« Facts Speak Louder than Flying Bucks | Main | Bush an Appeaser? The Writer is Half Right »

June 01, 2005

Comments

I believe that warrants an 'ouch'.

But did the Administration cite from the foreword, or from the body of the report?

Cheney and Bush are far beyond hypocrisy. Sure, that is part of their arsenal, but they are willing to say anything, without any regard for the truth or falsehood of their claim, to try to sell whatever three day old fish they have this time. I blame the conservatives who have actually been willing to stomach the rule of lies, just so they can have power.

I understand the wealthy agreeing to be allowed to be taxed less, even if such an approach is bad for the country in the long term, but I do not understand how any of the conservative Christians could believe that Bush or Cheney actually are interested in pursuing their agenda. You can only be a successful hypocrite if you have a lot of suckers who ignore your hypocrisy and lies.

I believe that warrants an 'ouch'.

One hopes it will leave a mark...

Edward: So it appears the White House was more than happy to take AI seriously when they were criticizing someone else, but just not when they critcize them.

I assume that their reasoning will be: "AI used to be a decent organisation. However, their leadership have clearly (and just recently) lost all moral direction, because look at what they're saying about US."

And then, should they need to quote from the AI report on Iran to justify invasion, suddenly AI will become, once again, a decent organisation...

I think the word for this is expedience, Edward. Bush & Co will say whatever they want to say, trusting their loyal followers will remember only what they are told to remember. As for the rest, and the rest of the world... Bush & Co keep demonstrating that unless you're an American citizen who'll vote Republican, they don't care what you think.


As Teresa Nielsen Hayden has wisely put it: Just because you're on their side doesn't mean they're on yours.

This perhaps belongs in the other thread.

von & cb just don't seem to get it. (AFAIK, incidentally, Tacitus, Mr Trevino, seems to avoid this topic as much as he can. I think he does get it.)

Hypothetical:we have two Pakistanis in Guantanamo. Pakistani agents grab Richard Myers or Paul Wolfowitz in London and whisk them off to China for "intense interrogation."

This administration has put us in the position of having only extra-legal arguments in the court of world opinion. Myers did insufficient harm or was not so immediately dangerous as to justify such an act. Or we will nuke you if you do not give them up. This administration no longer has the moral standing, or the acceptance of reciprocity, or the position of being an equal partner in the world community.

The US is not only outlaw, but has set precedents that have at the very least damaged, at worst destroyed irevocably, the framework of extra-national moral and legal constraints of behavior.

So it appears the White House was more than happy to take AI seriously when they were criticizing someone else, but just not when they critcize them. What's the word for that again?

False comparison, Edward. The issue isn't that AI criticizes governments for human rights violations, the issue is of an organization whose leadership has lost its perspective, a leadership (and perhaps a culture) that believes a few hundred detaines is morally equivalent to Soviet gulags where millions upon millions of slave laborers were killed under the rule of Stalin. This is about as whacked and skewed as it gets. Khan's and Schulz's views border on DU territory.

Right now, AI is reaping what it sowed. It put out excessive and counterproductive hyperbole and it's paying the price. Too bad, really, because its individual country reports provide a reasonable useful service.

"My first thought was, he lied in every word,
That hoary cripple, with malicious eye
Askance to watch the working of his lie
On mine, and mouth scarce able to afford
Suppression of the glee that pursed and scored
Its edge, at one more victim gained thereby."
-- Robert Browning

I don't much care for George W. Bush, but it's more of a low-level, "What a yutz" kind of feeling. Cheney, though . . . every single word that drips from his lips, I immediately assume to be false, and that includes "and" and "the." If he were running for office against Charles Manson, I'd find it difficult to stay away from the voting booth just to vote against Cheney.

the issue is of an organization whose leadership has lost its perspective, a leadership (and perhaps a culture) that believes a few hundred detaines is morally equivalent to Soviet gulags where millions upon millions of slave laborers were killed under the rule of Stalin

distraction and deflection.

the log in your own eye, etc..

None of that is what Cheney said, Charles. What he said was, "For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don't take them seriously." Can you defend him on the basis of what he said, rather than what you appear to want to pretend he said? I understand the latter is more expedient for your purposes, but let's examine what he actually said.

CB,

"So it appears the White House was more than happy to take AI seriously when they were criticizing someone else, but just not when they critcize them. What's the word for that again?

False comparison, Edward."

Not at all. Here's the Vice President's own words on the subject:

"For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don't take them seriously." link

Cheney is not merely suggesting that AI's perspective is wrong. He is denying that there are _any_ human rights violations. He is denying that there are "a few hundred detainees" who are being held indefinitely without trial, without access to lawyers, without any evidence of their guilt.

While one should reasonably acknowledge that the actions of the US is an order of magnitude better than that of the USSR in running the Siberian gulags, one also must reasonably acknowledge that it is many orders of magnitude worse than having no wrongful detention at all. And the Administration is saying precisely that there is no wrongful detention occurring at all.

What's the word for that again?

Disassembling?

"What's the word for that again?"

Well, during the Clinton Presidency, I believe the Republican Party called it "fellatio", or "Whitewater", or something; later refined by their moral standard bearers to "sociopath".

I, of course, prefer my lies and my sins and my governmental behavior to be merely entertaining, not lethal, which makes me an effing vile liberal.

See, if Bush would rescind the ruinous tax cuts (now, the vile, Stalinist me writing), I could at least rest assured that the vomitus that comes out of Cheney's mouth was payed for today rather than with the ruination of government later on.

By the way, Johnson had Boswell. The rest of us, in these shallow, abusive times, have Larry King.

False comparison, Edward. The issue isn't that AI criticizes governments for human rights violations, the issue is of an organization whose leadership has lost its perspective, a leadership (and perhaps a culture) that believes a few hundred detaines is morally equivalent to Soviet gulags where millions upon millions of slave laborers were killed under the rule of Stalin.

The issue, Charles, is that the current administration is so freakin' arrogant that nothing short of calling G-Bay a gulag will get their attention, and even then...EVEN THEN...rather than admit a problem, they'll shoot the messenger.

I see a pattern here that I find much more disturbing than AI's rhetorical excesses, and I wish you saw it as well. The Administration's knee-jerk response to criticism is to attack the critic. You'll recall (because you posted on it) a similar attack on the International Red Cross. THE RED CROSS...who's next, the Boy Scouts? Who would this administration be embarrassed to be criticized by?

Eventually, one must conclude that the administration considers itself above criticism and woe be to the organization foolhardy enough to offer up some. Seriously, they should be embarrassed that AI thought it necessary to offer such harsh comparisons...instead they're just petulant. Looking everywhere but in the mirror.

This distraction is yet another in a long line of examples of the administration taking a small mistake (or something that can be characterized as a mistake) by an organization it views as one of its enemies and using it to destroy the credibility of that organization among Bush supporters, so that they can then ignore anything that organization says, as well as ignoring the same criticisms when they come from other organizations. We've seen it with CBS and Newsweek. Now it's AI's turn. The ultimate goal seems to be to create a larger and larger population whose view of the world comes entirely from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and other administration-approved "news" outlets.

I'm sorry to see Von and Charles joining in the campaign (though judging by his remark about "darling Cuba", Von may not be quite himself at the moment for some reason).

toadmonster,

"What's the word for that again?

