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June 18, 2005

Comments

So when are you going to join the Army and defeat the dreaded Islamofacist, who are the new Nazis?

Taking a step beyond what Durbin recommended, President Bush should appoint a bipartisan commission--similar in authority and scope to the 9/11 Commission--to expeditiously investigate all incidences of mistreatment, fold all the separate investigations into a single authority, hold accountable those responsible and make recommendations as necessary.

Do you really think that is going to happen? Explain this:

• Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller has been implicated in the abuses at both Guantanamo Bay and Iraq. He actually ordered Abu Ghraib personnel to "soften up" the prisoners. He was made an assistant chief of staff.

• Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast had knowledge of the abuses in 2003 as the head of military intelligence in Iraq and was accused of pressuring the interrogators. She was given a new position as the commander at the Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., where U.S. and foreign troops are taught interrogation techniques.

• Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez was the ranking officer in Iraq and approved many of the interrogation techniques now deemed abusive. He was returned to his command in Germany of the prestigious Army V Corps.

• The officer who oversaw interrogation at Abu Ghraib, Col. Thomas Pappas, was given a light administrative punishment.

The 9/11 Commission was created against his protests, but with public pressure and the fact that he was running for reëlection he gave in. Now, with no reëlection worries do you believe for a minute that he will do anything about this.

Because of my broad agreement with what he said, that is why it is so unfortunate that an otherwise sensible and temperate speech was drowned out and frittered away with abusive, counterproductive and unimaginative hyperbole.

Well, that and the willingness of people like you to carry the water necessary to do the drowning out.

Can we agree that, no matter how the words are weaseled, putting American in the same sentence with Nazis, gulags and the Khmer Rouge has no place in civil political discourse?

Ever? No matter what we do, or to whom we do it, or on what scale?

By the way, this trick was much better when Tacitus pulled it.

This is like saying the guy who rapes and murders one small child is morally superior to the guy who rapes and murders 100 small children. If you say so.

And I am not comparing George Bush to a child molestor.

Bird, it's like you suddenly discovered you have gangrene so now you're complaining that people are saying you smell like a rotting corpse. Your reaction is to plead for them to stop while you rush out for some perfume.

a) it's not going to stop the gangrene
b) it's not going to cover up the smell

I still maintain that the guy who used the word "tsunami" to describe the "march of freedom" (**snort**) has no business ever, ever, ever, ever criticizing others' use of language. Ever.

I gotta go with Hal and Phil, here, Charles. Once again, whether deserved or not you are giving the impression that some comments have outraged you far more than the activities that led to those comments.

Looks like the Grand Old Pranksters have embraced their own kind of moral relativism.

Gays getting married = end of Western Civilization.

Atrocities committed by US soldiers = not that bad.

Bird,

Since you enjoy mourning over piles of corpses while crying for justice and demanding that poetic license be stopped, "before it kills again!"

">http://www.bible-researcher.com/dresden/gallery.html"> Here goes another pile of human flesh, for which, poetic license is responsible.

And don’t you owe Mr Shiavo an apology, or were your accusations concerning murder, just metaphors?

I can understand this, the hanging on, the denial. We are not as bad as X or quite as bad as Y means that though there have been lapses and mistakes we are still good guys. We really are good people, right?

Damn, morality is hard. The rules are tough. You can save the lives of a hundred children,a thousand children...but if you rape and murder one child you are 100% bad guy.

There is not an economics of sin & guilt, a balance sheet with double-entry bookkeeping where you get to weigh the good acts against the bad and get to call yourself 60/40 decent. Especially when the bad stuff is inarguably, inescapably, universally acknowledged evil.

Durbin said: these acts are not the sort of acts we'd expect our country to tolerate. (True.) They are the sorts of acts that you'd expect to find in some vile dictatorship. (Also true.)

He did not assert any sort of moral equivalence between us and the Nazis, or Pol Pot, or Stalin. He did not say that every act of which those dictators are guilty is one that we have committed. Just that the specific acts he mentioned were one's we'd think would happen in those regimes, not here.

This is not sentence-parsing; it's basic reading comprehension.

And, that said, I am not going to play this game anymore.

Charles Bird:

If Senator Durbin had said that Guantanamo was as bad as the worst of Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot, your pictures would be relevant. He did not say that and your pictures are irrelevant.

Charles, shouldn't you be spending your Saturday fund-raising for or doing work on behalf of Amnesty International, which I'm to understand you recently joined?

Durbin described barbaric conditions and said that they sound more like what one would expect from a brutal dictatorship than from the United States of America. I would have thought anyone but a serious America hater would find that an obviously correct statement. Unfortunately, I've again overestimated the moral character of today's Republican Party. Apparently supporting Bush is more important than supporting the principles that the United States is supposed to stand for -- or telling the truth. Most of the right-wing commentary simply lies about what Durbin actually said.

I mean, there is a little Protestantism 101 here, isn't there. I am no expert, but I don't think you go to the pastor and say I have just committed little sins, nothing really bad like that thief over there or the adulteress on the right. Only take a minute, just a little effort on Jesus's part to save a basically good person like me.

And the Lord saith what, you trying to strike a deal? This is a negotiation here? You asking for redemption and grace while retaining as much pride and self-satisfaction as possible? Come back when you need Me brother, right now you seem to be doing just fine without Me.

Ya gotta give it all up, or it ain't contrition. You want Bush to pick a commission to investigate? So that whoever does the judging judges fairly (by your standards) and so the consequences are just & merciful (by your standards)? You get to keep control? The torturers (not you, or anybody here) and murderers get to manage the investigations, trials, impeachments, imprisonments?

When I hear Republicans ask that the whole thing get handed to the ICC, I will believe they are serious.

