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June 15, 2005

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» Torture from Majikthise
"Members of Congress say they receive a negligible number of letters and calls about the [torture] revelations that keep coming." [NYT permalink] Hilzoy knows we can do better than that. "Wanting it clear" means wanting an honest, open debate about [Read More]

» Quo Vadis, Dominus? from Redwood Dragon
"Where are you going, Lord?" "To Guantanamo, to be crucified again." On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms... [Read More]

» More On Gitmmo from TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime
Guantanamo Bay and torture continue to make headlines and blog posts. Some more to read: Billmon Balloon Juice, which says some Republican bloggers are getting it now. More here. David Neiwert Obisidian Wings Kevin Drum Brad Plummer In MSM: New... [Read More]

» More On Gitmmo from TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime
Guantanamo Bay and torture continue to make headlines and blog posts. Some more to read: Billmon Balloon Juice, which says some Republican bloggers are getting it now. More here. David Neiwert Obisidian Wings Kevin Drum Brad Plumer In MSM: New... [Read More]

» Torture and clarity from slacktivist
"What do we DO about this?" Katherine asks, cutting to the chase in comments below. Hilzoy answers that question at Obsidian Wings: Here are links to the email addresses of your Senators and Representatives. Write them and let them know [Read More]

» Hunh. Democrats now calling for Karl Rove to apologize or resign from I Love Everything
I'll re-post this here: http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2005/06/torture_making_.html ..."Wanting it clear" means wanting an honest, open debate about what we want interrogators to do in our name. In the course of that debate, those who ... [Read More]

» Italian Judge Orders CIA Team Arrested over Kidnap from I Love Everything
and it's all connected! ...Secret transfers of suspects to foreign states for interrogation are an acknowledged tool of the United States in its war on terrorism, but it denies charges that the practice -- known as rendition -- amounts to outsourcing ... [Read More]

Comments

Thanks for the bill #s.

I was pleased to see my own representative is already a co-sponsor of HR 952. So I wrote him a note telling him so.

Both of my Senators are die-hard R's (Dole and Burr), so I don't expect much from them. But I sent them little notes anyway.

"In the course of a somewhat frustrating NYTimes article on what he calls 'Torture Lite'...."

Which, to make a completely trivial observation, was first linked to on this site on June 12, 2005 01:50 AM in this open thread. No one found it interesting enough to respond to.

Your post, on the other hand, is typically chock full of links, suggestions, observations, and wise words. Thanks muchly as ever.

I've not read transcripts of today's hearings (and, as I've mentioned, don't have cable, so no C-Span, alas and alack!), but I gather that quite a few witnessess seemed to have assured the Senate and us all that everything is just great at Guantanamo; apparently they're opening a vacation wing next month, so get hopping on your booking!

I urge caution here. Don't do to the military what Frank Church did to the CIA. I think we need a certain amount of bad guys. I dont think Khalid Sheikh Muhammed's whereabouts ought to be publicized.

Conservative comment about the general issue can be found at Blackfive, from the latest many-times-linked Slate column by Hitchens (not recommended for dial-up), and from Jeff Goldstein, among others.

"Don't do to the military what Frank Church did to the CIA."

Tell us tremendously important things about actions our government has taken?

Back on Gitmo: hey, I hear it's sunny.

Don't forget the Pike Committee.

Gary, you can watch C-Span online.

I can email you the transcript, if you don't already have it. Drop me a line.

DaveC, the idea that Congress can do any damage to the military that the Admin isn't already doing would be laughable, if it wasn't so tragic. As for KSM, I'm not sure what you are afraid of. I don't see much clamor for his situation to be made public, but then again, I'm not sure why it matters that it be kept secret. Suppose he was in Marion IL, or Pelican Bay, or some such facility. What would be the consequence of knowing that? If the risk of announcing that he's in Bagram, or Diego Garcia, or wherever, is that someone will try to spring him, then maybe they ought to put him somewhere safer. (Like Pelican Bay or Marion . . .)

What are you afraid of? And why?

Blackfive says: "Rep. Hunter was pretty awesome - best line was how on Monday inmates at Gitmo would be dining on Lemon Chicken and Rice Pilaf while our men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan were eating MREs. I don't think the transcript is up yet."

Presumably, then, our fighting folk would prefer to switch places so as to get that yummy dining choice.

Probably not. But who wouldn't want to vacation in sunny Cuba, given the cushy treatment on offer?

More Blackfive wise insight: "The terrorists are already experiencing 'fine dining', a world class gym, and an extraordinary demonstration of respect for their religion. What's next? A Spa for terrorists?"

Yes. That's exactly right.

"Gary, you can watch C-Span online."

Not very well with a dial-up 49.5k connection while trying to read five to eight open tabs worth of stuff, but thanks muchly for the suggestion, CharleyCarp.

Yes the CIA did way bad things, but it went so far the other way that in the 911 hearings ?Janie? Gorelick blamed the intelligence agencies for failures that resulted from policies she helped put in place.

I looked at yours, I hope you will look at mine.

(especially the last few paragraphs by Blackfive), and I will add everybody's perennial favorite, Jonah Goldberg. Sorry to hear about Jonah's dad, BTW.

Gary, I put the transcript as a comment on your blog. It's kind of long, so I assume you'll want to remove it to a more useful medium.

"Gary, I put the transcript as a comment on your blog. It's kind of long, so I assume you'll want to remove it to a more useful medium."

Thank you very much for the thought and effort. Please don't ever do that again, if you don't mind. (My suggestion for an alternative: post it on a web page if you believe it won't otherwise so be available shortly, and pass along the URL; there are plenty of free web pages available with a few minutes effort.)

Thank you again for take the effort, and otherwise for your work. (And to any FBI special people reading this: I didn't do it! I'm loyal!)

DaveC, I read the Blackfive piece. There's plenty to say about it, but "they're worse" is a completely meaningless justification. You're damn right they're worse, and it would be a very sorry situation if they weren't worse. It's just not the relevant test.

He asserts that no one has been tortured at Guantanamo. Either he's an eye-witness to every interrogation, or he's making an assumption. Time -- and the classified records -- will tell. Asserting that it is so, though, does not make it so.

Who cares that some prisoners have been served lemon chicken? Do you really think this is supposed to mean something? It would refute a claim that they are only being fed gruel, I suppose, but then that's not a claim I am familiar with. And in any event, whenever conditions and actions at Guantanamo are discussed, one has to look at the timing. Menus in 2005 may well not be the same as menus in 2002. Guidelines for handling the Koran promulgated in 2003 didn't prevent conduct in 2002.

Blackfive can dress it up any way he wants, but the fact is that we've got a bunch of people that are being held, virtually incommunicado, without charge much less trial, indefinitely. This is injury enough, even if they hadn't been tortured, fed gruel, forced to listen to Christine Aguilera, and the rest. It illegal, immoral, unnecessary, and counterproductive.

Sorry, Gary. Lesson learned.

