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September 16, 2006

President Torture
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 04:20 PM * 103 comments

President Bush had a press conference yesterday. The first thing that struck me about it was the angry, hectoring tone that he took. What was Bush so angry about?

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Questioning of suspected terrorists “won’t go forward” unless Congress clarifies a U.S. standard for the treatment and interrogation of detainees, President Bush warned Friday.

The remarks appeared to be an attempt to put Congress on the spot about the future of a program that Bush says has helped thwart terrorism.

Yes, friends, Bush was saying, in almost so many words, “If you don’t make torture legal, I’m going to stop torturing people!”

Personally, I don’t see a down side to that.

I’m going to quote myself from an earlier thread now:

Back during WWII, resistance fighters were taught to avoid answering the Gestapo’s questions for 24 hours (and you can generally do this, even under frightful torture, which the Gestapo was fully able and willing to deliver). After that, they were allowed to say anything they pleased — because by then any plans they might have been aware of would be changed. Any operations they were engaged in would have been canceled. Any codes they knew would have been scrapped. Any people they knew would be living somewhere else under new names.

Which makes me wonder: Exactly what kind of useful information do we think we’re going to get from someone four years after they were captured?

Later in the same thread:

First: 29 Retired Admirals and Generals, Military Leaders and Former DOD Officials Urge Congress to Preserve the Geneva Conventions

Second: GOP split as Senate panel bucks Bush on terror tribunals (includes as a subhead “Powell breaks with adminsitration”)

Now: action. Everyone, tonight, write a letter to your senators and congressmen urging them to hold fast on the Geneva Conventions. Express your disgust with the thought of Americans torturing prisoners. It doesn’t matter if your representative is the biggest right-winger in congress; write anyway. I’m told that faxes get through better than streetmail.

Do it tonight before you go to bed.

A nice letter to the editor of your local paper wouldn’t go amiss.

It’s a small action, but it’s an action. Take it.

And again:

“If you have people in the field trying to question terrorists, if you do not have clear legal definitions, they themselves will be subject to the whims and the differing interpretations given by foreign courts, foreign judges and foreign tribunals,” [White House spokesman Tony] Snow said. “And we don’t think that’s appropriate.”

Let’s turn to the Geneva Convention itself:

Article 3 prohibits nations engaged in combat not of “an international character” from, among other things, “violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture” and “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment.”

Seems pretty straightforward to me. I don’t recall any confusion anywhere in the world about exactly what it means up to this moment. So why is it suddenly unclear now?

Back to Georgie’s press conference (and again, I hope everyone listens, to hear his tone of voice, to see the raw hatred and fear on his face):

“You cannot ask a young intelligence officer to violate the law,” Bush said. “If Congress passes a law that does not clarify the rules … the program is not going forward.”

Hey, George, tell you what: if any of those young intelligence officers have any questions they can call me on the phone. I’ll be happy to clarify it for them.

Now more of the Recycled material, the letter I sent to my congressman and senators:

Mr. Bush is pushing for legislation that would weaken the United States’ adherance to the Geneva Convention. This would put our own troops in peril if they were captured, and would certainly weaken our moral leadership in the world, now and in the future.

Please don’t go along wtih this so-called “terrorist tribunal” measure the President is supporting.

Ask yourself if you, personally, would like to be interrogated and tried by a foreign power that had adopted an identical law. Ask yourself exactly what’s wrong with the Federal courts that have served us so well for the past two hundred years, and the Geneva Conventions that have guided us for the past century.

Vote your conscience.

Add to the list of folks who should have letters of support:

  • Colin Powell
  • John McCain
  • Lindsey Graham
  • John Warner

There’s little enough we can do. Do those things.

Comments on President Torture:
#1 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 05:00 PM:

At some point over the past few years we seem to have left our good, green earth and landed on a strange planet where everything is more than slightly bizarre. Thus, I seem to hear the president saying that in order to protect freedom we must take away human rights. Since that makes no sense I can only presume that we have been moved to a different planet with different basic rules constituting its reality.

#2 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 05:19 PM:

Shouldn't Susan Collins be added to the "letter of Support" list?

#3 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 05:44 PM:

He's doing this because he enjoys torturing people.

#4 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 05:45 PM:

What got me was when, as Keith Olbermann pointed out, President Bush said outright that it was "unacceptable to think" there was a comparison between what the US is doing and what terrorists do.

(I've become a newly-converted fan of Olbermann, since his statement Monday about who it is who forgot the lessons of September 11.)

#5 ::: Gwynhwyfar ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 06:16 PM:

I've written. Thanks for getting me off my butt.

#6 ::: Cryptic Ned ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 06:36 PM:

It would be nice if the media would portray this as "Bush and the Republican Congress favors torture; Democrats, plus five or six Republicans, think it is unwise", rather than "Bush favors torture; Republicans in Congress think it is unwise; Democrats apparently have no opinion, because we didn't ask."

#7 ::: Cryptic Ned ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 06:40 PM:

Thus, I seem to hear the president saying that in order to protect freedom we must take away human rights.

When he says "freedom" what he means is "the interests of multinational corporations whose top executives donate to the Republican Party". This is also what he means by words like "democracy", "liberty", "America", "The United States", "Western civilization", "we", and "us".

#8 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 06:41 PM:

There's more back-story that we're missing here. My guess is that Bush is trying to create immunity for these "young intelligence officers" who've tortured on the direct orders of important administration officials (probably Bush himself) and might roll if put on trial.

I think he and his administration re suddenly frightened of being held accountable for the actions of US officials they ordered to torture people.

My guess is, if we knew the truth, he'd be in jail right now.

Why do I think this? Khalid El-Masri, a German citizen, was kidnapped, tortured, and then abandoned by CIA officials. No one in the US government will admit to it, but the German government seems satisfied that it happened. The US has denied him the right to sue for being kidnapped and tortured. God only knows why they didn't kill him. Someone in the CIA has a conscience, but is not coming forth.

13 CIA Agents are wanted in Italy for an attempted kidnapping. we didn't even bother to warn Italy's police or government what we were doing. We are a rogue power. We are an axis of evil.

