundwork for "the next time we get hit, who will we blame?" nonsense:

"So, again, we've gone from the Geneva Conventions not even applying to terrorists to having them apply to terrorists, to preventing us from interrogating terrorists effectively. This is going to go down as the event that will result in us getting hit again, and if we do, and if McCain, et al, prevail, I can tell you where fingers are going to be pointed on this program: at every senator, Republican or Democrat, who stood in the way here. "

Lovely.

Posted by: Q at September 18, 2006 01:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It is dissapointing that opinion leaders who claim that they support the Military actually oppose the uniformed military leaders and their congressional supporters on this issue. Idealogy trumps all. Or is it just the political season?

Posted by: Maxwell at September 18, 2006 02:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"clarity" is Bush's new code-word for obfuscating the debate on torture.

This line of nonsense--that we have to gut Geneva in order to clarify it--should be met with a simple, clear, rejoinder:

submit it to the courts.

In the American system, nearly all laws contain some unclarities. There is no way to write laws that can avoid them.

And this has never posed the slightest problem, because courts of law are constituted exactly to decide when laws apply, to decide how ambiguities in verbal phrasing are resolved in their application to particular situations.

But Bush is deathly afraid of courts of law. Because he knows that the courts will give him the spanking he deserves--he knows that his arguments are so pathetically weak that they won't even pass the laugh test in a real court of law.

And he knows that he himself has violated the law, directly and with intent, on a score of issues.

That's why he has to pretend that there are no courts that can resolve residual "unclarities" in application.

When Bush says "unclear", tell him "submit it to the courts".

Posted by: kid bitzer at September 18, 2006 03:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Y'know, the Bush administration has been rather easy-going about the bills they let slip through into law. We have one veto in this administration.

And this is what they want to fight about. Getting out of the Geneva Convention. Getting out of judicial and Congressional oversight. Escaping checks and balances.

Jeff Hart's right -- this guy is no conservative.

He figures he's so plugged into something (God, the popular will, etc) that he requires no effective oppposition. And he'll fight for his God -given right to do whatever the heck he feels like to protect the citizenry.

Well, now's as good as time as any to prove to him that the Consitution applies to him same as anyone else. Cause, right now, we seem to have Huey Long as President (without the ability to string two coherent words together).

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at September 18, 2006 04:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

BARON VLADIMIR HARKISSINGER: Bush, Bush... I place you in charge of Irakkis. It's yours to squeeze, as I promised. I want you to squeeze and squeeze and squeeze.

Give me OIL! Drive them into utter submission. You must not show the slightest pity or mercy... as only you can... Never stop!

Go.... Show no mercy!

BUSH: Yes, my lord Baron.

Bush leaves just as McCain steps out of the shower. The Baron turns to him lovingly.

BARON (to McCain ): And when we've crushed these people enough I'll send in you McCain ... they'll cheer you as a rescuer... lovely McCain ... really a lovely boy.

(suddenly he smiles and screams)
WHERE'S MY DOCTOR?

Posted by: Azael at September 18, 2006 06:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

> I guess my question here is whether CIA intterogations have really been Article 3 compliant for all these years, or if, in fact, the CIA has engaged in some "black ops" where torture was used.


Surely you're aware -- as it has always been a rather open secret -- that the School of the Americas has been teaching torture for decades?

Now it is controversial whether the rapes, mutilations, and genocides associated with the graduatees of the US School of the Americas are correlated at all to the school, or if it just happens that the US trains the most vile and disgusting students -- but it is an open secret that torture training is conducted there by the US, and has been for a long time.

Cheney and his sycophants and subordinates are, therefore, not breaking new ground either with their enjoyment of torture or their push for more torture -- what is new is that they want it as a public policy, not a secret backroom practice.

Posted by: rhernandez at September 18, 2006 07:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

not so we here can preen as detainee rights purists, but rather so as to preserve America's moral leadership on an issue so critical to the ideological component of the war on terror, so as to prevent other governments from rushing to a race to the bottom on detainee and interrogation treatment standards, and not least, to better be able to protect our own POWs, from a position of moral strength, when they are, as they inevitably will be, captured by foreign forces.

I'm sorry but this is unintentionally amusing. In what war have American soldiers been protected by the Geneva Conventions? You must mean in WW2 by the Germans and Japanese, or perhaps during the Korean war. Wait a minute, you must be talking about the Vietnam war. No, oh I see, you're refering to our current war with Islamic extremists who have demonstrated time and time again their fidelity and utmost respect for the "rules of war" and the hallow Geneva Conventions. Oh wait...

There are many arguments against "torture" or whatever you define as "torture" on any particular day, but this is a profoundly unserious not to mention a morbidly laughable one, especially when in this particular war, the more a US soldier or even citizen is tortured, maimed or mutilated the greater the "victory" for the so-called soldiers of Islam.

so as to prevent other governments...

I'm sorry again, but what governments are we talking about again? Islamic ones, China, Latin American, African, Russia or perhaps European governments who have their own far worse problems dealing with Islamic extremists and in any case assume the worst (and have been long before Bush came along) about anything and everything the US does anyway, regardless of whether or not America is right or wrong. Believe me, I live in Montreal Quebec and no matter what the US does or does not do, the worst is automatically assumed by the overall majority within my province, and to a lesser extent within Canada. And this didn't start with "torturer-in-Chief" Bush, not even close. For someone who is supposedly so wordly, you have quite a naive understanding of how America seems to be perceived.

preserve America's moral leadership

Sheer fantasy. Nations who do support the US around the world do so not out of any naive moral reasons, they support or don't support the US because it is or is not in their national interests to do so. If moral leadership is all it took the world would be a much better place today than what it really is.

To quote Callimachus : Powell said Bush's proposals would encourage the world to "doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism." No Colin, they need no encouragement. The world's media and cultural elites have been telling them Americans are a pack of murderous thugs for the past 50 years -- 70 years, if you limit it to Germany; 230 if you limit it to Britain.

Our domestic contrarians have been broadcasting the worst sins of American soldiers to the world since 1965 and suggesting they are official policy. And the Middle Eastern media and religious leaders aren't even constrained by factual exaggeration. When the real story isn't there, they just make one up.

So, no, the reason to do this isn't that, if we don't, people won't like us. They hate us. They don't believe our stated motives. They believe us incapable of any unselfish act. And they think we're always the real bad guys, no matter who is ranged against us. As long as we're the superpower, that will be true. Get used to it.

They are plenty of arguments against Bush's policy, whether or not it actually works, the effect it has on those overseeing it, etc. Whatever the case, at least the man has taken a stand and brought the issue out on the open, something that nobody has had the courage to do for years, and the CIA was shipping people away to other countries for more "intensive" interrogations. And we might as well have this debate while we still can while a majority of us believe that our national self interests and our self preservation are not at stake. Because if that should ever shift, then all you moralizing, all your preaching about the evil of torture won't make a shit of difference to what ordinary Americans or even Europeans will be able to accept and justify for their own self preservation. That's the ugly and necessary side of humanity, whether you like it or not and no amount of social engineering will ever fundamentally chang that.

