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June 6, 2006

Torture: It’s the New Black
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 07:57 AM *

Do y’all remember a year ago, when Sen. McCain (R-Arizona) sponsored a ban on torture by making the Army follow its own field manual? Well, some clever buggers have figured out how to get around that. They’re re-writing the field manual to remove Geneva.

O, happy day!

As the LA Times reports:

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has decided to omit from new detainee policies a key tenet of the Geneva Convention that explicitly bans “humiliating and degrading treatment,” according to knowledgeable military officials, a step that would mark a further, potentially permanent, shift away from strict adherence to international human rights standards.

The decision could culminate a lengthy debate within the Defense Department but will not become final until the Pentagon makes new guidelines public, a step that has been delayed. However, the State Department fiercely opposes the military’s decision to exclude Geneva Convention protections and has been pushing for the Pentagon and White House to reconsider, the Defense Department officials acknowledged.

The article goes on to say:

… the exclusion of the Geneva provisions may make it more difficult for the administration to portray such incidents [as Abu Ghraib and Haditha] as aberrations. And it undercuts contentions that U.S. forces follow the strictest, most broadly accepted standards when fighting wars.

“The rest of the world is completely convinced that we are busy torturing people,” said Oona A. Hathaway, an expert in international law at Yale Law School. “Whether that is true or not, the fact we keep refusing to provide these protections in our formal directives puts a lot of fuel on the fire.”

To call this short-sighted, un-American, morally repugnant, and just plain stupid, understates the stituation. Has anyone thought of the implications for our own captured troops in another war, in another place, ten or twenty years from now, if our foe of that moment decides to follow our own field manual?

The move to restore U.S. adherence to Article 3 [of the Geneva Conventions] was opposed by officials from Vice President Dick Cheney’s office and by the Pentagon’s intelligence arm, government sources said. David S. Addington, Cheney’s chief of staff, and Stephen A. Cambone, Defense undersecretary for intelligence, said it would restrict the United States’ ability to question detainees.

Well, yes. The purpose of Article 3 is to restrict the abilities of belligerants to question detainees. What did they think it was for?

This nonsense has been opposed by various (loyal, intelligent, patriotic) elements within the Pentagon. But those men and women of good will have concluded that it’s useless with Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld in charge:

The military lawyers, known as judge advocates general, or JAGs, have concluded that they will have to wait for a new administration before mounting another push to link Pentagon policy to the standards of Geneva.

I’m going to advocate courts-martial for anyone in the US Armed Forces who helped this attempt to make torture part of US policy.

Comments on Torture: It's the New Black:
#1 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 08:40 AM:

I think this is the point where any pretence of it being a few bad apples has to be rejected.

Even if it might once, long ago, have not been a pretence.

#2 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 08:49 AM:

This is sickening. And I'm tired of conservatives complaining that my dedication to humane principles is in some way naive. The whole point of living in a civilized country is that we don't treat people this way, even when they are the bad guys who want to kill us. Yes, that means that maybe some of them get through and actually do kill us. That's what honor, integrity, character, is all about. You know you hold a principle when it costs you something. I support the principles in the Geneva Convention, even if it means that because a few nutcases weren't tortured, I might get my legs blown off from a car bomb. I live in NYC, I'm fully aware of the impact and horror of terrorism. I want my country to be civilized. There will always be barbarians who want to kill me and my people. I want them dealt with to the full extent of the law, and I want that law to be civil and humane.

#3 ::: Lowell Gilbert ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 08:59 AM:

I'm really tired of "conservatives" claiming they hold moral high ground. This is as clear a case of a government decision on morality as there can possibly be, and my government is on the wrong side.

#4 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 09:06 AM:

The people who are behind this deserve horsewhipping, tarring, feathering, and being marched in chains from Boston to Minuteman National Park and thrown from the bridge there (they won't drown, it's a low bridge and shallow water).

And oh, yeah, there should be a bonfire of with copies of the US Constitution and Declaration of Independent and hot ash from the fire dumped on them, too.

#5 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 09:17 AM:

This gives a strange nostalgic feeling to watching Bridge on the River Kwai's initial confrontation between the two main characters.

#6 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 09:22 AM:

As Sean Bosker wrote, this is insane.

Being a "civilized" nation or person means rising above the childish and psychopathic reaction of "Oh yeah, well if you do that to me, then I'll do this to you."

Torture is not about getting information, it is a rationalization for revenge. Leaving aside the question of being naive, history and various studies have proven that torture is ineffective.

It is persuasion -- through fear and pain -- to get someone to say what you want them to say. Now while I can understand how this idea may be attractive to the current administration, it is not going to make us safer, if anything, the opposite is likely true.

Likewise, the opposition argument that this is fine because these are terrorists, nutcases, or "islamofascists" is essentially a circular argument ... especially once torture is added to the mix:

It's okay to torture this guy because he's a terrorist. How do you know he's a terrorist? He confessed under torture.

There have been enough rumors floating around that I am really not comfortable with trusting anyone currently associated with this administration to accurately and justly figure out who is really a terrorist and therefore okay to torture.


As it happens I was reading an article about this yesterday -- I think in Newsweek -- and the grans kicker is that in addition to the above, the armed forces are/were trying to get the new manual approved through Congress while classifying the entire section on interrogation techniques, and not showing this section to Congress at all.

#7 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 09:24 AM:

Yet at the same time, the US doesn't torture, respects human rights, and is dedicated to promoting democracy around the world. The Schmuck Administration has cornered the market on cognitive dissonance.

#8 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 09:25 AM:

It makes one more prosecution argument for the war crimes trial of W. Bush, Commander-in-Chief, and senior defense officials.

#9 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 09:30 AM:

Questions for myself:

Still proud to be a veteran? No.

Still proud to have been an Army man? No.

Still proud to be an American? No.

#10 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 09:34 AM:

David S. Addington, Cheney’s chief of staff, and Stephen A. Cambone, Defense undersecretary for intelligence, said it would restrict the United States’ ability to question detainees.

Exactly! And that's what we want. However, based on what I know of torture, it will not significantly restrict the US's ability to question detainees effectively.

#11 ::: Richard Harlos ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 09:58 AM:

This administration has clearly crossed a line with regard to how detainees are treated. A rose by any other name and all that....

The bottom line of every law is less about the wording and more about the intent. Because words are merely pointers TO the principles they describe, it is nothing short of ignorant (at best; deceitful at worst) to play with the words themselves.

Which is precisely what is done whenever loopholes are exploited. What are loopholes but inevitable gaps between the principles themselves and the pointers to those principles (i.e., "words")?

I've no intention of introducing any sort of religious dynamic into this discussion but the source of this next quote is a religious text:

"The letter of the law brings death, but the spirit of the law brings life and peace."

This is a sage observation that need not impose any sort of religious view on this discussion: what is important in matters of law is understanding the intent--the spirit--of what is written; focusing on the words just misses the point entirely.

So I've said it a few different ways in the hopes that others who may stumble upon this comment will 'get it' in ways that, until now, have eluded their awareness and comprehension. Obviously those who have commented already in this thread seem to 'get it' so my point is not so much for you but for those yet to read and comment.

If a free press remains a part of our future, they will almost certainly look back upon this period with loathing amazement: what the h3ll is this administration doing and, perhaps more important, why the h3ll are we--the people--allowing it to occur?

#12 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 10:21 AM:

Y'know, I've been thinking.

It seems to me that too many of the 'We have to get TOUGH with America's enemies!!!11!one!!eleventy1!' types have an airy-fairy John-Wayne-movie-geek attitude about what effects ubermacho behavior has on other people.

But if you ask 'em, "Would that (torture, invasion, Draconian sanctions, fill-in-the-blank-here) work on YOU?" they will say, to a man, "No way!"

If it won't work on you, why the hell would it work on the other guy?

Just sayin'.

#13 ::: Cynthia Wood ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 10:40 AM:

I've long been disgusted with this administration; now it's beginning to make me nauseated to read the news.

I figured out back when I was 10 or so, and learning about witchcraft trials, that under sufficient torture people will say whatever you want them to say. The more torture you apply, the less reliable the information is. Somehow this administration hasn't come to that realization yet. Are they idiots, or just evil? Oh, wait...they're both. Never mind.

#14 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 10:41 AM:

what the h3ll is this administration doing?

The administration is continuously appealing to the lowest common denominator, fear, and then whipping up the fervor that fear gives, violence. They are creating a completely one-dimensional administration. Fear -> Violence. If the people are afraid, they'll resort to and support resorting to, violence. Which makes sense from Bush's perspective, because he's an idiot, so he doesn't have anything intelligent to offer. It isn't like the man is a diplomat or a stateman. He's a buffoon. All he's got is a big f'ing stick, called the US military, which he is draining the life-blood out of as he whacks one thing after another.

Torture is just an extension of fear->violence. The answer to everything when you're overcome by fear is violence, and torture is just more violence.

I think part of the deal with Bush's in-the-gutter popularity numbers right now is that people are becoming less afraid of the phantoms that Bush has used to invoke fear and justify violence. But Bush doesn't know how to do anything else other than rattle someone else's sword.

The recent attempt to revive the gay-marriage-ban-ammendment, is simply trying to find something else to make people afraid of. "My god, gays will destroy the sanctity of marriage!"

I'm not surprised that the Pentagon folks who oppose torture say they'll have to wait till Bush is out of office. His entire presidency is defined by fear and his response is always violence. He doesn't have the brains to do anything else. And taking away his one and only tool is something he'll fight to the end.

#15 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 10:45 AM:

If anyone at the Hague calls, please tell them they can have these guys, right now. Bush we can deal with; it's the rest of them that need to be taken out for a nice trial.

#16 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 10:47 AM:

What part of "Treaties shall have the force of Law" don't they understand?

I know. They don't respect the Law, either. They make me ashamed.

#17 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 10:48 AM:

Bruce, I'm sorry.

Cynthia, I'll go along with "evil", or at least cruel and lawless, but they are very smart. I fear it is we, or at least the public en masse, who are the fools.

#18 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 10:51 AM:

But if you ask 'em, "Would that (torture, invasion, Draconian sanctions, fill-in-the-blank-here) work on YOU?" they will say, to a man, "No way!"

But fear does not allow that sort of empathic relation. If you're living in fear, you can't put yourself in the other person's shoes. It's fight or flight. Kill or run. And to be able to kill someone requires, on some level, a lack of empathy towards them. Self-defense requires a level of selfishness, putting your survival above someone elses. Which isn't wrong, it's just that when someone is gripped by fear (and their support of violence is a good indicator for most people that they're afraid), I don't know if asking them to be empathic will stop the fear, or maybe just stop that particular flavor of violence, i.e. torture, while keeping other forms of violence in place, such as war.

#19 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 10:51 AM:

You know what I find most frightening and sickening?

The people on this board have seen this. Some of you have probably written it. I've read this comic, this book, seen this movie. We are on the slope already. Unless someone truly visionary comes along to show a better way--and I don't see that person right now--we all know where this will end.

We are all Winston now.

#20 ::: Anonymous Coward ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 11:05 AM:

[delurking]

"Has anyone thought of the implications for our own captured troops in another war, in another place, ten or twenty years from now, if our foe of that moment decides to follow our own field manual?"

I suspect that the folks in charge have not, because they believe the situation will never arise. In the Brave New Pax Americana (c.f. PNAC), America is/was/will always be The Good Guys, and will never have to worry about such Bad Things happening.

[rant] How the *hell* can people be that stupid?!? Even a passing familiarity with history shows that those who think they're somehow special, that the ebb and flow of power and history will pass them by, are *always* wrong in the end, frequently at great cost to them and everyone around them. What are they thinking? Is there some sort of Rapture of the DC, all the fun of nitrogen narcosis without the hassle of scuba gear? [/rant]

A few years ago I wouldn't have worried about posting something like this with my name attached. And if the next administration is more tolerant of reality-based discussion, maybe I'll be outspoken again. But not today.

[relurking]

#21 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 11:17 AM:

Remember that the Spanish Inquisition abolished torture in their courts on the grounds that it doesn't yield true information.

Say what you will about the Spanish Inquisition, you have to admit that they had a certain ... expertise ... in the matter.

(Speaking of the Inquisition, for the first twenty years of its existence it wasn't allowed torture at all. When torture was introduced it was under strict guidelines: torture was to be applied only once, it was supposed to be of such a manner and degree that it did not imperil life or limb, and it was only supposed to be applied when manifold and weighty proofs showed that the accused was guilty and was lying. Torture was only supposed to be applied when all other expedients had already been exhausted. Boy does that ever sound familiar....)

#22 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 11:18 AM:

We knew they were ignoring it, but this is just too blatent.

An eye for an eye is not our law!

#23 ::: Stargeezer ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 11:31 AM:

Wasn't there a signing statement added to the anti torture bill that exempted the executive branch (including the military) from adherance to provisions therein?

#24 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 11:32 AM:

Unless someone truly visionary comes along to show a better way

I'd be happy if torture stopped showing up in fiction as acceptable. As much as I liked "Batman Begins", I cringed when batman snared the dirty cop with his grappling gun, reeled him up several stories, then dropped him and realed him back in a couple times to get information. I kept thinking about the MP's using dogs to scare information out of detainees. Of course, when Batman does it, it works, he gets the information he needed, and he isn't portrayed as sadistic. But the moral of that little story is "torture works". Sure, it's only a movie, sure its a cartoon movie to boot, but that one scene could have been any two people, a rope, and a winch.

#25 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 11:38 AM:

For that matter, after about the first half-season of 24 I couldn't watch any more; suspenseful thriller, yup, maybe. But the lavish endorsement of ends justifying the most garishly awful means was a little too much like Real Life.

#26 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 11:39 AM:

Oh, and for the clueless like me, what's the "new black" refer to?

#27 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 11:39 AM:

Greg London:

Don't worry about the effect of Batman; everyone knows he's a comic book character and that hanging someone off the side of a building is over-the-top and unlikely.

Worry about Jack Bauer. Energizer Bunny Jack gets the truth, the whole truth, so help him God. Break a few fingers, inject a little pentothol... five minutes and he's off to save the country! And if the Bad Guys go after him in kind? Why, he has a convenient heart attack and has to be resuscitated. Once a week in your living room, This Is The New America Now.

#28 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 11:41 AM:

Re: new black

It's from fashion. Black is out, so... orange is the new black!

#29 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 11:43 AM:

Jack Bauer ... 24

I haven't seen a single episode of "24". Something about the previews didn't appeal to me. I think I know why now.

#30 ::: JeremyT ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 11:47 AM:

If it won't work on you, why the hell would it work on the other guy?
Excellent point, Renee. I'm going to try and use that the next time I debate this issue with my coworkers.

#31 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 11:47 AM:

Congressional oversight, anyone? Through my rage and disgust I dimly recall that we are supposed to have it. Where is it? What are these %$#^&% guys doing to earn their pay? The way the military does its job is expressly under the control of Congress (Article 1, Section 8.) Moreover, "All treaties made... under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land." (Article 6) which the President is bound by his oath to support, protect, and defend.

Damn them all, for what they are doing to our country.

#32 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 11:50 AM:

I hate to be proven right, but this is why I called McCain a feckless piece of shit back in January and his willingness to pretend to spine (worse than Spector, who at least caves in publically) and then fold because "The Party" (and that it, seems, in the person of Bush) wants it to go the other way.

The worst part of this, they can make the violations of Geneva part of the FM, and classify that portion of it.

Then (when we have a president, and an army, breakig the law of the land, in the form of a ratified treaty) they will arrest anyone who reports on the violations, because they are violating State Secrets.

I'm getting worried. I hate to speak my fear aloud because they make me seem like a nutjob conspiracy theorist/black helicopter loony, but I'm getting worried.

#33 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 11:54 AM:

It's from fashion. Black is out, so... orange is the new black!

Duh. No wonder I didnt' get it. I have absolutely no fashion sense.

Oh, on another side note, I just realized that "24" is on Fox "We Report, You Decide." Network, so, maybe Jack Bauer's character isn't just fiction, but rather a suggestion.

#34 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 11:55 AM:

I don't know. I sort of think that the last thing we need is a visionary. I've had enough vision from the right and from the left to last me a life time--and I'm only 35.

How about we get someone who has no vision at all, who doesn't want to create an America is his/her own image, but is simply able to read and understand the Constitution and is willing to govern a nation by it?

I'd take that, if I could get it.

#35 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 12:01 PM:

Lizzy L: Take a look at Glenn Greenwald today. He points to some pieces of hope in the wind.

Me, I can tell you what I know, Torture doesn't work. I don't know why we are supposed to be able to do what no one else has managed and make it work. The inquisition, the French in Algeria, Hussein, all of them used it, all of them failed.

We used to not use it, and we used to get good info, on a reliable basis.

Now... I'm not ashamed of my service, not yet, because I've not done anything to be ashamed of (which is a self-serving, because self-evaluated, claim). I don't know how much longer I can keep serving. I am afraid I may be put to the test, and I would really hate to find myself so weak as to do evil things to avoid the repercussions of refusing the orders.

#36 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 12:02 PM:

How about we get someone who...is simply able to read and understand the Constitution and is willing to govern a nation by it?
Sarah S, such a person might indeed seem visionary, compared to our present administration, which is delusional.

#37 ::: Sian Hogan ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 12:08 PM:

Oh, this makes me so, so sad.

As a human being in the 21st century, I hate that the most influential nation of our time, and a great democracy, is under leadership that is daily putting more and more distance between themselves and the moral high-ground.

As a Brit, I hate that my own country is probably going to be following that disasterous lead sometime very soon, unless a LOT of care is taken.

And as a Christian, I hate that the "Christian" right seems unable to comprehend the simple meaning of "Turn the other cheek", to understand that the point of being 'the good guy' is having to BE the good guy, NOT getting to use any means neccessary to beat the opposition, to realise that God ISN'T on their side regardless of their actions. As someone once said (I can't remember who, or the exact wording): "God isn't on YOUR side. He never has been, never will be. Maybe, if you work hard at it, pay attention and keep your eyes very wide open, especially when they're turned inwards, once in a while you'll get to be on his. Maybe."

So in conclusion, sadness. And sympathy for all you sane individuals on the other side of the pond. I hope things turn around somehow.

#38 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 12:15 PM:

The people who are behind this deserve horsewhipping, tarring, feathering, and being marched in chains from Boston to Minuteman National Park and thrown from the bridge there (they won't drown, it's a low bridge and shallow water).

Can I point out that, as a response to the U.S.'s now-routine use of torture this is really going in the wrong direction? This is clearly true as a matter of rhetoric -- but I would even say it is more than that (we have to be careful about the normalizing of violence in political language). So no, they shouldn't be horsewhipped or tarred or feathered or thrown in water whether or not they would drown. Instead, I'd suggest a good, old-fashioned trial for war crimes, complete with all the legal protections: convict the guilty and let them sit in small cells for the rest of their days. How about that?

#39 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 12:18 PM:

Thanks, Terry. I read Glenn's post, and then the comments. Perhaps Glenn (and you) are right and such an article is a sign of hope, but I am not especially heartened. One mild article does not go far to counter the cacaphony and chatter of Fox News and its friends.

On the other hand, if Francine Busby down in San Diego wins, I will be very happy. At this point, the only thing that can change the situation, in my view, is voting out the current administration. When I see that start to happen, I will rejoice.

#40 ::: Wrenlet ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 12:22 PM:

Re: 24, I was just thinking the other day... wouldn't it be instructive to have next season go a little differently? Jack does his thing, gets the info, runs off to save the world and everything goes to hell because d'oh! The dude he tortured lied to save his skin.

It's happened a time or two to lesser degrees on Lost, but I think America needs something flashier in order to actually get the point.

#41 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 12:24 PM:

Via Josh Marshall:
From CBSNews: "U.S. officials believe Canadian arrests over the weekend and three recent domestic incidents in the United States are evidence the U.S. will soon be hit again by a terrorist attack. Privately, they say, they'd be surprised if it didn't come by the end of the year, reports CBS News correspondent Jim Stewart in a CBS News exclusive."

Like, two weeks before the election?


#42 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 12:32 PM:

What I wanna say to all the neocons crowing about the Canadian arrests:

"Look! Seventeen arrests! And no foreign invasions or illegal wiretaps in sight!

