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November 02, 2005

Comments

Anybody have a link to Volokh on slippery slopes?

time for somebody to scream "hilzoy compares America to Hitler's Germany".

it won't be me.

We don't even need to discuss slippery slopes and "what ifs". Let's discuss just how bad the things are that we know about right now! We're already torturing people, operating clandestine prisons where people can be detained indefinitely, rounding up innocents in "sweeps" of civilian areas (2/3 of Gitmo prisoners released).

We're already doing things I never thought America would do. We're already doing things that bring shame and dishonor to the stated principles of this country. Fine, we're not Nazis. Fine, some of this stuff happened in WWII.

Whoopee. Way to set the bar high there! Just how bad do things have to get before the remaining supporters of the Bush WH say, "That's enough?" And what will our country look like then?

We are Americans, and we hold ourselves to humane standards of treatment of people no matter how evil or terrible they may be.

Shorter:

Batman: That's why it's so important. It separates us from them.

jcricket says: "We're already doing things I never thought America would do."

All things considered, a spectacular failure in imagination, my friend.

Okey-dokey, just to be vewy, vewy clear: I am not comparing the United States to Nazi Germany, Mao's China, or Pol Pot's Cambodia. I am noting that we have started torturing people in Saddam Hussein's notorious torture prison and keeping people incommmunicado in a network (gulag?) of undisclosed prisons from the Soviet era, and asking where this trend, if continued, might lead. That is all.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled commenting.

"Just how bad do things have to get before the remaining supporters of the Bush WH say, "That's enough?" And what will our country look like then?"

You might want to read the comments on todays Redstates post on this same topic. We are not even close to bad enough. Their only issue with this is who should be prosecuted for releasing this classified info to the press.

What I truly don't get is this: Their argument seems to be that all of this is pretty much OK, because it is just terrorists we are dealing with. Even McCain's comments assume that the prisoners are in fact terrorists. But these same commenters would not want to trust the government with such things as, say, processing claims in a single-payer health care system. No, then we get all the comments about our health care system being as competent as the post office.

But they are perfectly happy to assume that the prisoners are terrorists, with no prospect of judicial review, just because our government deemed them so.

Sad day when Mr. Bird is the liberal.

Every life is precious. That's what distinguishes us from the enemy. Everybody matters.

Who said it?

W.

His words mean nothing.

Good point vida. When we release 2/3rds of the Gitmo prisoners after years in captivity, are we releasing terrorists? I'm assuming no. Given that, do we think that, just maybe, all the innocents that we tortured and detained go back and tell their friends about what happened to them? It's not that I think America's at fault for most of the things the terrorists do, but perhaps we could just avoid going out of our way to intentionally create more recruits? Especially on something we, theoretically, oppose doing (like torture).

It's unfortunately similar to American prisons. You come out a better criminal and a drug addict, not reformed.

McCain: "I hold no brief for the prisoners. I do hold a brief for the reputation of the United States of America."

Help me out here. "Holding a brief."

Is that a good thing, a bad thing or, maybe, just a lawyer thing?

Additional headlines:

UN approves economic sanctions against US for treaty violations.

OPEC threatens secondary boycott against countries selling oil to US.

Gasoline rationing sweeps US; Dow down 5,000 points.

Gas riots in Los Angeles; Brownback administration declares martial law. (Subhead -- Habeas Corpus suspended.)

gee, hilzoy, these are kinda fun.

Never mind.

NPR covered part of this issue recently focussing on the refusal of Rummy to grant the UN privileges to interview detainees, privileges that the Red Cross has.
Worth a listen:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4985909

Here's an allied similar fantasy: Iraqi Government Asks Hussein's Officers to Return to Military.

Oh, wait, that's this afternoon.

Incidentally, I keep getting this message, even though I may not have posted for hours, or a day: "In an effort to combat malicious comment posting by scripts, I've enabled a feature that requires a weblog commenter to wait a short amount of time before being able to post again. Please try to post your comment again in a short while. Thanks for your patience."

