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November 19, 2005

Comments

Thanks, Edward, for a reasonable yet forceful post. We, personally, have just had it, so we descend into screeching and ad hominem, but you have done a great job avoiding that.

Too many GOP loyalists don't really care whether or not the President is a liar about such fundamental things as Iraq or torture. Its about partisanship and loyalty -- not policy.

So this nice post pointing out another whopper is still a ship passing in the night.

GOP loyalists seem to be equally comfortable arguing crazy logic about how Bush, et al. have not lied, and simulataneously arguing that so what if they did. The recent Jonah Goldberg column -- A Lie for a Just Cause says this explicity, while not admitting that Bush is a liar.

It seems they have the same blinkers that Bush has about recognizing that he has done anything wrong, including lying. "So what if he did -- it's all for a good cause."

Funny how if you believe you make no mistakes and can lie to achieve whatever you want, everything goes to hell rather quickly.

The question of whether it is ever right for the President to be at all deceptive seems to me to be not entirely unsimple, actually.

I say this not of the current situation, but, as is my common wont, on the general principle of the thing, since dmbeaster above seems to skip right over that whole step as not worth mentioning.

"Not entirely unsimple?" Gary, are you applying for Rumsfeld's job? (I think you have one too many "nots" in there, maybe I'm mistaken though. :-)

Thanks for that Goldberg article link dmbeaster.

In general I'll agree that presidents must, for the good of the nation, sometimes be duplicitious. I totally disagree that this was one of those times though.

Goldberg offers:

The Bush Doctrine is not chiefly about WMD and never was. Like FDR's vision, it balances democracy, security and morality.

That, as we say where I come from, is pure unadulterated hogwash.

The Bush Doctrine is a watered down version of Libby and Wolfowitz's 1992 "Defense Planning Guidance," which stated:

Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power. These regions include Western Europe, East Asia, the territory of the former Soviet Union, and Southwest Asia.

"There are three additional aspects to this objective: First the U.S must show the leadership necessary to establish and protect a new order that holds the promise of convincing potential competitors that they need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggressive posture to protect their legitimate interests. Second, in the non-defense areas, we must account sufficiently for the interests of the advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership or seeking to overturn the established political and economic order. Finally, we must maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role."

In other words, rather than any balance of "democracy" or (and Goldberg's typing fingers should fall off for daring to suggest) "morality," the Bush Doctrine is a deliberate effort to undermine any other nation's designs on ascending to the world's number 1 superpower position....even democratic Europe. In that respect it's only "moral" if one assumes the US is God's chosen leader of the free world.

And yet, supporters of the war wonder why France and Germany and Russia didn't willingly sign up for this servitude.

What slays me most about this masquerade is the oft offered sales pitch for the Bush Docrtine that democracies don't fight each other. I know that's meant to suggest they don't war against each other, but in this context it also suggests they won't compete against the US for dominance...they'll accept their Second World status.

since dmbeaster above seems to skip right over that whole step as not worth mentioning.

Really? Where?

Deception aimed at the enemy -- it can make sense. Deception aimed at the American people -- something dangerous. It better really really make sense, and even then, it has the effete air of allegedly acting for another's interest even though they are allegedly too stupid to know it.

"(I think you have one too many "nots" in there, maybe I'm mistaken though. :-)"

You're correct. Make that "seems to me not entirely simple." I'm afraid that my magnificently huge and truly unbelievably admirable brain is simply too large to concentrate on such mere petty details as making sense.

Edward: I didn't stake a claim to the article for all time ;) (And Katherine emailed me about it, truth be told, so maybe it's actually hers.)

"...the Bush Doctrine is a deliberate effort to undermine any other nation's designs on ascending to the world's number 1 superpower position....even democratic Europe. In that respect it's only "moral" if one assumes the US is God's chosen leader of the free world."

A Repub email to John Marshall

"Finally and very frankly, Democratic politicians tend to be wimps. Anyone can see how easily they get pushed around by interest groups in their own party; when criticized aggressively, they tend to seek sympathy rather than hitting back. This encourages Republican political operatives to use rough tactics."

Just amuses me to juxtapose the two quotes.

1) I found nothing objectionable in the quote from Wolfowitz and Libby. "Second, in the non-defense areas..." is an important sentence.
2) I would like to apply the principles and methods of the second paragraph to domestic politics. It should be the goal of every Democrat and liberal to see the Republican Party disband themselves in utter despair of having any significant influence on policy or politics forever.

