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April 22, 2009

Comments

"Lying" is something one does knowingly, with intent. I, for one, don't think Jes engages in that. And I'm of the opinion that one should refrain from accusations of intent without proof.

Indeed, Gary. Likewise, culpability for "torture" requires intent under the Geneva Conventions, but the last time I pointed that out to Jes, she accused me of being pro-torture.

I suppose, pacé Jes' comment upthread, I could call it a "policy of wilful and habitual misrepresentation," based on the fact that I've complained about her "the Obama Admin tortures" claim now in various threads with absolutely no coherent response. If that's different from "lying," you make a valid distinction.

But frankly, I don't think it excuses any of it. If not entirely disingenuous, it's counterproductive, and I think it has much the same effect on good discussion that lying would -- it creates a great deal of unverifiable noise that drowns out any signal. The intent is largely irrelevant.

More specifically -- and speaking with all possible candor -- most every other regular on this blog is willing to admit error and to confine their commentary to their areas of knowledge or to provide cites -- cf. OCSteve in this very thread. Jes stands out as a marked exception to that general rule, and I think the extent to which she visits others' intentions (again, numerous times in this thread) is disrespectful to the other intelligent, well-meaning people who comment here.

Or, as you aptly put it:

Or, in other words, one should try to avoid claims, particularly inflammatory ones, that are dependent on mind-reading intent.

Precisely. I would respectfully submit that accusing people of supporting genocide or torture would fall squarely in that category.

I agree with Nell that Shane & Mazzetti's "ignorance" explanation makes no sense.

they make it a technical, bureaucratic, institutional kind of failure rather than what it clearly is: a complete failure of moral judgement and courage on the part of powerful people

-- but I don't think the institutional/bureaucratic failure and the moral failure should be contrasting explanations. When Gary says:

most personnel working constantly with classified material tend to disregard material in the public domain

-- that's IMHO an extremely believable and important point. The allure of having the Special Classified (hermetic, esoteric) Knowledge makes people lose track of the fact that it isn't as good -- it's not been gone over by as many minds, it hasn't been looked at from as many sides. It will tend to be tactical and technical rather than strategic, or strategic rather than meta-strategic -- which is usually the level where moral thinking comes in.

I just can't believe that Powell was ignorant of the background here, even if the rest of them had had blinders on all their lives. But the person I'm most disappointed to see wrapped up in all of this is Bob Graham, for whom I had some genuine respect. I don't know how much he's tried to allude to these awful practices in public---not enough, I think---but he is one of the few people who was in a position I think to speak fairly candidly and be believed. Apparently he had a mild (?) heart attack in 2003 before he retired: maybe he just lost the will to fight the bastards. Or maybe he was being blackmailed---can't dismiss that possibility, these days.

"But the person I'm most disappointed to see wrapped up in all of this is Bob Graham, for whom I had some genuine respect. I don't know how much he's tried to allude to these awful practices in public---not enough, I think---but he is one of the few people who was in a position I think to speak fairly candidly and be believed."

[...] Senator Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida, who was committee chairman in 2002, said in an interview that he did not recall ever being briefed on the methods, though government officials with access to records say all four committee leaders received multiple briefings.
FWIW.


Yeah, I wasn't too impressed with that answer.

For whatever it's worth: while I agree that Powell had to know about this stuff, I have no trouble believing that, say, Cheney or Bush did not. But I do not think of this as anything remotely resembling an excuse. When you have their jobs, you are supposed to know. They might imagine that ignorance excuses, but to my mind it's like a pilot claiming ignorance of where she was (in some case in which the instruments were not malfunctioning, etc.) When you're flying a plane, "the ground? It's there? Who knew?' is not an excuse; it's a confession of utter dereliction of duty. Same here.

But the person I'm most disappointed to see wrapped up in all of this is Bob Graham, for whom I had some genuine respect. I don't know how much he's tried to allude to these awful practices in public---not enough, I think---but he is one of the few people who was in a position I think to speak fairly candidly and be believed.

My recollection of Graham at the time is that he publicly stated that there was stuff going on he strongly disagreed with, but he was not able to discuss the details due to classification.

I suppose he could have gone ahead and spilled anyway, but it would certainly have been problematic for a lot of reasons.

I could call it a "policy of wilful and habitual misrepresentation,"

I'm beginning to suspect that she can't control it; indeed, she would deny that she even does it.

So, my policy has been to pretend that it doesn't exist to the same extent that she does.