There's also a reason El-Masri is not a household name, and that the kidnappings in Italy are being glossed over, and that reason is that the US news media is ducking out on this story.

#9 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 06:42 PM:

Cryptic Ned #7: You have a point. And when he says 'class warfare' he means 'anything that gives a leg-up to the poor'.

#10 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 06:43 PM:

#6 Cryptic Ned

What? The liberal media? Do that? Nah.

#11 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 06:58 PM:

A picture, from a comment over at firedoglake, where they are currently discussing the hiring practices of the CPA in Iraq - it's a whole 'nother kettle of escaping worms, courtesy of the Washington Post - What is this country coming to?

#12 ::: Susan Kitchens ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 07:01 PM:

I created a 20K gif image (George Bush's American Flag) and have it posted on my site (click the link for my name in order to view the post with the image)

Feel free to download it and then upload it to wherever you wish. Please do not hotlink from my site, tho.

#13 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 07:34 PM:

Ah, the CPA. Another huge money pit the media ignored.

except... The American Conservative of all places. And quite a while ago. Most of America has forgotten, if they ever noticed.

The 15-month proconsulship of the CPA disbursed nearly $20 billion, two-thirds of it in cash, most of which came from the Development Fund for Iraq that had replaced the UN Oil for Food Program and from frozen and seized Iraqi assets. Most of the money was flown into Iraq on C-130s in huge plastic shrink-wrapped pallets holding 40 “cashpaks,” each cashpak having $1.6 million in $100 bills. Twelve billion dollars moved that way between May 2003 and June 2004, drawn from accounts administered by the New York Federal Reserve Bank. The $100 bills weighed an estimated 363 tons.

Once in Iraq, there was virtually no accountability over how the money was spent. There was also considerable money “off the books,” including as much as $4 billion from illegal oil exports. The CPA and the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Board, which it controlled, made a deliberate decision not to record or “meter” oil exports, an invitation to wholesale fraud and black marketeering.

Thus the country was awash in unaccountable money. British sources report that the CPA contracts that were not handed out to cronies were sold to the highest bidder, with bribes as high as $300,000 being demanded for particularly lucrative reconstruction contracts.

#14 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 08:27 PM:

This CPA stuff isn't entirely new; the WaPo wrote a story (and I wrote about it) back in May 2004. Today's story looks to be a subtle book plug, although there are more details than had previously been known.

Which isn't to say it shouldn't have been run; the more the merrier. Anything which shows the Administration as the corrupt and incompetent fools that they are is fine by me.

#15 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 08:27 PM:

Yes, friends, Bush was saying, in almost so many words, “If you don’t make torture legal, I’m going to stop torturing people!”

I listened to that and said "All right!" It's hard to imagine that he doesn't realize that those who reject his torture proposal would like the CIA interrogation to stop.

#16 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 09:02 PM:

Linkmeister, my point wasn't that th CPA corruption was new, but that it's been forgotten at best, and whitewashed by a news media that's been at Bush's beck and call since he started selling favorable business conditions in exchange for favorable news coverage.

Ages ago, I made a comparison between the policies of the East India Trading Copmany, and BushCo. I think I need to update that list.

#17 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 09:36 PM:

This afternoon, I found myself shouting back at the radio, when the NPR newsreader managed to not refer to torture in describing the interrogation methods the Bush administration wanted to use.

Hell, yes, I'll write letters.

#18 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 09:54 PM:

Thus the country was awash in unaccountable money. Much of which was undoubtedly used to buy weapons which are now killing American, British, and other soldiers and Marines and Iraqi civilians.

Randolph @ 17: I've been yelling at my radio for months. It doesn't do any good. It doesn't even make me feel better.

#19 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 10:08 PM:

Duly written, though I'm not holding my breath for Isakson and Chambliss to see the light any time soon.

#20 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 10:16 PM:

I heard Bush's press conference on the radio, so I couldn't see the expression on his face, but I was amazed by his petulant tone of voice.

I have a theory that the administration's own polls say democrats are going to take over one or both houses of congress, and Bush et al. are scared to death of congressional hearings--televised hearings--leading to who knows what public outcry. He's trying to get the CIA program legalized retrospectively to cover his own ass, because as I understand it, he personally gave orders to torture prisoners.

#21 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 10:18 PM:

Lila #19: Isakson might; Chambliss's head, however, is firmly lodged in his rectum.

#22 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 10:28 PM:

unless Congress clarifies a U.S. standard for the treatment and interrogation of detainees

This is such blatant doublespeak that it boggles the mind.

Look at my mind, see how boggled it is?

ouch...

#23 ::: Rob T. ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 10:43 PM:

Yes, friends, Bush was saying, in almost so many words, “If you don’t make torture legal, I’m going to stop torturing people!”

I don't think so. Given that Bush lied about spying on phone calls without a warrant, I would say the correct reading of the statement is that he's going to keep on ordering torture and just not admit to doing so.

#24 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 10:47 PM:

Jim -- Can I recycle some of your letter to send to my own Congresspeople? This gets me so mad I can't really think straight, and anyway you say it better than I could.

#25 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 10:52 PM:

Bush will stop torturing people if we don't pass laws making it legal to torture people?

In a pig's eye.

In my more paranoid moments (which get more frequent all the time), I think Bush has a Big Terrorist Attack planned and waiting in the wings in case he doesn't get his way and/or the GOP loses its majority status this November.

In the former case, he'll go on TV and say, "See? I tried to protect you, but the appeasers wouldn't let me. See what happened?"

In the latter case, he'll either hope for a Rally Round the GOP effect, or just use the attack to suspend what's left of the Constitution and declare himself President for Life.

#26 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 11:52 PM:

I've already written on it.

Disgust isn't in it.

I thought the part where he thinks the rest of the world adoptig the same things he's authorised would make it a better place.

Since I already expect to be abused if catpured, you can imagine my glee at finding out what he thinks ought to be de rigeur.

#27 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 12:10 AM:

I love the whole argument on the "clarity" doublespeak (he actually means, "define it my way"). Especially when he is now getting clarity, we as a people don't accept torture or rigged trial proceedings as "acceptable behavior." Can we make it any clearer to you, Mr. President, that we don't like what you've been doing? How's that for clarity.