I thought I was shock proof. Honestly, I thought I had heard the worst we we going to get from this administration.
Are Bush and his supporters immune to irony? We're operating camps for untried, unconvicted prisoners in Cambodia , Eastern Europe, and China? Jeez, why not North Korea while we're at it?
I really don't know why people keep making excuses for this administration. Loyalty to a politician isn't as important to loyalty to responsible values.

It really is getting to the point where you can't tell The Onion from the "reality" of the GOP's actions.

The first time that happened (about 4 years ago) I chuckled a little about how close the satire hit. Now it makes me sad that there's nothing that's so out of bounds that it actually parodies the position of the current GOP.

I actually cannot get 100% on board with "it's not about them" , "I hold no brief for the prisoners", etc. It's good rhetoric up to a point, but it accepts one of the false assumptions that the administration has pushed: these guys are all guilty.

Oh no they're not. Even at the "black sites" we know of Khaled el-Masri, taken to the Salt Pit in a case of mistaken identity, and the other detainee whose name we don't know who was killed at the Salt Pit. Throw in renditions, and it looks even worse.

And that assumes that these tactics remain confined to the CIA. I don't think it's a coincidence that Bagram was one of these CIA "black sites" and Bagram is also the base where Dilawar and Habibullah got beaten to death.

Katherine: true enough. I hold a brief for the innocent prisoners. I take the 'they' in 'they don't deserve our sympathy' to refer to 'these terrorists', and I don't have much sympathy for them. But for the innocent prisoners, of course. Thanks for noting it.

"We're operating camps for untried, unconvicted prisoners in Cambodia , Eastern Europe, and China? Jeez, why not North Korea while we're at it?"

Um, Hilzoy was being satiric.

Except for the one camp in Eastern Europe. That's real.

Can't tell the satire without a scorecard, folks.

It's a fine day here in Madison, what with the temperature up to a balmy 60 F, students actually doing their work, and hilzoy furiously pinging my shrillometer. If you know what I mean, and I think you do.

hilzoy writes: "keeping people incommmunicado in a network (gulag?)"

Another newsflash from the future: Charles Bird writes an extended screed condemning Hilzoy for daring to use the word 'gulag' and suggesting that Hilzoy hates America and its blameless soldiers.

I figure that'll happen in a matter of hours.

Slarti writes:

Shorter:

Batman: That's why it's so important. It separates us from them.

Or, better,

"What, are you DENSE? Are you RETARDED or something? Who the hell do you think I am?

I'm the Goddamn Batman."

Kinda says it all, really.

If you need to spell things out to a pro-torture moron who wants to know why you think we should go easy on 'terrorists', just say "What, are you dense? Are you retarded or something? Who the hell do you think we are? We're the Goddamn USA. That's why we shouldn't be abusing and torturing prisoners and shipping them off to a gulag for more."

Two camps in Eastern Europe. Poland and Romania.

Of all the people to be angry with about this--Charles is just nowhere on that list. Focus people.

"Of all the people to be angry with about this--Charles is just nowhere on that list. Focus people."

Angry is not the correct word. Bemused is more like it.

Bemused that he thought the US was besmirched by an AI administrator's use of the word 'gulag', when what really besmirged America was the government's establishment of an actual gulag, if only a baby one.

Remember, it's not the torture and rendition that's un-American, it's the dissent. As Dave Neiwart points out, and apropos my comment about satire and reality being blurred, it appears Republicans have now mastered "
newsspeak.

Damn that liberal America hating George Orwell!