Suppose he was in Marion IL, or Pelican Bay, or some such facility

You probably dont buy this, but I would prefer to err on the side of caution. Excerpt:

During the trial, Moussaoui stated that he was not involved in the September 11 attacks, but that he was planning an attack of his own. He stated that this plan involved hijacking a Boeing 747-400 in order to free the blind sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, being held in Florence, Colorado, and return him to Afghanistan. Alternatively, he planned to crash the aircraft into the White House in Washington, D.C. Some Al-Qaida members reportedly corroborated Moussaoui's statement to an extent, saying that he was involved in a plot other than September 11, but prosecutors believed that his story had no merit. Prosecutors state that they will seek the death penalty in the case.

I also recall that the Blind Sheikh directed terrorist activities from a prison cell.

And it is unworthy of citizens of a great democracy.

I'm more than willing to grant that the US was a great democracy - once.

The assumption that it still is dubious. Cue Bill Hicks "I think the puppet on the right shares my beliefs. Well, I think the puppet on the left is more to my liking..."

"During the trial, Moussaoui stated that he was not involved in the September 11 attacks, but that he was planning an attack of his own. He stated that this plan involved hijacking a Boeing 747-400 in order to free the blind sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, being held in Florence, Colorado, and return him to Afghanistan."

Assume Moussaoui is zooming over our heads in command of the plane as you read this. How is he helped by having Abdel-Rahman in Florence, Colorado, rather than Guantanamo Bay? Perhaps the answer seems obvious to you, in which case you can help me out here.

DaveC: I read your links. Jonah Goldberg says some things I agree with and some things I disagree with, but he seems to agree with at least part of my point in this post: "There must be rules, and it is perfectly fair to debate what those rules should be." I think that having that debate is not just fair, but necessary. Hitchens' piece seemed to me more about Amnesty than about this issue, but probably I missed something.

Jeff Goldstein's piece I thought was, with all respect to you, idiotic. The point of worrying about how we are perceived in the Middle East is not that we just desperately want everyone to like us. It's that our soldiers are there, and we are fighting a war. The people in Iraq and Afghanistan are in a position either to help them -- to provide intelligence, for instance -- or to harm them. It matters immensely whether or not they look at our soldiers and think of Lynndie England leading an Iraqi around on a leash.

And this: "And that’s what’s important to the hideously self-righteous. It’s a simple calculus for them, really: the boost to one’s esteem garnered from sanctimoniously browbeating the US trumps the threat of being killed in a terrorist attack (which is statistically unlikely), or subsumed by the sword of Islam (which won’t happen in our lifetime, most likely..." -- well, that probably is true of the hideously self-righteous -- after all, they're hideous by definition -- but I don't think it's true of most people who oppose torture. And I think the fact that Goldstein thinks it does says more about him than anything else.

About Blackfive: I think he and I just have fundamentally different views about Guantanamo. He says "there has been no torture at Gitmo." But besides all the other reports, the FBI (pdf) has claimed that DoD interrogators impersonating FBI agents used "torture techniques".

He says: "The terrorists are already experiencing "fine dining", a world class gym, and an extraordinary demonstration of respect for their religion. What's next? A Spa for terrorists?" I would be happy with an end to solitary confinement for months on end. (Oddly, when I've been to a spa or a Club Med, involuntary solitary confinement hasn't been part of the package. Clearly I haven't been to the same spas as Blackfive.)

If I thought that we had even approached the point at which it would make sense to say: "But I wonder where the line is? I'm beginning to believe that we'll never find a line." -- if we had been trying and trying to do things right, but nothing we did was ever good enough -- I would sympathize with him. But I don't think we're anywhere near that. Actually, I don't think we're in that universe.

I don't want to destroy the army. Actually, if you think about it, I'm the person on this blog who writes most of the posts about not destroying the army. What I want is for us, as citizens, to make decisions about what we are prepared to do and what we are not openly. That's all.

Wanting it clear is for adults. Wanting it blurry is for children,

No. Wanting it blurry is for liars, syncophants, enablers and, in general, the Congressional Republicans who choose to do nothing about the administration's abuse policy. Collins is clearly one of those moral cowards.

Congress is not going to conduct any hearings of the type you reference. They are all "off message" for the Repblicans, and the Democrats do not have the power to call hearings. Any attempt to hold a hearing would get the "Sensenbrenner treatment" -- gaveled to a close without any proper process in order to prevent any public airing of these issues.


P.S. Don't do to the military what Frank Church did to the CIA.

This is largely an urban myth. What Church primarily did was hold hearings and air the CIA's horrendous conduct. Whether the mechanisms adopted (and not by Church) to prevent further abuses were proper is a separate question, but the Right's rallying cry that the exposure was the problem is absurd.

The notion that we profit from crappy behavior if we keep it secret makes no sense.

Gorelick blamed the intelligence agencies for failures that resulted from policies she helped put in place.

More right wing nonsense vomited out during the 9/11 hearings. Do you know the issue? It has to do with the following. Intelligence gathering is largely done by "illegal" means in the espionage and national security arena. We burglarize and wiretap the world.

These methods that are legal for intelligence gathering purposes are not legal if you are then going to prosecute someone criminally based on the information you gather with those methods. You know -- search and seizure, right to privacy, etc.

All that Gorelick did was write some policy memos regarding general rules and laws already in place for how to avoid ruining criminal cases by using evidence gathered in national security investigations by "illegal" means. She did not make policy -- she was writing guidellines on how to implement that existing law.

Ashcroft made up complete bullshit to attack the 9/11 committee based on nonsense, as if Gorelick was reponsible for this policy, which policy is still the law because not even Ashcroft was able to suspend the Fourth Amendment or other constitutional protections.

Thanks to all for reading the stuff that I linked.

Assume Moussaoui is zooming over our heads in command of the plane as you read this. How is he helped by having Abdel-Rahman in Florence, Colorado, rather than Guantanamo Bay?

I'm not saying that he'd be helped by having a terrorist in a stateside prison, it's just I'd prefer that he was headed for Gitmo, rather than some place in the US. Assuming that something like this happened, I would prefer that if number of victims was equal, I'd prefer if the victims were not Americans. Or I'd even prefer a situation where more people overall were killed, but fewer Americans died. I realize that this is not a particularly moral argument, but that's where I'm coming from.

He says: "The terrorists are already experiencing "fine dining", a world class gym, and an extraordinary demonstration of respect for their religion. What's next? A Spa for terrorists?" I would be happy with an end to solitary confinement for months on end. (Oddly, when I've been to a spa or a Club Med, involuntary solitary confinement hasn't been part of the package. Clearly I haven't been to the same spas as Blackfive.)

William Fisher (whoever that is) has a very funny post along the same lines. My favorite paragraph:

But that ain’t all! For every carefree night you while away at GITMO, you earn points on your FAP program. FAP is GITMO’s Frequent Abuse Program. This qualifies you for free upgrades on the CIA Gulfstream to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other popular ‘rendition’ destinations, and deep-discount trips to Abu Ghraib and Bagram Air Base.

Sometimes black humor is the only humor left.

I'm not saying that he'd be helped by having a terrorist in a stateside prison, it's just I'd prefer that he was headed for Gitmo, rather than some place in the US.

Uh....I may be way off base here, not up on the latest hijacking techniques, and I may be misreading your argument, but I kind of assume that when someone plans on hijacking a plane to get someone out of prison, they aren't actually planning on landing a Boeing 747 on the street outside the prison, sliding down the emergency chutes, and storming the place (probably cheaper and easier to just take the Greyhound, if the prison is in Colorado) but that they're going to take over the plane and threaten to do Bad Things (tm) if their favorite little terroristic miscreant isn't released, like, you know, force the passengers to actually eat everything in the "Bistro Bag" or something similarly ominous.