#28 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 12:33 AM:

In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

I borrowed this from TBogg. This is most of Article III of the Geneva Conventions. It seems dazzlingly clear to me. I think Bush and his friends (Yoo, Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc.) are scared shitless. They know, and eventually everyone will know (sooner if the Repugnants lose the House in November, even sooner if they lose the House and the Senate) that they have ignored Article 3 in principle and in practice. God alone knows what has really happened in those secret prisons, but somewhere, someone will talk about it, to Sy Hersch, to Al-Jazeera, to the U. S. Senate... Someday it will all get out.

I also heard the hatred and fear (and contempt) in Bush's voice, Jim. I think he is afraid because he is culpable, and he knows it.

#29 ::: David Dvorkin ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 12:55 AM:

At some point over the past few years we seem to have left our good, green earth and landed on a strange planet where everything is more than slightly bizarre.

That's a common experience as we get older. But normally it applies to clothing and music and so on, and it usually happens incrementally, so that one wakes up one day and realizes that one has become an alien visitor.

What's so depressing in this case is that it's not a matter of kids listening to horrible noise they call music but of adults listening to the top figures in their government espousing grotesque and un-American policies, and those adults nod and call the opposition unpatriotic. Now, that's bizarre.


Of course I have a blog

#30 ::: Gary Townsend ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 03:47 AM:

Didn't we used to call for leaders of foreign countries guilty of human rights violations to be held accountable in international courts of law? Oddly enough, Saddam Hussein comes immediately to mind. Why should it be any different for our own leaders guilty of the same sorts of crimes?

I say, cart his ass off to the Hague, tout de suite! And take his cronies along with him!

I agree that he knows he's culpable and that he knows that unless he can get the Geneva Conventions modified he'll likely be sitting in the cell next to Saddam, or maybe even sharing the same cell! Now *that* would be interesting!

I was in the Air Force many years ago and I was horrified when I learned that Bush had decided to deliberately set aside our adherance to the GC. That's certainly not what I was taught in bootcamp. In fact, I also distinctly remember being taught to shoot to wound, not to shoot to kill, the idea being to take someone out of action, not out of life (although that isn't completely avoidable in time of war). And if the guy who came along to help the soldier I just wounded wasn't a medic, then I was to shoot to wound him, too, taking someone else out of action. Medics, however, were strictly off limits. Bush would just have us drop a bunker-buster on everyone's ass whom he thinks is (or might remotely be) a "terrorist", and the hell with the medics, as well.

#31 ::: Katherine ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 04:07 AM:

The letter Graham, Warner and McCain most need right now is a letter thanking them for the good parts of the bill BUT ALSO, AND EVEN MORE IMPORTANTLY asking them to change the bad parts of the bill, such as ending habeas jurisdiction over Guantanamo and weakening the war crimes act.

Please read Balkinization or Obsidian Wings on this.

I appreciate the difference between Warner, Graham, and McCain and the President on this--it's all that's standing between us and an awful outcome--but their role is much more complicated and ambiguous than is being made out in the press (which is one thing) or the large majority of liberal weblogs (which is really starting to annoy me.)

Their bill ends habeas jurisdiction for every person in Guantanamo--it overturns Rasul v. Bush, and if it had passed last fall (which Graham pushed for, and all three voted for) Hamdan never would have happened. And it leaves some innocent guys to be detained forever based on kangaroo courts. It weakens the War Crimes Act considerably. It's much better than the alternative, it may be the best we can do, but it's also much worse than the current law. To put haloes on these guys as the defenders of human rights and American honor--it's a fundamental misunderstanding of the political situation, and it's going to kill the small chance we have of improving their bill. Please cut it out.

I'm sorry about the tone--I just keep writing this comment on all sorts of prominent blogs, and they keep ignoring me. I also wrote a long series on this last year and a few months ago to be prepared for this bill, and it's just ignored. I know people aren't interested in this all the time, but when they are interested all of a sudden, but are misinformed, it is extremely frustrating.

#32 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 04:46 AM:

I don't trust Powell, Warner, Graham and McCain one bit. However, I am not hoping for a chance to improve anyone's bill. We already have adequate laws against torture, abuse, indefinite detention without charges, and so on. We don't need to water down the laws. We don't need to debate over how much watering down we can accept. We just need to find a way to stop more bad laws from being passed, and we need to enforce the laws we already have.

#33 ::: Nenya Kanadka ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 06:44 AM:

Thanks, Lizzy L (#28)--it's so good to have an applicable part of the Geneva Conventions handy. I'm writing my reps (Frist, Alexander, Jenkins) and including that text at the end. Also saving it for future reference.

Katherine (#31)--agreed, the bill they're pushing instead is scary too. Trying to think what to fax them to make that distinction.

#34 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 09:54 AM:

David Dvorkin #29: You're right about generational change resulting in each generation feeling alienated in its own world. But the actions of the Bushies, in changing the meanings of every signpost, have managed an instantaneous alienation that I had not believed possible. Not even Orwell, either in 'Politics and the English Language' or in creating 'Newspeak', could have conceived such a transformation occurring so rapidly.

To hear crimes against humanity justified because 'they've kept us safe since 9/11' when 'us' clearly does not include the Londoners and madrileños murdered by Islamist terrorists is, to my mind, truly alarming. (Especially alarming as both the British and the Spaniards have more experience dealing with terrorism than the Americans do. And neither could have prevented the attacks.) To hear a completely unnecessary war justified as necessary because of non-existent weapons, non-existent connections to terrorists, and in order to defend human rights which the Bush administration has no interest in defending now that their mission has been accomplished, is to despair of humanity.


#35 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 11:28 AM:

Possibly the most shocking thing about our current situation is the discovery that many of our fellow citizens are fine with it.

A few months ago, the 'president' stood up and admitted to felonies (eavesdropping). Nixon was run out of office for roughly comparable crimes; today, nothing happened.

Then he stood up and flat-out admitted to war crimes:
George Bush approved of torture.

Again, no reaction. The 'oppostion' party hasn't called for his resignation; in fact, they're too cowed to even point out the enormity of his crimes.