So, everyone heard about John Rendon?

Incidentally, compare and contrast the Bush China trip and the Clinton China trip.

(I'm still getting repeated blockage of attempts to post a comment, with the warning that I'm posting "too frequently," damnit; could someone please fix this thing?)

"So, everyone heard about John Rendon?"

Yeah, saw it over at Laura Rozen's place.
...
Edward, I really don't understand your objections to the PNAC quote.

Do you actually want the US to be subservient to some particular nation that has enough military, economic, diplomatic superiority to be world-dominant?

Like China? You believe this to be a good thing? Of course not.

If I might guess, and you can correct me if I guess wrongly, you are desiring something like a democracy of nations, something like the EU or EHRC extended much more broadly.

I am not so far from that. Americans theoretically, if not in perfect practice, surrendered some of their soveriegnty in the post WWII order in exchange for a system of partial world governance(UN,IMF, Bretton Woods, Geneva & Hague conventions, etc). I would be enthusiastic about going farther along that road immediately (Kyoto, ICC, landmines, IERC, arms inspection). There was opposition to the first step that will oppose the second; you know who they are.

Only a liberal, large-D Democratic government can move us further along that path. Democrats will only be able to gain the degree of control necessary if a) tey very nearly dominate domestically, and b) they can assure the residual nationalists that America will remain the first among equals and willing and capable of protecting our interests, and c) willing and capable of controlling the terms of further consolidation.

It will likely not happen until no nation or faction, large or small, thinks it has anything possibly to gain with force or violence or military might. al Qeada and China are not yet convinced.

I decided last week that I no longer trusted the Democratic Party to be willing to defend America. Since I no longer trust the Republicans to be competent in defending America, I am in a bit of a quandary.

Do you actually want the US to be subservient to some particular nation that has enough military, economic, diplomatic superiority to be world-dominant?

I'm perfectly happy to have the US remain the # 1 nation in the world, so long as that doesn't include killing innocent civilians of other nations, Bob.

The Bush Doctrine states that pre-emptive strikes against other nations are OK in our quest to remain number 1. I find that disgusting.

We can compete as fiercely as any other nation economically and we can bring the full force of our military to bear against any fool nation stupid enough to attack us...but Iraq never did, nor was anywhere close to the position to do so.

Farber:

Thanks for the link re the China trip.

He is such weak, incompetent and ineffectual leader. His legacy, compared to Clinton or almost any other American president, will be dismal.

I'd like to point out that Bob is having one of his sane moments here.

(I'm kidding, Bob! I'm kidding! It's not one of your... oh, never mind.)

;-)

He is such weak, incompetent and ineffectual leader. His legacy, compared to Clinton or almost any other American president, will be dismal.

I don't want to sound, you know, biased or anything, but isn't it a given by Las Vegas bookies and other assorted serious people with booklearning and all that Bush the Younger has already secured his place on the last rung?

Just wondering. I could be, in fact probably am, wrong.

according to an article Digby is linking to, Bush II has already hit the same level of unpolularity as his dad - in a tie for 4th most unpopular evah !!

cleek: "Bush II has already hit the same level of unpolularity as his dad - in a tie for 4th most unpopular evah !!"

Well, he's first in my book.

ICYWW.

Edward, on the lying Bush, it is quite remarkable that most rational conversation on issues and policy seems to be excluding the President. "The President gave a speech, right, now what are going to do about Iraq."
Nobody really listens to him anymore, or cares what he says. OTOH, Bush is still making the important decisions, but we no longer have a clue on what rationales or reasons he has for making them. Since he is nothing but lies, he is irrelevant to the discourse, while the rest of us are irrelevant to the policy.
...
"I'm perfectly happy to have the US remain the # 1 nation in the world, so long as that doesn't include killing innocent civilians of other nations, Bob."

A not completely impossible standard, Edward, although the only way I believe your standard can be achieved in the short term involves the death of a lot of Americans. By Americans.

The only way this particular War in Iraq could have been avoided or ended before now is to keep George Bush (or perhaps any other Republican) out of office in 2000. I am willing to entertain that scenario, although with Republicans controlling both houses of Congress, I doubt that you would be willing to pay the necessary costs.

