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March 12, 2009

Comments

I think the risk of nukes in Iraqi or Iranian hands is more about control of the flow of oil, and the reduced effectiveness of our conventional forces that have been developed to keep the oil flowing.

So I agree that the use of a nuke or other WMD in the United States by any nation is unlikely, but I think that the strategic interests of the US and most of the Western world would be significantly affected by a nuclear weapon that could threaten our fleet in the Persian Gulf.

Not a reason for preemptive war, but also not an unreasonable concern from our strategic perspective.

On the otherhand, we could save a lot of money once the US Navy is no longer an effective method for maintaining the flow of oil, and we could probably reduce the size significantly and stop subsidizing oil for the rest of the world once that function is no longer possible.

Defense Secretary Gates continues to act and speak in ways that justify Obama's decision to keep him on.

Really? Has he yet instigated an investigation into how many of the senior military under Bush were responsible for the US military torture of prisoners? Has he himself been investigated and cleared of any involvement/responsibility for the US military's torture of prisoners while he was Secretary of Defense under Bush, and indeed after Obama took office?

No?

Then how on earth can anyone with any moral sense justify Obama's decision to keep on someone who may be implicated in torture, and who has done nothing to cleanse the US military of those who were responsible for the torture of prisoners?

Were you planning to discuss the issue of US military torture of prisoners at all while justifying why Obama was right to keep someone like that on board? I mean, even to say "no, not going to talk about how the US military was torturing prisoners up until (at least) last month, but... oh look, Pakistan!"

So I agree that the use of a nuke or other WMD in the United States by any nation is unlikely, but I think that the strategic interests of the US and most of the Western world would be significantly affected by a nuclear weapon that could threaten our fleet in the Persian Gulf.

I can see this argument, but couldn't Pakistan already do this? I assume their missiles could reach the gulf. Ditto India.

Besides, Gulf oil states have one extremely important interest that sort of dictates all other policy decisions:

Getting their oil to market. They want to sell the stuff to us. That's how they make their money.

Even if those states had nukes, they'd want to sell their oil.

Then how on earth can anyone with any moral sense justify Obama's decision to keep on someone who may be implicated in torture, and who has done nothing to cleanse the US military of those who were responsible for the torture of prisoners?

If Obama wanted to address torture in such a way, he would have. Obviously he does not. Given that lack of interest, keeping Gates was a good idea for the reasons that I enumerated. Reasons that I think, ultimately, trump.

Preemptive or preventative (or preventive)?

My understanding was that preemptive war was uncontroversial, being an attack that preempts a known, immediate threat of attack by an enemy. I thought preventive (preventative?) war was the problem with the "Bush Doctrine", which allows for attacking based on the mere suspicion of a potential, future threat. (Or something like that)

Good point HSH. I'm going to stick an ed note in the text to acknowledge.

I can see this argument, but couldn't Pakistan already do this? I assume their missiles could reach the gulf. Ditto India.

Sure, and so could France, China, UK, Russia, or Israel.

But I think our calculus is that they are less likely to for their own strategic reasons, and it is too late to close the barn door on them in any event.

Iraq and Iran did threaten shipping during their own war necessitating the reflagging of Kuwaiti ships to US so we could protect them, and Iran as I understand it currently has significant conventional missiles arrayed to do so again as a retaliatory measure for a US strike.

I think that if Iraq had nukes when it invaded Kuwait, it is not likely that we would have tried to kick them out.

Where once it took a concerted effort by OPEC to strangle oil importing countries, nukes could effectively give that power to one country, by closing shipping, and threatening neighbors in a way that the West would be less able to prevent or stop.

Where once it took a concerted effort by OPEC to strangle oil importing countries, nukes could effectively give that power to one country, by closing shipping, and threatening neighbors in a way that the West would be less able to prevent or stop.

Give that power how? If that's an attractive option, why haven't other nearby nuke powers tried it? You say it's not in their strategic interests, but why would it be in either Iraq's or Iran's?

And that's the point.

Nukes don't seem to have emboldened the territorial expansion of China, NoKo, Russia/USSR, and other nuke states. I don't see this as different.

Give that power how? If that's an attractive option, why haven't other nearby nuke powers tried it? You say it's not in their strategic interests, but why would it be in either Iraq's or Iran's?

I imagine that the concern is mostly fear, rather than anything about Iran as currently situated. For example, a big fear with Pakistan's arsenal is not so much that the current government or Musharraf's regime would use them, but that Pakistan could fall to a radicalized Taliban type government that is much more luddite and willing to do things that we would not consider rational.

And they do threaten shipping currently as a defensive measure, but one that arguably prevents retaliation for its support of Hamas or Hezbolllah.

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran test-fired nine long- and medium-range missiles Wednesday during war games that officials said aimed to show the country can retaliate against any U.S. or Israeli attack, state television reported.
Oil prices jumped on news of the missile tests, rising US$1.44 to US$137.48 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The military exercise was being conducted at the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway at the mouth of the Persian Gulf through which about 40 percent of the world's oil passes. Iran has threatened to shut down traffic in the strait if attacked. It was not clear, however, whether the missile test also took place near the strait.

Nukes don't seem to have emboldened the territorial expansion of China, NoKo, Russia/USSR, and other nuke states. I don't see this as different.

I don't think I agree with this. While China and Russia also have or had huge conventional force capacity that allowed expansion into Tibet, Afghanistan, Georgia,or reentry into Czechoslavakia, I think had the US been the sole nuclear armed force, those things might have been deterred.

And I think US force is used much more because we have nukes to back up our forces (ie, Bush I telling Saddam that if he used chemical or bio weapons, we would retaliate with nukes). Do you think we would be as bellicose as we are if we did not have nukes?

Do you think we would be as bellicose as we are if we did not have nukes?

You make a good point, but I think you answered your own question with reference to the size of the conventional forces. Frex, I don't think we would have gone to war with Russia over Georgia if they didn't have nukes. They still have lots of things that go bang. Ditto China.

Besides, they could bank on our reluctance to use nukes. After all, Saddam invaded Kuwait despite the nuke situation, right?

Further, didn't the Soviets expand during the brief window when we were the only nuke power? After we had just dropped a couple to boot?

But point made: It would complicate matters and have negative effects in some ways. I just don't see it as justifying war, especially when all the costs are considered.

I think Gates agrees. Thankfully (not that you don't)

And they do threaten shipping currently as a defensive measure, but one that arguably prevents retaliation for its support of Hamas or Hezbolllah.

Sure, but that's mostly defensive. The Hamas/Hez backing would be a tenuous casus belli with or without nukes or threats to the Gulf.

Hamas became a force long before the first penny (rial?) from Iran came to them. In fact, Iran's backing is a relatively new phenomenon. As for Hez, it is first and foremost a domestic Lebanese phenomenon.

Even if Iran cut off support for each group, they would still continue to exist and would not wither.

Eric: If Obama wanted to address torture in such a way, he would have. Obviously he does not. Given that lack of interest , keeping Gates was a good idea for the reasons that I enumerated. Reasons that I think, ultimately, trump.

Acknowledgement that you have no moral sense?

A little harsh, Jes, but I was startled myself. It's okay to overlook torture because of some supposed political cover that Gates gives Obama? I assume I'm reading this wrong, but that's how it sounded.

The thing is, Donald, I don't actually think that Eric has no moral sense.

I'm just at a loss to explain how people who certainly seemed to have a moral sense set aside the torture of prisoners by the US military as something too trivial to be referred to in discussing Obama's political behaviour with regard to the US military, intelligence received by the US military - where in the past the US government obtained information by torturing prisoners - and the US's relationship with other countries - from whom the US has taken prisoners who have been tortured. When discussing the US's relationship with Pakistan, the Pakistani government was complicit in kidnapping and handing to the US military prisoners who would be tortured in Bagram Airbase and Guantanamo Bay.

Yet we're somehow not supposed to consider the US military's practice of torturing prisoners, because it does not suit Obama politically to consider it either. That Obama has political reasons to prefer that US torture is not discussed in public, is clear: is that by itself a valid reason just to let the issue of the US military's torture and murder of prisoners drop?

First of all, this post was not meant to address torture. My posts discussing torture...address torture.

There are several aspects of America's foreign policy/military posture that are not addressed in this post. One should not leap to all sorts of conclusions by such absence.

While it offends my moral sense that torture has not been investigated or punished, I am saying that if Obama chooses to go down that less than ideal path, Gates is a good choice.

Further, if I had to choose between cutting funding at the DOD, rebalancing the State/DOD portfolios and withdrawing from Iraq without a high political cost/enormous bureaucratic resistance on the one hand, and a thorough investigation of torture on the other, I'd probably choose the latter.

Not because I lack moral sense, but because I appreciate the art of the possible and, ultimately, consider the former to have at least as much moral heft.

Finally, it is of the utmost importance that Obama has ceased the practice of torture - or so that is my understanding. If that is not the case, then I will most certainly highlight that morally repugnant behavior.

"We have dealt with hostile or semi-hostile nuclear states such as the USSR, Mao's China, North Korea, Pakistan and others."

Just to be ultra nitpickey, I'm pretty sure we haven't dealt with "others" who have been "hostile or semi-hostile." You've named all those that have or have had actual nuclear weapons.

South Africa briefly had nuclear weapons, but we weren't mutually hostile, or even "semi-hostile" by any reasonable definition. France: not so hostile or semi-hostile. Ditto Britain. Ditto India. Neither was Pakistan "semi-hostile" to the U.S., incidentally. Neither Israel. And that's it for nuclear-armed states.

Maybe you're thinking of the fact that Libya had a very limited development program, and one can debate whether Syria has or does, but neither has been a "nuclear state."

As I said: just a tiny nitpick.

"Nukes don't seem to have emboldened the territorial expansion of China, NoKo, Russia/USSR, and other nuke states."

It emboldened the U.S.S.R to enable the security of Cuba by the deal to withdraw their nukes, fwiw.

"I don't think I agree with this. While China and Russia also have or had huge conventional force capacity that allowed expansion into Tibet, Afghanistan, Georgia,or reentry into Czechoslavakia"

Also, Hungary in 1956. On the other hand, it's an open question whether the U.S. government could have credibly threatened to use nukes against a non-nuclear-armed USSR. But since that's not really a realistic alternative universe -- there's just no way for the Soviet Union to not have reinvented nuclear weapons, even if we assume none of their spies had been successfull -- it just would have happened a handful of years later -- it's a pretty abstract point.

Correction: I should have said "former" rather than "latter"

"Further, didn't the Soviets expand during the brief window when we were the only nuke power?"

Not really. The territorial gains the Soviet Union made in 1945 were while the war with Germany was still ongoing. After that, they forced millions of people into "population transfers," but actual boundaries weren't changed significantly beyond either where Soviet troops had moved, or subsequent treaties left them. The Potsdam Conference ended on August 2nd of 1945, and we didn't drop the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki until August 6th and 9th, although Truman informed Stalin of a "new weapon," and Stalin of course knew that the bomb had been developed. But we weren't in a position to bomb the Soviet Union at the time, even if for some reason the U.S. government decided it wanted to. And it was at Potsdam that the last significant border changes happened/were agreed to.

One could argue that our nukes didn't deter the Berlin blockade in 1948, for whatever that's worth.

First of all, this post was not meant to address torture.

I understood that. What I was asking was why you don't consider it important, when considering Bush's Defense Secretary, to address the issue of US military torture in the Bush regime, continuing under Obama? Just answering "I didn't mean to consider torture" is a tautology: it is not a reply.

There are several aspects of America's foreign policy/military posture that are not addressed in this post.

True. There is also the issue of the extra-judicial kidnapping and imprisonment in gulags, and the use of US military to run the gulags and in some instances to carry out the kidnappings. This relates to the use of torture, obviously, but is another aspect.

But the fact that the US military tortures prisoners is a fact that colors all other aspects of the US military. Torturing prisoners is against so many international laws and conventions that the US military has put itself outside their reach. That Obama shows no interest whatsoever in enforcing those laws and conventions on the US military, as was indicated from November when he announced he would keep on Bush's Defense Secretary, is something that will color US posturing about foreign policy/military use for years to come.

While it offends my moral sense that torture has not been investigated or punished, I am saying that if Obama chooses to go down that less than ideal path, Gates is a good choice.

You know, you could have said that on your front page post? Acknowledge at least that praising Obama for his decision to keep Gates on is praising Obama for choosing to condone torture. You may think of this merely as a "less than ideal path"... I'm not sure what that says about your moral sense, but at least if you know it, you can say it. One reason at least, I think, why Obama thinks he can get away with not having torture investigated and those responsible tortured, is that he's sure that US military torture of foreign prisoners is just not that important to most Americans: he'll lose no popularity if he doesn't. Judging by you and Hilzoy's willingness to forgive and praise him for this, he's quite right

Finally, it is of the utmost importance that Obama has ceased the practice of torture - or so that is my understanding. If that is not the case, then I will most certainly highlight that morally repugnant behavior.

Prisoners were still being tortured at Guantanamo Bay in February, as we have from the direct report of Binyam Mohammed when he was released to the UK. Obama has made clear that his intention is to move prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to Bagram Airbase, where torture and murder may more readily be carried out. Given Obama's failure to stop having prisoners tortured in Guantanamo Bay when he took office, given his failure to regard torture as an important issue when selecting cabinet members, what makes you think Obama's ever going to cease the practice of torture?

Further, if I had to choose between cutting funding at the DOD, rebalancing the State/DOD portfolios and withdrawing from Iraq without a high political cost/enormous bureaucratic resistance on the one hand, and a thorough investigation of torture on the other, I'd probably choose the latter.

Well, one: what makes you think you have to choose? This is what perennially confuses me about the attachment to Gates: anyone would think he was the literally only special snowflake in the whole of the United States who could possibly be Secretary of Defense and carry out Obama's policies.

Well, one: what makes you think you have to choose? This is what perennially confuses me about the attachment to Gates: anyone would think he was the literally only special snowflake in the whole of the United States who could possibly be Secretary of Defense and carry out Obama's policies.

Well, who else would have unassailable bipartisan credentials because of a Republican pedigree, the support of the Pentagon bureaucracy, on the job experience, the ability to hit the ground running, no need to disrupt command, was also willing to seriously take on the defense budget, withdraw from Iraq, repudiate neocon foreign policy, voluntarily cede power to State, etc?

If you can present a viable alternative, I'll endorse that candidate and rue the selection of Gates.

Prisoners were still being tortured at Guantanamo Bay in February, as we have from the direct report of Binyam Mohammed when he was released to the UK. Obama has made clear that his intention is to move prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to Bagram Airbase, where torture and murder may more readily be carried out. Given Obama's failure to stop having prisoners tortured in Guantanamo Bay when he took office, given his failure to regard torture as an important issue when selecting cabinet members, what makes you think Obama's ever going to cease the practice of torture?

I was unaware of February torture. Do you have a link?

But the fact that the US military tortures prisoners is a fact that colors all other aspects of the US military.

It is my understanding that this sentence is incorrect in so much as it is written in the present tense.

You know, you could have said that on your front page post? Acknowledge at least that praising Obama for his decision to keep Gates on is praising Obama for choosing to condone torture.

I don't think condone is the right word. So, no, I won't acknowledge a fallacy.

Any future president is "going to ask a lot of very hard questions and I think that hurdle is much higher today than it was six or seven years ago," he said.

No, sorry, that won't do. What's being suggested here is that Iraq amounted to a failure to "ask hard questions." In reality, as we know, the answers to those questions were already out there, but they were ignored, and quite deliberately so. Eric, do you honestly believe for one second that Cheney & Bush would have backed off on attacking Iraq if only they'd had "better information"?

This strikes me as more of a skillfully applied coat of whitewash than a refreshing dose of honesty, and I'm frankly stunned to see you quoting it approvingly.

Well, who else would have unassailable bipartisan credentials because of a Republican pedigree

Huh? Are you seriously suggesting, after the past 8 years, that having a "Republican pedigree" and "bipartisan credentials" ought to be considered an advantage in running Defense? Well, evidently, you are... Wow.

the support of the Pentagon bureaucracy

Does the US have civilian control of the military or doesn't it? If it does, Obama doesn't need the support of the military bureaucracy...

, on the job experience, the ability to hit the ground running

Isn't that what the unusually long transition period between election and transfer of power is supposed to be for?

, no need to disrupt command

In a democracy with civilian, elected, control of the military, the military should bloody well be able to deal with a new Defense Secretary when there's a new President. Of course, the more you and Hilzoy defend Obama's retention of Gates, the less the US sounds like such a country...

, was also willing to seriously take on the defense budget, withdraw from Iraq, repudiate neocon foreign policy, voluntarily cede power to State, etc?

Again: is the US a democracy with civilian control of the military, or isn't it? If, as the duly elected President and Commander in Chief, Obama has the right to appoint anyone he pleases to serve as Secretary of Defense and they serve at the pleasure of the President, anyone he appoints should be willing to carry out his policies.

If you can present a viable alternative, I'll endorse that candidate and rue the selection of Gates.

Give me access to the information resources Obama had in November 2008, and I'll find you someone. If Obama had wanted to find a replacement for Gates, he could have: I decline to believe that in the whole of the US, there was no one who was at least 10 years out of military service who was fit to serve as Defense Secretary, except Gates.

I was unaware of February torture. Do you have a link?

Multiple. It's not exactly a secret. It's just of no interest to Americans, apparently.

Example, from Amnesty International, 9th February 2009:

Lakhdar Boumediene, who has been held in Guantánamo for more than seven years after being seized in Bosnia and Herzegovina in January 2002, has been on hunger strike since December 2006. Although he initially resisted being force-fed, he ceased to do so when his immediate release was ordered by a federal judge on 20 November 2008. However, Lakhdar Boumediene recently informed his lawyers that he nonetheless continues to be strapped into a restraint chair for each of the twice-daily force-feeding sessions. His wrists, torso and ankles are restrained, his head is forced back and tied, his mouth is gagged and a thick nasal tube is inserted in one of his nostrils. He has told his lawyers that the tube is often mistakenly inserted in his windpipe or lung. However, because of the gag, he is unable to inform the nurse when this happens. On 30 January, after Lakhdar Boumediene had protested being weighed as part of the force-feeding procedure, he was taken from his cell and moved to an undisclosed location at the Guantánamo detention facility. His lawyers have not spoken with him in three weeks and are extremely concerned about his health.
(If you are about to argue that force-feeding prisoners is not torture, I invite you to reconsider: in 2006, a group of 270 doctors from around the world made a formal protest to the US government against the practice of force-feeding (cite). The practice of strapping a prisoner into a chair (for hours, so Binyam Mohammed reports), gagging him, and pushing a too-large tube down his nose into his stomach, was condemned by the Royal College of Physicians in the UK: "In England, this would be a criminal act." Sometimes the tube misses the stomach and ends up in the prisoner's lung: the prisoner is gagged, and so has no means of telling the person pushing the tube into his nose that it's gone the wrong way. If you think this isn't torture, Eric, have the courage of the people who claimed waterboarding wasn't torture, and get someone to do it to you.)

It is my understanding that this sentence is incorrect in so much as it is written in the present tense.

Really? Exactly where is your evidence from an independent inquiry or independent observers that no one is now being tortured at Bagram Airbase - which is being expanded, at Obama's order, and which remains a prison to which even the Red Cross do not have access?

The US soldiers staffing Guantanamo Bay, as confident as I am that Obama will neither launch an investigation nor tolerate any serious attempt to prosecute, haven't quit torturing prisoners since Obama was elected - in fact, according to at least one lawyer, they've stepped up abuse because the prison is being closed down soon (The Telegraph, February 25th):

Ahmed Ghappour, a British-American lawyer with Reprieve, a legal charity that represents 31 detainees at Guantanamo, said that beatings, the dislocation of limbs, spraying of pepper spray into closed cells, applying pepper spray to toilet paper and over-force-feeding detainees who are on hunger strike had increased.

Global Research also asserts (March 9th) that conditions in Guantanamo Bay remain unchanged.

Inmates "live in constant fear of physical violence," and anything or nothing may trigger it. Attacks are frequent, violent and spontaneous. One example was as follows after a minor provocation. Guards accused an inmate of attacking them. He did not. They left him in a "recreation" cage as punishment. He fell asleep on the floor, then was awakened by an IRF team in the dark. They shackled and beat him, blocked his nose and mouth to create an asphyxiation effect, hit him repeatedly in the ribs and head, and caused serious injuries. Back in his cell, a guard urinated on his head.

Another inmate described painful forced feedings to hunger strikers, constant IRF cell intrusions inflicting "cruelty, beatings and bodily torture....the administration is giving the soldiers all the authority to practice violence against us....we are in very bad condition, suffering from aggression, beatings and IRF teams, as well as the inability to sleep except for a few hours."

After years of torture and deprivation, some prisoners want to die. In the words of one: "I'm in despair right now and I don't know what to do. I'm going crazy."

I don't think condone is the right word.

Okay. What is the right word to describe Obama's decision to ignore the US military's torture of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, to accept yet another Pentagon self-report that everything there is humane and A-OK, to announce he was closing down Guantanamo Bay but was expanding Bagram Airbase and shipping prisoners there (Moazzam Begg said, after his release, that Bagram Airbase was so awful he actually was relieved when he heard he was going to Guantanamo Bay, even though he knew where and what it was), and to make clear that there will be no independent investigation of torture, no prosecution of torturers? What is your word for that, if not "condoning"?

Huh? Are you seriously suggesting, after the past 8 years, that having a "Republican pedigree" and "bipartisan credentials" ought to be considered an advantage in running Defense? Well, evidently, you are... Wow.

Are you seriously suggesting that you can't manage basic reading comprehension. What I wrote - REPEATEDLY TO YOU ON THIS SUBJECT BTW! - is that those bipartisan credentials are an advantage because they provide Obama the cover to take on the Pentagon Budget and shift the internal balance, and overall defense posture.

Are you seriously ignorant as to the way the media and the political game works? Are you seriously ignorant of the advantages of bipartisan cover?

I'm not saying that I'm happy that's the way things are, or that that's how things ought to be. But, alas, they are. Bipartisan cover has value. It's really not that controversial or esoteric a concept. Basic really.

Does the US have civilian control of the military or doesn't it? If it does, Obama doesn't need the support of the military bureaucracy...

Are you seriously ignorant as to how bureaucracies can push back against their putatitive heads of state? Even in democracies. That's shocking to me. You seem smarter than that.

In a democracy with civilian, elected, control of the military, the military should bloody well be able to deal with a new Defense Secretary when there's a new President. Of course, the more you and Hilzoy defend Obama's retention of Gates, the less the US sounds like such a country...

Of course we could deal with a change. That's not the point. The point is that - given two ongoing wars and a looming budget battle and an urgent need to rebalance State and DOD - it helps to have continuity and zero learning curve.

Isn't that what the unusually long transition period between election and transfer of power is supposed to be for?

In theory, not practice.

Again: is the US a democracy with civilian control of the military, or isn't it? If, as the duly elected President and Commander in Chief, Obama has the right to appoint anyone he pleases to serve as Secretary of Defense and they serve at the pleasure of the President, anyone he appoints should be willing to carry out his policies.

Sure, but you left out the bipartisan cover part. And the Pentagon support. And the other intangibles that would help Gates to achieve the goals that Obama has set. Anyone can follow orders, but changing entrenched and monied bureaucracies is exceedingly difficult even when you are ordered to do so. They're entrenched for a reason. There are ways for those bureaucracies to leak, kick up dust, garner favor in friendly media outlets to print scandalous material, etc.

I decline to believe that in the whole of the US, there was no one who was at least 10 years out of military service who was fit to serve as Defense Secretary, except Gates.

Jeez Jes, it just seems like you're deliberately being obtuse. Of course there were other qualified choices, but my argument is that Gates brings several qualities that are hard to find (unique in some instances), and that at this juncture, those qualities coupled with continuity and seamless transition are valuable.

I asked you to find someone with those intangibles.

If you think this isn't torture, Eric, have the courage of the people who claimed waterboarding wasn't torture, and get someone to do it to you.

As to the issue of force feeding, that is an interesting question as to whether or not it's torture. It's certainly not designed to punish the detainee, nor as a means to interrogate, but to feed him/her so that they don't starve to death. I tend to think that a detainee should be allowed to make the decision not to eat, but I'm not sure it's torture in this setting where a jailer has obligations to the jailed.

FWIW, I was in a coma once for an extended period of time and had feeding tubes inserted in me. And a cathater inserted up the tube of my, um, junk. The cathater was definitely torture. At least, the removal was.

at least one lawyer, they've stepped up abuse because the prison is being closed down soon

These are very disturbing reports. If true, Obama has no excuse for not cracking down on this immediately. Very disappointing. I can only hope that he gets on this now.

Eric, do you honestly believe for one second that Cheney & Bush would have backed off on attacking Iraq if only they'd had "better information"?

This strikes me as more of a skillfully applied coat of whitewash than a refreshing dose of honesty, and I'm frankly stunned to see you quoting it approvingly.

First of all, I didn't quote this bit because of its value as refreshing honesty. I agree with you that there is some whitewashing going on there. What I liked about it was the scuttling of the Bush doctrine.

Gates isn't just saying "better information." Another part that I quoted:

I think that the barrier first of all will be are we going to be attacked here at home. As one of the thresholds," he said. "And then the quality of intelligence would be another.

"Are we going to be attacked here" is a repudiation of preventive war. It returns us to the imminent threat standard that would rule out Iraq, as well as attacks on Iran and Syria (barring unforseen changes in their capacity and willingness to threaten us).

No, I don't think a future Bush/Cheney ticket would feel constrained by Gates' paradigm, but that's the way things work: different administration's apply different standards.

Further, I don't think Bush/Cheney would have backed off with better information, but there likely would have been more pushback from Congress, the media and the general population.

And going forward, those entities will be more skeptical and demanding of better information, and our leaders will know that - even future Bush/Cheneys (at least, that will be the state of affairs until amnesia works its magic somewhere down the road).

is that those bipartisan credentials are an advantage because they provide Obama the cover to take on the Pentagon Budget and shift the internal balance, and overall defense posture.

So you're still asserting that the US does not, in fact, have democratic, civilian control of the military - that Obama does not, merely because he is President of the United States, have the power to do these things?

Of course there were other qualified choices, but my argument is that Gates brings several qualities that are hard to find (unique in some instances),

If I concede the point to you that the US military is not under civilian control, you're right. Is that the point you wish me to concede?

and that at this juncture, those qualities coupled with continuity and seamless transition are valuable.

Because continuity and seamless transition are so important to the people being tortured by the US military, and to the torturers. Yes.

As to the issue of force feeding, that is an interesting question as to whether or not it's torture. It's certainly not designed to punish the detainee, nor as a means to interrogate, but to feed him/her so that they don't starve to death. I tend to think that a detainee should be allowed to make the decision not to eat, but I'm not sure it's torture in this setting where a jailer has obligations to the jailed.

Wow. You really do sound like a Bush apologist, now. So, you say it's not torture: Amnesty International and other human rights organizations disagree with you: 270 physicians at least disagree with you; but, just as Charles Bird was certain his President wasn't condoning torture, so are you. Nice.

These are very disturbing reports. If true, Obama has no excuse for not cracking down on this immediately. Very disappointing. I can only hope that he gets on this now.

Why should he? Using you and Hilzoy as barometers of well-informed, liberal Americans who like Obama, well-informed, liberal Americans who like Obama don't care enough about Obama cracking down on torture to link Obama's condoning torture with Obama's determination to have a "seamless transition" with the Bush regime military. That seamless transition includes the condoning of what soldiers were allowed and ordered to do - of necessity, as I pointed out back in November:

Obama cannot afford to begin a major investigation of what the Bush regime allowed the military to do, because Obama wanted to keep the Bush regime's military operating as usual under his own regime. And you support this and think it's a good thing.

If you've changed your mind about how good it is Obama kept Gates on, then say so on the front page. But if you're just trying to kid yourself you have a sense of moral values about torture... ask yourself who you're kidding?


Jes, half a loaf (or even a quarter of a loaf) is better than none. What do you imagine a President McCain would have done about torture and Gitmo? Perhaps even less than Obama has done. And he certainly would not have repudiated the Bush doctrine or kicked the neocons out of government.

You seem to be insisting that if Obama does not achieve a perfect human rights record, then nothing else he does has any value. Morally, you may be right. But in the real world of actions and consequences, Eric (and many others) are encouraged by the fact that the Obama administration seems to be heading in a sane direction on foreign and military policy.

Again, the choice U.S. voters faced in November 2008 was not between John McCain and Jesus Christ. It was between John McCain and Barack Obama, a centrist Democrat who did not promise to end the American empire. So which would you have chosen?

Wow. You really do sound like a Bush apologist, now. So, you say it's not torture: Amnesty International and other human rights organizations disagree with you:

Really?:

"In December 6, 2006, the UN War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague approved the use of force-feeding of Serbian politician Vojislav Šešelj. They decided it was not "torture, inhuman or degrading treatment if there is a medical necessity to do so...and if the manner in which the detainee is force-fed is not inhuman or degrading""

So, the UN War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague is an apologist for Bush?

The reason that I said that it's an interesting question is because human rights groups disagree. For example, you say Amnesty says it's torture, but Amnesty disagrees with you:

Amnesty International neither opposes nor recommends forcible feeding of
prisoners on hunger strike. However, if forcible feeding is done in such a way
as deliberately to cause suffering, Amnesty International considers that this
may constitute torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

So, it's an interesting question and depends on the means of implementation.

So you're still asserting that the US does not, in fact, have democratic, civilian control of the military - that Obama does not, merely because he is President of the United States, have the power to do these things?

So you're still ignoring my actual argument?

If I concede the point to you that the US military is not under civilian control, you're right. Is that the point you wish me to concede?

I wish you to come to grips with the fact that the industrial/military complex that Eisenhower warned about is real. Eisenhower wasn't imagining things, nor was he saying that there was no longer civilian control. It's not black and white. Said complex has power, and can push back on certain fronts and exact political costs on those that want to curtail some of its power.

That does not mean that there isn't civilian control. It just means that the bureaucracy has power to push back, and it's better to minimize that push back when attempting to make such changes.

Because continuity and seamless transition are so important to the people being tortured by the US military, and to the torturers. Yes.

No. They're important to getting out of Iraq, attacking the Pentagon budget, etc.

But if you're just trying to kid yourself you have a sense of moral values about torture... ask yourself who you're kidding?

Sigh. Jes, you're the purest person I've ever come in contact with.

ThirdGorchBro, if you're trying to set up straw men:

No, duh, I think President McCain would have been even worse than President Obama, not only on the issue of torture and extra-judicial imprisonment, but on any issue you care to name. And as for President Palin... words fail me.

But so what? Obama won, and got to take office. For how long should Obama's failures go uncriticized because everyone who is at all sane is deeply grateful it's not Palin and the McCain running the show?

You seem to be insisting that if Obama does not achieve a perfect human rights record, then nothing else he does has any value.