The GCs talks about providing prisoners with all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples: George Bush stood up and told the world that the United States of America no longer wishes to conduct itself as a civilized nation.

There has been no public outcry. You can easily find neighbors - to all outward appearances, civilized people - who agree with him.

As theories go, it's certainly plausible that in December of 2000, we slipped through to some Parallel America.

#36 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 11:57 AM:

he is afraid because he is culpable, and he knows it.

I doubt his internal thought process used the word "culpable", since I doubt he could pronounce it or would know what it means, but otherwise, yeah, I'd agree with that.

Some part of me imagines that if Democrats take the House and Senate, Bush will be convinced that it is the result of terrorists taking over the country, will impose martial law, erase the legislative and judicial branches, and give himself complete power.

All while thinking he's doing the right thing.

#37 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 12:04 PM:

Here’s an interesting point:

A Plea to Congress on Military Commission Procedures

Members of Congress are thus on notice that minimum due process guarantees under customary international law must not be denied when Congress attempts to articulate what forms of procedure a military commission should adopt. If members participate in a plan to do so or are complicit in the deprivation of minimum due process guarantees under customary international law incorporated by reference in common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions or any other rights or protections under common Article 3 (e.g., concerning the right to humane treatment even at the hands of CIA interrogators), they would be participating in the denial of rights, protections, and duties under Geneva law. Such denials are war crimes.

Moreover, “wilfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed in the ... Convention” constitutes a more egregious “grave breach” of Geneva law.

#38 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 12:31 PM:

I can't even cope anymore.

#39 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 01:15 PM:

It's not just that many Americans are fine with war crimes. Bush, Rove, & Co. are using war crimes as a wedge issue. They know the Democrats cannot endorse torture, indefinite detention without charges, and other violations of human rights, civil rights, and established law. Torture gives the Republicans a way they can clearly shows they are tough and the Democrats are weak. They think they have a winner.

#40 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 01:51 PM:

"The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgement of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist."

Winston Churchill

#41 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 01:52 PM:

TomB: yeah, that's part of it.

The republicans are running as the party of superstition, brute force, war crimes, Star Chamber proceedings, and TORTURE... and everybody is continuing to talk politely about it, as though this was completely normal.

You turn on the Sunday morning pundit shows, and watch people in expensive suits holding civilized discussions of torture techniques.

The opposition party won't even buck up on their hind legs and point out that everything the GOP is for is downright Evil.

'Bizarro America' might explain it. I'm pretty much at a loss otherwise.

#42 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 03:17 PM:

While I am thankful that Colin Powell has said something, this is the first time I've ever wanted to seriously nominate a public figure for "Understatement of the Year." In the CNN article, he's reported to say:

"The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism."

You just noticed, Colin? I think we're well past "beginning" at this point.

#43 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 03:43 PM:

"Evil" is correct.

#44 ::: Jp ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 04:44 PM:

Yes, friends, Bush was saying, in almost so many words, “If you don’t make torture legal, I’m going to stop torturing people!”

Careful, now. Do you think Bush was really trying to convince the people who want the torture to stop, or is it more likely that he was trying to convince his base that the people opposing him want to stop all anti-terrorist investigations?

#45 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 05:33 PM:

#44:Jp:or is it more likely that he was trying to convince his base that the people opposing him want to stop all anti-terrorist investigations?

My take on it was that he was being petulant. I thought he was threatening to stop all anti-terrorist investigations unless he got what he wanted. i.e., the Presidential equivalent of holding his breath. (I just heard on NPR that the Republican hold outs in the Senate have indicated that they are willing to compromise.)

#46 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 05:34 PM:

Speaking as a 'whining piece of decadent Eurotrash' as I had the honour to be called recently by a Bushbaby, our experience over here of dealing with 'terrorists' (which goes back a few more years than the USA's and quite often those terrorists had the overt support of American citizens - the IRA - and the American state - Irgun) leads to a definite conclusion. You always end up talking to them. Jerry Adams has gone from being head honcho of the Provisionals to a respected MP and advocate of peace.

The list of great men originally called 'terrorist' is huge. Lets pick Mohandas K Ghandi and Nelson Mandela as starters.

Except those guys and all the others on the list wanted freedom for their people from opprsession - even butchers of innocents like Menachem Begin (speciality the bombing of cinemas) could justify his murders by claiming a higher good.

What freedom does Al Quaida want? Basically, the freedom for you and I to worship in the same Wahabi mosque as their sponsors in Riyadh do. Which is a freedom I think I'll forgo, but don't let that stop you.

So, we're not dealing with the same threat as that posed by traditional 'terrorists' (even Hizbollah just want their land back, thank you very much) The question is, how to combat such a threat - presuming we want to.

Well, to be sure, torturing and killing guys who want to be tortured and killed because that is going to send them straight to Paradise is hardly a winning tactic. In fact, trying to defeat an idea with physical weapons is pretty much redundant. Doing so has turned the US from 'beacon of liberty' to 'great Satan' almost as fast as Ronnie Raygun adopting SDI turned the US from the greatest creditor nation in the world to the greatest debtor nation ('You owe the bank $100, you have problems. You owe the bank $100m, the bank has problems' - Robert Maxwell, MP, thief, fantasist and all round scoundrel) Strange how that seems to bother Dubya no more than it did his dad.

Within the memory of many people here, an American politician could stand up, wrap himself in the Constutition and not be laughed at. Getting back to thinking that the freedoms espoused in that document might be worth maintaining would be a good first step.

If your friends have experience, it is a good idea to learn from that experience so you don't make the same mistakes.

We're here to tell you that ditching the freedoms that make you strong doesn't help you fight any enemy. It just makes you weaker (and it is very hard to retrieve those freedoms from the grip of those grey men who don't think you deserve those freedoms anyway and would be happier without them). When it comes to torture, the answer is that WE don't do it (yes, we did do it and it was as wrong and counter productive then as it is now). It is as easy as that. If WE torture we reduce ourselves to THEIR level. We lose the battle. We lose the war.

#47 ::: Robert Glaub ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 09:36 PM:

When I was in Bosnia and Kosovo back in the nineties, we all damn well knew what Common Article 3 meant. There was no ambiguity or uncertainty. And the war criminals we were hunting damn well knew the definition too...

#48 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 10:30 PM:

In terms of international law, what difference does it make if Congress passes legislation making torture "legal"?

Isn't it still a violation of international law? Wouldn't Bush still be culpable? Couldn't The Hague still hand down an indictment, regardless of what US law is?

I've heard that Kissinger never leaves the country is because he's scared of being arrested and tried for war crimes. I don't know if that's true, but if so, it seems that Bush would be in the same position. (Not, mind you, that he's likely to ever leave the US once he's out of office - he certainly didn't travel overseas before.)

#49 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 10:53 PM:

Can Bush and buddies be sent to the Hague after he leaves office, or does the Constitution overrule international law? (Personally, I'm hoping for something sooner than that, but I'll take all the good we can get in this case.)

#50 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 11:08 PM:

Al Qaeda wants women locked into head to toe veiling, purdah, illiteracy, chattelhood, and zero self-detemination; and men locked into beards, five time a day prayer, and Al Qaeda's variety of religious orthodoxy.

#51 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 11:17 PM:

They took oaths to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America, against all enemies, foreign and domestic. The leadership of the military is forsworn, the Justic Department is forsworn, most of Congress is forsworn...

#52 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 12:09 AM:

The Constitution overrides international law within the US. SFAIK, anyway.

#53 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 01:26 AM:

The government of the United States of America is answerable only to its citizens, and to no other power on Earth. It is idle to canvass the possibility of foreigners providing redress for its behaviour. None may. None can. None will.

Only the citizens of the United States can act. But will they? Enormities have been committed in their name, and the chief executive of their government is now demanding that they destroy their own laws and Constitution in order to accommodate atrocities. When they realise this, I hope they will rise as one in their grief and fury to hurl him down. But they are the only people who can.

We foreigners must wait and watch. And, if inclined that way, pray. For if the United States has become a barbarism, then we must prepare for a new Dark Age.

#54 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 03:15 AM:

The government of the United States of America is answerable only to its citizens, and to no other power on Earth. It is idle to canvass the possibility of foreigners providing redress for its behaviour. None may. None can. None will.

Actually, some foreigners have had a great deal of influence with the US government. Ahmed Chalabi, is one; although relations have cooled since it came out that he was a liar, a traitor and a spy, for a while he was our number one guy. King Abdullah is another. Sorry if you don't feel included. Most Americans feel that way too.

#55 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 03:35 AM:

I don't know how many Australians there are reading this (beside myself), but it might be an idea if we start writing to our Federal MPs to point out that if the US succeeds in excusing themselves from the Geneva Convention, fighting beside the US will be A Very Bad Idea Indeed. I rather doubt that anyone in Iraq (or Iran, or anywhere else that the current government of the US decides to invade) is going to care that much about figuring out the fine distinctions between the US flag and the Australian one.

One little point I don't think that Curious George in the White House has figured out yet: if you make it okay for your side to play nasty, the other side gets to play nasty too. This is *why* the Geneva Convention was brought into play in the first place, damnit - the various world powers were brought to admit that if they wanted their soldiers to avoid things like torture, massacre, etc, they had to refrain from doing it in the first place themselves. It's the most basic of rules, and one that most kids playing chasey in the playground work out fairly easily: rules only work if they affect *everyone*.

#56 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 03:39 AM:

Who was that guy from Chile, who was threatened with trial in the UK--as it came out, the decision partly depended on him being President at the time, and "Sovereign Immunity".

Pinochet, that was who. But there have been laws and international agreements made since then.

But that sort of case has a big political dimension. If the government in the USA was very different, Bush might find his travel options very limited, because foreign governments might feel they could take action if they had the chance.

Here's an interesting thought. US Presidents, after they leave office, still get some Secret Service protection, right? How much does Bill Clinton get when he travels abroad? How much would Bush want, and how much would he be allowed?

He's so used to the aura of kingship; what's his reaction going to be to being without the guards and the grovelling?

#57 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 05:31 AM:

#55, Meg: One little point I don't think that Curious George in the White House has figured out yet: if you make it okay for your side to play nasty, the other side gets to play nasty too.

Fortunately, he doesn't need to figure it out because members of his own party have repeatedly saying this in public. This, of course, doesn't mean that he'll listen. (It has had the interesting side effect though that the Republicans haven't been able to demonize the Democrats with their usual efficiency.)

In retrospect, given that GWB has a track record of rejecting international agreements and treaties, I guess that he wants to violate the Geneva Convention shouldn't have been surprising. Likewise, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that he's so actively misleading in how he's trying to do it. i.e., he claims that he want to "clarify" the Geneva Convention, but to clarify does not mean "to make legal what once was illegal." And yet, I keep being surprised anyways. As poorly as he has managed the country, it never occurred to me seriously that he'd take a public pro-torture stance. (What's also scary are the people interviewed on NPR who are just fine with this with what this Administration is doing.)

Part of me thinks that Congress should pass a bill clearly supporting the Geneva Convention as it is (which, I agree, would be redundant) just to see what GWB would do. That would be a bill "clarifying" the Geneva Convention which is what he asked for if you take his words at face value. The signing statement would be interesting at least.

#58 ::: Sarah de Vries ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 06:10 AM:

CaseyL #48 Isn't it still a violation of international law? Wouldn't Bush still be culpable? Couldn't The Hague still hand down an indictment, regardless of what US law is?

Yes, but they already planned for that eventuality in 2003, when they passed the 'the Hague invasion clause':

The new law authorizes the use of military force to liberate any American or citizen of a U.S.-allied country being held by the court, which is located in The Hague.

#59 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 08:11 AM:

Some prices are just too high, no matter how much you may want the prize. The one thing you cannot trade for your heart's desire is your heart.
---Miles Vorkosigan, Memory

#60 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 09:20 AM:

One particularly bitter part of this is that years ago, I recall an argument with some European and Australian friends over whether the US should sign up for the ICJ. I argued that the US was a civilized nation, and that in practice, we'd always hold ourselves to a higher standard than international law would require of us, so it was not necessary.

Helpful hint: When someone says "I will not be bound by the laws against burglary, because I am too good a person to commit such crimes," it may just mean that he's currently planning some burglary, and doesn't want to go to jail for it.

#61 ::: amysue ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 09:26 AM:

Thanks for the post and I've written and posted my letters. I often forget that communicating my feelings to my elected officials can't hurt.

And I am sickened by the thought that we, as a nation, are condoning torture. Maybe I worry more than others, but as the mother of a young son who, when he is older will look like one of "them" to so many ignorant bigots, I know that all it takes is one wrong word on his part to the wrong person and he could be thrown in jail just for his brown skin.

I also agree that eroding our own ethical behavior endangers our soldiers throughout the world.

#62 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 09:33 AM:

"Isn't it still a violation of international law? Wouldn't Bush still be culpable? Couldn't The Hague still hand down an indictment, regardless of what US law is?"

Sure. And if Bush came into their jurisdiction--not likely--it would be enforceable. What's really nasty, though, is that if the USA doesn't honor the Geneva conventions when we capture other country's military personnel, nothing protects our soldiers when they are captured.

Why does Bush hate our troops?

#63 ::: dichroic ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 11:30 AM:

McCain is my senator, I'm proud to say. I need to go write him a fan letter.

#64 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 12:03 PM:

And if Bush came into their jurisdiction--not likely--it would be enforceable.

Arrangements can be made. I'm hoping for a 40-to-50 foot cargo container, with bunkbeds, portapotties, and MREs, from NY to the nearest port - Rotterdam? - to the Hague, with a consignee at the World Court. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Yoo, Addington, Shrub...

#65 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 12:03 PM:

dichroic at 63: before you write that fan letter, go read Digby. (Sorry, no link.) Digby is pretty convincing with a scenario that ends with Bush and McCain embracing in the Rose Garden, and there's no way that happens unless Bush gets what he wants and McCain caves. The rhetoric will obscure it, but, Digby says, we are going to end up with rules that formally allow torture. Bush wins, the United States loses.

#66 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 12:10 PM:

albatross: One particularly bitter part of this is that years ago, I recall an argument with some European and Australian friends over whether the US should sign up for the ICJ. I argued that the US was a civilized nation, and that in practice, we'd always hold ourselves to a higher standard than international law would require of us, so it was not necessary.

I remember when Bush was making noises about attacking The Hague if American soldiers should ever be tried there, I was snarking on USENET that obviously he planned to have them commit war crimes and was covering his bases. I'm still somewhat baffled how that turned out.

CaseyL: The Constitution overrides international law within the US.

Shouldn't that be irrelevant if the US only entered international treaties that are compatible with the constitution?

#67 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 12:26 PM:

Arrangements can be made. I'm hoping for a 40-to-50 foot cargo container

extraordinary rendition, baby, extraordinary rendition...

#68 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 12:29 PM:

Lizzy L, McCain does have a history of folding just at the point where he should win. And Shrub has a history of doing what he wants, regardless of what the law says. Result: make-nice stories for the news media, and behind the scenes, we get the shaft. Again.

There are some interesting (and pointed) comments about this over at firedoglake also. A lot of them are along the lines of 'What part of "no torture" do you not understand?'

#69 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 12:32 PM:

Greg: damn straight! And I don't want to give them a nice comfortable ride in an airplane, unless we can arrange for something closer to a DC3 than to a 747. (noisy: check; uncomfortable: check ...)

#70 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 12:39 PM:

Sarah de Vries... I'm speechless. Somehow I'd managed to miss that one. It throws a rather interesting light on the whole "clarify the geneva convention" bit. Bush et al have no trouble interpreting it, and realise full well that the orders they are handing down violate it. If they didn't, there'd be absolutely no need for that law.

Randolph Fritz: "Why does Bush hate our troops?" He doesn't. He believes wholeheartedly that any troops that are captured by the enemy will be tortured, humiliated and executed without trial however the US has behaved, and thinks that justifies any behaviour in return. Even before it happens.

#71 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 02:07 PM:

Will Bush escape justice?

Probably.

Will we?

Probably not.

#72 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 03:09 PM:

Bob Herbert has a column (behind the wall, unfortunately) in today's NY Times which restates what we have been saying here: that Bush knows he is guilty of war crimes and is scrambling to cover his ass. This morning I e-mailed my senators and my congressman (all Dems) asking them to hold fast on the Geneva Conventions and to reject torture in whatever guise it presents itself.

I do not expect to see Bush and company in The Hague, ever. Perhaps Congressional committees will investigate this administration if the Dems take firm control of both houses in November. I wouldn't bet on it.

#73 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 04:33 PM:

Bush knows he is guilty of war crimes and is scrambling to cover his ass.

I can just imagine the scene at the white house, probably a year or two ago, where someone gives Bush a long, detailed, complex explanation of all the ways they've been violating the Geneva Convention, there's a long silence, and finally Bush says:

"But I won't go to jail, will I?"

cue crickets chirping...

#74 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 05:09 PM:

CaseyL: The Constitution overrides international law within the US.

The Constitution of the United States, Article VI:

This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

#75 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 08:00 PM:

yahoo news article here, states:

A Saudi has been held in solitary confinement for a year at the Guantanamo Bay prison and is now so mentally unbalanced he considers insects his friends, lawyers said in a motion filed Monday seeking the man's removal from isolation.

#76 ::: dichroic ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 09:46 PM:

Lizzy, I think that makes it especially important for me as a voting constituent to write McCain and tell him this matters to me and I want him to stick to his guns.

You may well be right, but at least I can try my little bit to make things come out differently.

#77 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 10:57 PM:

Quote #70: Randolph Fritz: "Why does Bush hate our troops?" He doesn't. He believes wholeheartedly that any troops that are captured by the enemy will be tortured, humiliated and executed without trial however the US has behaved, and thinks that justifies any behaviour in return. Even before it happens.
To believe that potential torture of others justifies his behavior, he would have to see the others (the troops) as humans worthy of protection in the first place.

He doesn't. Whether US troops achieve success, or die in battle, or are captured and tortured, just doesn't enter his world-view. He has what he wants to do, which he thinks is a mission from whatever twisted, sadistic god he worships, and if others are harmed, necessarily or unnecessarily, in the process, is completely irrelevant.

