January 21, 2007

Lickspittle, Meet Leahy

It's good to see Leahy manhandle the "legal lickspittle" Alberto Gonzalez in Congressional hearings (go to the 1:07 mark for the righteous rant). Our dimly servile Beltway crew can't have it both ways, after all. If Syria is such an odious regime, well, when you send someone there via rendition, you damn well know it's so they can be tortured, no? Gonzalez pitiably punted, and Leahy promised hearings on the Maher Arar matter if convincing answers aren't forthcoming w/in the week. More of this, please.

P.S. For a brief second, Gonzalez looked shamed. Good.

Posted by Gregory at January 21, 2007 03:52 AM
Comments

Why does Alberto hate America?

Posted by: Ghost of Tom Joad at January 21, 2007 08:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We need regime change at home. We also need to amend the constitution to limit this ludicrous claim of unlimited executive authority.

Posted by: Tom at January 21, 2007 03:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

For a brief second, Gonzalez looked shamed. Good.


Well, thank goodness for YouTube, then, that we can have some sort of permanent record of this, since it's my feeling that this is probably the last time AG AG will (or be allowed to) show anything like shame or remorse in front of a committee (or a camera).

Having made the claim (and exercise) of virtually unfettered and unreviewable Executive power the hallmark philosophy of the GW Bush Administration, it's unlikely that any of said Administration's creatures are ever going to express anything to contradict these claims - and it is equally unlikely that anyone else, Courts or Congress, will be able to do much about it until the Bush Administration is on the verge of retirement.

Unconscionable (and probably Unconstitutional) abuses of power carefully timed to expire with the abusers' term: another splendid legacy of the: Worst. President. Ever.


Posted by: Jay C at January 21, 2007 04:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oh the shame of the Republican led Congress of these past six years! What horrors have you let sink into this country by your abrogation of your duties! Shame on you!

Posted by: Dan at January 21, 2007 07:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Reading is expressions is never foolproof, but far from appearing "shamed", to my eyes Gonzales looked as perfectly smug as ever. A guy who's based his whole professional life on being G.W. Bush's consigliere probably tossed his sense of shame overboard years ago.....

Posted by: sglover at January 21, 2007 10:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"(go to the 1:07 mark for the righteous rant)."

Is that "clock" per GMT for the righteous rant? I mean, where's Leahy been, in a time warp? Arar was booted four years ago. I guess the poor-Syrian-human-rights campaign wouldn't have had quite the same sexiness a month after Manhattan was counting corpses. No problem, Pat.

Maybe next the indignant senator can scold the Justice Dept. for their handling of the Emmett Till case.


-resh

Posted by: resh at January 22, 2007 04:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We should be grateful the Indignant Senator is Indignant at all. It is, after all, a hell of a lot more than we ever got -- or would ever have gotten -- from any of the GOP Senators, including the blithering Arlen Specter.

And, as I recall, Leahy and a lot of other Dem Senators have been snarling about Arar's mishandling for a long time. It's just that they are finally in a position to actually do something about it. (To say nothing of the fact that we didn't find out Arar was being tortured at all until a hell of a lot longer than "a month" after 9-11.)

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 22, 2007 11:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I also think Gonzales didn't quite look shamed. It looked more bored to me, of having to yet again explain things to people who just don't see as clearly as he does. I would have less of a problem of appointing sycophants to these offices if they realized that's what they were, rather than having delusions of visionary clarity.

If Leahy doesn't get answers now, he could always just wait until HRC is sworn in, have her declare him an enemy combatant, extraordinarily extradite him, and then get the Syrians to find out why he was sending people to Syria. My aversion to such things would be abated by the irony and justice in it.

Posted by: James at January 22, 2007 03:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Resh,

Things change when one's in the majority position in the Senate. To blame Leahy for not getting the GOP to act on this sooner is beyond naive.

Posted by: Eric Martin at January 22, 2007 04:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"It's just that they are finally in a position to actually do something about it. (To say nothing of the fact that we didn't find out Arar was being tortured at all until a hell of a lot longer than "a month" after 9-11.)"

Yea, that something is called political grandstanding. Leahy doesnt give a crap about Arar anymore than you or I do. Nor does he need to chair his committee to rebuke the AG, who happened to be Ashcroft not Gonzalez when Arar was shanghaied to Syria.

Any minority member is free to submit legislation, and co-chairs with extensive seniority, i.e. Leahy, have enough leverage to make it stick. And to make it heard.

Now that he's riding shotgun, however, Leahy wants only to beat his chest and make a public spectacle of Alberto, who happens to be a Bush legal point man that finds the rights of terrorists as narrow and negligible. Let us recall the Gonzalez was cast as the architect of torture and Abu Ghraib-type conduct. Leahy's putative legal/moral philosophy is superficially athwart to that, and thus the real reason for this heated tete-a-tete. Arar is a pawn in a larger political game.

In any case, Arar's plight was known a long time ago-even though he himself delayed telling anyone for months and failed to say a word of his torture during the first seven visits he received. Yes, yes...I can accept why he might have kept his mouth shut. Yet there is little proof he was tortured, except based on his word. He also remains on our terrorist watch-list.

Maybe Leahy can tell the world why his particular outrage took so long to manifest itself; surely he didnt forget or forsake the omnipresent leftist chant:

Justice delayed, is justice denied.


-resh

Posted by: resh at January 22, 2007 11:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Right. We deliberately sent him to Syria rather than to Canada (which was willing to accept him) for some reason having absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Syria was willing to torture him for us and Canada wasn't. Any fool can see that, and Resh is clearly far beyond being just any fool. (As proven again by his complaint that it was unfair for Leahy to "attack Gonzalez rather than Ashcroft", ignoring the tiny facts that Ashcroft is no longer AG and that Gonzales has given every indication that he completely agrees with Ashcroft's, Bush's and Cheney's pro-torture philosophy in such matters.)

"Any minority member is free to submit legislation, and co-chairs with extensive seniority, i.e. Leahy, have enough leverage to make it stick. And to make it heard." Not in the Congress we've had in 2001-2006, which most people on this planet have noticed by now. It's been as much as they can do to even get the chance to submit legislation.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 23, 2007 01:27 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oh, and by the way, Resh, quite a few of us out here really DO "give a crap" about people being tortured, particularly people with a good chance of being innocent. Quite a few of them are even Republicans, including the proprietor of this blog.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 23, 2007 01:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


"Right. We deliberately sent him to Syria rather than to Canada (which was willing to accept him) for some reason having absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Syria was willing to torture him for us and Canada wasn't."

I think your facts are spotty and selective on the case of Maher Arar. First, the Canadians were the ones who "handed" him over to the US authorities, based on their extensive (if mishandled) investigations and their conclusions that he was a pal of Abdullah Amalki, another Syrian and suspected al Qaeda operative. No one disputes that Amalki co-signed for Arar's rental-lease in Canada, for example. (Good data on this in WIKI.)

The key point being, lest you misread, that Canada was the tail wagging this dog, not the US. Thus returning him "to Canada" was never a serious option, not for minute one, despite subsequent official protestations.

Secondly, Arar is a native-born Syrian citizen and was deported to that country within the legal constraints of US immigration law. He was on our terrorist watch list, showed up on US soil, was arrested and exiled. Short and sweet, nothing illegal. Your theory that we wanted him tortured in Syria and acted accordingly like KGB has an emotive appeal but no factual support.

