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February 17, 2008

Comments

"So why on earth did he write this?"

For one thing, it's my impression Kristof spends most of his time on international affairs. He spends a lot of time abroad. He's generally good on a lot of foreign issues, particularly on human rights issues.

Domestic issues, he seems to often be very superficial, and not very informed, as well as prone to conventional wisdom, splitting issues down the middle, and finding false balances.

See also Steve Benen on this

It's McCain's greatest weakness as a politician. He has to pander at times, because that's the nature of the job, but he's no good at it. He does it all the same, because principles are tedious and tiring things to have as a politician, and he wants the brass ring so badly that he'll suffer any indignity to have a shot at it, but he really isn't any good at it. It's been the saddest thing to watch over the last eight years--the self-destruction of a man who might have been dignified at one point.

"See also Steve Benen on this"

Is it me, or did a "not" fall out of this sentence?

[...] When a politician is so clumsy about it that they look ridiculous, it’s definitely worthy of praise.

sunday news spent 15X as much airtime on the obama campaign finance waffle as they did on the torture flip.

Torture works. The North Vietnamese wanted to get a signed confession out of a senior American officer for domestic political consumption. They brutally tortured John McCain and he gave them a confession. It doesn’t take away from his service or the honor he earned in being offered a release and refusing it, choosing to stay with his men. But his is a case where torture worked.

The ‘high moral ground’ money has already been spent and it doesn’t work. It is getting some of our best people killed on a regular basis. I don’t want to torture, and I don’t want any more of our best people to be killed.

The ethical answer is to disengage from the Muslim world, adopt a defensive stance against the Jihad, and let them get on with their lives however they choose to do so. Let the Iraqis vote on our withdraw if that makes people feel better. And in the interim, if waterboarding can be used to save the lives of our fighting men and/or civilians back home, it doesn’t bother me one bit.

I do wish people would get over the comic-book idea that "torture saves lives".

Torture works as a means of instilling fear. If anything, torturing prisoners inspires terrorism: if you're the man whose father was tortured to death by Americans after he surrendered himself to get the Americans to spare his sons, you're not going to believe anything the Americans claim about being there to help the Iraqis: your personal experience of the Americans is that they murdered your father after surrender.

Torture does not work as a means of getting information out of prisoners: never has, never will.

“…after he surrendered himself to get the Americans to spare his sons…”

We have waterboarded (not to be confused with John McCain’s experience), 3 men in the past six years.

Given a sufficient level of distress (defined as a compound of fear, pain, and humiliation) you can assume that the vast majority of people will do or say whatever it takes to make the pain stop. Whether they tell you the truth, of course, depends on whether they know the truth, and whether (assuming they know the truth) they decide to take the risk of deceiving their interrogators. Add to that the problem that a true answer does not necessarily make the intelligence actionable; a person under torture can render the information they provide useless by holding out long enough.

Therefore, the ability to coerce a person into a specific action (sign this, say that) does not translate into the ability to extract "life-saving" intelligence.

We have waterboarded (not to be confused with John McCain’s experience), 3 men in the past six years.

That sentence needs about a dozen caveats
To name just a few
1. Hayden could simply be lying*
2. this referred just to CIA personnel doing it. Contractors, army, special forces etc. were not included
3. it does not cover extraordinary rendition to countries known for torture (also occured before Bush took office)
4. There have been attempts to define waterboarding so narrowly that the term loses meaning (e.g. what if the liquid used is not water or no board was used?)
5. Iirc it referred only to "official" "high value" captives. Ghost detainees may not be included nor are those of "low value".
6. What about other questionable methods?
("Did you shoot the victim?", "No", "What did you do then?", "I skinned him alive, then hacked him to pieces", "The court finds the defendant not guilty of shooting the victim")
etc. asf.

*or doing the Clinton definition dance

OK Harmet;

My magical powers of prediction think that you are a college student. If you are or if you are not, here’s a recommended reading list:

1. The Federalist Papers
2. The Grapes of Wrath
3. The Qur’an
4. The Bible

They help with understanding the modern news cycle. And here’s some writings from a man who you don’t know, but who you should. His name is Hyman Rickover, a short Jew from Poland:

www.limes68.blogspot.com

Smartest man I’ve ever been associated with.

Bill: We have waterboarded (not to be confused with John McCain’s experience), 3 men in the past six years.

The general who was tortured to death was not, to the best of my knowledge, waterboarded: he was beaten, and finally suffocated.

The taxi-driver who was tortured to death wasn't waterboarded: he was just hung up and hit until he died of it.