A excerpt from Airpower by Stephen Budiansky

In 1938, a Gallup Poll had found 91% of Americans agreeing with the statement "all nations should agree not to bomb civilian cities in wartime." Three days after Pearl Harbor, 67% said they favored unqualified and indiscriminate bombing of enemy cities, with only 10% expressing unqualified opposition. ... In September 1942, Time called for destroying 31 German cities to shorten the war. An article in Harper's in January 1943 advocated burning the Japanese out of their homes with aerial attacks. In early 1944, three quarters of Americans surveyed expressed approval of bombing even historic buildings and religious shrines if military leaders believed such attacks were necessary. When the New York Times reported on its front page of March 11, 1944 that 28 noted clergymen, educators, and professional people had signed a protest against the American bombing of German civilians ... the story provoked a storm of letters that ran 50 to 1 against ... But the moral certainties became less absolute as the British firebombing raids intensified. Churchill began to question his own earlier enthusiasm for unrestricted city bombing. "Are we beasts? Are we taking this too far?" he exclaimed, jumping up from his chair during a showing of a film of British bombing in July 1943.

Posted by: Finn at September 18, 2006 08:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So Finn, did you order the Code Red?

Posted by: v at September 18, 2006 08:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

That's a great point, Finn - there is a side of human nature that demands extreme, even immoral behavior in the cause of self preservation. I believe that in the face of this reality, we should maintain a continuous stance of fierce national preservation regardless of the prevailing attitudes in the world. Given that we as a nation would accept torture and firebombing of civilian populations in a pitched global war, it makes perfect sense that we institutionalize both as a preferred course of action when dealing with international issues.

On a related note, we as Americans should remember that the Declaration of Independence is not a legal document, nor do our laws extend to those outside of our borders. The right to trial, to free speech, to life and liberty and the like are inalienable American rights, not those of other humans. By the same token, our aversion to torture should only extend to the torture of Americans - clearly the notion of all humans being treated with a degree of dignity and justice is overreaching the scope of our constitutional obligations.

Given this, I must laugh with Finn at your almost girlish need to ensure basic human rights being applied at all levels of American intervention in the world. We all know that there have been far more aggressive and violent regimes historically - surely America is allowed at least a little torture of individuals, wouldn't you think? Laws and treaties - especially touchy-feely ones like the Geneva Conventions - are only worth following if all of your potential adversaries follow them as well. Otherwise, what's the point?

Posted by: mafisto at September 18, 2006 09:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Just keep saying this, in response to this current assault on Geneva:

"Okay Mr. Bush, you've covered your ass now..."

Posted by: jhaygood at September 18, 2006 09:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

See the letter to Andy Sullivan from a Kuwait War veteran ( http://time.blogs.com/daily_dish/2006/09/what_weve_lost.html ) for a neat description of the link between moral and strategic reasons for opposing torture.

Oh, and Finn: George Washington didn't allow torture of British POWs during the Revolutionary War, and FDR didn't allow it for Japanese POWs during WW II -- despite the fact that those were also wars of national survival in which our opponents didn't reciprocate by not torturing our own captured soldiers -- because of precisely that obvious link between moral and strategic reasons to oppose torturing POWs: in both cases we wanted a powerful nation not to implacably hate our guts after the war was over. How much more important is this when we're dealing with a worldwide community of 1 billion people who are already extremely suspicious of us, and which we cannot possibly militarily occupy even briefly?

Even if you assume that there are a few extremely rare circumstances under which torture might be justified (such as the famous "ticking nuclear bomb" case), any decision to allow it must be made by a supermajority of a committee convened on an emergency basis to make that decision (something like the FISA Court). It absolutely must NOT be made by any one man, including the one man sitting in the Oval Office or the one man running the Pentagon.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at September 18, 2006 10:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Even if you assume that there are a few extremely rare circumstances under which torture might be justified (such as the famous "ticking nuclear bomb" case), any decision to allow it must be made by a supermajority of a committee convened on an emergency basis to make that decision (something like the FISA Court). It absolutely must NOT be made by any one man, including the one man sitting in the Oval Office or the one man running the Pentagon.

This seems wrong to me, Bruce...

If one person makes the decision to torture, in contravention of estabilished law, then that person should be held responsible. It really, really, really doesn't seem like a committee would be held responsible.

Posted by: TJ at September 19, 2006 12:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Torture provides bad intellegence. There are two reasons to torture, revenge and pleasure. A lot of people find out they like to do it. The pleasure comes from the power and oft times is sexual. Liddy England and her boyfreind were hot at Abu.

The function of Gitmo and the torture regiem is primarily to find those who like it. They are going to go far. I mean who thinks the poor dregs rounded up in Afganastan 4 years ago have any information that's worth a shit today? Plenty of people love the idea of tourturing enemies but not everyone is cut out for it. Just because Bush blew up frogs with firecrackers as a kid and he is a torture enthsiast today doesn't mean he would actually have the stomach for it. Finding those who do makes perfect sense.

Extraordinary rendition will soon not be necessary because we'll have the manpower to do it ourselves, and the infrastructure. We just need to pass some kind of bill so it can be insitutionalized. Currently there is a bit of Kabuki theater going on with McCain and Powell. Soon some sort of compromise with them will be reached on the language of the bill but the languge will mean nothing.

Posted by: rapier at September 19, 2006 12:17 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This quote occurred to me and may explain why Greg and so many of us cannot believe what is happening and what is being said by the current administration:

"That was the main reason the people in Midland City were so slow to detect insanity in their associates. Their imaginations insisted that nobody changed that much from day to day. Their imaginations were flywheels on the ramshackle machinery of the awful truth."

- Kurt Vonnegut
Breakfast of Champions

Posted by: Larry Thelen at September 19, 2006 02:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Of course Finn is exactly right - this is the time to have the discussion - why all the protests from his detractors?

V, mafisto, bruce?

Well, actually, Bruce - you don't need to bother answering, since you live in a world were one imagines:

a) Japanese POWs never received anything less than 5-star accomodations, by order of the president.

b) No people of Japanese heritage ever "implacably hated our guts" due to atomics or internment.

Welcome to Earth, my friend.


Posted by: Tommy G at September 19, 2006 02:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Which Earth is that, Tommy G.? The one where the Roosevelt Administration legalized torturing Japanese POWs for information (which goes a wee bit further than not giving them "5-star accommodations", just as what we've been caught doing to our current detainees goes a wee bit further than not providing them with such accommodations, or with draping panties over their faces?).