(Speaking of illicit conduct, FYI, Clinton's regime introduced the more odious "extraordinary rendition" directives, offering up our proto-terrorist friends to that elysian field known as Egypt, where all unsavory types said a quick hello and a quicker goodbye to the mukhabarat. They make the Syrians loook like choir boys. Of course, guys like you and Leahy were likely a bit more muted on the topic when it was your ox being gored. Hmm...Perhaps Leahy could make Gore and Clinton unindicted co-conspirators as part of his latest outrage theatrics?)

More to the point, if Leahy, you or Greg want to assert that Gonzalez is somehow readily tained by Arar's exit and Syrian ordeal, you'll need to make a quantum leap in character assassination. Maybe before you indict Gonzalez (for reasons curious), it would be a good idea to validate the facts on which the case is based.

Just a suggestion.

Otherwise, this hifalutin moral outrage is a smokescreen for a not- unexpected McCarthyesque witch hunt, which I'm sure you anticipated from Pelosi's "fresh-start" irredentist movement and which I'm sure you detest....


-resh

Posted by: resh at January 23, 2007 03:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I've researched the Arar case for years. resh is wrong about close to everything:

--Leahy has sponsored an anti-rendition bill for years. S. 654. He's the lead sponsor. Look it up.

--Arar was never turned over to the US by Canada, that is flatly false. He was detained by the US at JFK airport while changing planes. Canada had investigated him, but had also concluded that there was no decent evidence that he was an al Qaeda member, and told us so immediately before his rendition.

--We lied to Canada about his whereabouts during the actual rendition process.

--Canadian officials do not seem to have belived there was even a serious possibility of him being sent to Syria (though they handled it badly after)

--He seems to have been rendered partly based on false confessions that Almalki and another Canadian made under torture in Syria, which were passed on to the US.

--it is true that the US rendered people to be tortured in Egypt under Clinton. Fewer, and more likely to be guilty, with more legal hoops, but not so different in result. Egypt's record in torture is I'd say comparable to Syria's. Of course, the Bush administration has sent a number there as well...

This did not become public information until Clinton was out of office, however.

--Arar's rendition took place before GOnzales became AG, but he may have been involved in legal discussions of rendition as White House Counsel and now argues that rendition is legal.

Posted by: Katherine at January 23, 2007 07:24 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I like how Wolf Blitzer tries to rationalize Gonzoles's position:

"Isn't he still a terror suspect in the U.S.?"
"I guess that's what the broefong next week will be about."

I thought he seemed relatively lame there.

Posted by: Doug at January 23, 2007 02:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What's a broefong?

Posted by: Gus at January 23, 2007 05:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

(1) The current Canadian government (run by a Conservative PM) is saying flatly and publicly that the US is wrong in saying that there is any evidence whatsoever that Arar has terrorist connections, and that there is no good reason for the US to keep him on our watch list. That's what the whole fight between Gonzales and Leahy started over, remember? Leahy asked Gonzales why he WAS still on our watch list when the Canadian intelligence agencies said there is no reason at all for it. Gonzales promised to provide Leahy and Specter with the reasons for this in private, which Leahy demanded he do "within a week".

Well, sir, the Canadian government has already been shown those "reasons", which Canada's Public Safety Minister (Tory government, remember?) says have "not altered our opinion at all." The week is now up, and we shall see what we shall see. (Of course, as Sullivan points out, the date on the letter also shows that Gonzales could also easily have shown the new "evidence" against Arar to Leahy and Specter BEFORE the hearing.)

http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/002388.php
http://time.blogs.com/daily_dish/2007/01/gonzales_on_ara.html

(2) "...If you or Greg want to assert that Gonzalez is somehow readily tained by Arar's exit and Syrian ordeal, you'll need to make a quantum leap in character assassination."

Really, Resh. You can't assassinate a corpse. Don't further insult either our intelligence or your own any further. Gonzales has stated that he is in full agreement with all aspects of this administration's detainee policies -- which have not been changed since we rendered Arar. (Including the wholesale arrest, and indefinite holding in Gitmo without trial, of large numbers of people whom ALL outside observers say are not only innocent, but were KNOWN by the Pentagon to be almost certainly innocent when they were arrested. In order, presumably, to make this administration look like it was doing more about terrorism than it actually was.)

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 23, 2007 08:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Resh: "Alberto, who happens to be a Bush legal point man that finds the rights of terrorists as narrow and negligible..."

Rather important missing word there, isn't there, Resh? "...finds the rights of ACCUSED terrorists as narrow and negligible..." (And accused by this administration, whose record in both competency and honesty is, shall we delicately say, somewhat below average.)

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 23, 2007 08:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Thank you Katherine.

I was about to compose a long comment pointing out the dubious grasp of facts that Resh has displayed, but you saved me much time and effort. And you provided a more comprehensive list of such shortcomings.

Still, I found this amusing:

Your theory that we wanted him tortured in Syria and acted accordingly like KGB has an emotive appeal but no factual support.

Yeah, who would have guessed he could be tortured in Syria. It's not like they're on the list of countries known to torture prisoners are they? And it's not like they were sharing terrorist intel with us after 9/11, including intel derived from other similar "aggressive" interrogations. Right?

Yet there is little proof he was tortured, except based on his word.

As for me, I'm with Resh on this. Why not trust Bashir Assad and the Syrian security forces over Maher Arar, after all? Assad seems like a nice enough chap, and that's one of the finest, most enlightened, most ethically sound security apparatuses in the world. It's not like they have a pattern of torturing detainees or anything. To suggest otherwise would be slanderous.

Still, despite Assad's humane treatment of prisoners, we need to topple his regime because they are undemocratic, repressive and abusive to their population. Got that?

Also, the suggestion that it would be a "witchhunt" to confront Gonzales with legitimate constitutional/legal/moral questions on matters that he has openly, and repeatedly, advocated is a little bizarre. Especially when those legal positions are controversial and relatively radical.

Posted by: Eric Martin at January 23, 2007 08:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Things change when one's in the majority position in the Senate. To blame Leahy for not getting the GOP to act on this sooner is beyond naive.

Completely correct. However, you're trying to persuade "resh", who is as much of an ignorant troll as the (blissfully silent, lately!) neill. You're wasting bandwidth trying to reason with a guy who's demonstrated a complete lack of intellectual integrity.

TROLLS -- JUST SAY "NO"!

Posted by: sglover at January 23, 2007 10:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

K-

"I've researched the Arar case for years. resh is wrong about close to everything:?"

For years? My. You must be in the know. I didn't realize I was amongst those with divine insight. I assume youre aware that the COMISSION OF INQUIRY, as released by Canadian authorities who painstakingly reviewed the matter, only released their findings in September of 2006?

Perhaps they should have consulted you and your vast historical research.

In any case, let's see how wrong I am.

"--Leahy has sponsored an anti-rendition bill for years. S. 654. He's the lead sponsor. Look it up. "

About which I said nothing. Indeed, all the more reason why he, Leahy, might have visibly raised the Arar affair earlier, not four years after the fact and directed at a non-principal in the affair.

"--Arar was never turned over to the US by Canada, that is flatly false. He was detained by the US at JFK airport while changing planes."