I think I'm going to vote with CB here. As long as he's consistent applying "Can we agree that throwing down the Nazi and gulag cards is simply not a thing reasonable people should do?" to his side's rhetorical excesses.

Not to speak for Katherine, but reading the comments to this [updated] John Cole post I think she doesn't disagree with the above but emphasizes that Durbin had a good case to say what he did given the unreasonable silence in response to what CB would term reasonable discussion of the torture we've committed.

And I think the first comment in this thread (and perhaps some subsequent) is ad hom and doesn't belong here.


p.s. Hi, I'm back in the wired world.

* God does not grade on a curve.

* What mcmanus said.

* How can those who decry moral relativism so strenously embrace it so fully?

Again, the meaningless call for a "commission" without one word of comdemnation for those reponsible for all that you claim to deplore.

This leaves you with no credibility, especially since you devote energy to the non-issue of Durbin's language and no energy to analysis of the reason for the problems you claim to deplore.

Hey I will ad hominem hilzoy, who I think is being really unfair to Charles. God knows we diced and pared and minced Santorum's words finely enough to find offense. And to put Durbin's words under a microscope and say well he really wasn't comparing the Bush adminstration to Stalin or Hitler, he was saying that are some points of comparison in specific acts is just BS.

Fact is, hilzoy and many on the left also want to say:"Well, we really aren't that bad, what we have done isn't quite that awful." because there are serious implications and consequences for us all if we look without mercifully rose-colored glasses at what we have become.

"Can we agree that, no matter how the words are weaseled, putting American in the same sentence with Nazis, gulags and the Khmer Rouge has no place in civil political discourse?"

No. One can and should remember, for example, that the American entrepreneur Henry Ford was an early funder of the Nazis or that the American president Ronald Reagan supported Pol Pot

As others have pointed out, the actions of the US government are hardly as bad as the actions of the Nazis, the Soviets under Stalin, or the Khmer Rouge in quantity. But some of them are disturbingly similar in quality. People are being "disappeared", arrested and held indefinitely without trial, tortured up to and including being tortured to death, and otherwise abused by the current US government. It's got to stop before the name "Bush" joins the names Hitler, Stalin, etc as synonyms for evil.

I see the moral clarity now. It's all a matter of prioritizing - "Yes, torture and human rights abuses sanctioned by the Bush administration are terrible, but first we must address the far more serious matter of the Democrats use of language I find intemperate." It also reminds me of the old Steve Martin bit where he thinks he's invisible and gets arrested for being in a women's locker room. "But officer, you don't understand, I'm invisible." "But, Democrats and human rights organizations, you don't understand, we're Americans."

The following is a quote from Durbin's speech, detailing the specific acts he described as being more like something the Nazis, etc, would do than like something the US would do:

" On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold....On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor."

Certainly sounds more like the acts of a totalitarian state than a democratic one to me.

I am beginning to regret the ObWi policy on profanity.

The relevant quote:

On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold....On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.
Question for you Charles -- does this sound like treatment of prisoners by:

a. Nazis
b. The Soviet gulag system
c. The Khymer Rouge
d. Americans

You may pick multiple answers.

It might be possible to have a useful conversation sparked by Durbin's paragraph. Here's what I'm thinking.

My dad was in the German navy in World War II. The talk among the sailors was that if you were sunk, you should pray that the Americans fished you out. He was later in an American prisoner of war camp. It was no picnic, but I can't remember him ever talking about abuse or torture.

We could compare the behavior of Americans in WWII to today.

1) To what degree was there abuse and torture of captives by Americans in WWII? (Probably it would be revealing to have the answers for different theatres, and different types of captives.)

2) How widely was this known? (Among officialdom, among the troops, among the general public)

3) What was the attitude toward it? Forthright approval? Sincere condemnation? A lack of interest? Pro-forma condemnation?

If there's a marked difference between those answers and what we see today, we might know better if we've lost our way. (Although I was born in the US, as a child of that generation of Germans, I know in my gut that entire nations can go crazy. Germany certainly did. I believe France did, after the Revolution. I believe the West went a little crazy in the late '60s. And I worry that my country is going crazy, too.)

Imagine this series of US torture photos here. Yes, its true, they are very ugly; but they do not involve as many bodies as CB's pictures -- I guess that's the key moral difference (we are not as bad as Stalin). The number of bodies tortured is what matters -- as opposed to an official policy of torture. Oh, and distort what Durbin says so that you can falsely pretend that he was saying that US torture and Stalin torture was comparable, which is why we should be counting the dead bodies to prove him wrong.

Imagine the Bush administration torture memos laid out here, followed up by a healthy dose about extraordinary rendition (inlcuding the phony written finding that accompanies each that there is no reason to believe torture will take place (HA HA), and also the deliverate refusal by Bush to end this practice).

Oh, and don't forget about ghost prisoners, the sole purpose for which is to conceal prisoners so that they can be tortured without disclosure.

Look at the rhetoric for the last year that this is just about a few bad apples, and the complete failure to hold anyone accountable above the most junior level -- indeed, reward those who hands are bloody.

What to do? Why, appoint a commission -- yes, that's the way to deal with evil doers.

And say not a word about who is responsible -- that demonstrates moral courage. Instead, trash those who speak out -- that's who deserve our outrage.

I've agreed with Charles in the past that Kofi Annan should resign from his post at the U.N., if only for the appearance of corruption so close to him.

And, that singer, Bright Eyes? He's even worse than the International Red Cross, who can sing better.

I think too that Bush and Cheney should step down now during the investigation Charles envisions, and should even the appearance of responsibility for the abuse extend to them, impeachment of both should proceed. That my bias wishes for this and that such action would be true and good would be mere coincidence.

Also, for the record, I want to once again condemn the Soviets, the Nazis, Pol Pot, and the rest for going far beyond just murdering a few people during or after torture. I wish they had stopped right there and practiced a little moderation like we do.