If you read the US's definition of torture, as defined by the 1984 Congress when ratifying the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, here:

http://www.hri.ca/fortherecord1998/documentation/reservations/cat.htm

you will discover that Edward is the liar.

am:

"the United States understands that, in order to constitute torture, an act must be specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering and that mental pain or suffering refers to prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from (1) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering; (2) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality; (3) the threat of imminent death; or (4) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality."

How, exactly, does waterboarding not fit this description?

Salvador Option II

Billmon is back to cheer us all up for thanksgiving. Course, John Negroponte is a Great American Hero.

Waterboarding is mock execution, and a particularly sadistic form of it at that. When someone fires a blank at your head you do not experience the physical sensation of having a bullet begin to enter your brain.

And "cold room" has proven fatal in at least one case--I guess we know, by the way, why that CIA agent is not being prosecuted--so I really don't want to freaking hear about how benign it is.

Sheesh, the cold room "benign." That can only be said by someone who has never tried diving into a pool of even 65 degree F water. Brrr.

"He is such weak, incompetent and ineffectual leader. His legacy, compared to Clinton or almost any other American president, will be dismal."

Anyone want to bet how long it'll take for the Bush 2 hagiography and monument-building to begin?

I think that, before he even leaves office, the GOP will be raising funds to put the feeb's head on Mt. Rushmore.

bob writes: "Do you actually want the US to be subservient to some particular nation that has enough military, economic, diplomatic superiority to be world-dominant?

Like China? You believe this to be a good thing? Of course not."

The thing is, Bush has only put is in an increasingly worse position wrt China.

And as far as the PNAC thing goes, I suspect their toolbox for maintaining that #1 status contains only a hammer.

And they don't really know how to use a hammer.

So far, their strategy appears to be to cripple American technology and science, get cripplingly dependent on Chinese money, write off our industrial base, behave in ways that lose the moral high ground, blow our military capability in a very obvious fashion so everyone knows our limits, treat allies like crap and cozy up to tyrants, and basically act like 800 pound jackasses with tourette's.

"The thing is, Bush has only put is in an increasingly worse position wrt China."

I quote for transition, but I am in agreement with your entire comment. The incompetence is astonishing, incomprehensible. The guys at BOPNews explain it as a simple "asset play" I think it is called, where a company is bought with the soul intention of breaking it up and selling its assets. Simple short term greed. Bush is delusional, but I cannot imagine the rest having such a petty ambition.

I spend a lot of time in confusion.

Do you actually want the US to be subservient to some particular nation that has enough military, economic, diplomatic superiority to be world-dominant?

Like China? You believe this to be a good thing? Of course not.

Why not? The rest of the western world seems to be doing ok. In a range of areas, they seem to be doing better than the country that's currently top dog. They don't spend as much on their military forces, true, but that's mostly because they know no-one's actually going to try and invade them in the forseeable future, whether or not America protects them.

"How, exactly, does waterboarding not fit this description?"

I think that, as we frequently see in debates and arguments about the torture isse, it's a confusing element when almost-inarguable physical torture, such as waterboarding, which one can find described in 19th Century European documents as "what the Americans call the 'water torture,'" is spoken of in the same breath as the attention grab and the attention slap, or the panty-wearing, or the loud rap music playing.

It seems to me that this is clearly problematic insofar as it causes a lot of people to focus on all the lighter stuff that isn't the waterboarding so that they can laugh at the notion that playing 50 Cent is considered to be serious torture. Focusing on that is focusing on the wrong issue, but it's not necessarily altogether helpful to gather acts across such a wide spectrum and condemn them with equal vigor.

I may be wrong, of course.

The guys at BOPNews explain it as a simple "asset play" I think it is called, where a company is bought with the soul intention of breaking it up and selling its assets. Simple short term greed. Bush is delusional, but I cannot imagine the rest having such a petty ambition.

You oviously haven't had much contact with MBAs. Short-term vision is virtually a hallmark. And this is the MBA administration.

GF: Exactly.

Then again, I think I can design a situation where anyone subjected to it would consider being compelled to listen to 50 cent torture.

It's not torture to wake someone up from an afternoon nap. It is torture to keep someone awake for 72 hours. (If you disagree, substitute whatever number you want. 100? 150? No matter what level of macho posturing you [speaking to an apologist] go for, there's going to be a number where you have to give in.)