#43 ::: alex ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 12:41 PM:

The problem is that torture does work. But not for gathering intelligence. What it is useful for is the suppression of internal dissent.

Pesky trade unionists, politcal opponents, and irritating intellectuals all watch their tongues a lot more closely after seeing one of their friends without fingernails. How could any authoritarian resist the temptation? Couple that temptation with our faith-based administration--Americans always do the right things because, gosh, they're American!--and the outright embrace of bigotry by the Republican party, and we have the makings of a perfect storm.

#44 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 12:41 PM:

Wrenlet:

I enjoy 24 as a thriller, but have often been made uncomfortable by the "torture works" scenes. (This season it didn't actually seem to work all that well, but was still the first method of interrogation, and didn't backfire.)

Given the thinly-disguised criticism of the current administration in the season that just ended, I would not be at all surprised if the writers do something like you suggested. My respect for them would increase greatly.

#45 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 12:50 PM:

The only place torture actually works as a way to get good information is in the movies. It's a plot device, a convention; it's more visually interesting than some guy sitting in a room going over three thousand tip sheets.

#46 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 12:50 PM:

Here, I'll save someone some time:

[token drive-by smuggery]
I'm shocked that You People are still worrying about this when you said nothing when islamofascists rioted about a cartoon.
[/token drive-by smuggery]

Oh, and while I'm at it:

[quivering moralist]
How can you worry about terrorists' rights when activist judges are letting gay people get married! We've got to do something . . . for the sake of the children!
[/quivering moralist]

Trolls: Now that I've made your points for you, you may return to your bridges.

#47 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 12:59 PM:

... to Minuteman National Park and thrown from the bridge there (they won't drown, it's a low bridge and shallow water).

Actually, there's been a lot of rain lately, the water isn't all that shallow right now.

#48 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 01:18 PM:

That line of 'for the sake of the children' doesn't wash with me. I keep getting the impression that people who use the phrase are telling me that anyone who grows up without whatever brand of coddling they're peddling is destined to become a serial-killing crack whore anarchist, or a depressed dishrag fattie living on fast food and reality TV, or maybe just some loser homeless bum living off handouts... who is secretly a serial-killing crack whore anarchist.

Um... no. After all, they grew up without the coddling and they aren't (insert awful destiny here).

Oh, wait. I see my problem. I'm asking for empathy again. Silly me.

#49 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 01:28 PM:

If I were Osama bin Laden I'd aim for two weeks before the election for my next terror attack. He'll do anything to keep Bush and the Republicans in office. They're his best friends.

#50 ::: Sian Hogan ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 01:36 PM:

Wouldn't a terror attack actually damage the chances of Bush and co? I mean, considering that so much of what they've done has been to keep y'all "safe" from terror attacks, wouldn't it be proof of their failure?

I'm being niave, aren't I? Because fear leads to a desire for visible vengeance, and the current administration has that one well and truly nailed. Sigh...

#51 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 02:04 PM:

Anyone who has publicly sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution, and who violates that oath again and again is a traitor. As I recall, the traditional penalty for treason is being shot.

'nuf said.

#52 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 03:01 PM:

If (God forbid) we are attacked two weeks before the election, I think it's a toss-up which way the majority reaction goes. Some number of people will support the view that a new terrorist attack proves that Bushco's decisions and tactics are flawed, wrong-headed, and not keeping us safe. If the attack happens to be, for example, a bomb in an uninspected container on a ship docked at a U.S. port, more people will find this point of view credible. Some number of people will support the view that an attack proves that Mr. Bush and friends have not been given enough power, and that we should probably suspend the Constitution. I have NO FUCKING CLUE which way the country will go.

BTW, as I was writing the above I had the same reaction as Anonymous Coward. If the NSA reads this e-mail and some filtering software filters out and marks my description of an attack, above, as suspect, then presumably my name, and the names of my friends, and perhaps the e-mail address of everyone who posts on ML, will end up on a list somewhere. It's insane. I don't know whether I should reference Gilbert and Sullivan, or Kafka.

#53 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 03:15 PM:

Glenn Greenwald's post holds out a glimmer of hope, but the post on his blog that should really be read is the one below it, by Anonymous Liberal. He/she expresses the feelings expressed in these comments in long form.

I was on active duty a long time ago, stationed at an antiseptic Navy telecomm station in Japan a long way away from 'Nam, but when some of the revelations of what we did there began to come out I was repulsed and embarrassed for my country and my uniform. I never wanted to feel that way again, but now I do.

#54 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 03:26 PM:

Gorge Bush's Amerika...

What ever happened to the oaths of serving officers military and civilian to protect and uphold the Constitution "against all enemies, foreign and domestic" ?

What Nixon did was a trivial petty infraction like parking in a handicapped spot compared to vast the array of offenses and insults to US and international treaty law perpetrated by Torquemada from Texas, Savonorola who took over from the di'Medici and turned the area into a narrow-minded vicious dictatorial theocracy censoring, banning, burning, and putting "deviants" to death...

=========

Oust the usurpers, -now-, and send them to the World Court for trial for crimes against humanity (Geneva Convention violations in Iraq, starting no later than the failure to secure museums, schools, libraries, waterworks, government offices and records, failure to round up soldiers and review their records before any release into civilian status instead of allowing de facto demustering regardless of military record as regard involuntary inductee or enthusiastic, and participant committing atrocies, and standing aside smiling benevolently literally in the fact of massive looting and arson and theft, demonstrating a complete disregard and disrespect for providing safety and security for the population, private property, and the national and international heritage of schools, books, archives, antiquities, infrasture for running a civilization, and archaeological sites. The lawlessness ignored by the USA has escalate to robbery, bribery, kidnapping, rape, murder, sectarian warfare, suppression of women, violent murderous intolerance... all the fault of the fascist monster falsely placed in the office of the President of the USA.

#55 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 03:35 PM:

I suppose I should have left the horsewhipping out... the tarring and feathering though has the historically precedent of being something the Sons of Liberty did. Marching people out to the bridge (but not in chains) is what happened April 18, 1775 and gets re-enacted every year in commemoration. They weren't tossed over the bridge, but the water in Boston Harbor is deeper and dumping raw sewage into Boston Harbor got banned....

There's a big statue of Samuel Adams, first President of the United States (under the Article of Confederation) in front of Faneuil Hall in Boston. What it says on the base, is so very different that the values and attitudes of the Republicraps and one G. Walker Bush... Patriot's Days was only a month and a half ago. I thought about the irony...

#56 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 03:39 PM:

I've said it before and I'll say it again: American justice is a lie and a travesty while Bush is anywhere but prison.

And that goes for all his cronies, and whatever Pentagonal pushead thought up this latest scheme.

#57 ::: aries75 ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 03:42 PM:

Just to play "devil's advocate" (since today *is* 6/6/06, after all... ;) )

- neocons take the position of "if he pulls a knife, you pull a gun". So in answer to Renee's "would those tactics work on you," they'd say no, because we'd destroy them first.

- neocons also claim that negotiation = appeasement, and point to Neville Chamberlain as proof.

- in response to the "if we torture them, they'll torture us" argument, neocons say "they're already torturing/beheading/etc. Our torture is much nicer than their torture anyway, so to complain about it makes you a wussy unpatriotic liberal with warped priorities."

- to add to what I said above, neocons will also point out how "liberals" give much publicity to "American" wrongs, but completely ignore those perpetrated by Islamists (e.g. abuse of women).

At any rate, that's what I gleaned from surfing sites such as Free Republic and Right-Thinking from the Left Coast.

And like it or not, fear works. All the neocons have to say is "you'll be wearing burkas if the Democrats win", and people immediately try to make sure that doesn't happen.

On another note, I understand that support for right-wing parties went UP in Europe after the Muhammed cartoon fiasco.

#58 ::: Gag Halfrunt ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 03:45 PM:
Has anyone thought of the implications for our own captured troops in another war, in another place, ten or twenty years from now, if our foe of that moment decides to follow our own field manual?
It occurs to me that the foe of that moment might indeed be following the US field manual, if back in the noughties it was a close ally that received military training and advice from the US.
#59 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 03:49 PM:

And given our record of training our future enemies, that seems likely, Gag.

#60 ::: Chacounne ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 03:50 PM:

My husband was a POW during the Vietnam War, and was tortured by his captors. The bamboo infection under and in his toenails remained until the day he died, forty years later, in spite of the doctors removing his nails three times to get rid of it. The scars on his body were large and horrifying. The nightmares haunted his sleep every single night of his life, since the day he came back. There are no words to adequately capture my anger and revulsion at the people who have made this change ... people who will never have to suffer the real consequences ... at least here on earth.

For Dan

#61 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 03:50 PM:

Lizzy L asks, Gilbert and Sullivan, or Kafka?

How about Monty Python's Flying Circus? More specifically the sketch about Mister Neutron, the Most Dangerous Man in the Universe...

#62 ::: Wrenlet ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 03:53 PM:

It occurs to me that the foe of that moment might indeed be following the US field manual, if back in the noughties it was a close ally that received military training and advice from the US.

... yes, that's my "stop the world and let me off" moment, right there. I can't think too hard about the future repercussions of this mess without threatening either my blood pressure or my lunch. Possibly both.

Caroline:

I would love to see it. Maybe they'll take up that gauntlet if TPTB at the network can be convinced it'll fly, ratings-wise.

#63 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 04:20 PM:

like it or not, fear works

As long as a political leader can invoke the terror of some enemy, it will work to keep that politician in office as long as they provide the fear-based voter what he wants, fear-based violence.

The day someone can invoke a higher principle than might-makes-right, such as, say, justice for all, as opposed to "justice for us", then there's a chance that fear won't work anymore.

I keep imagining those who invoke fear as pushing the population down into their baser instincts, base emotions of fear and anger. And reacting with base emotions towards them isn't going to make it "not work" anymore. Tarring and feathering the fear-mongers isn't any better than the fear-mongers wanting to tar and feather some external enemy.

The only thing I know that pulls us out of our baser instincts is our values, our principles.And even then, it ain't easy. Which may be why it "works" so damn easy, and why getting a country out of "fear mode" is so hard...

#64 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 04:26 PM:

Recall that the North Vietnamese excuse for torturing our troops was that since we were involved in an illegal war, our troops were unlawful combatants and the Geneva Conventions didn't apply to them.

It was a false argument then (there is no class of person not covered by the Geneva Conventions), and it's a false argument now.

#65 ::: K Hunt ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 04:29 PM:

How is everyone so sure that torture doesn't work? Seriously: I can't even take cold showers, so something hugely discomforting of undefined length would be terrifying to me.

You say the Spanish Inquisition: I think there's a difference between "Are you evil? What about...now?", and knowing for a fact that someone has information which poses an immediate threat on lives of innocent people and doing what needs to be done to extract it. Bear in mind, you're looking for specific information, not a vague confession.

Someone asked what the effect of such-and-such an event would be: I think the answer is obvious - peopl would spin the facts in their own mind to believe whatever it is they do already. This is what happens with everything, and why double-bling experiments are so necessary in any valid scientific studies.

(I don't support torture by the way, but I don't think the concept is quite as OMG EVILS! as some are making it out to be.)

#66 ::: Ariella ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 04:30 PM:

This discussion reminds me of something I read some time back.

One interviewer of World War II POWs told me that German soldiers repeatedly told him that relatives with World War I combat experience had advised, "Be brave, join the infantry, and surrender to the first American you see." The American reputation for fair play and respect for human life had survived over generations, and the decent actions of American soldiers in World War I had saved the lives of many soldiers in World War II.

Lt. Col. Dave Grossman
On Killing, 1995

It seems to me that even someone completely lacking in empathy ought to be able to see that turning surrender into a bad option for your enemies will just convince them to fight harder and longer. This policy won't just affect prisoners in a hypothetical future war; it's going to kill American military personnel right now.

#67 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 04:31 PM:

I'm really starting to wonder about Cheney. He's the one who keeps arguing for torture. Some of the others really think they should be using it to get information, but I'm wondering if he likes it.

#68 ::: Max ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 04:34 PM:

The real effect that violating the Geneva Conventions has on our own troops isn't that someday some enemy will violate the Conventions right back at us. It is because torturing enemy combatants is demoralizing to our own men and it allows the worst elements in our military to thrive.

#69 ::: Wrenlet ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 04:38 PM:

knowing for a fact that someone has information which poses an immediate threat on lives of innocent people

This is one of the major sticking points: outside of fiction, TV and major motion pictures, you never know this for a fact.

Also, "torture doesn't work" is actually short for "torture doesn't produce reliable information." You'll get something out of the subject eventually, sure, but the likelihood that it will be both useful and factual is somewhere down near nil.

#70 ::: K Hunt ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 04:41 PM:
...double-bling experiments....

Ahem. That should read double-blind experiments. I don't think university budgets would stretch quite that far

#71 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 04:42 PM:

(I don't support torture by the way, but I don't think the concept is quite as OMG EVILS! as some are making it out to be.)

Before responding I'd encourage everyone to check K Hunt's "View All By". coff troll coff

#72 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 04:47 PM:

How is everyone so sure that torture doesn't work? Seriously: I can't even take cold showers, so something hugely discomforting of undefined length would be terrifying to me.

It doesn't work, and we know this because it's been proven by the experimental method that, faced with pain or threat of pain, people make stuff up. There is no surer way to get someone to tell you what you want to hear, regardless of its truth. Even if the person knows the real answer, he won't remember it after he's constructed the story that's in your mind.

Many years ago, I was in SERE School. One of the parts of that was the Prisoner of War sequence. We were questioned (using methods that didn't result in permanent disability). Part of that was teaching us how to resist questioning. The other part was training the interrogators -- they'd been instructed to learn about a certain subject that their prisoners didn't know anything about. They got the information anyway, and constructed an elaborate and self-consistent story. It was all fantasy. This was teaching them the limits of harsh interrogation.

Torture didn't stop the spread of heresy, it didn't help the French hold Algeria, or the Nazis hold France. It didn't prolong the Soviet Union. It won't make us safe from terrorists.

#73 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 04:57 PM:

Sarah S: "I don't know. I sort of think that the last thing we need is a visionary." Indeed! A recent New Yorker book review about The Terror in revolutionary France emphasizes the role of utopian/idealist agendas in the creation of havoc, both then and with the backward-looking "Romanticism" of Nazis set on ethnic cleansing. (Michael Moorcock shows the latter sort of thing in action, quite graphically, in his final Pyat book The Vengeance of Rome.)

So no visionaries with agendas, please!

#74 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 04:57 PM:

K Hunt --

The evidence that torture doesn't work is extensive and distressingly modern.

The fundamental problem is that there are two ways to run an interrogation.

The first way is to ask "where did you put the bomb?".

This is the bad -- Sauron's least gentle nightmares, bad -- way to run an interrogation, because you're telling the person that you're interested in a bomb, and that they had better tell you something about a bomb.

If you torture them until they tell you something about a bomb, they'll keep making stuff up even if they know particular, relevant, specific facts until you stop.

That's the practical problem with torture; you have no magic truth detection spell, so you have no way to know when your victim has told you the truth. So you don't know when to stop; when you eventually do stop (which is not all that likely to be before the victim dies; if you're dumb enough to be conducting this sort of interrogation and torturing your victim, you're very likely to be using a false-to-fact internal narrative about what you're doing and how it works, so the events that would get you to stop are unlikely to happen.)

So, you've got a mangled corpse and a pile of (generally conflicting) confessions, originating with the corpse, which you then have to sort through. The facts might or might not be in there; you don't know -- though you may believe -- that the person you just tortured knew any.

So what you've really done is generated a larger, more difficult -- people trying to stop pain get inventive -- search space that isn't particularly likely to contain any facts.

The second way to run an interrogation is to sit down with the person you want to interrogate and give them the chance to prove to you that they're not helpless by telling you what amounts to a story proving that they're not.

That's two basic primate drives; it's very hard for the prisoner to avoid doing that, and the information you get is the information that they choose to volunteer, in the end, because it is, in their estimation, the coolest, most important stuff they know.

You find out stuff you didn't know and didn't suspect that way; you align the prisoner's fundamental motivation (proving that they aren't helpless) with your fundamental motivation (finding out what they know that they think is important), rather than making them drastically opposed (they want the pain to stop; you don't want to stop until you're sure they've told you everything they know about whatever you might be interested in), and, hey, you didn't destroy anybody in the process.

The people making torture US policy are incompetent, sadistic, and unaware of either failing.

Lisa --

All authoritarian rulers want to be feared. Torture, secret arrest, lists of enemies, these are all ways to generate fear.

#75 ::: K Hunt ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 04:58 PM:
...you never know this for a fact.

Not even if someone has the equivalent of "Senior Intelligence Liaison Officer" on their back? Or if you caught them in their workshop just having pushed a timed remote detonation switch? I know these are extreme (and ludicrous) examples but no-one's suggesting torture as a first resort.

Actually, I'm not envisioning this as a real world example at all, more of a scary thought experiment. What seems to be happening in what Jim describes is pretty jaw dropping, to say the least. But I think an understanding of exactly what torture is needs to be hammered out before we get into empty rhetoric from both sides. Otherwise you get stuck in the mentality that says child-rapists have no rights.(It makes sense to me, I swear).

#76 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:00 PM:

turning surrender into a bad option for your enemies will just convince them to fight harder and longer.

Always leave your enemy an out. Never surround them completely.

#77 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:03 PM:

an understanding of exactly what torture is

is something you need to hammer out. I don't think anyone here has any significant questions about torture. That you keep bringing it up as if it were unaswered either is a reflection of your standing or a red flag that you're a troll. Try wikipedia. You'll learn about it, and you may even experience it. Come back when you're done.

#78 ::: K Hunt ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:06 PM:

Whoa there Scott H. This in an interesting discussion to anyone concerned about human rights and I don't think that not having a history of comments is a stain on my character. There's no such thing as debate if everyone keeps reinforcing the same points. I seriously am not interested in provoking anything other than a sharing of ideas and clarifiaction of information on my own part. When I asked the question on how people know that torture doesn't work, I was actually asking a question. I don't, as a rule, wholly trust things people hold as self-evident and was making an honest requestfor information and sources.

#79 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:10 PM:

a scary thought experiment

it's always easier to contrive scary thought experiments than to deal with the real world. I suggest dealing with the real world...

#80 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:14 PM:

There's no such thing as debate if everyone keeps reinforcing the same points.

I wasn't aware there was a debate going on here.

#81 ::: K Hunt ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:14 PM:

You know what? I'm sorry. I think I've just been making something of a fool of myself here. As I said, Iwasn't trying to provoke argument, but I don't think that I really had that much to bring to the table in this discussion. I was at fault in a way here, and if everyone could just forget what I said, that'd be super.
(I really am being sincere here, although it's hard to get that across without sounding petty and sarcastic)

#82 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:16 PM:

Your questions about torture are answered on wikipedia. Read it. all of it. come back when you're done.

Seriously. Educate yourself. Then come back.

Do that, and folks might not take you for a troll. Ignore that, and well, you've seen the reaction you've gotten thus far.

#83 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:22 PM:

Let me have Ann Coulter for 24 hours, and let me have a free hand, and I'll have her confessing to both being a member of al Qaeda and giving blowjobs to Bill Clinton, with a great deal of circumstantial detail and the names of her accomplices.

It always starts out that torture will be the "last resort." Pretty soon it turns into the first resort. Then it turns into something that you just do for fun.

May I suggest that you Google on "torture warrants"? Read the links you find.

Try this one as a first stop: http://dir.salon.com/story/opinion/feature/2004/06/21/torture_algiers/print.html

Then go here: http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Torture/Torture_We_Trust.html

and here:

http://www.sundayherald.com/53162

Torture has been tried. It hasn't worked. Why should we expect any different results?

#84 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:23 PM:

K Hunt --

You never know. Competent senior intelligence liaison officers switch jackets with a more-brave-than-sensible flunky before the HQ is overrun.

Scary thought experiments in the face of factual replies qualify as highly unhelpful; labeling factual replies as empty rhetoric would appear to go beyond unhelpful into actively mendacious.

The point is that even if we're talking about the minions of Ming the Merciless, who have absolutely no concern for civilization, morals, their own well being, or any amount of damage done to others, torture is still wrong because it does not work.