No. I seem to be insisting that Obama has done nothing to stop torture of prisoners by the US military; and I also seem to be pointing out that this was predictable (at least, I predicted it) back in November when Obama decided he'd stick with Bush's Secretary of Defense.

But in the real world of actions and consequences, Eric (and many others) are encouraged by the fact that the Obama administration seems to be heading in a sane direction on foreign and military policy.

Is it possible to have a sane foreign and military policy while running extra-judicial gulags in which the military tortures prisoners?

I have no idea. The Bush regime did not find it possible, but they were insane all over the shop.

But it's a valid question: how far are Obama's fine words and sane intentions undercut, around the world, by his support (at least, by his condoning) of the Bush regime's policies on torture and imprisonment? Nobody right now has the answer. But Eric does not, apparently, even want to ask the question.

"If Obama had wanted to find a replacement for Gates, he could have: I decline to believe that in the whole of the US, there was no one who was at least 10 years out of military service who was fit to serve as Defense Secretary, except Gates."

"Fit" and "politically advantageous" are not the same thing.

I wish you to come to grips with the fact that the industrial/military complex that Eisenhower warned about is real. Eisenhower wasn't imagining things, nor was he saying that there was no longer civilian control. It's not black and white. Said complex has power, and can push back on certain fronts and exact political costs on those that want to curtail some of its power.

In a way, I think Jes has come to grips with that. I mean, if the issue is not black and white, then it is gray, and we're perfectly capable of saying that dark dark gray is, in practice, a good approximation of black. Talking about how things aren't black and white but are really gray seems to avoid the more pressing question: to what extent do you think the MI complex has degraded civilian control of the military in practice? Practically speaking, I don't see much difference between "eliminated control" and "substantially degraded control." Do you?

I probably shouldn't push too deeply since Eric is at least willing to acknowledge the notion that civilian control of the military requires more from the military than refraining from launching coups.

So, it's an interesting question and depends on the means of implementation

...and how many links to the Amnesty International site on the force-feeding of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay do I need to provide before you notice that Amnesty International says that the US military's forcefeeding of prisoners constitutes torture?

Because I will provide that many links, if you'll just indicate a number that will overcome the weight of your wish to disbelieve that the US military is still torturing prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, at least up until February by direct report.

So you're still ignoring my actual argument?

I'm still not seeing how your actual argument amounts to anything more than a detailed justification of how the US military is not under democratically-elected civilian control.

They're important to getting out of Iraq, attacking the Pentagon budget, etc.

Attacking the Pentagon budget, I absolutely believe: that the US military has no wish to withdraw from Iraq and would obstruct to the end any orders to do so, I do not believe.

That you find it "pure" to oppose torture - and apparently see it as a bad thing - I find inexplicable. Maybe I've just been an Amnesty International member too long...

From the Amnesty International website:February 25, 2009

However, Amnesty International continues to receive reports of ill-treatment of detainees, including reports of beatings and cruel methods of force feeding. Some detainees, for example, have alleged they were beaten for resisting being force-fed and that some had tubes inserted through their noses without anaesthetic, claims which the Review Team did not substantiate.

The discrepancies in accounts given by lawyers for the detainees and detainees themselves, including those recently released, and the findings of the Review Team who spoke mainly to military leaders and staff, underscore the need for ongoing independent scrutiny of the facility, including independent oversight and scrutiny of internal military police investigations of abuses, and access from independent experts, including medical experts and human rights bodies.

February 20, 2009

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in English or your own language:

- welcoming President Obama's decision to close the Guantánamo detention facility and noting the review he ordered into the conditions in which the detainees are held;

- however, expressing serious concern at reports that Guantánamo detainees on hunger strike have been force-fed in a manner which may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; and at reports of the use of excessive force during cell extractions of hunger strikers, and the blanket use of the restraint chair;

- calling for all the detainees who have participated, or who continue to participate in the hunger strike, to be given immediate access to adequate medical care and treatment;

- calling on the US authorities to include the methods of force-feeding in their ongoing review of the conditions of detention at Guantánamo and to ensure that all detainees are treated in accordance with all applicable international law and standards;

- calling for all the Guantánamo detainees to be immediately released unless they are promptly charged with a recognizably criminal offence and tried in full accordance with international standards for fair trial in US federal courts.


APPEALS TO:

The Honorable Robert M. Gates, US Secretary of Defense,

1000 Defense Pentagon, Washington DC 20301, USA

Fax: +1 703 571 8951

Salutation: Dear Secretary of Defense


The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Attorney General, US Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20530-0001, USA

Fax: +1 202 307 6777

Email: [email protected]

Salutation: Dear Attorney General


Admiral Patrick M. Walsh, Department of the Navy, 2000 Navy Pentagon,

Washington, D.C. 20350-2000, USA

Email: via website

Salutation: Dear Admiral

Please let me know how many more links/cites it will take to convince you that although you are sure the US military isn't torturing prisoners by strapping them into a chair for several hours, gagging them, pushing a tube down the nose, and over-feeding them the liquid food, Amnesty International is not.

I'm still not seeing how your actual argument amounts to anything more than a detailed justification of how the US military is not under democratically-elected civilian control.

So you're still not understanding my argument.

Please let me know how many more links/cites it will take to convince you that although you are sure the US military isn't torturing prisoners by strapping them into a chair for several hours, gagging them, pushing a tube down the nose, and over-feeding them the liquid food, Amnesty International is not.

First of all, stop lying. It's beneath you. I did not say I was "sure" that we aren't torturing prisoners through force feeding. I EXPLICITLY said that it was tough question. Hence, UNCERTAIN. NOT SURE.

Please provide a quote of me saying that I am sure. You won't because you can't because you made that up. Bravo.

As for the link, Amnesty is not saying what you say they are. They are saying that they have received reports that require investigating.

Further, the method employed to do the force feeding may amount to torture by being unnecessarily cruel - if the reports are accurate.

But Amnesty certainly does not say that Amnesty holds the position that force feeding prisoners is torture per se, which was your original claim that I refuted.

Nor is Amnesty even saying that we are torturing prisoners currently by force feeding them. What Amnesty said is that there are reports that may indicate that the means by which we are implementing force feeding may amount to torture.

Again, not black/white although that seems to confound you to no end.

Any future president is "going to ask a lot of very hard questions and I think that hurdle is much higher today than it was six or seven years ago," he [Gates] said.