That Volokh thread is pretty depressing, but then maybe it'd be a little different if those folks had to deal with the realities: (a) no senior AQ people have ever been captured on a WWII-style battlefield (so stop with the "summary execution" stuff already) or behind our "lines" (so stop with the Nathan Hale stuff);(b) very few have been apprehended by US forces at all, but have instead been turned over by others; and (c) senior AQ people aren't carrying cards that identify them as such -- you have to either take the word of someone else (who may well have an agenda) or torture that confession out of them.

you will discover that Edward is the liar.

am,

I would gladly agree. Seriously. I consider the issue at hand so surreal and unAmerican that I'd much rather admit I've lied than accept our president has authorized waterboarding and the other techniques the CIA admits he has.

I honestly don't know how long it's going to take us to regain our reputation on this and I'm simply holding my breath until Bush either wakes up or leaves office so we can begin to set this right.


As I said just post-Katrina:

"This is the way [Bush] operates, over and over and over; he makes statement after statement that can be interpreted as technically true if you squint at it in exactly the correct way and make sympathetic allowances, when the whole statement in context is incredible reeking bullshit."

After a while one's patience runs out.

"Then again, I think I can design a situation where anyone subjected to it would consider being compelled to listen to 50 cent torture."

Honestly, I think the loud 50 Cent and the panties-on-the head are mostly just to make it 'fun' for the torturers, and make it easier to get their willing participation.

Honestly, I think the loud 50 Cent and the panties-on-the head are mostly just to make it 'fun' for the torturers, and make it easier to get their willing participation.

I don't doubt that this is a part of the selection, but it's not the only thing going on. Beating a young pious Muslim man until he will admit that he is a [derogatory word describing a part of the female anatomy] is a twofer: soldier gets to have fun and feel like he's winning a "war" and prisoner gets to feel intimate humiliation.

Sometimes these things don't work as planned. A guy told he's going to be sent somewhere so dark that God Almighty couldn't get him out takes it as an insult to his faith, and resolves to hold to it all the stronger. The result isn't so much fear as resolve.

You know, the only thing they need for victory is will, nothing more.

Jon Stewart's recent take on the Bush "We don't torture" lie is outstanding, but requires because of gestures and body language to be seen rather than quoted. Maybe those not on dial-up can come up with a link to the appropriate clip...

Gary: I don't see "condemning all acts with equal vigor" going on. I see a hesitation to be drawn into the "where do you draw the line?" debate because:

1) The administration won't actually answer questions or release memos about which specific techniques are and are not allowed, are and are not considered torture, are and are not CID, are and are not considered "humane." The Congressional Democrats have tried to do this repeatededly and gotten stonewalled. The rationale is that it will give al Qaeda a "road map" for interrogations. Therefore, no discussion of these techniques would have any chance at all of affecting policy.

2) The descriptions of techniques can be highly, highly, highly misleading. "Stress positions" for example--that doesn't sound so bad to a lot of people. "I stand for eight hours a day," says Rumsfeld. But then read about the Manadel al-Jamadi case. "Temperature manipulation" gets characterized as "turning the air condition up" when it can involve nakedness, pouring cold water on people, and has in some cases lead to death of hypothermia.

The descriptions can also be misleading in that they focus attention on irrelevant issues. The problem is not that it's Christina Aguilera or Fifty Cent or whoever--the problem is that music at a certain volume could cause actual physical injury, or be used as a means of sleep deprivation. And of course, it is the defenders of the administration who would rather talk about Fifty Cent than waterboarding.

All of these techniques can be combined, which changes their character. Combine fear of dogs with nakedness--and hey, throw in hooding--and suddenly it sounds a lot worse.

3) The less-bad techniques tend to devolve into worse abuses.

Harry Reid:

I will say a word about the interrogation techniques that were authorized. They included forced nakedness, forced shaving of beards, and the use of dogs, just to name a few. Many are specifically designed to attack the prisoner's cultural and religious taboos. In describing them, the similarities to what eventually happened at Abu Ghraib are obvious. Once you order an 18-year-old, a young man or woman, to strip prisoners naked, to force them into painful positions, to shave their beards in violation of their religious beliefs, to lock them alone in the dark and cold, how do you tell him to stop? You cannot.

The Israeli Supreme Court came to a similar conclusion.

This is particularly true because of the legal situation. To allow even the less-severe practices, you have to get around the Geneva Convention and the Convention Against Torture, and once you do that....

An awful lot of soldiers seem to have been taught or given the impression that since prisoners are not POWs under the Geneva Convention, they can be treated however soldiers want to treat them.

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