I don't see how location of said prisoner is relevant to the ominousness of the Bad Things (tm) being threatened...

These methods that are legal for intelligence gathering purposes are not legal if you are then going to prosecute someone criminally based on the information you gather with those methods. You know -- search and seizure, right to privacy, etc.

Yes, and the discussion is about whether to treat terrorist suspects as criminals, or POWs, or what, exactly. I'm saying that they are extraordinary cases.

I also am not blaming Gorelick for ALL the problems in intelligence. Heck, George Tenet worked for Clinton and Bush, and although some people have put the largest measure of blame for 911 on him, I do understand that the majority of people working for our govt retain their positions no matter who is elected; That they do the best that they can, given the various restrictions that are intended to protect US citizens.

It doesn't really matter if it's Cuba or Colorado. The question is whether there are laws or there aren't, and whether prisoners are abused or they aren't.

As far as overreacting and limiting executive power over detainees goes, that becomes more likely the longer this goes on. It's already happening in the courts--if you think they would be this involved if they thought there was any alternative that would preserve the rule of law, think again. As time passes it's going to happen in the country as a whole--or, we'll simply never go back to being a country that doesn't torture people, but that alternative still seems less likely to me and is not yet one I'm willing to seriously contemplate.

I know that you need a powerful executive to fight terrorism, but when they claim to be and act as if they are bound by no laws at all, I begin to doubt even uses of executive power that might be necessary.

I know that secrecy is important in war, especially a war that relies as heavily on classified information. I once would have thought seriously about legalizing coercive interrogation techniques short of torture, but the more I read about Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and Bagram, the more I think those techniques lead inevitably to torture. The Pentagon permits detainees to be kept naked and frightened with dogs, and dogs are set on naked prisoners who may not be guilty of anything; the Pentagon permits "stress positions" and minor uses of force, and two detainees in Bagram are chained to the ceiling and their legs are beaten severely enough to cause a fatal blot clot cutting off blood to the lungs in one case, and heart failure in another case; severely enough for the coroner to testify that their legs were "pulpified" and that she had seen similar injuries in people run over by a bus. And suddenly "stress positions" no longer sounds innocuous to me.

I know that one sometimes needs to cooperate with, and share intelligence with, very nasty countries led by very nasty people in a war like this one. But when we send prisoners to be tortured into those countries prison, I find it harder to support a close relationship with their intelligence services in general.

I know that some of these people are horrible terrorists, murderers and would-be murderers, who would gladly kill me in my sleep and who I do NOT want walking the streets. But when one makes these charges against too many prisoners who turn out to be innocent, they lose their force, and the whole thing looks very different when you start picturing this happening to an innocent Canadian computer technician, German used car salesman, or Afghan taxi driver instead of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad. And picturing an innocent person being tortured makes it about impossible to condone torture even of the guilty. (As they just said on the Daily Show, I frankly resent having to feel pity and shame towards terrorists. It makes me angry and sick, at some level, that we are giving these murderers any ammunition in their efforts to convince themselves that God is on their side and their murders and their fantasies of genocide are morally justified.)

On a more practical level--there are already detainees who may have been guilty, who have had to be released because they were tortured--whether it was because the administration had to hide the evidence of torture that would have come out if the case had continued, or because the only evidence of the detainee's guilt would be thrown out of court by any judge, civilian or military, with an ounce of sense or self-respect.

If the administration wants people to overreact in the opposite direction, tie the hands of the military and intelligence services in a way that leaves us more vulnerable--they should keep doing what they're doing.

I mean, I suppose it's possible that behind the scenes they're trying to prevent these abuses from recurring, and all this stonewalling and denial is just to save face. But everytime I make an assumption like that, I get proven wrong a year or two later.

BTW, preemptively: everyone knows to fear my wrath before they jump on the bash-Durbin bandwagon, right? And for reference, here's what he actually said.

"I'm not saying that he'd be helped by having a terrorist in a stateside prison, it's just I'd prefer that he was headed for Gitmo, rather than some place in the US."

Well, yes, DaveC, so you've said, but could you help me out here on why, please? To repeat myself: what's the benefit? If it's there, I'm sure you can explain it.

dmbeaster: "Congress is not going to conduct any hearings of the type you reference."

Um, like today's hearings? The transcript of which I'm reading (and will likely post about tomorrow) -- those hearings?

Katherine: Is there a bash-Durbin bandwagon? If so, what one earth for?

Well, there is now that she's called attention to what Durbin said. ;-)

Paraphrasing: in a floor statement about detainee abuses, he read from the FBI reports about abuse at Guantanamo and said that, if I read this to you and did not tell you who had written it or who it was about, you would assume that it described treatment by totalitarian regimes with no regard for human rights like Nazi Germany, Stalin's USSR, and the Khmer Rouge; you would never believe it was an FBI agent describing the treatment of prisoners by Americans. The ususal suspects have translated this as, "That traitor Durbin says U.S. troops are Nazis!$%#!!!" and are accordingly calling for his head. You'll understand if I don't link to them; I have a policy about that...

Durbin, being Durbin, is not apologizing. Y'all know I am a big fan of his, for co-sponsoring S. 654 and 100 other things, but leaving all that aside--
I would be even more depressed than I already am, if the only elected official who made any personal apology* about the U.S.'s interrogation policies was a Senator apologizing for criticizing them too harshly.

*as in, an admission of personal guilt; I have not forgotten Bush's belated quasi-apologies after Abu Ghraib but I don't consider those real apologies.

if I read this to you and did not tell you who had written it or who it was about, you would assume that it described treatment by totalitarian regimes with no regard for human rights like Nazi Germany, Stalin's USSR, and the Khmer Rouge; you would never believe it was an FBI agent describing the treatment of prisoners by Americans. The ususal suspects have translated this as, "That traitor Durbin says U.S. troops are Nazis!$%#!!!"

Hmm, well now that you mention it, a Senator comparing the US military to Nazis isn't going to win any friends. What was his position on the missle attacks against Iraq and Sudan in 1998, by the way?

yeah, right, he thinks the U.S. army are Nazis; that's why he's constantly doing stuff like this and why there are more press releases on veterans' issues than just about any other subject. Whatever.

DaveC, I'd be much more interested in your response to the first nine paragraphs of the 1:54 a.m post.

DaveC: Yes, and the discussion is about whether to treat terrorist suspects as criminals, or POWs, or what, exactly.

They're terrorist suspects. Being suspected of having committed a crime is not identical with having committed the crime - or even of wanting to commit the crime. You seem to be arguing that it is sufficient that someone has been kidnapped and taken to Guantanamo Bay - no matter what the reason for doing so - to consider them "criminals or PoWs".

I'm saying that they are extraordinary cases.

Well, yes. I for one consider Bisher al-Rawi - and his business partner, Jamil al-Banna - who were arrested in the Gambia for the crime of flying while Muslim with a phone charger, to be very extraordinary cases. We happen to know more about al-Rawi and al-Banna, because they were two of four businessmen travelling to the Gambia, all arrested there and interrogated there by the CIA and the Gambian police: but the two who were British citizens were rescued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The two who were British residents, but not British citizens (al-Rawi's family were refugees from Iraq: al-Banna from Jordan) could not be rescued, and went to Bagram Airbase, then to Guantanamo Bay.