Disassembling?"

I assume you mean dissembling (lying), not disassembling (taking apart) (/Gary Farber hat).

I totally agree with KCinDC's 11:39 am assessment...that's how this reads to me as well.

Dantheman, The Poor Man begs to diffuse: http://thepoorman.net/?p=149

"somehow the United States is a violator of human rights," ...Cheney

To parse carefully, a "few bad apples" is not the United States. There may be some difficulty in proving that this was policy, and in tracing the culpability all the way to the top.

However, IIRC, in the Moussouai(?) trial, the gov't wished to introduce statements from al Qaeda leaders obtained under, umm, questionable circumstances. And confessions, even after three years of very harsh treatment, seem acceptable from Guantanamo detainees.

So under our new Int'l standards, it would seem that the waterboarding of some high DoD officials in order to implicate the Whitehouse would be acceptable.

Mary,

"The Poor Man begs to diffuse".

I find that when I diffuse, things tend to blow up.

If he were running for office against Charles Manson, I'd find it difficult to stay away from the voting booth just to vote against Cheney.

So I take it that you oppose Cheney because he is against "Family" values ;^)

the issue is of an organization whose leadership has lost its perspective, a leadership (and perhaps a culture) that believes a few hundred detaines is morally equivalent to Soviet gulags where millions upon millions of slave laborers were killed under the rule of Stalin

No, the issue is whether the Administration will be allowed to distract its followers from the very legitimate criticisms that have been made of Administration policies in the treatment of those who are being held outside the law in Guantanamo and other places.

I find the defense that others are worse, so our failings shouldn't be pointed out to be morally vacant.

I'm also confused by your argument that keeping people in a detention facility without benefit of law is morally different just because there are not as many people in this facility yet. How many people does this Administration have to detain illegally, and occassionally murder, to be enough? I would suppose that you might think that a million is as morally indefensible as ten or twenty or fifty million? How about one hundred thousand? Is it okay to kidnap one hundred thousand (and maybe murder a few of them) and let them rot without offering any legal redress at all? Ten thousand? One thousand? What's the morally defensible number?

My moral scale isn't as finely tuned. I am opposed to all criminal acts done intentionally and unapologetically by my government. I don't see any reason to try to distract the attention of others from the crimes of my government by baying that there are others that are worse. Everyone knows that, so what? This is about the actions of the United States government and no one has made any reasoned defense of the crimes that have been done in the name of the United States at Gitmo and other places. This is not a case of mistakes being made in the field or the heat of battle. This is a case of intentional denial of rights to people who were kidnapped by government agents and denied all rights. Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney may want to ignore these crimes; after all, they could be indicted as war criminals for these actions, but I cannot see how any patriotic American can be anything but sickened by the actions that have been taken or the refusal of our leaders to do what is right when they were criticized for it.

Wow. Once again, Charles completely and utterly avoids the merits of the question and attacks a straw man.

As Edwards points out, Cheney essentially said "The USA does not violate human rights." He was lying when he said that. Actually, it's so obvious and breathtaking a lie that it doesn't even rise to the level of a lie. It's "bullshit" in the technical sense. It's something that is said, and he knows it's false, and the hearers know it's false, and everybody knows it's false, but he says it anyway. Why? Because he knows he can. He is implicitly asserting his disregard for the very nature of truth, and the administration's power over truth and falsehood alike. It does not MATTER if what he says is true, or even potentially true, or even has any relationship whatever to potential truth. The administration will not be constrained by truth, or even the appearance of truth. They will say things that are blatantly false, because they know they can get away with it. No matter what they say, they will still have defenders (like Charles). Stunning.

What could the man say that would cause you to condemn him, Charles? Seriously.

AI is a little over the top in its rhetoric: Charles goes batshit. Cheney makes a statement that has NO relationship to reality WHATEVER: Charles attacks AI.

Charles wrote,

"the issue is of an organization whose leadership has lost its perspective, a leadership (and perhaps a culture) that believes a few hundred detaines is morally equivalent to Soviet gulags where millions upon millions of slave laborers were killed under the rule of Stalin. This is about as whacked and skewed as it gets. Khan's and Schulz's views border on DU territory."

I certainly agree: they are not the same thing. Gitmo is not the equivalent of the gulags. It's smaller than the gulags were. People are still going to be held without trial, without rights, without anybody knowing who they are or what they supposedly did. And then these people will be tortured, and eventually killed. But, well, it's fewer people, so how DARE AI make that argument?

Well, Charles, let's admit it. The two are, at least, in the same ballpark. They are the same SORT of thing. Gitmo is just smaller. It's like saying "my bathtub is like the Pacific Ocean." And it is: they're both full of water. Yes, OK, they're also different, and it's important to note the differences for all sorts of reasons. But at least they are VAGUELY the same sort of thing.

What Cheney has said -- "the US does not violate human rights" -- is much further away from reality. It is like saying "This clean box of cat litter is like the Pacific Ocean." The box of cat litter has NOTHING in common with the Pacific Ocean. It's not big AND it's not wet. It has no similarity whatever to the truth.

The problem with AI, in other words, is that what they have said is partially true, but not completely true. It's an exaggeration for rhetorical effect. That sort of falsehood is BAD BAD BAD, says Charles.

What Cheney has said is completely false in every way. It is morally obtuse. It makes clear that the government is never going to take any responsibility for its actions at Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, or anywhere else. In its refusal to even consider moral reality, it is the most chilling thing I have heard all ... week.

And hearing this hideous statement from Cheney, Charles leaps into action ... to blame ... Amnesty International.

Amazing stuff.

Let's put it this way.

Cheney did not say "For Amnesty International to say that somehow the United States' treatment of prisoners is as bad as the Russian gulags ... well, I just can't take that seriously." If he had said that, and then gone on to make the distinction between torturing and murdering millions, versus only dozens or hundreds -- then he would be making Charles' point.

But he can't say that. Because if he said that, he would have to admit that there are actually bad things going on at Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, etc. And he can't do that.

(Can you, Charles?)

So he said, instead, "For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don't take them seriously." Asserting, in other words, that the U.S. has NO human rights problems right now.

That is pure bullshit. Well beyond a lie. And it's astonishing that it has any defenders at all.

Also, if we could somehow redact "gulag" from the AI report, I suppose we could have had congrats and thank yous from across the conservative spectrum on the organization's responsible and measured condemnation of prisoner murder and abuse.

But maybe not, eh? I see Charles has added "and perhaps a culture" to the list of offenders.

So let me add: The Republican Party doesn't just want Kofi Annan to step down; they want the United Nations destroyed. They don't just want Dan Rather's resignation, they want the MSM obliterated and FOX 24/7. They don't just want Kerry to lose; they want the Democratic Party and liberalism destroyed and one-party rule in perpetuity; they don't just want AI to change the the word gulag to "ice cream stand", they want the institution of and culture of AI buried. They don't just want abortion made unconstitutional; they want birth control back in it's nasty little corner where fun used to hide.

Like DU, yes, but more like Stalin in the breadth of their "cultural" aims. I observe the tactics are different, though, because I'm a measured sort of person.

I'm all for "holocaust" and "gulag" being put back in their linquistic glass cases for use only during emergencies.