I never said he was turned over to the US; kindly have the decency to address what I actually said. Here's my germane and exact quotes:
A) "First, the Canadians were the ones who "handed" him over to the US authorities, ..." You are aware of what those quotation marks that enclose the word 'handed" represent, I assume? That means the Canadians didn't literally "hand" him over, but rather did something akin to handing him over. What they did, in fact, was to validate (with bogus info. on their part) Arar's terrorist nexus. That's what I meant by handing him over.

B) "He was on our terrorist watch list, showed up on US soil, was arrested and exiled. Short and sweet, nothing illegal. " I'd have thought since you overlooked the earlier quotation marks, you might have caught the above-passage that says precisely what you later repeat as gospel.

"Canada had investigated him, but had also concluded that there was no decent evidence that he was an al Qaeda member, and told us so immediately before his rendition."

Well that's a novel insight. Let's read together, shall we, what the COMMISSION of INQUIRY itself said about the role of Canadian officials:
provided American authorities with information about Mr. Arar which was inaccurate,portrayed him in an unfair fashion and overstated his importance to the investigation. Some of this inaccurate information had the potential to create serious consequences for Mr. Arar in light
of American attitudes and practices at the time.>

Yea, that sounds exactly like what you said, huh?

"--We lied to Canada about his whereabouts during the actual rendition process."

Ok. Let's read together what the investigating Judge (O'Connor) of the COI said in this regard:

Yea, we sure as heck fooled those Canadians, using their very own information....

"--Canadian officials do not seem to have belived there was even a serious possibility of him being sent to Syria (though they handled it badly after)"

Again, from the COI:

Arar was free to discuss his pending deportation to Syria, about which he was told, with anyone while he was held for days in the US. That the RCMP didnt know of his exile to Syria defies common sense.

"--He seems to have been rendered partly based on false confessions that Almalki and another Canadian made under torture in Syria, which were passed on to the US."

Oh, my. I seriously suggest you review your timelines. Arar was "rendered" (notice the quotes) based on a combination of ( ficticious Canadian)/US surveillance data independent of those later confessions. Almakli wasn't even arrested until May 2003 in Syria, when he was allegedly detained/tortured. That's about one year-plus AFTER Arar was in Syria and "tortured." Please adjust your "extensive research " accordingly.

"--it is true that the US rendered people to be tortured in Egypt under Clinton. Fewer, and more likely to be guilty, with more legal hoops, but not so different in result. Egypt's record in torture is I'd say comparable to Syria's. Of course, the Bush administration has sent a number there as well..."

Ok. So you'll agree that Leahy should include Clinton's A/G et al in his post-factum soapbox opera. Or are you one of those who just wants to blame Alberto for some curious reason?

"This did not become public information until Clinton was out of office, however."

Oh, well that makes everything peachy-clean. It's kind of Clintonesque in a way.

"--Arar's rendition took place before GOnzales became AG, but he may have been involved in legal discussions of rendition as White House Counsel and now argues that rendition is legal."

"May-have"?Ah, we just established-and agreed- that rendition evolved from the Clinton regime. Gonzalez was just beyond a teenager at the time. Gonzalez has as often repudiated rendition as he has condoned it. Look it up.

Besides, we've overlooked the essential point:

Why is Leahy using a case from four/five years ago to vent against Alberto Gonzalez, when Gonzalez, at best, was a behind-the-scenes-legal-echo at the time?

I do appreciate your spending time to show how my facts were in error.

-resh

Posted by: resh at January 24, 2007 01:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bruce-

"That's what the whole fight between Gonzales and Leahy started over, remember? "

Please watch the video again. Leahy's tirade focuses on our sending away Arar-or anyone-to be tortured. Then he throws in the right mix of natural-law, pixey-dust, constitution-speak, all the while using Gonzales as public-enemy number 1. Give me a break.

It's a day late and a dollar short to unleash the moral umbrage qua Arar.

"Don't further insult either our intelligence or your own any further. Gonzales has stated that he is in full agreement with all aspects of this administration's detainee policies...."

I'm sorry, I missed the part where you explained why Clinton's former AG-or even Ashcroft-is not being held accountable. Your and Leahy's outrage would have a bit more sincerity if it were applied to the actual guilty parties.

Or do you just prefer the guilt by association technique?


-resh

Posted by: resh at January 24, 2007 01:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Also, the suggestion that it would be a "witchhunt" to confront Gonzales with legitimate constitutional/legal/moral questions on matters..."

Explain to us, in specificity, what Gonzales had to do with Arar?


-resh

Posted by: resh at January 24, 2007 01:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Completely correct. However, you're trying to persuade "resh", who is as much of an ignorant troll as the (blissfully silent, lately!) neill. "

Yawn.


-resh

Posted by: resh at January 24, 2007 01:27 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

EDIT:

In my post to K, I mistakenly omitted some text from the Commission of Inquiry, where I say: "Ok. Let's read together what the investigating Judge (O'Connor) of the COI said in this regard:"

My apologies.

The omitted text, in reply to K's observation that ""--We lied to Canada about his whereabouts during the actual rendition process,"
reads as follows (again, from Judge O Connor): "It is very likely that, in making the decision to detain and remove Mr. Arar to Syria, the U.S. authorities relied on information about Mr. Arar provided by the RCMP," O'Connor concluded."

Point being, if we lied to Canada, they were complicit in the ugly denouement via their own tangled web.


-resh

Posted by: resh at January 24, 2007 02:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"I'm sorry, I missed the part where you explained why Clinton's former AG -- or even Ashcroft -- is not being held accountable. Your and Leahy's outrage would have a bit more sincerity if it were applied to the actual guilty parties. Or do you just prefer the guilt by association technique?"

Because, my dear fellow:

(A) Gonzales is the AG in charge at the moment, and he's still defending the policy.

(B) This administration has taken extraordinary rendition a lot farther than any previous administration ever did -- including Nixon's and Clinton's. (Not that the latter, as we all know, didn't have some ratlike traits himself.)

So: let's get down to your central point (which, of course, was Greg's central point from the beginning), since -- despite all your verbage -- you remain remarkably vague on it: Do you think that extraordinary rendition for torture is defensible or not? And if you think it IS defensible under some circumstances, do you think it should be done as often as this administration is doing it -- along with all their other fascinating and novel actions toward accused (there's that word again) terrorists? In short, are you blaming Leahy for being too opposed to torture, or for not being opposed enough to it?

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 24, 2007 02:43 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bruce, you are changing the issue here.

In these comments Resh isn't dealing with the question whether Leahy should or shouldn't oppose torture of accused criminals.

Resh is accusing Leahy of using the toture issue for political advantage. Leahy is trying to make Republican torturers look bad. In the process he is trying to make nontorturing Democrats look good.

But this shouldn't be a partisan issue. If Leahy is going to oppose torture he should do it politely, respectfully, and he should give no indication that he has any moral compass himself. He should make it clear that Democrats are in no respect better than Republicans and that there's no reason for anybody to vote for Democrats.

By letting partisan politics intrude into the issue Leahy is cheapening the discourse. He is weakening the bipartisan accord that this country needs in our time of troubles. And if he continues to engage in such unbalanced and abusive behavior there's a chance that Republicans might start to retaliate. If both parties start to treat each other as enemies, that would be a terrible thing for the USA.

Democrats should take their cue from the welcome that Republicans have given them over the last 4 years and avoid talking mean to Republican appointees.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 24, 2007 03:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well, it makes as much sense as any interpretation of Resh's remarks I've been able to come up with so far (with the possible exception of one based on quantum physics).