Yes, Virginia, there is a Multiverse. (Or else Tommy G. is simply a moron, which is considerably more likely.)

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at September 19, 2006 03:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Surely you're aware -- as it has always been a rather open secret -- that the School of the Americas has been teaching torture for decades?

although the point is well taken, it does beg the snarky comment...

"Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach"

Posted by: p.lukasiak at September 19, 2006 05:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Given this, I must laugh with Finn at your almost girlish need to ensure basic human rights being applied at all levels of American intervention in the world. We all know that there have been far more aggressive and violent regimes historically - surely America is allowed at least a little torture of individuals, wouldn't you think? Laws and treaties - especially touchy-feely ones like the Geneva Conventions - are only worth following if all of your potential adversaries follow them as well. Otherwise, what's the point?

Actually, it may surprise you, but I am fundamentally against torturing, killing or even harming other human beings. What I am unabashly for though is protecting innocent human beings more. Much much more.

re: Geneva Conventions. I'm not saying the US should just discard them just because basically nobody outside of a few Western nations actually give a shit. What I did say was that arguing against "torture" in order to preserve the Geneva Conventions to "protect" American troops as Greg and Powell tried to do is laughable. It's a nice theoretical kumbaya-like concept like "world peace" or Santa Clause but in practice, it hasn't, doesn't and probably likely never will work as it's intended, especially in this particular war where US soldiers are worth far more dead, tortured, maimed and mutilated. And I don't see any other potential US foe giving a shit either, unless the US plans on going to war against say Canada or some European country. Then again, in wars, the Europeans don't exactly have the best history when it comes to protecting POWs either. I don't particularly like or agree with this state of affairs, but that's the way is.

I do wonder though just what exactly are the Geneva Conventions for anyway? Ostensibly, they are to protect civilians, but hey we are at a point where we are now seriously arguing that you know what, you can ignore the Geneva Conventions with impunity, who the fuck cares, but we, the West in our infinite wisdom and moral "goodness", we will reward you with its protections anyway. The logic is brilliant. I mean, what better way to protect civilians than to reward and protect their fiercest predators regardless of whether or not they adhere to the Geneva Conventions in the first place. Like I said, brilliant. We might as well put up advertisements for our enemies saying "civilians here, slaughter at will and hey it's all good". But hey, as long as we can win "hearts and minds"...as if that in itself is not one of THE biggest delusional fantasies regarding this war against radical Islamic extremists.

Oh, and Finn: George Washington didn't allow torture of British POWs during the Revolutionary War, and FDR didn't allow it for Japanese POWs during WW II -- despite the fact that those were also wars of national survival in which our opponents didn't reciprocate by not torturing our own captured soldiers -- because of precisely that obvious link between moral and strategic reasons to oppose torturing POWs: in both cases we wanted a powerful nation not to implacably hate our guts after the war was over.

FDR didn't allow it for the torture of Japanese POWs but the killing and slaughter of tens, no hundreds of thousands of Japanese and Germans, if not millions, many of them innocents, that was OK? Wow, I get it now. Killing is better than hurting or even worst case torturing. I'm sorry, I must be a fool cause you know worst case, I'd rather have a few scars, physical or psychological or even a lost limb than ya know be DEAD. I kinda like the living better than the dying, but maybe that's silly me. So the solution to avoid this ugliness is simply for the US to shoot any and all prisoners dead cause at least then, they won't have the misfortune of falling into the hands of Bush's goon squads.

How much more important is this when we're dealing with a worldwide community of 1 billion people who are already extremely suspicious of us, and which we cannot possibly militarily occupy even briefly?

Like I said, a delusional feel good fantasy. I'm sorry, I used to really believe this fairy tale, but it's never gonna happen...not unless the fundamentals within the Middle East itself are changed. Not until Muslims and especially Arabs take a long hard look in the mirror and realize that the overwhelming majority of their problems and misery are self-inflicted and NOT the fault of "THE OTHERS", everyboby and anybody else, preferably Zionists and crusaders. Everybody except THEMSELVES. The siege and victimization mentally, the wackjob conspiracy theories, the anti-Semitism and anti-westernism, the hatred, the self-pity and self-loathing, all these are, sadly, far too ingrained within far too many people in the Muslim world. Far too many Muslims (especially those in positions of influence and or power) would rather drag us down to their level, their misery rather than do what is (painfully) necessary to pick themselves up to ours. All you have to do is look at the failure to integrate European Muslims, or at least a substantial minority. If Europe, with all its riches, its attractions, its social paradise, its multiculturalism, its "tolerance" could fail to attract the "hearts and minds" of so many of its Muslim citizens to the point that it probably has become one of the top incubators of Islamic extremists, then what chance do you have in a region whose medias are controlled by either tyrants and/or radical Islamists, whose own survival and relevance depends upon the maintenance of todays poisonous status quo ? And it's a goddamn shame because the talents, gifts and abilities of millions upon millions of good decent Muslims (I'd say, even now, the overwhelming majority), of human beings are being wasted. They are after all THE greatest victims of Arab tyranny and/or Islamic extremism.

You're right tough, in the sense that we don't have the resources to occupy most of these countries, not that I think that would do any good anyways. But you know, until we can technologically ween ourselves off our addiction to oil, I would rather the West be feared than liked.

Torture provides bad intellegence. There are two reasons to torture, revenge and pleasure.

Do you have any credible proof of that or is that something that you just "know"? Torture has probably been around as long as human beings have felt a need, for whatever reason, to kill and/or slaughter each other. It has been used, in one form or another, for hundreds probably thousands of years by all sorts of people, not all of them evil, I would hazard to guess. It seems to me that if it was as ineffectual as people claim it to be, than it would have ceased to be used a long time ago. The fact of the matter is that fear of death and sometimes more importantly, fear of pain serve as powerful motivators, so that in order to avoid one or the other or both, one is compelled to reveal any and all information one may feel to be relevant or not. Oh you may get garbage and/or lies, but chances are within that garbage, in order to save oneself, the truth will be revealed as well. It would take a powerful mind/will to able to resist his self-preservation and survival instincts and most human beings don't have powerful wills, only average wills which can in time be broken. None of this is to endorse torture, certainly not of the most vile and inhuman kind practiced within some countries in this world. Only an attempt to put things in some perspective.

I'm for the most part against its use, although my definition of torture is certainly not the same as Greg's for instance nor is it completely in agreement with Bush. Probably vacillating somewhere in between on any given day and depending upon the context of any particular situation, in other words, case by case and certainly, hopefully not institutionalised. But I do very much understand and empathize with Bush's predicament and position.

Posted by: Finn at September 19, 2006 05:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Conflating all the Moslems in the world with the few in Europe does suggest that you're not paying attention to what you are saying?