Had all four of them been "not British citizens", what would we know about them? In cases where we are enabled to know more about the individuals who have been arrested for the American gulag, the "evidence" against them looks shaky to non-existent. What does that say about the hundreds of prisoners who come from non-European countries, about whose backgrounds we know far less?

You seem to be assuming they're guilty. You seem to have no evidence for this belief except that they're in Guantanamo Bay.

Adding to Hilzoy's point above that complaining about treatment of prisoners isn't just about self esteem: it's not just about the safety of our soldiers in the field, either. At this point, our principle strategy in the war is the transformation of societies in the ME. Now I don't think this is anywhere near as easy to accomplish as the proponents of the policy, but we've embarked on it, and if it can work, I hope it does work.

The target audience for this task are fellow citizens of the prisoners in Guantanamo. I can't see why anyone thinks that playing to the 'Jacksonian' crowd -- and that's what the whole lemon chicken thing is about -- is going to help in any way with the overall project.

I don't know, but it seems to me that the folks really interested in self-esteem on this question are those desperately clinging to the notion that what our government is doing is OK. (My view on this is not restricted to this issue, to be honest. I mean which group seems more insecure, the one who wants to hear repeatedly 'we're the greatest country of all time' or the one who wants to hear repeatedly 'we could be doing a little better in a number of areas'?).

"I don't know, but it seems to me that the folks really interested in self-esteem on this question are those desperately clinging to the notion that what our government is doing is OK."

If I might throw in a word of opinion as to what is and isn't apt to be persuasive to, in my subjective opinion, I think that regardless of how true or not the above may be, it's unlikely to be persuasive to people to persuade them that their doubts and anxieties may be wrong, or worth overcoming, at least, by telling them that they are more insecure, desperate-feeling, and have lower self-esteem than those they're arguing with. There may be a world in which people hear that, slap themselves upside the head, and think "that's right, and I'm probably wrong because of that!," but this isn't it, that I've noticed.

Similarly, although you're not using the term, I can't think of a better way to try to distract people from the real issues, or a better way to annoy, irritate, anger, and piss off, people one is trying to persuade to reconsider their views as to how Guantanamo and its cousins may or may not make Americans safer or less safe, than to use the incendiary word "gulag" as many times as possible (or even once). This has nothing to do with choosing the most apt word, or whether it is apt, but everything to do with approach; most of the people who might be not furiously attached to their opinion about Gitmo and related issues may have an open mind about a variety of things, but hearing "gulag" applied with seeming enthusiasm and deliberate desire to offend are apt to, indeed, immediately be offended, if not enraged, at hearing the word applied in such a, shall we say, highly debatable fashion, and immediately shut down any rational consideration of the larger issues in favor of wanting to punch the speaker in the mouth, or at least, completely stop listening to their arguments, and instead shout a return epithet. Frankly, if I were Don Rumsfeld, I'd be trying my best to make sure my opponents used the word "gulag" as often as possible, because it's the most effective practical way to shut down useful discussion in favor of an inane emotional argument about an irrelevant point of comparison. I'd be inclined to suspect that any lefty-type person acting in this manner was a deliberate provocateur, were it not for the long historic streak of self-defeating idiot leftists who do this sort of idiotic thing, congratulating themselves all the way long on their personal bravery, courage, and willingness to Speak Truth To Dweebs On Blogs.

But none of this will stop folks from shouting "gulag! Gulaggulaggulag!" as often as possible, doing their best to prevent rational discussion of the issues, and succeeding to an unfortunate extent.

All I can say is that issues shouldn't be decided on the basis of how offensive and dumbass the arguer is. Tempting as it is to use that rule of thumb.

DaveC,

I broke a resolution and read Goldberg's column. I was reminded why I made the resolution to begin with.

What does he say?

One terrorist who was confined in Manhattan attacked and seriously injured a guard. Hence:

All the Gitmo detainees are probably terrorists who need to be confined.

We can't take a chance on giving them any rights, because we don't really have any actual proof of their guilt.

Some detainees will lie about their treatment, so there really isn't much mistreatment.

Abuses should be remedied (hear, hear) but Goldberg is notably silent on who he considers responsible.

And in the midst of all that silliness, he manages to stick in another of his juvenile jokes about "lovers of runny cheese."

Are these your strongest arguments? I'm going to try harder to stick to this resolution:

I will not follow any link to a Goldberg column that is offered in support of any argument. It's an utter waste.

DaveC, you're a good guy, but why does it seem as if you don't grasp that Americans are not magically guaranteed to always already be better than Nazis, just because we're Americans?

If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, etc.

So, pointing out that a description of how our prisoners are treated, with the proper nouns removed, sounds like the kind of thing we associate with the basement in Gestapo HQ---not with the U.S. of A.---is a high form of patriotism.

George W. Bush does not care what he does to this country, morally, financially, or otherwise. Dick Durbin does. Who's the patriot?

One of the 3 Nietzsche quotations everyone knows: Whoever fights monsters should take care not to become a monster in the process. We are becoming monsters, DaveC.

Thanks, Gary, I needed that.

This is not intended as a jibe on Gary, he's just the latest to do something which is sort of a pet peeve of mine, and wish I which could be described as the "_________ fallacy." This is to assume that all statements are meant to persuade one's opponents, rather than simply to express one's one views, make people laugh, etc. I noticed some of this in response to Publius' Book of Hinderaker. People seemed to be suggesting that it was problematic that fans of Hinderaker wouldn't be persuaded of his suckitude by the parody, when the parody wasn't meant to do that at all.

"George W. Bush does not care what he does to this country, morally, financially, or otherwise."

Facts not in evidence. Nor can his state of mind be proven. Attempting to argue on this basis with people who don't already agree -- which is apt to be the majority of people you'll be arguing with on these subjects, I'd think -- means that you're making a to-them inflamnatory accusation that takes the discussion off of the facts, and onto a debate about the worth of the man who won the last two Presidential elections, as certified by Congress. This doesn't strike me as a helpful argument.

It does strike me as helpful to always keep in mind that almost no one considers themselves a villain, nor a supporter of villains; making that the argument is making an argument almost doomed to fail, and that isn't the argument at hand; giving people reason to think that that is the real argument, in your mind, is giving them reason to think that it's just all about attacking people for the crime of liking George W. Bush. I don't think that's the way to go, although clearly some disagree.

than to use the incendiary word "gulag" as many times as possible (or even once).

"Internment camp," or "extra-legal imprisonment" works for me, capturing the necessary emphasis on lawlessness without equating current practice with crimes of greater magnitude, but I don't think that "gulag" is entirely without acuraccy, especially (maybe only) in reference to the wider practice of world-wide rendition, though, certainly, it is less diplomatic. What do you call them? Meanwhile, annoying and idiotic as your imagined gulag-shouter is--and I agree wholeheartedly with you there, the opposite assertion-- that any use of the phrase at all is incredible and unconscionable, annoys me just as much and is just as likely to obscure the moral issues involved.