"Thanks Gary, I did take a look at that, but I was more asking if someone on this board could give a more personal take on the training (if they are allowed, it may be classified)"

My son went through SERE and told me bits and pieces. It's not classified as far as I know, but there is some kind of non-dsiclosure rule. Judging from the description above he must have gone through the level B training. It involved the use of hypothermia and hunger, so it didn't get to the higher levels as far as I can tell.

Note about torture: It is not primarily intended to elicit information. The closest it gets to that is the elicitation of forced confessions and naming of supposed confederates for further arrests. It is simply a tool for imposing dominance on a person. You would have to be stupid to rely on the truth of any information you get from torture.

Historical note on torture: In America, both in Mesoamerica and in the Mississippian areas, torture was never used to elict anything - ever. It was form of sacrifice of captives, and it was very prevalent. It is one of the things, along wioth organized kidnapping of children and attempts at ethnic cleansing on the part of native governments, that decisively alientated and embittered English and other immigrants.

Next:

"I’ve talked about that plenty. When I’m honest about what I felt back then, you use it as an opportunity to throw it back in my face on many unrelated threads."

That's a wifey tactic. Jesurgislac is presuming to girlfriend rights. She is apparently mistaking this board for MySpace or Facebook.

"That's a wifey tactic. Jesurgislac is presuming to girlfriend rights."

This is, IMO, a dumb and misogynistic thing to say. Do men never throw words back in the face of girlfriends and wives? Do men and women never throw words back in the faces of people they argue with online or elsewhere?

Yes, they do, and yes, they do, jillions of times per day, all over the world.

Is that the American Jillion, or the British Jillion? (That's a thousand times larger...)

I could call it a "policy of wilful and habitual misrepresentation,"

Well, her genocide remark was perfectly accurate and I think people who accuse others of misrepresentation should set a good example when they make false accusations themselves. . I like OCSteve and admire his ability to hang around people with different political views and change his mind and I think Jes should stop jumping on him so much), but in this thread he did say he favored nuking Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11. That's genocide. He also said he regrets this and that he was irrational back in that time, so I wouldn't throw it back at him, but Jes wasn't misrepresenting him.

Yet both Adam and hilzoy seem to react to her genocide comment as though she just made it up.

To be clear, in case I wasn't, I intended the previous comment as a defense of Jes rather than a criticism of OCSteve who I respect as a person who is better at listening to opposing views than me (not this is very high praise). Anyone could be temporarily unhinged by something as stressful as 9/11.

Though the same holds even more true for people living under occupation.

"...and I think people who accuse others of misrepresentation should set a good example when they make false accusations themselves."

That seems hard to do. :-)

I don't begrudge OCS the feelings he had about Afghanistan. Back around that time, I was still an enthusiastic fan of 24, and I remember with more than a little shame thinking the character of Jack Bauer was a hero and looking on his rogue agent thing--and the crimes he committed--with approval under the circumstances he faced.

That was fantasy, though--fiction. When the reality of what our country was doing sunk in, when I learned more about the details of what happened to real people and where we learned those techniques, I couldn't watch the show anymore--and my opinions on the matter changed in a hurry.

I think everyone has their own demons. I think we all face them in different ways, and it's really impossible to say what we might do when faced with a hypothetical moral quandary over a life and death situation. More to the point, I don't see how it makes sense to hold people accountable for their feelings.

But there's a big difference between suffering a fleeting atavistic urge to lash out with overwhelming force in the general direction of someone who's hurt you, and openly and enthusiastically advocating that it is okay to torture someone--anyone--regardless of the circumstances. That's monstrous, on the same moral level as advocating child rape. It doesn't matter what your goal is or how you rationalize the necessity: there are some things that civilized human beings and nations do not do. Not ever.

@Jim:

Your comment would have been significantly stronger if you had stopped before the 'Historical note', with its intimations of white supremacy (European "immigrants", eh? I'm an immigrant, you're an intruder, he's a colonial white settler.)

You wiped out whatever good effect remained with the sexist "wifey" and "girlfriend" crap.

You chose to weigh in on Jes's comments by using the same tactic that is the legitimate complaint against her approach: attributing offensive motivations to others.

Less would have been a whole lot more.

You're right, Gary. Preview is my friend, or would be, if I ever thought to use it.

Catsy: I don't begrudge OCS the feelings he had about Afghanistan. ..... I think everyone has their own demons. I think we all face them in different ways, and it's really impossible to say what we might do when faced with a hypothetical moral quandary over a life and death situation. More to the point, I don't see how it makes sense to hold people accountable for their feelings.

Exactly. My problem with OCSteve is not, in fact, his feelings about wanting to attack the country he thought was attacking his post-9/11: it's his belief that Iraqis seeing the US attack their country have somehow no right to feel exactly as he felt. It's not his rage I find incomprehensible and distasteful: it's his Islamophobia.