But this term, "Bush-hater", thrown about constantly; what does "hate" mean in this context precisely? Do I hate George Bush, say, in the same manner as Charles Manson hated Sharon Tate, or in the same manner as Voltaire hated Louis XIV, or in the same manner as a Jewish individual hated Nazi dentistry circa 1942; or in the same manner as the Red Sox hate the Yankees; or in the same manner as Grover Norquist hates taxes; or in the same manner as my kid hates peas; or in the same manner as Stalin hated Ukrainian crop production?

I need a clarification because, like Charles, I'm constantly feeling rhetorically effed over.

Just so we are clear:

I admire Charles Bird for his sincerity and willingness to be crucified here at Obsidian Wings. That's not to say that he's Christ-like, to be rhetorically clear (I use the term for effect, kinda like AI uses language), but I sometimes feel sorry for him, because it gets rough.

When it gets too rough, Charles, turn your head to the right and observe Harley over at Tacitus, who somehow manages to escape from his cave and climb back up on the cross every three days. I think he likes it.

I mean "crucified" in the sense that I, to this day, bear the stigmata of having had to eat peas when I was a kid. And I've gone on to inflict similar abuse on my kid, which goes to show that sociopathic behavior is not always a matter of choice.

"...Soviet gulags where millions upon millions of slave laborers were killed under the rule of Stalin. This is about as whacked and skewed as it gets."

Perhaps. I realize that it was terribly wrong with me to have been the first person on this blog to have written something here about the details of the gulag, and to have provided actual links and facts in said comment, rather than confining myself to the airy generalities prefered by some, but it appears necessary to do so again. Charles, there's something of a small difference between having imprisoned "millions upon millions of slave laborers" in camps and having killed "millions upon millions of slave laborers" in camps. It's almost as if it were a life and death difference!

Same cite from Applebaum as before, this time to make the opposite point:

As a result, the total number of prisoners in the camps generally hovered around two million, but the total number of Soviet citizens who had some experience of the camps, as political or criminal prisoners, is far higher. From 1929, when the Gulag began its major expansion, until 1953, when Stalin died, the best estimates indicate that some eighteen million people passed through this massive system. About another six million were sent into exile, deported to the Kazakh deserts or the Siberian forests. Legally obliged to remain in their exile villages, they too were forced laborers, even though they did not live behind barbed wire.
Stalin's and Lenin's policies resulted in the deaths of millions of people, but as much from famine, deliberate starvation, mass executions, mass transfers of population, war, massacres outside camps (such as Katyn) and other acts than in camps. (Ditto Mao.) They were vast slave labor camps, crucial for decades to the Soviet economy, contributing as much as a third of the Soviet economy, but they weren't death camps, in the Hitlerian sense of intentionally produced mass death as a goal, at all, and that's precisely because they were labor camps.

I'll yet again recommend Applebaum's book, and the portions available free online, such as the cited introduction, to all.

By the way, I'm stopping by Larry King's house tonight so he can 'interview' me. Do you think $100 on the nightstand is sufficient?

"While one should reasonably acknowledge that the actions of the US is an order of magnitude better than that of the USSR in running the Siberian gulags, one also must reasonably acknowledge that it is many orders of magnitude worse than having no wrongful detention at all."

"Order of magnitude" doesn't mean "something vaguely larger." It means: "If two numbers differ by one order of magnitude, one is about ten times larger than the other. If they differ by two orders of magnitude, they differ by a factor of about 100."

So can you help me with your numbers, please? Ten times nothing would equal nothing. You're saying, in fact, that an "order of magnitude worse" "than having no wrongful detention at all" is exactly as good as having no wrongful detention at all: ten times none is none. I don't think that's what you actually want to be saying or think you are saying.

Your assertion that the "US is an order of magnitude better than that of the USSR" also clearly implies that, since the USSR had about eighteen million prisoners, that we have about one million eight hundred thousand prisoners (in slave labor camps). I could be wrong, but I don't think you actually want to be saying that or think you are saying that, either. I'd suggest going back to the four or so order of magnitude of difference that I suggested here a week ago, but that's just me (one could enlarge the assertion about the United States by including Iraqi prison camps, but I'd suggest that they are directly comparable to Soviet prisoner-of-war camps, which were not part of the gulag by anyone's account).

re: AI reaping what it sowed.

this is just too much to take from CB. i mean really, those crocodile tears must sting something terrible.

I look forward to being provided a series of links from Tacitus and/or RedState regarding CB's expressions of support for AI in years past. Otherwise, it's just another conservative covering his ears and shouting LA LA LA LA LA I can't hear you.

I admire Charles Bird for his sincerity and willingness to be crucified here at Obsidian Wings. That's not to say that he's Christ-like, to be rhetorically clear (I use the term for effect, kinda like AI uses language), but I sometimes feel sorry for him, because it gets rough.

Come on, John, if conservatives are not convinced that they are the lonely minority holding back the inevitable lowering of standards, they cease to have a raison d'etre.

Charles, there's something of a small difference between having imprisoned "millions upon millions of slave laborers" in camps and having killed "millions upon millions of slave laborers" in camps. It's almost as if it were a life and death difference!

As for gulag definitions, after serving their sentence, gulag inmates could choose to be volnoye poseleniye ('free settlers')and live outside the gulag rather than returning to whereever they were taken from. Since we don't have any folks saying that they want to set up a tent outside the compound (though they are gaining weight and have never been treated better, according to the SecDef, I believe), the absence of tent cities outside Gitmo and Baghram means that these facilities are empirically worse than gulags because people are not staying at them. Is that how this parsing game works?

At any rate, the detainees have to be guilty, we paid for them, so if they are not guilty, it's not our fault.

It means: "If two numbers differ by one order of magnitude, one is about ten times larger than the other. If they differ by two orders of magnitude, they differ by a factor of about 100.

Since you are just nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking here, I'll do the same. If the link you gave is accepted as an authoritative source, two orders of magnitude could commonly mean by a factor of 1,000,000.

What's the word for that again?

Strong leader.

(With Jon Stewart's smirk firmly in place.)

Stalin's and Lenin's policies resulted in the deaths of millions of people, but as much from famine, deliberate starvation, mass executions, mass transfers of population, war, massacres outside camps (such as Katyn) and other acts than in camps. (Ditto Mao.)

In the case of Mao, something on the order of 70% of all those who died in his regime did so from starvation of whatever provenance. [The exact percentage is unclear, in large part because we don't know exactly how many people died in the GLF.] Relatively speaking, very few people died from a bullet in the head or similar executions. I believe the same is also true of Stalin and Lenin; despite our greater awareness of executions, purges and dekulakization, I think more than half of those who died under their regimes did so from starvation. [See, e.g., the Kazakhstan famine of 1921.] It's the only truly effective form of mass slaughter, largely because it doesn't take much work.

Gary,

Actually, the other definition is correct, as well:

"order of magnitude

n 1: a degree in a continuum of size or quantity; "it was on the order of a mile"; "an explosion of a low order of magnitude" [syn: order] 2: a number assigned to the ratio of two quantities; two quantities are of the same order of magnitude if one is less than 10 times as large as the other; the number of magnitudes that the quantities differ is specified to within a power of 10 [syn: magnitude]"

(from dictionary.com)

Let's go to the tape on Cheney and what he said about AI:

KING: Amnesty International condemns the United States. How do you react?

