Tuesday, May 5, 2009

If We're Going to Claim the Mantle of Good Guys, We Should Probably Act Like Good Guys


I appreciated Andrew Sullivan's take on 'enhanced interrogation', or, to be explicit (and honest),torture. My best argument against torture was always to quote Nietzsche: "Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one." Perhaps Sullivan's argument is only an unpacking of that Nietzsche quotation, but it's a good one:
One way to look at how the Bush administration redefined torture out of existence, so that it could, er, torture human beings, is to compare their criteria for "enhanced interrogation" with those for rape. Raping someone need not leave any long-term physical scars; it certainly doesn't permanently impair any bodily organ; it has no uniquely graphic dimensions - the comic book pulling-fingernail scenarios the know-nothings in the Bush administration viewed as torture; and although it's cruel, it's hardly unusual. It happens all the time in regular prisons, although usually by other inmates as opposed to guards. It barely differs from the sexual abuse, forced nudity and psychological warfare inflicted on prisoners by Bush-Cheney in explicit terms...So ask yourself: if Abu Zubaydah had been raped 83 times, would we be talking about no legal consequences for his rapist - or the people who monitored and authorized the rape?

Indeed.

Read Christopher Hitchens' first hand account of his mind changing experience of the subject, or watch it for yourself:




PS: For someone who seems to be so concerned with the way the U.S. is viewed in the rest of the world, does anyone else find it questionable that President Obama has stopped using 'The T word' as frequently, and has switched to using the less prosecutable 'enhanced interrogation' in his public statements instead? If there is one consistent complaint I have with this administration, it's the constant attempt to rebrand any descriptive term that might make anyone the least bit uncomfortable. Give it to us straight, please. I've never been much of a cocktail guy.

17 comments:

GbiZ said...

I agree w. you on torture but not on Obama's use of language. Not everyone is as smart as you are, some people need "A Cocktail" as you put it. Calling H1N1 swine flu scared people into not eating ham, A "War on Terror" can be used indescriminately and is too vague, too much like cold war rhetoric, and it made others in the world think there was a war against islam going on, and heightened tensions. Its not Obama that is the orwellian one, it was the bush administration.

Spencer Troxell said...

Regarding your last point: The Bush administration's use of language manipulation doesn't bar the Obama administration from engaging in the same kind of behavior.

As to the current Obama rebranding policy: I'm very much for use of 'the mellow doctrine', as Roger Cohen calls it. I just think it's appropriate to call terrorists terrorists, Swine Flu Swine Flue, Terrorist attacks terrorist attacks, and torture torture. Changing the name of a thing doesn't change the nature of the thing. That being the case, I think you make a good point with your 'War on Terror' comment. It's a misleading and easily abused moniker. But is 'Operation Contingent Overseas Activities', or whatever the Obama administration is calling it these days, much better?

Sic Semper Tyrannis said...

Bush never claimed a war on Islam, he said it was a war on terror sponsored by Islamic Extremist. Ordinarily I would agree with the premise, however we are dealing with people that believe strapping a bomb on to their child to blow up other people without concern is something glorious. Do I think we should torture, no. Do I think this might be the exception, yes. Only the people that we believe have information useful to fight or save lives. Enjoy your morale outrage at it, worry about the world's opinion, consider me evil, I'm fine with it in this case. These dirtbags that believe they have rewards on the other side for maming and killing innocent people because they dare not believe what they believe are not worth it. I won't concern myself with whatever discomfort they receive because of their crime. If they leave us alone, they won't be bothered by us. If one of them gives information that protects my kids, grandkids or anyone elses kids and family, it was worth it.

Willie Y said...

The Pew Research Center recently conducted a survey of Americans' views on torture. Among the results is the distressing fact that the more an American attends church, the more likely he or she is to support torturing their fellow human beings. Self-identified "White Evangelical Protestants" are the most likely of any group to support torture.

Spencer Troxell said...

Right, Sic. George Bush actually bent over backwards to make sure everyone knew Islam was 'a religion of peace'. Okay, enough about Bush. May he clear brush in peace.

Willie: I've heard alot of mention of this pew poll, but I haven't really looked at it. I know Mark Daniels recently blogged about it (from a 'christian perspective'). Daniels is a white evangelical protestant, and he opposes torture, so he may provide an interesting counterpoint to the pew study you referenced.

here's the link:

http://markdaniels.blogspot.com/2009/05/one-reason-so-many-churchgoers-may.html

It really seems moot to look at the issue from a religious standpoint. The Abrahamic God allowed the torture of Job and Jesus, he (personally) killed all of the firstborn males in Egypt, and demanded that we mutilate our genitals. On the other hand, there's plenty of calls towards compassionate behavior in the bible too. There's enough evidence in the bible to go either way on any number of moral issues. That's why I think it's probably a mistake to base our morality or worldviews on information received by revelation, or handed down by authority. We've got to do our own leg work when it comes to values.