I greatly enjoyed the "rather snarky" comment about the School of the Americas that "those who can, do, and those who can't, teach" -- very good one!


I don't know why people think the US should abandon the Geneva Conventions because the Japanese were brutal. The Japanese could have been far worse, and more to the point, the Germans really could have been -- it is often alleged tha the Germans reserved their brutality for the Russians and their allies only after the discovered that the US kept the Geneva Conventions.

To abandon the Geneva Conventions because they don't always inspire mutual decency seems silly to me -- what is gained by rushing to mutual brutality? Surely worse intelligence and more hatred, and more generational hatred -- how is that helpful?

The main argument I hear for torture is "we want to hurt those nasty brown people" or "we want to teach those nasty non-Christians not to mess with us". I have trouble believing that is well thought-out.

How clever is it to try to frighten people who are already committing suicide attacks?

Posted by: rhernandez at September 19, 2006 07:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Didn't Stalin conduct one of the most publically tested trials of torture? Didn't it lead to the disintegration of the KGB? Seriously, of all the things that Beria may be called, in humor or in seriousness, a success is hard to include in the list...

Posted by: rhernandez at September 19, 2006 07:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bitzer, you need to go back to college and take some government courses and perhaps an administrative law class. If Congress drafts and passes a law, and that law contains ambiguities or lacks sufficient clarity on a specific topic. An agency, in this case the CIA, is allowed to create their own regulations and administrative law that further defines the and clarifies their understanding and implementation of the statute passed by Congress. Unless the agencies own regulations conflict with the intent of the original statute, or violates the constitution, they are free to define it as they see fit. The Court cannot modify the law the way they wish if they disagree with it. They would instead require Congress to amend the original law accordingly. So, when an agency in the executive branch is taken to court, and the court decides that the agency is wrong, the Congress must do their job and amend the law. There is no Constitutional requirement that the agency must first be taken to court before they ask the Congress to clarify the laws. It is absolutely Congress' responsibility to write the laws and to be accountable if they fail to legislate appropriately. That is how our system works. To say that they should not be responsible for their action or inaction is not only tyrannical, it is unconstitutional.

Posted by: David at September 19, 2006 07:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,
There are three reasons for torture. The first is inmaterial to gathering information and is purely for punishment of sadistic pleasure. The second is to gain false confession to a crime. Usually for the purpose of pinning a crime on another person. Confessions under this scenario are definitely questionable.

The third reason for torture is to gather actionable information. Information gathered during interrogation can be checked against other reliable sources. If the information is not proven valid, the interrogators can return to the source and continue to press them for the truth. In this situation, there is only a momentary reprive from the discomfort the suspect is being subjected to. He will learn quickly that he must start to share correct information. So when his will has been broken, he is going to share the information he has as he knows it to be true. Given the fact that the CIA is collecting information and not admission of guilt, their use of tactics meant to break the will of the target are going to be highly effective.

Posted by: David at September 19, 2006 07:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

That's a great point, Finn - there is a side of human nature that demands extreme, even immoral behavior in the cause of self preservation.

Some just demand it because they like it.

We should avoid immoral behavior because we still lack the ability to see into people's souls...

Posted by: monkyboy at September 19, 2006 11:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

David,

The third reason for torture is to gather actionable information. Information gathered during interrogation can be checked against other reliable sources. If the information is not proven valid, the interrogators can return to the source and continue to press them for the truth. In this situation, there is only a momentary reprive from the discomfort the suspect is being subjected to. He will learn quickly that he must start to share correct information. So when his will has been broken, he is going to share the information he has as he knows it to be true. Given the fact that the CIA is collecting information and not admission of guilt, their use of tactics meant to break the will of the target are going to be highly effective.

You've seen "24" too often. Let me give you a scenario.

You're a Special Forces Op who is sent ahead to scout the next target in a war against Iran (hypothetical---though looking more realistic with these boneheads in power). You've spotted a great target and sent in the coordinates for an attack. Suddenly you are captured by the Iranians. They can tell that you are SF Op and start torturing you for information about when the attack is going to happen.

What do you do? You know the attack is inevitable. Do you talk? Do you let your enemy know they are about to be hit and destroyed? Or do you provide them with false information in order to stop the pain, while still allowing the attack to be successful?

We think that torture works, but, I don't know about you, but I certainly would not let my enemy know anything relevant, irregardless of what they do to my body, at least not willingly. They may get to a point that they've raped my body to such a degree that I no longer have any will or control over my body, well, what's the point of living then....

Yes, I compare torture to rape. In both cases, what is attempted is a destruction of the will of the victim. You don't want your victim to willingly give you what you want; you want to steal it from them, forcibly remove and extract that which you desire.

Moreover, both torture and rape deal with one individual being in a dominant role over the other, to a degree where the other submits his or her entire will to the perpetrator.

Yeah, this is what you want, America? How shameful!

Posted by: Dan at September 19, 2006 12:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The bottom line is this, and yes, it is just this simple: If it comes down to your children or his children, who's it going to be? My children will come first because I will do anything and everything to protect them. Because, it will probably be in their lifetime, not ours, when this will really and trully come to a head. You take the high road, you're dead; you worry about what you're neighbors going to think, you're dead. In a fight where one side doesn't care who he kills or how he kills and the other afraid is afraid of who they will kill or how they will kill, who do you think is going to win?

Posted by: Becky Parrish at September 19, 2006 12:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Becky,

You are right, it comes down to our children and his children. What are we teaching our children? That it is okay to rape individuals of their will? That violence solves all our problems? What kind of world are we giving our children?

Taking the high road does not mean you are dead. This is false, and the more we think we need to lower our standards, who we are, the more we will lose and become like our enemy. Our enemy is at the point you describe, where they don't take the high road to any degree. They think the only options at their disposal are to perform the lowest forms of violence on others. Why go down that direction? This current enemy is no different or worse than any other enemy in the history of the world.

We overhype our enemy, and we do it for a reason. That reason is that we like to see violence. Americans have a passion for violence. We see it in our owning of guns, we see it in our entertainment, with the latest "24" characters wielding their guns and blasting people left and right, or new shows that deal with kidnappings and murder, etc.

Our enemy cannot get any worse. They are already at the bottom of the barrel. But we can get worse.

Posted by: Dan at September 19, 2006 01:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

David, that assumes that the goal of the torturers *is* truth. If it's, picking an example at random, to confirm the existance of vast stockpiles of WMD's/ties to Al Qaida, then we all know what happens. As to checking out the truth of what the torture victim said, you make a quite ridiculous assumption that that is a quick and easy matter.

