June 27, 2005
We Get Comments
let me put this delicately. some in my circles view your blog as giving aid and comfort to terrorists, which, if treasonous, is not protected under the first amendment... at the very least, you could be shut down, and, in the US at least, I trust you know the consequences of treason if determined by a court of law (other countries have no such compunction... in your travels, I suggest you watch your back). you call yourself a patriot. don't you know we are at war? just a friendly reminder to someone I believe has good intentions, but whose actions are misguided. don't let them lead you down the path of dishonor. prisoner abuse, if you look hard enough (and sometimes not so hard) can be found in any country and should be criticized, much less condoned... but in dwelling on such issues, I think you have your priorities way off. when prosecuting a war against terrorism, caring about our enemies (in the sense of placing mint-chocolate on their pillows every evening for their efforts before they go bed, i.e. their state of mind, welfare and general wellbeing) should be the least of our worries... in basketball, if you commit an offensive foul, you take note of it and move on. if you get enough of them you sit out, but that doesn't mean you stop the game. you see it to its conclusion doing everything you can to help the team win. like the president (coach) sez, you're either with us or against us. which side are you on?
Heh. Is this the kind of bifurcation Karl had in mind?
P.S. Much more on the so-called "conscience caucus" (which seem to have provoked comments like anonymous "Al's" above) later this week. Truth be told, I take many of the saner critical comments. People write that they want me to say what specific interrogation methods I approve of, and which I don't. Well, they're going to get that detail soon. They say I've descended into emotional rants. That I'm blowing de minimis stuff all out of proportion. Gone off the "deep end". And so on. Well, I beg to disagree. And, as I said, I will have much more on this later in the week. I do want to say, however, that 'conscience caucus' is just meant as a handy phrase--like as popularized by bloggers such as TPM. I don't mean to represent or suggest that if you don't agree with every last criticism of the Bushies on this issue you are a moral coward and lack any conscience. But, as I trust you will see later this week, there are some bottom line take-aways that you either agree with, or you don't. And what I'll be looking to find out is how many conservatives agree with me once I've written up my conclusions. So stick with me on this one for a wee bit longer. I believe you may well find my thoughts worthy of your consideration. And I also do hope you will find them to be sober, judicious, and very thorough.
In-house note: I'm on vacation this week, and while I'll be traveling a bit here and there, in true blogaholic form you should expect a lot more blogging than usual. Also, blogging will not just be in the late evenings as when I'm at the day job--so check back earlier in your day too (I am still six hours ahead of New York time).
Posted by Gregory at June 27, 2005 12:50 PM
If you want to keep the discussion serious and civil, and engage the serious attention of a wide variety of people, you might want to avoid referring to "the Bushies".
Greg, as far as the lists of interrogation procedures, I hope you recognize nice that it is nothing more or less than an attempt to change the subject. There are several reasons for this.
First and most importantly" THE ADMINISTRATION CATEGORICALLY REFUSES TO DISCUSS SPECIFIC TECHNIQUES. They refuse to say which ones are authorized and which ones aren't. Gonzales refused in his confirmation hearings even to say whether waterboarding was authorized. He claimed that to discuss specific techniques, even to rule out a few of the most clearly tortuous, was to give a "road map" to terrorists of our interrogations. This is the standard administration line, and it makes all discussion of specific techniques moot--a useful distraction.
Second, it is very difficult to determine what techniques look like on the ground from the military's sanitized descriptions of them. This is doubly true because the techniques tend to be combined with one another, and because what is just barely acceptable as authorized becomes much worse in practice.
Most "torture lite" techniques are also contrary to the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and telling soldiers they do NOT have to obey those laws, and replacing them with nothing more than a vague injunction to "be humane"--which is belied by specific techniques authorized, and undercut by the part about "military necessity."
So discussing in the abstract whether certain techniques are kosher or not bears little resemblance to the policies of the past, and will have no effect on administration policy for the future. It is a transparent attempt at distraction.