GbiZ said...

I do think the new label for 'the war on terror' is good. I also think it made sense to change swine flu to H1N1 because it wasnt accurate and it was leading people to stay away from pig products, which hurts the economy. Some governments actually slaughtered their pigs out of ignorance! Obamas trying to calm everyone down. Were all worked up. You seem to agree with him on that. I admit its the whole man caused disaster thing is pushing it a little, but I think that was blown up by the media.

GbiZ said...

President Obama still says "The T Word" too, btw. Look here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqZ0iMw7i7E

Sic Semper Tyrannis said...

I think the Pew research is accurate to a point, I would like more info on the demographics before trying to make such a bold blanket statement. As far as O trying to calm everyone down, I doubt it. FDR didn't use "crisis" as much as him. His chief of staff doesn't want a crisis to go to waste. He is apologetic to the rest of the world, then threatens Chrysler's creditors for not caving to his wishes. In this country he is the fear-monger-in-chief. Now back to torture, any means that gets info from those idiots that saves lives is good. These are not soldiers of a country, these are radical bigots who only want to destroy.

Willie Y said...

Torture is not what I think our country should allow or justify at any time. The reason we were held up as an example, in the past, to the rest of world, and why we were the moral leaders of the world, was that we were above using techniques like torture or the imprisonment of people with out charge. Many of these things that our country was involved in during the last eight years, when I was youngster, were only perpetrated by the evil people in the world, like the old USSR or China. America would always take the high road. Let's be the people who the rest of world looks up too, and not be just one of the bad ones.

This is from the web site Media Matters, and it may clear up what Sic Semper Tyrannis has written about Obama threatening Chrysler's creditors.

During the May 5 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, and Gretchen Carlson repeatedly discussed allegations that the Obama administration threatened Perella Weinberg Partners, a hedge fund invested in Chrysler, without noting that Perella Weinberg itself has denied the allegation. Indeed, after initially ignoring Perella Weinberg's statement, Doocy himself during the previous day's Fox & Friends, "The White House says that didn't happen. This hedge fund says it didn't happen."

Here is the whole post.

Spencer Troxell said...

Gbiz: I'm renaming The War on Terror/Operation Contingent Overseas Activities "Operation Platypus", because I think it's just as descriptive as the others. All of these titles are either too vague (operation contingent...) or too loaded (war on terror). How about we have a war in Iraq, a war in Afghanistan, and are trying to root out Al-Qaeda? Of course that won't fly. Not sexy (or vanilla) enough. so it's going to be Operation Platypus to me from here on out. It's actually pretty accurate.

Sic & Willie: Thanks for a point counter point on the chrysler issue. I'll have to look into it.

Sic Semper Tyrannis said...

We will have to agree to disagree on the torture. In practically every case I would agree with you, except this one. The US should not engage in tortutre of uniformed military captured or civilians taken in any instance. A person carrying bombs or weapons for detination of a military or civilian target for the purpose of the advancement of an idea or policy of a group as a sneak attack to cause terror to bring attention to that idea, is the exception. It is cowardly, evil, and these people should be used to any extent to stop the very campaign they represent.

On the Perella Weinberg and Chrysler debacle, I've read the statements, listened to the lawyer who was actually working with the White House, and he has definately been told to shut up. There is a lot of wiggle room in the statements and inspite of media reports, my read is that; it very possible that their were threats, Perella Weinberg would like the mess to go away, the truth is somewhere between White House accounts and the lawyers. Obama's own press conference on the matter was vilifying the companies that didn't bend to his wishes. People associated with Perella Weinberg admit to recieving death threats from what they percieved as supporters of the administration. So you may be correct that Obama did not threaten, but my read of statements is something happened that niether party wants to admit. At least ACORN didn't go out to protest at the peoples houses that Obama singled out this time.

Stan Smith said...

There's lots of houses near me that specialize in torture, the women wear black leather, spiked heels, and they are oh so good at it.

Spencer Troxell said...

Stan: I guess that's one way to approach interrogation, although, I'm not sure seeing the guys who waterboarded Hitchens (above) in black leather and spiked heels would be more, or less humane.

bbistor said...

I like the fact that we used torture, and I hope we continue to use various forms in the future. Compared to most of the world we are very civil, and torture is just another tool in our toolbox to use as necessary. We aren't waterboarding Iraqi librarians, we are using it on leaders of a radical group that wants to "kill or convert all infidels". F-em. The middle east should be a parking lot by now.

bbistor said...

I like when Dennis Miller said, "When did it become wrong to hate people that want to kill us?"

bbistor said...

I can't believe the sympothy given to our captives. Watch this and feel sorry for them. This is how they treat their prisoners. http://mypetjawa.mu.nu/archives/191234.php

Spencer Troxell said...

Right. That's how THEY treat their prisoners. That's why we're the good guys.