See, Paul, I immediately got you off of talking about what's going on at Gitmo and other secret prison locations, and onto discussing word usage. And, after all, the latter is the more important topic. Go, me. (But this is a case where the focus should be on the facts, not on our language; that's my point.)

But none of this will stop folks from shouting "gulag! Gulaggulaggulag!" as often as possible, doing their best to prevent rational discussion of the issues, and succeeding to an unfortunate extent.

While I generally agree with your post, Gary, you're making one very important assumption that I don't think holds: you're assuming that this debate will be won -- or can even be meaningfully contested -- on rational grounds. One of the most effective PR strategies of the Bush Administration, perhaps their greatest triumph of all, is their ceaseless assault on rational argumentation and rationalism in general, made all the more potent by its seemingly rational facade. The "War On Experts", the constant dissembling and mendacity, the "unknown unknowns", the deliberate vagaries and ambiguities, the doublethink and revisionism... whether or not it was deliberate at first, I think it's become deliberate now (and indeed as far back as late 2002/early 2003) and it's a style of argumentation that rational counterarguments are ill-equipped to counter. Whether subrational arguments like, as you so genteelly put it, "gulag! Gulaggulaggulag!" are rationally counterproductive -- as, I agree, they are -- is immaterial; what's relevant is whether they're politically counterproductive, and that's a very different question entirely.

There's something to what you say, Anarch (as always), but what's the goal on ObWings? Rational discussion or flag-waving (whomever the emotional banner is raised high for)?

And I don't stipulate that in the context of an attempt to hold rational discussion, that rational discussion is unable to counter and respond adequately to emotional manipulation, dissembling, obfuscation, doublethink, revisionism, and/or outright bad faith. I don't believe that for a moment, and if I did, I'd rather go off to a desert island by myself than engage in dishonest or irrational debate.

I do think that there can be a value to taking inflammatory positions as a means to facilitating rational discussion. For example, if I'm talking about, say, the run-up to the Iraq war, my (hypothetical) Republican interlocutor is likely to take it as an argumentative given that Bush was operating in good faith throughout. If I don't explicitly reject that premise, to the extent that the specifics we discuss suggest otherwise, conversation will break down a lot as he accuses me of paranoia and of concealing offensive views about Bush. If, on the other hand, I go into the argument with the explicitly stated premise that Bush was either lying his ass off or was an ignorant figurehead, the guy I'm talking to might walk away from the conversation because I'm too paranoid or evil to talk to, but if we get to discussion of the specifics that discussion is less likely to get derailed -- I know what he thinks of Bush generally, he knows what I think of Bush generally, and we're not involved in unearthing each other's hidden agendas.

Returning to the question of the day: have any of you heard back from your Congresspeople, in a non-form-letter way?

I think "emotional" and "rational" are complimentary, and that "emotional" and "irrational" are independent, unrelated qualities. I tend to, for instance, think it's irrational to deny that people do respond on an emotional basis and therefore wise to make use of emotion in the service of the truth. Traditionally, come to that, a Republican strength is going to the moral and emotional "this is right, that's wrong" while the Democrats are finessing the nuances of "gulag" vs. "internment camp".

"...complimentary...," Bruce, or "complementary"?

But this is a case where the focus should be on the facts, not on our language; that's my point.

Yes, that's true. But when it comes to torture, rendition, internment camps, etc., things many Americans seem willing to tolerate, but unwilling to endorse, depending on how they are explained to them, the focus is almost inescapably on language and on the facts, something your remarks on the rhetorical perils of "gulag" demonstrate.

while the Democrats are finessing the nuances of "gulag" vs. "internment camp".

I can't add anything to that.

Paul: "Internment camp," or "extra-legal imprisonment" works for me, capturing the necessary emphasis on lawlessness without equating current practice with crimes of greater magnitude, but I don't think that "gulag" is entirely without acuraccy, especially (maybe only) in reference to the wider practice of world-wide rendition, though, certainly, it is less diplomatic. What do you call them?

I find it incredibly annoying when the practice of defending imprisonment without trial in an oubliette* is defended in terms as "they were taken on the battlefield" or "they're terrorists", because, bluntly, asserting that means that the speaker knows nothing about Guantanamo Bay except what Dick Cheney has chosen to tell them.

I find it outrageous when the practice is defended as "they're terrorist suspects" because it strongly suggests that the person who said it is quite content that the US should run a gulag - yet the people who do so are almost-invariably outraged when the word gulag is used.

I have not noticed that anyone inclined to speak of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay as "terrorists" or "illegal combatants" (or prisoners held elsewhere in the archipelago of prisons run by the US for the purpose of holding people without legal justification) has ever been stopped from doing so by anyone telling them "that's outrageous" or "that's inflammatory language".

Why, then, should those of us inclined to call a gulag a gulag be stopped by an appeal to "that's inflammatory language"? If they are going to use inflammatory and inaccurate terms to describe the prisoners, surely we may use an inflammatory and accurate term to describe the prison?

This I will agree to: If any reference here to the prisoners as terrorists or illegal combatants is jumped on as heartily as any reference to the prison as a gulag, (unless a specific prisoner is named and the person referring to the prisoner can cite reasonable evidence that the prisoner is a terrorist), I'll quit referring to Guantanamo Bay and the rest of the archipelago as "gulags". At least, here.

*Oubliette is, to be honest, the word I think best describes the intent of setting up an illegal prison in Guantanamo Bay specifically - a prison on territory which the US could blandly claim was Cuban, therefore not subject to US law, and where the US military controls access completely. It does not necessarily describe other prisons so well.

Wow, Jes, that's the word for it all right. Oubliette. A very apt word I haven't even seen in years.

Of course gulag still has the benefit of having a plural connotation and implicitly including the entire system of US and allied internment camps/oubliettes rather than just one of them, but still...

Anderson: "George W. Bush does not care what he does to this country, morally, financially, or otherwise."

Gary: Facts not in evidence. Nor can his state of mind be proven. Attempting to argue on this basis with people who don't already agree -- which is apt to be the majority of people you'll be arguing with on these subjects, I'd think -- means that you're making a to-them inflamnatory accusation that takes the discussion off of the facts, and onto a debate about the worth of the man who won the last two Presidential elections, as certified by Congress. This doesn't strike me as a helpful argument.

Well, I very much doubt there ARE any helpful arguments at this point. But I can't agree that, when Bush *acts* like he doesn't care about what happens to this country, we nevertheless have to pretend that we can't infer as much. I mean, maybe Stalin loved the Jews, contrary to every available scrap of evidence; after all, we can't see into his mind.

This seems a bit like the assumption I was criticizing that, even if Americans act like Nazis, we can't draw that comparison, because deep down we're not Nazis, we all carry Mom and apple pie in our hearts. Tell it to those guys we tortured to death in Afghanistan.

To all appearances, *any* argument that Bush and his cohort are major screw-ups is "inflammatory." Because how inflamed people get is partly up to them, and if you don't say that Bush is the 2d coming of Winston S. Churchill, then you're being inflammatory. (Churchill, who remarked that torture & cannibalism were the only two barbarisms to which the West hadn't sunk in WW1.)

I am saying that our fiscal and security policies have been debacles, and that responsibility & blame for those policies rests with President Bush, whose deeds have been sooooooo reckless and wanton as to raise the supportable inference that he does not, in fact, care much about what becomes of America, in any meaningful sense of the word "cares" Unfortunately, that's "inflammatory."