Posted by: Barry at September 19, 2006 01:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bitzer, you need to go back to college and take some government courses and perhaps an administrative law class. If Congress drafts and passes a law, and that law contains ambiguities or lacks sufficient clarity on a specific topic. An agency, in this case the CIA, is allowed to create their own regulations and administrative law that further defines the and clarifies their understanding and implementation of the statute passed by Congress. Unless the agencies own regulations conflict with the intent of the original statute, or violates the constitution, they are free to define it as they see fit.

this is highly misleading, if not false.

Most legislation includes authorization for agencies of the government to promulgate regulations pursuant to their enactment, and and these regulations and "administrative laws" are (generally--regulations pursuant to classified materials and actions are probable different) submitted for public review prior to their enactment. These regulations must not merely "not conflict" with the statutory language, they must be consistent with the intent of the statute, as well as be consistent with all other laws (and treaties to which the US is bound, such as the Geneva Conventions, are considered part of the "supreme Law of the Land") and (usually) with all pre-existing regulations. The final arbiter of whether "regulations" are appropriate is the judicial system.

The existence of obligations under Treaties is why the Bush regime has so often run afoul of the courts on the detainee issue. Under Common Article III of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment" are prohibited, as is "the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples".

While some treaty provisions require enabling legislation (such as appropriations for their implementation), other treaties and their provisions--especially those concerning human rights--- are considered "self-executing"; i.e. there is no action necessary by Congress in order for the courts to enforce the treaty provisions.

What Bush is trying to do is get Congress to "define" such terms as "offenses upon human dignity", "humiliating", and "degrading" in a way that renders those terms meaningless. This has never been sucessfully attempted in the past with regard to established treaties, and the question is whether a subsequent Congress can "redefine" a pre-existing treaty obligation our of existence in this manner (most experts say they can do so, but its a question that hasn't been resolved by the Courts) and what the impact of such an action would be on other obligations under the same treaty. Does redefining a provision of pre-existing treaty represent an abrogration of the entire treaty, or do other provisions of the treaty remain enforceable on all parties?. While US courts would probably say that the treaty remains in force, other nations are likely to view the redefining of Common Article III out of existence as a violation of the treaty provisions.

The biggest challenge here is that if Congress is allowed to simply "redefine" Common Article III out of existence by a legislative act, we allow other nations to simply "redefine" their own treaty obligations out of existence simply by saying that the clear and unambiguous wording of the treaty doesn't mean what it says. For instance, Iran could develop a nuclear weapon while remaining "faithful" to the NPT simply by "defining" the prohibition against weapon development to authorize it.

In other words, what Bush wants to do goes well beyond the question of the treatment of detainees -- it strikes at the very heart of the idea of treaties between nations and all international law.

It also strikes at the very heart of our obligation under international law to prosecute our own war criminals --- "waterboarding" is clearly torture, and as such a war crime, and everyone who authorized or participated in those acts, or who was aware of them and was in a position of authority to prohibit such acts yet did nothing, should be prosecuted by the US under International law. The law Bush wants passed is intended as an end run around the US obligation to prosecute its own war criminals. (It should be noted that at the Bush regime's request, the UN removed international jurisdiction for the prosecution of war crimes pursuant to the invasion and occupation of Iraq based on our promise that we would prosecute them ourselves. If the provision eliminating prosecution for torture that was authorized by the White House is implemented, that will be the last time the international community will ever agree to such a provision.)

*********************

of related interest

Canadians Fault U.S. for Its Role in Torture Case

A government commission on Monday exonerated a Canadian computer engineer of any ties to terrorism and issued a scathing report that faulted Canada and the United States for his deportation four years ago to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/19/world/americas/19canada.html?hp&ex=1158724800&en=19cef65f49917a76&ei=5094&partner=homepage

The basic story is one of an innocent Canadian citizen (Maher Arar) who was acquanted with someone who was being watched by the RCMP because of suspected ties to terrorist. His association with this individual resulted in his name being put on a list of people to be questioned more intensive upon his re-entry to Canada. Being put on that list resulted in the RCMP informing the US that he (and his wife) were “Islamic extremists suspected of being linked to the al Qaeda movement.” This resulted in Arar being seized by the US when he landed at Kennedy Airport where he had to switch planes on his way home to Canada from vacationing in Tunisia. The US then shipped him off to Syria.

And to add insult to injury, the Bush administration refused to co-operate with Canada in its investigation of what went wrong with this guy.

Oh, and for giggles, check out the headline for the same story as found in Yahoo News / (AP)

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060919/ap_on_re_ca/canada_torture_case

Probe: Canada gave U.S. misleading data

Not only does the Yahoo headline pretty much imply that this was solely Canada's problem, the fact that there is no mention of torture or rendition is bizarre in the extreme (its not as if web based news story headlines have to fit into a small space in the way that dead-tree media stories do....)

Posted by: p.lukasiak at September 19, 2006 01:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Becky:

You would not have a problem if one of your children joined the air force, was shot down over Iran, China, North Korea...and was subjected to the sort of treatment that President Bush seems to think is OK.

When did US citizens become so afraid of such an ephemeral threat? Do you dive under your couch when a car backfires?

Posted by: Tom S at September 19, 2006 02:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Barry,

David, that assumes that the goal of the torturers *is* truth. If it's, picking an example at random, to confirm the existance of vast stockpiles of WMD's/ties to Al Qaida, then we all know what happens. As to checking out the truth of what the torture victim said, you make a quite ridiculous assumption that that is a quick and easy matter.

well said. Moreover, if we really had a fact checker present in the torture chamber, just why are we torturing the detainee? It seems we're only torturing to verify the information is correct. How ridiculous.

Posted by: Dan at September 19, 2006 02:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

David, Amnesty International has stories that say torture sometimes works to get true information. It isn't totally reliable at failing. The question is whether it works better than the alternatives.

Like,here's a typical example. A british woman in argentina, a doctor, got asked to treat a gunshot wound. She did. The guy she treated was of course in trouble with the government or they wouldn't have needed her to do that. Five days later the police broke down her door, killed her maid, and dragged her screaming to the torture center. They stripped her and searched her and gave her somebody else's dress to wear, they threw her in a cell with 20 argentine women, none of whom had toothbrushes etc. They fed them some sort of slops. After a day they took her to a small room, stripped her naked, strapper her to an iron cot frame with no mattress, clipped electrodes to her nipples, and started playing with the switch. After maybe half an hour of that she quick made up a false story about an old man in a house; she gave them directions and descriptions. They gave her her dress back and drove her barefoot to check it. They followed the directions she'd given and found a house that came close to meeting her description. They broke down the door and found an old couple; the man came close to her description. They started beating both of them preparing to drag them off to the torture center. She said no, no, these are the wrong people. So the torturers dragged her back alone. They started to hit her but the commander reminded them they couldn't leave marks because she was british. So they strapped her to the frame and pushed one electrode up her vagina and clamped another to her labia and turned on the current. Every now and then they'd move the clamp to a different spot -- the other labia, the clitoris, etc. In between demanding information they joked that she'd never enjoy sex again. After a few hours of that she told them the truth -- it was the nuns in the convent. They were dismayed and they muttered among themselves. They couldn't torture nuns. They threw her back in the holding cell and thought about what to do with her. It would be dangerous to just kill her like they did their other victims, but it would be very bad publicity to let her go. But they didn't have room to keep her. They found somebody to hypnotise her and tell her it didn't happen, and she pretended to be hypnotised, and they let her go. She told the whole story as soon as she was out of the country. She claimed she told them the truth, and why would she lie about that? Maybe she didn't want them to keep looking?