D. CHENEY: I don't take them seriously?

KING: Not at all?

D. CHENEY: No. I -- frankly, I was offended by it. I think the fact of the matter is, the United States has done more to advance the cause of freedom, has liberated more people from tyranny over the course of the 20th century and up to the present day than any other nation in the history of the world. Think about what we did in World War I, World War II, throughout the Cold War. Just in this administration, we've liberated 50 million people from the Taliban in Afghanistan and from Saddam Hussein in Iraq, two terribly oppressive regimes that slaughtered hundreds of thousands of their own people. For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don't take them seriously.

KING: They specifically said, though, it was Guantanamo. They compared it to a gulag.

D. CHENEY: Not true. Guantanamo's been operated, I think, in a very sane and sound fashion by the U.S. military. Remember who's down there. These are people that were picked up off the battlefield in Afghanistan and other places in the global war on terror. These are individuals who have been actively involved as the enemy, if you will, trying to kill Americans. That we need to have a place where we can keep them. In a sense, when you're at war, you keep prisoners of war until the war is over with.

We've also been able to derive significant amounts of intelligence from them that helped us understand better the organization and the adversary we face and helped us gather the kind of information that makes it possible for us to defend the United States against further attacks. And what we're doing down there has, I think, been done perfectly appropriately. I think these people have been well treated, treated humanely and decently.

Occasionally there are allegations of mistreatment. But if you trace those back, in nearly every case, it turns out to come from somebody who had been inside and been released by to their home country and now are peddling lies about how they were treated.

There are some statements I don't agree with:
"For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights..."
What Cheney said was not true. We have violated human rights. Had he qualified the word "violator", then he might've been accurate. To not take AI seriously is the fault of AI and the hyperbolic Khan and Schulz. These are the logical consequences of the statements they made. By engaging in such excessive rhetoric, they risked political backfire and sure enough it happened.
"These are individuals who have been actively involved as the enemy, if you will, trying to kill Americans."
For those not captured by Americans during combat and who have not faced tribunals, Cheney cannot make that statement unequivocally.
"And what we're doing down there has, I think, been done perfectly appropriately. I think these people have been well treated, treated humanely and decently."
Except for the ones who were not treated so. Cheney was not accurate about that either.

To not take AI seriously is the fault of AI and the hyperbolic Khan and Schulz. These are the logical consequences of the statements they made. By engaging in such excessive rhetoric, they risked political backfire and sure enough it happened.

Do you sincerely believe that, had AI not used the word "gulag", the organization's report would have been taken more seriously by the Bush Administration? If so, why?

LJ:

"Come on, John, if conservatives are not convinced that they are the lonely minority holding back the inevitable lowering of standards, they cease to have a raison d'etre."

That's exactly what I said. AI says "gulag" and I say "goulash" but what we both mean is, hey could we please stop the behavior at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib, because we thought at least we could count on the U.S. while we've got our hands full dealing with all the other crap in the world.

Peas again. See, I remember my mother casting severe looks down the table as I stared at those poisonous peas and responding to my rhetorical overreach (something along the lines of "I might as well be in a Soviet gulag") with her own rhetorical overreach ("That's the worst thing I've ever heard"), and thinking to my 11-year old self, well, that's amazing for someone who was alive during the news of Pearl Harbor, the discovery of the death camps, and Mickey Mantle's knee injury, but I get the point, you want me to eat my peas, right, or at least not grow up to ride prisoners around whipping them with a cat o' nine tails and perhaps beat them to death at camps in Iraq or Cuba. Because that would reflect badly on my mother*, the Donald Rumsfeld of my family, who might be fired for establishing an atmosphere of pea poisoning early on.

No such luck.

I have no idea what I said there, but if you translate it for me, I might decide that's what I meant.

LJ: 42 smiley emoticons to you because we agree all the way.

* the rhetorical phrase "my mother" bears no resemblance my poor actual mother who, if she read this would say "That's the worst thing I've ever read" to which I would respond "Well, that's amazing for someone ...etc"

By engaging in such excessive rhetoric, they risked political backfire and sure enough it happened.

By criticizing the current US administration, AI guaranteed that knee-jerk apologists for that administration would attempt to smear them with such absurd phrases as "moral idiots", just as absurdly claim that AI is uninterested in reducing human suffering, and would attempt to divert the discussion away from important facts with fallacious arguments and character assassination. That is part of a clear pattern - circle the wagons and blame the messenger.

If you are arguing that if only AI had toned done the report a bit, it would have been taken seriously by those who claim the US never violates human rights, thanks for the laugh. Is Cheney going to cancel his AI membership now or something, now that he doesn't need to fawn over their reports criticizing Saddam? Whatever.

Good lord. The US, you admit, is violating human rights, the administration is lying and saying it is not and you are outraged because AI said the US was running a gulag and you think it is only running a mini-faux-gulag instead of a historical replica of the Soviet gulag. Why not just say, "But....but...MICHAEL MOORE IS TEH FAT!!!1" and be done with it.

had AI not used the word "gulag", the organization's report would have been taken more seriously by the Bush Administration?

that word did give the aplologists a nice handhold on the whole issue. maybe if that word wasn't there, they'd be unable to drag it into the mud and beat it up. they'd have to deal with it responsibly, instead.

a guy can dream, can't he?

Charles -- I appreciate your 2:22pm post. Thank you for acknowledging that our Vice President did not tell the truth in a nationally broadcast interview. Thank you for acknowledging that we have held people for years without knowing if they are guilty of anything and without trial. Thank you for acknowledging that torture has occurred.

What I don't understand is why AI hyperbole (which may simply have been a response to the frustration over an administration that lies about holding people without trial and lies about human rights violations) warrants a post but the lies of our Vice President only warrants a comment in a thread?

I was wondering how it's being reported abroad, and thought I'd share this link from Asia Times:
Jailhouse Rock

"It seemed like [Amnesty] based some of their decisions on the word and allegations by people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people [who] had been trained in some instances to disassemble [sic] - that means not tell the truth," Bush went on. "And so it was an absurd report. It just is."

and further down


"It looks like a campaign," Human Rights Watch (HRW) advocacy chief Reed Brody said on Tuesday. "There's been a real drumbeat since Amnesty published the report. It seems like there's an attempt to silence critics."

-"Eventually, one must conclude that the administration considers itself above criticism . . ."

And above the law if the memos from the Justice Dept. and WH over the last few years are any indication.

So it appears the White House was more than happy to take AI seriously when they were criticizing someone else, but just not when they critcize them. What's the word for that again?

I believe the word you're looking for is "typical."

My apologies for my continuing failure to respond to my critics; work is keeping me so busy that I haven't even the time to generate one of my famed typoe-ladan posts. Quickly, though:

I'm sorry to see Von and Charles joining in the campaign (though judging by his remark about "darling Cuba", Von may not be quite himself at the moment for some reason).

I thought "darling Cuba" was relatively funny in a self-ironic way -- i.e., in the same way I blast "French perfidistas" (whilst happily drinking their wine and gladly slurping their bouillabaisse*).