Bush is as completely committed to the idea that dying fighting for "god" is a glorious death as al-Quiada is. Care for the welfare of those doing the fighting is irrelevant, whether they are sent out with bombs on their back, or into battle without body armor, or to be captured without the protections of Geneva.

#78 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 09:20 AM:

Martyn, I agree that it's a war of ideas or maybe a war of ultimate values. I wish I knew how to change the minds of people who believe that ordinary life is a bad thing--and in case you're wondering, I mean Al Qeda etc. and the Taliban. So far as that bad idea is concerned, Bush and crew aren't remotely in the same class.

Lord of the Rings is the most powerful pro-ordinary-life art I know of, but I wouldn't expect it to have much influence in this case.

Ursula L, I'm not convinced that Bush has any God other than his own impulses.

#79 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 12:29 PM:

Meg Thornton: good idea. You've actually given me a reason to write to Little Johnny other than just to shame him (and to my local member, of course - it's about time I sent her another letter.)

#80 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 12:58 PM:

Nancy L,

It's not that he follows a particular religion, it's that his worldview is shaped by religion to the point that he sees his impulses as "guidance from god", and therefore any questioning of his ideas is dismissed, and any cost, material or human, is accepted, because he thinks god wants it that way.

#81 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 01:09 PM:

#78: Lord of the Rings is the most powerful pro-ordinary-life art I know of

not meaning to sidetrack things, but I just don't get what this means. at all.

#82 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 01:22 PM:

Yes, but they already planned for that eventuality in 2003, when they passed the 'the Hague invasion clause':

The new law authorizes the use of military force to liberate any American or citizen of a U.S.-allied country being held by the court, which is located in The Hague.

And I wonder how that would turn out...

After Six Years, US Still Embroiled In Netherlands
Monday, June 4, 2015 - 1908 EST
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -- US commanders admitted today that Dutch resistance "remains significant" on the sixth anniversary of the US invasion of the Netherlands.
Brigadier-General Charles Horvath, in command of Operation Lowland Freedom, told press today at Camp John Rico outside Amsterdam: "Our patrols are still encountering opposition and that remains significant. We are facing a determined and able enemy."
US forces originally invaded in June 2009 after the arrest of former US president George Bush, his vice-president Dick Cheney and other administration members on charges of war crimes. Despite the presence of over 90,000 US soldiers and marines, and mounting casualties - the recent Operation Vigilant Clog in Rotterdam's harbor district cost the US 3rd Division 300 killed and wounded - the fugitive International Criminal Court has still not been found, and Bush and his colleagues remain in captivity.
A videotape delivered to CNN, purportedly from fugitive ICC prosecutor Jose Olasero, announced that Bush had been sentenced to 75 years imprisonment by the court for his role in the invasion of Iraq.
"In order for him to serve his sentence," Olasero said, "we have flown him out of the country to a secret prison elsewhere in Europe. Funny how these things turn out, isn't it?"


#83 ::: Thomas Nephew ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 02:01 PM:

Yes, friends, Bush was saying, in almost so many words, “If you don’t make torture legal, I’m going to stop torturing people!”

MacDonald's observation reminds me of one of my favorite movie lines ever, from Men in Black. Alien invader: "Place projectile weapon on the ground." Abusive farmer: "You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers!" Alien invader: "Your proposal is acceptable."

#84 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 02:22 PM:

#81 -- Greg

"#78: Lord of the Rings is the most powerful pro-ordinary-life art I know of

not meaning to sidetrack things, but I just don't get what this means. at all."

Because, however exceptional they might turn out to be, the hobbits are just ordinary people. Merry and Pippin and Frodo are the heirs of some wealthy, even powerful, hobbits, but none of them are princes, not of them are anything like Aragorn. It's not blood or Elven age and wisdom that saves the day, it's somebody like Sam, who's a gardener, not the heir of Isildur.

Yes, it's important that people like Theoden and Faramir do the right thing. But it isn't a King or Prince, or even a Warrior who defeats Sauron.

And what does Sam do? What's his land fit for heroes? He goes back to the Shire and marries Rosie.

#85 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 02:59 PM:

It's not blood or Elven age and wisdom that saves the day, it's somebody like Sam, who's a gardener, not the heir of Isildur.

Ah, got it. I always had the feeling that the passing of magic in LOTR was viewed as a sad thing; neccessary, but sad, which didn't feel like a "pro-ordinary-life" bit. But I get what you mean about ordinary hobbits being the real heroes.

#86 ::: Sarah de Vries ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 03:20 PM:

Ajay #82

Dude, I very much doubt that's how it would go. We're cute, we're smart, we're multi-lingual, but as a nation we're also postage-stamp-sized. I can only hope that like the Romans before them (at least the Romans above the Rhine) they'd catch cold and give up.

With the way the US has tried to get a foot in the door not just with Britain, but also with Spain of all places, I get the extremely uncomfortable impression that it's more than a theoretical thing for them.

Jules #70

Yep. Not only that, but they planned for it in advance.

#87 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 05:31 PM:

The associated press continues to push the military to charge AP photographer with crimes and give him his day in court, or to release him.

The press, which in my opinion has been a bit pansy-assed about Bush's abuse of powers, seems to have found some cajones now that one of their own is in the military's black hole. The photographer is currently one of about 14,000 Iraqis who are being held indefinitely, without being charged with any crime.

maybe the press will start quoting the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution to remind Americans what the F was the point of founding this country in the first place, and what sort of crap we were tryign to get away from.

#88 ::: David ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 06:26 PM:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Questioning of suspected terrorists “won’t go forward” unless Congress clarifies a U.S. standard for the treatment and interrogation of detainees, President Bush warned Friday.

I don't see that as saying that torture will stop. I see him saying that, unless Congress legalizes torture, all interrogation of suspected and captured al Qaida/Taliban/insurgents/etc. will stop. Either we torture the bad people (and people we think might be bad, or look like someone we think is bad) or we stop trying to find them altogether. No shades of gray.

#89 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 06:41 PM:

No shades of gray.

Bush in four words.