Okay, looking for a new open thread to talk about light stuff in now....

Charles, I think you'll find that messengers are out of season. Please stop shooting them.

I never liked it either when Richard Nixon was called a Nazi, or LBJ called the same either.

I prefer to think of Nixon, anyway, as kind of like the young, pre-Nazi, Heinrich Himmler, in his latency period tending his chicken farm with a little Wagner raging in the background, posing observations to his neighbors about the untoward influence of the Jews on German life. No piles of human cordwood yet, but the relish with which the chicken's heads were removed might have been cautionary to the careful observor.

I still maintain that the guy who used the word "tsunami" to describe the "march of freedom" (**snort**) has no business ever, ever, ever, ever criticizing others' use of language. Ever.

Love this.

Actually, the use of "tsunami" was peculiarly appropriate.

After all, we are talking about the "march of freedom" being accomplished pursuant to the neo-con ideal of imposing our will through force to achieve "freedom." So what if it also involves a wave of violence and fear.

Indeed, use the tsunami, that destructive force which on 12/26/04 involved more violence than any prior tsunami in human history, to describe this tactic of spreading freedom through violence. Makes sense to me.

When I see American soldiers grinning beside the corpses of their prisoners, and smearing naked prisoners with their own excrement, and setting dogs on naked prisoners, and dragging naked prisoners around on leashes, I see horrors that seem to me very likely to lead to those piles of corpses you show us, Charles. What is one such death today can be ten tomorrow and a hundred next month, if it's not condemned and stopped. There was a time when the Nazis and Soviets had each slain just a few - they didn't leap from the end of World War I straight to Auschwitz or the gulags. There was a time when they were doing just what our troops and non-military people are doing right now, on precisely the same moral trajectory. Because in each case, they were led by people who decided that their cause was so important, all means could be allowed.

So we have a President who thinks his authority is unbounded for the duration of a crisis without a definable enemy or possible end point, and we have leaders who encourage the abandoment of restraint in the pursuit of information or whatever, and we have soldiers who receive this instruction and carry it out, often not just compliantly but gleefully, taking souvenir pictures to trade with friends. We have people accused of no crime, held without reason or suspicion, treated in any way that their captors see fit, and more of them dying all the time in horrible ways.

What the Goddamn hell is wrong with you? Why are you refusing to call this anything but a great evil, a blight on everything the American experiment stands for, and calling for anything less than the president ordering an immediate halt, full openness, full inspection, punishment of all guilty parties, and then a mess of resignations and impeachment hearings?

Gah. And if I get banned for this, I'll take it.

"Why are you refusing to call this anything but a great evil...."

Attachment to an ideal not actually greatly connected to today's reality, but far more to a desire to believe and preference to believe that one's idealization of reality is more correct than reality, I suspect.

I'd love to live in this grand world of the U.S. setting an example, etc. We should be a light unto the world, I've heard, from and in more than one place. Good plan. But it pays to check reality as to how we're doing beyond setting up wonderful fantasies and ideals.

Boy another good post eaten by my browser.

Charles is serious, and Durbin & hilzoy are playing games.

"If it really isn't as bad as all that, then stop using those comparisons. If it really is as bad as all that, watcha gonna do about it? Huh? Watcha gonna do, write really beautiful posts and speeches that make all the liberals cry? Write your congressman?

"Ok, fine. Meanwhile I'm gonna expand Guantanamo 40%, promote my torturers, and tell AI and the Red Cross to f*** off. I mean, you really haven't given me any reason to stop, have ya. You're not exactly scarey.

"We all know you aren't really going to do anything meaningful. We all know there won't be consequences. We will throw ya a couple non-coms, do a bunch of pardons at the end of my term, and bring the methods back when they feel right. And when the world asks how you could let it happen, tell em it wasn't your fault, or that the fight wasn't worth it, or that you wrote a beautiful blog post."

I want the Bush administration handed to the ICC, and I demand Hillary and Edwards or any other candidate commit to it during the campaign. No, commit to it now.

CB - so at which point between 1 and 6,000,000 people killed did the Nazis become evil?

How many people is it OK for the US to torture and kill?

I'm not them, and have no posting privileges here, but just speaking up gnerally, while I much love and solicit your input, Bob, my own response to any such demand is to, amid hugging and thumbs up, bite me.

"I want the Bush administration handed to the ICC, and I demand Hillary and Edwards or any other candidate commit to it during the campaign. No, commit to it now."

No offense intended. But I'm just cranky when anyone puts "demands" in my neighborhood. Love ya otherwise. Perhaps those folks are different, of course.

*pause for breath*

As others have pointed out, Bush could stop all of this in a single afternoon. He claims, after all, unlimited authority in the prosecution of the war - even if there were any problem with regular executive power for the job (and there isn't), by his own theory, he has it. He could stop operations, replace leaders and underlings, allow in outside investigators, publish records, get experts in language and law to review cases, remove bounties, release cleared victims and provide some groveling apologies along with rich rewards, and get the whole thing running on a footing worthy of the American people and the cause of liberty.

He could order lie detector tests for everything in the chain of comand and fire everyone who fails to account well for themselves. Yes, polygraphs are unreliable. So what? Err on the side of caution.

He could demand pay raises for soldiers to bring them more into line with what the private mercenaries get, and suspend the use of mercenaries. He could order an extension of the best medical care to current soldiers and veterans and their families, to remove the stresses and uncertainties of serving without security there. He could call attention to the funerals of American servicepeople and civilians, both to honor them for their sacrifices and to remind the public of the fears that those serving in the field face. He could encourage Americans to enlist, and provide rewards and subsidies for those who do.

He's not doing any of that.