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 24, 2007 03:59 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bruce-

I hope you don't mind if I don't waste time addressing the smartass asides. Let's pretend that everyone laughed aloud, and they made you feel better. So, moving on....


"Do you think that extraordinary rendition for torture is defensible or not?"

Sure it's defensible; almost anything is defensible. Look at a (an almost) real scenario to examine ER, not some abstract dialogue. Then let's see where we arrive. Better yet, let's see where you arrive.

Let's say Muhammed Atta Jr. is in your hometown tomorrow, his identity incognito, and he plants a bomb in your 6 yr. old daughter's kindergarten school. It's planted somewhere in the school, hooked up to a cell phone. Atta is feeling particularly pious, however, being a jihadist point-man, and he directs his associate Abdul to place a larger bomb in the nearby middle and high schools. Your older children attend those schools, as do 500 other kids.

The bombs are set to detonate in four days.

You know, we all know, where this is going. This hypothetical has been replayed more than once, but let's hear your answer.

So let's cut to the chase. Assume Atta is caught but Abdul isn't. Assume he's caught, has explosives in his car, and area maps. There's a date circled on the one local map (you can spot your street), the date circled is FOUR DAYS HENCE-and the date has the phrase "ALLAH I AM YOURS!" written across it in Arabic.

Our Homeland Security Boys grabbed Atta's ass while he sat in a movie theatre and shanghaied him to a secret locale. He was on our terrorist watch list, as was his infamous father, as is Abdul. He's interviewed and interrogated within the legal constraints of our laws. 10 hours later, you are nowhere with him. He wants to see a lawyer immediately and requests one of those high-priced lawyers who gladly do pro bono work for the misguided.

Alas, he also tells the US officials to go fuck themselves, while he taunts them with an imminent bomb threat, laughing in their faces. The US officials can't even get him to disclose the whereabouts of Abdul, whom the CIA has tagged as a Jihadist explosives mastermind.

A moment later, the phone rings. It's not his lawyer. It's AG Alberto Gonzales, who seems to be carrying a dark voice. He mentions to the lead agent two words: extraordinary rendition. Then he mentions the word Syria. Then he hangs up.

But he leaves the decision to you, Bruce, as you're the lead agent, and you happened to be a former legal scholar from Harvard. Gonzales is deferring to you. More than 500 children await your call.


So tell us what you'd do. The clock is ticking. You've got three days.

-resh

Posted by: resh at January 24, 2007 07:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Postscript: it is also curious, is it not, that -- when Leahy thundered at Gonzales to explain WHY we packed Arar off to Syria rather than Canada, when "we knew damn well that Syria would torture him, but Canada would not" -- Gonzales didn't state any of those Obvious, Publicly Known and Convincing defenses of our action that Resh keeps referring to, such as "the Canadians made us do it"? Instead, Gonzales kept insisting that the White House had Good but Secret reasons for doing so, which he couldn't possibly reveal even to Leahy and Specter in private until later (and which, he insisted, are still valid, although the new and very right-wing Tory Canadian intelligence minister, Stockwell Day, has already publicly rejected them as bullshit).

Note also (quoting Resh) that the Canadian Commission of Inquiry said that Canada's central moral mistake at the beginning was to provide "some inaccurate information [which] had the potential to create serious consequences for Mr. Arar in light of American attitudes and practices at the time." That is, that Canada's real moral error was to help Feed The Beast by giving the Bush Administration even more excuse to act as irresponsibly and viciously as everyone -- including Canada -- knew they were likely to act. Which definitely leaves Canada as the secondary sinner in this case, by a sizable margin.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 24, 2007 07:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Tell me what YOU'D do, Resh -- and how often, and for how many (possible) victims, you'd do it. 500? 50? 5? 1? And then also explain how we knew that Arar had information that might be important in defending that many victims.

And, while you're doing so, explain why the US didn't do it against Japanese POWs during WW II, at a time when Japan was not only refusing to reciprocate but enthusiastically torturing and slaughtering our POWs -- and at a time when many a Japanese POW might have information that would be crucial in saying more American lives than 500, or for preserving the US itself. And also explain why the decision as to whether to torture someone in an emergency situation of the sort you describe should be left up one man by himself (the President, the AG, the DefSec, or whoever) -- as this administration, including Gonzales, continues to insist -- instead of at least being made by a judicial committee of multiple members NOT all appointed by the incumbent party.

Still, thanks for at least finally clarifying your position: you're a wildly enthusiastic advocate of the "Ticking Bomb" argument to allow torture under any circumstances whatsoever.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 24, 2007 07:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Some highlights from that Wikipedia article that Resh claims to hve read ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maher_Arar ):

"The commission's final report cleared Arar's name and was sharply critical of the RCMP, other Canadian government departments AND THE UNITED STATES' TREATMENT OF ARAR [capital letters mine, of course -- Moomaw]. The United States did not participate in the inquiry. The Bush Administration also maintains that Arar's removal to Syria was legal and was not a case of extraordinary rendition. Human rights groups dispute this. Despite the inquiry's exoneration of Mr. Arar, the United States has so far refused to remove Mr. Arar from its watch list but has agreed to review the case...

"The fact that US officials had a Canadian document in their possession was later widely interpreted as evidence of the participation by Canadian authorities in Arar's detention.

"The Canadian government was notified on October 10, 2002 and Arar was later discovered to be in the Far'Falastin detention center, near Damascus, Syria.

"The deportation was condemned by the Canadian government and by groups such as Amnesty International. On October 29, 2002, the Canadian foreign affairs department issued a travel advisory strongly cautioning Canadians born in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya and Sudan against travel to the United States for any reason. The advisory prompted US conservative Pat Buchanan to describe Canada as 'Soviet Canuckistan'.

"The American ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci, later told Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham that all Canadian passport holders would be treated equally. In November 2002, Canadian privacy commissioner George Radwanski recommended that birthplace information be removed from all Canadian passports, in part because of fears of profiling in the United States and other countries...

"After Arar's release, the controversy continued over his treatment by the US and over the role that Canadian police and government officials may have played in his deportation and interrogation. The United States claimed that the RCMP had provided them with a list of suspicious persons that included Mr. Arar. It was also discovered that Canadian consular officials knew that Arar was in custody in the United States but did not believe that he would be deported. The Canadian government maintains that the decision to deport Arar to Syria was made by American officials alone...

"On February 5, 2004, the Canadian government established a commission of inquiry under Dennis O'Connor, Associate Chief Justice of Ontario to investigate and report on the actions of Canadian officials.

"On June 14, 2005, Franco Pillarella, Canadian ambassador to Syria at the time of Arar's deportation, said that at the time he had no reason to believe Arar had been badly treated, and in general had no reason to conclusively believe that Syria engaged in routine torture. These statements prompted widespread incredulity in the Canadian media, and former Canadian UN ambassador responded to Pillarella asserting that Syria's human rights abuses were well known and well documented by many sources.

On September 14, 2005, the O'Connor commission concluded public hearings after testimony from 85 witnesses. The US ambassador at the time of the incident, Paul Cellucci, refused to testify.

On October 27, 2005 a fact-finder appointed by the Arar inquiry released a report saying that he believed Arar was tortured in Syria. He said that Arar had recovered well physically but was still suffering from psychological problems caused by his mistreatment.