So -- somebody who had no preparation, who was not really in on anything, probably told the truth the second time. After wasting something like 6 hours of the interrogation team's time. What would have happened if they'd just knocked on her door, let her invite them in, told her the man was a multiple murderer etc, and asked her help? Would that have worked? No way to tell, the experiment was not attempted. But see -- they eventually got the reputation for torturing and killing people, and the public didn't stand for it. The method failed on a grand scale because a government that tortures and kills its own citizens on suspicion is not going to generate enough loyalty.

You think effective torture involves "breaking the will". I'm not sure I have much experience with people whose wills are broken, so I'm not sure what to say about that. I suspect that the results are likely to be a lot like truth serum -- they'll tell you anything without stopping to think whether it makes sense, and you get to pick little nuggets of truth out of a big pile of rubble.

you say that if the CIA does it, it must be highly effective. I get the impression you aren't from around here. You're telling us that a government agency doesn't do anything inefficient? Can you think of other examples where the federal government has done something inefficient and then noticed the problem and quit it? I can. There was, um, welfare. We went about 40 years with people noticing how inefficent it was and finally the government changed it around. Here's a second example -- battleships. Even after it was obvious that battleships were no longer worth maintaining, we started building 12 more in 1940 and authorised 5 beyond that -- but didn't start building them because we noticed in time that we needed aircraft carriers far more. I can find several more examples where the federal government eventually gave up something that was obviously inefficient, typically decades later. And you want to believe the CIA is a special case? Maybe because they're so secret you don't hear about the waste....

But all this is a side issue. We face a great danger from terrorists, and we face an even greater danger from our own government. Terrorists scrabble for funding, they do fake charities etc. The federal government can take as much taxes from you as it wants, and it can print money. There may be as many as 10,000 terrorists working against us. The federal payroll is huge. Terrorists improvise weapons trying not to get noticed. The government funds giant R&D programs. The terrorists would like to control us. The feds *do* have a lot of control and they're getting more.

When you're getting ground between two millstones do you argue about which is the evil one and which is the good one? Do you cheer for one of them and boo the other? Do you try to help one of them "win" over the other one?

You might not be able to do anything to stop the federal government from torturing you and breaking your will. Why are you agreeing to let the federal government torture you?

Posted by: J Thomas at September 19, 2006 02:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dan,

Point 1-My son is currently serving in the US Navy, just returning from deployment on Sunday and redeploying next Monday, thanks so much, and if he were shot down over Iran, China, or North Korea and he was captured, as his mother, would gladly switch places with him without hesitation, but I don't think for one minute they would adhere to the Geneva Convention regardless, and if you do, you're a fool.

Point 2-When an enemy tells you he is coming to cut your head off, I don't believe that is "an ephemeral threat".

Posted by: Becky at September 19, 2006 02:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Regarding my previous comment, I meant Tom, sorry Dan.

Regarding Dan's comment:

If we don't use every means to protect our children, it really won't matter what kind of world we would give them, because they would be living in the kind of world our enemy wants them to have.

And the statment that "They think the only options at their disposal are to perform the lowest forms of violence on others" is funny and not in a ha-ha kind of way, when they have been inflicting terrorism of one kind or another on those who don't believe as they do for thousands of years.

Posted by: Becky at September 19, 2006 03:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Point 1-My son is currently serving in the US Navy, just returning from deployment on Sunday and redeploying next Monday, thanks so much, and if he were shot down over Iran, China, or North Korea and he was captured, as his mother, would gladly switch places with him without hesitation, but I don't think for one minute they would adhere to the Geneva Convention regardless, and if you do, you're a fool.

well, lets look at recent history, shall we?

American citizens held during the Iran-Hostage crisis were not subjected to physical torture as such (one hostage was beaten and placed in solitary confinement after an unsuccessful escape attempt) and psychological "torture" -- such as telling one captive that his mother had died, did happen).

The American crew of the EP-3E spy plane that was forced to land in China after a collision were not tortured.

North Korea did torture the American crew of the Pueblo back in 1968 -- but only after incidents such as giving the finger in pictures (and telling the North Koreans that it was a Hawaiian sign for "hello") that North Korea wanted to use for propaganda purposes.

So you assumptions that your son would be tortured should he be taken captive by Iran, China, or North Korea is untenable, provided that your son does not engage in "provocative" acts that result in retaliatory abuse. These Americans were not tortured as a means of getting intelligence, which is what the USA and its proxies are doing.

In other words, I think that the mother of an Iraqi or "suspected terrorist" detainee has a lot more to worry about that you do....

Posted by: p.lukasiak at September 19, 2006 03:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Becky:

Islamic terrorists are beheading people in the US? Better stay inside, then, and don't answer the door.

It puzzles me that decent people like yourself can advocate actions that strike at what America is about out of what appears to be nothing but fear. It is too bad that in your case, at least, the terorrists have won.

Posted by: Tom S at September 19, 2006 04:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Becky,

If we don't use every means to protect our children, it really won't matter what kind of world we would give them, because they would be living in the kind of world our enemy wants them to have.

you give your enemy far too much credit, and you insult your country far too greatly.

You actually think these terrorists can destroy our civilization and our way of life and actually force us to submit to their will by simply using terrorist acts against us? You must not think highly of your own civilization.

Terrorists don’t frighten me. They have no power over me. They are weak imbecelic cowards who use the lowest of the lowest forms of violence to get their message accross. Why should I be afraid of them?

No, the people I am afraid of are those that wish to lower the standards of my country and create a police state where individuals are taken out of their constitutional rights and tortured. Those are the people that frighten me. That is power.

Terrorists have no power over me because they hold no law over my head. The leaders of my country have power over me because they hold the laws of my country over my head. I fear them far more than I fear any terrorist.

Real power lies in the control of law, not in the use of violence.

Posted by: Dan at September 19, 2006 05:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

p.lukasiak,

Don't forget that in Somalia, against these very terrorists back in 1993, one of our pilots was captured. We dropped leaflets on Mogadishu warning the terrorists that we were watching them and that if they tortured our pilot, we'd get them for war crimes. Guess what? They complied and did not torture our pilot.

Imagine that!