---Btw, O Maven, isn't "proven" the adjective and "proved" the verb? ;)

There's something to what you say, Anarch (as always)...

Awwwww... :)

but what's the goal on ObWings? Rational discussion or flag-waving (whomever the emotional banner is raised high for)?

Good point, although I wasn't aware that your remark was restricted to the confines of ObWi. If that's your take on the charter, however, there are other posters deserving of your lash...

And I don't stipulate that in the context of an attempt to hold rational discussion, that rational discussion is unable to counter and respond adequately to emotional manipulation, dissembling, obfuscation, doublethink, revisionism, and/or outright bad faith.

I wish that were true. I commend to your attention, however, any of a number of counterexamples in which it has been proven false in the past century: the rise of the Nazis, Stalin's Cult of Personality, etc. I think that, if the world were fair, rationalism would be the magic bullet that slays the dragons of subrational manipulation -- to mangle my fantasy metaphors beyond repair -- but we might as well wish for a pony while we're at it.

Now don't get me wrong, I think that the gains of rationalism and rational discourse are generally longer lasting than those of emotional manipulation et al. and I vastly prefer those domains for policy discussions at any of a number of both pragmatic and moral (and, more broadly, philosophical) levels. The problem, though, is that ultimately we are not by nature rational beings -- as a quick glance at my students' homework will attest ;) -- and maintaining a purely rational discussion in the face of heated passions can be tantamount to a unilateral disarmament in the midst of hostilities.

Or sometimes it can be exactly what's needed. Life is funny like that.

It's ironic, really: the more I study logic, the very foundation of rationalism, and the more I teach mathematics, the most rational of sciences, the more convinced I become that the potency of rationalism in the political domain is vastly overrated. Which is appalling, because I'm also more convinced than ever that rationalism is necessary in the political domain if we want any kind of government and governance that we claim to desire.

"To all appearances, *any* argument that Bush and his cohort are major screw-ups is "inflammatory."

Horsepucky. It's immensely easy to argue and support with facts about what Bush has done (or authorized, in most cases). Telling the difference between what someone says and does, and what they think, does not actually turn out to be very difficult.

One can be supported with citations and evidence; the other requires a mind-reading helmet. The only problem involved seems to be that some people believe they possess the latter, and are interested in arguing on that basis.

But none of this will stop folks from shouting "gulag! Gulaggulaggulag!" as often as possible, doing their best to prevent rational discussion of the issues, and succeeding to an unfortunate extent.

I'm not an American citizen.

The US Government has asserted that it has the right to invade my country on a lie or kidnap me, bundle me into one of these places, torture me, send me off to places like Egypt so it can outsource the torture and deny me habeas corpus or my rights under the Vienna Convention simply on the say so of its Maximum Leader.

Speaking as an non-American citizen, "gulag" seems appropriate to me.

And your country's "plan" is built around persuading non-Americans you're the good guys?

Anacrh: "It's ironic, really: the more I study logic, the very foundation of rationalism, and the more I teach mathematics, the most rational of sciences, the more convinced I become that the potency of rationalism in the political domain is vastly overrated."

At this point I have to cite something my grandmother used to say, which I was annoyed to discover was from a poem in which it meant something quite different from her defiant proclamation, and which I therefore ignore completely:

"When the forts of folly fall
Find my body at the wall!"

By the wall, actually. It was clear (when my grandmother said it) that the idea was that she had died trying to storm those forts.

And your country's "plan" is built around persuading non-Americans you're the good guys?

Nah, persuasion is another of those little details you don't have to bother with when it's self-evident that God is on your side.

BTW, Hilzoy, between the recent discussions about how to deal with odious regimes and having finally taken a few minutes to follow the trail of biographical clues you've left here, I'm reminded of the academic year I spent living above the entry to your father's office (assuming I've followed correctly) and trying to study over the noise of students who congregated in that area to protest the school's investments in companies doing business in South Africa. Doesn't really have anything to do with anything, just one of those funny little almost-connections. (And feel free to delete if this comment is out of line; I assume from what you've posted here that you're just trying to be mildly Google-resistant, but if not, my apologies.)

DaveL: ah, how it takes me back. I actually think it was an incredibly useful experience to be, on the one hand, a college student who obviously understood why people went to protests, and on the other a person who, while walking past what I imagine would have been your room, thinking: why are all those people venting their adolescent rebellion on my father? And, of course, noting the huge incongruity between the figure depicted in those demonstrations and the guy I actually knew. It taught me a lot.

As, in a different way, did the experience of being the only person I knew in college who opposed divestment. (After a phone call that began something like this:
Me: Dad, how can you do this??????
Dad: Well...
And ended several hours later with me convinced.

I am, as you suggest, mostly trying to avoid being identifiable from real life to here, not the other way round.

Small world.

Oh. Despite a past look or two at Hilzoy's other work, I'd never looked into (or thought to) her family (there are limits to my casual snoopiness, it turns out).

All I can say is that it's a good thing I started meeting people whose work impressed me as much as I can be impressed at around the age of 14 or so (going to science fiction conventions, which were then relatively small and intimate affairs of a couple of hundred people, and meeting Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and so on; and speaking of incongruities learned about people's work, and how they can be in person), or you'd be able to knock me off a chair with a feather. I was impressed enough just by knowing a few of Hilzoy's accomplishments.

But I also learned at about that age (among many other invaluable lessons) what an unbelievably small world it often is, yes oh yes oh yes oh yes.

I think this makes maybe the fifth and sixth Nobel Laureates I can now get to in two or three steps-of-connection (although the others are mostly still alive; mostly). (My condolences on having lost your grandmother, no matter that it's been twenty-odd years.)

Oh, God, not the whole lot of them all at once?

I was a particularly clueless freshman and still leaned more conservative than I do now. I didn't have much of a view on divestment either way, but I found protests in general a bit off-putting, and I got heartily sick of the chants underneath my window. (I still remember one, "[Hilzoy's father], get the word, this is not Johannesburg!" Twenty years later, it still neither scans nor makes any sense at all, but I sure heard it a lot that year.)

And who can forget:

Hey, Hey, (Hilzoy's dad)
When you gonna sell that racist stock?

Ah, the memories...

"Oh, God, not the whole lot of them all at once?"

Assuming this is directed at my last comment, I'm afraid I'm a little unsure whether it's directed at my comment about meeting people at sf conventions, or my remark about Nobel Laureates, assuming it's either of those.

DaveL: "I was a particularly clueless freshman...." But you repeat yourself. ;-)

"When you gonna sell that racist stock?"

At least you folks weren't the "racist stock."

I wonder if how far back protest chants date from, actually. I'm not aware of any, off-hand, prior to the Sixties, but I could easily be entirely ignorant of a prior history.

"Hey, hey, LBJ...." is the first one that crossed my consciousness, just as LBJ's March, 1968, "I shall not seek, and I will not accept" speech is more or less the my first major political memory (I was a little over nine years old).

Thanks a lot, Hilzoy, I'd actually managed to forget that one!

And Gary, even by the standards of freshmen, my cluelessness was pretty awe-inspiring. I'm not sure that I've actually gotten a clue since then, but at least now I have some idea where the clues are kept.