The final report, released on September 18, 2006, categorically states that there is no evidence linking Arar to terrorist activity, that the RCMP passed false information on to US authorities, and that the RCMP leaked untrue information to damage his reputation. The report also confirms that he was tortured while in Syria... Zaccardelli later resigned as RCMP commissioner because of this case.

"Robert H. Tuttle, the US ambassador to Britain, told the BBC on December 22, 2005: 'I don't think there is any evidence that there have been any renditions carried out in the country of Syria. There is no evidence of that. And I think we have to take what the secretary Condoleezza Rice says at face value. It is something very important, it is done very carefully and she has said we do not authorise, condone torture in any way, shape or form.'

"This statement was amended the very next day by a U.S. embassy spokeswoman who stated that the embassy 'recognised that there had been a media report of a rendition to Syria but reiterated that the United States is not in a position to comment on specific allegations of intelligence activities that appear in the press.'

"On September 19, 2006, US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales denied any wrongdoing on the part of the USA in Arar's transportation to Syria. During a press conference Gonzales said: 'Well, we were not responsible for his removal to Syria, I'm not aware that he was tortured, and I haven't read the Commission report. Mr. Arar was deported under our immigration laws. He was initially detained because his name appeared on terrorist lists, and he was deported according to our laws.'

" 'Some people have characterized his removal as a rendition. That is not what happened here. It was a deportation. And even if it were a rendition, we understand as a government what our obligations are with respect to anyone who is rendered by this government to another country, and that is that we seek to satisfy ourselves that they will not be tortured. And we do that in every case. And if in fact he had been rendered to Syria, we would have sought those same kind of assurances, as we do in every case.' "

"On September 20, 2006 Charles Miller, a DoJ spokesman, said Gonzales had merely been trying to clarify that deportations were no longer the responsibility of the Department of Justice, but were now the responsibility of the Department of Homeland Security.

"During a telephone conversation on October 6, 2006, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper [Tory government now -- remember?] notifed U.S. President George W. Bush that Canada intended to lodge a formal protest over U.S. treatment of Arar. The notification was later followed by a letter of protest sent from Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter MacKay to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Harper told reporters that Canada wants 'the United States government [to] come clean with its version of events, to acknowledge... the deficiencies and inappropriate conduct that occurred in this case, particularly vis-à-vis its relationship with the Canadian government.' In particular, Canada wants United States assurances, said Harper, that 'these kinds of incidents will not be repeated in the future.' "

_________________________

Yep; the Bush administration was as innocent in this affair as a day-old baby rattlesnake. (Although there is no doubt that Canada played a SECONDARY role in it, as Arar himself declared and Canada itself has now admitted. Seen any American officials resign over the case yet?)

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 24, 2007 09:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Resh, you're taking a particularly chicken-shit position here.

In the case you describe, are you going to bundle this guy off to syria -- maybe 12 hours to get there -- and wait for them to phone you results? So after 36 hours the phone rings. It's somebody with a thick syrian accvent. "He says that the bomb is in the boiler room of Building B. But he does not know where is the other bomb. His ally who did the other one is holed up in a building, he gave us part of the address. The address is sixteen hundred Pumsilvanyi."

After 48 hours they have more. "He changed his story. The first bomb is not in the boiler room in Building B. It is in the office of the principle in Building C, hidden behind the potty plant. And here is the address clarified. 1600 Pumsilvania Avenue, in Washington DC. He says that is the location of his good friend"

So then when there's only 6 hours left and you still haven't found it you're starting to panic. You might have to tell them to shut down the school for a day and tell everybody to stay home! What a catastrophe! Or maybe it's a nuke and you need to evacuate the town! A nuke that's so well-shielded that you can't find it.... So then you get another call from syria. Thick syrian accent. "We have precisely the information you need. Of course we wish to give it to you. But first we must discuss with your President the situation in lebanon. Would you please summon him?"

Absurd.

Try this. You have the terrorist. It's your responsibility. You don't think he'll reveal anything without torture, and you're rushed for time. Do you wait for a bipartisan committee to tell you what to do? Do you wait for the President to tell you what to do and for him to take responsibility? Or do you proceed on your own authority?

So here's the suspected terrorist (who's laughed at you and proclaimed he's a terrorist and told you about the bombs) and here's you, and your people who have him restrained, and your poultry shears. Send him to syria when he has important timely information? When the bomb is ticking? Chickenshit. Are you ready to take your poultry shears and cut off one of the fingers on his right hand? That shows him you're serious And then you ask him where it is. And he tells you something, or he doesn't. If he doesn't you cut off another finger. If he does, you call out a team to look where he says, and when they don't find anything you cut off two more fingers. Then you ask him again. And when that one is a lie too you cut off his whole right hand. You have a medic standing by to stop the bleeding and to give him drugs to keep him from going into shock. If this method doesn't get results pretty quick, the syrians aren't going to be any faster.

So after the bombs are defused, then you turn yourself in. You broke the law. Tell the truth, and let the legal system get to work. Soldiers in iraq take the chance of dying for their country. Are you unwilling to take the chance of losing your job and getting jailtime, for your country?

Maybe the case won't be prosecuted. Maybe the jury will decide you were justified. Maybea the judge will sentence you to community service. Maybe the President will pardon you. All this is less likely if it turns out your victim wasn't a terrorist and didn't know anything. But you know he is, so you aren't taking a big gamble on that.

Atta can wave around the stubs of his fingers, and you can wave around pictures of the schoolchildren. Good chance you won't have to pay for your crime.

So what's the fuss about? We get bureaucrats who're too chickenshit to take responsibility. They aren't willing to do the torture themselves when they think it needs to be done. They aren't willing even to take responsibility for sending him to syria. They aren't willing to be responsible for their mistakes. They want the legal right to send anybody to some third world country to be tortured who in their judgement might be a terrorist. And not be held responsible for the consequences of their actions.

So while these idiots are trying to wiggle around the laws, what are the Marines doing? If a junior Marine officer needs to torture somebody he just does it. And if he orders his men to help him, he puts the orders in writing. It's his responsibility. And afterward he reports it, and when his senior officer points out that he had been ordered not to do that, he says "No excuse, sir!". And he accepts whatever punishment comes to him. It was his duty to find a way to get the job done without violating his orders, and he did the best he could, and he violated the code while he got the job done. "No excuse, sir."

And somehow we wind up arguing about these chickenshit lawyers.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 24, 2007 10:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Resh, the reality is the "ticking bomb" situation hardly ever happens in the real world. It is usually confined to various hi-tech, macho fanasties like "24" & Tom Clancy's books. Folks who make this arguement are just looking for an excuse to torture.

Israel, which has the most experience in terrorism does not allow any legal room for torture, in part, because things are very seldom as drastic as the thriller senarios often potray. If an Israeli security officer is faced with "the ticking bomb" situation, yeah, persumerably they would do whatever is necessry to get the information needed, but it would have to be the "ticking bomb" situation where there was no alternative and the people involved had better be able to justify the situation afterwards.

Posted by: David All at January 24, 2007 10:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It is a shame that (as the Wikipedia article points out) the Administration, including Gonzales, doesn't have the courage to emulate Resh and say it loud: we torture wholesale and we're proud! But then, the Arar affair wouldn't have made such a big splash anyway if it hadn't turned out to be just another example of the wholesale abuse of detainees (including unquestionably innocent detainees) by this Administraion.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 25, 2007 12:24 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bruce-

At the risk of reaching diminishing returns...