To end (since I haven't enough time to respond to everyone): It should be clear to those who have read me long enough that I'm (1) hardly a defender of this administration [take note, among other things, that I voted for Kerry] and (2) very, very pissed about the alleged torture perpetrated in my name as a citizen of the United States of American [take note, among other things, of my challenge to the blogosphere in this regard: http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2005/01/a_challenge_to_.html].

Other than that, I've said all that I have time to say on the issue today.

*Possibly my favorite dish of all time. No kidding.

von
no need to reply, but I think you will note that there is a qualitative difference between responses to you on this and to chas. I think there is an interesting discussion to be had about how an organization like Amnesty is (or can be) even handed, as well as how metaphors (as I've noted, for me, the key elements of gulag are the secrecy and absence of legal safeguards, while others seem to believe that numbers and forced labor are necessary components), but that discussion is only possible on the margins, as the marker that chas has laid down is that AI is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Opus: the lies of our Vice President only warrants a comment in a thread?

His buddies on RedState will very likely overlook a comment on a thread, but not a whole post on how Bush and Cheney lied on TV (oh wait, Charles hasn't actually admitted Bush lied about the Amnesty Report...).

Von: very, very pissed about the alleged torture perpetrated in my name as a citizen of the United States of American

Which is why your anger at the AI report astonished me. (From Charles, it's pretty much what I'd expect.) I've been reading your comments on it wondering "who is this Von, and where did the real Von go?"

If you're very busy right now (too busy, I fear, to read the report itself) this would tend to explain it.

I mean "crucified" in the sense that I, to this day, bear the stigmata of having had to eat peas when I was a kid.

Jeepers Thullen, just shop at a farmer's market for those peas and there won't be any problems ;)

Back for a final word (pls. excuse any typos):

If you're very busy right now (too busy, I fear, to read the report itself) this would tend to explain it.

Again, Jes, I reviewed the report to ensure that, yes, it does indeed contain strong criticisms of other regimes.

My objections to the report's forward remain twofold:

1. The comparison of Gitmo to a Soviet gulag is wildly inaccurate, and it's not resolved by dismissing the word "gulag" as unfortunate nomenclature or mere rhetoric -- lest words lose all meaning.

The number of US detainees involved is comparatively miniscule. The detainees were, by and large, engaged in hostile action against the US during war. Gitmo is not a "work camp." All of these things make the application of the term "gulag" to Gitmo laughable, at best. I mean, I can call a radish a tomato, but who believes such things?

But that's not even the most important reason why the use of "gulag" is so infuriating and such a serious intellectual and rhetorical misstep. Because of the US court system and the US press (sustained and enabled by the US's guaranteee of freedom of speech), folks in Gitmo are beginning to receive the protections of a civil society. Torture and wrongdoing are being brought to light. Folks are (slowly) being brought to account. Wrongs are being corrected. All of this fundamentally distinguishes Gitmo from any "gulag." It's insulting to my intelligence and morality -- as well as the millions who died under Soviet and Communist tyranny -- to suggest otherwise. For that reason alone, this report should and must be criticized.

2. The Foreward to the report also errs in placing undue (extreme, really) emphasis on the US's conduct in the war on terror -- once again, a war that the US did not start -- at the expense of the conduct of other governments. The Foreward is AI's call to arms; it's focus should be on the truly and perniciously evil regimes in the world (which, it should go without saying, do not include the US), and it should place the blame for such evils on those who perpetrate them. A report that focuses on the US at the expense of NK, and that blames the UN for the evils wrought by the Sudanese government, is a report that has lost its moral compass.

Now, Jes (and others) made the point in an earlier thread that the foreward to the report is trying to spur Western governments to act, and thus rightly mentions that the UN has failed to intervene in Darfur (for instance). I don't dispute that the report should contain such a call to arms. But, to be effective (and avoid the dread label of "moral idiocy"), such a call to arms must be morally clear. Moral clarity is not achieved by pretending that Gitmo is the single most important human rights issue facing the world today. As much as I deplore what appears to have occurred there, the simple fact is that it's not.

von,

"The detainees were, by and large, engaged in hostile action against the US during war."

As has been asked of Bird Dog many times, without the benefit of hearings being held on the detainees, how do you know this?

The Foreward to the report also errs in placing undue (extreme, really) emphasis on the US's conduct in the war on terror -- once again, a war that the US did not start . . .

As has been pointed out, this is substantially incorrect. Rather than simply pursue, capture, prosecute and punish the architects of 9/11, we invaded and overthrew the Taliban in Afghanistan, then "opened wide," as they say in the movie biz, invading Iraq, which had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. We did start the War on Terror, von. The President himself did, right from his pulpit when addressing the nation.

As has been asked of Bird Dog many times, without the benefit of hearings being held on the detainees, how do you know this?

Because it accords with the self-interest of the persons who picked them up and shipped them to the detention facilities (soldiers, CIA ops, etc.).

(It seems clear that some mistakes were made and that, in other cases, we were duped by Afghan forces with their own agenda; but, in admitting those exceptions, I think that the rule still holds.)

We did start the War on Terror, von. The President himself did, right from his pulpit when addressing the nation.

I can't believe that we're arguing this point.

The War on Terror* started when al Quaeda, operating under the protection of the Taliban, launched jetliners filled with innocent civilians into office building filled with innocent civilians in a sneak attack.

von

*I still dislike the name, for how do you "war" against an emotion or tactic? Still, I'll accept it, given that the more accurate names (e.g., war on Islamic extremetism) are likely to cause diplomatic kerfluffles of a high order.

The War on Terror* started when al Quaeda, operating under the protection of the Taliban, launched jetliners filled with innocent civilians into office building filled with innocent civilians in a sneak attack.

No, it didn't.

There, now we've both gainsaid each other.

The appropriate response to the event described above was not to invade Iraq, nor to let the guys in charge of the event escape. Repeatedly. Everything else that we've done has been entirely optional.

von,

"Because it accords with the self-interest of the persons who picked them up and shipped them to the detention facilities (soldiers, CIA ops, etc.)."

I can only assume that due to the press of business, you missed this story:

link

"Because it accords with the self-interest of the persons who picked them up and shipped them to the detention facilities (soldiers, CIA ops, etc.)."

Once again, I ask if you might read this from Phil Carter, and the included links, when you have a moment, please, von (and anyone else). Thanks. (Carter is both a lawyer and a recently retired Army captain.)

Thanks, Gary and Dan. As I allowed:

"It seems clear that some mistakes were made and that, in other cases, we were duped by Afghan forces with their own agenda; but, in admitting those exceptions, I think that the rule still holds."

I have yet to see any report that most, or even more than a fraction, of those detained in Cuba or in Afghanistan were "purchased". Even among those who were purchased, there is an incentive to ensure that payments are made for legitimate prisoners; I've seen no report that suggests that, even assuming that we paid for some prisons, we blindly paid for whomever appeared.

IOW, although I share your concerns that some detainees were improperly detained, I fail to see how it disturbs my position that most detainees were properly detained. (If evidence of mass-detentions of innocents comes out, I will obviously reconsider my view.)

"The War on Terror* started when al Quaeda, operating under the protection of the Taliban, launched jetliners filled with innocent civilians into office building filled with innocent civilians in a sneak attack."