Twenty years later, it still neither scans nor makes any sense at all

Hah! That is a pearl of logic compared to some of these. (warning, some are not particularly worksafe) Unfortunately, I can't vouch for the veracity of all of them (and some are obviously trolls), but I love the fact that they chanted 'USA' at Man U because of Glazer's takeover. I was looking for some of the ones I heard when I was in England in the mid 80's, with one particularly bizarre one urging Gary Lineker on to the goal, but I came up empty. It was so anti-rhythmic that it completely resists (at least for me) being remembered.

The divestiture movement figured prominently during my undergrad days as well, with the marches and model shantytowns and so forth. But for some reason I don't remember any chants beyond the de rigeur "Hey hey, ho ho, apartheid has got to go" (usually with some audible confusion about how to pronounce "apartheid", at least in the first few repetitions). I don't know if that's due to my faulty memory or a lack of creativity on the part of the protesters.

Speaking of creativity and (American) football chants, though: I vividly remember attending my first football game at my new campus. I was sitting in a pack of earnest freshmen, all of us still under the delusion that the point of going to a college football game was to concentrate on the actual contest itself, and there were these two upperclassmen sitting behind us, with a three-hour supply of gin and tonic and a willingness to shout out whatever random "cheers" came to mind, often at completely inappropriate moments (from the point of view of those who were following the game). The one that stood out most clearly, my all-time favorite cheer, was:

They're not good,
They're not great,
That is why
We really hate!
(Them).

The last word said as an afterthought after the rhyme.

OK, maybe not so terribly clever, but it made quite an impression on my young mind, which until then had experienced only the typical slavish, pseudo-fascist, cheerleader-enforced yells from high school and UCLA/USC football games.

At high school football games, a buddy and I used to do our penny-ante rebellion thing by chanting

Big R
Little x
Drugs! Drugs!

while the cheerleaders were chanting

Big G
Little o
Go! Go!

What was I saying a few minutes ago about how clueless I was in my youth? Is there some saying about what you're supposed to do when you're in a hole that I might want to be thinking about pretty soon?

You know, it's all easy and fun and games and stuff to make fun of 80s apartheid protestors...but they got the job done when no one else would. Or maybe the fall of apartheid is another event for which we should all praise the wise actions of Ronald Reagan...?

Felix, I don't think we were making fun of apartheid protestors as a class. Maybe student protestors, or students in general, or students named me in particular.

I didn't know enough about the issue at the time to have much of an opinion one way or the other about the merits of divestiture as a tactic, but I don't think anyone on either side of the particular battle to which we're referring supported or tolerated apartheid, and as I sit here today I'm strongly inclined to trust Hilzoy's better-informed view that divestiture was the wrong approach. I suspect that if I were to go study up on the fall of apartheid, I'd probably conclude that neither American university students, the administrators they protested, nor Ronald Reagan were the key actors, but that's about as far out on a limb as I'm willing to go.

"You know, it's all easy and fun and games and stuff to make fun of 80s apartheid protestors..."

Could be, and so could many things, but I happened to support divestment, myself.

"Or maybe the fall of apartheid is another event for which we should all praise the wise actions of Ronald Reagan...?"

I dunno, find anything in the several millions of words I've ever written that praise the wise actions of Ronald Reagan (which suggests that I need to make a minor few, I suppose), and get back to me. There are times I get really really really tired of having to consider whether it's enough to have a written, publically accessible, record of millions of relevant words available on the internet and not enough to ritually denounce every use of a proper noun. My opinion on Reagan is Not A Secret. Hasn't been at least since the Eighties, and even before DejaNews. (No, you have no obligation to know this, but I have no obligation to not point it out when the issue is gratuitiously thrown in my face.)

Felix, I don't think we were making fun of apartheid protestors as a class.

Seemed like it to me. Maybe I took things the wrong way.

I didn't know enough about the issue at the time to have much of an opinion one way or the other about the merits of divestiture as a tactic, but I don't think anyone on either side of the particular battle to which we're referring supported or tolerated apartheid, and as I sit here today I'm strongly inclined to trust Hilzoy's better-informed view that divestiture was the wrong approach

Sure, we can argue tactics. Hilzoy, what did you do to help end apartheid that you though would be more effective than divesture?

I suspect that if I were to go study up on the fall of apartheid, I'd probably conclude that neither American university students, the administrators they protested, nor Ronald Reagan were the key actors

Well, no, the key actors were terrorists, to put it bluntly. The ANC blowing up shopping malls and such.

I just object to the blanket portrayal of college age people who pursue a cause they believe in as being idiots, which is what seems to be the prevailing argument here. Stupid meddling kids!

I was in college in the 80s, and while at the time I did not give a s**t about apartheid or any other such cause, or anything besides skateboarding, actually, I did happen to live with people who did care about such things, and the tone of the posts above is so insulting to those people that it can't be ignored. They were the people who supported AI, and they were the people who did what they could to end apartheid and the implication that they were just stupid or selfish or naive or whatever rubs my fur the wrong damn way because I know better. They had morals, and they fought for what they believed in.

More importantly, if you hope to bring about an end to America as world torturer, or to effect any other change along those same lines, those are the kids you need on your side, and people on this blog just pissed in their faces. Good luck with that.

Felix, I honestly have no clue how you got from what we posted above to "the tone of the posts above is so insulting to those people that it cannot be ignored." Either your insult meter is set way too sensitive or mine is set way too loose.

Either your insult meter is set way too sensitive or mine is set way too loose.

I don't mind the occasional exchange of insults, in fact I quite enjoy it, so I'm pretty sure it's not that...

felixrayman:

I'm strongly inclined to trust Hilzoy's better-informed view that divestiture was the wrong approach

Sure, we can argue tactics. Hilzoy, what did you do to help end apartheid that you though would be more effective than divesture?

My bet is on the whole "she never said anything like that" thing. In my universe, she wrote this:
As, in a different way, did the experience of being the only person I knew in college who opposed divestment. (After a phone call that began something like this:
Me: Dad, how can you do this??????
Dad: Well...
And ended several hours later with me convinced.
What did it say in your universe?

"...I was in college in the 80s, and while at the time I did not give a s**t about apartheid or any other such cause, or anything besides skateboarding...."

Cool. I voluntarily got arrested in the cause, myself. So, possibly, consider effing off. Or consider putting your self-righteousness somewhere else.

What did it say in your universe?

It says that hilzoy was convinced to oppose divestment. I want to know what she found to be a more effective tactic.

Keep up the personal attacks though, Gary, at some point I will respond in kind. You'll have to do way better though, so far, you're just amusing me. I should be paying you for this. But sadly, no.

Felix: DaveL and I were originally just sort of reminiscing, having figured out that we had some knowledge of a quite specific set of protests in common. Then everyone else began adding chants, since ours were fairly silly, especially what with having crucial bits replaced. That's all.

I don't think I did anything to end apartheid, really. I did other things, but apartheid always seemed to me something I was unlikely to affect. My problem with divestment was that I thought it imposed quite real costs for (probably) no benefit, in terms of ending apartheid, and possibly (much less likely) could harm people in South Africa. This last, however, depends on the fact that both the school I went to and the one I assume DaveL went to only invested in companies that followed the Sullivan principles, which meant that if, as seemed unlikely to me, a university's divesting led the company to withdraw, it would in all likelihood sell its assets, and with them the jobs of the workers there, to (probably) South African companies who were not the least interested in decent pay, safe working conditions, or treating their black and white employees equally.