I have good fantasies about the future if the US succeeds in the neo-con cabal project, and what I consider to be freedom spreads to yet another part of the world, as it did to Eastern Europe, for instance. I want this very much, even if it is not perfect, even if there are bad men who do bad things in order to protect us and fight for this so-called freedom. This of course is at odds with smart people who think they know better, and that fantasize that deep down inside that what I really really want is neo-Nazi death camps. I dont seriously think that liberals want a world where little Christian girls are beheaded in Indonesia, schoolteachers are lined up and killed in Iraq, a school is taken over in Beslan and many children taken hostage killed, Buddhists attacked and killed in Thailand, villages are wiped out in Sudan, countries literally call for the extermination of Jews in their region, well heck the list could go on and on with NK, Somalia, Zimbabwe, but hey, even if you don't want that world, well that is the way things are, and unless you want to fight against it, or if you think America is so evil that you dont want to fight against it, then that's the way it will be.

People raping babies and engaging in cannibalism in New Orleans.

Judge Alito being in favor of policemen anally raping 10 year old girls.

Some people think that this is not fantasy, but the actual truth. The more dense people will actually believe these allegations are true. Hell, it worked on me.

DaveC,

When did the US invade and occupy Eastern Europe?

Good point, I probably should have used the fact that we occupied Japan, South Korea, or Germany as examples instead, but the presence of Pershing missles in Germany was generally used as an example of US being a unacceptible bad guy back in the Cold War days.

And of course there was the invasion / NO occupation of Grenada and Panama and the NO invasion / NO occupation thing that happened in Nicaragua.

hilzoy furiously pinging my shrillometer

I thought she was just being saucy ;^)

DaveC:

Yes, these bad things all happen in the world. Thanks for pointing this out to us. Could you please now explain how it is that US sponsored detention and torture of innocents at secret locations helps to solve any of them?

I just want to know if Dave and Condi have assembled that world-freeing private army yet, that I asked about previously. I've got my check for $100, but I don't know where to send it.

How many oppressed North Koreans did you free today?

DaveC writes: "but hey, even if you don't want that world, well that is the way things are, and unless you want to fight against it, or if you think America is so evil that you dont want to fight against it, then that's the way it will be."

So you don't think we can fight evil without becoming evil?

If it's okay for us to torture in 'the cause', then at some point it will become accepted on the Right that it is okay to behead young girls in 'the cause'.

At that point (some would say *now*) what we've lost was more important than anything we hoped to gain.

Geez, when did running torture gulagettes become synonomous with fighting evil for so many people? It's not like it's even a particularly effective method of self-defense.

Perhaps fighting terrorism was only the excuse, Tim. Perhaps these people want a right-wing fascist or near-fascist dicatorship/'managed democracy' in the US.

Two irresistable Friedrich Nietzsche quotes for this thread:

He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

Beyond Good and Evil

Distrust everyone in whom the impulse to punish is powerful!

Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Dave C,

Many pro-democracy activist, in South Korea, would say freedom, liberty and democratic values were won IN SPITE OF AMERICAN meddling.

PARK CHUNG HEE
President of South Korea
Free and open expression has not come easily to South Koreans. Beatings, torture, and execution of the regimes' political opponents have been a way of life since the Korean War. The tenure of former President Park Chung Hee, who came to power in a 1961 military coup, exemplifies the kind of leader South Koreans have been forced to endure. Park's virulent anti-communism won him U.S. support. The water torture, which leaves no physical marks on the victim, was a favored technique of Park's security forces. Cold water was forced up the nostrils through a tube, while a cloth was placed in the victim's mouth to prevent breathing. Many anti-communist interrogations were run by the KCIA, a US creation modeled after the American CIA. One victim told Amnesty International, " I was taken to KCIA headquarters, my hands tied together, and I was tied to a chair. I was not allowed to have any sleep. At night, they would drag me to the basement where they would beat me with a long, heavy stick, and jump on me. They were trying to make me confess that I was a spy. Despite such brutal behavior, the US has maintained a first-rate strategic relationship with South Korea, providing successive repressive regimes with extensive US aid. Park Chung Hee was assassinated by the KCIA in 1979, but South Korea is still a nation troubled by lack of human rights.

[Anarch]hilzoy furiously pinging my shrillometer

[lib jap]I thought she was just being saucy ;^)

[Me] And you never stopped to think that Hilzoy being saucy always pings Anarch's shrillometer?