Wait, how did it "start" then, but not with the bombings of our embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, and our return missile strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan? Why not with Osama bin Laden's Declaration of the World Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and the Crusaders of February 23, 1998? How about bin Laden's Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places of August 23rd, 1996? Why not the first bombing and attempted toppling of the World Trade Center in 1993? Why not the suicide bombing in Lebanon in 1983 that killed 241 American servicemen in one blow?

None of that counted? Only al Qaeda's act on September 11th, 2001 was the "start"? How does that work? If we weren't in a "War On Terror," what was our justification for firing missiles at other countries, von? And what did all those people who died as mentioned above die from?

The War on Terror* started when al Quaeda, operating under the protection of the Taliban, launched jetliners filled with innocent civilians into office building filled with innocent civilians in a sneak attack.

Since I was the one who gainsaid you earlier, I'll do so again: the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban (which, as I remarked previously, will forever remain nameless) started on 9/11; the rest of your description above is absolutely correct modulo that adjustment. The fictive "War On Terror"*, however, started when Bush broadened the scope of the conflict to (nominally, and falsely) include all terrorist organizations or terrorist supporters. That did not begin on 9/11, no matter what contortions and retcons the Bush Administration might want to go through, unless you want to redefine the term "war" so extensively as to render it meaningless.

To reiterate: 9/11 was a sneak attack, the conflict with Al Qaeda and their allies in the Taliban was forced upon us. Broadening the scope of the war to encompass "terror" was a choice made by the President of the United States. He chose to wage a larger war than that which was presented; he chose to declare ourselves hostile to a group of agents who, for all their dubious goals and potentially-infinite malice, were not at that time (meaningful) enemies of the United States; he chose to invade Iraq, irrespective of the fact that that regime had nothing to do with the conflict that began on 9/11.**

Now you can certainly argue that he was right to do so. You can argue that this was an idea whose time had come. Fair enough. You cannot, however, argue that the War on Terror pursued by George W Bush began on 9/11 with an Al Qaeda sneak attack. What he's doing began afterwards (9/12 in embryonic form, 9/20 is the speech; lord only knows what the timeline on broadening the WoT to Iraq was) and bears almost no resemblance to the original conflict. It's too his eternal credit as a politician -- and his eternal damnation as a person -- that he's managed to convince so many people otherwise despite the plain truth of the facts before them.

* Recall, incidentally, the WaPo article linked previously in which Administration officials admitted that the choice of name probably wasn't the best. Nice to seem them finally catching on; pity they're four years behind the curve.

** Could someone please tell Dick Cheney this, btw? It's more than embarrassing by now; it's a little creepy.

I should say: "I've seen no evidence"; what we have are assertions, as well as corrections of the alleged wrongdoing (note, for instance, that each of the allegedly wrongly detained individuals mentioned in Carter's post appear to have been released). I don't know where Carter gets the evidence to support his assertion that 70-90% of current detainees have no intelligence value; he certainly doesn't cite a source.

If we weren't in a "War On Terror," what was our justification for firing missiles at other countries, von? And what did all those people who died as mentioned above die from?

This is akin to arguing that the US was at war with Germany in 1915 when Germany started sinking US merchant vessels.

Wars begin when they are declared.

"Wars begin when they are declared."

(I should add: "by both sides.")

Another few notes before I head out:

The number of US detainees involved is comparatively miniscule.

May I direct your attention to this comment in a previous thread? To be fair, I'm not sure under what auspices the 70,000 detainees reside under... but then again, that's sort of the point, isn't it?

Because of the US court system and the US press (sustained and enabled by the US's guaranteee of freedom of speech), folks in Gitmo are beginning to receive the protections of a civil society.

True. And it's being done over the express opposition of the Administration. Remember that, von: if the Bush Administration had had their way, we might very well have had a literal gulag on our hands instead of a merely figurative one.

As for Iraq's role in the war on terror: I think that the decision to invade Iraq, although clearly in reaction to the attack on the US, could not be sold as a second front in the war on terror at the time of its initiation; as a result of our bumbling, however, it has become that.

"Wars begin when they are declared."

Okay, fine.

How do we reconcile this with "The War on Terror* started when al Quaeda, operating under the protection of the Taliban, launched jetliners filled with innocent civilians into office building filled with innocent civilians in a sneak attack."

This was, needless to say, not a "declaration" at all, but an act, and a repetitive act at that. (Possibly you weren't scared witless in 1993, but I lived in NYC, had been in the WTC countless times, as well as having formerly worked there for a time, and lived within walking distance for a year or so; I'm hardly the only one who followed the trials, and the repeated declarations that the WTC would be attacked again.)

I've already cited bin Laden's actual declarations of war and their dates. These were not secret.

So which is it that was "the start"?: a) the declaration of war by bin Laden; or b) one particular act chosen on what basis; or c) or the declaration from President Bush? If your last statement I lead with above is true, it has to be either a or c, but you've already declared for b (although without any indication of why that single act should be so regarded, rather than any of a number of others, as I previously discussed). Needless to say, I'm quite confused by what your postion is, von.

Anarch, that's silly. AI's cited figure appears to include every person the US may have momentarily captured on the battlefield in Iraq or Afghanistan. It certainly does not represent person held for a substantial period of time, or the current prisoner total.

In other words, it's yet another ridiculous rhetorical overreach.

Gary: September 11 was the stated casus belli in President Bush's declaration of war. Accordingly, 9-11 was the start of the war, in the same way that we (correctly) state that "Pearl Harbor" was the start of WW2, even though the actual declaration came a few days after.

(I should add: "by both sides.")

Under what possible definition of the terms do "terrorists" comprise a "side" in the "War on Terror" without resort to an artificially imposed dichotomy? Under what possible interpretation did Al Qaeda's attacks on 9/11 speak for the Tamil Tigers, or the IRA, or the ETA, or the Xinjiang separatists (whose formal name I forget except that it has Uighur in it)? What level of conspiracy theory is required to consider all these disparate interest groups united in any way except their general desire to overturn existing orders and their willingness to kill civilians to do it?

"Remember that, von: if the Bush Administration had had their way, we might very well have had a literal gulag on our hands instead of a merely figurative one."

The Admin would be picking up Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky and all suspected members of MoveOn, and all Democrats, after making the Republican Party the only legal Party, and sentencing them to twenty years of hard labor until a third of the U.S. economy depended on labor camps filled with U.S. citizens? (I take use of "literal" to mean, you know, "literal.")

"September 11 was the stated casus belli in President Bush's declaration of war."

I realize this is an unfashionable point, but I'm quite sure the Constitution says that only Congress can declare war.

"...we (correctly) state that "Pearl Harbor" was the start of WW2...."

Jeez, we do? Have you informed the Poles, the British, the French, the Belgians, the Norwegians, the Italians, folks in North Africa, the Russians, and the Chinese, just to name a few, of this?

(I take use of "literal" to mean, you know, "literal.")