I used to consider myself conservative, before these crazy times when being "conservative" seemingly implies being for personal responsibility -- except when it comes to holding leaders accountable for their performace. Now it's easier to just call myself Libertarian and not confuse people.
Even if this excerpted message isn't representative of a cross-section of reader opinion, it's still profoundly depressing. I would hope that anyone intelligent enough or politically involved enough to seek out a blog like this would realize the inherently unAmerican nature of attempts to equate dissent with treason.
Good-faith political discourse will take decades to recover from the damage of Rove and his divisive tactics. But those poll numbers must be turned around, even if it means appealing to the basest impulse of one's, ahem, base (no pun intended). Right?
I am author of the comment to which Greg links when he writes "People write that they want me to say what specific interrogation methods I approve of". (Not, though, the comment by "al" quoted in this post, which I found completely over-the-top disgusting, to the point that I question whether it is sincere or parody.) If Greg is taking requests on subjects for discussion, then let me request he discuss the credence, if any, he given to allegations of torture or abuse made by the prisoners at Guantamo (or by their lawyers) that have absolutely no corroboration. Especially given that the al Qaeda training manual trains them to lie about such things and that, even if they are not al Qaeda, they can obviously further their anti-American cause very effectively by making such accusations since so many of the anti-American left puts credence in them.
I'll say that I discount them entirely until they are investigated. What does Greg think?
BTW, let me add that this: "I don't mean to represent or suggest that if you don't agree with every last criticism of the Bushies on this issue you are a moral coward and lack any conscience" is completely disingenuous. That is EXACTLY what Greg has been suggesting from the very start of his posts on the subject. Which is why so many of them are so offensive, and provoke such heated comments from people (like me) who geneally agree with Greg.
Listen, if you can't get hysterical on your own blog, where can you flip your lid? Don't listen to Al and others who want you to maintain your sobriety in difficult times. These are the times to really lose it, when everyone is condemning the president and the military. Hell, jump on the bandwagon and have a good time.
What the heck are you talking about, non-corroborated? Like the allegations corroborated by U.S. government documents and books by U.S. interrogators? Or perhaps the sworn affidavit in the Habib case, which has been independently corroborated by the former justice minister of Qatar and three former detainees separately reporting his injuries? Or the rendition cases, which have been corroborated all over the place? Or the Salt Pit and Bagram cases, which are confirmed by multiple intelligence sources in the Salt Pit case and by the coroners' report in the Bagram cases? Do you know what you're talking about at all, or are you simply making things up because they sound good? Or the instances of abuse the U.S. has apparently admitted to in submiussions to the Commitee Against Torture? Or the ones the Red Cross has complained about? There may be false allegations, but anyone who has made even a minimal attempt to inform himself about this also knows that there are true ones.
You guys seem to just repeat the first defense that comes to mind, without any effort at all to determine whether it's true. When it's refuted, you just mouth another excuse to change the subject. And so on and so on, eventually circling back to the original defense.
Anyway, it's a bit transparent to say "we can't take this seriously until it's investigated" while you are doing your little part to block an investigation.
I was against the war from day 1, but I think it's unfair to have these wars and then complain about the warriors. You go to war with the army you have. It's hard to believe but a lot of people who are into wars and killing as a solution -- they're just not going to get into reasoned debate and morality.
Chin up mate. Chin up. It is a valuable thing to inject sanity and perspective, as well as critical thinking into the mix.
That some low browed neanders are offended should be badge of honour. More criticism from the right in the early days, rather than mindless cheerleading might, just might have rescued the incompetent CPA from itself.
What the heck are you talking about, non-corroborated? Like the allegations corroborated by U.S. government documents and books by U.S. interrogators?
No, that would be "corroborated", not "non-corroborated". Do you not understand the meaning of the word "non-"?
Let me break it down for you. Some of the allegations of misconduct/abuse/torture are corroborated by others, including our own investigations. Some of them are not, such as the allegations (made by some of the released detainees) of flushing a Koran. I'd like to know what Greg thinks of the credibility of those alegations that have no more corroboration than the detainees' (or their lawyers') say-so.
Though the root is held in common, the polis goes before the political. To be called a "traitor" by someone who believes otherwise is a badge of honor.
So, as Collounsbury says, chin up. One serves a democracy best not by blind loyalty to its leaders-du-jour, but by loyalty (informed by reason and prudence) to its principles and future.
Al: I don't get your issue. Everyone acknowledges that U.S. troops and contractors have tortured prisoners (some, allegedly, to death). Rumsfeld said as much yesterday on FNS and MtP; you acknowledge as much in your responsive comment to Katherine. Why the harping on whether other acts of torture have occurred? Why care whether Greg thinks that act X or Y constitutes torture?
David: I suspect PST's point was that "Bushies" is a term often used by people of the Left in a derogative sense.
I'm not sure that sense was intended here, but the term can come across like that in any case. I think I've seen it used on NRO the same way, and it has a weird vibe there, too ... and I'm sure they don't mean derogation.
When I was in Government, I was on a panel defending our Bosnia policy and got annoyed with an academic panelist that was offering all sorts of disparaging comments about our intentions and biases toward the Serbs. My off-the-cuff response was to explain why he was wrong and to say that comments like his were helping Milosevic by fanning anti-US sentiments. He then sarcastically replied that he doubted Milosevic was listening to our panel and I (in a moment of pique), said that his agents just might be.
I've since regretted that exchange. Not because the arrogant prick making the charges wasn't off base. But because I drifted into an argument critical of dissent.
It is certainly true that domestic dissent will likely be known to our enemies and could provide them some comfort. But that is microscopic in significance to the fundamental importance of an honest debate and a continuing re-questioning of our policies.
I know one former US Army General (a true patriot) whose explanation of the Iraq debacle is that we suffered "systemwide failure in our democracy" due to being cowed over 9/11 and the war on terror. All of the institutions of dissent: the Congress, the Courts, the media, the interest groups, the think tanks, and the public itself failed to ask the hard questions on Iraq that we normally would have asked.
There is a broad criticism of the Bush Administration that they are highly allergic to alternative viewpoints, particularly inside OSD and OVP. An intolerance to criticism and independent dissent is perhaps the most pernicious threat to Democracy. In fact I suspect UBL and Zarqawi would welcome further accusations of treason....
Al: I don't get your issue. Everyone acknowledges that U.S. troops and contractors have tortured prisoners (some, allegedly, to death).
At Guantanamo? I don't think so, since no prisoners at all have died there. Don't conflate Abu Ghraib with Guantanamol; if the issue is what do we do about Guantanamo, then we ought to stick with the facts about Guantanamo.
So wht are the facts about what has occured at Guantanamo? I don't know, exactly. We have a lot of allegations made by detainees and their lawyers. Most of these are mere allegations, without any basis for believing them. (Hence my question to Greg - does he accept the mere allegation by a detainee of abuse?) In some casis, an investigation has turned up evidence that abuse has taken place at Guantanamo, but not much, as far as I'm aware.
Al, much of the damage the United States has suffered as a result of the prisoner abuse scandal is that much of the Muslim media does conflate Guantanamo with Abu Ghraib. This is not an intellectual exercise, so telling people not to do it is probably not going to get us very far.
Let's leave aside the details of interrogation practices and the conditions under which detainees are held in various places. Excluding this admittedly important issue, we have two large problems. First, the military's investigations of abuse at Abu Ghraib revealed some very serious misconduct, and ended up convicting only a few enlisted men. Not unreasonably, this is viewed as a whitewash by many people, a sign that abuse of Muslims was not taken seriously by the American government.
Second, coverage of Guantanamo now has been filling the vacuum left by the Bush administration's silence about the subject. Not for the first or last time with this administration, policy on detainees sent to Cuba was announced without any public follow-up being done, so reports of abuse -- some of which is pretty marginal and may have taken places a year or more ago -- are news. The reason for the detainees in Cuba being taken in the first place is not news; they are accused terrorists, most of them probably justly accused, but after Abu Ghraib one can see why this datum might be lost on overseas media.
In the best case, prisoner abuse at Guantanamo has been exaggerated, and its connection to the undoubted abuse at Abu Ghaib nonexistent. To believe in the best case requires one to have followed this matter in far more detail than foreign (or American, for that matter) audiences can reasonably be expected to, and also to have a profound faith that administration officials are dealing with this matter throughout in perfect honesty and, perhaps, that they really know what they are doing as well. Even friendly audiences have had their faith shaken in this area, so we can't be surprised that the prisoner abuse issue has become a major American liability.
Al, who the heck is talking about Guantanamo? I'm not; nor can my question be fairly read to address Guantanamo.
Respond on point or don't respond at all, but don't continue to equivocate, obscure, and elide. It wastes my time.
If you don't believe Gitmo and Abu Ghraib are related, I suggest you Google "Major General Geoffrey Miller"
JR? You can kindly blow it out your ass. As can JEB, especially if that's suppossed to be you, Britt. You know damn well that it *is* often the lowest ranking that is directly responsible. That's why I've got a stack of GenConv brief sign-in sheets that the G-men would drop on me in a heartbeat if I, or any of my people, ever copped to the "I was just following orders" line.
But, enough of you, fool.
JR - I was there during the transition from Baccus to Miller, and I can tell you that all of the reforms he undertook have come to fruition. Catch the news today? See the ConDel tour? All of the projects that Rep Lee and her pals of the HASC are so pleased with where instituted by Miller, an MI Guy.
But you have uncovered the magic link with your PC, eh? Thanks god and google you're there, at home, keeping the fascists at bay.
Ohhhhhh - someone here might have actually been at Gitmo. Hadn't thought of that...
I came across your site today when the Columbia Journalism Review Daily highlighted your post on why you were voting for Bush.
I was intrigued and appreciative of your well-thought out insights.
I then began reading other more recent posts, and quickly found you were being accused of treason -- and I felt much better.
Not because I believe you are treasonous, but because it reinforced my belief -- that rational people like yourself are now being lumped in the same boat as anyone else who has dared to speak out against anything this administration has done.
Sooner or later, anyone who is thinking clearly will run afoul of the party line, and will be labeled a traitor.
The non-blinders-wearing public is taking notice (ARG poll)
Republicans 84 12
Independents 17 75
Democrats 18 77
First, re: al's post, that was way out of line.
You know damn well that it *is* often the lowest ranking that is directly responsible. That's why I've got a stack of GenConv brief sign-in sheets that the G-men would drop on me in a heartbeat if I, or any of my people, ever copped to the "I was just following orders" line.
See, that's one of the things that annoys me the most about this whole thing. Efforts to blame the military as a whole or the Bush administration for the actions of a few miscreants and lowlifes. Mostly partisan hackery and then there are those that, to an extent, are holding grudges against certain members of the administration, for whatever reasons.
Obviously, it's impossible to believe that the actions of a few are NOT a part of the evil Chimpy McBushhitler's policies re: detainees. As if the Bush administration or the military instituted these policies (however muddled, due mainly to politics) for the purpose of satisfying its more sadistic nature. Nothing to do with trying to acquire information, as effectively and efficiently as is possible, under the circumstances, IN ORDER TO SAVE INNOCENT LIVES. Nah.
Incidentally, for a saner assessment of Gitmo and related issues, the following article by Reuel Marc Gerecht is a must read. He's tough on Bush, but for the right reasons and doesn't resort to ad hominens or cheap rhetoric. He also *actually* proposes possible solutions or remedies.
Some key experts:
Although a commendable sense of liberal guilt is undoubtedly behind the quick assertions suggesting America's behavior at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo has damaged the cause of democracy, this conclusion is in fact insulting to Muslims who've watched their countries become ever uglier since World War II. It ignores 200 years of history in which Muslims swallowed, often enthusiastically, dictatorial ideologies and learned the dark side of the modern centralized state. Shiite Muslims in Iraq and especially their religious brethren in Iran have openly striven for democracy. They have not done so because they necessarily admire or wish to emulate the United States. They want to try democracy overwhelmingly for reasons unconnected to America. The leftist "red mullah" hard core among Iran's revolutionary clergy--who once hated the United States as viscerally as any Sunni jihadist in al Qaeda, and still often reflexively recoil from any "pro-American" thought--have irreversibly if imperfectly embraced the idea of democracy because their own former Weltanschauung has collapsed as clerical rule has failed. Philosophically and politically, they have nowhere else to go. Nor do Sunni Muslims have a special anti-American gene that overrides their own self-interest. Like Shiite Muslims, they've seen the pursuit of happiness--probably the most powerful of all American exports--vanish as their own dictatorships grew more entrenched, wealthy, and dynastic. It's a good guess the democratic opposition in Egypt--which now ranges from liberal secularists to the Muslim Brotherhood--would gladly live with the "hypocrisy" of our prison camps in exchange for the United States ending its support of President Hosni Mubarak's regime.
...Unintentionally but quite perversely, the current liberal outcry against Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo could well increase the use of rendition, a bipartisan policy dating to the mid-1990s, which the congressional intelligence committees, both Republican and Democratic members, whether they admit it publicly or not, have blessed. For a Bush administration under siege, rendition may well seem a safer, quieter way of doing what the CIA and the military deem necessary.
Unintended consequence which he argues against here.
And something that I can agree with, to an extent:
(...)It always takes time to develop effective tactics against determined enemies. And the war against Islamic holy warriors--which in practice, as President Bush clearly understands, is a battle also against the failed political systems that spawn them--presents unusual challenges. Stateless warriors who live to kill civilians defy the morality and legal conventions the West has advanced to mitigate human conflict. With that said, the administration has needlessly jeopardized its own moral standing in the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo debates because of its fondness for secrecy and its general inability to articulate well its developing strategy and tactics for arresting and detaining young Muslim males it knows or suspects are jihadists. The administration has so far not convincingly explained why it put a counterterrorist prison in Cuba and why it allowed secret CIA detention facilities to sprout up overseas that are not directly tied to frontline combat operations. It is very hard not to conclude that those facilities are where they are because the Bush administration wanted them located where outside observation, access, and protests could be easily denied or controlled.
"The administration has so far not convincingly explained why it put a counterterrorist prison in Cuba and why it allowed secret CIA detention facilities to sprout up overseas that are not directly tied to frontline combat operations."
Well, Ex Parte Milligan (1866) is the obvious reason for Gitmo, there are no American civil courts in operation in that territory. Aside from that, your author makes the kind of SENSIBLE criticisms of Bush policy that should be highlighted. The Administration is far too lazy about communicating its aims to the public and blaming the media bias doesn't cut it in these days of alternative outlets.
Precisely, Mike - Well Said
Precisely, Mike - Well Said
Um... You're screening software is mis-firing, and causing double-posts.
One the themes that the "Close the Gitmo Gulag" crowd has been pounding on of late is the "we can't get any more information from these guys after 3 years" mantra
They never actually explain why this is true - after all - having some high level AQ can be quite usefull when we get a name picked up off of intel and have someone to run it past
"Oh yes, Sheik Yabooti, he is from northern Yemen - he used to travel this back path on moonless nights"
Dissent, sedition, treason, violent overthrow, whatever it takes. No constitution, no nation.