The Afghan detainee who was tortured to death was not, to the best of my knowledge, waterboarded: he was just stripped naked and kept in a freezing room until he died.

We have no idea how many prisoners the US has tortured to death in the past seven years: I mention those three as examples that got into the news.

Once a country decides to make torture legal - to step over the bright line drawn by the UN Convention, as the US has done - it is inevitable that torturers will exceed their permitted methods of causing pain and suffering, and that prisoners will die of it.

To claim as a defense that you know of only three prisoners waterboarded? Is just pathetic.

Ever notice that very nearly every time someone disagrees vehemently with Bill or makes him look silly, he accuses them of being a "college student?" WTF is that all about? Did a college student rape your dog or something? To save yourself continued embarrassment, Bill, it's my educated guess that the age range of ObWi commenters is somewhere between 35 and 45 years old.

Anyway, on topic, I brought this up several days ago -- McCain's vote on this bill -- and asked Sebastian to comment about it, since he recently went out of his way to make an increasingly rare front-page post informing us that McCain was "decidedly anti-torture." I'm still curious, since the only thing he's done since is worry whether the Clinton campaign thinks he's stupid. Well, they may or may not, but John McCain sure thinks you are.

Dear Bill,

I've read the Bible but I'm still a bit confused about the point you're trying to make. You see, there's 'Love you enemies, do good to those who hate you' (Luke 6 27), which I think pretty much rules out torture. But there's also the bit where if an engaged woman is raped in a city she should be killed (Deuteronomy 23:23-24), which is vile. I presume therefore that all modern Christians and Jews decide that some bits of the Bible should be regarded as more binding today than others, because I've never heard anyone enthusing about killing rape victims.

So when I read the Quran, should I read it the same way, or should I presume, as you seem to do, that all Muslims take absolutely every verse as valid for today? Because if I want to take a pick and mix version of one book but not the other that seems a little, well, unscholarly. And since I'm not a college student, but a college lecturer, that wouldn't really do.

McCain is an excellent panderer. The mistake that is made is that we (okay, by we I do not mean each and every one of us, but simply those to whom this phrase would apply) see him as panderering to the extreme right.

Actually, McCain is very good at pandering to moderates and independents would then try to view him as a maverick. Which of course he really isn't.

There is the old saying "action speaks louder than words." McCain's actions through the years tend to serve as evidence against to his being a maverick.

Incertus sums up my feelings. He made a mistake bending in SC in 2000; bending for the base on torture and finances loses those independents and Ds who admire him.

Bill's point confuses me, though: after years of torture, John McCain signed a false confession. Torture works well to extract these, as we saw with everything confessed to in the Spanish inquisition. The fact that we can drive some people to confess that they conspired with an alien intelligence to reinstate the gold standard does not, however, help much of anything regarding Martians or fiduciary policy; it just provides a recruitment argument that we are horrible, because we will torture.
McCain's original argument is simple and correct: if we do not want our servicepeople tortured, we cannot torture our prisoners: we need feet that aren't made of clay. We need to give the world a true choice between us and the people we oppose, and both being torturers undercuts that choice.

Kristof, I think, likes to show that he's not a kneejerk liberal by going out of his way to praise conservatives and criticize liberals. Which would be fine (although perhaps a little irritating) if the praise was always deserved.

To all those Obama supporters who have gleefully found out that McCain is not a principled man, i say - if thats what makes you sleep well at night, please do think that he is a sell out.

McCain is running for President, not Pope. If any one thinks that his moral stance against torture has been compromised because of his recent votes, you are either acting like you dont know how politics is played in Washington or you think that McCain needs to be a saint. And please dont tell me that Obama is going to come and save us all from Washington politics. This guy can barely keep a pledge on public financing that he himself made last year WITHOUT any complusions from his base to do so. He ACTS like a politician from Washington, does nt he ? yeah, he does.

McCains own party base HATES him. He is in a position that very few politicians can find themeselves in - successful INSPITE of their party base and not because of it. At a time when he is trying to gather support for his Presidential run, he does present the picture of some one who has sold out for political expediency. But if he ever becomes President, he will be more than open to acknowledging the defects in the latest torture bill and work together with lawmakers to do so.

Power is not for the principled. Principled people might seek influence but dont seek power. Yeah, this applies to golden boy Obama too. Politicians are about power and ambition and those who rise to the top do succumb to expediency. Just like Obama waffled on his stance on public financing, when he figured that he could raise a lot more money than 85mil.