Just asking.

Good for the Czech Republic:

"While the White House has neither confirmed nor denied the allegations, the Czech Republic, which joined the EU last year, said that it had recently refused a request from American officials to set up a detention centre."

That's a relief. I had my doubts.

NeoDude, regardless of bad things that have happened in S Korea, I still think it is far better than NK. And as far as Pinocet's atrocities in Chile go, with possible US assistance, well I'd rather live nowadays in Chile than in Cuba. You have some points that the US has done some bad things, but I disagree with the idea that this was because of evil intent, but actually in an effort to make things better for those countries. I thought I ought to respond at least once, however belatedly, to the Korea, and Central and S America issues, so feel free to criticize more if the thread still shows up.

DaveC writes: "You have some points that the US has done some bad things, but I disagree with the idea that this was because of evil intent, but actually in an effort to make things better for those countries."

I'm sure Milosevic thought he was tidying things up, too. Not evil, no, just tidy.

DaveC writes: "NeoDude, regardless of bad things that have happened in S Korea, I still think it is far better than NK. And as far as Pinocet's atrocities in Chile go, with possible US assistance, well I'd rather live nowadays in Chile than in Cuba"

Er, the described events in S. Korea happened in the 1970s. Some 20 years after the Korean war. What does N. Korea have to do with anything?

And it isn't exactly a profile of courage to say that you'd rather live in a post-fascist Chile that is prosecuting Pinochet, than in modern Cuba.

The more important question is, would you prefer to live in fascist Pinochet-era Chile, or in democratic Chile under Allende?

It's ridiculous to believe that those who you consider evil are behaving the way they do because of moustache-twirling evil intentions. They aren't. They think they're doing the right thing, just as our troops are when they crush someone's legs and hang the person up to die.

This is new:

WASHINGTON Vice President Dick Cheney's office was responsible for directives that led to U.S. soldiers' abusing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, a former top State Department official said Thursday/

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, then the secretary of state, told National Public Radio he had traced a trail of memos and directives authorizing questionable detention practices up through Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's office directly to Cheney's staff.....

"There was a visible audit trail from the vice president's office through the secretary of defense, down to the commanders in the field," authorizing practices that led to the abuse of detainees, Wilkerson said.

The directives were "in carefully couched terms," Wilkerson conceded, but said they had the effect of loosening the reins on U.S. troops, leading to many cases of prisoner abuse, including at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, that were contrary to the Geneva Conventions.

"If you are a military man, you know that you just don't do these sorts of things," Wilkerson said, because troops will take advantage, or feel so pressured to obtain information that "they have to do what they have to do to get it."

He said that Powell had assigned him to investigate the matter after reports emerged in the media about U.S. troops abusing detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both men had formerly served in the U.S. military....

Wilkerson also told National Public Radio that Cheney's office ran an "alternate national security staff" that spied on and undermined the president's formal National Security Council.

He said National Security Council staff stopped sending e-mails when they found out Cheney's staff members were reading their messages.

He said he believed that Cheney's staff prevented Bush from seeing a National Security Council memo arguing strongly that the United States needed many more troops for the March 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq.


So, in other words, the slope was slippery.

You were right, Katherine. You were right to criticize this effort to declare the Geneva Conventions as inapplicable to terrorists/illegal combatants/what have you. And I was wrong to have thought that we really wouldn't do anything different as a result. We would, and did. It's not clear that there's an evidenced, firm cause-and-effect relationship there, but I believe that it probably did make a difference in the way soldiers and agents treated prisoners.

All that stuff about Cheney, it will be interesting to see resolved; I didn't need that to reach the above conclusion.

Just thought it needed to be said. It really deserves more, and better, but this is all I've got right now.

Davec, what is that place where the road is paved with good intentions? I don't remember.

Is there such a thing as bleeding-heart reactionaries?

I mean, DaveC...rape, sexual molestation and torture are really blessings, in your moral universe,...as long as they are being done by people of good character and have certain views concerning the latest political theories?