"Postscript: it is also curious, is it not, that -- when Leahy thundered at Gonzales to explain WHY we packed Arar off to Syria rather than Canada,"

What's more curious is why and that he thundered at Gonzales. The best, ah, only, answer you've offered to that curiosity (removing the political theatre) so far is "because Gonzales is in charge." Ah, yea. Got it. So when Richard Benveniste is appointed as AG by Hillary in 2009, the GOP gets to haul his ass before open committee and demand an explanation as to why Slick Willie pardoned Marc Rich, while pontificating about the illicit nature of the practice? Or berate him for the fact that Bill Clinton catalyzed the practice of E-rendition in the 90s?

Makes sense. At that rate, and in perpetuity, we could hold everyone accountable for orignal sin.

Let me remind the lurkers that the Arar episode happened in 2002. Last I checked, it was 2007. Hmm...I believe that's a five year gap. Yea. 5 years. Good time as any to blame Alberto Gonzales, who was as proximate then to the Arar issue in substance as the man in the moon.

"Tell me what YOU'D do, Resh -- and how often, and for how many..."

It would be easier to advance the debate if you had answered my question. I already answered yours. Is there a reason you didn't? Should we infer that a situation was presented to you whereby ER made perfectly good sense and your reflexive moral outrage ran head-first into a moral principle of a greater magnitude?

I hate when that happens.

"Still, thanks for at least finally clarifying your position: you're a wildly enthusiastic advocate of the "Ticking Bomb" argument to allow torture under any circumstances whatsoever."

No, Bruce. Not my position. You know it ( if youre intellectually honest) and the readers know it. You asked me if ER could be defensible; I gave you a scenario whereby it's defensible.

That you arrive at the idea that I advocate ER "under any circumstances whatsoever" is as absurd as it is disingenuous.

By the way, the clock is still ticking.


-resh

Posted by: resh at January 25, 2007 04:51 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

J. Thomas is hardly the first to notice that -- in those rare cases when a Ticking Bomb moral justification for torture may actually exist -- no jury would ever convict the torturer, even if a DA would indict him. A hell of a lot of people have noticed it previously, including me -- in fact, I mentioned it in an E-mail to Sullivan last September, which he reprinted ( http://time.blogs.com/daily_dish/2006/09/the_emergency_e.html ).

However, there's always the possibility of even rarer situations in which trying the torturer genuinely might reveal vital security secrets. Thus my alternate proposal for a Permissible Torture Court with multiple members. (And, by the way, if we DO ever create one, we had better call it that, and avoid the dangerous euphemisms.)

Since the Adminitration is trying to avoid both of these scenarios, however, the conclusion is clear and obvious -- they want the power to torture even for relative trivia, such that neither a majority of a P.T. Court or any of the 12 men on a jury would find the torture morally defensible. And that, children, is how we ended up with Abu Ghraib.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 25, 2007 05:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yep, Resh, you have -- intellectually -- most definitely reached the point of diminishing returns. In fact, you obviously hit it long ago.

I already pointed out that the justification for Leahy attacking Gonzales is the excruciatingly obvious one that he is STILL defending the rendering of Arar -- which means he's willing to do it again. As for your Ticking Bomb justification, J. Thomas, David All and myself have all answered it, in detail. It took me about 3 seconds, not 3 days, since I've mulled that situation over for years (as have a lot of other people, including Greg). By all means, let us know when you come up with an answer to our answers.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 25, 2007 05:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Resh, the reality is the "ticking bomb" situation hardly ever happens in the real world."

Right, and we're not using ER for parking violations, either. But since you brought it up....I'm watching tv tonite and lo and behold, new pics, videos, are released of the recent London train bombings. Maybe from CNN, not sure.

What is depicted is one of the suspects carrying his bomb-case aboard the train (subway), finding his seat and casually-strategically-positioning the case under a nearby seat. His actions looked no more guilty than one returning a book to the library.

As the camera scans this activity in slow motion, there is seen thru the black and white haze of the lens and to the left of the standing bomber a pregnant woman, sitting idly. I think she has an overcoat on and has her head down. She is minding her own business and appears oblivious to her...well, to her impending death.

Aren't we all.

That's not the classic ticking time-bomb, either/or proposition, admittedly. But it's not so far afield. Nor is it all that unique, unique in the way that innocent folks who meet their death via this senseless manner deserve every threshold of opportunity to survive. We owe them that much.

Would torture... have saved her, or her kid? No, I doubt it. Not this day. No ticking time-bomb conundrum here, probably not compelling enough logistically to make us cross that uncertain, transformative boundary, the black hole of our conscience. But I do know one thing for certain. Her kid will never get to know his mom, and she will never get to know her kid. Theyre just dust in the wind at this point. Praise to Allah.

I guess that doesnt quite sit right with me. I'm saying, too, if I meet the next bomber, or the next wannabe bomber, or the next guy who helps the bomber-I'm saying he's going down.

And I won't even mind if I have to slap around the little bastard because he might be the bomber. So sorry, but the rules change with the players. Call me Mr. Hyde if you must, but at least the pregnant woman will get to read to her kid, if she wants, a perplexing tale by RLStevenson next time. If there is one.


-resh

Posted by: resh at January 25, 2007 07:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm saying, too, if I meet the next bomber, or the next wannabe bomber, or the next guy who helps the bomber-I'm saying he's going down.

OK, but understand you're going to be responsible for your actions.

I can understand the logic. Suppose you think somebody might be a suicide bomber, and he's about to kill 100 people. And you can kill him on the spot and save 99 lives.

On the other hand, he might be innocent, and you can kill him and wreck your own life. Two lives against 100. Assuming you don't put special value on your own life, sitting in Death Row, it makes sense to do it whenever it looks like more than a 2% chance he's a suicide bomber. One way you kill 2 innocent people -- yourself and your victim. The other way you kill a bad guy and save 100 people presumably including yourself.

I can understand that reasoning. Crazy times call for crazy heros.

And yet -- get therapy. You know it's the right thing to do. Find a therapist and tell them what you told us. You're a danger to yourself and others, and you need help.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 25, 2007 10:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And, while you're at it, tell us why it isn't worthwhile for cops to torture POSSIBLE murder suspects because -- if one is authentic and he escapes conviction -- he might murder at least one other person. The moral reasoning, after all, is precisely the same. But there are those little side effects...

By the way, a few years ago I read one of the best essays on torture in wartime I've ever read -- by a European woman who made it clear that she understood both WHY it is an enormously powerful temptation to all democracies which find themselves confronted by some murderous creeps, and why it is nevertheless absolutely crucial to resist that temptation. As soon as I can track it down again I'll send you the URL; meanwhile, two notes from it.

First, she compared torture in such situations to crack cocaine -- it produces good effects in the short run, and always disastrous ones in the bad. Second, she quoted the very tough Italian general who had to deal with the Red Brigades during their heyday in the 1970s. He was willing to defy them when they took over a prison and threatened to kill some hostages if their demands weren't met -- but he was NOT willing to torture members of the Brigades to try to find Aldo Moro after his kidnapping: "Italy can survive the loss of Aldo Moro. It cannot survive the introduction of torture."