And he knows this, exactly, how? We just got finished with a President who, for eight long years, never, ever asked “a lot of very hard questions.” When the fate of the world hangs on the good intentions of a single elected American official, I think we’re all in big trouble.

I'm still not seeing how your actual argument amounts to anything more than a detailed justification of how the US military is not under democratically-elected civilian control.

I hate to sound like I'm piling on, but I think you are being deliberately obtuse here, Jes. Let's be clear: Obama is the commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces, and if he issues an order to immediately close Gitmo and release all detainees, that order will be obeyed. The same as if he issues an order to end the don't ask-don't tell policy, or to immediately cease all combat operations in Iraq, or whatever the cause-du-jour is.

However, there is a political cost to issuing any of those orders, and no President has unlimited political capital. Obama has made a political calculation that retaining Gates as SecDef will give him more political capital to spend on achieving the very important goals he has for American military and foreign policy. He has made a political calculation that a gradual withdrawal from Iraq is better than precipitate retreat, and he has made a political calculation that immediate war crimes investigations of the Bush Admin. and the military are not currently in his best interest if he wants to achieve his other various domestic and foreign policy goals. He is the commander-in-chief of the military, but he is not a dictator and he has to take political costs into account if he wants to do anything else besides punishing Bush admin crimes.

You asked: how far are Obama's fine words and sane intentions undercut, around the world, by his support (at least, by his condoning) of the Bush regime's policies on torture and imprisonment? And it's a fair question, since Obama must also take world opinion into account in achieving his goals. But, to be blunt, world opinion has much less ability to force a U.S. President's hand than domestic U.S. opinion, as expressed through Congress.

Give him some time, is all I'm saying. The fact that Obama is not immediately ending/investigating Bush's abuses does not mean that he won't do so in the future. You may not like the fact that he has to make these kinds of political calculations, but you should at least acknowledge their reality, rather than spout offensive rhetoric about the U.S. military not being under civilian control.

However, there is a political cost to issuing any of those orders, and no President has unlimited political capital.

What precisely is the source of that political cost? Political costs don't simply materialize from the ether: they arise because some group of people does something. So, if you think that political costs would arise because active duty officers would conspire together to strategically leak information to the press so as to politically undermine the President, well, I'm not sure how effective civilian control is. I mean, if Odierno and Petreus and their buddies all call reporters and start lying about the expected results of the President's policy, all on background, the President doesn't really have effective control now does he?

If the military follows all the President's orders to the letter but deliberately drags its feet on orders it doesn't like, do we still have civilian control? If the President asks for military advice on different policy proposals, do we still have effective control if the military brass exaggerate the costs of proposals they dislike and exaggerate the benefits of proposals they like? Doing so could really hamstring the President in Congress...

You may not like the fact that he has to make these kinds of political calculations, but you should at least acknowledge their reality, rather than spout offensive rhetoric about the U.S. military not being under civilian control.

I understand that keeping Gates on board provides serious political benefits. But what I don't understand is the refusal to acknowledge that degraded civilian control is a problem and that should be remedied. I accept that keeping Gates on was a good idea, but shouldn't we begin making changes so that future Presidents won't be dependent on the military for policy approval? Isn't that important if we want to reduce the power of the military industrial complex?

Further, I don't think Bush/Cheney would have backed off with better information, but there likely would have been more pushback from Congress, the media and the general population.

From your mouth to God's ear, Eric.

"The same as if he issues an order to end the don't ask-don't tell policy"

Small nitpick: he can't do that, because it's law; only Congress can do that.

I mostly agree with Jes here, though the argument is getting too heated between Eric and her. But there is evidence that torture continues under Obama, and if we had exactly the same evidence under a President McCain (who also said he was against torture), I suspect there'd be a stronger reaction about this from Obama supporters.

I think that the discussion of the DOD beauracracy political power is assuming that the active duty leaders would be the source of the pushback, rather than the entrenched civilians that hold a lot of the power and also have a lot more riding on the continuity of that power. For the most part, the military members still rotates in and out of their positions every 2 to 4 years, whereas the civilians running long term programs are there for a career.

Civilian control is not simply the Commander in Chief, but the Secretary of Defense, under secretaries, assistant secretaries, deputy secretaries, secretary of the various branches, Directors, program managers, etc.

The Department of Defense has civilian control in depth, and this is as likely to be a source of friction for the administration as the military leaders.

DJ: I don't disagree with that. The allegations of torture are extremely disturbing, and yes, they would probably be receiving more ink from libs if it were McCain.

That was not my disagreement with Jes - and yes, I probably got a little flustered. It's just that I've explained this exact position on Gates to her a few weeks back on another thread that - like this one - felt like running around in circles while hitting myself on the head with a hammer. Or something.

And yet, we came to an agreement back then on what my argument is, and a few weeks later we're back to squares one through one thousand.

jrudkis: that is a very good point.

Also: The push back will be from the industrial half of the military/industrial complex as well.

There's a lot of money out there in arms manufacturing, defense contracting, lobbying, etc.

Those people will be raising hell when there are moves to cut off the gravy train.

Good point by jkrudis about a lot of the "pushback" coming from civilian DOD bureaucracy, rather than uniformed personnel.

Also, Turb, if "no foot-dragging and no anonymous leaks" is your criteria for effective civilian control of the military, then I doubt there's a country in the world that can meet that standard. I guess we all live under disguised juntas, then.

I think that the discussion of the DOD beauracracy political power is assuming that the active duty leaders would be the source of the pushback, rather than the entrenched civilians that hold a lot of the power and also have a lot more riding on the continuity of that power. For the most part, the military members still rotates in and out of their positions every 2 to 4 years, whereas the civilians running long term programs are there for a career.

I'm sure the civilian side of the DOD house is also problematic, but my claims about the effectiveness of civil control over the uniformed military is based on the writings of people who have studied, well, the uniformed military. If you want to provide links showing that civilian DOD leaders are also causing problems, that's fine, but I'd appreciate it if you engaged with the case I'm making rather than just asserting that uniformed leaders couldn't possibly be doing anything problematic.

I refer you to Andrew Bacivech who wrote of the Clinton administration that "the dirty little secret of American civil-military relations, by no means unique to this administration, is that the commander-in-chief does not command the military establishment; he cajoles it, negotiates with it, and, as necessary, appeases it." Bacevich also wrote that in response to Clinton's policies on gays openly serving, there was a "near rebellion in the ranks, apparently condoned by senior uniformed officers".