Is that what you are saying?

You were right, Katherine. You were right to criticize this effort to declare the Geneva Conventions as inapplicable to terrorists/illegal combatants/what have you. And I was wrong to have thought that we really wouldn't do anything different as a result. We would, and did.

Chapeau Slartibartfest

Chapeau Slartibartfest

I'm not sure I want to turn Slarti into tonsorial apparel, but I approve of the underlying sentiment :)

Me too. Kudos Slarti.

Hear hear! (said without irony -- apparently it's necessary to indicate this nowadays :-)

Thanks. You're actually telling the wrong person she was right. I wasn't very vocal about Geneva or Guantanamo, out of a combination of 1) sheer ignorance of what the treaty said, 2) scared stupid, 3) bad combo of too naive about what happens in incommunicado prison camps & too concerned with not appearing naive. I didn't start waking up on this stuff until summer 2003-ish and didn't get really shrill until January 2004.

Speaking of shrill, I think McCain's ready to be inducted into the ancient and hermetic order.

It does not escape me that it's later than it should be, and doesn't go as far as it could, and at a time when the political benefits probably outweigh the risks for the first time. But that's politics. I'll never trust McCain 1/4 as much as someone like Durbin or Feingold, but I actually really enjoy seeing politicians be calculating and tricksy and smart politicians when it's in the service of something other than their own power or their contributors' money.

It's not clear that there's an evidenced, firm cause-and-effect relationship there,

History will not be kind.

And I think things are going to get uglier as the prisoners continue to lose whatever little faith they had in our legal system. The DC Circuit is taking so long with Al Odah/Boumedienne that it is becoming less likely that the Supreme Court can take and resolve that case before fall/winter 2006. There are already a couple dozen prisoners in very weakened condition on hunger strike, and as it sinks in down there that even the prisoners declared by the US governemnt to be innocent have to wait another year for any relief at all, we should expect more desperate measures.

Anyone can say what they wish about the death of some prisoner, but our resisting the strikers' main demands -- fair trials and respect for Islam -- isn't going to help us much in the Middle East.

I mean, DaveC...rape, sexual molestation and torture are really blessings, in your moral universe,...as long as they are being done by people of good character and have certain views concerning the latest political theories?

Well, I am anti-Communist and anti-Jihadist. I dont think that rape and sexual molestation have anything to do with that. As far as torture, well that is wrong, and it has indeed happened, not that I count mishandling the Koran or putting a person in a psychologically stressful situation is torture. But no, I don't want terrorists to be imprisoned within our borders and given the legal rights of US citizens.

In your moral universe is beheading little Christian girls in Indonesia really blessings? I didnt think so, either.

CC,
I'm wondering if you have any additional comment about this WaPo article. Not searching for any particular information, but just curious if you have anything to add.

DaveC,

In your moral universe is beheading little Christian girls in Indonesia really blessings? I didnt think so, either.

What does that have to do with Americans sexually molesting and torturing suspects?

Do you really believe moral laws are relative to national identity and political ideologies?

If Alito is confirmed, he's a sure bet to uphold sweeping Executive powers in re treatment of prisoners of war. That puts him with Scalia, Thomas, and probably Roberts (who is, so far as we can tell, also vastly deferential to executive powers).

I guess Kennedy would be the swing vote on this issue?

I'm not sure what good it would do, even if the SCOTUS issue a decision against torture. The Bush Admin has pretty much ignored previous SCOTUS decisions regarding prisoners at our various abbatoirs.

What can we do? My Senators and Congresscritters are already voting against the Bush Admin on this issue. The Senate law against torture is DOA. Cheney and Rumsfeld already operate with no regard for the law, and will apparently never be stopped from doing so - regardless of what SCOTUS and Congress say or do.

That line from Al Stewart's "Nostradamus" keeps running through my head: No law does this man observe; And bloody his rise and fall will be."