As for Jim's "wifey" comment: bleah.

Jes: My problem with OCSteve is not, in fact, his feelings about wanting to attack the country he thought was attacking his post-9/11: it's his belief that Iraqis seeing the US attack their country have somehow no right to feel exactly as he felt. It's not his rage I find incomprehensible and distasteful: it's his Islamophobia.

And my problem with you is that you like to use old statements of mine in current threads without providing any context of the original discussion. I’ve been commenting here for years now, but you don’t account for the fact that my opinions have changed over that time. Not all of course, but certainly some. The stuff you cherry-pick is often from threads that went on for days, and where I made dozens of comments.

You like to grab something I said years ago and throw it into a current unrelated thread to try to discredit me: “Yes, but we know you believe X, therefore Y…” where X is something I said a long time ago.

So what the hell – do you have a “Best of OCSteve” folder in your bookmarks? Again I’ll ask – as someone you find so distasteful why the hell waste your time responding to me?

And I’ll admit that I gave you the opening here, in this thread. I did. But I said what I said in the context of trying to say I understand why people did what they did at that time. Are you going to include that context when you throw this back in my face a year from now? Of course not – it will simply be: “Well, we already know that you believe in genocide…”

My opinions have changed. Believe it or not - you have changed some of my opinions. And we have a lot we could agree on.

But F*ck it. Better to score some cheap points on a blog.

Whatever.

Shorter me: I like to think that people can change. We have to. I’ve changed since I started posting here. I’m not the same person I was a couple of years ago. I think any regular can see that.

Where have you changed Jes?

Your posts today read just like the first ones from you I ever read… Hell – I can tell a Jes post within two sentences. I’ll bet anyone who has been here more than 6 months can.

But if me changing my opinions to come closer to what you believe has no frack’n value at all to you - then I give up. Why bother right? I can get like 70-80% on board with what you believe in – but I’m still scum.

I’ll live with being scum.

I'd be happy to have more scum like OCSteve as friends.

I'd also be perfectly happy to call Jes a friend, if she'd have me, no matter all her annoying traits, and arguments I have with her, because I have plenty of annoying friends, and don't take that sort of thing at all seriously. And I fully acknowledge I have my own annoying traits.

But I don't believe she'd have me. Tsk.

Gary: I’d be happy to call Jes a friend as well. We both hate Brussels Sprouts after all… But I can’t deal with the “all or none” attitude, which I’m sure she’ll never acknowledge parallels Bush’s “for us or against us” bit. It’s just all or none. I can agree with her on 8 out of 10 points, but if I won’t go for those last 2, I’m dirt.

Oh well… As I said, I can live with that. As far as all that nuance stuff goes, I think I’ve held out the white flag more than once.

But Brussel sprouts with butter are delicious! I can't be friends with you after all!

Oh, well, I guess I can.

Since I'll just get your portion of Brussel sprouts, right?

OCSteve: We both hate Brussels Sprouts after all...

Well, I don't know whether I can cope with that (my wife and I have an ongoing battle on this subject).

ObWi seems to me to be mainly a friendly sort of place. Maybe I'm just a cockeyed optimist (another point my wife raises frequently).

OCSteve: I’ve been commenting here for years now, but you don’t account for the fact that my opinions have changed over that time.

And I'm supposed to telepathically just know that? How? You've never said anything since to indicate that you now actually accept that Iraqis fight back against the US invasion and occupation because of the very same rage you felt at 9/11: or that you were wrong to try and justify imams being kicked off a plane because their flying while Muslim scared the passengers. If you have figured out you were wrong then and now think differently - cool. I'm pleased. But why would you expect me just to assume you had changed your mind?

Where have you changed Jes?

In the last six years? I've seen the most powerful nation on the planet systematically persecute Muslims for their religion, start up its own gulag system, legalize torture, and start a war of aggression in which at least a million people have already been killed. I've argued with people who think Muslims are dangerous and scary, who defended Guantanamo Bay, who think that the only problem with torturing prisoners is not having rigid enough legal standards about how far their captors can go, and who think the Iraq war was justifiable and justified. How could that not change me?

To invoke the inability to mindread as a reason for continuing to claim that OCSteve supports genocide, that's so close the dictionary version of chutzpah that you can't see any space, with the added fill up of the person being unable to realize that it is chutzpah. Classic Jes.

"o invoke the inability to mindread as a reason for continuing to claim that OCSteve supports genocide"

I don't see her say that. She's saying that OCSteve's attitude back in 2001 is similar to the emotions Iraqi insurgents might feel. She's accusing him of Islamophobia regarding what happened at the airport (or in the airplane) some years back and saying she doesn't know if he's changed his mind.

