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May 18, 2009

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meh, i dunno.

caring is creepy.

I'm watching at the moment the PBS Newshour segment/discussion on the decision. Good that they're covering it.

Certainly, the United States needs to make a full reckoning of Bush-era torture as that tactic was used in conjunction with the ill-termed War on Terror. However, that necessary inquiry should represent the initial foray into state-sanctioned (or tolerated) torture, and not the end point, or we risk continuing to turn a blind eye to a shameful and reprehensible reality.

IMHO the connection goes deeper than that. The GWOT torture programs were made possible in part by a psychological climate characterized by endemic disregard for the humanity and legal rights of criminal suspects and prisoners which has been collateral damage from the War on Drugs. The latter was the slippery slope which led to the former. And to mix metaphors, prisoner/detainee abuse is a moral, ethical and legal virus; so long as the War on Drugs continues it will act as a reservoir of infection from which new outbreaks of Cheney regime style torture programs will remain possible. So long as it is legitimate for a government to imprison a (comparatively) large fraction of its population and to conceive of itself as being at war with its own citizenry, state sanctioned and systematically organized torture will remain lurking in the background as a constant threat.

Once the GWOT has been tamed, after that we need to dismantle the War on Drugs. Dig out the causes of this shameful episode, root and branch.

"So long as it is legitimate for a government to imprison a (comparatively) large fraction of its population "

For "comparatively large" read: in terms of officially reported numbers, the US imprisons more of its citizens both per capita, and in absolute numbers, than any other nation on earth.

If unofficial estimates are to be believed, China and North Korea may be higher.

Excellent company to keep.

We're all about the liberty.

"The GWOT torture programs were made possible in part by a psychological climate characterized by endemic disregard for the humanity and legal rights of criminal suspects and prisoners which has been collateral damage from the War on Drugs. The latter was the slippery slope which led to the former."

I think there's tremendous truth to this, and it's a terribly important point.

Although I also think that America never, or at least rarely, showed much care or solicitude for the humanity and legal rights of criminal suspects and prisoners before the War On Some Drugs, either, other than via a handful of landmark Supreme Court decisions, such as Gideon, Miranda, etc.

But those were the decisions, as we're frequently told by conservatives, of a handful of elite old men; they weren't the product of a mass uprising of care and concern. Indeed, as conservatives like to point out, these decisions helped produce a backlash against "liberals" and Democrats for being allegedly "soft" on crime and criminals.

"Law and order" was a battlecry of Richard Nixon, and George Wallace, and their ilk.

Rights of suspects have never been popular with Americans, save until they're arrested, in which case penal reform suddenly becomes an urgent and important cause. (See, say, Chuck Colson.)

The War On Some Drugs has "only" made things an order of magnitude or two worse.

Now if only the left could channel all this rage at the tiny amount of enhanced interrogation conducted by the U.S. and get the massive amounts of real torture (i.e. drilling into people, gouging out eyes, cutting off heads, etc.) that are going on in the world stopped, I might believe they actually care about this issue.

Where are the posts about the Nick Bergs' of the world? How about PFC Kristian Menchaca and PFC Thomas Lowell Tucker? Or the thousands upon thousands of others? You know, people who were actually tortured and killed?

Nick Berg, RIP.

lilneelix:

So, you're saying we need to be more like the butchers in the very unnecessary photo you just posted?

The US has defeated much greater (read: truly existential) threats without torture, yet a few jackasses living in a cave have you so terrified, you want to sell America's soul down the river. Seriously, how big of a coward are you?

"I have seen the enemy and he is us" is not a good creed to live by.

There are two great things about people like "lilneelix":

1. If he'd been born a Wahhabi in Saudi Arabia, he'd be infuriated by any fellow Muslims angered by the beheading of Nick Berg, and would always reply, "Where is all the concern for the people of Iraq decapitated by American bombs and murdered by American sanctions?"