Couple of more things: I know that CB has been consistant in opposing this sort of behavior, and bully for you on that, CB. Yet I find these "outrages" over semantics the very definition of benality of evil.

As long as he's consistent applying "Can we agree that throwing down the Nazi and gulag cards is simply not a thing reasonable people should do?" to his side's rhetorical excesses.

Maybe, back when the fist Abu Ghrab pictures first came out you would have a point. Yet this sort of rhetoric seems to be the only way to get those in power to pay attenion this. Reasoned discourse along the lines of "hey, you know perhaps we shouldn't torture people" hasn't worked. Now Bush is building a $40m addition to Gitmo so we can torture even more people. Sorry but if jumping up and down yelling "gulag, gulag, gulag" is the only way to bring attention to this, so be it.

Really there was a time when the Nazis had only killed a few people I'm sure there some of them saying "well, at least we aren't as bad as the Inquisition"

There's of course no arguing that Durbin got the sign right, as we like to say in physics - the Bush admin doesn't believe in doing that.

One more stray thought:

I disbelieve that bipartisan anything would help. The Democrats are, as far as the Republican Party's rhetoric is concerned, the party of opposition to war and of kowtowing to tyranny. Leave them out of this. Make the housecleaning a Republican venture, precisely so that there's no room for anyone later to say that enemies of the march of freedom could muck it up at all. Let the adults in charge deal with it, just as adults should.

My sole comment in this thread shall be: welcome back, rilkefan :)

Thanks, Anarch.

Umm, so when clicking back to this site I'm finding those pictures hard to deal with. CB, could you put them behind the fold, please?

As many have pointed out, the difference between our government's actions in Guantanamo today and those of the repellant leaders that you mentioned is that there is a very loud, and still legal, outcry against this behavior. If you must insist that we draw parallels between Bush and Hitler, that is fine, but you will find that Hitler wasn't nearly as quick to cause harm as Bush has been.

It's brilliant of you to notice that the Bush Administration isn't as bad as the Third Reich or Stalin's Soviet Union became, but you seem utterly unwilling to look at the causes that lead people to complain about this administration -- it is the direction of this Administration and its amoral attitude toward the lives of those who are not like them, its cynical attitude toward foreign affairs, and its willingness to manipulate religious symbols to maintain power. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld don't care what happens to people -- not abroad not in the US.

The people who are crying out in alarm may be overstating the case of what has happened already, but they are not overstating the direction that we are heading, nor the risk that we run. Our President has proven himself to be deaf to criticism, no matter how many mistakes he has made, no matter what harm we have suffered from those mistakes. The Downing Street Memo is just one more example of how indifferent the President is to anyone else's opinion.

One final question: How many deaths was Hitler responsible for after he was in office for four and a half years? How many countries had he invaded without provocation at that point? We are looking at an administration that has persuaded itself that everything it does, no matter how evil, will be justified because they are 'defending freedom'. How far is that from telling folks that work will make them free.

I have to say that Slacktivist said it much better than I could.


But I'd like to perhaps point out how ironic it is that the right is all up in arms about the Hitler analogies when they were the ones to harp on the "Saddam is Hitler" meme during the run up to the war. What's the deal with that? Do you guys own Hitler now and we on the left can't use him? I'm just trying to get the rules straight

Fledermaus: I know that CB has been consistant in opposing this sort of behavior, and bully for you on that, CB

Oh, for heaven's sake. The only behavior CB has been consistent in opposing is that of Senator Durbin's, or Amnesty International's, or anyone else who loudly and noticeably criticizes the atrocities committed by US in the past years. CB is presently engaged in a long-running and very consistent campaign of shooting the messengers. This evidently works for him - why publicly oppose atrocities, when trying to get people to shut up about them is so much easier? - just as it appears to be working very nicely for the Bush administration within the borders of the US.

Umm, so when clicking back to this site I'm finding those pictures hard to deal with. CB, could you put them behind the fold, please?

Seconded. Use of atrocity pictures as a handy prop is also disturbing, IMO.

On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold....On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.

What the FBI memo alleges, and it is an allegation, is, you know, would be considered a day at the beach in the Soviet gulag or Nazi...I mean, what was so horrific in the memo, and I'm not saying, you know, there aren't legitimate questions there, is that someone is chained to a floor and forced to defecate on themselves, and has loud rock music playing. Excuse me? I mean, you know, Auschwitz? Bergen Belsen? The Soviet gulag? I think they would have been very happy to be allowed to defecate on themselves.

Chris Wallace: I mean, you know, Auschwitz? Bergen Belsen? The Soviet gulag? I think they would have been very happy to be allowed to defecate on themselves.

You need that bumper-sticker: "America - Not As Bad As the Nazis!"

Jes: about Chris Wallace: see here.

Thanks, Hilzoy. Wow, I miss American TV. Not.

Chris Wallace,

It worked for Ted Nugent. (Scroll down)

A question for Charles or anyone else truly offended by Durbin's remarks-- What ought he to have said? I don't believe that there is any possible statement, no matter how sensible and temperate, that would not either be completely ignored or evoke the same set of responses. But you seem convinced that there is-- or it would make no sense to criticize Durbin's choice of language as counterproductive. So what does this effective statement look like?

Charles,

How is it possible for Rush to use to word "feminazis" on a daily basis and earn high praise from you, yet Durbin is somehow over the line?

(And spare me the crap about Senator v. talk show host; millions listen to Rush) Don't foget to pick up one of the t-shirts he's selling to celebrate torture.

Such Clintonian parsing Charles. I'm sorry Durbin wasn't PC enough for you, but he's right.

I think you should have posted pictures more like this. This picture portrays what Durbin was talking about.

http://users.adelphia.net/~bigshirtlessron/images/dachau.jpg

Your pictures don't portray what Durbin was talking about, they portray the weak straw man you have errected in order to attack the messenger.

Re: Ted Nugent. Doubtful that he has the size of cojones to murder the hippies in the foxholes unless they were unarmed and otherwise distracted by some hashish. I once saw him on T.V. shoot a boar in the ass with a arrow as the boar was running back to his den to get his gun. The boar's squealing was something I expect to hear from Rush Limbaugh should he ever undergo torture by rock and roll, miniskirted menstruating damsals, and hopefully, liver removal without benefit of illicit painkillers. I don't think Nugent has ever actually shot off anything but his mouth toward an actual living, breathing, pissed off human being.

On the pictures Rilkefan has protested: I agree with this sentiment and were I a balanced guy I would be asking that they removed to below the fold as well. But since they merely being used as props in the gathering cynical sledgehammer tsanami of mischaracterizing all criticism of the current lovely GITMo tactics, I'll play along with this stuff in my face.

If you look very closely, in a forensic photographic enlargement sort of way, at the third picture -- the pile of femurs and tibias from Pol Pot's hobby --- in the lower left hand corner you'll notice a single femur from a dead guy at Abu Ghraib which accidentally got mixed in.

This was a mistake. It should be in a smaller, new pile, just started, which may be investigated someday under a new regime. Meanwhile, at least we're nipping things in the bud, as Barney Fife used to say.

"Certainly sounds more like the acts of a totalitarian state than a democratic one to me."

This is getting very tiresome.

The actions which Durbin's allegation described are *illegal*. It is not true to claim that illegal actions by an individual are actions of a state.

Until someone can prove that the state meant for them to happen, people who make this claim are proven anti-American propagandists.

a: Until someone can prove that the state meant for them to happen, people who make this claim are proven anti-American propagandists.

Secretary Rumsfeld approved these actions. Does that satisfy your request to "prove that the state meant for them to happen"?

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved the use of "harsh" interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay, including stripping detainees naked, making them hold "stress" positions and depriving them of sleep, a Pentagon official has confirmed. cite

a: hilzoy has written more eloquently than I am ever likely to on this subject. I refer you to this post for more information on this matter.

It's not anti-American to criticize the government or demand that it change behaviors that are not consistent with the ideals of US culture. It is pro-American.

Yes, a, the administration had nothing to do with it. It was all Lynndie England's idea.

What ought he to have said?

I can't speak for Charles Bird, but this would have worked for me:

"If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by [rogue government agents in a bad made for TV movie], or the actions of [a petty Carribean island dictatorship]. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners."

"I'm not them, and have no posting privileges here, but just speaking up gnerally, while I much love and solicit your input, Bob, my own response to any such demand is to, amid hugging and thumbs up, bite me."

"I want the Bush administration handed to the ICC, and I demand Hillary and Edwards or any other candidate commit to it during the campaign. No, commit to it now."

As far I can tell, the only demands were directed at potential Presidential candidates. You too,Gary, can someday learn to read. When someone here offically throws their gimme cap into the ring, they can so make your demand. Until then, I will never bite John Edwards.
Upon request, small nips and nibbles in strategic places might afforded Mrs Clinton.
...
I repeat,I think Charles is being unfairly treated as to the intention of Durbin's rhetoric. Moral comparison, if not quite moral equivalence, was intended. And "not quite" is no more an escape for Durbin than it is for the torturers.

And being an equal opportunity jerk, famous I hope for making an effort at having all sides (rather than just two) angry at me, I repeat my irritation at the left's continual whimpering as tough political tactic. Boo-hoo, bullies done mean things to my country.

You know what, Charles and Slartibartfast can attest to the fact that you only know you are making a sacrifice to the cause and approaching effectiveness when your friends begin turning on you.

OK, I'm back for just this one thing:

Chris Wallace (yes, I know who he is): Excuse me? I mean, you know, Auschwitz? Bergen Belsen? The Soviet gulag? I think they would have been very happy to be allowed to defecate on themselves.

This has to be one of the stupidest things I've ever heard coming from a man who, let's face it, won't be up for a Nobel any time soon. "Happy to be allowed to defecate on themselves"? What on earth is he on about? Does he know nothing about the camps and the gulags? Has he never seen a latrine? Does he think that Beria ordered all kulaks to have their intestines sewn shut, or that Himmler was running around Auschwitz trying to shove corks up Jewish bottoms? What the hell kind of worldview do you need to utter that sentence? Good grief.

very effective post, Charles.

I still side with von on this one, but clearly, the comparison is hyperbolic.

out, he said, meekly.

Oh, for pity's sake. Let me quote from Slacktivist, who says it better than I could, "The American prison camps in Guantanamo, Bagram, Afghanistan and elsewhere are, in fact, not as vast or as brutal as Stalin’s gulags. The American camps are also Not As Bad As the contemporary torture facilities that the U.S. occasionally subcontracts in places like Uzbekistan.

But such comparisons are beside the point. The threshhold has been crossed and conventional arithmetic no longer applies. The only relevant and meaningful comparison is between those regimes that countenance torture and those that do not. Once a nation crosses that line any difference between it and other torture regimes is inconsequential in comparison to the difference between it and those nations which have refused to cross that threshhold."

Charles' posts seem more concerned with Godwin's Rule than the fact that the United States of America, in our names, is torturing people. And not caring if they're innocent or guilty before doing it, even. How's this for moral math, our actions being mentioned in the same breath as the actions of Nazis is less important than the fact that we're torturing people.

So would referring to the Gestapo specifically instead of the Nazis generally have been okay? What about the NKVD specifically instead of Stalin generally?

Edward: very effective post, Charles.

Very effective indeed, I agree. Charles is getting very good at shooting the messenger, though I'm surprised to see you applaud his shots.

but clearly, the comparison is hyperbolic.

Not in the least hyperbolic, as you would know if you had read the text of Durbin's speech: Senator Durbin described tortures committed by US soldiers, and invited his audience to consider whether this was behavior expected of American soldiers or of Nazis. Charles has, as we expect from him, ignored the point - that this is not how good Americans expect or want American soldiers to behave - and gone directly to attack-mode on the messenger for pointing this out.

CB: it is so unfortunate that an otherwise sensible and temperate speech was drowned out and frittered away with abusive, counterproductive and unimaginative hyperbole

With you all the way through 'drowned out.' And you know what? Dick Durbin didn't do the drowning-out.

While we're on the subject of abusive hyperbole, keeping those pics above the fold counts as such in my book. You were asked politely and more than once to put them below the fold. BSR's picture link at 8:53 is quite apt.

The lameness of your suggestion that Bush to appoint a commission to investigate his crimes has been adequately pointed out by other commenters above. Patting yourself on the back for "taking a step beyond what Durbin recommends" is what really makes it laughable.

Don't be comforted that this wave of outrage is fooling anyone (except possibly Edward). It's all the same old 'kill the messenger' routine -- in this case, by a combination of bludgeoning and drowning.

Of course, my argument against hilzoy's umm quietism, are also indirects arguments against Charles. By saying Charles is correct about Durbin's intentions, I am saying, as opposed to apparently most people in this thread, that Durbin's message, as interpreted by Charles is, if not a completely accurate analysis, the most effective one politically. I am also saying that Durbin intended Charles' interpretation to be the dominant one, not hilzoy's or Katherine's obfuscation.

How does an insurgency or resistance succeed? I went thru this several years ago, and finally it appears Dean and AI and Durbin are moving to more effective tactics.

A resistance succeeds by provoking the ruling regime to over-reaction.

Now if the regime or wider populace is the America of Eisenhower & Kennedy, or the British of mid-century India, an essentially decent regime, the non-violent civil disobedience of MLK and Ghandi can be effective. But if the regime does not recognize or care about the measured judgements of good people, you can get Hungary or Czechoslovakia or Tianemen[sic] Square.

Or if the regime does represent the wishes of a significant plurality, or has them controlled thru bribes and threats or propaganda, the NV CD is no longer an option. Jewish sitdown strikes in Munich in 1938 would not have helped. Unless you believe the Int'l Community will step in, non-violent civil disobedience will not help us in America.

So you move to less "nice" means of provoking overreaction and repression. These need not be violent actions, they can be violent words. In the sixties, it was precisely the anti-war movement calling Nixon a fascist, repeatedly, loudly, with many voices, that turned Nixon into a fascist and caused him to overstep into his own destruction. He was not a madman in the fifties and sixties.

It is too much to ask the American people or the base of the Republican party to turn on their leaders at this point. All rhetoric must be directed at the leadership, to provoke, to infuriate, to make them overt maddogs instead of covert rabies carriers.

I think people are being too hhard on Charles. Yes, I'm not enthusiastic about the focus on ward choice, but he did outline all of his areas of agreement with Durbin and he did propose an investigationn of an adminnistrationn that he mostly supports. I think he should be given credit for that. I think it is naive to thinnk the Republicans would ever allow an ivestigation, but I also think Charles is completely sincere and that his suggestion shows tht he is not dismissive of the serriousness of the evidence of torture.

How does an insurgency or resistance succeed? I went thru this several years ago, and finally it appears Dean and AI and Durbin are moving to more effective tactics.

A resistance succeeds by provoking the ruling regime to over-reaction.

Bob, I wanted to apologize for however I provoked your previous reaction, and so I do. But I've always found the Leninist strategy of "heighten the contradictons" an outrageous one, for a variety of reasons I don't feel up to outlining in detail at the moment, but which tend to go along the lines of feeling that making things worse actually makes things worse, and that revolutions eat their young; things are bad, but I don't remotely agree that we've gotten to the point where this strategy would be helpful, or other than reprehensible. But, as usual, that's just me.

On the flip side, I tend to think that the more people are forced to look at pictures of true horror, the better. It's ugly and disturbing.

Looking away: perhaps not the solution.

Two suggestions:

1)Check out the Syrian resistance blogs, of which there are a surprisingly large number, and look at the language in which they discuss Bashir and the Baath. Not the Bush is as bad as Assad or that Republicans are as bad as the Baathists. I would never say that.

2) Check out the way the various Iraqi factions describe their various oppositions. Look at the language of Sadr.

Finally, you have to decide if we have a "policy difference" or a major problem. The actions, or non-actions of most members of Congress, of both parties, after 4 years, should make it pretty clear that appealing to the better natures of the American people is not working. Stop it. Try something new.

I think a bunch of folks have missed the point here, taken in, I guess, by CB's need to heap scorn on the opposition. After the whining about the images, and the comparison, he goes on to reject the Admin's approach in a way that may well lead to the revocation of his VRWC membership card. Compliance with the Supreme Court's rulings, which the Admin continues to resist in many many ways,* will lead to the end of the policy. When it comes time for the trials, it will quickly become very clear that the government has little or no evidence sufficient to hold people for any length of time, and that the number of detainees who have not been subjected to treatment that we would consider torture if delivered to our servicemen will be small indeed.

As for a commission, I'm not optimistic. There are plenty of oxen that will get gored here, and politicians will look for ways to avoid it. Maybe it's better to let this all get resolved on an individual basis, through the tort system. Our courts put a value on torture/abuse in Acree v. Iraq and on hostage-holding in Cicippio v. Iran. It'll be expensive, but that's how lessons get learned.


* Here's a simple unclassified example: we filed a motion for an order requiring the government to preserve all evidence related to our clients, and the government is fighting it. Second example: we got an order requiring the government to give us 30 days notice before sending our clients to some other country, and the government has appealed.

Charlie:

I hope people tell you this IRL all the time, but you're doing God's own work. Just knowing firms are sending good people to do this work makes me feel better.

As many people have died in the US' prisons for captive in the War on Terror in three years as died in Vietcong prisons in twelve years of war against them. By the Republican logic, I presume, we are all entitled to criticize the US four times for every time we mourn the POWs and MIAs.

Kinda late in the thread, but I have got to weigh in here with a comment on CB's latest post: First, reading it all the way through, I notice Mr. Bird has reversed his usual method of composition: this time he leads off with the outrageous nonsense, and closes the post with a reasoned and intelligent suggestion (not that I particularly agree that another governmental "commission" is the answer, but at least it's not the usual right-wing excuse-making, pace the commenters here who seem to want to view this post as open-season-on-messengers sniping).
That said, Charles, you really ought to spend a little more time thinking about this stuff before you hit "Post": Pictures of Belsen or the Cambodian killing-fields are, of course, awful: but what purpose, exactly, other than shrilling the by-now-standard "We're not as bad as X----- [insert favorite evil tyranny here]" line is served by shoving this stuff at us?
"Can we agree that throwing down the Nazi and gulag cards is simply not a thing reasonable people should do?"
Sure, I agree as well: so why do you feel you have to throw it down in (what I am reading as) support of the same position we mostly seem to share?

"Jewish sitdown strikes in Munich in 1938 would not have helped."

Actually, they might have. In Berlin in 1943 saved a number of Jewish men married to non-Jewish women were arrested for deportation to the camps. Their wives protested their husbands' arrest. This protest embarressed the Nazi regime so badly that it actually released these men, many of whom survived the war. A sit down strike in 1938 would probably have intimidated the Nazis, who, like all bullies, were basically cowards, both politcally and physically, quite thoroughly. Peaceful protest is nearly always worth trying. It doesn't always succeed, it is almost never easy, but it is always worth trying.

"Peaceful protest is nearly always worth trying. It doesn't always succeed, it is almost never easy, but it is always worth trying."

Assuming you're perfectly willing to die. This seems not worth obscuring.

This seems worth not obscuring, to put it the way I meant it.

Don't be comforted that this wave of outrage is fooling anyone (except possibly Edward).

You'd be shocked at what does or does not fool me Nell...seriously, it's not all about winning points.

"Assuming you're perfectly willing to die."

I'm not "perfectly willing" to die--all things considered I'd rather continue to live. And yeah, there is always a risk inherent in protesting. I think the risk is low in the US in 2005, quite unlike the situation in Berlin in 1943. So I'm quite willing to take the minor risk that I might be in the crowd that learns that Bush has decided to earn his comparison to Hitler, starting with mowing down a crowd of protesters or that some random nut will decide to express his/her disapproval for the cause I am protesting with a rocket launcher or whatever. If enough people object to the bad behavior of the government before it gets to the mass murder level, perhaps it will never get there. Maybe if there had been sit down strikes in Munchen in 1938 the camps would never have been built. Then again, maybe they would have. I don't know. But attempting to get rid of Camp X-ray by peaceful means (protesting in the streets, writing to Congress, etc) seems worth attempting.

Back to say: welcome back rilkefan; different images now greet our readers; and I really do know all about those kittens.

And also: CharleyCarp is my hero.

"Bob, I wanted to apologize for however I provoked your previous reaction, and so I do."

This "approaching effectiveness when your friends begin turning on you." was not directed at you, Gary. I am not angry at you today. I am still in good humour. I even respect your arguments of 9:13, tho I obviously disagree on "how bad it is" ot what the most effective response would be.

Nah, I get tired of the piling-on Birddog. He, and Slart, and Sebastian, and von are doing their best within a limited range :) and have alienated themselves from their community in the process. I have seen how macallan talks to von.

Consider this an internal ongoing Democratic/left discussion on whether it is time to up the ante, turn up the heat, umm, heighten the contradictions. Like the ever-present arguments over Dean, there are options of supporting him, criticizing him, or staying silent.

Of course Durbin was comparing the Bush administration to Nazis. I won't do so, but neither will I say he wasn't. He was. And it doesn't matter if the comparison is fair or not. We are not playing softball. Go Durbin.

"A resistance succeeds by provoking the ruling regime to over-reaction." ...Bob

"Leninist strategy of "heighten the contradictons" an outrageous one"...making things worse just makes thing worse"

Okay, Gary, re Dianne above, are you saying Rosa Parks or the lunch-counter sitters or especially MLK in Selma were wrong? An awful lot of innocent people got hurt, and the obvious purpose was to provoke a reaction, and things did get worse before they got better.

Echo the admiration of Charleycarp, tho I am not optimistic. Like Katherine, lawyers have to believe in the effectiveness of law, or even the value of honoring it i the face of ineffectiveness. But is Padilla that much better off yet, either physically or legally?

Maybe not Charleycarp, but somebody or somebodies are going to spend many lifetimes in court on this.

"Okay, Gary, re Dianne above, are you saying Rosa Parks or the lunch-counter sitters or especially MLK in Selma were wrong?"

No.

"Maybe if there had been sit down strikes in Munchen in 1938 the camps would never have been built."

Since the camps were first constructed in 1933, this seems unlikely.

And also: CharleyCarp is my hero.

Yep. Me too.

But, why would America want to torture innocent people?

Why would ANYbody want to torture innocent people? Because there is deep evil available in the human heart, even if that heart was born &/or raised in the good ol' US of A.

That's the reason we really do need checks and balances, an honest and energetic press, and an intensely observant populace.

"Because there is deep evil available in the human heart, even if that heart was born &/or raised in the good ol' US of A."