But in fairness to McCain, he has waged as principled a fight on several important issues as a politician can while facing detriment to one's career. Can some one please explain why McCain tirelessly worked with Lindsey Graham and Jack Warner to get to a point where the President was forced to stop institutionalizing torture AFTER Bush won re-election ? How does this help McCain when the GOP base has no problems with torture and Bush believes in unlimited powers to the unitary executive ?

All that his opponents can do is to try and paint McCain as a unprincipled politician. Why isnt there the same kind of outrage when Obama gets a piece of land for a price 300,000$ less than market value from a sleazebag right in the middle of an investigation into the sleaze bags's activities ? Why isnt any one posting about the man who rails against Washington politics when he turns around and acts like a Washington pol who could not even keep his own promise on public financing of Presidential elections?

When was the last time any Presidential candidate took so many positions against his/her own party and still managed to maintain a modicum of decency and honor to become a grudgingly accepted nominee of their party ?

If there were a couple of more guys like McCain, this country would be a lot better. The elections in November is for President and not for Pope. If any one is still not clear about that, you can wait for the rest of your life for that one principled politician who never compromised and still managed to hang around to run for President.

To all those Obama supporters who have gleefully found out that McCain is not a principled man, i say - if thats what makes you sleep well at night, please do think that he is a sell out.

McCain is running for President, not Pope. If any one thinks that his moral stance against torture has been compromised because of his recent votes, you are either acting like you dont know how politics is played in Washington or you think that McCain needs to be a saint. And please dont tell me that Obama is going to come and save us all from Washington politics. This guy can barely keep a pledge on public financing that he himself made last year WITHOUT any complusions from his base to do so. He ACTS like a politician from Washington, does nt he ? yeah, he does.

McCains own party base HATES him. He is in a position that very few politicians can find themeselves in - successful INSPITE of their party base and not because of it. At a time when he is trying to gather support for his Presidential run, he does present the picture of some one who has sold out for political expediency. But if he ever becomes President, he will be more than open to acknowledging the defects in the latest torture bill and work together with lawmakers to do so.

Power is not for the principled. Principled people might seek influence but dont seek power. Yeah, this applies to golden boy Obama too. Politicians are about power and ambition and those who rise to the top do succumb to expediency. Just like Obama waffled on his stance on public financing, when he figured that he could raise a lot more money than 85mil.

But in fairness to McCain, he has waged as principled a fight on several important issues as a politician can while facing detriment to one's career. Can some one please explain why McCain tirelessly worked with Lindsey Graham and Jack Warner to get to a point where the President was forced to stop institutionalizing torture AFTER Bush won re-election ? How does this help McCain when the GOP base has no problems with torture and Bush believes in unlimited powers to the unitary executive ?

All that his opponents can do is to try and paint McCain as a unprincipled politician. Why isnt there the same kind of outrage when Obama gets a piece of land for a price 300,000$ less than market value from a sleazebag right in the middle of an investigation into the sleaze bags's activities ? Why isnt any one posting about the man who rails against Washington politics when he turns around and acts like a Washington pol who could not even keep his own promise on public financing of Presidential elections?

When was the last time any Presidential candidate took so many positions against his/her own party and still managed to maintain a modicum of decency and honor to become a grudgingly accepted nominee of their party ?

If there were a couple of more guys like McCain, this country would be a lot better. The elections in November is for President and not for Pope. If any one is still not clear about that, you can wait for the rest of your life for that one principled politician who never compromised and still managed to hang around to run for President.

"He ACTS like a politician from Washington, does nt he ? yeah, he does."

It's handy when you answer your own questions, as it saves everyone else the trouble.

"But if he ever becomes President, he will be more than open to acknowledging the defects in the latest torture bill and work together with lawmakers to do so."

Can you also please tell me what will be the largest winning lottery number in Colorado in that month? Thanks!

Incidentally, you might look into how to support an argument, beyond assertion, before joining a debate team.

Btw, I am a student indeed (PhD though, not college) but I don't know what the father of nuclear submarines (I did not have to look that up, Bill. Submarines are my hobby) has to do with the discussion on torture. The Federalist Papers are on my reading list (I don't need your recommendation for that) but there are still a few big tomes in front of them. I also have bibles by the dozen (in numerous languages and editions) but only a single translated Quran (the Arabic version is so ornamented that even Arabs can't decipher it). Just to preempt a likely retort/add-on: I find Stalin's writings pure sleeping pills and have not finished Mein Kampf yet. I clearly prefer Churchill as a writer.

This is the better Kristof.

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