I'm not going to get into that, but this is not what you are accusing her of saying.

"How could that not change me?"

Although I imagine someone else will have to ask the question of you, I believe the question was actually "what opinions of yours have you changed in the last five years as a result of discussions on this blog?"

Brussels sprouts: rub with good olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt, roast until done.

They're like candy. Cabbage-y, salty candy.

I said something badly that hurt and offended people here I care about. When I realized that, I was genuinely sorry. I still am. I count it among my top 5 blog screw-ups…

Yes. I would count it among your top 5 blog best threads - you said something badly that hurt and offended, and you realised this, acknowledged it, and apologised for it, all in the one thread.

Whereas:

I never did apologize or retract that it is right to remove passengers from an airliner who are acting in that manner – and I won’t.

"Acting in that manner":

Imams, who talked in Arabic to each other; who prayed together in the departure lounge; who asked to sit separately on the
plane; and a couple of them asked for seat-belt extenders and then didn't use them. Okay, so you're still supporting removing harmless, law-abiding passengers from planes because they're acting like Muslims in public. My feelings about persecuting people for their religion have not changed, and therefore, neither have my feelings about you.

For all your righteousness – if you were in an adjoining seat I bet you would not either.

And especially, that. No, OCSteve. I am not a bigot.

When I’m honest about what I felt back then, you use it as an opportunity to throw it back in my face on many unrelated threads.

Yes: because, on a related thread, when you were huffing about how you didn't understand why Iraqis wanted to fight back against the US attack on their country, I pointed out that you damned well should understand: they were feeling the rage you felt at 9/11. And - my guess is because of your Islamophobic bigotry - you are incapable of comprehending that these men may pray to Allah, but they have feelings just like yours.

Actually, correct that: I may be a bigot - bigots never know that they are - but I can say I am not an Islamophobic bigot.

I would also not put too much trust into Harman's claim to have protested the practices before the actual letter is released.
Given her alleged behaviour in the AIPAC case and (also alleged) squashing of the investigation against her by Gonzo in order to 'keep her' to defend the illegal wiretapping program, I am not willing to give the benefit of the doubt at the moment.
The right way for the Dems allegedly informed about the illegal programs would have been to raise protests on the spot and, if those would not yield results, to go public with the statement that
a) they were informed about likely illegal practices by the administration (without naming them)
b) they were forbidden to talk about the specifics
c) they demand that either the government would go on the record itself or allow them to at least name the areas where they thought that illegal acts were committed or planned.

"I may be a bigot - bigots never know that they are "

Depends on what you mean. Some bigots know they despise members of group X, and know that others consider them to be bigots, but since they "know" members of group X are despicable, they don't think they are bigots, just truthtellers. I grew up around people like that down South and right now I've got an Islamophobic friend who reads Mad Mel Phillips and others like her who is in this category.

Then you've got the unconscious liberal bigots, who know bigotry is wrong but don't realize some of their own beliefs are bigoted or else have unconscious aversions to some groups that they would be horrified to learn they have. We might all be in that category about some group or other.

"Then you've got the unconscious liberal bigots, who know bigotry is wrong but don't realize some of their own beliefs are bigoted or else have unconscious aversions to some groups that they would be horrified to learn they have. We might all be in that category about some group or other."

I'm reasonably sure that anyone not raised on a desert island by apes has at least some little bits of racist and sexist and homophobic and general small bits of unconscious assumptions/predilections against every culture they didn't grow up soaked in, and probably even some or all of them.

We live in a society soaked in sexism, patriarchy, racism, homophobia, and stereotypes about endless religious and ethnic and other groups. I don't think it's possible to be aware of every last bit of unconscious assumptions lurking in the back of our minds.

I'm self-aware enough to know that I'll still, despite having been soaked in feminism since I was a teen or earlier, unthinkingly engage at least mildly sexist language and probably assumptions, at times. I know that, despite an anti-racist upbringing and consciousness, I'm sometimes apt to, despite trying not to, note someone's "race," and have slightly different thoughts as a result. I know that, despite having had close gay friends since I was a pre-teen, and transgendered friends for more than a couple of decades, I sometimes have stereotypical thoughts about them.

And so on.

Anyone who thinks they're perfectly pure in their lack of such thoughts, I invite to take the Implicit Association Test. Even the designers found that they had implicit associations. Even members of groups found they had implicit associations about their own groups.

Everyone in a society has buried assumptions.

Those raised by apes would have ape-positive assumptions.

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