Fair enough, I guess, although I don't take "literal" to mean "precise replica in every detail" otherwise the word would be so circumscribed as to be worthless. I meant "literal" in the sense of hundreds of thousands of detainees moved extralegally through an unaccountable system of prison camps; and I don't think it's much of a stretch* to consider the possibility of forced labor along with it, given that we already have notions of forced labor encoded in our penal system. In other words, you know, a "literal gulag...instead of a merely figurative one", as I said above. [See my previous post concerning the precise definition of "gulag" in the OED, particularly the note about the figurative meaning.] Had I meant that the Bush Administration would have tried to recreate the specifics of the Gulag Archipelago -- including the political superstructure required to be a properly modern re-enactment of historical events -- I would have said that.

* Although I can't say this for sure, hence "might very well have had" instead of "would necessarily have resulted in" or something similar.

Anarch, your point essentially boils down to an objection to the name "WoT," which is an objection that I share.

Gary, it's true that war is declared by Congress. It's also true that I assumed, rather than stated expressly, that you'd understand that I was referring to the start of WW2 for the US -- a point that, upon re-reading, does seem to be absolutely clear from the context of my assertion.

I think it's interesting that our country is "at war" with a non-state group. A guy in his basement mixing up some nerve gas is considered a war-worthy threat just like trained soldiers with tanks and guns.

This is not to say I'd like to see the New York police working on arresting Osama Bin Laden, but it stands the idea of "war" on its head.

Anarch: "Fair enough, I guess, although I don't take 'literal' to mean 'precise replica in every detail....'"

That's not my point, though. It's that, in my view, to be a "literal" gulag, it would have to be a tool of domestic political repression directed at the citizenry, not perceived (wrongfully or not) foreign militants. Those are simply two fairly wildly different purposes and effects, in my view.

Von: "It's also true that I assumed, rather than stated expressly, that you'd understand that I was referring to the start of WW2 for the US -- a point that, upon re-reading, does seem to be absolutely clear from the context of my assertion."

Not to get up your nose about this, von, but I've never in my life referred to Pearl Harbor as "the start of WWII" (you said: "in the same way that we [correctly] state that "Pearl Harbor" was the start of WW2...."), so I can't agree that "we" state that, so we'll have to agree to disagree about this trivial point.

I'm still left hopelessly confused as to when and where you're saying this "War On Terror" started, and on what basis, though. (And I don't regard the question as trivial; I think it goes to the heart of how people regard what's going on, as do the various distinctions made or not made about what is included or excluded.)

"Gary, it's true that war is declared by Congress."

How do you fit that into your position, and my previous offering of choices a, b, and c? (You're welcome to provide more letters, of course; I'd like to figure out what it is you're trying to say.)

Unfortunately, it seems to me that far too much of the quibbling over the AI report, as well as the Newsweek story on Koran desecration, is being echoed in the Deep Throat reactions. For example, Peggy Noonan link:

"What Mr. Felt helped produce was a weakened president who was a serious president at a serious time. Nixon's ruin led to a cascade of catastrophic events--the crude and humiliating abandonment of Vietnam and the Vietnamese, the rise of a monster named Pol Pot, and millions--millions--killed in his genocide. America lost confidence; the Soviet Union gained brazenness. What a terrible time. Is it terrible when an American president lies and surrounds himself by dirty tricksters? Yes, it is. How about the butchering of children in the South China Sea. Is that worse? Yes. Infinitely, unforgettably and forever."

The difference between laying blame for Pol Pot and the Vietnamese boat people at Deep Throat's door, while ignoring and thus excusing Nixon's flouting of the Constitution and political processes, and between the arguments advanced in attacking Newsweek and AI, seems very small to me.

Von,

-“The number of US detainees involved is comparatively miniscule.”

How many people were in the Soviet gulag in the first few years of its existence?

-“[F]olks in Gitmo are beginning to receive the protections of a civil society.”

Why didn’t they receive them from the beginning?

-“Folks are (slowly) being brought to account.”

Like Ashcroft, Gonzales, Rumsfeld?

“. . . once again, a war that the US did not start.”

The only (weak) legs this argument has if we start our history of the subject at 9/11 and include nothing that transpired beforehand. Even if the contention that the US did not start the war is conceded, this still does not justify any behavior on the part of the US that may follow: because “they” started it does not predetermine our actions. The nice thing about this argument is that it can be used to rationalize anything the US does and absolve it of any responsibility by taking away it ability to choose.

-“The War on Terror* started when al Quaeda, operating under the protection of the Taliban, launched jetliners filled with innocent civilians into office building filled with innocent civilians in a sneak attack.”

Why? Because they were evil? I suspect (as others have suggested in posts on the beginning date of WWII) that the 9/11 terrorists might have had a different start date in mind? Is there no argument to be made that the GWOT is a justification for the continuation of US Cold War policies? Does no one wonder what happened to the “Peace Dividend” that was supposed to follow the collapse of the Soviet Union?

-“it's focus should be on the truly and perniciously evil regimes in the world (which, it should go without saying, do not include the US), and it should place the blame for such evils on those who perpetrate them.”

-“Moral clarity is not achieved by pretending that Gitmo is the single most important human rights issue facing the world today. As much as I deplore what appears to have occurred there, the simple fact is that it's not.”

Evil as a causal factor in world events, objectification, moral absolutism, American exceptionalism (casting the US as the eternal “good guy” is the ugly, dangerous, blind side of this worldview) . . . Come on. “Simple fact”? Says you. Where is the power/influence component of this assessment? Are Gitmo, et.al. gulags from the perspective of the detainees?

-“As has been asked of Bird Dog many times, without the benefit of hearings being held on the detainees, how do you know this?”

-“Because it accords with the self-interest of the persons who picked them up and shipped them to the detention facilities (soldiers, CIA ops, etc.).”

Maybe so, but perhaps not for the reasons you imply. This is just the sort of “moral clarity,” blind objectification, and “self interest” that paves the way for torture.

-“As for Iraq's role in the war on terror: I think that the decision to invade Iraq, although clearly in reaction to the attack on the US . . .”

Nonsense. Gulf War II was in the works before 9/11. It has been explained by the Administration as a “reaction,” but this justification does not make it so.

-“as a result of our bumbling, however, it has become that.”

How convenient. This is how the belligerent side gets the other side to come along: “We can’t leave now, look at all the terrorists over there.”

Dantheman,

Good call on the Deep Throat connection and spin.

Gary:

1. I'm at a complete loss as to what you're arguing w/r/t the "start" of WW2. Here's what I said:

"Accordingly, 9-11 was the start of the war, in the same way that we (correctly) state that "Pearl Harbor" was the start of WW2, even though the actual declaration came a few days after."

For clarity, let's put in the "for the US" (which I think is reasonably assumed to be already present in the above):

"Accordingly, 9-11 was the start of the war, in the same way that we (correctly) state that "Pearl Harbor" was the start of WW2 for the US, even though the actual declaration of war by the US came a few days after."

And now let's make express the notion that, in both cases, Congress was required to actually "declare" the wars requested by Presidents Bush and Roosevelt, respectively.

"Accordingly, 9-11 was the start of the war, in the same way that we (correctly) state that "Pearl Harbor" was the start of WW2 for the US, even though the actual declaration of war by the US Congress came a few days after."

2. As for your a/b/c option: It seems obvious to me that (taking the case of WW2) the declaration of war requested by the President and passed by Congress was nunc pro tunc to the date of the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.

3. I can understand some confusion and/or debate regarding point no. 2. I am utterly flummoxed as to why we're continuing to debate no. 1.