Neither will America, unless torture is used only in situations of extreme emergency -- and we've already suggested two ways to identify such "extreme emergencies", neither of which this administration is willing to utilize. They regard torture (with that same competence that has characterized all their military actions) as being MUCH more useful than that.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 26, 2007 12:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"it produces good effects in the short run, and always disastrous ones in the bad..."

Stumbly fingers, of course -- substitute "It produces some good results in the short run, and always disastrous ones in the long run."

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 26, 2007 12:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Here it is: http://annafdd.blogspot.com/2003/03/unspeakable.html

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 26, 2007 12:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/002418.php :

"Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper [Tory] will give a formal apology to Maher Arar, the Canadian software engineer whom the United States detained and extradited to Syria, where he was brutally tortured.

"The announcement, which appears to be a public rebuke of the official U.S. position that Arar may be a terrorist, is set for 12:15, according to Harper's office. Arar will hold a separate news conference at 2 p.m.

"Arar's case has caused a deepening rift between Canada and the United States, which has to date refused to apologize for their treatment of Arar and will not remove him from its terrorist watch list. Yesterday, the National Post reported that the U.S. ambassador to Canada 'scolded' a top Canadian offical for insisting Arar's name be removed from the U.S. watch list.

"Bush Administration officials have delivered secret briefings to the Canadian government in the hopes of justifying Arar's presence on the watch list, but Canada continues to press the U.S. to clear Arar. 'It simply does not alter our opinion that Mr. Arar is not a threat, nor is his family,' Canadian Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day [VERY right-wing Tory] said.

"Update: CBC reports Canada will pay Arar $8 million plus legal fees to settle his case against them."

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 27, 2007 02:43 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/americas/01/26/canada.apology.ap/index.html :

"U.S. Ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins, on Wednesday chastised Canadian Public Safety Minister [and intelligence chief] Stockwell Day for continuing to press Washington on the Arar matter. 'It's a little presumptuous of him to say who the United States can and cannot allow into our country,' Wilkins said."

_____________________________________

Day, to repeat, is not just a Tory -- he's a hard-Right Tory (and a creationist). You have to hand it to the Bushites: they actually did succeed in "remaking world reality" so fast that it's hard for analysts to keep up, just as one of them promised Ron Suskind they would. Unfortunately, they're remaking it by turning the US into a world pariah.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 27, 2007 06:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Resh, just in case it hasn't sunk in --

You aren't arguing that your example shows that torture can be justified.

You're arguing that your example shows that torture should be *legal*.

A different question entirely.

I say that if you think you absolutely need to torture somebody for the good of the nation or the world or whatever, then go ahead and break the law. If it's that important then you should sacrifice yourself for the cause. We don't need to make it legal.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 27, 2007 04:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Or at least be willing to run the risk of sacrificing yourself for the good of the nation or the world. If your case is even partially convincing, there is no way that all the members of a jury are going to vote to convict you.

As I say, I asked you where you thought the dividing line should be on when torture is and is not permissible. I've proposed two obvious possible dividing lines -- on one of which J. Thomas (and a awful lot of other people) agree with me. But you HAVEN'T proposed any yet -- and this administration has mde it clear that they don't want ANY dividing line at all, except for the whims of one man (free of any possible punishment for misbehavior) on the subject. The Framers had a very nasty name for that sort of setup, of which they had extensive knowledge.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 27, 2007 08:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JT-

"You aren't arguing that your example shows that torture can be justified.

You're arguing that your example shows that torture should be *legal*.

A different question entirely."

I've offered a torture defense for a particular instance; that is not a legality, a moral principle nor a justification for torture as universal practice. Let me say this slowly: It's an instantiation of why one action supercedes another when there is a moral collision.

Saving kids in a kindergarten has a higher moral primacy (note the intrinsic beneficence) when predicated on the application of an exingent torture than does the act of NOT torturing an individual (despite the absence of maleficence in (not) doing so) whereupon the result is massive death of innocents... ok, long sentence but can't say it any other way.

The slippery slope spin that you guys love to introduce is tidy but substantively useless. The application of torture does not mean we lose our soul; it does not mean we become a fascist state; it does not mean we become the enemy (enemy's reflection); and it does not mean we will see the ruin of democracy. I'll bet the constitution even survives Arar.

Oh, and I particularly enjoyed the ad hominem "go get therapy" comment. That really advanced the discussion. Here's a better suggestion: maybe you should personally ask your priest to preside at the funeral of 500 dead kids, including Bruce's own hypothetical kids, because you resisted torturing the man who planted the bombs. Bruce can join you.

Would I have tortured Arar? Nope. I never said I would. Go reread the prior posts. In my opinion there was no compelling exigency. My position has been and remains a) that Gonzales has been unfairly targeted and assigned blame for the Arar affair and b) that ER in his case was catalyzed by Canadian duplicity and C) that the use of torture can be defended in limited circumstances.

-resh

Posted by: resh at January 28, 2007 06:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Let me say THIS slowly:

(A) Gonzales is still defending the Arar rendition, which means he's willing to do it again.

(B) Canada's "duplicity" was hardly the only thing leading to his torture. (This Administration, after all, has never shown any lack of willingness to abuse the hell out of detainees in situations where Canada wasn't involved at all.)

(C) Do let us know some time just what your definition of "limited circumstances" actually is. We've already explained ours to you, repeatedly.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 28, 2007 09:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bruce-

I read your link of the writer who has a preoccupation for studying torture in the abstract. She(?) would have done better, and her story of pathos would have had more gravitas, had she not fallen prey to the fate of too many sentimentalists and fiction writers. Psychobabble often overruns the moment.

If you want to read a more gripping tale of torture, absent the psychological mumbo-jumbo, go read Hugo's Last Days of a Condemned Man ( something like that, as it's been a while.)

"As I say, I asked you where you thought the dividing line should be on when torture is and is not permissible."

I just went over this in my post to JT. Torture requires an exigency that left unattended would result in massive death or injury. That's the standard, the line of moral demarcation. No immediate death or doom, no torture. Period. Thus, I would reject any argument that Arar ought to have been tortured; nor did I ever say he should have been.

The Bush administration has a different standard; they are condoning and implementing torture in cases where they keenly suspect a dispositve terrorism nexus. Obviously, that's more subjective, but their assigment is global and carries a more complicated approach. And you have no evidence, btw, that the arbiter of those matters is just one man. If you do, show us.

The Framers would not share your view, imo, on torture. They didnt even share your views (presumably egalitarian) on the liberty of all men. Most owned slaves, most looked at Indians as savages, most would have had their enemies drawn and quartered without blinking an eye, and few would have resisted any technique in fighting the enemy to ensure their own general welfare and freedoms.

I would also contend that had they been faced with an enemy like al Qaeda, whose raison d'etre is our death, that they would have distinguished between the rights of citizens and the rights of those dedicated to our demise. I can't really see General Washington arriving in, say, New York to confront Mohammed Atta and saying to his men, "hold off, guys, we need to be conscience of due process...." Their seminal mission in drafting the constitution was not just to preserve the rights within a free society but also to preserve that union.


-resh


Posted by: resh at January 28, 2007 10:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

edit: opps...make that...conscious of due process.