#90 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 10:15 PM:

Thought of this today:

When someone brings up that 24-hours-to-find-a-nuke-in-Manhattan scenario, point out that if it's gotten to that point without your noticing already, you're looking at:

a) a failure of border security (including our currently non-existent cargo inspections), or
b) a failure of nuclear materials security (storage of fissionables, warheads, whatever).

Either way, you're screwed, because you can't find the bomb that quickly, and you don't know where it came from. You should have started the evacuation as soon as you heard about the threat. Torturing the messenger (or anyone else you think might have information) isn't going to help, because even if they know, they can hold out long enough to make the information worthless.

#91 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 11:02 PM:

Remember the Canadian citizen who was "rendered" to Syria and tortured? He's back in the news with a Canadian judge's decision that absolutely clears him and slams the U.S. -- but also notes that the U.S. was -"tipped off"- by the Mounties, who got their own tongue-lashing. Wonder what they thought they were doing?

#92 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 11:11 PM:

If your intel is good enough to know there's a bomb, it's good enough to find it by means other (and simpler, and faster, and more ethical) than torture.

#93 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2006, 12:31 AM:

91 CHip: What they thought they were doing was co-operating with a fellow jurisdiction that operated under the rule of law and observed such niceties as evidence, jury trial and such. Boy, did they get a wrong number, and their own judge ripped them a new one for it. Well, they aren't going to do that again, are they?

Which is to say, next time the Mounties, tracing the networks that they have proven adept at unearthing, suspect any person of planning or supporting terrorism, the US authorities will *not* be informed, even if that person is or may be on US soil. Feel safer now?

#94 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2006, 05:33 AM:

Sarah #86 - Chechnya's postage-stamp-sized. So's Israel. So's the West Bank. Don't underestimate the resistance abilities of postage-stamp-sized countries. In an urban insurgency, the battlespace isn't measured in square miles or city blocks, but in human hearts.

#95 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2006, 06:29 AM:

Greg and Dave, my point about the Lord of the Rings goes further than that, though the idea that Sam's reward is to go back to the Shire and marry Rosie (and eventually become Mayor, but you have to read the Appendices for that) points in the right direction.

There are people who think that ordinary life, with it's private concerns and pleasures, isn't dramatic or heroic enough, and want everything to be more heroic/military (somewhere on Orcinus there's a discussion of what fascism is--part of the recommended definition is that it's an effort to completely remake a society for war, with soldiers as the ideal human) or life isn't ascetic enough and everyone should be completely devoted to a religion or a nation and/or economic system.

Lord of the Rings has the hobbits, not exactly as a generalized ideal (Aragorn likes them, but that doesn't mean he would or should want to live in the Shire permanently nor is he going to try to make Gondor more like the Shire), but as some of the best of Middle Earth, and as both worth defending as they are and as crucial for the defense of Middle Earth. Most of the time, they grow food and eat and drink and gossip.

It's not just the hobbits (though Merry and Pippin hanging out and smoking in the ruins of Isengard will work as a symbol), it's Faramir the scholar/warrior who loves peace being of more value than Boromir who just loves war. It's Saruman's using the rhetoric of an indefinite future and larger goals as he does what he can to wreck the Shire.

"Valuing ordinary life" is the best phrase I've been able to find for that anti-totalitarian view. Sometimes I say "biophilia", but that's even less clear. If there's any better term for the idea, I'd be glad to learn it.

_1984_ is another biolphilic classic, though from a very different angle--in it, ordinary life exists only in scraps and vestiges.

#96 ::: Ailsa Ek ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2006, 08:42 AM:

Nancy:

That was beautiful. Thanks.

#97 ::: Sarah de Vries ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2006, 09:01 AM:

Ajay #94

Don't underestimate the resistance abilities of postage-stamp-sized countries. In an urban insurgency, the battlespace isn't measured in square miles or city blocks, but in human hearts.

The last time a nation with ambitions of (semi-)global domination descended on us wasn't that long ago. Germany managed to occupy the Netherlands. Not lack of courage, but an impossible situation.

#98 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2006, 09:13 AM:

Ah, yes, but the Germans were at least semi-competent - which was the point of my (not entirely serious) squib above.

#99 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2006, 09:19 PM:

93 Dave: per the story linked to by Debcha in another thread, the judge slammed the Mounties not for talking to the U.S. but for giving them unfounded scurrilous rumors instead of evidence; apparently they've been harassing other Canadians on similarly groundless basis. They may have been looking to the U.S. as the new Bulgaria.

#100 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2006, 12:37 AM:

CHip, #91, they were sacrificing a citizen so the US wouldn't invade.

#101 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2006, 05:24 AM:

Something that applies in respect to attitudes to how people are treated, or ignored, in a variety of situations. From "Insensibility" by Wilfred Owen

...
But cursed are dullards whom no cannon stuns,
That they should be as stones.
Wretched are they, and mean
With paucity that never was simplicity.
By choice they made themselves immune
To pity and whatever mourns in man
Before the last sea and the hapless stars;
Whatever mourns when many leave these shores;
Whatever shares
The eternal reciprocity of tears.

There's another memorable image of men who are happy because "no compassion ... makes their feet / Sore on the alleys cobbled with their brothers"

(Lieutenant Wilfred Owen, M.C., an officer of the Manchester Regiment, was killed in action on the Sambre Canal a week before the Armistice, aged 25)

#102 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2006, 02:04 AM:

If I didn't read Making Light, Terry's journal, and Digby, I would probably have been taken in by reporting like this story in Friday's S.F. Chronicle (syndicated from the New York Times):

Deal struck on interrogation of terror suspects
Senators prevail in battle of wills with White House:

...."There is no doubt that the integrity and the letter and the spirit of the Geneva Conventions have been preserved," said McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam."

...."Asked about one of the most controversial interrogation techniques, a simulated drowning known as waterboarding, Graham said, "It is a technique that we need to let the world know we are no longer engaging in."

Most of the non blog reading voters in the United States are probably going to see stories like this one in their local newspapers and believe them. Is there anything we can do about that?

#103 ::: m. lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 04:51 AM:

I just want to know why this guy is trying to make the world a more painful and hurtful place for everyone? Why? Is'nt there enough in the world already?

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