LJ: I don't know anything more about this particular situation. It would be harder to design a situation more detrimental to our image than the Admin is doing, if one wanted to.

DaveC: Isn't part of what separates us from them that we allow even the Charlie Mansons and Jeffrey Daumers legal rights?

CaseyL: Is it really DOA? I thought there was just a delay in the House.

CC - Here is what I've heard about the anti-torture law:

1. The House will strip it out of the bill it's attached to; or

2. It will vanish from the bill in the Conference Committee; or

3. Bush will veto it if it passes.

Also, Cheney is lobbying hard to exempt the CIA from the law, even in the unlikely event it survives the House vote, the Conference Committee, and Bush signs it.

DaveC: not that I count mishandling the Koran

Well, I guess if you're not a religious person yourself, and have no empathy with people who are, it would be hard to understand why grossly and deliberately violating someone's faith is indeed a form of torture. I think that you just simply need to accept as a fact that for some people, their religion is a very real thing, and violating it causes them real pain.

or putting a person in a psychologically stressful situation is torture.

Here, though, I think you're just lacking in empathy, or rather the Orwellian language you have read makes you fail to see what concrete examples might.

The "psychologically stressful situations" that the US military has put prisoners into include, from first-hand report, men being forced to watch their child being raped in front of them...

Jes, what's the source of that allegation?

Casey--I don't think it's as hopeless as all that. A week ago I would have said so, but with this Priest article...McCain seems pissed and is now threatening to attach this to every major piece of legislation. Graham too. They do not seem inclined to allow a CIA exemption. Dick Cheney is not going to win a public debate with a Republican war hero torture victim and a JAG attorney.

The Democrats may be starting to realize it's safe, and make more noise (some of them have been trying as hard as they could to stop this forever, while McCain was voting against suobpoenas and for confirmation of people involved in the scandal, but the party's response as a whole has not been adequate.) The pressure on Roberts on the Iraq intelligence report could easily become pressure on the other investigations he's stonewalled, the ones on CIA mistreatment of detainees that Rockefeller's been trying to hold for a year. The House has a resolution in the works instructing the conference committee to retain the McCain amendment, which is apparently expected to pass with a majority--McCain is making noises about a large majority, though he may be bluffing.

Who are your reps? They may already support the McCain amendment but there are other ways in which you probably could ask them to be more active on this issue.

"He said he believed that Cheney's staff prevented Bush from seeing a National Security Council memo arguing strongly that the United States needed many more troops for the March 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq."

1)Kudos to Slart on detention
2)While I certainly support the McCain initiative, I am uncomfortable giving too much credit to the man, not because he doesn't deserve it, but because I don't want to become President.

3)On the quoted sentence, I have seen forty years of attempts to protect and shield Presidents, at any costs, by even people vehemently opposed to particular policies, and extreme skepticism is my default position.

"Dick, why was Shinseki asked to retire?"
"Boss, you don't want to know."

Katherine: My Rep is McDermott; my Senators are Cantwell and Murray.

well, McDermott can't get much more strident....you could nag Cantwell and Murray about S. 654 and make sure they support the Levin amendment.

Thanks; I'll do that.

30,000 "national security letters" sent out to secretly investigate that number of Americans w/o probable cause, or a single case made, last year.

"Worst of the worst":

So in 2002, when the US military shackled the writers and flew them to the US naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, among prisoners whom Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld declared ''the worst of the worst" violent terrorists, the brothers found life imitating farce. For months, interrogators grilled them over a satirical article Dost had written in 1998, when the Clinton administration offered a $5 million reward for Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Dost responded that Afghans put up 5 million Afghanis, about $113, for the arrest of President Clinton.

''It was a lampoon . . . of the poor Afghan economy" under the Taliban, Badr recalled.

The interrogators didn't get the joke, he said. ''Again and again, they were asking questions about this article. We had to explain that this was a satire." He paused. ''It was really pathetic."

It took the brothers three years to convince the Americans that they posed no threat to Clinton or the United States, and to get released.


here's a better link for the above story.

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