For what that's worth. But I really don't have much more to say on that subject, which I haven't thought about for decades.

I don't think I did anything to end apartheid, really

Who did? Do you think it was all an internal SA thing, or do you think the gradual realization in the US that apartheid was beyond the pale had something to do with it? And if so, where did that realization come from?

Actually, felixrayman, I owe you a complete apology because I unaccountably completely misread Hilzoy's response and had, without basis, misread her as saying that she had been opposed to divestment until listening to her father. I was completely wrong in that complete misreading, and you were entirely correct to say she did, in fact, oppose divestment.

It's not clear to me, however, how this became a "personal attack" on you, beyond the "in your universe" remark, which was completely baseless and for which I was wrong to say, and for which I apologize, and an atttack on college kids in general, or anti-apartheid protestors.

"...at some point I will respond in kind. You'll have to do way better though, so far, you're just amusing me."

I'm glad to know that there's at least some benefit when I make an idiot out of myself, but honestly, not only was I not making a "personal attack" on you, I have no idea who you are, or what you've written elsewhere, or why I'd want to make a personal attack on you, let alone how I would go about that. The "at some point I will respond in kind" thing... well, sigh, I guess you were saying what you felt then, and I'll leave that there.

(Distracted writing this by watching Bill Clinton on Letterman; I pretty much like Bill Clinton, more than not.)

It's not clear to me, however, how this became a "personal attack" on you

Well, I took it as a personal attack on my friends who would have been, in the 1980s, quite loudly opposing any sort of dealings with South Africa. You could argue that there were better ways to oppose apartheid than what they did, which is why I asked what way hilzoy found to oppose apartheid that was better than divestment. If there were better ways to do what my friends did, what were they?

The conversation above just seemed to me to have a very reactionary tone, and an insulting tone to anyone of college age who made a sacrifice, however small, for some idealistic cause.

If you want to change America, you need the support of the Legion Of Idealistic College Kids. Don't piss in their faces, or the faces of their older siblings. They are our army. Support our troops.

If you want to change America, you need the support of the Legion Of Idealistic College Kids

I would suggest to you that most of those, based on my own experience are neither wise nor particularly well informed. It is a sad fact that idealism does not always produce good results. I personally waas idealistic in supporting the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, who certainly was arguably worse than the govt of South Africa. The results of our efforts in Iraq are not so pretty as I had hoped, and in kind, South Africa is not some kind of paradise. But at least it is not the sort of train-wreck that Zimbabwe is today. I think that a sudden change of regimes is likely only to lead to a populist dictatorship that cannot be easily changed later, when the bad things start to happen. Change must happen more slowly. I think in terms of the American Revolution and all that went before and after. This happened over the course of 30+ years before the USA was founded. Compare this to the French Revolution, which took place quickly, had popular support, but then led to Napoleon. Another thing I need to point out is that hilzoy is at least on occasion likely to have some self-doubt, which many people apparently lack. I am not so much willing to agree with people who are convinced that they are always right, as I am with those who question themselves on occasion.

Can't speak for the others, but personally I wasn't insulting their idealism, just gently mocking their self-righteousness and lack of nuance. I well recall how anyone who didn't agree with their choice of tactic was immediately suspected or accused of being against the objective.

And personally, I don't want an army, and I don't consider myself to be in a battle. I'd rather have a legion of clear-thinking, open-minded individuals who understand that in most cases, there are no Right and Wrong answers, just Probably Better and Perhaps Worse ones.

Felix: really, we were talking about one specific set of demonstrations, not college kids generally. I just reread DaveL's comments, and most of them concerned the fact that those demonstrations occurred under his window (and there were a lot of them. The deal was that a small number of freshmen lived upstairs in one of the administration buildings at that school, so when people protested the administration, they of necessity also protested under DaveL's window.)

My comments, the first ones at least, had to do with the fact that they were protesting my dad, and that that was odd, since I was by age and temperament completely sympathetic, but I always had this strange other view of those protests. It was a sort of bifocal vision which I think I learned a lot from. Because, like all human beings, those protesters had flaws. (And here the exact timing is key: I, at least, am talking about the late 70s and early 80s, when students really were still under the spell of the 60s. Where was our great cause, we wondered? People spent a lot of time and energy trying to find it.)

Specifically, I thought a lot about several things, as I walked by when I was on vacation from my own school. One was, as I said, the huge discrepancy between the person I knew and the person the protesters imagined. My Dad is a completely decent person, who really does get up every day of his life and try to do the right thing. He bore no resemblance to the 'tool of the white power elite' described by speakers at rallies, nor was it obvious to me what about his conduct, other than disagreeing with the speakers, might have led them to assume this. I used to wonder: where do these ideas come from? It was interesting to think about, and it affects, for instance, the way I wonder the same thing about the stereotype of liberals that some conservatives fall into.

Stuff like that. About divestment more generally, I think the difference between us might involve how we would describe what your friends did. But that's for another day.

"(And here the exact timing is key: I, at least, am talking about the late 70s and early 80s, when students really were still under the spell of the 60s. Where was our great cause, we wondered? People spent a lot of time and energy trying to find it.)"

I recall a lot of this, having graduated a different Ivy League school in the mid-80's. I recall a group of student protestors taking over and sitting in at the President's office. And what earth-shaking issue were they protesting? The reduction of status of the hockey team to a club!

Dan: (and please, no one take this as a slur on protesters in general...): my favorite, in this regard, was someone who went on a hunger strike over the absence, at his university, of a Chicano Studies department.

The more serious point of all this is: demonstrations are one tactic among many. They are not always the most effective. I used to advise both some of the leading liberal activists and some of the leading conservative activists at the school where I used to teach, and I would say; remember that the people you are protesting are, actually, people. Ask yourself: if I had a similar problem with someone I think is obviously an ordinary person, how would I deal with it? Would my first thought be to hold a demonstration? No. What would happen if, instead of trying to work things out in the normal way, I did hold a demonstration whenever I had a problem with her? Her ego would get involved and she'd probably get all defensive, and the likelihood that I would actually achieve my goal would be much, much less. My dad has no ego, luckily, but I would watch this dynamic play out at other schools, and think: why go there as one's first choice?

Hilzoy, thanks for tending to this thread while I was sleeping (time zones and all that). Yes, my comments were very much specific to that time and place. For the record, I think there's a difference between seeing some humor in the wording of protest chants and making reactionary fun of protest in general. The behavior of people in crowds is a phenomenon unto itself, and often a humorous one regardless of the nature or purposes of the crowd (e.g., lj's football chants). I have no problem with the idea that idealistic college kids can be a force for good in the world; OTOH, I wouldn't want them running the world, because that youthful idealism isn't tempered by enough experience of the world to have an appropriate sense of limits. In the particular case of protestors chanting slogans at Hilzoy's dad under my window, they were a small piece of a political movement that, as a whole, was a force for good, but that does not necessarily mean that it would have been good for them to have achieved their specific objectives in that place and time.

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