Perhaps you might believe historian Richard Kohn who wrote that "The Joint Chiefs of Staff responded by resisting, floating rumors of their own and dozens of other resignations, encouraging their retired brethren to arouse congressional and public opposition, and then more or less openly negotiating a compromise with their commander in chief."

No, maybe I'm an ignorant person, but it seems like these descriptions are not compatible with effective civilian control of the military. Perhaps I was absent on the day in school where they explained how having the joint chiefs openly negotiate compromises with the President constituted acceptable civil-military relations.

The Department of Defense has civilian control in depth, and this is as likely to be a source of friction for the administration as the military leaders.

If you read the links above, I think you'll see that this "control in depth" didn't amount to much. I'm not sure why we should care about control that is so powerless.


Also, Turb, if "no foot-dragging and no anonymous leaks" is your criteria for effective civilian control of the military, then I doubt there's a country in the world that can meet that standard. I guess we all live under disguised juntas, then.

Have you ready my comments? The whole point is that you can have severely degraded civilian control of the military without suffering coups. Defining civilian control of the military as "lack of coups" is like defining a faithful spouse as one who refrains from shooting you in the head. Both elements are important parts of their respective definitions, but they're not the whole story.

Foot dragging and anonymous leaks by themselves aren't necessarily a problem. But when they are ideologically motivated, they can be. The Powell doctrine was used by the top brass to shut down or limit all manner of Clinton-era interventionism. But when we got a republican President, it literally disappeared. Frankly, I think either approach might be fine, but it can't change based on the President's party. That is madness.

Sorry to love and leave you: I am a glass and a half of wine and a rather nice meal to the good, and feel like mellowing out for the weekend.

I'll leave you human cockroaches to discuss your heroin and child pornography: I have business elsewhere with a better class of person.

Jes, I'm not a Republic serial villain. Do you seriously think I'd explain my master-stroke if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting its outcome? I did it thirty-five minutes ago.

jrudkis: "The Department of Defense has civilian control in depth, and this is as likely to be a source of friction for the administration as the military leaders."

Jes' recapitulation: "If you want to provide links showing that civilian DOD leaders are also causing problems, that's fine, but I'd appreciate it if you engaged with the case I'm making rather than just asserting that uniformed leaders couldn't possibly be doing anything problematic."

Res ipsa loquitur.

I think what Jes is saying is very important, and I'm not comfortable with Eric's response to the prisoner abuse that's apparently still going on... but I think Eric did make a very reasonable point that got lost early on in the argument:

If Obama wants to take decisive action to end torture, he can and will do so. At that point, if Gates agrees -- or isn't strongly committed to preserving the evil practices -- then he'll do his job and carry out the President's wishes. Otherwise he'll be replaced, or at least there'll be a struggle that we will definitely hear about.

And if Obama isn't willing to step up for this, then Gates certainly won't.

In comments like hers of 3:05 PM, Jes seems to be saying that retaining Gates reflects badly on Obama because it's a sign that he's not going to stand up for human rights. But I don't see the need to read any signs; the sign of Obama taking a stand and changing U.S. policy will be Obama taking a stand and changing U.S. policy. If it happens.

It's different with something like Obama's choice of Treasury officials and their approach to the financial crisis... or even Obama's choice of Gates and his approach to military strategy in Afghanistan. Obama does not need the Defense Secretary's advice and analysis to understand what torture is, or why it's wrong. So unless Gates is himself a war criminal who is actively promoting the evil, I don't see what difference it makes whether Obama keeps him or picks someone else... if Obama's actions, or lack thereof, are otherwise going to be the same. The buck stops with the President on this as far as I'm concerned, and it's perfectly appropriate to direct our anger and impatience directly at him, not indirectly at his choice of staff.

Jes: "I'll leave you human cockroaches to discuss your heroin and child pornography"

You know perfectly well what the posting rules are. You evidently choose not to obey them. For that reason, I am banning you.

Hilzoy, that's a quote from Watchmen. It's a joke. She expected that everyone would get it. It's one of the best-known quotes from a twenty-three year old book that is extremely famous and well-read, and from a movie that is currently the best-known film in release in the land.

Jes should not be banned for this. No way. Please reconsider in light of this information.

ThirdGorchBrother was similarly quoting Watchmen, by the way. (Adrian Veidt.)

OK. (I haven't read or seen Watchmen.) Unbanned, and I take it back.

Ugh -- Jes, those articles you linked are pretty horrible. Even the quoted bits, e.g.:

The discrepancies in accounts given by lawyers for the detainees and detainees themselves, including those recently released, and the findings of the Review Team who spoke mainly to military leaders and staff, underscore the need for ongoing independent scrutiny of the facility, including independent oversight and scrutiny of internal military police investigations of abuses, and access from independent experts, including medical experts and human rights bodies.
A good friend of mine is in a position to confirm/deny much of this, and I asked them for their opinion -- if I hear anything back I'll let y'all know.

Since nobody has commented on this major news that has been out since late this afternoon, let me get around to saying that I'm extremely disappointed in the Obama adminstration.

Since nobody has commented on this major news that has been out since late this afternoon, let me get around to saying that I'm extremely disappointed in the Obama adminstration.

I'm of two minds on this. Yes, that's pretty disappointing; trying to finesse things is not a good primary strategy.

On the other hand, that may be the only solutions, given that there's no centralized database on basic evidence on these detainees, thanks to the previous administration, given the fractured legal basis that we're holding them on, thanks to the previous administration, given...(well we can go on and on).

I think what Jes is saying is very important, and I'm not comfortable with Eric's response to the prisoner abuse that's apparently still going on

Hob, here's what I wrote:

In response to Jes' statement that torture was still occurring:

Finally, it is of the utmost importance that Obama has ceased the practice of torture - or so that is my understanding. If that is not the case, then I will most certainly highlight that morally repugnant behavior.

My response to Jes' links:

These are very disturbing reports. If true, Obama has no excuse for not cracking down on this immediately. Very disappointing. I can only hope that he gets on this now.

In response to DJ upthread:

The allegations of torture are extremely disturbing, and yes, they would probably be receiving more ink from libs if it were McCain.

I'm not sure which parts of that response disturbed you, but I'm open to any criticism you might have.

Perhaps I came across too combative.

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