2. He will live the rest of his life and never, ever understand this about himself.

"Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering."
-Hebrews 12:3

(that should be Hebrews 13:3)

Can we delete that damn photo? I don't see the need to demean a dead man so some blog troll can make a "point", it disgusts me.

Up to that point, I wanted to say that I found Eric's original post and the subsequent comments very compelling.

It reminded me of the fact that the US has something like a 50-60% recidivism rate, I think, so how long until the argument that the Guantanamo detainees are "too dangerous to be released" gets extended to the criminal population at large?

I think, so how long until the argument that the Guantanamo detainees are "too dangerous to be released" gets extended to the criminal population at large?

i predict a series of Willie al-Horton ads.

i predict a series of Willie al-Horton ads.

HA!

There are two great things about people like "lilneelix":

1. If he'd been born a Wahhabi in Saudi Arabia, he'd be infuriated by any fellow Muslims angered by the beheading of Nick Berg, and would always reply, "Where is all the concern for the people of Iraq decapitated by American bombs and murdered by American sanctions?"

2. He will live the rest of his life and never, ever understand this about himself.

Wow. Spot on.

You know, people who were actually tortured and killed?

There have been over 100 documented cases of prisoners killed in US custody under the Bush era GWOT.

Those would be prisoners that were "actually" killed. Dozens of those cases have been as a result of severe beatings. Those are the cases that have been thoroughly investigated, though many haven't yet.

How quickly truth is censored, à la "1984," so as to not offend the sensibilities of the left.

We can show Abu Ghraib photos all day long, but a single photo of a guy decapitated by our enemies must be swiftly removed as that might remind some people of the vacuousness of their argument.

"So, you're saying we need to be more like the butchers in the very unnecessary photo you just posted?"

No, I'm saying that putting a caterpillar in a cell to get a guy to talk does not come even close to taking a saw and cutting a guy's head off, or taking a drill and drilling into someone's arm, or taking a spoon and gouging out a man's eye. If you are equating them, you seriously need to develop a sense of scale.

Having both seen the enemy in action, and having been waterboarded in the military, I know exactly what is happening in the middle east and can see the difference between our actions and theirs.

lilneelix,

So let me see if I have this straight:

We don't torture or kill quite as many prisoners as the terrorists (well, actually, we kill as many, but our torture methods are softer), therefore we are the bright shining city on the hill described by Reagan?

Brilliant.

"Now if only the left could channel all this rage at the tiny amount of enhanced interrogation conducted by the U.S. and get the massive amounts of real torture (i.e. drilling into people, gouging out eyes, cutting off heads, etc.) that are going on in the world stopped, I might believe they actually care about this issue."

Amnesty International.
Human Rights Watch.
World Organization Against Torture.
UN Committee Against Torture
UN Human Rights Committee

etc.

Feel free to join up, they'll be happy to have your support.


"I know exactly what is happening in the middle east and can see the difference between our actions and theirs."

Was someone claiming there was some equivalence?

People in both US prisons and/or in military detention are beaten to death, isolated until they are insane, sodomized with an entertaining variety of hardware implements, exposed to cold until hypothermia is induced, hung from the ceiling with chains, etc etc etc. Women in prison are regularly raped and otherwise abused sexually.

So, yeah, it's great that we don't also saw their heads off or drill holes in their skulls. Gold star for our side.

I don't give a single solitary crap what people in the rest of the world do. That is their hash to settle, not mine.

I give a crap what *we* do. You should too.

"Sexual abuse is "virtually a fact of life" for female prisoners in the United States, many of whom are sold by prison guards as sex slaves to male inmates, according to a new report from Amnesty International."

how is this possible? do inmates have the cash needed to buy a guard's dignity and potential freedom? aren't prisons separated by gender? this seems unlikely to me.

Now if only the left could channel all this rage at the tiny amount of enhanced interrogation conducted by the U.S. and get the massive amounts of real torture (i.e. drilling into people, gouging out eyes, cutting off heads, etc.) that are going on in the world stopped, I might believe they actually care about this issue.