Jim's given you a recent, factual example based on a US military training processes detailing exactly why it doesn't work; why isn't that good enough?

#85 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:37 PM:

K Hunt

Oh, gosh. Well, if you are a troll, you're the most polite one I can recall meeting. If you're not, I sincerely apologize for slandering you. It's just that your remark above:

"(I don't support torture by the way, but I don't think the concept is quite as OMG EVILS! as some are making it out to be.)"

struck me as a wee bit provocative. But let's assume for the sake for argument that you're for real. Could a get a couple of examples of things you think are more evil than torture?

#86 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:38 PM:

OK, K Hunt has apologized. I personally would like to see everyone lay off him until/unless he says something foolish again.

That's not an order or anything. I'm not even really making it as a request. Just telling you what I think would be good.

Which of us has never put his or her foot in the corresponding mouth? I certainly have (read my early interactions with Jim if you want to see a relatively reasonable person (me) acting like a total jackass—but if you do please don't tell me you did). The grace to apologize when wrong is a rare virtue; let's not make it useless, hmmm?

#87 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:40 PM:

This argument to practicality is one designed for wingnuts, the ones who think that Torture Works and is Manly and Cool.

Even if it did work, which we know it does not, torture would still be wrong because it coarsens the torturer, betrays our ideals, and hardens the resolve of our enemies.

#88 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:40 PM:

K Hunt: Define works? I guarantee you I can get answer to questions out of anybody, just give me enough time and no restrictions on what I can do them.

What I can't get is reliable information.

I could (and probably shall) go into details about that, but (though it's only semi-fair) put [ "Terry Karney" torture ] into google and you will get a slew of my writing, and the arguments I've had with those who say torture "might" work, and so we ought to "keep it in the tool-box."

For bona-fides, I am, and have been for thirteen years, an Army Interrogator. I've taught the job, on and off, for the past 10+ years. I got to take a paid vacation (meals and lodging included) to the cradle of civilisation in early 2003, where I got to practice my craft in the real world.

Here are the facts.

Torture will get answers.

Those answers will be the answers the questioner wants.

A person who is ignorant of what the questioner wants to know will learn that the truth is not a path to less pain.

Said ignorant person will then lie.

Which will cloud the information stream.

The next subject will be tortured, looking for corroboration of the last person's story.

They will give such corroboration.

From there it gets ugly. The guy who isn't commiting torture will be criticised for not getting results (even though his are good information) and the guy who is getting crap will be getting pats on the head, and other such rewards. Which will reinforce both torture, and the belief that torture works (in part because those who aren't tortured won't know what story they have to tell to meet the template).

It doesn't work. What you get is bad info. The very few occaisions where it might work are so few, the means to be sure that only people who know are tortured, and the fact that other means work as well (or better) without the side-effects of degrading the person doing the interrogating make it not only counter-productive, but repugnant.

But that's just my two-cents. There are lots of people in the world who think I'm wrong. You can listen to them if you like.

#89 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:41 PM:

Scott H, he just backed off everything he said earlier. Why continue to challenge him on them as if he were still standing by those positions? He said "I was wrong." Maybe he doesn't think there are any things more evil than torture any more.

#90 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:45 PM:

Xopher: I think there are things more evil than torture, but not many, and not that my Gov't is planning to tell me are legal orders.

#91 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:50 PM:

Xopher

Yeah, he did. I didn't mean that to come across as hostile. Did it sound hostile?

K Hunt

It was not my intention to be rude. I apolgize again.

#92 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:52 PM:

HA! Okay, Terry:

What's more evil than torture? Seriously. I'm not being an asshole, I just can't think of anything.

#93 ::: Things That Ain't So ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:54 PM:

It all starts with dehumanizing "the enemy."

With saying that "this enemy" is different from the enemy in the past. This enemy is evil, demonic, just a rabid animal. And you have to go and get 'em.

People used to believe that animals didn't really feel pain, and so treated animals in ways that now make us shudder. Dehumanizing the enemy accomplishes the same thing -- if you believe they aren't really human, well then, you can do just about any old thing you want to them.

I'm also reminded of those classic experiments-gone-wrong that we learned about in Introductory Psychology, as what NOT to do in a psychological study. There was the one where two groups were put into a fake prison. One group was the guards, the other the prisoners. The guards were given total authority over the prisoners, and within days they were mistreating the prisoners, who nearly rioted, and the experiment had to be called off. In the other, an authoritative person in a lab coat stood over the subject, who believed that a person behind a screen was the real subject, and he was supposed to deliver increasingly strong electrical shocks to make the "subject" learn something (the bogus "subject" wasn't really getting shocked, but was faking he part). The vast majority of people would proceed with the experiment, even when they heard the "subject" scream, and even when the dial on the shocking machine was set beyond the level marked "dangerous," so long as the authoritative person told them to do so. Only a small handful refused to proceed with the experiment.

So there's something hardwired in our brains that sets these torture events in motion, and it's social systems that help us rise above these base instincts. A pity that the current administration chooses not to rise, but to sink to the level of their reptilian brainstems.

#94 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:55 PM:

Scott H: Auschwitz

#95 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 06:05 PM:

Sometimes post come in before a person has finished typing a reply. As I type this the last reply above me is Xopher's 05:41 PM.

--------------

Anyway. The Ticking Bomb. The Slippery Slope. If it's okay to torture the guy who planted a bomb to find out where it is ... how about if you can't find him, but you have someone who knows where he is? How about someone who might know where he is? How about the wife of the cousin of the guy who might know where he is? That argument to necessity is infinitely expandable.

There are means of torture that don't break the skin (in fact, the Spanish Inquisition (mentioned above) was specifically forbidden to break the skin). I recall one, from the Dirty War in Argentina. In their endless drive to root out communists, or insurgents, or whatever it was they were looking for, more and more people were swept up. One method of torture was this: a parent would be put in a jail cell, and treated kindly; well fed, not physically abused in the slightest. Plenty of sleep, all the comforts of home. His or her child would be placed in a cell across the hall, close enough to talk, and would be allowed to starve to death in front of the parent's eyes. Unless the parent told the captors what they wanted to know, of course....

Not a lot of people stood up to that. People who knew nothing (and that was most of them, snatched up because someone else had named them in order to make the torture stop) would soon be naming accomplices and confessing to all manner of bizarre crimes. But not a mark on them that a medical examiner would be able to find.

Since they were confessed criminals, they could then be executed. Neat and clean. That's how torture works. That's what Bush and Cheney and Gonzales and Rumsfeld want Americans to do.

#96 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 06:29 PM:

Torture one man, and you'll see thousands who identify with him sign up to fight you. Even if you get relevant information from that one man, it will soon be irrelevant as thousands of new recruits fight you.

The Boston Massacre involved the death of five civilians, for gods sake, but those five deaths were percieved as so wrong that it became a rallying cry against the British and even gained indirect mention in the Declaration of Independence. Wars start over this.

And if a "war" has already started, this sort of frightened stupidity will only throw a match in the magazine. I swear, the next f'ing moron who says "they hate us because of our freedom" is getting strapped to a waterboard and freedom-dunked. No one hates us because of our freedom, they hate us because we don't treat them as human. And right now, they're 100 percent right.

#97 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 06:31 PM:

the current administration chooses not to rise, but to sink

In this case, I think they're actually pushing...

#98 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 06:35 PM:

That's what Bush and Cheney and Gonzales and Rumsfeld want Americans to do.

Yes, precisely. They know the answers; they have the retaliation planned.

Intel which does not support their pre-determined position is by definition false.

#99 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 06:38 PM:

Suggesting torture to find
Ticking bombs and enemy bases?
Let us bring to mind
The dangers of edge cases.

#100 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 06:41 PM:

I just wanted to note that dehumanizing the enemy doesn't have to turn into an immediate rush to abandon all morality. The training propaganda Dad got in WW2 is heavy on the inhumanity and general monstrousness of the Nazis and Japs. It's also got a very strong emphasis on "So we're going to show them how real men fight a war for decent values." But then of course the Roosevelt administration wasn't led by cowardly bullies.

#101 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 06:42 PM:

If it won't work on you, why the hell would it work on the other guy?

Why, because the other guy is clearly of an inferior race, probably even a girlie-man. To which one could say "how come then that a bunch of ragheads can still trouble thousands of well-trained America's finest boys, hiding behind all sort of state-of-the-art technological weaponry... for more than 3 years?" But I digress...

The point is, torture works internally: as a way to completely compromise who takes part in it (that will then be desperately bound to fight to justify his actions in a victorious end), and to scare the "home front" as pointed out earlier.

If I could get GWB on the phone now, I'd propose a nicer way to solve all this mess: the Europeans and South-Americans will leave the USA team free to win the FIFA World Cup, and you promise not to invade any country anymore and stop this torture nonsense. We know you do it just for envy, because you are shi*e at the most popular sport in the world, and you have to steam off your frustation. To willingly lose the World Cup is the ultimate sacrifice for us but hey, it would be worth it...

#102 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 06:47 PM:

OK, so Fear leads to violence leads to torture and other inhumane actions against the percieved enemy. Inhumane treatment of the percieved enemy acts as a recruiting poster for the enemy's cause. If they didn't hate us before, they hate us now. This feeds on itself until it spirals completely out of control.

So, how to break the loop?

First idea, anyone who advocates inhumane treatment of anyone should be called a coward loud and clear, because they're acting out of fear. Courage isn't false bravado, beating of chests, proving how tough you are, and proving that you're willing to do anything to the enemy. That's simply covering up the fear that runs them. If nothing else, maybe calling them a "cowared" might snap them out of it. I don't think empathy will. At least not at first. But anyone who sacrifices all of their principles out of fear is a coward. If that gets their attention, then maybe you can try some empathy. If not, they might not convert anyway...

Second, the word "terrorism" is complete self-fullfilling-prophecy. It isn't terrorism is you're not succumbing to terror. It isn't terrorism if you're not so gripped by fear that you can't think rationally. Any good one-word terms that could replace "terrorism"? Ideally, they wouldn't involve any root words such as "terror" or "fear" or the like. It is terrorism if you think they can wipe out the whole existence of the United States. They can't. But if you believe they can and succumb to that fear, then you're no good for finding a solution. Given that clear-headed thinking is needed to deal with this sort of BS, a word that doesn't invoke the sort of non-clear-headed thinking might be helpful.

Think of it as the "I will not succumb to fear" campaign. And part of it is by renaming "terrorism" to something not fear based.

If terrorism is a coward's term, what would a courageous person call it?

#103 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 06:51 PM:

Terry wrote:

Auschwitz

Yes, Auschwitz was very evil, and no mistake. But isn't saying that "Auschwitz is more evil than torture" kind of like saying "murder is more evil than homicide?"

Don't bother to reply. This time I'm just being an asshole.

#104 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 08:06 PM:

Imagining that torture works as advertised on television for a moment:

If the only case we're interested in is the Ticking Atom Bomb of Doom, wouldn't a real movie hero torture the bad guy and save the city even though it's illegal, throw his badge at his boss afterwards and take his chances in court?

Dirty Harry did that just to try and save one girl, shouldn't a real tough guy do as much to save a city?

If we're only worried about the edge cases, we don't need legal torture. Legal torture is for routine use only.

#105 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 08:10 PM:

Jim, you wrote the post I would have tried to write, and you even used an example I was thinking of, only, God forgive us, I didn't know it had actually been used in Argentina...

We aren't having a debate. I don't think one can debate this. Torture is wrong; using it turns you into a monster. And to those who pose the inevitable hypothetical -- What if by using torture you could save the person you love most in the world certain pain, or death... to them I say; I pray I would have the strength to resist temptation, and whether or not I have that strength, torture is still wrong.

#106 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 08:16 PM:

Greg --

Fear leads to stupid.

Stupid throws you back on your reflexes and your training.

Authoritarian corporate structures create reflexes, and provide training, in being cowardly and vindictive, because this is more effective than being courageous and magnanimous.

The unfortunate individuals responsible for this pattern of mandated atrocity really believe management by attrocity is effective, because it matches their experience, and they're generalizing -- badly, way too far -- from their experience.

They then develop a burning, petulant fury at reality for failing to conform to their expectations.

The fix is more obvious, real stuff in all aspects of education, corporate life, and public life; a general ban on advertising (a machine for creating, if not fear, general insecurity); and the creation of mechanisms of general accountability in corporations. (The organic drive for which explains much about the expansion of HR departments over the last 30 years or so.)

#107 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 08:27 PM:

I think the point has been made, and made repeatedly by more eloquent persons than myself, that the purpose of torture is not to get information. It is to terrorise the subject population. That it never works in the long run is irrelevant to the 'realists' making policy; they 'know' that 'this time' is different from all previous times, and torture will work. Of course, that it is directly opposite everything that they claim to stand for is irrelevant, after all they're dealing in 'reality' not 'technicalities'.

The actual fact is that those who talk about 'reality' (or, more precisely, about creating realities while those of us in the 'reality-based community' study what they do) simply mean what Wordsworth called

the good old way, the simple plan,
That they should take who have the power,
And they should keep who can.

That is contemptible, and the advocates of torture are a standing insult to the people who established this republic and those who sought to achieve the ideals inherent in its foundation.

As Machiavelli put it 'This barbarian domination [barbaro dominio] stinks to everyone!'

#108 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 08:29 PM:

The fix is more obvious, real stuff in all aspects of education, corporate life, and public life; a general ban on advertising (a machine for creating, if not fear, general insecurity); and the creation of mechanisms of general accountability in corporations.

Yeah, well, maybe so, but I would have been happy to get a better word for "terrorism" than "terrorism". Then I was thinking of creating a webpage/tshirt/bumpersticker and selling copies on cafepress. I don't exactly see how I can outlaw all advertising, for example, or change the laws to enact complete corporate responsibility, but I do know how to slap a webpage together. I figure a tiny bit of actual progress is better than a great idea that gets no progress. Sometimes, I just have to do something, even if its a little thing.

#109 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 08:51 PM:

First idea, anyone who advocates inhumane treatment of anyone should be called a coward loud and clear, because they're acting out of fear.

That is right on.

They are also acting out of incompetence; they can't figure out how to get intelligence and protect America, so they torture people and screw things up even worse.

Another reason for campaigning loudly against torture is that people committing atrocities and hate crimes need to feel that they have at least the tacit support of their communities. We need to take that away from them. I would highly recommend David Neiwert's writing for examples of how to deal with hate crimes and right-wing extremists.

#110 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 09:11 PM:

I see the following scenario happening sometime within the next 5 years:

1) Abu Ghraib-style torture scandal
2) Lower-level flunkies court-martialed
3) Testimony of higher-ranking officers to the effect of, "We would NEVER have ordered that, it's against the Geneva Convention, to which the US is signatory."
4) Lower-level flunkies: "What Geneva Covention? It doesn't mention that in the manual!"
5) Prosecutor: "There's a lot of things that aren't in the manual, boy. Ignorance of the law is no excuse."

IOW, what's just been put in place is a way to give the upper echelons plausible deniability. They can never be held accountable again.

#111 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 09:40 PM:

Off-topic, but related: some clever buggers in the Justice Department have figured out how to get around freedom of the press in order to prosecute reporters for printing classified information, by applying a WW I era law that was never meant to apply to such a case. Arlen Specter commented something to the effect that Congress hadn't intended that law to be so used, and went on to suggest that perhaps the current Congress needed to clarify its intent by writing some new law. Bet he made the A-G really unhappy. I don't expect anything to come of it (see Congress, balls, lack of) but we can hope...

#112 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 10:03 PM:

One of my favorite textbooks is _Cases and Comments on Criminal Justice_ by Inbau and Sowle. I was therefore pleased when my husband got me _Criminal Interrogations and Confessions_ by Inbau and Reid. This, he assured me, is the police bible on interrogations.

Its key point is that you must show sympathy, understanding, and even agreement with your interrogatee, if you want to get any good results. This is quite the opposite of torture, isn't it? And Inbau is so respected. Gee.


People have remarked that Cheney seems fond of the notion of torture. Okay. What I cannot forget is that I was listening to (but not watching) Bush when the topic of Abu Ghraib first broke. What I heard was: "I'd never seen *those* pictures before."

Maybe I'm wrong about the emphasis.

#113 ::: aries75 ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 10:05 PM:

It is terrorism if you think they can wipe out the whole existence of the United States.

The neocons would say: "Of course they can, if we let liberal surrender-monkeys have their way. The islamofascists will get nuclear weapons and wipe us off the face of the earth."

But if you believe they can and succumb to that fear, then you're no good for finding a solution.

Neocons would simply call that denial and say you refuse to recognize the threat.

Given that clear-headed thinking is needed to deal with this sort of BS, a word that doesn't invoke the sort of non-clear-headed thinking might be helpful.

Remember all the crap John Kerry took when he made the remarks of trying to reduce terrorism to a "nuisance?" So, even if you succeed in coming up with a more rational, non-emotive word, every right-winger will accuse you of being clueless and denying the problem (thereby portraying any politician with such a view as being "unfit" to govern).

Again, I'm just trying to explain why the neocon/Karl Rove strategy succeeded - they reduced the entire issue to "kill or be killed." How can a woman *not* feel fear if she's vividly imagining herself under a Taliban-style regime's thumb? Of course she's going to say, do whatever you have to to prevent that from happening. Even though GWB's "we're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here" was complete BS, people fell for it because it was nothing more than "we have to kill them before they kill us."

And until the Democrats come up with an equally effective and compelling comeback to the above, they're doomed to lose.

#114 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 10:13 PM:

I think that this is something that Terry Karney above could cover better, with more professional examples, but here goes.

What is the alternative to torture? Talking. Lots and lots of talking. It takes time but it works if you know what you are doing.

In a previous life I was a small city radio news director. I worked a lot of copshop, if for no reason that it's easy to beat a local newspaper on those stories, especially if the newspaper isn't trying too hard anymore. Some of the time I hung around with investigators with a pretty good track record, some from prosecutor's offices, some police, some FBI, and a fire marshal that may have been the best of the bunch. Much of the time spent covering those stories was spent waiting around for something to happen, standing around at a crime scene for a couple of hours, for example.* I would bat things around with the investigators while the scene was being worked up and I would ask how they solved cases.

Basically it came down to talking to everybody, and making sure you wrote everything down. You find out as much as you can, you try not to get ahead of your evidence, and you keep asking questions, and comparing the answers to everything you know already. A lot of skill and experience goes into knowing who to ask, and what to ask. You find out what doesn't fit, and start asking more questions, working through what may be mistakes or lies. It takes time, but it can work with some of the most initally resistant people, if you are patient and smart.

What this bunch wants with coercive questioning is not accuracy, but speed. They're not worried about a ticking bomb, they are worried about the news cycle, about looking good at their next evaluation or election. Just get the answers, now because it looks bad if we take too long. Truth requires patience -- truthiness takes no time at all.

* (Which pays off, by the way. One of my best stories, beating the local paper by a full day, came from waiting and watching that fire marshal work a torched supermarket with a hydrocarbon sniffer until he found the evidence he was looking for. The paper hit the streets with the news that the fire was "possibly suspicious" two hours after I had already broadcast that it was definitely arson, with sound. Sweet.)

#115 ::: Temperance ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 10:38 PM:

Has anyone thought of the implications for our own captured troops in another war, in another place, ten or twenty years from now, if our foe of that moment decides to follow our own field manual?

Anonymous Coward pointed out that the Rethugs don't believe it can happen to us 'Murkans. That certainly can be true, but I think their belief is even worse: if any American troops get captured, they'll just be losers who deserve whatever happens to them. Like Stalin at the end of WWII, ordering the Russians who'd been Nazi POWs into the gulags, or the Japanese soldiers who thought that surrender made them cowards.

#116 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 10:48 PM:

Reality is bigger than the neocons. It will kick their asses.

Unfortunately, the rest of us are going to get kicked too.

Meanwhile, on interrogation, y'all might like to read the interrogation scenes in some of Ann Rule's true-crime books.

The cops get all kinds of good admissions by saying things like "Gee, you really had us fooled. How did you do that?" and the suspect, with a smile on his face and a tape-recorder running, explains in great detail exactly how he did it. Or, in other cases, the cops say, "Gee, that was dumb. How did you expect to get away with that?" and the suspect, as before, earnestly describes all the clever elements that the cops missed.