Von: I think that the decision to invade Iraq, although clearly in reaction to the attack on the US

If that's true (and I'm uncertain how you can say "clearly" about any of Bush's decisions with regard to the war on Iraq, since so far his public justifications for the invasion have all been proven to be lies) it reminds me of a story about a man who was searching for his keys in a shopping mall one winter evening. He was searching thoroughly up and down the mall, looking in every corner. A security guard wanted to help and asked the man "Where did you drop it, sir?"

The man pointed out at the parking lot. "There."

"If you dropped them out there, why are you searching for them in here?"

"The light's better in here."

Von: "I am utterly flummoxed as to why we're continuing to debate no. 1."

Beats me; was "so we'll have to agree to disagree about this trivial point" unclear, or a challenge?

I still remain completely unclear as to when and who you think "started the War On Terror," and why, though, as I previously outlined, and which you somehow still haven't directly replied to (I understand you're busy, so that is not a complaint; it is merely a placeholder).

Let me revise my previous statement slightly, von. You're back to asserting that the "war" "started" on September 11th. What I don't understand is why that date is either obvious or correct, but not any of the dates I previously mentioned. But, then, I'm also pretty unclear as to what "the War On Terror" does and does not entail (what will define VT day?); if you're perfectly clear on this matter, I would welcome enlightenment, albeit supported by indisputable facts.

Gary:

You're back to asserting that the "war" "started" on September 11th.

I think I've always asserted that.

So which is it that was "the start"?: a) the declaration of war by bin Laden; or b) one particular act chosen on what basis; or c) or the declaration from President Bush?

To respond:

(a) is out. A war is a coordination game, like so many things in life. Both sides have to agree that a state of war exists, rather than some other lesser, non-war conflict (of which history provides numerous examples; e.g., the privateering that occurred in the 1700s).

Prior to 9-11 -- and despite al Quada's statements and attacks on Americans and American interests -- America did not consider itself to be "at war" with bin Laden, nor did it mobilize its military to conduct a war against bin Laden.

(b) has always been my choice, with the operative date of 9-11 because (1) 9-11 was the express basis for Bush to request that Congress declare war and (2) 9-11 represented an attack of high significance on a domestic target, and was immediately recognized as an act of war (rather than a severe act of civil illegality, as the earlier WoT and OK City bombings were) -- not only in the US, but also around the globe (e.g., NATO's near-immediate statement that it considered the attack to be an attack on all NATO signatories, and compare that response to the other events that you list).

(c) Accordingly, the declaration of war by Bush and Congress merely recognized that which already existed, confirming that which most people seemed to instinctively feel: That 9-11 had started a war. The declaration was, in a sense, pro forma; and its effect was nunc pro tunc to 9-11.

I understand that (b)(1) and (c) are a bit circular in thier reasoning; such an objection is partially resolved by noting that even a commonly-understood "thing" lacks a name until someone names it. Saying "9-11 started a war" -- as Bush and Congress essentially did -- helps to make it so.

Gary: That's not my point, though. It's that, in my view, to be a "literal" gulag, it would have to be a tool of domestic political repression directed at the citizenry, not perceived (wrongfully or not) foreign militants. Those are simply two fairly wildly different purposes and effects, in my view.

Ah, gotcha. In that case, I disagree (and I note that both Merriam-Webster and the OED concur): while repression of the citizenry was a salient feature of the original Gulag system, the modern definition does not require that. YMMV, naturally, but do be aware that your (more restrictive though more historically accurate) definition is the non-standard one nowadays.

von: Anarch, your point essentially boils down to an objection to the name "WoT," which is an objection that I share.

No, it doesn't, although I'm glad to see we're in agreement on the naming. This goes far beyond terminology; the semantics are the tip of a maladjusted conceptual iceberg that need correcting, to mangle my metaphors beyond repair.

For example:

Both sides have to agree that a state of war exists...

Sure... but again, this point must be hammered home: there is no "other side" in the War On Terror. There's us; and then there are a lot of disparate interest groups with many salient commonalities and many salient differences. [One of which commonalities being, of course, that they include many psychopaths who don't mind butchering civilians.] And that's not even getting into the complexities of the countries and organizations that are nominally our allies. I'm not sure whether you're not getting that point, not accepting it, or simply being somewhat incautious with your choice of words, but this is vital.

Likewise:

Accordingly, the declaration of war by Bush and Congress merely recognized that which already existed, confirming that which most people seemed to instinctively feel: That 9-11 had started a war.

Wars don't exist in the abstract, von. This isn't even begging the question, it's just ignoring it: who did Bush and Congress declare war on?* The de facto declaration of war was not merely against those who attacked us; it was not merely against the allies of those who attacked us; it was against everyone who shared certain commonalities with our attackers. That's the War On Terror, and it's a war that Bush most definitely started.

Again: you can certainly argue that he was right to do so. I'm not taking a position on that, largely because I find it difficult to separate the theoretical position from the actual execution. You cannot, however, argue that the conflict initiated (or, as Gary correctly points out, continued) on 9/11 was the same conflict enunciated by Bush on 9/20 because it wasn't, in any way, shape or form.

Why is any of this important? Because many supporters of the war are trying to have it both ways. "We're at war!", I'm perpetually told, and when we're at war certain sacrifices -- aka "other people's civil liberties" -- must be made. But we're not at war in any meaningful sense. We're not fighting a polity, an alliance or even a particular ideology (viz. the Bush Administration's remarks about the "war on extremism" a few days ago). We're fighting a hodgepodge collection of polities and non-state-actors whose sole defining trait** is that, well, we're at war with them. The Bush Administration has artificially concocted an "other side" in this pseudo-war and we need to remind ourselves every waking moment that it is an artificial construct.

Worse, this plays into what I've called the Bush Administration's "policy through ambiguity". This conflict? It's a War! Restrict civil liberties, crush dissent***, imprison people without benefit of charge or trial, don't harrass the President, don't change horses in midstream and so forth. But wait: this conflict? It's only a metaphorical war! Cut taxes, don't ask for major sacrifices, go out and spend to get our economy moving, cut veteran's benefits, underfund and undersupply our troops, blah di f***ing blah. Truthfully? It's whatever you want it to be. It slices, it dices, it makes julienne fries, it allows anyone and everyone to look at it and believe whatever they want; it's the ultimate national Rorschach test, and it's killing us.

Literally.

Well, to be precise, it's killing our troops. And it's killing Iraqis. And Afghanis. And a whole lot of other people worldwide who don't really register because they're not on the news enough.

It's not just semantics, von. The terminology is just the external symptom of something deeply broken inside. It's a microcosm of everything that's gone wrong, and everything that's going to go wrong in the future. We are going to continue screwing up this monumental endeavor -- whose goals, let's be clear, I thoroughly support, even if I find the execution criminally lacking -- until we recognize certain necessary truths, one of the largest of which is: for better or for worse, we started the War On Terror.

* Yes, it should be "whom". Bite me.

** By which I mean, a trait that those entities and only those entities share.

*** As much as we ever do in this country, of course, which ain't much in the grand scheme of things.

Why not just say, "But....but...MICHAEL MOORE IS TEH FAT!!!1" and be done with it.

It's two days later, and I'm still snickering about this comment. 8-)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad