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« Paul Krugman gets it so right it's wrong | Main | the most trusted voice in the media »

28 October 2005

Comments

velid

Stapers,

Your conspiratorial obsession with the French makes it hard to take a lot of what you say very seriously. We are in a cold war with the French? Really? And I thought Germany dominated the EU. Virtually the whole world is in opposition to our foreign policy. Why just pick on the French?

On the issue of torture, the use of unlikely hypothetical scenarios* to establish a general right to torture, is the short road to totalitarianism of the very worst kind. To its credit, the vast majority of the US Senate has recognized how detrimental such a policy would be to our own self-interest. They voted 90-9 for the McCain amendment to the budget bill, which would ban the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" of any detainee held by the United States government. However, the Bush administration is trying everything it can to make sure the McCain anti-torture amendment disappears in the House-Senate conference committee. Failing that, Bush has promised to veto the whole bill.

There are many excellent reasons for the Senate's refusal to authorize a policy of torture above and beyond the fact that it is monsterous in itself. First, any step we take towards legitimizing torture will encourage others to use torture as well. If we torture captives, we can expect others to torture our soldiers as well. Second, torture doesn't provide reliable information. The real goal of torture is not to extract information. It is to create terror. Regimes that practiced widespread torture, for example, El Salvador and Guatemala (US client states by the way) or Uzbekistan, a current ally in our war on terror, are good examples of this. Not good role models I think.

On top of all this, torture is in violation of treaties to which the US is in fact a signatory: the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

*With respect to the events at Beslan which you reference, I don't get the connection to torture. While the horrible events at Beslan were all too real, no plotters were captured in advance. So the question of torture in fact remains hypothetical. And if you capture someone it is extrordinarily unlikely that you will know that a) they are in fact plotting a terrorist act, b) they have information that will stop the terrorist act and c) when they confess, they are telling the truth. Making a policy of torture, even assuming that it would always be used "in good faith," means accepting that you will be torturing at least some innocent people in an attempt to extract information that highly unreliable.

agi t. prop

Chuck Morse--a self proclaimed "right-wing extremist"--isn't the most reliable or credible source for a comprehensive political analysis of Baathism.

Ok, I'll play along for a second...here's a common feature of both Nazis and Baathists...the Bush family supported both of them. Prescott Bush banked for the Nazis during WWII and the Reagan-Bush junta supported Saddam Hussein up until he invaded Kuwait in 1990.

elserracho

hey agi! whassup?

agi t. prop

yo! nada mucho el serracho. i think we've hit a milestone...28 comments on this post.

mr.fun

nice. our first blow out.

hoorah.

Herr "Ausweiss, bitte"

Seems like Stickwick forgot about his hero's Rummy and Reagan pal-ing around with Saddam all during the 80's.

I'm ever amused and astonished by the Righties attempts to portray themselves as the victims of a mean and jealous world. Oooooh.... you, you America Haters!! Quit picking on us. Boo hoo boo hoo. We only killed your whole family to spead FREEDOM!! Don't you understand???? We only want the best for everyone... Besides... "collateral damage" isn't really killing. It's just God's Will. Boo hoo. And... uh.... it isn't torture if we do it to you, only if you do it to us.

Now tear down that 700-year old building so we can put up a Walmart. And while you're at it, quit worshipping the wrong God.. it makes our God (the REAL one) mad.

The only thing we fear is criticsm.

Stickwick Stapers

quitter:

doesn't that also pretty much describe the republican party? just insert some biblical reference for sharia and you got it.

Your response is a symptom of the hysterical Left, where anything to the right of Howard Dean must be a Nazi demon of some sort. I don't know how to respond to your comment, because it's so far divorced from reality.

First of all, I forgot to list socialism and extreme nationalism in the list of Nazi/Baathist attributes. So, right away we have that Republicans don't believe in socialism, and they have typically defended individual rights over the collective. The type of nationalism Republicans embrace is the kind that believes in the country as long as what it's doing is right. It's a healthy nationalism. But with the Left, anything short of self-loathing is considered to be extreme nationalism. As for Biblical law controlling all aspects of life, in what ways are Republicans trying to do this? You have to cite examples, you can't just throw out these assertions.

velid:

your conspiratorial obsession with the French makes it hard to take a lot of what you say very seriously. We are in a cold war with the French? Really? And I thought Germany dominated the EU.

What world do you live in? It is an easily demonstrated fact that the French elite have been driving the agenda of the EU bureaucracy, and that the Germans under Schroeder have simply fallen in line. Schroeder is Chirac's lapdog.

What I'm talking about is not a conspiratorial obsession with the French, it's obvious. The fact is that while Bush waits for the second coming of Christ, the French are still looking for the third coming of Napoleon. If France had the power, it would openly declare its hostility to America. This conflict is not a falling out between good friends, because the French have always been our enemies. This goes back to their centuries-long struggle against the British, and this animosity towards Great Britain has been transferred to the U.S. as the heir of British power. What the French are doing with the EU is so obvious -- they are building a counterbalance to U.S. power. Why else would Chirac say to Eastern countries that they "missed a good chance to shut up"? The greatest secular nation on the face of the earth despises America for two reasons: 1) America's largely British heritage of institutions and traditions; and 2) America's Christian base.

Virtually the whole world is in opposition to our foreign policy.

Not true. Newly-freed Eastern Europe is very much in favor of American foreign policy. And did you know that thirty-one nations participated in the Iraq invasion? America's allies include Australia, Great Britain, Japan, Korea, and Spain, before they became spineless socialist wonders.

On the issue of torture, the use of unlikely hypothetical scenarios* to establish a general right to torture, is the short road to totalitarianism of the very worst kind.

First of all, I agree with you that, in general, the whole idea of torture is abhorrent. However, Beslan was far from hypothetical -- it was meticulously planned far in advance, as are all of these terrorist events. It is likely that in the foreseeable future the U.S. will be in a situation where we will have a captured conspirator who has foreknowledge of an attack. What do we do with him?

So let me posit this situation again: let's say you catch some terrorist, and you discover conclusively that he is part of a plan to slaughter hundreds of innocent children by blowing up a school. You have every reason to believe that the person knows about the plan, but he won't talk. Would you, under those circumstances, approve of torture in an effort to save the lives of hundreds of children? You've got a horrible monster of the worst kind before you (whose life, I grant you, still has value), but you also have hundreds of children whose lives hang in the balance. Are you saying you would not consider the use of torture to try to extract the information to save the lives of these children? With all the terrible things happening in the world right now, it is highly likely this could happen. I want you to answer this question. Would you torture this person to get information or would you let those children die?

Another issue is the definition of torture. Would you consider solitary confinement to be torture? Is forcing a muslim man to watch Sex and the City torture? To be forced to sleep on a cold floor with the lights on and loud music playing -- is that torture? You are correct that torture doesn't always provide reliable information, but you can check what the terrorist is telling you against information that you already know. And even if there's only a 10% chance that you might get the right information, doesn't your concern for the lives of those children demand that you do everything you can? It's just not an easy question. For you to condemn those who would think about it under those circumstances means you haven't got the guts to think about the question seriously, yourself. What if a vulnerable person you loved was involved -- your niece or nephew or your own child? Can you categorically say that you wouldn't even think about torture to save their lives?

In totalitarian states like those of the Nazis or commies, torture was state policy. In the U.S. we are presented with a new situation, a new group of people who are neither criminals nor (official) combatants in a war. We don't yet know how to define or respond to them, so all of this is improvised, and things are in a very confused state of flux. So in a terribly troubled time to demand that everyone immediately find an exactly correct response to what's going on in the world is unreasonable. The U.S. agonizes over how to get information out of these incredible scumbags who are intent on slaughtering thousands of innocent people, so they are trying to figure out what exactly constitutes torture. The really ironic thing here is that conditions at Guantanamo are far better than conditions of the terrorists' hiding holes.

...torture is in violation of treaties to which the US is in fact a signatory: the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

The Geneva Convention doesn't apply to this situation, because terrorists are not military members of a recognized nation that has declared war against the U.S. The Geneva Convention applies only to situations of war between nations. This is a whole new situation.

Stickwick Stapers

agi:

Chuck Morse--a self proclaimed "right-wing extremist"...

What Morse is proclaiming is that he knows he is defined this way by the Left. Ask him if he really thinks he is an extremist, and he will say no. And ask yourself what it means that anyone who disagrees with the Left is now considered an "extremist."

--isn't the most reliable or credible source for a comprehensive political analysis of Baathism.

It is always easier to attack the source than the material. Can you refute Morse's claims? And what about the other source I cited? Do you have facts of your own to refute it?

here's a common feature of both Nazis and Baathists...the Bush family supported both of them. Prescott Bush banked for the Nazis during WWII and the Reagan-Bush junta supported Saddam Hussein up until he invaded Kuwait in 1990.

So, what are you saying, that we should instantly declare war on everyone we don't like? Every government of the U.S. has had to do business with objectionable people, because the world is full of them. The world is overflowing with total scumbags as leaders, so what can you do? Yes, at one point we had a choice: the Iranians were going absolutely apeshit after the Ayatollah took over, and Iraq was acting as a military counterbalance to it. We chose the least horrible person to deal with. You can't fight everybody all at once, and you can't sanitize the world. In many cases, you have to deal with people as they are.

But let me ask you, are you upset about the U.S. doing business with Cuba? How about Mugabe? Are you outraged by Bill Clinton, who is responsible for the genocide in Rwanda, because, as the only person in the world with the power to stop it, he did absolutely nothing? We do business with the Chinese, should we go in and kick their ass or pretend like they don't exist? And what about the nutcase head of state in Venezuela? The Left is very selective with its outrage. At any given time about two-thirds of the world's leaders are seriously dysfunctional, but this is the world the way it is and sometimes you have to coexist and cooperate with people you don't like. Especially when there's someone else you don't like even more.

With respect to the Prescott Bush stuff, it belongs in the same file as the fact that Joe Kennedy used to be a bootlegger and mafia guy and that Democrat senator Robert Byrd used to be a Klansman. Interesting, but irrelevant.

whoever said this:

I'm ever amused and astonished by the Righties attempts to portray themselves as the victims of a mean and jealous world.

I'm ever amused (but not astonished) by the Lefties' attempts to portray themselves as victims and martyrs silenced by the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, based solely on such chilling examples as "freedom fries" and a television program.

Incidentally, I'm a she not a he.

velid

Stapers,

I am afraid that you are starting to defend positions simply because you have been criticized. You are clearly not a stupid person; you owe it to yourself to take the evidence more seriously.

Schroder is Chirac's lapdog? This is really out of touch. I have nothing invested in Schroder's integrity. But he wasn't manipulated by Chirac. What on earth would he have to gain from that? He was "pandering" to the overwhelming majority of his own electorate who was opposed to the war. In fact, as virtually all political analysts of every political affiliation noted at the time, it was a key element in saving his ass in the previous election. France had nothing to do with it. I challenge you to produce actual evidence to the contrary.

It is interesting that you should mention Eastern Europe, the new Europe in Rumsfeld's idiom, because it just came out in the Washington Post today that we, the US, are building a new gulag on the ashes of the old.

"The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe..."
The people being held in this system are not suspected of having knowledge about future terrorist actions. In fact, a large number of them have been in detention without charge for years now.

And your register of countries that support the US is worth examining in more detail. You say:

"And did you know that thirty-one nations participated in the Iraq invasion? America's allies include Australia, Great Britain, Japan, Korea, and Spain, before they became spineless socialist wonders."
In the vast majority of these countries, for example Great Britain or Italy, the leadership of the country supported the invasion of Iraq, despite the opposition of the majority of their own population. Not exactly the democratic ideal. Others, such as Uzbekistan, don't exactly add a lot of moral authority. Also 31 is just not such an impressive number. It obviously means that the vast majority of the world, both in number of countries and in terms of population opposed US policy. Frankly speaking, most of those who joined did so not out of conviction but out of fear of the US or a hope for favor in return for cooperation.

You quibble, somewhat flippantly I think, about what torture is:

"To be forced to sleep on a cold floor with the lights on and loud music playing -- is that torture?"
Here is a real scenario for you, again from today's Washington Post:
"In November 2002, an inexperienced CIA case officer allegedly ordered guards to strip naked an uncooperative young detainee, chain him to the concrete floor and leave him there overnight without blankets. He froze to death, according to four U.S. government officials. The CIA officer has not been charged in the death."
Is that torture?

As the standards for deciding who should be tortured, I must say that you seem to have a surprising trust in the federal government to make these kinds of descisions and not to abuse their power. Unfortunately there is already evidence that whatever standards were there originally, have begun to degrade.

"The CIA pulled out when U.S. courts began to exercise greater control over the military detainees, and agency officials feared judges would soon extend the same type of supervision over their detainees...The original standard for consigning suspects to the invisible universe was lowered or ignored, they said. "They've got many, many more who don't reach any threshold," one intelligence official said.">

Would torture be okay if there were a chance you or your loved ones might be tortured by mistake?

velid

Stapers,

It occurs to me that a good starting point for your side of the argument would be to produce one historical example in which torture has in fact produced something good. I can't think of any, but maybe you can help me with this.

Stickwick Stapers

velid:

I will address your other points later, but for now I want you to address my question, because I asked you first.

Would you torture someone you knew was involved in a plot to kill hundreds of children to get information or would you let those children die?

Yes or no.

You answer my question, and I will address yours.

el serracho

let's move on, shall we?

reverend quitter

ok, i'll bite. stickwick. would you torture someobody that might possibly know someone who could theoretically some day in the future plan a bombing? cus that is what "we" are doing. it's a fishing expedition. round up every male in a certain area, arrest them without cause and "interrogate" them until we are satisfied that they don't know anyting then let them go.

check out the 500 people that were released from abu ghraib (didnt the prez say we would close that prison?) this week.

your question is fundamentally wrong.

agi t. prop

yeah, time to move on. the bold font crosses the line :P

Stickwick Stapers

velid:

I am afraid that you are starting to defend positions simply because you have been criticized.

Naturally, because anyone who doesn't agree with your enlightened view must be clinging to her position out of pride. This is such a condescending view. The fact is I have good reason to defend my position, not the least of which is that you have yet to present me with compelling evidence or argument to the contrary.

You can date the beginning of close cooperation between France and Germany to the unification of Germany. Prior to unification, Germany was governed mostly by conservative governments, but when the West and East joined together it shifted German politics to the left. The French elite have clearly been calling the shots in the EU since then; although now the people of France and other countries have become a huge annoyance to the elite.

You are correct that many of the countries allied to the U.S. in the war in Iraq and elsewhere have populations where the majority view appears unfavorable to the the U.S. The leadership of these countries still support the U.S., because they know they should -- so far only the Spanish conservative government has been punished for its support. I'm not certain how much we can trust our perception of public opinion in these countries, because the media do a good job of showing negative reaction to the U.S. I have colleagues in Europe who are pro-America, and when I was in France this summer I was not besieged with negative opinion about the U.S. My husband and I have German friends, and we were surprised (having paid attention to the media) when we were told that Schroeder's politics did not represent public opinion, which they claimed (at least for the former West) was in favor of the U.S. It's difficult to tell what's really going on. As for the rest of the world, much of it is mired in terrible violence, poverty, politically-driven famine and disease, and endless human rights abuses. Do you really care what it thinks of us?

With respect to "quibbling" about torture, my questions are quite serious and legitimate. If you want to ban the use of torture, doesn't it stand to reason that you must define what constitutes torture? The real scenario you pointed out with the detainee freezing to death is exactly what I'm talking about. Some people wouldn't consider forcing a person to sleep on a cold floor to be torture if that same person has been spending the last several months or years sleeping in a freezing-cold cave in some remote mountainside. Furthermore, I'm not sure you have a strong grasp of Islamic culture if you consider me flippant for suggesting that devoutly religious Muslim males would find being forced to watch lewd, modern programs like Sex and the City torture.

Would torture be okay if there were a chance you or your loved ones might be tortured by mistake?

Your question makes no sense, because it is infinitely more likely that someone I love will be the victim of a planned terrorist attack than to be suspected by our government of plotting such an attack, himself.

I don't think you read what I wrote very carefully. I framed my questions for a scenario in which there is no doubt that a detainee has foreknowledge of a planned terrorist event. At worst, you end up torturing a monster without getting any information. At best, you get the information needed to avert an attack. I don't condone the use of torture to extract information from randomly seized people or someone who, while suspicious, has no proven links to any terrorist plots. But, clearly, torture must work for interrogators at least some of the time, because if it was completely ineffective, no one would bother to use it.

quitter:

No, you didn't "bite." You responded with another question instead of answering mine. And what does it mean that a question is "wrong"? Do you mean poorly framed? Offensive? What?

I think what it really means is that my question is difficult, and no one here wants to address it in an honest way, which makes my point: there are no easy answers. But, like I said before, if you condemn a person for thinking about torture, under the circumstances I described, it means you haven't got the guts to think about the question seriously, yourself.

I think it is indeed time to move on.

agi t. prop

No, you didn't "bite." You responded with another question instead of answering mine. And what does it mean that a question is "wrong"? Do you mean poorly framed? Offensive? What?

But you responded to his question with four more questions! I think my head is going to explode.

I hereby capitulate.

el motherfucking serracho

your question is stupid. this is not captain america comics. try reality, it's got a nasty hangover, but it's smooth going down.

like you.

reverend quitter

yaaaaaaawnnn

you kids still up? el serracho! you be nice. you may be profoundly clever and handsome, but if the lady wants to blather on about god knows what then let her.

me? i quit.

velid

Stapers,

I didn't respond to your last post because it was clear that our hosts at the site wanted everyone to pack it in. So out of politeness, I shut up. But since you have taken this all so personally, here's a response which is definitely my last post on this thread.

What you are saying about France and world public opinion has become too garbled to merit a respose. You just continue to shout without any evidence that the French are in charge. That is not the general opinion in Europe. As for world opinion, you seem to have conceded my point but decided you no longer care.

And as for your ticking time bomb scenario, here's a direct response.

Your question is absurd. What I would or would not do in a contrived hypothetical situation is not germane to the question of what policy is right. Let me be clear. Your scenario is hypothetical in at least two important senses: it has no credible historical precedent and it assumes perfect knowledge, as you reiterate in your last post. And of course, perfect knowledge is never obtainable in the real world. So you end up potentially torturing the innocent. Look at how many people on death row were exonerated by DNA evidence for some sense of just how likely such "mistakes" might be.

If I were suddenly put into your science fiction scenario, I don't know what I would do. If I were to decide to torture someone, I would still want it to be illegal and for there to be extraordinarily serious consequences for me personally if I did decide to go ahead and do it, whether or not it saved lives. I absolutely would not want it to be legal even if it were me in such a ridiculous scenario. Making such decisions easier by removing the personal consequences is utterly unethical.

More generally, using the most extreme unlikely hypothetical circumstances as a guide to policy can justify any atrocity or the most extreme dictatorship. The end justifies any means. Is that really your guide to policy and morality?

And again, your scenario has nothing to do with the actual practice of torture as currently being carried out by the US government. And opposition to this policy is not some America-hating fringe sentiment. 90 US senators in both parties, including even the ethically challenged cat torturer Bill Frist, have made their opposition a matter of record.

Moreover, the fact that torture is used is no evidence that it is effective at extracting information. The real goal of torture, if we follow the empirical method and examine the regimes that systematically practiced torture (Guatemala, El Salvador, Uzbekistan, the Catholic Church etc.), it is clear that the goal is terror and obedience, not information. And terror is a proven, albeit unstable, method of social control. It is obvious to me that that is in fact the goal of the policy.

One last matter: I find your inability to imagine yourself in the role of a victim of such a policy most disturbing. It suggests that you do not see people in the Islamic world as people. Despite what you hear on Fox news, not all of them are terrorists.

Fin.

AmericansAreWeak

i think stupid fat americans are hilarious. they actually help themselves sleep at night pretending that others are jealous of them. ok, fat, whiney nation of morons...yes, the whole world is jealous of that. ha ha ha

the top 6 rated countries to live, work, family, freedom, income, etc. are all european except #6, which is australia....usa comes in 7th. top 5 wealthiest nations are all european, usa comes in #6. i guess its americans who are jealous...but then again, they are too stupid and ignorant to even know to be jealous. ignorance is bliss. now lick my ass.

Crusader AXE of the Lost Causes

Dude, or dudette, get a life. Seriously, even if you have to rent. I checked your comment because I didn't remember the discussion thread. Well, sheeeeeiiiiiitttt, no wonder. If the best use of your time is responding to 18 month old blogs by the Defeatists, all I can say is, wow. Talk about the unexamined life...

Crusader AXE of the Lost Causes

And, I suspect that your poll is statistically irrelevant. How many Americans have immigrated to your pissant little burg lately? How many of your fellow garlic bathing, hairy armpitted, off-goofing types have come here?

Yes, we have problems. This blog is largely about them. We seldom descend to invective, first.

So, parts of Germany are more pleasant than parts of the US. Most European countries have better social security systems. England has a far more repressive speech situation under their Information Protection System; I can recall watching a couple of Kripos kick in the door of a "possible victim" in Germany. The Scandanavian countries do lead in depression and suicide. Italy is a trainwreck. France is having a helluva time. Greece is crumbling...are we talking about the Netherlands? Perhaps Luxembourg? Switzerland? yeah, the Swiss have serious problems of integrating their French and German, Catholic and Protestant cantons...

Of course, had we chosen to ignore the whole mess and taken our marbles and gone home in a fat whiney American snit in 1948 or so, we'd be fine but you would have problems...hard to use the internet when the communist version would be coal-fired...

Comandante Agi

Come on, people...try commenting on the new stuff, not posts that are almost two years old! Maybe Ted Stevens was right, the tubes are getting clogged.

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