And the cops sit and listen to the most appalling things, smiling, offering soda pop, and being the suspect's friends.

#117 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 11:35 PM:

I've found at work that I get the best explanations of things by asking 'dumb' questions. They like explaining things to people that they think don't understand - whether or not you actually understand is immaterial. It figures that it's the best way to get information out of anyone.

#118 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 12:40 AM:

Greg London: [..] I would have been happy
to get a better word for "terrorism" than "terrorism".

Thuggery? "Violent or brutal acts as of thugs."

No connotations of "viva la resistance" there.


#119 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 01:12 AM:

Claude Muncey: Yeah, that's the gist of it. Talk to people. Be as sympathetic as needed. Don't close off hope of the situation in which they find themselves getting better. If you have to play on their fears give them an out, show them how talking to you can help.

It takes time, it takes practice, sometimes it takes being nice to people you'd rather take out behind the tent and beat to a mushy pulp, but give in to that last, in the least amount, and the jig is up.

The reason I say not to talk to cops unless a lawyer is present, is that the lawyer has a remove, and will keep you from "helping" yourself into a cell.

K Hunt: I forgot to say that the guy who is obviously in the know (say me, as an interrogator, or the NCO in charge of keeping track of what we thought was going on in the battlefield), doesn't know all that much. If it's something really important he will only know about it if he is directly involved (this is why I think the prosecution of Massaoui was flawed, they didn't prove to me he was in the know [there has been too much presented to him, he had several incentives to lie, not the least of which is he believed {and not without reason} that it was a show trial, in which case he might as well get hanged with a public declaration as not, but I digress]) because compartmentalising the information keeps it safe.

All: The reason so many people advocate torture is they think they will break; and (this is the important part) they think no one can get them to confess to things they didn't do, ergo; the same set of assumptions (which aren't true, but how will they find out, until they get tortured) apply to "bad guys."

I made a jesting comment that the way to prevent this sort of shit was to make those who were in the chain of authorization for the various methods of questioning certify them every year; and that such certification required that the methods be applied to them, and the person applying them wasn't to know who they were. The subject wasn't to know how long the interrogation was to last; merely that it would meet the legal definitions of, "Not Torture."

Other than that...

p.s. Scott: No, I don't think you are being an asshole (any more than my semi-flip answer was assholey) the problem is that all things can be defined as torture, for some level of torure, if the means are at all punitive. And murder is worse than homicide, that's why we make a distinction. At some other time we can go into just why I think the camps were worse than systemic torture; though part of it has to do with the mechanization of torture in the ancillary systems, and in the non-death camps.

I might also include most forms of slavery in the definitions. Suttee also comes to mind, as well as sacrificial burial.

#120 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 02:07 AM:

There was an interesting, if spine-chilling, pair of interviews in New Scientist some months back. One was with the head of Israeli interrogation. He said that they did not use torture, because it did not work - for the reasons that Terry has so eloquently explained on more than one occasion. He in fact said words to the effect of torture is what you use to get the answers you want, not to get the right answers. There were much more effective ways of getting actual *intelligence* (and he decribed very similar things to what Terry has described in the past).

And the other interview was with one of his victims, who confirmed everything he said. Who more or less said that she was ashamed of herself for giving in, because he had not hurt her, had not even threatened her in any serious way, but had simply persuaded her that they already knew most of it, so what harm was there in telling him.

I think that anyone who wants to say that the head of Israeli interrogation is a weak liberal surrender-monkey has *serious* problems with reality.

#121 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 02:18 AM:

I'm thinking more and more that the Bush administration was made by casting Disney villains as the principal actors...starring "Robin Hood's" Prince John as George W. Bush, co-starring Urseala the Sea Witch as Dick Cheney, Shere Khan as Donald Rumsfeld, Kaa as Karl Rove, Frollo as Alberto Gonzales, and special guest appearance by Malificent as Condoleeza Rice."

Of course Disney villains have a lower bodycount and can be banished with an appropriate musical number, unlike the current situation.

#122 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 03:08 AM:

Julia Jones: If one reads The Interrogator by Hans Scharff, one finds out that if one speaks with a declared interrogator, one still gives up information, even if one thinks nothing was revealed.

I recall having a chat with someone who found out what I do, she asked me what I had learned about her. I cast my mind back across the conversation, and told her. She was shocked. I'd not actually practised on her, but the act of the talking to her, in a "get to know you" context meant I had done some things (repeat questions, testing of information for consistency, follow up questions to get more detail, and over the course of about an hour) which have become sort of second nature in information getting situations (that I used to be a reporter has something to do with it too).

Those things (and the training in psychology, as well as the practical application of it, over years) meant that I'd built a fairly accurate picture of things she thought were hidden from the world.

Part of the reason the Isreali Supreme Court outlawed the "ticking bomb" justification for the IDF using "coercive" questioning in the field was that it became too plastic a definition. Everyone might know something which would lead to someone who was an immediate threat.

But the people in charge now know better than I, or the head of Israel's interrogators, or the courts in Israel (who got a brief from the General Staff saying they thought the justifications were poor, and that they were in favor of ruling against the practice).

#123 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 07:27 AM:

The reason so many people advocate torture is they think they will break

Good point, especially if that "they" is applied to the "torture supporters". It might be that torture-supporters know that, put under duress, they will crumble, no matter how much is at stake or how "holy" the cause is. In short, they know they are weaker than they should.

Sorry, I don't want to sound like an Al-Qaeda recruiter or anything... but the truth of history is that quite often the most brutal people, as soon as they find themselves on the bad side of abusive violence, become the weakest crying little lambs. The strongest people, those really inspired by faith in Men and Justice (Gandhi, the original christians, etc) did not fear physical pain, so they recognised that violence would have been useless to defeat adversaries as strong as they were. If contemporary political leaders were as strong and faithful as they state to be, and they feared the "fanatism" on the other side is as intense as they state ti to be, they probably wouldn't promote such practices.

This reasoning is not the opposite of what I said earlier, but I think it complements it quite well. I wish I had some good books on the psychology of sadism...

#124 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 08:38 AM:

How long before the 20th Century tradition of the torturers wearing those nifty black-and-white parade uniforms is revived.

Well, silver rather than white. But black-and-white seems to fit the simple-minded view of the world that's involved.

Images of Herr Flick of the Gestapo, however much mockery they involve, are a small comfort.

#125 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 09:51 AM:

Terry: certify them every year; and that such certification required that the methods be applied to them, and the person applying them wasn't to know who they were.

heh. That is what I call quality control. Interrogate the interrogaters. Alice interrogates Bob and can never know if Bob is a terrorist or a certifier. Or for Alice to get certified, she must get interrogated by another interrigator.

I recall a story (urban legend?) of a commander at an airborne unit. They had a small group that would pack the static line chutes for everyone else. His approach to quality control was to go into the packing group at random times, grab all the packers, hand them a parachute they had just packed, then have them jump out of an airplane with that chute. If that doesn't keep you on your game, I don't know what does.

hm, it's almost like enforced empathy, in a way, actually having the person put themselves in someone else's shoes. Or in this case, chute. Same with the interrogator certification idea. I like it.

#126 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 09:52 AM:

So there's something hardwired in our brains that sets these torture events in motion, and it's social systems that help us rise above these base instincts.

I don't believe that it is hardwired, personally. IMO, it's our social systems that train us to abuse others.

On a separate note, has anybody ever been accused of torture and used the defense of "I was doing it for the good of my country/to obtain useful information" in a court of law? People go around saying that in theory it might be necessary to use torture, but is that really a valid defense?

#127 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 10:02 AM:

I'm just trying to explain why the neocon/Karl Rove strategy succeeded

And until the Democrats come up with an equally effective and compelling comeback to the above, they're doomed to lose.

They've succeeded so far because whenever someone tries to get out of fear mode, they push the argument back down to fear. There is no comeback to fear other than courage. Everything you list is simply re-invoking their fear based arguments. Kill or be killed is base fear. If you engage the argument but ignore the fact that it is fear based, you are simply playing into their hand. Courage is the only way to get out of this mess. You don't want a comeback to "kill or be killed". You want to tell them they're cowards, point out the fear they're handing out, and get out of that mode.

If courage cannot be reclaimed, then fear will win. But if courage can be reclaimed, then fear becomes irrelevant. That is the point of courage, to think and act clearly in spite of the presence of fear, to maintain your principles in spite of the presence of fear.

If you feel fear but can still think, then you can win. If you feel fear and panic, freeze, or blindly lash out at everyone around you, you will lose.

This won't convert everyone, but that doesn't matter, what matters is getting enough people out of their fear that they don't fall for the tricks that the fear mongers keep using.

#128 ::: aries75 ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 10:04 AM:

As someone else pointed out earlier, if the goal is to intimidate dissenters, torture works (hence its never-ending use by totalitarian governments). If the goal is to extract useful information, it doesn't - what you need are sophisticated psychological techniques. But *can* those techniques fall under the heading of "humiliating and degrading treatment"? Defining physical torture is easy, but where would you draw the line on psychological methods?

#129 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 10:10 AM:

Thuggery? "Violent or brutal acts as of thugs."

Rob, I was hoping for something a little more formal, like something you might hear on the evening news.

"Police arrested a group of suspected (blank) today"

"Thug" meets the definition, but not the tone.

Cripes, there seems to be a gaping hole in the english language right here.

Anarchists?
Militants?

None of them quite do it.

"Mercenary" has the right tone, but doesn't meet the exact definition.

#130 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 10:29 AM:

Greg --

That's standard policy for airborne unit chute packers everywhere that the paratroop doesn't pack their own chute.

One of the interesting side effects is that the chute packers -- who in most cases have to be paratroop-qualified themselves -- get the most jumps, which can affect pay and promotions.

Aries75 --

The effective interrogation techniques, as noted repeatedly upthread, involve being nice to the individual you're interrogating.

Unless you decide that leaving that individual with the knowledge that they told you significant information is itself unacceptable psychological trauma -- at which point you never interrogate anyone -- it's hard to see what the objection might be.

#131 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 10:45 AM:

Earlier this year, the Sundance Channel showed the movie The Battle of Algiers, which is the movie the Army decided to sponsor a special showing of in August 2003, and which they should have made the current administration watch (with their eyes taped open, a la A Clockwork Orange, if necessary) in early October 2001.

In order to break the Algierian resistance movement in the 1950s, the French used torture, excuse me, non-fatal, non-maiming means of interrogation, in order to get the information they needed to track down the various members of resistance groups. They did manage to get enough useful information to do the job, although God alone knows how many people who weren't resistance fighters or active supporters were also arrested and subjected to whatever punishments the very frustrated French could come up with. Many, such as Paul Aussaresses, one of the men who carried this policy out, would claim that this was a success. However, within a very few years, all of the Algerian independence groups, including those who'd wanted to let their case be handled by the UN and avoid violence, were prepared to support an armed resistance. The French lost Algeria, and as part of the collateral damage, there was an attempted military coup, the Fourth Republic fell, the French military became tainted as a whole by the actions of a few, and there were large units that had to be disbanded. The French people of the late 1950s and early 1960s remembered the German occupation in World War II, and many weren't all that happy with the thought of being a nation of torturers.

I have a collection of links about both the film and the actual Algerian War for Independence
here in my Livejournal.
Better yet, make an effort to see the movie. You won't like it, but you should see it anyway. I think it should be standard, required viewing for anyone involved in the US military, civilian or uniform, or in setting foreign policy. I'd throw in the Justice Department and Congress, as well, at this point.

Even in those rare instances where you can get anything useful from torture in the short-term, it is a colossal strategic error, and if we are to successfully fight terrorism, we must fight it strategically. Not only do most of the civilian members of this administration lack military training and experience, those who do have that in their backgrounds, like Rumsfeld, have not generally seen service at a level where their training shifted from operations at a tactical level, to those where strategic, or grand strategic planning was involved. Colin Powell, for all his faults and errors, did have this background--and you saw how much notice they took of his opinions.

#132 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 10:48 AM:

Aries75: The question you raise is the hard one. Geneva prohibits, Just where that line is drawn is a difficult question. The truth of the matter, there is a whole lot of stuff (playing on ego, loves and hates) which isn't anywhere near coercion.

That stuff is more along the line of minor taunting, or ego stroking. For the love/hate approaches, it's just following the source lead.

The reason those things (and some of the ones which play on fear) are legal is they aren't really threatening the source with things that aren't legitimate repercussions (and yes, some of that is casuistinc reasoning, because telling someone they might end up in worse conditions if they don't talk to us, even if true, puts pressure on them, but it's a fine line).

Greg I hadn't actually thought about it that far. I was seeing the Millers, the Cambones, the Rumsfelds, the Pappas, etc., getting water-boarded, and enduring, "the stand-up" (which Rumsfeld thinks is as nothing, because he spends 8-10 hours a day on his feet. He, mind you, can move around, he isn't limited to the spot on which his feet are resting, but I digress).

The story you tell about the airborne commander is half-legend, as you tell it.

It is, in fact, regulation, that any rigger has to be ready to jump any chute they've packed. One of my fellows in interrogation school was reclassing because he'd blown his knees and so he couldn't jump anymore, and thus couldn't rig.

He told a story of having a couple of special forces guys come into the shop and ask for three chutes he'd packed. Then they took him, and the chutes, and went on a flight. They todl him to jump, and so far as he knows, watched his chute open, and then flew to where-ever it was they were going, secure in the knowledge that their chutes would open.

#133 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 10:52 AM:

Further important reading on the problems here at home with coercive interrogation can be found at Professor Alan Hirsch's The Truth About False Confessions.

#134 ::: aries75 ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 10:57 AM:

and yes, some of that is casuistinc reasoning, because telling someone they might end up in worse conditions if they don't talk to us, even if true, puts pressure on them, but it's a fine line

That's what I was thinking of. I remember reading of a case (wish I could remember the site) where this Irish right-wing extremist was being questioned by police/military types. What they did was get a large, scary-looking black officer t to just stand and stare at the guy - no specific verbal threats. The extremist quickly "cracked."

Now, would something like that violate the "spirit" of the Geneva conventions? What about the classic good cop/bad cop technique?

#135 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 11:03 AM:

"You don't want a comeback to "kill or be killed". You want to tell them they're cowards, point out the fear they're handing out, and get out of that mode."

Remind them, I suppose, that courage is a virtue to be proud of. It is hard to get people to deal appropriately with the shame of being wrong in a major matter.

#136 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 11:05 AM:

"Mercenary" has the right tone, but doesn't meet the exact definition.

I'm still pushing for "pirates."

#137 ::: aries75 ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 11:23 AM:

I'm still pushing for "pirates."

Won't work. Already taken by the RIAA to describe 12-yr-olds who download music :P

#138 ::: Nikki ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 11:57 AM:

Greg: How about 'bullies'?

You are so so right about the only come-back to fear being courage. I was in London on July 7th last year. Sirens, no traffic, no phone communication, only rumour. Nobody in my building knew what was happening. I finished teaching my lesson. All my colleagues finished teaching their lessons. At lunchtime we all milled about downstairs, getting what news we could from the receptionist's computer. My boss suggested we all went home for the rest of the day, before the traffic stopped completely. One of my colleagues' father worked right next to where one of the bombs went off. She tried to ring him, couldn't get through, said, "Oh well, I'll found out when I get home, I suppose." I'm sure my colleague was terrified that her father had been hurt; I know she went back to the other offices in London Bridge and carried on teaching through the afternoon - because she wanted to.

Outside there weren't many people; we were right by Waterloo Station. There were policeman everywhere. All the buses were pulled over. The Tube was halted. Those of us who had to get across London to a mainline station started to walk. I went into Waterloo. Crowds of people, totally calm, perhaps a little more silent than usual, waiting to find out if the trains were running. There was even a queue at the information desk.

People talked to each other on the train home (unusual), and said things like, "This is a nuisance, isn't it? I was meant to be going to a job interview today." Train guards checking bags arrived diffidently and asked politely if they could check the bags.

A lot of people stayed home on the 8th - an unexpected day off. The next week, going into work, you could sense the fear. But in every little act, an act like just getting on your usual train at your usual time, refusing to allow some stupid bully to dictate your life, thank you very much, you were doing your own little bit to stop the bullies winning. In carrying on, you weren't giving way to fear. You weren't letting them win.

I don't mean to imply that everyone did this or that this was a uniform response or even a comprehensive and deep response (it must have been fear that led to the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, surely). But it was there, and it helped people to carry on normally.

And I imagine it would be there in most places hit by an attack of that kind.


#139 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 12:08 PM:

I remember reading of a case (wish I could remember the site) where this Irish right-wing extremist was being questioned by police/military types. What they did was get a large, scary-looking black officer to just stand and stare at the guy - no specific verbal threats. The extremist quickly "cracked."

Aries: that was my anecdote (can't remember where I posted it) - it was a regular infantry battalion in Ulster in the 70s that took advantage of a) the Ulstermen's virulent racism (of the "darkies are cannibal apes" kind) and b) the presence in the battalion of a corporal of West Indian origin who was built like the side of a house.
Picked up a suspect, put him in a cell on his own for half an hour with the corporal, stripped to the waist, standing against the door staring at him. Took the corporal out and sent in a nice well-spoken white intelligence officer. Suspects were so pleased to see a friendly face that they spilled their guts.

The Army also did something similar in the Falklands, after army intelligence learned that the Argentinian soldiers believed the Gurkhas to be cannibals - just put one Gurkha in charge of a group of Argentinian PWs, and they were quiet as mice.

Is it against the letter or spirit of Geneva? Heaven knows.

#140 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 12:09 PM:

Son of a... synonym.com says that "terrorist" doesn't have any synonyms. WTF?

"a radical who employs terror as a political weapon"

well gawdammit, if they don't actually succeed at employing terror, but they set off a bomb or do some violent act, what the heck do you call them?

Someone call webster, there's a hole in his dictionary...

#141 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 12:54 PM:

Greg:

I like 'gangster' as a synonym for 'terrorist'. Pirate works, too, except that piracy has strong acquisitive/commercial overtones for me, whereas a gangster is someone I associate with a pattern of one person or a small group forcing control over a larger group of basically law-abiding people.

Although most gangs have a commercial aspect (thievery, drug sales, prostitution) they don't have to; their prime reason for being can also be social solidarity and mutual ego boosterism.

Transferring that general framework to a terrorist cell is easy: the cell is a group of people who have banded together for the express purpose of increasing their own power in society. They may have failed to achieve such power legitimately, or they may be too impatient to work for it, or their particular views may be so unpopular that they feel they must take extreme measures to achieve them, or... you get the drift.

Thinking of terrorists as gangsters helps me put them in perspective to the rest of society in terms of numbers and self-interest--and methods.

Thoughts?

#142 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 01:27 PM:

Greg London:

My recommendation? Stop calling them "terrorists" and call them what they are by any definition -- "criminals."

By calling them terrorist, you glamorize what they do and are, and give them political standing.

We have enough laws on the books to take care of those who do harm to others...there is no need to create a special classification for them.

#143 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 01:38 PM:

This quote, from a speech made to Parliament by the Right Honourable Member for Epping on the 4th June 1940, seems to me to show how far the USA has fallen.

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail.

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

And the New World did come.

#144 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 01:41 PM:

The Ghurka/West Indian aren't against the letter of Geneva. Anything more than The big four (name, service number,date of birth and rank) can be seen as against the spirit, by someone.

Geneva allows detaining powers to question prisoners. If the guard didn't say anything threatening, didn't do anything, overtly threatening, then there isn't a violation.

Fact. The Brits smack prisoners around. In Desert Storm we took advatange of this (because we didn't) and so being nice to people meant they would talk to us. There was a general who had been treated like a private, for days, by the people who captured him. We got him, and then treated him like an officer. He talked.

Good cop/bad cop is legit. You are allowed to lie to them (just like cops) so long as you don't actually threaten them (pointing out that if they stick to this story someone might decide to turn them over to "x" isn't a "threat"). What constitutes a threat?

Overt promise of negative effect. Saying that they won't get to eat as often, or will be put in an unheated barracks, that's a violation. Saying they will be shot as a spy, that's a violation.