Posted by: Dan at September 19, 2006 05:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

One other thing that troubles me.

Americans used to sacrifice their lives for their principles, now they want to sacrifice their principles for their lives.

Something is wrong in that equation.

Posted by: Dan at September 19, 2006 05:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Point 2-When an enemy tells you he is coming to cut your head off, I don't believe that is "an ephemeral threat".

Truly, it is a horrific threat. Just how likely do you think it to happen?

Also, thousands of years? You might want to check on that number.

Posted by: TJ at September 19, 2006 05:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As for Greg's comments, I have to disagree. At this point, I'd prefer it if the CIA interrogation teams were completely shut down, regardless of what legislation passes Congress. I do not trust them to stay within the law, even if the correct laws are passed.

Turn the whole thing back over to the FBI. They seem to have had the right idea in the first place, so I'm a lot less worried about letting them run around without supervision. The other, unspoken, false dichotomy of Bush's statement is that shutting down the CIA interrogations means shutting down interrogations altogether.

Posted by: J. Michael Neal at September 19, 2006 07:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This is a no lose for Bush among the true believers, as Q confirmed. If Bush can't have it his way, the petulant, childish bully will take his ball and go home. Then if we get attacked it will be all the fault of the liberals like Hagel and McCain who won't completely sell out America's values. Bush doesn't give a rat's ass about protecting people, he only cares about raw power. After 6 years of continuously lowering the bar, another new low.

Posted by: Gus at September 19, 2006 08:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Echoing Gus: I never thought that I would see a President of the United States as childish & petulant as this one. If he cannot have his way, tortureing whoever he wants to, wire tapping without a warrant whoever he wants to, etec. He will take his ball & go home. The true believers may still follow him, but no one else hopefully & equally hopefully the true believers are & will remain in the definite minority!

Posted by: David All at September 19, 2006 10:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

1st Letter to the editor in today's (Tuesday) Washington Post:

"I am tired of hearing President Bush speak as if there are terrorists behind every tree and post ready to jump out and kill us. He constantly reminds us that we live in fearful times, that we should be afraid.
What ever happened to remembering how loyal and courageous Americans are? Yes, Sept. 11 happened, but look how we handled it. We faced it and we recovered. We don't need a president who is constantly trying to make us fearful. We need someone who can stir in us patriotism and pride.
We are not a nation of people who are afraid all the time. We are a people who can face the future with our eyes open and know that we can take care of oursevles.

Carol McClure
Springfield" (Virginia)

She sums up Bush & his fear campaign perfectly.

Posted by: David All at September 19, 2006 10:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Finn's reasoning, I see, is that:

(1) Since we were already bombing Japan wholesale, torturing its POWs couldn't possibly make things any worse. You betcha. Is it really necessary to point out to an adult that bombing Japan was obviously absolutely necessary to win the war, while torturing POWs for information was NOT necessary and in fact was judged by the War Department to generate enough additional hate from Japanese of then-uncertain sentiment that it would do more net harm than good?

(2) Every Moslem on Earth already hates our guts, so we can't possibly make any of them hate us any worse by torturing Moslem detainees on a wholesale basis -- which means, again, that we need give no consideration as to whether we'll make the net strategic situation even worse by doing so. Again, you betcha.

The world is SO much simpler a place, optically speaking, when you simply deny that gray exists at all...

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at September 20, 2006 12:19 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Very clever finn, acting as though you and I were not in complete agreement to further your argument. Yet I am compelled to extoll your virtuous turns of phrase yet again.

Actually, it may surprise you, but I am fundamentally against torturing, killing or even harming other human beings. What I am unabashly for though is protecting innocent human beings more. Much much more.

Indeed, the Geneva Conventions only pretend to protect innocent humans from indignities and harm - you and I see though the treachery they represent. Clever, but not clever enough.

re: Geneva Conventions. I'm not saying the US should just discard them just because basically nobody outside of a few Western nations actually give a shit. What I did say was that arguing against "torture" in order to preserve the Geneva Conventions to "protect" American troops as Greg and Powell tried to do is laughable. It's a nice theoretical kumbaya-like concept like "world peace" or Santa Clause but in practice, it hasn't, doesn't and probably likely never will work as it's intended, especially in this particular war where US soldiers are worth far more dead, tortured, maimed and mutilated. And I don't see any other potential US foe giving a shit either, unless the US plans on going to war against say Canada or some European country. Then again, in wars, the Europeans don't exactly have the best history when it comes to protecting POWs either. I don't particularly like or agree with this state of affairs, but that's the way is.

This is an excellent point, and one worth repeating. The US will never encounter a foe that will respect the Geneva Conventions (or any other treaty, for that matter), so what protection will it afford our troops or civilians? None at all, of course. Has any other country in a time of war attempted to honor the treaties? Of course not. You and I, finn.. you and I. Our ability to peer deep into the mists of time and the future allow us to see the truth of things to come. It's a shame others do not share our gift.

I do wonder though just what exactly are the Geneva Conventions for anyway? Ostensibly, they are to protect civilians, but hey we are at a point where we are now seriously arguing that you know what, you can ignore the Geneva Conventions with impunity, who the fuck cares, but we, the West in our infinite wisdom and moral "goodness", we will reward you with its protections anyway. The logic is brilliant. I mean, what better way to protect civilians than to reward and protect their fiercest predators regardless of whether or not they adhere to the Geneva Conventions in the first place. Like I said, brilliant. We might as well put up advertisements for our enemies saying "civilians here, slaughter at will and hey it's all good". But hey, as long as we can win "hearts and minds"...as if that in itself is not one of THE biggest delusional fantasies regarding this war against radical Islamic extremists.

Indeed, and we come to the crux of the matter. This is a thought I've had many times while running a stop sign or killing a homeless person for his delightful newspaper-blanket - we live in a world FULL of lawlessness. What kind of saints do we pretend to be, with our fancy laws and pretentious proclamations about justice and dignity? Really, no one seems to care about the rule of law, so it is time to create a new law: my law. If a lawless criminal is caught, I say who are we to afford him due process and a chance to repay society? Does giving him such rights protect the innocents in our nation? No, and damn the sappy fool who says differently.

Finally, I believe we are one in our understanding of the Islamic mind. There is no reasoning with them, savage beasts as they are, and no winning their minds in this lifetime. Those who say that taking a stance to win the hearts and minds of Muslim moderates while bolstering their efforts to gain influence in the region are moon struck idiots. Thank the Lord that there's me, you and the President to see how things really work.

Posted by: mafisto at September 20, 2006 05:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

mafisto,
If one were to concede every point you make, one would justify a systematic extermination of every man, women, child and pet who is muslim.