First: your terminology is incorrect. The word "torture" has a legal meaning, and waterboarding, rape, sleep deprivation, beatings, sexual humiliation and the like fall into that category. They are not mere "enhanced interrogation techniques" that do not count as "real torture". They are torture.

Second: it is common knowledge that decapitation, eye-gouging, et cetera is torture and therefore wrong. Eric Martin does not deny this. Yet, he has not made any recent posts about Nick Berg's decapitation having been wrong. Nor, as far as I recall, has he posted about Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, or Genghis Khan having been bad guys. You know why? Because this is obvious. There is no dissent on this issue.

Why does he blog about the US government torturing? Because a good chunk of our country is unaware that we have been torturing, or would rather define it out of existence or attempt to justify it on pragmatic grounds. America as a society has not yet wholly rejected torture. That's why there's an argument going on. It's not because Eric thinks Nick Berg had it coming.

Personally, I like to give others the benefit of the doubt and not engage in mind-reading. If you want to participate in an exchange of ideas here, I suggest you do the same, and debate other people's arguments rather than impugn their moral character.

Now if only the left could channel all this rage at the tiny amount of enhanced interrogation conducted by the U.S. and get the massive amounts of real torture (i.e. drilling into people, gouging out eyes, cutting off heads, etc.) that are going on in the world stopped, I might believe they actually care about this issue.

First: your terminology is incorrect. The word "torture" has a legal meaning, and waterboarding, rape, sleep deprivation, beatings, sexual humiliation and the like fall into that category. They are not mere "enhanced interrogation techniques" that do not count as "real torture". They are torture.

Second: it is common knowledge that decapitation, eye-gouging, et cetera is torture and therefore wrong. Eric Martin does not deny this. Yet, he has not made any recent posts about Nick Berg's decapitation having been wrong. Nor, as far as I recall, has he posted about Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, or Genghis Khan having been bad guys. You know why? Because this is obvious. There is no dissent on this issue.

Why does he blog about the US government torturing? Because a good chunk of our country is unaware that we have been torturing, or would rather define it out of existence or attempt to justify it on pragmatic grounds. America as a society has not yet wholly rejected torture. That's why there's an argument going on. It's not because Eric thinks Nick Berg had it coming.

Personally, I like to give others the benefit of the doubt and not engage in mind-reading. If you want to participate in an exchange of ideas here, I suggest you do the same, and debate other people's arguments rather than impugn their moral character.

.. and having been waterboarded in the military, I know exactly what is happening in the middle east and can see the difference between our actions and theirs.

No, you can't.

There is a huge difference between what is essentially a SERE exercise and being waterboarded for real. After all, if you were waterboarded as part of SERE training--it was being administered under extremely controlled conditions. The military doesn't take kindly to killing or causing long-term damage to those eligible for SERE training. Plus, you knew it was only training and you could quit at any time.

"lilneelix" seems like the kind of person who advocates war precisely because he/she has never been near one, and who likes to decorate their "arguments" with grisly photos of the dead precisely because he/she has never lost anyone to violence.

how is this possible? do inmates have the cash needed to buy a guard's dignity and potential freedom? aren't prisons separated by gender? this seems unlikely to me.

Depends on the price. Ultimately, inmates can access money - both inside and out of the prison by arranging payments.

Inmates would be separated by gender, but that doesn't mean that women couldn't be moved around to nearby facilities for illicit purposes if certain guards were in cohoots.

How quickly truth is censored, à la "1984," so as to not offend the sensibilities of the left.

The goatsex picture is "truth", yet we keep people from posting pics of that here. You can always link to your pics, and let people choose for themselves whether they want to see them.

As much as I disagree with lots of people here, on a regular basis, I haven't noticed that there's a huge aversion to "truth" as much as there is a huge aversion to strawman logical fallacy.

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Whatnot


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