This weekend I was at an excercise. I was translating an interrogation (russian/english, and vice versa). That was three tough hours. One of the problems was the interrogators not being trained yet (this was a good opportunity to show them how it works, and my taking over to just do the thing, in Russian, would have taught them nothing, how I was awake enough to parse that on two hours of sleep {I was tapped on the shoulder at 0100) and a long day, with only four hours of sleep the night before, and something like six the night before that,)I don't know.

The source was scared of someone. He was afraid 1: they were going to kill him, and 2: that there was nothing we could do for him.

One of the interrogators started to say, "We can do far worse things to you than anyone you might be afraid of."

I shut him up. Dragged him to the side, and told him that was 1: the wrong way to go (fear up, harsh) and 2: a Geneva violation.

With a bit of nudging I was able to show them how to play nice, draw out what he was afraid of and get what little he knew (he was the runner for his brother's gun running scheme).

Me, I could have done it in about an hour, at most. Because I could see the leads. Most people will give you great big clues to what they need to feel good about talking. They are convinced that talking about it will make it better, if they can make you see how they were forced to do whatever it was.

If they are just prisoners (not suspected of anything criminal) they want to talk, to get it out of their system, to share the horror of being captured with someone. In that conversation I can get them talking about what happened, and then get them onto things more meaningful.

Once they realise they have given up information, they just give up. They think they have been outthought, compromised and shamed. It's rare for them to come to enough resolution (right then) to stop.

Nikki: On That Tuesday, Maia and I went to the Los Angeles County Fair. We had been working in the milking demonstration and we thought (rightly so) that no one was going to show up. Now, cleaning up after the cows could have waited, but the milking couldn't. The cows didn't know, nor did it matter if they did, that the world had been knocked cock-a-hoo, they had full udders.

That may have been one of the best things I've done. A simple act of saying, "I won't let this shit stop the world. I shan't cower at home."

I got called into the armory later in the afternoon, and I went, but that was easier than driving to the dairy. That was going to something expected of me.

Roosevelt said it, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." It wasn't until I saw fear being used in the way it's been used lately that it made perfect sense to me.

#145 ::: Nikki ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 01:49 PM:

Terry: Exactly.

#146 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 02:00 PM:

call them what they are by any definition -- "criminals."

it's accurate, but too generic. what kind of criminal? When the news reports that the authorities picked up 17 guys with bomb making material, or plots to hijack a plane, or cause some other physical attack, the headline won't read "Criminals nabbed!" If it says "Terrorists nabbed", you know what kind of people were picked up, but you get the invocation of terror by its name.

Jim wants "pirate", but this is basically "land pirates" or pirates on land and sea, so even that has problems.

I keep looking through synonym dictionaries, and I'm surprised how there is no other word for these sorts of people.

'stateless civilians committing war crimes' is accurate, doesn't use the word terror or fear, but is too freaken long.

gawd this sucks.

#147 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 02:09 PM:

Greg, my suspicion is that you won't find a word that one can use in a simple replacement for "terrorist" that won't end up sounding the same. It takes syntax: "The police arrested four people today on charges of attempting to blow up the dam.", or whatever.

#148 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 02:20 PM:

David, thank you for posting that. We need to be reminded from time to time that our leaders are pygmies standing on the shoulders of giants.

If anyone didn't know, that Member was later PM, Winston Churchill.

#149 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 02:33 PM:

Greg London: "There is no comeback to fear other than courage."

This strikes me as something that could be a terrific Democratic talking point. (Yeah, I hate talking points too, but they seem to be the only thing the press understands these days.) I mean, how can you respond to this? "No, I'm not courageous?"

OTOH, I don't like the use of the word anarchist as a synonym for terrorist. Anarchist has a more specific meaning, someone who advocates the abolition of all government.

Most of the interrogation techniques mentioned here seem to boil down to one thing -- people like to talk about themselves. (No, I don't have any special knowledge about this, except what I read in police procedurals.)

#150 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 02:49 PM:

On the courage issue:

It seems to me that weak people worry about whether or not they look strong, while strong people are free to worry about whether they are doing the right thing, with the corollary that if they find out they have done the wrong thing, they have the strength to try and make things right. The weak can't do this (or do I mean those who fear they are weak?) because they might not seem strong--as they see it.

#151 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 02:49 PM:

Does anybody remember the Outer Limits's episode Nightmare? Human soldiers have been captured by aliens who interrogate them, and torture them, and this goes on until the aliens tell the soldiers what's really going on: that they are working with the human military's top brass to find ways to protect humans if this ever happens for real.

But the very sinister-looking aliens call off the whole thing, revolted by what they've been forced to do, thus showing themselves to have more humanity in them than the humans.

#152 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 03:16 PM:

Lisa Goldstein : The problem is that we are being told we have not the courage to do the needful things to beat, "These People."

Our courage (to accept that terrorists will be able to attack us again, just as drunk drivers will be able to get behind the wheel and mobsters will be able to engage in rackets) is being called head in the sand cowardice and, appeasemnet.

That's the part I can't figure out how to combat. My being a combat vet, one of the guys who has been the arm of the blows they say we need to land hasn't sheilded me from being called a yellow-bellied, weak-livered fool, for saying the Law binds us all, and that we need to try live up to the ideals and standards we used to trumpet, that the treaties we signed mean something until we repudiate them and that I won't commit torture.

For the last, especially, have I been called a coward.

#153 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 03:27 PM:

my suspicion is that you won't find a word that one can use in a simple replacement for "terrorist" that won't end up sounding the same.

Terrorists try to invoke terror by violent means. Rather than naming them by the path of 'terror', there ought to be a name that labels their violent means.

"hijacker", "una-bomber", and other terms focused on the violence, but not the fear. The only problem is that those terms focus on specific types of violence such as hijacking or bombing. I'm looking for a generic name that covers any type of violence. maybe "insurgent"??

I'm not sold that "anarchists" wouldn't work. We're talking about stateless individuals, generally, who want to bring down a state. They may envision the eventual establishment of their version of a "perfect" state sometime down the road, but first, they have to destroy all current existing state governments.

#154 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 03:29 PM:

out of curiosity, does anyone here consider themselves an "anarchist"?

or does anyone have strong feelings against refering to "terrorists" by the label "anarchists"?

I think that might be the closest I can come up with. yes? no? Does it work for you?

#155 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 03:31 PM:

But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.

Churchill, again.

#156 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 03:54 PM:

Greg, I have been known to profess anarchism, though as a goal, not a means. And I have friends who are self-professed anarchists.

Besides, it's inaccurate and muddies the waters. Makes it too easy for the bad guys (the US Right, I mean) to throw stones at it.

#157 ::: Joe J ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 04:04 PM:

I would say it takes a great deal of courage to do the right thing at the risk of being called a coward. Many people don't understand that, I'm afraid.

#158 ::: Nikki ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 04:09 PM:

I think I may have anarchist tendencies...I'm not very good at following rules. If they're rational and sensible, yes. If not, no. But I don't hold to anarchism as a system, so I don't think I can be one.

I agree with Xopher that "anarchist" is a misleading term. Also surely if anarchist means terrorists, presumably the anti-Western kind (if you can have a kind of terrorist) they would, being anarchists, have to try to destroy their own institutions of government (not their actual ruling government, which they possibly do try to do!)? I don't see them doing that at all, in fact it seems that they want more government, not less.

Also I think that the anarchist position is generally predicated on not needing government for people to live happily together as a society, therefore, to advocate or use violence would be to negate their aim.

#159 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 04:16 PM:

I can't come up with a good synonym for "terrorist" either, but the closest phrase I can think of is "suicidal extremist". The willingness to blow oneself up, crash in a plane, etc., may be fueled by both a tendency toward self-sacrifice and visions of an afterlife of rewards. Martyrdom for a political/religious cause? Kamikazi motives (whatever those were, since I'm no expert)? Unlike other warriors, these folks know for sure they're going to die in the course of their action. That also sets them apart from pirates, thugs etc.

#160 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 04:31 PM:

Greg London wrote''

my suspicion is that you won't find a word that one can use in a simple replacement for "terrorist" that won't end up sounding the same.

Terrorists try to invoke terror by violent means. Rather than naming them by the path of 'terror', there ought to be a name that labels their violent means.

"hijacker", "una-bomber", and other terms focused on the violence, but not the fear. The only problem is that those terms focus on specific types of violence such as hijacking or bombing. I'm looking for a generic name that covers any type of violence. maybe "insurgent"?? .

I disagree with the idea that hijackers and the Unabomber were focusing on violence and not fear-hijackers and the unabomber were using fear as motivator--one of the reasons the advice before 9/11 about hijackers was to not fight the hijackers, was that hijackers were using a -threat- of violence to takeover, whereas fighting them, the FAA considered would incite hijackers to murder people--as opposed to threaten people with murder if they didn't cooperate. The Unabomber was senting bombs through the mail, he intent was threatening "if you people don't do what I want I'm going to continue sending exploding letters out."

The 9/11 hijackers changed the equation--they weren't using the -threat- of violence, they were intent on the comission of atrocities as punishment and for publicility--as opposed to -threatening- atrocities if not given publicity and attention and negotiating getting some demand or set of demands met. There were no negotations possible with the 9/11 murderers, they had planned mass murder and mass property damage, and carried out their Holy War suicide attack.

Most hijackers prior to the 9/11 attack, did not have the intention of mass murder-suicide and destruction of property. The suicide bomber attacks on US embassies and the USS Cole and such, that involved driving a truck loaded with explosives or boat loaded with explosives into a building or ship, didn;t involve hijacking airplanes. The vehicles could have been stolen or carjacked, except that loading a vehicle with explosive and driving it into an edifice or ship, having a preloaded vehicle that isn't one the law enforcement authorities are looking for the vehicle be less suspicious and less likely for the suicide bombers to be caught before they can carry out their attack.

I'm not sold that "anarchists" wouldn't work. We're talking about stateless individuals, generally, who want to bring down a state. They may envision the eventual establishment of their version of a "perfect" state sometime down the road, but first, they have to destroy all current existing state governments.

How about "nihilist" then as a term to use, as someone whose ought to topple the current state of affairs for the sake of the current government and order being vacated, with no specific intended idea for replacing it.

#161 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 04:41 PM:

Terry, Israel's supreme court did, in fact, make torture legal.

Exact procedures were outlined in the redacted portions of the Levin Commission report. The text of the 1999 decision by Israel's supreme court (translated into English, and I did not check the translation personally) makes it plain that torture is just fine if it is "necessary to the interrogation" and allowed it explicitly when authorized specifically by the Attorney General.

In Israel, torture is both legal and routine. It hasn't successfully intimidated the occupied population (for references, open any newspaper, any day, or Google HAMAS).

With results that bad after sixty years of trying to quash a local population by means of intimidating them, I'd have to say that torture is not even successful at that. It's kind of a short-term shock&awe tactic, but after a while people get used to it.

I am sick to my heart that the U.S. is taking this path.

#162 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 04:45 PM:

I know some people who are anarchists. If everyone were as decent, unselfish, and hard working as them, we really would not need governments.

#163 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 04:58 PM:

Greg wrote: "hijacker", "una-bomber", and other terms focused on the violence, but not the fear. The only problem is that those terms focus on specific types of violence

Paula replied: I disagree with the idea that hijackers and the Unabomber were focusing on violence and not fear-hijackers and the unabomber were using fear as motivator--

The TERM "terrorist" focuses on the fear. I KNOW the terrorists are trying to make us FEEL terror, but I'm looking for a TERM that describes them without using the word "terror" or "fear", so I was thinking maybe of finding a term that focuses on their actions or deeds, rather than the fact that those actions/deeds are meant to instill terror.

Telling someone: "do not fear the terrorist" is failing to frame the issue so that it actually works, so that fear is not the automatic frame that these people are thought of inside of.

"Do not fear the anarchists", while it may be technically inaccurate from a definitional point of view, at least doesn't automatically invoke Terror when talking of anarchists.

"do not be terrorized by the terrorists" is sort of an impossible request. So rather than invoking the very thing that terrorists want you to think of, I was thinking of using a different word. The only thing is that now I'm amazed at just how sparse the english language is around this topic.

There is one term for "terrorism" and nothing else seems to exist, and I find that extremely weird from a linguistics poitn of view. Maybe its because its a relatively new topic? Prior to recent events, you could probably describe similar folks as "revolutinaries" or "guerrillas" or some other term, but recent events dont fit those terms, so "terrorism" became the only label.

It just seems weird that there are no (one word) synonyms at all for terrorist.

#164 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 05:00 PM:

ah, hows about "saboteurs"?

#165 ::: Nikki ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 05:01 PM:

I like "nihilist" better than "anarchist", but it does seem to mean destruction for the sake of destruction, and I'm not sure that's what terrorists are aiming for.

No-one's mentioned "freedom-fighter" yet; I don't suppose for a minute the actual terrorists think of themselves as the bad guys. And if that's the case, torturing them will only make them martyrs.

Note: By using "freedom-fighter" in the way I did, I am NOT justifying any kind of terrorist act or mindset or person. Just to be clear.

I hate the way our governments are going on this, I hate it. And I can't find one rational justification for it.

#166 ::: Nikki ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 05:11 PM:

Greg: The term "terrorist" isn't a recent concept; it's hung around the Troubles in Ireland for a good few years now.

I'm not sure there's another word either, not one that really fits. Saboteurs seems too small-time, akin to slashing tyres on 4x4s.

Maybe we'll just have to work harder to resist the automatic invoking of terror, to refuse to respond to the pushbutton.

#167 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 05:16 PM:

Greg: are you looking for alternatives to the word "terrorist" because you want to offer people an alternative to being afraid? I haven't read all of your posts in detail, so I could be wrong. But if it's a question of being afraid, here's my take on it:

Courage doesn't consist of not being afraid. It consists of being afraid and standing up to your own fear. Facing your fears does not always work, but it is the best tactic, IMO.

If your goal is to get people to stop being afraid of terrorists, I don't think that's going to work, because terrorism is a scary thing. Perhaps people are more afraid of terrorism than they should be, and undeniably the American administration is trying to use that fear. But suggesting "there's nothing to be afraid of" doesn't sound right to me.

Violence is a daily threat for a lot of people. It seems like, before 9/11, Americans believed they were "safe" from terrorism and acts of violence in a way that other countries were not. We thought we were invulnerable: but we're not. No one is.

Be afraid and be brave. If I were giving advice (which I mostly hate to do), that's what I would say.

#168 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 05:22 PM:

As a petty point of precision, it's Unibomber, not, Una. It's a contraction of, University Bomber, because of his first few targets.

Dena Shunra Then I mis understood what I saw as the ruling. I believe (though now with less certainty) that casual use of coercive techniques by soldiers in the field are no longer allowed. That the State still allows it, for some cases, even if it requires special permissions (a la Dershowitz and his abominable "torture warrants") it's still a grave, and horrendous wrong.

I have reasonable faith the Intel Services (the Shin Bet? I forget, there are times all the organisations I keep track of get muddled in the mind, the present and the historical as well) don't use it, or only use it very rarely, and in ways I don't like to think about because they might seem practical, and so useful; which idea I find abhorrent.

#169 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 05:23 PM:

If everyone were as decent, unselfish, and hard working as them, we really would not need governments.

If everyone were decent, unselfish, and hardworking, then any form of government would be a decent, unselfish, government. Perhaps it would also be a needless government as well, but I think you get my point.

As an electrical engineer, I spent one whole course devoted entirely to designing circuits with individual transistors. I do all digital stuff now, so I can't remember any of it except for this one thing: transistors are not perfect. a batch of transistors vary widely from one to another. The goal of an engineer is to design a circuit that will do its job, and do it regardless of what specific transistor gets wired into the circuit. So, if you want an amplifier, and you want to use a 2n2222 BJT transistor, then you need to design a circuit that will work for one transistor that might have a gain of 50 and another that might have a gain of 150. You don't design the circuit by designing or expecting perfect transisters. You design the circuit to handle imperfect transistors and still get the job done.

To me, that's the goal of designing a good government, to be able to work properly with the sorts of people that really exist, rather than designing a perfect government based on the existence of some perfect people somewhere. If people were perfect, then any government would be fine, and no government would be fine as well. But since people aren't perfect, it seems best if we design a system that handles the spectrum of people that might come along.

Anyway, major tangent. It is clear to me that "anarchists" is a term that's been hijacked by some folks and has too much baggage to do what I'm looking for.

I think "saboteur" might do it.

#170 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 05:30 PM:

The word terror (14th c.), referring to the emotion of abject fear, is Middle English and comes from Middle French.

The words terrorism and terrorist (1795) are modern English, from modern French, and refer to the use of violence against civilian populations to achieve political goals. "Fear" is incidental to the definition of terrorism. (I might add that terrorists are not unlike underpants gnomes, in that they really haven't fully thought out step 2.)

They are two different words with two different histories. (What was going on in France in 1795?) Getting bogged down in some essentialist notion of what the word terror means, and objecting to terrorist on those grounds, would be analogous to objecting to the term chef on the grounds that skilled cooks do not necessarily also lead Indian tribes.

Anarchist is another word with a whole raft of very specific historical associations, and its own unique relationship to the history of terrorism. Pulling anarchist into the mix muddies this discussion in a particularly unfruitful manner.

And let me add, if you haven't read Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent, or haven't re-read it recently, you really ought to. Then we could have a dandy discussion of terrorism, anarchism, and the abuse of state power.

#171 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 05:31 PM:

Hijacked? No, it was hijacked by people who used it to mean "people who blow things up for the heck of it." Mon-archy, rule of one. Patri-archy, rule of the fathers. An-archy, rule of none.

#172 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 05:31 PM:

Nikki, yep, The Troubles would be included. I was thinking "recent" on a slightly larger scale. The wikipedia article for Fourth Generation Warfare, says that this style of warfare started during the Cold War. The article lists the Troubles in Ireland as another example.

Laurence: "terror" means overpowering fear, something that you feel so strongly that you cannot think or act clearly.

#173 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 05:40 PM:

As a petty point of precision, it's Unibomber, not, Una. It's a contraction of, University Bomber, because of his first few targets.

Actually, it really was UNABOMBER. His first targets were universities and airlines.

#174 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 05:45 PM:

xopher, hijacked or not, I have no use for impossible design requirements. If people were perfect, yeah, sure maybe. But they're not, so we need structures in place to keep things workable. A completely honest application of "rule of none" would have Making Light moderated by no one or everyone. Next troll that comes along, give them the same powers of authority and rule that moderators have. Let everyone have the power to disemvowel. See how that works. And since it can't work in even the most simplest applications such as someone's blog, I'm not going to pursue implementing it in an entire population.

#175 ::: Nikki ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 05:52 PM:

Greg, apologies, I got the impression you meant very recent events. I was kind of assuming the Troubles beginning, well, in about 1916 with the Easter Rising, to take an arbitrary point. But actually I don't know if the words terrorist/terrorism were used then.

#176 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 05:54 PM:

I think "sabateur" works. Yes?
The headlines could read:
"17 Saboteurs Nabbed!"

Seems to work.

A quick look at wikipedia shows a
fairly short article, no baggage
like "anarchy" has, pretty straightforward
meaning focusing on the act of inflicting
damage or injury.

Doesn't have any overly positive
or romantic overtones that some
terms might. Doesn't automatically
suggst sabateurs are right or the
good guys or the underdog. simply a
way of waging war, inflicting damage,
etc, without getting specific about
the way the damage is inflicted
(bombs, wmds, dirty bombs, chemicals).

Any objections to "sabateurs" as a
replacement for the word "terrorists"?

Hm, just using the term now makes
those people seem less scary. Nice.

#177 ::: Nikki ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 05:55 PM:

Er, added to the above, I know I've read somewhere that Che Guevara and Mao borrowed tactics from Michael Collins, and that he was meant to be the inventor of fourth-generation warfare. I wish I could remember where it was.

#178 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 06:00 PM:

Greg, apologies, I got the impression you meant very recent events.

no worries. I was sloppy in writing. It was clear in my head what I was thinking, but I don't think it ever made it to the keyboard.

#179 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 06:03 PM:

I think "anarchist" is a lousy synonym for "terrorist." It implies that those who wish to abolish governments inevitably choose to do so violently. This is not the case. Some terrorists may be anarchists (though not the ones we seem to be encountering lately); some anarchists may indeed be terrorists, but they are not the same thing. Some anarchists have chosen violent means to further their cause. Some have not. Neither the violent nor the non-violent anarchists (have you noticed?) have had much luck at abolishing governments. In fact, the more violence, the more government...