Posted by: centrist at September 20, 2006 02:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Morals, ethics have no place in war. War is by definition the absence of good, war is evil. War is killing young boys and men as fast and as easily as you can. And if effective, their wives, children and cities. Or else. The islamist with the clarity of observant Muslims understand (see Beslan, WTC, beheading teachers, shooting nurse nuns, yada yada yada). I suppose islamist don't read or hear much from leftist/liberal academics and spinners of secular myths. Why lawyers and leftist academics haven’t gone amongst the poor misguided islamist like priest use to do with Indian tribes escapes me. After all, law is the religion of our time, and lawyers its priesthood, and, all bringing worldly paradise to those that would listen.

But hey, I think a lawyer should accompany every soldier. If murders can have a lawyer, the soldiers should too, it's only fair as the left is always reminding us that soldiers come from the worst sorts and most are only in the military because they can't do anything else. So, Lawyers, start the internet signup sheet.If there were not enough lawyers, even with a draft, then any knowledgably leftist would do. Just think of being in Appalachia and ‘empowering’ the white trash to read. This combination of leftist notions and law could do for the average platoon what they have done for the average poor black family. Success all around.

As a cultural fissure, what we have here is the ultimate divide, between those that live in the physical world as it is, the soldier, and those that live by symbol manipulation and are deluded to think it is reality. Harvard professor Arthur Miller was once asked if everyone should get a law degree and he said, "No because it is a form of brain damage."


Posted by: Paul at September 20, 2006 02:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mafisto,

Finally, I believe we are one in our understanding of the Islamic mind. There is no reasoning with them, savage beasts as they are, and no winning their minds in this lifetime. Those who say that taking a stance to win the hearts and minds of Muslim moderates while bolstering their efforts to gain influence in the region are moon struck idiots. Thank the Lord that there's me, you and the President to see how things really work.

Savage beasts eh? Not human beings?

On several occasions in world history one group of people called another group of people "animals" "cockroaches" "savage beasts." Guess what happened. Genocide.

You've basically just advocated the genocide of the Muslim world.

Oh how the mighty have fallen!

Posted by: Dan at September 20, 2006 02:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think Mafisto was being sarcastic. I think.

Posted by: Klaus at September 20, 2006 03:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Morals, ethics have no place in war. War is by definition the absence of good, war is evil. War is killing young boys and men as fast and as easily as you can. And if effective, their wives, children and cities. Or else.

Paul, you have confused "war" with "total war".

War starts out with some sort of disagreement. And one side or another isn't willing to agree to disagree, they try to take what they want and somehow persuade the other not to resist or to stop resisting.

Assuming you want the object of contention enough to kill a whole lot of people for it, still you only need to kill all those people if that's the only way to get them to stop resisting. Often lesser measures work better. Cheaper, quicker, better in every way.

Sometimes it's good to kill a whole lot of people to prove to your enemies that you can and will do it -- so they'll cave in without resisting in the first place. But that can backfure, it can strengthen their resolve.

Sometimes it's good to kill a whole lot of people because you want their stuff and it's easier to kill them than to share. This was true of the native americans, for example. In the american southeast they had a lot of hunting areas but they had a lot of cleared land and tidy farms, too. The white settlers didn't want to carve farms out of the wilderness, they wanted the indian farms and for that they had to clear out the indians. This sort of thing doesn't work as well today as it did then because it's far cheaper and easier now for your enemies to give the natives advanced weapons to fight back with. So it's more expensive than it used to be, unless you lack well-heeled enemies.

But it isn't true in general that war requires you to kill as many as you can.

HTH.


One final thought -- when you believe as you do about war, why would you agree to a war that could be delayed? Why agree to an aggressive war? Why agree to start an unnecessary war? Surely the invasion of iraq was all of those.

Posted by: J Thomas at September 20, 2006 10:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mr. Mafisto,

When do you think Mr. Bush reached his state of enlightenment on the "Islamic mind". Certainly a clear headed realist such as yourself, along with multitudes of wooly headed liberals, were never fooled into thinking Iraq would be some sort of functional state with a democatic form of governance brought forth by American invasion. Do you think Bush believed such post 911?

If so then it must have been painfull for you to hear 3 years worth of his words about freedom and democracy there. To know that the hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of American lives lost and damaged were wasted on a hopless project.

Perhaps Mr. Bush was always in a state of enlightenment on the "Islamic mind" which suggests the question, what were all those years of talk and billions of dollars and thousands of lives spent upon? An elaborate PR job to prove Muslims worthy of elimination is one probably not entirely fair possibility. Perhaps you have a better suggestion.

I can't really expect you to know Mr. Bush's mind but in either case I am sure you were behind him 100%.

Posted by: rapier at September 21, 2006 02:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Should it frighten me that an obvious charicature of such bloody-minded thinking would confuse so many? I suppose it should, considering my source material. That we're actually having a conversation about legitimizing torture would have seemed ludicrous in the extreme just five years ago - but here we are.

Perhaps in another five years we'll be discussing the morality of feeding deceased torture victims to their fellow detainees in an effort to save tax dollars. I look forward to seeing the eager show of support from the usual ranks.

Posted by: mafisto at September 21, 2006 02:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wow, as entertaining as mafisto's post was, it is overshadowed by the humorous effect of all the reactions taking it seriously.

Posted by: abc at September 21, 2006 06:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

How is one supposed to be able to dicern parody nowdays anyway? The reality is oft times so aburd that it seems to be parody.

There are probably 50 million Americans eager to nuke some Muslims somewhere and if only a few thousand might use the term "Islamic mind" it only seemed reasonable that one of those would show up here.

As a general rule irony and sarcasm, parody, don't work too well on internet forums because of the lack of context about who the poster is and the necessary shortness of the posts.

Posted by: rapier at September 22, 2006 01:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Torture is just wrong.
That's all there really is to it. It's wrong.
Not only that, but it doesn't even work.
Why are we having this argument?
Ahh, yes, it's because the people running this country are sociopathic nuts. Bush is a nut. He's a real mean bastard: how else could anyone explain his mocking of a woman he was soon to put to death, back when he was the governor of Texas. He thought it was funny to mock a woman on death row. To me, that says all I need to know about the creature.
As far as practical considerations go, I don't really think that it would matter a damn to most Islamic fundamentalist terrorists whether we torture detainees or not. Thye're fairly likely to torture our soldiers if they catch them, or indeed, even civilians, whether we treat enemy detainees well or not.
That's not why I don't want to see us torture ANYONE. At all. Ever. For any reason.
I don't want to see the United States torture anyone for any reason because I don't want to live in a country that tortures people.
Maybe other countries might not care whether we do the right thing, but I think WE, Americans, should.

Posted by: Bibblesnæð at September 22, 2006 03:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

mafisto,

Priceless.

It seems you understand the right-wing nationalist mind.

Posted by: NeoDude at September 22, 2006 05:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

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Gregory Djerejian comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.


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