Posted by: resh at January 28, 2007 10:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

P.S.: Here's a bit more on some of your "nontortures", courtesy of Robert Conquest and -- roll of drums -- the CIA itself in 1957:

http://www.opensocietypolicycenter.org/pub/doc_121/Press%20conference%20background%20fnl.pdf

(Note that the US has already been caught keeping prisoners standing not just for "18 to 24 hours", but for "more than 40 hours": http://balkin.blogspot.com/2005/11/cia-enhanced-interrogation-techniques.html .)

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 29, 2007 02:17 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

(I see that Greg's computer has, for some mysterious reason, printed my second response before my first one. Don't worry; it's on its way.)

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 29, 2007 02:19 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Resh, I agree with you on the proper time to use torture, on the assumption that you believe that torture will prevent mass death.

I do not agree that this is a reason to make torture legal in those circumstances. It should not be legal in any circumstance. In almost any circumstance that will fit your idea about when it's necessary, there won't be time to explain matters sufficiently and get permission.

In the rare case that it's necessary, it's your duty to put your career and your freedom on the line and do what's necessary to save the children. And if you aren't convinced the personal risk to you is worth it, that the danger to the children is certain enough to justify a year or two jail time afterward while it gets sorted out, then don't do it.

I'm glad to see that you also despise the Bush administration's stand. You didn't make that clear at first.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 29, 2007 02:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's the understatement of the century to say that he "didn't make clear that he despises the Administration's stand". He didn't indicate that he opposed it AT ALL until his Jan. 28 messages, which of course was the only reason we jumped him in the first place.

Now he says that he sorta kinda opposed Arar's rendition -- still without stating what conditions torture SHOULD be allowed under, except that it should require "an exigency that left unattended would result in massive death or injury", which of course is a definition that would allow wartime torture under virtually ALL circumstances. (Fred Hiatt did a nice piece on that for the Post when the Administration's extracurricular activities first became known: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A39343-2004Jun13.html .) I'm also still waiting for Resh's definition of "massive": 100 (possible) deaths or injuries? 10? 1? You and I (and a lot of other people), Thomas, have tried to come up with ways to set such a dividing line. He hasn't.

I do see, though, that in my first long reply to him (the one that hasn't turned up yet on this thread, for some reason -- maybe length), I misinterpreted him to say that torture should always be allowed unless it leads to "death or injury" (presumably permanent) to the torturee. That is, Jay Bybee's official legal defintion for the Administration, which would allow all those long-devised ingenious techniques for generating agonizing pain to a victim without leaving permanent injuries, some of which I mentioned in my first reply. (Although I left out extremely prolonged sensory deprivation, of the sort we've now used to drive Jose Padilla completely insane.) It's nice to see that Resh doesn't favor routine use of those (I think). So, on the assumption that my first reply to him never WILL turn up here, I'll repeat the rest of it in my next message while omitting that particular section.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 29, 2007 07:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And here's the rest of my original reply:

(1) Contrary to Resh, Gen. Washington is famous for explicitly forbidding torture of British and Hessian POWs, despite the fact that they frequently tortured ours:
http://balkin.blogspot.com/2005/09/shirking-responsibility.html
http://time.blogs.com/daily_dish/2006/09/a_great_speech.html

He did so not only for moral reasons, but because of his strategic awareness that any information we gained through torture would not be worth the additional ill will we'd gain from it -- which is also why FDR forbade it to Japanese POWs. Now consider how much more important tht consideration is in our current conflict with an entire worldwide religious community, which we can't even begin to occupy and which could generate terrorists from virtually anywhere. Unfortunately, Bush and Cheney are not Washington or FDR.

(2) Resh: "...You have no evidence, btw, that the arbiter of those matters is just one man. If you do, show us."

Show us any evidence that it's NOT, Resh. After all, the Administration has gone to downright extraordinary lengths to cover up just who is "arbitrating" when torture should and should not occur (as Hiatt, among legions of others, points out). In the cases we do know of (as in that camp immediately outside Baghdad Airport), it seems to have very frequently been a decision made by one man -- frequently a low-ranking officer -- on the spot, working on the assumption that the Bosses will approve of literally anything he decides to do.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 29, 2007 07:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JT-
"I do not agree that this is a reason to make torture legal in those circumstances. It should not be legal in any circumstance."

Last time, quoting myself; please note my position-and what I say about making it legal ( which I do not):

-I've offered a torture defense for a particular instance; that is not a legality, a moral principle nor a justification for torture as universal practice. Let me say this slowly: It's an instantiation of why one action supercedes another when there is a moral collision."

End self-quote.

"I'm glad to see that you also despise the Bush administration's stand. You didn't make that clear at first."

I think you need a reading course. I didnt say I despise the Bush et al stand; I said Arar ought not to have been tortured (assuming he was). Torturing Arar didn't pass the smell test, as I outlined it.

I also said that the administration's task re terrorism-torture is global and complicated. That means their judgements are necessarily exposed to vague circumstances and exigencies that aint black or white. They don't always have the luxury of contemplation. The ticking-time bomb scenario is an easy call, but that's not always available. Sometimes, the bomb is not ticking, but the ( hypothetical) explosion is no less serious and no less deadly. I have my standards, Bush's gang has theirs.

It's easy to sit at arm's length, like Leahy, and wax indignant over torture. It's real easy when the torture, victim and occasion passed by without incident or alarm. But was Leahy screaming from the rooftops the day Arar was exiled to Syria, barely a moment after 911?

That would be no. He didnt say boo. Not a peep. He, like all the Left, was going rah-rah-rah back then; it was jingoism 101. Drive-by moralists, self-serving politicians and hypocrites are a dime a dozen. And where were you guys, btw? How many blogs and posts did you recite on Arar's surprise honeymoon to Syria at the time it happened? I'll wager not a one.

So let's hear your verdict right now, so you are on record when it happens-BEFORE IT HAPPENS. Let's hear your answer.

You wake up tomorrow and you read that Ayman al-Zawahir is picked up in Pakistan after their (and US) intel overhears plans for a terrorist attack. That's all they hear, as the data is muddled.

Bush wants to know from you and Bruce-RIGHT NOW-if Zawahiri should be sent via ER to Gitmo. Or should he await the normal extradition proceedings, accomapnied by one of those pro-bono lawyers?

Your answer please.


-resh


Posted by: resh at January 29, 2007 10:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Resh, I'm sorry to hear that you support Bush's stand on torture. I'm sorry you don't think it should be illegal.

You seem to have muddled your position to the point I have no idea what you're saying beyond that it's complicated and murky and difficult problems demand difficult solutions.

I'll say that again -- you have made your position quite unclear.

To answer your question -- no. Don't torture anybody. If somebody in a direct position to make the choice believes that torture is necessary, they have the responsibility and they can do it and personally take the consequences. Leave it illegal. Don't tell them it's OK.

As a tactical thing, I'd want to look at any young aides or associates captured with the senior guy. Interrogate them with standard methods. They might know something worth hearing, and they might not be so set in their beliefs. Muslim interrogators are particularly good for this. They can quote the Koran on terrorism. It makes a great big difference when somebody who's been hiding is caught and then halfway convinced they were wrong all along. And once they start talking they have reason to continue -- they've already betrayed the group, so they'd better be right, clam up again and they have no friends at all.

I hope my position on this is clear. I hope you can clarify yours. I have no idea what you're advocating except that you seem to want to cut Bush some slack and you think I'm wrong about something.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 31, 2007 02:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

About Belgravia Dispatch

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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