#180 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 06:05 PM:

aries 75 and others

- to add to what I said above, neocons will also point out how "liberals" give much publicity to "American" wrongs, but completely ignore those perpetrated by Islamists (e.g. abuse of women).

Abuse of women? Neocons have supporters whose attitudes towards woman are more closely aligned with Taliban rules about women (keep them locked in the house doing the housework and childminding... I had a high school classmate whose father was of the firm opinion that college educations were wrong for females to get...) than the opinions of the overwhelming majority of contributors here. Elizabeth Moon's fictional New Texas Militia society, is based on a melange of attitudes and social values among varios extanct sects in Texas.

And like it or not, fear works. All the neocons have to say is "you'll be wearing burkas if the Democrats win", and people immediately try to make sure that doesn't happen.

See above about "New Texas Militia." A hatemonger presssure group in Boston successfully pressured Macys with complaints about a window display promoting Gay Pride event to remove the display.... the neocons' associates want women forced back into the kitchen and no-pay-for-any-work positions of housewife and church and school and social volunteer. Since I considered June Cleaver a role model for a life I was traumatized to think of being trapped in [note, that is, for -me- it was a nightmare existence, there are other people whose temperament and interests fit well with being a homemaker--and it is NOT determined by gender, there are males who are excellent cooks, childrearers, domestic workers, etc., and females other than me who as homemakers, flunk...], the neocons' idea of the proper roles for women is nightmare.

I am -so- tired of discourse where the neocons control the forum and the terminology used and set the agenda and do the defining... I want a discussion where they get the inferior position and don't have the platform and plank--unlike the Republican Party and the Southern Baptist Convention...

I keep imagining those who invoke fear as pushing the population down into their baser instincts, base emotions of fear and anger. And reacting with base emotions towards them isn't going to make it "not work" anymore. Tarring and feathering the fear-mongers isn't any better than the fear-mongers wanting to tar and feather some external enemy.

I'm no high-minded. What I learned from grade school and the rest of my years in h/e/l/l public d/i/s/i/n/f/o/r/m/a/t/i/o/n education, was that bullies don't stop until it's their hides that get bruised. So long as there is no physical discomfort occuring to them, they're not going to stop beating up other kids. Most, not all, but most, bullies won't stop until someone slugs -them- as hard as the attacks they inflict on other people... again, I had a lot of empirical evidence from years of verbal and physical abuse. Wordplay didn't work, because if they didn't understand a word, their response was either or both about of extended name calling and insults and jeering, or physical attack.

My mother as an adult, said that she got a sexual harasser at the VA in Boston where she was working at the time, to stop by, when he came up behind her, reached around her and squeezed her breast, she stepped hard on his instep.

"You hurt me!" he objected.

"You hurt me!" said my mother back. And he didn't do anymore copping of feels or any other harassment of my mother. But again, it required physical pain to be visited upon him in retaliation as consequence, that effected him ceasing and desisting the behavior in the particular case: that is, he didn't bother my mother again. He didn't stop bothering other women, though, apparently. Those who visited consequence of physical pain retaliation on him, he left alone, those who didn't, he continued preying upon. He didn't view his behavior as objectionable, it wasn't hurting him, he enjoyed copping feels on women, probably both the physical sensation and the control involved of indulging himself and disregarding the opinions and effects on his victims--he I would assume didn't regard them as victims, he didn't care about their opinions or interests. He stopped bothering my mother, because the result of him copping the feel on her, was her stepping on him as an unpleasant consequence. He didn't stop preying on other women, because there were no unpleasant consequences or results to him from copping feels on them, and only women who make caused him retaliatory discomfort, did he avoid groping...

The fascist monsters of the US Executive Branch, operate on similar bases--they exploit/abuse anyone whom they can abuse/exploit with impunity. It's only if there are clear immediate unpleasant consequences for them, that they cease and desist in obnoxious-to-others behaviors--so long as no unpleasantry gets visited on them, they have no incentive whatsoever to not be obnoxious. Schmuck has occassionally backpedalled in some things where public anger has gotten to where even he noticed and decided to back down (Social Security being one such issue).

His social age is such that I think only spanking and tarring and feathering and such can get through his neutronium skull into any semi-functional neurons, regarding, just like the school yard bullies, there's little functional cognition regarding treating other people respectfully and decently and having abstract or actual regards for people's opinions and values and interests. Beating up other people makes school yard bullies happy, groping women made the sexual harasser feel good, depriving anyone who isn't on the neocon bandwagon with the neocon outlook etc., of rights and power, makes the neocons happy. And the only way to change that situation, it seems like, is the "get the mule's attention" method... there is no incentive, no interest, and downside at present for the neocons to change anything about their attitudes, their actions, their methods, their beliefs, their exploitation, and their harassment of everyone else.

Different things are drivers for different people. Just look at the reasons for people doing charitable work or making charitable donations. Some do it because they were raised with the value they internalized that one should do charitable work and donate. Some do it because they see it as contributing to society and important for civilization. Some do it because their associates do it and they're in it for the social bonding. Some do it to earn approbation and praise from others. Some do it because they get guilt-tripped or shamed into it, and some because they've been sentenced to it by a judge as social restitution for getting caught being legally anti-social.

The neo-cons belong more on the end of getting caught and sentenced, or going through the motions to look good, or--oops, missed one--because they're going to get an advantage out of it that's a personal benefit, such as helping build a barbecue pit that they want to use themselves.


The people making torture US policy are incompetent, sadistic, and unaware of either failing.

Bingo. The greedy and sadistic do things that are greedy and sadistic... and will continue doing so, until someone treats them the way they've been treating others, making it very clear that what they do unto others is going to be done unto them, since they aren't apparently learning any other way that their behavior is unacceptable.

"No second chances to confuse / If might is right, and right is on our side..." -- The Knight, written and sung by Jack Hardy.

#181 ::: Nikki ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 06:19 PM:

Paula, perhaps those who are advocating torture think that they are treating the people they want to torture, as those people have treated others?

#182 ::: Sarah de Vries ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 06:42 PM:

Greg, saboteur specifically implies damage to a process or machinery. I can't think of anything which is usually described as terrorism that fits this description very well.

#183 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 06:55 PM:

Sarah,

1 : destruction of an employer's property (as tools or materials) or the hindering of manufacturing by discontented workers

That doesn't fit for "terrorism", but then its from the etymology of the word, throwing shoes/sabots into a machine to break it.

2 : destructive or obstructive action carried on by a civilian or enemy agent to hinder a nation's war effort

That seems appropriate. I think Al Queda targeted the World Trade Center because they viewed our use of money as a way to control foreign countries, an economic war. The fact that we give Saudi Arabia so much money as foreign aid, that this money allows Saudi Arabia to enforce its tyranical rule, and that all of the 9-11 hijackers were Saudi, would seem to point to them viewing money as a weapon.


3 a : an act or process tending to hamper or hurt b : deliberate subversion

Hurt would be a human thing, though not neccesarily what's being meant here.

I don't view sabotage as being restricted to material damage only. Blowing up a building or blowing up a bridge may or may not be the only goal, but the likelyhood that someone dies is still there.

From the standpoint of approaches, they
seem quite similar to me. From the standpoint
of legalities, they seem to be the same too.

From wikipedia: Saboteurs are usually classified
as enemies, and like spies may be liable to
prosecution and criminal penalties instead of
detention as a prisoner of war.

So, someone above suggested the term "criminal"
and I agree that it fits, but it isn't specific
enough. Sabateurs, however, are a specific kind
of criminal.

#184 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 07:33 PM:

Giacomo:

To which one could say "how come then that a bunch of ragheads can still trouble thousands of well-trained America's finest boys, hiding behind all sort of state-of-the-art technological weaponry... for more than 3 years?" But I digress...

Sustaining the digression, I suppose it's for the same reason that mutant teddybears can bring down Imperial Walkers with logs, vines, and rocks?

Also, have not read all through the discussion yet, so don't know if anyone's mentioned Cordelia Naismith "waterboarding" the social worker type in the course of her exit from Beta Colony. Yet another fictional example NOT to emulate, since Real Life doesn't work that way.

Which is sort of a shame, as I've often wanted to be Cordelia when I grew up.

#185 ::: Cathy C ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 08:04 PM:

Sheesh! I can see a Libertarian ticket in my November future. At this point, both sides should be kicked out--just on principle (while we still have some!)

#186 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 08:42 PM:

Terry,

I don't know what it is on which you base your belief that casual use of coercive techniques by soldiers in the field in Israel is no longer allowed. A pertinent website is Shovrim Shtika (literally, breaking the silence), which displays the war stories of Israeli soldiers. There is plenty of coercion described here (as well as in Machsom Watch, which describes the methods used on civillian population trying to get from town to town (a "machsom" is a checkpoint)).

My problem with the torture warrants is that I do not believe there are special cases where all of the excellent arguments made above do not apply. It seems to me (based on nearly forty years of observing human nature) that torture will always lead to bad intelligence. It is counter-productive.

You say that you have reasonable faith the Intel Services [...] don't use it, or only use it very rarely... - but there is nothing in my experience and reading that gives that view any credence. Faith is a very good thing, but the number of cases where use of torture by Israeli securityfolk is alleged in court (including a case being heard in Chicago right now, where the confession original extracted under torture is being used to re-try the same person for the same crime) leads me to believe that at least some of the claims are bona fide.

#187 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 08:45 PM:

I would love to be an anarchist, and some part of me still is. The trouble is that I've seen the lengths people will go to to get and keep power (mostly, unfortunately, in this administration).

Greg London talks about what would happen if Making Light wasn't moderated. But isn't the entire Internet anarchist -- non-hierarchical, not run by anyone (so far), giving everyone, even loonies, a place to be heard?

#188 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 08:55 PM:
The fact that we give Saudi Arabia so much money as foreign aid, that this money allows Saudi Arabia to enforce its tyranical rule, and that all of the 9-11 hijackers were Saudi, would seem to point to them viewing money as a weapon.

So the fact that the US has a freefall deficit thanks to being stuck to the Iraq tar-baby means that AQ are succeeding on the financial front of the war?

#189 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 11:22 PM:

Jim writes:
Let me have Ann Coulter for 24 hours, and let me have a free hand, and I'll have her confessing to both being a member of al Qaeda and giving blowjobs to Bill Clinton, with a great deal of circumstantial detail and the names of her accomplices.

Hey, don't let me stop you.

Torture has been tried. It hasn't worked. Why should we expect any different results?

American exceptionalism.

#190 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 11:24 PM:

The fact that we give Saudi Arabia so much money as foreign aid, that this money allows Saudi Arabia to enforce its tyranical rule, and that all of the 9-11 hijackers were Saudi, would seem to point to them viewing money as a weapon.

The amount we gave Saudi Arabia as foreign aid was $25,000 per year, which isn't a heck of a lot of money as such things go. What would it do? Hire one liaison officer? That was cut to zero in 2004.

Fourteen of the nineteen 9-11 hijackers were Saudis. The others were: one Egyptian, one Lebanaese, and three from the United Arab Emirates. If Zacarias Moussaoui was in fact supposed to be the 20th hijacker, add a French Moroccan.

Note: no Iraqis. Also note: the company that Bush wanted to take over port security in the US was based in the United Arab Emirates.

#191 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 11:29 PM:

So the fact that the US has a freefall deficit thanks to being stuck to the Iraq tar-baby means that AQ are succeeding on the financial front of the war?

Yes. Exactly so. And the more we use our military in Arab or non-Arab Muslim majority countries, the more recruits we make for Al Qaeda.

#192 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 11:52 PM:

Just by the way, historically "anarchism" has been a kind of socialism; it's only recently, and in the USA, that it has become a synonym for lawlessness.

#193 ::: mikecharles-langlais ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 02:01 AM:

Why would it be surprising to anybody that Bush would have the Military re-write the manual when he had KPMG-or whatever they now call themselves-write the Iraqi Constitution to the benefit of US Big Business, especially his and his father's oil cronies.

#194 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 03:31 AM:

Small side-story: Churchill personally set up a meeting betweeb Michael Collins and the leader of the Ulster-centred Protestant Loyalists.

At one point, Michael Collins and he were comparing their "wanted" posters. Collins was reported to have been a bit annoyed by still being advertised as a wanted criminal, and greatly amused by how little the Boers had offered for Churchill.


One aspect of torture is that it dehumanises the victim. Can a state which legitimises torture as a formal process ever be able to reach any negotiated settlement with its enemies.

If you dehumanise your enemy, can you end up swapping war stories?

And there is some difference here between the attitudes of a soldier in combat, who is in some senses sharing status with the enemy, and the whole power imbalance of the torture chamber.

I've also met old men who saw the liberation of the Belsen concentration camp. They claim an almost indiscriminate hatred of Germans that. today, feels wrong. The torturers dehumanise themselves, and their nation.


The USA seems to have a harsh attitude to prisoners; there are disturbing accountsa published in America of how maximum sexurity detention of criminals is done. In that context, the apparent barbarities of Camp X-Ray may seem different.

Even though people in other countries, with different contexts for the treatment of detainees, may feel justly horrified.

It's the torture which pushes things over the edge.

#195 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 05:03 AM:

The amount we gave Saudi Arabia as foreign aid was $25,000 per year, which isn't a heck of a lot of money as such things go. What would it do? Hire one liaison officer? That was cut to zero in 2004.

No, the amount you gave Saudi Arabia included $8 billion in Desert Storm costs unmet by other nations in 1991, an unknown amount in maintenance costs for the no-fly zones over the next 12 years, an unknown amount in costs of defending Saudi oil exports in US-flagged carriers during the Iran-Iraq War, and the lives of 472 US servicemen.

#196 ::: Sarah de Vries ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 06:59 AM:

Greg, the reframing of terrorist acts and objectives to 'hindrance & obstruction' seems imprecise to me. I share your curiousity about the lack of synonyms, but I am skeptical of the usefulness of getting other words to do the same job with less precision. Sanitizing language rarely allays fears.

Besides, I don't think it's the 'terrorist' bit that is scary. I think it's the almost-audibly-capitalised-even-when-it-isn't The in front of it. It implies both bogeyman-like power and anonymity, and distracts from real questions about who claimed responsibility for what, and how realistic that claim is.

#197 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 09:56 AM:

the reframing of terrorist acts and objectives to 'hindrance & obstruction' seems imprecise to me.

It is the reframing away from fear. I don't care what it gets reframed to, I just think that using a term that automatically invokes the one thing that they want to invoke is self-defeating.

And I think Kerry said he wanted to reduce terrorism to a nuisance, which makes total sense. The likelyhood of eliminating every crazy asshole who can get ahold of diesel, fertilizer, and some wire, is zero. You will never get rid of all the crazy people. There will always be knuckleheads who think murdering a bunch of people is the solution. but if you can relate to it as a nuisance, if you can relate to it without the fear and terror that has gripped this country since 9-11, then maybe, maybe, you can actually deal with it effectively.

At which point, these morons are no longer terrorists, paralyzing a nation with fear, but simple saboteurs. Criminals with explosives.

That is what I'm trying to reframe here.

Once you can think and act clearly, you can deal with it effectively. As long as you are in terror mode, panic mode, fear mode, you are in a fight or flight mode, lashing out blindly, seeing enemies at every shadow, sacrificing every principle that is important to us.

So far, "saboteurs" is the best replacement I've found. I'm just surprised how hard it is to come up with a synonym. The dictionary definitely has a bare spot around this topic. One tree in a desert.

#198 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 11:39 AM:

"a radical who employs terror as a political weapon"?

Hmmm Greg, wouldn't a broad interpretation of that definition (as applied to our last election) qualify this administration as "terrorist"?


Terry:

Thanks for the FDR quote; I'm playing catch up and had been thinking of that since I read the post where Greg first raised the point.

And likewise, I think the main question to counter the Republicans is something like "Why do you want Americans to be afraid (or, too afraid to act)?"
FDR's quote is amazingly resonant for this, and signals the major difference between then and now:

FDR: Fear nothing: we can beat them!

Shrub: Be afraid! No one is safe! Only I can protect you!


Greg: I dislike using "anarchist" because I've known several who are not violent; they just want to be left alone.

Likewise, there is something about saboteur that doesn't ring right for me. A saboteur is trying to (simply?) inconvenience. While I can relate to your point regarding economics and finances, I really don't think the purpose of 9/11 was "Ha, watch us screw up your economy, you western devils." And technically, "holy war" and Bush's claims aside, it's not a "war".

I also think emphasizing the violence (with saboteur or nihilist) is as bad as emphasizing the terror. It still, IMO, emphasizes and encourages fear by not naming it.

As Xopher said, terror is overwhelming fear, a panic that shuts down higher reasoning functions. I think a more effective approach would be to de-emphasize the fear, but still call attention to it:
My preference would be for "fear-mongers".

Call them exactly what they are -- people attempting to cause fear. Don't emphasize the terror and death, don't dwell on it, point out that fear is what they want, so why give it to them?

Likewise, this turns back the right's arguments: If the fear-mongers want us to be afraid, then who is siding with them by whipping the country into panic and paranoia?

Almost completely off topic, except for "labelling":
Barry Nolan is a news-commentator for the local cable carrier here. He does the occasional op-ed rant. Last night's was about the whole anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-diversity platform the right uses. He went on about how they want everyone to be "the same" think, act, dress, behave the same.
In the end, he suggested that for "truth in advertising" purposes they should change their name to the "Homogeneous" party, or "Homos" for short.

ROTFL!

#199 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 12:06 PM:

Greg, I agreee with pedantic peasant. I don't think that you can re-frame the issue away from fear, and your efforts to do so by re-engineering the English language miss the point, when what we need is plain language. I believe it is more important to confront the issue of fear than it is to try and veil it behind a new term for these perpetrators. If you must relabel, try using "would-be terrorists". As Sir Thomas More noted when he wrote about dealing with the fear of torture, trying not to think about it doesn't work. It is necessary to confront the idea head-on, and think about it calmly and rationally. Trying to use another word (and one that doesn't fit well) to label the issue doesn't face up to it as effectively. Playing with words should not be mistaken for effective action, and that's really all these relabelling efforts amount to, as far as I'm concerned. Better to discuss the problem calmly, and when the frantic tom-toms of the right start up, say "Why do they want you to be so frightened? Aren't they supposed to be on your side? Is it possible they think they'll benefit if we're too scared to think? Doesn't that make them a lot like these crazy suicide attackers and bombers? Could it be that they don't want you to ask what they're doing to fix things, or to think about how well they're handling the problem, or look into whether the money's being spent wisely, or ask if the people handling things are really qualified?" The political problem is not what we call terrorism, but staying on message when the soap-eating Bushistas get after the person criticizing them this week. If you want a new frame, try "What do the Bush crowd gain if you're afraid?"
The British, during the Blitz in World War II, did not try and relabel their situation. They knew they were undergoing a campaign of severe bombing, and they dealt with it by facing up to it and coping as effectively as they could. There was no point in calling it something else; the point is to face up to it and go on. This is why, last summer, people got back on the Underground in London. They knew there had been a terrorist attack, and they knew they weren't going to roll over.
The terrorist wants you to be too afraid to resist his will; terror is the tool he uses to achieve his aims. I think terrorist is the best term; if you want to defuse the concept, negate it with "would-be" added to it, because that suggests the terrorist isn't good enough to be really frightening, and thus can't stop his potential targets from thinking and planning calmly. Don't try and convince people the effort to cause terror is not present, because we all know it's there. What we need is a way to get past it, and plan usefully, both on a personal and national level, both tactically and strategically.

#200 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 12:39 PM:

a broad interpretation of that definition (as applied to our last election) qualify this administration as "terrorist"?

Yeah, that was sort of the point of finding a non-fear-non-terror synonym.

A saboteur is trying to (simply?) inconvenience.

I don't think "saboteur" means that. I think it basically mans "criminals with explosives" and the definition leaves the amount of damage undefined. So a saboteur could create small damage or large damage. The fact that saboteurs during a time of war are still considered common criminals, rather than POW's, seems to be the most important factor here. ANd I get that the idea of throwing your shoes in a machine is inflicting material damage only, but I don't think the term "saboteur" neccessarily requires that level of commitment to non-violence.

#201 ::: Ceri ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 01:12 PM:

Greg -- has anybody suggested "extremists"?

#202 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 01:21 PM:

Terror is hearing hundreds of aircraft engines in the darkness, dropping bombs on your cities.

Terror is cycling to school with your gas-mask, wind-blown ash from burnt-out office buildings speckling your face.

Terror is coming home from work, and spending the night in a cramped, sand-bagged, backroom, knowing that if that telephone rings you might be seeing the dawn while you dig a neighbours' corpses out of the ruin of their house.

Most of all, terror is doing that knowing that you did such things yesterday, and will do them tomorrow.

Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.

All those things, my parents did.

Dare I be any less?

Is it so hard to say, "Fuck off, Osama!"?

#203 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 01:21 PM:

Ceri, Faren Miller suggested "suicidal extremists". The problem I have with "extremists" is that you could be an extremist in political views, but not homocidal about it. And while "homicidal extremists" might get the definition right, it's two words.

I think I'm just going to have to surrender to the fact that the english language doesn't have any great synonyms for "terrorist".

#204 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 01:24 PM:

Greg:

I don't think "saboteur" means that [someone trying to inconvenience]. I think it basically mans "criminals with explosives" and the definition leaves the amount of damage undefined.

So a bank robber blowing up a safe is a saboteur?
And someone who steals the spark-plugs from army jeeps isn't?

So a saboteur could create small damage or large damage. The fact that saboteurs during a time of war are still considered common criminals, rather than POW's, seems to be the most important factor here.

Well yeah, but in time of war or not, they are generally defined as someone trying to hurt/destroy/inconvenience a party's ability to wage war.

And, the reason they are treated separately from POW's is that they are viewed as either sympathizers (traitors/quislings) or enemy agents (spies) and either way are non-uniformed, non-combat troops. This actually might come close to condoning/reinforcing the administrations contention that these are non-unifromed combatants and not covered by Geneva. (I think -- someone with actual military expertise want to confirm?)

And I get that the idea of throwing your shoes in a machine is inflicting material damage only, but I don't think the term "saboteur" neccessarily requires that level of commitment to non-violence.

I forget who raised that point, but what I understood them to mean (and it parallels my point) is that a saboteur is out to inconvenience or hinder an effort or specific end. The thought process is: If I do "X" then you cannot do -- or must work much harder to accomplish -- "Y". The focus of fear-mongers is to generate a constant numbing state of fear which defies action in a general, not specific, way.

I'm not great at military analogies, but I think what I mean is that terrorism does not have a tactical goal -- this will cause specific effect "X" -- but a strategic one -- this will paralyze them; they will be too scared to do anything.

Or, to put it another way, sabotage is active: I don't like this, I will stop this.
Terrorism is passive: I don't like this, I will do this other thing to hurt/scare you until you stop.


Hmmmm. Maybe a good description is that terrorsis are virtual-hostage takers? The general implied premise is that sort of extortion, isn't it? If you do this/keep doing this, then we will kill/destroy X targets (named, or not).

#205 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 01:28 PM:

pedantic peasant: As Xopher said, terror is overwhelming fear, a panic that shuts down higher reasoning functions.

Ummm...I like that, but I don't think I said it, at least not here. Someone else deserves the credit.

Greg: there are no true synonyms, for anything. The reason is simple: if two words mean the same thing, they diverge through usage and come to mean different things, if only in nuance; or one of them falls into disuse.

And btw, I think this administration qualifies as terrorist, in spades. No, in no-trump.

#206 ::: Ceri ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 01:35 PM:

Greg: Whoops. You're right. I'd missed Faren Miller's comment. "Extremist fighters" or "extremist bombers", perhaps? But again, we're back to it being two words.

I think I'm just going to have to surrender to the fact that the english language doesn't have any great synonyms for "terrorist".

Well, that and even if one could produce a singularly brilliant alternative, there's the problem of propagating it.

#207 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 01:40 PM:

Greg and Xopher:

Gawd! *egg on face* Sorry Greg, it was you that reiterated the definition of terror for Laurence's benefit. Boy, do I feel like a schmuck!
[muttering to self]Quote him at himself to correct him. What a stupid lame-o move[/muttering to self]


FWIW, Greg, I agree (in theory) with the idea of renaming terrorists/terrorism. I just think that down-playing all of it works better. Their end goal is to create fear in the masses, ergo fear-monger, the means are unimportant.

If they actually have declared a "holy war", then I have yet to hear anyone state concretely against whom or why. Therefore (for me) sabotage doesn't fit. Likewise, while I am not attempting to diminish the impact of 9/11, on a population scale they directly effected very few people. It is the fear that followed that has had the greater national and global effect. It is not their action, but the fear of repetition that makes them effective ...


And I find it ironic that the party that screams loudest about "letting the terrorists win" is the one trying to increase the level of fear that is the terrorists' goal.

#208 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 01:40 PM:

I don't think that you can re-frame the issue away from fear ... it is more important to confront the issue of fear

we have different understandings of "reframing". I'm not trying simply to play games with language and words. using a word other than "terrorist" is part of confronting the issue of fear. Yes, I know they're trying to terrorize me, no I don't think putting "would-be" in front of it helps at all.

The difference is the difference between fear and terror. You can feel fear and still act. you can feel fear and still keep your head. you can feel fear and still think things through. Fear can become, on some level, irrelevant to your actions. Terror, on the other hand, is overwhelming fear, to the point that you can't think straight, to the point that you lash out at everyone around you, see threats in every shadow, or possibly run away in full retreat.

But the problem with that is that "Fearorist" isn't a fucking word.

And the idea of changing the term isn't a lone act. It was part of everything else I've said on this thread about courage, that the only response to fear is courage, that to sacrifice all our principles out of fear is the definition of a coward, that this administration is afraid, and that they want us to be more afraid than them. And one small way to buck this system is to stop calling them "terrorists". But it isn't just a word game, it's part of a bigger philosphy.

#209 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 04:23 PM:

If our language could squash together words as German does, maybe we could come up with a fitting term! (Something that combined suicide, homicide, and quasi-religious zealotry.) Whatever these folks are, they think they're going to be martyrs. Even the non-suicidal al Zarqawi is now being spoken of this way after the bombs got him.

#210 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 05:11 PM:

I like "fear-mongers". That's what they're trying to do, spread fear. Bringing that out in the open and making it explicit helps make it less scary. It makes them sound more annoying and less terrifying. An added bonus is that the same term can be used for the suicide bombers and hijackers who want us to fear them, *and* for those in the current administration who also want us to fear the suicide bombers and hijackers.

#211 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2006, 02:11 AM:

Dena Shunra: My faith is tempered by knowing that people are weak. But going on 14 years in interrogation I know it doesn't work. Based on that I have good reasons to believe (though it may be false hope and delusion) the head of any intelligence agency who explains torture doesn't work for the reasons I've been given. Maybe he doesn't believe his own words, and is lying for public relations, but the truth is a powerful thing, and non-torture works better.

On names: How about we call them fearmongers. It has the virtue of truth, and the advantage of being belittling. We use it when we want to say someone is asking us to be afraid of hobgoblins and bugbears. Those who demand we cower because of things which we ought be as afraid of as they want us to be.

#212 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2006, 05:14 PM:

(Another belated response) The only problem with "fearmongers" is that it applies equally well to our current Administration. I found a more applicable description -- not a short one, alas -- in a NY Times review's quote from a book by Rory Stewart on his travels in Afghanistan. He calls the Taliban "bullies with a strangled and dangerous view of God and a stupid obsession with death." This applies to most current terrorists, and the final bit distinguishes them from the local bullies.

#213 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2006, 05:21 PM:

Faren - you're right. Our local bullies have a strangled and dangerous view of god and a stupid obsession with sex.

#214 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2006, 06:08 PM:

Faren: I see that as a feature, not a bug. The people who run the country today are engaging in fearmongering, and it pisses me off.

#215 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2006, 04:51 AM:

I note that the three men who died at Gitmo managed to commit an act of war by their suicide:

"They are smart. They are creative. They are committed. They have no regard for human life, neither ours nor their own," Harris said. "I believe this was not an act of desperation, but rather an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us."

Pretty impressive, when hanging yourself in your cell becomes an aggressive act.

#216 ::: Nikki ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2006, 05:24 AM:

The BBC headline was: Guantanamo suicides 'acts of war'. I thought it was suggesting that the camp had committed 'acts of war' in driving these people to suicide. Then I read the story.

I'm interested in just how these suicides showed that the men had no regard for other people's lives.

I'm guessing we won't see any evidence for the act of war theory. Oh, wait, we don't need any. They're in Guantanamo; they wouldn't be there if they weren't already guilty of acts of war.

#217 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2006, 07:16 AM:

The BBC Headline is a classic use of scare-quotes, saying outright that this isn't a term we invented to make a good headline.

It does look as though this was planned: three at once doesn't look like chance. But the allegation that embarrassing the USA is an act of war leads to a very clear conclusion; any queue for the three vacant cells at Gitmo should be headed by President Bush.

#218 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2006, 08:28 AM:

"bullies with a strangled and dangerous view of God and a stupid obsession with death." This applies to most current terrorists, and the final bit distinguishes them from the local bullies

Faren Miller, how does that distinguish them from our own administration, either? Our guys have a stupid obsession with death, too. They get off on the idea of killing even when it's counterproductive on a purely pragmatic level.

The only effective distinguishing element between our terrorists and other people's terrorists is the level of funding and official state sponsorship and protection, where ours have the rest of the world beat hands down - you can't get more state-sponsored than the head-of-state, after all.

We're pulling another Fallujah in Ramadi right now, btw.

Based on that I have good reasons to believe (though it may be false hope and delusion) the head of any intelligence agency who explains torture doesn't work for the reasons I've been given.

TK, you're assuming that they wantinformation, not a terrorized and hostile populace who will react with predictable anger and violence, giving them an excuse to crack down and claim it justified. Why on earth would you assume that?

#219 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2006, 09:37 AM:

Faren --

"Deathfucker".

Not suitable for general political discourse, alas, for which "fearmonger", "Had enough?", and "Had enough of the fearmongers?" seem entirely suitable.

You could even point out that successful parenting more or less requires that you bring up your kids free of your compelling fears if you want your kids to have a shot at better things than you managed.

Politicans who want you to have more fears than the plenitude which afflict them are coming right out and saying "no better things for you, not while the world lasts".

This particular and specific bunch of politicians, well, their best hope is that they will die.

The world is warming; knowledge and skill increase beyond the wild dreams of former days; there are great deeds to do.

This is a time for hope and striving; a time for making new tribes and new work; a time for making new gods and new faces for old gods.

If the best some pampered creature can do in the face of these days is to wail for slaughter and weep for flattery and writhe in fear that its claim to be the lord of creation rests not on deed or fact or striving, never once had it any honest name of a man.

#220 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2006, 09:57 AM:

I've been calling catamite tool Schmuck and his associates in their unbenevolent(to the rest of the world outside of their coterie) unprotective (to those outside of their coterie AND former members of their coterie who they disavow publically (but not privately? "Who's Ken Lay?") to toss off to the public as token sacrificial scapegoat and disavow all association/knowledge with/of) association "fearmongers" for many months...

#221 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2006, 10:09 AM:

Paula: 'catamite'? I don't think that word means what you think it means.

#222 ::: Nikki ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2006, 11:42 AM:

So now the suicides are a PR move, according to the latest BBC headline.

The earlier BBC story stated that all 3 men had previously taken part in hunger strikes; the later BBC story - the one on the homepage now - quotes Colleen Graffy as saying that the men didn't use other means of making a protest.

After all, they had access to lawyers, could receive mail and 'had the ability' to write to their families. What more could they have wanted?

Presumably all letters out from Guantanamo are censored?

#223 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2006, 03:10 PM:

Those three suicides perfectly exemplify the Jihadi terrorists' obsession with death -- sure, they want all westerners to die, but their tool is their own deaths (whether or not they take large amounts of their enemies with them). While Christian soldiers may be honored as martyrs after their deaths, they don't seem to view or use suicide that way.

#224 ::: Nikki ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2006, 03:30 PM:

I am simply not convinced that these three men were terrorists. My feeling is that if there was sufficient evidence for conviction, there would be a trial.

It's a shame to be so cynical too but if Bush or his minions say it, I feel it can't be trusted (and the same with Blair). That's in view of the known lies of both administrations.

Aside from that, calling it a PR move sounds very false against 'treat the bodies with cultural sensitivity'. It's also not very nice for the families of those involved.

#225 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2006, 03:40 PM:

Any county jail that had a prisoner commit suicide would be investigated, and heads would roll.

But to allow THREE prisoners to commit suicide shows a remarkably incompetent level of supervision.

The Bush Junta is even managing to do a bad job of running a Gulag.

#226 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2006, 04:31 PM:

Faren --

There was this place called Jonestown. It is far from unique in the historical record.

An obsession with death is a standard first-order mutation of Abrahamic Monotheisms; it's not unique to this time nor to any particular one of the four major religious clades descended from Father Abraham.

#227 ::: Malthus ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2006, 05:20 PM:

One thing that bothers me about the arguments I've seen made here and elsewhere is that they often turn into discussions of the form: "... and torture isn't even an effective form of information-gathering." "... and what will happen to American troops in future conflicts if we abandon the Geneva Convention?"

I don't care whether it's effective or not.
I do care about what happens to American troops, but it's still not the way I would base this argument. I want to see more arguments of the form: "It doesn't matter whether or not torture works (even though it doesn't), what's important is that it's wrong. Period. End of sentence."

Once we start arguing about whether or not it's effective, we've already ceded the moral high ground. Once we start saying that we don't torture because of what might happen to our troops in the future, we start implying that it's okay to torture as long as no one ever finds out about it.

If you want to argue about talking points for Democrats and how to win elections, I think there's a case to be made for candidates taking that sort of absolute moral stance on this topic and sticking to it.

#228 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2006, 06:24 PM:

Adopting "good" as a campaign platform won't win over people who are prepared to vote "necessary evil".

#229 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2006, 10:27 PM:

Niall McAuley: Adopting "good" as a campaign platform
won't win over people who are prepared to vote "necessary evil".

Dennis Miller's monologues since 9/11
about his appreciation for Bush and his group
reflect his gratification that he has someone
who isn't afraid to step on the neck of the 'enemy'
( which he feels is done on his behalf ).

#230 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2006, 10:15 AM:

Bellatrys: I am assuming some things. First among them is that those in the intel-services are looking to get information. What the rest of a state appparat is looking to do is a different kettle of fish.

If you are alleging the first order of business of the Shin Bet (which is the organisation in question) is to terrorise the Arabs with whom they are dealing, fine. But I don't really think that's what they are about.

I do know the Israeli Army, at an institutional level, is opposed to torture as a casual obeject, because they filed a brief against it. That was more than a PR stunt, because not only did they not have any affirmative need to do that, they were acting against interest if they didn't really believe it, because the opinions in that brief could lead to soldiers becoming criminals, when at present they weren't.

I can't see the present administration, for example, filing such a brief.

#231 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2006, 10:36 AM:

Malthus:

I've been having the toture debate for almost 14 years. Being an interrogator I've been getting prurient questions about what my job is, and how I do it, from the beginning.

The question of effectiveness always comes up. One can talk until blue in the face about all the objective evils of toture, and what it does to the people, and the societies, that use it.

And the response will almost always be, "But if it works, if it saves peoples lives, shouldn't we be willing to accept some of that?"

To which the only workable response is, and will always be, "It doesn't work."

For some examples of how this debate has gone, you can look in some of the annals here at Making Light (where they have been fairly pleasant) or here at The Washington Monthly (where things weren't so pleasant. It's a long thread, searching for my name will cut to some of the chase. Looking for a poster named "Charlie" will get to the points of contention.

People have a fundamental belief that hurting people works. They think we are too soft (look at the people who object to letting the accused have lawyers. Who think it impossible that anyone would make a false confession to a cop, if they weren't mentally unbalanced).

They also believe in American Exceptionalism. Our cops, soldiers, politicians, etc., wouldn't do anything wrong if we gave them great powers (the last is thrown in to show why idiots get re-elected. It's all the other politicians who are crooked, lazy, greedy, short-sighted. My guy voted with all of them because he was tricked, coerced, or honestly thought it a good thing. It's why I worry about the upcoming elections).

So if (and it's a non-starter with me, but not with most) torture works, then why not put it in the box?

Add the fear being sold to the populace(one was, in 2001, the year of greatest death from terrorism in the US) still more than ten times as likely to die in a car wreck than as the result of someone killing you to make a political statement, but everyone was/is encouraged to be afraid they will be next on the hit list) makes a lot of people want to engage in "anything" which will make them safer, even if it's illusory safety.

I've seen the debate change form. It used to be "if it works," of late it's been, "if it saves one life."

The last is easier, in fact, to defeat, but it has a higher emotional appeal and is actually harder to convince people the falsity of.

Which means we must actually argue the merits of it, because people who don't know, still believe it has merit.

#232 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2006, 11:14 AM:

From www.webster.com, definition of catamite:

" a boy kept by a pederast"

That metaphorically fits the Schmuck, and he enjoys being the guy who tells the USA he only has and will do what he feels like doing--and to my perceptions he is a highly willing, enthusiastic tool of a whole bunch of entrenched fascist greedy narcissistic interests groups, including oil/energy patch robber barons, etc.

=====

Meanwhile, the bases of US law are supposed to include the presumption of innocent until proven guilty. Torture assumed guilt, because if the person were innocent, there wouldn't be any information that the person had for anyone to try to force them unwillingly to say!

#233 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2006, 11:20 AM:

does anyone have a good URL to an evidence laden article that shows torture doesn't get good information? Not that I need convincing it doesn't work, but for people that need convincing, I'd like to have one spot they should go to to get convinced.

#234 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2006, 11:30 AM:

presumption of innocent until proven guilty

But people are sold on the fictional worlds like Jack Bauer and "24". Jack Bauer only ever tortures guilty people*, and he manages this without any separation of powers or checks and balances. There is a fundamental notion behind republicans' deference to authoritative power/military that *we* never make those sorts of mistakes, that *we* know who is guilty and who is not.

One of the fundamental, repeating themes in "CSI: Nevada" is that the evidence *always* leads to the guilty. Grissom and his team never convict an innocent person. But then, every once in a while, they need someone to be in prison who is innocent, so those people are always convicted by some other team, some other precinct. The character of Grissom plays into the theme of infallibility, that *we*, the character we identify with, never makes fundamental mistakes. Or if we do, they are corrected by the end of the episode.

* Ok, I've never watched 24, but that's the gist I get. If Jack's mistakenly tortured innocent people, substitute some other show.

#235 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2006, 12:56 PM:

Graydon: Four? What's the fourth one? I've been known to call Judaism, Christianity, and Islam the 'Sinai Triad', so if there's a fourth one I'd better not keep doing that.

#236 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2006, 01:16 PM:

What's the fourth one?

Amway?

#237 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2006, 02:18 PM:

Greg:

Jack Bauer has strong-armed innocent people, most notably Audrey Raines (Defense Secretary's daughter, his ex(?)-girlfriend) by choking her and backing her against a wall.

The worst 'EW!' factor of that scene? SHE FORGAVE HIM.

As for CSI: Nevada: they had one episode where all of the evidence pointed at one brother, but it was clear from the way he and the other brother were behaving, it was a case of Elder Brother did it and Younger Brother did everything wrong in trying to conceal it, thereby contaminating the evidence so badly he ended up facing the death penalty for it.

Otherwise you are correct, to the best of my knowledge.

#238 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2006, 02:48 PM:

Four? What's the fourth one?

Baha'i, maybe.

I think of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as "the Holy Trinity."

#239 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2006, 03:11 PM:

Laurence, yeah, I looked it up, and you're right. I had thought Bahá'í came from somewhere else. I think I'll go on calling the Big Three the Sinai Triad; Bahá'í is different from any of them, in its favor. And the "Sinai Triad" terminology is intended to sound like it refers to a conspiracy, one in which I believe Bahá'í takes no part!

Perhaps you can guess why I don't want to call them the Holy Trinity.

#240 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2006, 03:38 PM:

How about the Unholy Trinity?

#241 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2006, 04:19 PM:

Better.

#242 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2006, 11:23 AM:

On the fourth Abrahamic religion:

Would Zoroastrianism count?

#243 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2006, 11:33 AM:

Zoroastrianism is a revealed religion, but it's not related to Abraham or his descendents (Isaac and Ishmael).

There was some serious concept-swapping with Judaism during the Babylonian Captivity, but it's different enough that I wouldn't consider it a close relative of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

#244 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2006, 11:37 AM:

Fragano --

Abrahamic more or less precludes the good and evil are equal duality found in Zoroastrianism.

I was thinking of Sikhs, though they would (mostly) dispute that view.

#245 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2006, 11:44 AM:

Yeah, Zoroastrianism was founded by...wait for it...Zoroaster (aka Zarathustra, for you R. Strauss fans). Definitely not an Abrahamic tradition.

First time that evil "Light vs Dark" with Dark=Evil thing pops up. One time a bunch of us were talking about historical figures we'd like to go back in time and eliminate in infancy to prevent what they did from happening; one of my friends said "Get Zoroaster FIRST."

The wickedest suggestion, though, was to mount a rescue of Jesus of Nazareth. Every time the Romans come for him, whisk him away.

Heh. Evil.

#246 ::: Laurence asks, "Isn't that comment spam up there?" ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2006, 12:36 PM:

the post with only two words in it.

#247 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2006, 12:46 PM:

look again

#248 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2006, 12:49 PM:

I agree.

#249 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2006, 01:40 PM:

with whom?

#250 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2006, 02:33 PM:

oh well. So much for subtlety.

After talking with folks on this thread and getting some feedback and some new ideas, I created a website called CourageVow dot com, which reflects all the stuff that came up on this thread about courage being the only response to fear, how this administration is encouraging fear, etc. Yeah, it's not the greatest URL, but it was available.

The idea was to have a single, very short, page you could point people to that would get them to get that courage is needed in the face of fear, rather than letting fear control you. All the links then point to various articles on the web which show what is or is not working.

The very bottom has a link to a guestbook people can sign and a link that lets you email a number of your elected officials.

Anyway, feedback welcome.

#251 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2006, 02:36 PM:

I didn't really expect Zoroastrianism to count (I do know a bit of history), but it happens to be one of the religions that Muslims accept as having been divinely inspired.

Graydon: If Sikhs why not Baha'is, Druzes, or the Kabure Kirishtan?

#252 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2006, 02:41 PM:

With youm.

#253 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2006, 02:42 PM:

And I think CourageVow is great. Since you wrote it and are soliciting feedback, I'll look it over to see if I think the language can be tightened up anywhere, in keeping with your stated goals. But I'll have to do that when I get home.

When you're sure it's in its final form I'm going to mail it to everyone I know.

#254 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2006, 03:22 PM:

Not really comment spam, then. Sorry!

But yeah, the subtlety.

#255 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2006, 08:17 PM:

Greg:

US TV is full of fiction/fiction mythos constructs. Comics have mythic fiction, but somehow most people are able to figure out that the superheroes and supervillains like Spiderman, Superman, Viktor von Doom, the Juggernaut, the Penguin, Batman, Catwoman, the Goblin, Poison Ivy, Dr Octavius, Iron Man, the Thing, etc. etc., are -fictional- and their superpowers don't exist, and the legal maneuvers gone through in comic books are not realistic. (Oh, have I just as a by-product proven that comic book fans are more intelligent that the general TV viewership pubic?!)

TV drama is entertainment, just as Shakespearian plays were entertainment (don't view/read them for historical accuracy...), etc.

#256 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2006, 09:04 PM:

TV drama is entertainment,

I don't disagree. The question is whether some idea presented in fiction in a sympthetic character can cause viewers to translate that idea to their view of reality.

I think "Top Gun" caused a massive recruitment spike for military pilots. It would be an objective thing you could measure at least. Whether you can attribute the existence of such a spike to the movie is a different matter. But I think a spike exists and I think the movie is at cause for it.

Given that, how much can ideas in a sympathetic character alter the viewer's perception of the world to the point that it alters their behaviour? I think there's quite a bit of leeway there.

And as for cartoon or comic book or whatever, "Top Gun" was about as comic book as you could get without an inker.

#257 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 12:38 PM:

Top Gun set off a wave of approbation of assholish behavior culminating the in Tailhook noxiousness.

The character Tom Cruise played in that noxious film, should have been cashiered, not imitated.

#258 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 01:22 PM:

Does your sympathetic character pick you or do you pick your sympathetic character? Obs literature a woman's fate in the extended Musketeers - who is sympathetic there?

Top Gun/Tom Cruise certainly spiked fashion eyewear sales.

I'd agree as well that Top Gun "set off a wave of approbation."

The end of vice paying the tribute of hypocrisy perhaps. I am reminded of a (naval aviator) Captain's wife, she had long functioned as the colonel's lady, who was shocked to learn of the Tailhook scandals (even denied the possibility of her friends acting like that) and had it gently but firmly explained to her that she had been shielded lo these many years. And this despite her presence and even functioning as hostess for ancillary events - somehow the general shielding stopped at Las Vegas.

I'd have thought in Las Vegas that the aiguillette would be respected just as Chappie James hat was saluted regardless - obviously not so.

Sadly Achilles has been too long chosen as a sympathetic character - obs SF see David Drake's specific take on the character.

#259 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 01:23 PM:

which is my point that fiction can cause real-world changes in people's behaviour. I get that it's all entertainment. But I disagree with the notion that most people are able to figure out that the superheroes and supervillains ... are -fictional- and their superpowers don't exist, and the legal maneuvers gone through in comic books are not realistic.

I think its more a matter of scale. The number of viewers for Top Gun probably dwarfed the number of readers of any particular comic book, so even if the effects on individuals are roughly the same, the noticable effects that can be detected in a society aren't being picked up simply because of a lack of numbers.

#260 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 01:42 PM:

Top Gun was also using real equipment, using the name of a real organization and real military bases, and not obviously being fictional. Pre-Tailhook, anyone racing a motorcycle down a runway would have found themselves cashiered--at least one pilot told me a case in which someone who did something of that nature who was in pilot training, was immediately booted out of the military/stripped of his commission.

I used to get all sorts of bent out of shape at space fantasy movies, "Spacecraft don't DO those things, they're constrained by Newtonian mechanics and such regards object action, reaction, object in motion, go watch video of the Solar Max repair mission and what happened when the astronauts starting apply torque on the satellitye -- it started rotating and continue to rotate until acted upon by another force, and -they- the astronauts went into rotation, too--and the objects that are rotating, continue to rotate as0is until a force acts upon them to effect a change! Things don't go moving around as in Star Wars or Babylon 5 (grr, grr, grr!). Alien got it right at least with the "injection into orbit" comment and sequence...

#261 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 01:47 PM:

Top Gun/Tom Cruise certainly spiked fashion eyewear sales.

I think I read somewhere that "Bull Durham" caused a spike in sales of garter belts.

So, I think it can be shown that fiction can cause effects in the real world behaviour of people. Some, like Top Gun/Tailhook, are bad. And some, like Bull Durham/garters, are good.

really good.

#262 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 06:34 PM:

You wear the damnable things, then! Don't say they're "good. really good" unless YOU are the one who the one wearing them.

#263 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 06:57 PM:

Don't say they're "good. really good" unless YOU are the one who [is] wearing them.

I'm trying to translate that to the next time my wife asks me to wear something for her, and it just isn't working for me. Probably won't work for my wife, either. Besides, she'd look silly in my cowboy hat. It's way too big for her. So, I think I'll have to pass on that one.

But if you really insist, perhaps we can find some place having a midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show? I do a pretty good "Sweet Transvestite" rendition.

#264 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 07:27 PM:

A tshirt slogan I saw once (not actually worn).

Straight [tick]
Monogamous [tick]
Christian [tick]
Vanilla [Huh?]

I figured that there had to be something, somewhere, about not even using a chicken feather, but it wouldn't be in the Somg of Solomon

#265 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 08:58 AM:

xopher, any feedback on couragevow dot com?

#266 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 09:09 AM:

other than that, courage vow dot com is on the prohibited URL list. sigh.

#267 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 11:32 AM:

Paula Lieberman:

Thank you for saying what I was thinking. Nothing like having a garter belt chewing on delicate portions of one's anatomy...

#268 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 12:24 PM:

I'm sorry Greg, I just haven't gotten time to have a look. I liked it at first glance, but I've been backed up in my (few) home hours. I'll look at it tonight, I promise.

#269 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 12:50 PM:

Greg - I liked it. A lot. But a few editorial nitpicks - in the sentences below:

"I vow to act from the principles,
from the strength of character,
that makes me BETTER than them.

Strength of arms can win most any battle."

Don't cap up BETTER - it just looks spam-ish.
And you mean to say "almost" not "most".

After this line: "I vow to fight them with the weapon of superior principles" you go on to list a whole series of qualities. Surely, therefore, "weapon" should be plural?

Also, I think that "freedom of privacy for all" sounds odd. I know you're trying to get a bit of anaphora ("freedom of... freedom of...") going in that passage, but consider rephrasing? Either "freedom from intrusion" or just "privacy".

#270 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 01:10 PM:

ajay, I don't agree about 'weapon'. The superior principles collectively are a single weapon, or so I construed that sentence. And "weapons of superior principles" sounds awkward to my ear.

On the other hand, I'd use the plural verb in 'that makes me better than them'. I used my dog and cat test ("My dog and my cat make (not makes) me better.") to decide.

#271 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 01:28 PM:

ajay,

I'll lowercase "better".

As for "weapon(s)", I defer to the grammarians far better than me. I suck at it. I think it would work as singular, but I'm not certain.

As for "freedom of privacy for all", I can change it and move it so as not to break the rhythm of the "freedom of" list. I know the "for all" seems like a bit of extra weight, but it seemed important that "justice" not be some esoteric idea that can somehow apply to "us" but not "them".

I added another bit to the list this morning for "truth".

I'll make the other changes tonight when I can edit the source files on my linux system at home.

Thanks

#272 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 02:55 PM:

Interesting discussion. I thought I'd jump in, but then realized several people made some of my points better than I would.

Some random thoughts:

I'm a 24 fan. It's utterly ridiculous, but that's why I enjoy it. I never really thought about how it might make people comfortable with torture, but I can see that extrapolation. Having said that, did you know John McCain did a cameo? I did a huge double-take, precisely because the man was tortured and he was a fan of the show.

terrorist/anarchist/saboteur/potato: I really think terrorist was fine until, unsurprisingly, it became co-opted politically. Terrorist--it's the new Nazi. I think anarchist is too hard to fit in given it's historical context. As far as saboteur, it's so....French. Hey! Wait! That's it! Kill two birds with one stone: label the bad guys with a whiff of brie!

Personally, I like barbarian. Just think how it would sound if a newcaster intoned: "The barbarians tried to storm the gates of the White House." The historical entendre would be rich.

#273 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 02:59 PM:

Strength of arms can win most any battle."

"most" is incorrect?
"almost" may be grammatically correct,
but it sure doesn't have the feel I was going for.
crap. will have to ponder that one.

#274 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 03:12 PM:

Paula: you got that right. Garter belts, phooey.

Per Teresa's particles, Cthulhu awakes! When he surfaces, I say we all stand on a mountaintop and point him at Donald Rumsfeld.

#275 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 04:13 PM:

Greg, as I posted in the guestbook, "Courage Vow" is great. We need more people saying that sort of thing. But I don't think there is any point in my telling Weasel* Coleman about it, and the other Senator is a lame duck, as is my Rep.

*Okay, that's an insult to weasels, but he is called that in St. Paul.

#276 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 04:36 PM:

Thanks for signing, Magenta.

I don't think there is any point in my telling Weasel* Coleman about it, and the other Senator is a lame duck, as is my Rep.

It's just an extension of the "I vow to call a coward anyone who (blank)" statements. The politicians who are replacing courage with chest beating and false bravado are nothing but cowards trying to make their constituency a bunch of cowards.

Will it do anything? I don't know. But remaining silent has become too much complicity for me to handle. I personally can't take it anymore. I want my country back. Whether this does that, I don't know. But I have to do my part.

#277 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 05:02 PM:

Greg: Wow. Just went to couragevow and I just to have to say sorry if my previous post sounded flip. No, take that back, it IS flip. But I meant it to be, to bring a little levity in. It's not meant to sound like a sarcastic rejoinder to anything you've said or are trying to do.

When people get really serious, my fingers sometimes get a little nervous laughter thing going.

#278 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 05:19 PM:

Mark,

Actually, I was thinking of adding "barbarian" somewhere on the couragevow page after I read your post, so, no worries. Levity is good. Suffering is optional.

Greg "Have fun storming the castle" London

#279 ::: Andrew ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 06:06 PM:

Greg, couragevow is a good page -- some very powerful ideas and writing.

After seeing your original comment about "how this administration is encouraging fear," I was expecting at least some mention on your new site of actually speaking directly to that specific practice of encouraging fear to blind our country to its principles. Didn't it fit?

I'm fine with "most", and agree with Xopher on the singular weapon.

I was wondering whether you intend "them" to be only the saboteurs and criminals, no matter where it's used, or do you mean it to include or become the cowards? It feels to me that "them" has become (or includes) the cowards in its final use.

"These principles" becomes "the principles" briefly (at the same time we have one of the "them"s with a questionable antecedent in the BETTER paragraph -- I first thought it was "the principles" that *was* the antecedent), and then goes to "my principles" for the remainder...and this overall transition feels unstable in part because of the conflict between singular and plural, first person and third: between "my principles" and "coward anyone" and "coward those" and "they" and "them". I wish I knew a good solution, but my editing skills aren't up to the task.

#280 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 06:17 PM:

Andrew,

the text "not a government that tells people how to respond." links to the homeland security color fear indicator. That was an indirect reference to the administration encouraging fear. I could probably rephrase the text to be more direct and keep the link as is.

I'll take another look at my use of "them" and "they" and similar. I believe when talking about barbarians, they means barbarians, and when talking about cowards, they means cowards. I'm not sure if that's grammatically correct or contextually un-ambiguous, but that was the intent. I'll take another look tonight when I can edit the source.

#281 ::: Gary Townsend ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 11:04 PM:

Having served 4 years in the U.S. Air Force from 1980-1984, in Greece and Maryland, and having been an Air Force brat the first 17 years of my life, I was quite appalled when I first read about this change in policy. I can well remember the classes I attended in bootcamp. Although my primary job was telecommunications, I was taught that when caught in a fire-fight to shoot to wound, NOT to shoot to kill, the idea being to take someone out of action, not out of life. If one of the wounded soldier's comrades came to his aid, then his comrade, too, was to be wounded. If the person who came to the man's aid, however, was a medic, then to shoot was strictly verboten!

The Geneva Convention also heavily influenced the instruction I received, especially with regard to the treatment of prisoners of war. I have a slight, although admittedly dim, appreciation for the sort of surroundings prisoners of war face, since some of the buildings at the high school I attended in Oxfordshire, at RAF Upper Heyford (when it was still in use as a U.S. Air Force Base), had once been used as a prisoner of war camp. (You can imagine the sorts of jokes which arose amongst those who attended this high school, given its history.)

I'm all for the courts-martial of any who have advocated or even partook of this crap!

When I first read of these things and strains of David Bowie's song, "This Is Not America", kept reverberating within my head.

My experience as an Air Force brat and as an enlisted man, which had me living in places such as Okinawa, Bangkok, Shenington and Bloxham (in England), and Athens, gave me an appreciation for other peoples and cultures that I see severely lacking not only in the present Administration, but in a great many Americans, as well. With a mum from London, I've family in England, South Africa, and Australia, so my perspective, from birth, has always been global. Attesting to this are my friends in Canada, England, Wales, Poland, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as my girlfriend, who lives in Portugal.

I don't say all this to boast, but only to say that Bush's terms in office have given me a greater appreciation for my background and upbringing, and I long for (or, to use the Portuguese, tenho saudades) either the end of Dubya's term, or, preferrably, his forcible removal from office! What he has done has actually caused me to weep, and even, at times, to want to leave, to live in another country. I know I would have no problems whatsoever adapting to a new culture.

#282 ::: Gary Townsend ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 11:08 PM:

A minor edit:

When I first read of these things and strains of David Bowie's song, "This Is Not America", kept reverberating within my head.

Should be:

When I first read of these things, strains of David Bowie's song, "This Is Not America", kept reverberating within my head.

#283 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2006, 12:01 AM:

OK, I got rid of "BETTER", I think I fixed the more confusing uses of "them", I straightened out the "these principles" and "the principles", I added the phrase "barbarian bomber" to go with "suicidal saboteur", and I added another link. After all that, two paragraphs seemed to be in the wrong order, so I swapped their positions. I believe it's pretty close to prime time now.

any more comments about CourageVow.com?

#284 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2006, 02:27 AM:

Entities I want ejected from any position receiving funds from US taxpayers via federal disbursements as salary, contract, subcontract, or pension, include but not limited to, in order of me remembering names...

1 The Schmuck.
2. Darth Cheney
3. Donald Rumsfeld
4. Karl Rove
5. Scooter Libby
6. John Bolton
5. Anton Scalia
6. Lt Gen. Boykin
7. James Dobson
8. Pat Robertson
9. Clarence Thomas
10. Elaine Donnelly
11. [the skuz put on the Supreme Court by the Schmuck replacing a somewhat centrist woman, with an extremist white male Christian misogynist anti-liberty bigot]
12. the skuz who replaced John Ashcroft
13. John Ashcroft
14. Tom DeLay
15. Rick Santorum
16. Rep. Ney
17. Neil Bush [got big fat payments from defense contractors for being Schmuck's brother....]

Etc.

#285 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2006, 09:22 AM:

Magenta Griffith:I don't think there is any point in my telling Weasel* Coleman about it, and the other Senator is a lame duck, as is my Rep.

*Okay, that's an insult to weasels, but he is called that in St. Paul.

My immediate reaction: Really? Very perceptive of St. Paul. Which epistle?


And small note for Greg: I wasn't objecting to the "for all" bit, but the "freedom of privacy" - that phrase just sounds off.

#286 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2006, 12:17 PM:

ajay : (quoting Magenta Griffith) *Okay, that's an insult to weasels, but he is called that in St. Paul.

My immediate reaction: Really? Very perceptive of St. Paul. Which epistle?

I believe that would be the Epistle to the Minnesotans.

#287 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2006, 12:21 PM:

ajay : (quoting Magenta Griffith) *Okay, that's an insult to weasels, but he is called that in St. Paul.

joann: My immediate reaction: Really? Very perceptive of St. Paul. Which epistle?

I believe that would be the Epistle to the Minnesotans.

Verily, I say unto thee, that not all who say "you betcha" shall be taken into the kingdom of Heaven.

#288 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2006, 01:55 PM:

Verily, I say unto thee, that not all who say "you betcha" shall be taken into the kingdom of Heaven.

And take a little lunch for your stomach's sake, and for your other infirmities.

#289 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 02:33 PM:

WW1's secret weapon: a friendly chat
PoWs gave away Somme plans over coffee
David Smith
Sunday June 18, 2006
The Observer

We have ways of making you talk, but they do not involve a bright light, dripping tap or thumbscrews. Instead a cordial German welcome, complete with cigarettes and a chat about mutual acquaintances, helped to elicit crucial information from British soldiers taken captive during the Battle of the Somme.

This is the claim of Christopher Duffy, a military historian and former Sandhurst instructor, who has attempted to understand the First World War battle from the enemy's point of view..............

#290 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2006, 12:13 PM:

Clark E. Meyers: Read Hans Scharff The Interrogator.

He got something (at least one answer to one question) from pretty much every pilot he talked to.

All with just chats. All with them knowing he was interrogating them.

#291 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2006, 12:13 PM:

Nice to have a little good news on such a crappy day.

#292 ::: Niall sees comment spam on ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2006, 08:39 AM:

Buh-bye!

#293 ::: spam deleted ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2010, 01:06 AM:

[ spam from 173.234.116.204 ]

#294 ::: Xopher sees SPAM ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2010, 01:29 AM:

More spam.

#295 ::: Idgecat sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2010, 04:40 AM:

# 296

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