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12/13/2007

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It's a shame someone didn't brief Democrats in congress about interrogation techniques four or five years ago so that they could have done something about this before it became an issue. You know, maybe bring in the CIA to brief someone like Nancy Pelosi on exactly what is being done and find out whether or not she has any objects. Because oversight is what congress does, right?

Am I being to subtle with my sarcasm here, since I'm sure you've read this Washington Post story, about how members of congress were briefed in 2002 about "advance interrogation techniques, including water boarding" and none of them, including the Democrats, had any objections to it.

Just wondering when you're going to amend these rants against the evil Bush and his torturing ways to include Pelosi, Reid, et al. since they approved of the technique when it was secret. Most likely, imho, because it was working and they knew it.

First of all, President Bush and his administration have been the driving force behind the normalization of torture by the United States. They deserve every ounce of bile anyone heaps on them for pulling the United States down into the sewer.

And secondly, I'm not sure what it is that makes you think I don't go after Democrats when they deserve it -- and they deserve it regularly. I've not had time in the last few days to assimilate the new information about Congressional briefings. If, in fact, they approved torture -- as opposed to simply hearing a report on it and doing nothing public because the briefings were classified -- rest assured I'll be as disgusted by that as I am by the President and Vice President. And I'll freely express it here as well. (It's not hard for me to believe that this particular crowd of political nitwits declined to stand up for what is right because they were afraid of how it would look in the 30 second attack ad. That would be entirely in character.)

In the meantime, I'm awaiting your praise of Congress for supporting the President in his policy of surrendering American freedom in exchange for some infinitesimal amount of physical safety. That's the result of the policy you advocate, right? We give the President the power to arrest and torture with impunity, and he makes us feel better about going to the mall.

As you surely must know, my disdain for torture has nothing to do with whether it works or not. For the record, I don't believe it does work, with the possible exception of certain isolated and immediate cases, none of which have apparently happened in the real world. In the real world, torture leads to the scramble-the-cops terrorism alerts we had so many of in the run up to the 2004 election (probably just a coincidence), all of which seem to have been based on information made up to to get the torture to stop.

Even if torture works, however, I'm against it. I'm against it as a Christian because the answer to "what would Jesus do" is not "create intolerable physical pain and mental anguish until the person says what you want them to say."

I'm also against torture because its un-American. Whatever short-term gain you may get comes at a long-term price that is destructive to our liberty and moral standing -- and moral standing is power, in the world, just as surely as tanks are. President Bush has sacrificed the "soft power" that has always been America's strength.

The Republican Party of today, with a few exceptions, doesn't care about any of that, of course. They're so afraid that they'll give up everything this country stands for, that they'll surrender the freedom the profess to hold dear, because they're afraid of half-wit clowns like Richard Reid.

There's torture, and then there's waterboarding. Waterboarding is used by the US Navy in the training of SEALs.

Furthermore, I can't imagine someone volunteering for real torture--like thumbscrews, bamboo splinters under the fingernails, and any of Saddam Hussein's bag of tricks (or, for that matter, what the Japanese military did to captives during WWII). Yet an anti-torture activist volunteered to be waterboarded, and they got it on video. What's more, John Ashcroft said he'd undergo waterboarding if necessary.

Are you really sure that waterboarding is torture?

Waterboarding is torture, and the fact that you can't recognize it as such is testimony to your own moral obtuseness. The reason Navy SEALs go through waterboarding is so that they will be better equipped to resist the torture technique if it is used against them.

That waterboarding is not as bad as other forms of torture doesn't make it acceptable. The perverse moral relativism of the right is that all kinds of bad things are justified so long as they're not the worst thing. We can do whatever we want because it's not as bad as chopping someone's head off with a knife on video, for example. The rush to the lowest moral common denominator is exactly why the Bush Administration deserves the scorn of every decent human being everywhere -- as do people like you, who think torture is just fine.

As for John Ashcroft's grandstanding offer, he appears willing to undergo waterboarding at a place and time of his own choosing, under carefully controlled circumstances as administered by people who will not kill him. That is, of course, substantially different from being waterboarded by people who are unknown to you, and who may not really care if you die.

I would consider Ashcroft's offer something more than bullshit if he would abandon his security detail and hand himself over to the street gangs he once prosecuted, to be held by them at an unknown location for an indefinite period of time. Give the street criminals immunity from prosecution if something goes wrong and he dies.

If, after several months in their hands, he can still say he wasn't tortured and that he believes the treatment he received to be suitable for American soldiers in foreign captivity, then maybe his opinion will matter. Now, he's just another draft-dodging chickenhawk talking tougher than he was when it counted.

My understanding is that SEALs are waterboarded so that they know what drowning feels like and won't panic if they ever are in a similar situation.

I'll ask a SEAL who works in the same building as I about when I get the chance and report back.

For the record, I am against torture; I'm just not sure that waterboarding is torture. I'm not sure it isn't, either.

UPDATE:

He says SEALs aren't waterboarded, but are put in many potential drowning situations, some of which sound worse than waterboarding. There are accidents during SEAL training, but, as I understand it, properly-applied waterboarding results in no physical harm.

Still not convinced either way, and am open to convincing.

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