I tend to think this isn't the way to look. People do bad things for, more often than not, the best of reasons. That's the thing to most look at, I tend to think. It's not because of any particular evil they possess or feel or are motivated by. That's why it happens so often. And why some are so determined to look away from it and deny it and insist it couldn't be happening and must be for a good reason and, after all, other people are worse, and, most of all, we must look elsewhere, say, at these pictures and at other people. Because, you know, we can't do evil. Because it's us.

Lily: and he did propose an investigationn of an adminnistrationn that he mostly supports. I think he should be given credit for that

*shrug*

Gosh. When Charles can bring himself to stop attacking the messenger, I'll give him credit for that. But so far, that's what he likes to do: shoot at people who criticize the US. He's never bothered to go back and update the post in which he attacked Newsweek and claimed its story was false (even though, as it turned out, Newsweek was right and Charles Bird was wrong). He still snarls at Amnesty International. He can't bring himself even to argue against Durbin's speech: instead he sets up a straw man and violently attacks that, claiming that this straw man is what Durbin said. I fully expect to see a post from him attacking the Red Cross any day now.

And I wish I was joking.


"Since the camps were first constructed in 1933, this seems unlikely."

Hmm...I thought they were built in 1942 and later, after the Wannsee conference. Of course, that doesn't imply that the first camps weren't built sooner...altough again, 1933 sounds too early. I thought the Nazis were just elected in 1933.

Dianne, it depends which camps you're referring to.

The death camps were built - and used - between 1942 and 1945.

The first concentration camps were built for "enemies of the state" - primarily Communists and Socialists - and the first one, Dachau, was opened in March 1933. (Hitler was named Chancellor in January 1933: he became dictator of Germany following the March 5 elections and the Reichstag fire on February 28. cite)

The concentration camp system was expanded - by 1945 there were at least a hundred - and conditions in the camps were terrible. Millions died because they were sent there. But they were not simple killing machines like the "extermination camps": they began:


Political enemies were arrested by the thousands and put in hastily constructed holding pens. Old army barracks and abandoned factories were used as prisons. Once inside, prisoners were subjected to military style drills and harsh discipline. They were often beaten and sometimes even tortured to death. This was the very beginning of the Nazi concentration camp system.

Hitler to the Reichstag, March 23, 1933: "The government will make use of these powers only insofar as they are essential for carrying out vitally necessary measures...The number of cases in which an internal necessity exists for having recourse to such a law is in itself a limited one."

Otto Wells, leader of the Social Democrats, on the same occasion: "We German Social Democrats pledge ourselves solemnly in this historic hour to the principles of humanity and justice, of freedom and socialism. No enabling act can give you power to destroy ideas which are eternal and indestructible."

It's true - it's very true - that so far the camps that the US has set up to hold those accused of being their enemies resemble the Nazi's regimes concentration camps only on a small scale and only at the very beginning of Hitler's regime. Indeed, were you to compare Dachau to Guantanamo Bay, even in 1933 versus 2002, I am certain that Guantanamo Bay is a far more pleasant place in which to suffer indefinite, unjust imprisonment, and that the US soldiers do not go to the lengths of torturing people to death as often as the Nazi guards did.

But to argue that because what the US is doing is not as bad as the Nazis, that Bush has not, in the five years he's been in power, committed anything like the crimes of Hitler in the first six months he was in power, should not make anyone happy. That's not an achievement to be proud of.

The Old Issue, Rudyard Kipling:

Here is naught at venture, random nor untrue—
Swings the wheel full-circle, brims the cup anew.

Here is naught unproven, here is nothing hid:
Step for step and word for word—so the old Kings did!

Step by step, and word by word: who is ruled may read.
Suffer not the old Kings: for we know the breed—

All the right they promise—all the wrong they bring.
Stewards of the Judgment, suffer not this King!


Nevertheless

Jesurgislac: Thanks for the info. I'm afraid my knowledge of history is rather spotty (you know how it is with US-Americans...)

I agree with you that the probable* fact that the Guantanamo Bay camp is not as bad as the early Dachau camp is not much to be proud of. If I were Bush I'd want a better legacy than "not as bad as Hitler" but then again, I'm not Bush. Maybe he's happy to be known for his moderation in only rarely torturing a prisoner to death.

*I'm weasel wording a little because I don't know enough about conditions in either to make a definitive statement.

"Why would ANYbody want to torture innocent people?"

Maybe it's not always for the best of reasons or the worst of reasons, but simply because they were told to. The Milgram Experiment suggests that the majority of people will torture an innocent person simply because an authority figure tells them to do so. This, to me, is the reason that torture should never be allowed as official policy: because it is too easy to convince people that they are doing what they have to do by torturing, even torturing people they know to be innocent, if it is.

It is interesting to note that in one variant of the Milgram experiment, in which the experimental subject sees two previous actors playing the "teacher" role refuse to go on giving shocks only 10% of subjects go on to give a supposedly lethal shock (down from 65% in the classic study). This suggests that refusing to obey an authority when the authority is demanding an immoral behavior is worthwhile even when it is apparently futile (ie if a soldier refuses to torture prisoners in Guantanamo he/she might not stop the torture of that particular prisoner but he/she might influence others to refuse, which might end the policy of torture more quickly than if he/she had complied.)

I fully expect to see a post from him attacking the Red Cross any day now.

Too late, I'm afraid. Far too late.

That earlier post by Charles is remarkably in sync with the GOP report issued Monday...

Oh, I'm not at all surprised, Edward. If there's one thing at which Charles absolutely excels, it's beating the drum for the Party talking points, and the ICRC has been a target ever since the Administration decided to start ghosting detainees.

Like I said on the other thread, when your proclaimed enemies are the ICRC, Amnesty International, the United Nations, the Federal Judiciary and so forth, you might want to step back and examine your basic principles again to figure out just what you stand for.

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