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04/11/2008

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Not Republicans. Zealots. If the far left were in power we would see the same type of abuses of power but they would probably be directed at our fundamental ideas about the rights of private property ownership. The constitution was put in place to thwart zealotry on both sides of the spectrum while still allowing a minority like disenfranchised blacks to overcome social inertia and set the beginnings of change in motion. Some of the people involved in the "enhanced interrogation" decisions believed they were doing the right thing. Some, like Cheney, simply saw it as an opportunity to gather more power unto POTUS. There was no danger in this because Karl Rove had set the stage for a thousand year Republican reich. The other side was never going to have the opportunity to wield this power. The next President should read the Bill of Rights at his inauguration and promise to uphold them.

On a different note, the press needs to decide what constitutes torture. I use the standard, "Would I call it torture if they were doing it to one of ours?" Then, the press needs to call it torture when reporting. None of us are against vigorous interrogation. What else would we expect of those whose job it is to find terrorists? But we must not accept the necessity that some among us have to compromise their humanity for the security of the rest.

Evidently to Tom, all Republicans are zealots.

Gotta love the sweeping generalization he ended his rant with.

Not all sweeping generalizations are incorrect. Note that all the Republican candidates are in favor of "vigorous interrogations," which includes physical and mental abuse designed to elicit information -- the definition of torture. You, yourself, have defended torture to me as being necessary for the national defense.

There are Republicans who've stood up against torture. It's interesting that the reviled (by the left) John Ashcroft is emerging as one of the few principled characters in this sad saga. Bob Barr -- who I, personally, have reviled -- is another.

But the Republican Party as a whole is unified in it's support of torture as torture has been universally understood for a century.

You start off this entire post with a false premise and then build it into near hysterics.

"Recent revelations that the torture of prisoners was approved.."

Nowhere does the administration approve torture. They do, however, condone "harsh" or "advanced" interrogation techniques, depending on which news source you are reading. Even in the article you linked they refer to "torture", using the all too familiar scare quotes to imply one thing while giving themselves plausible deniability in actually accusing the President of condoning torture.

Your second fallacy is that you said "This is the country that every single one of the Republican Presidential candidates argued in favor of.". Obviously you have not paid any attention to what the current Republican Presidential nominee has had to say on it, because he has, among other things and against most other Republicans, called water boarding torture and called for the closing of Gitmo. Another straw man blows away in the wind.

What this all boils down to is that when it comes to the Bush administration you have become little more than an echo of every other far left site, screaming "War Criminal" at every turn.

It's very convenient to try to make Bush into some kind of lone ranger, out riding rough shod over the constitution. But maybe you forgot the part where Pelosi and crew were briefed in 2002 on CIA interrogation techniques, and at that time didn't find anything wrong with them. Only after the media began this chant of "water boarding bad, Bush must pay" did they come out and act indignant about the entire process.

Finally, let's examine this preposterous notion that those on the left have that somehow Bush is acting any differently than any previous war time president.

Maybe you should have some home work, and read about the laws and how they have been exercised int he past. Namely, Bush hasn't come close to the exercises in power that were used by Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson or FDR, but someone he's "the worst President in history" and a dangerous cowboy.

From the linked article:
The history of democratic governments, from the ancient republics of Greece and Rome to the modern states that have replaced earlier totalitarian governments, show that governing by committees, or legislative bodies, never works in times of crisis. Fortunately, our Founders were aware of this when they designed our system.

Alexander Hamilton explained in Federalist No. 70 that the essential nature of the chief executive is his "energy," which "is a leading [element] in the definition of good government. It is essential to the protection of the community against foreign attacks; it is no less essential to the steady administration of the laws; to the protection of property against those irregular and high-handed combinations, which sometimes interrupt the ordinary course of justice; to the security of liberty against the enterprises and assaults of ambition, of faction, and of anarchy."

While our constitution contains no express provision for "emergency" or "crisis" situations, such a provision is not necessary. The U.S. Supreme Court made clear in Ex Parte Milligan, following the Civil War, that "the government, within the Constitution, has all the powers granted to it which are necessary to preserve its existence." Or as one commentator has added, "self-preservation is the first law of any nation."

In essence, yes, there are things that happen in war that don't need to be made public. When you are in a war you do not have the time to have press conferences and oversight hearings about every decision. Because in most instances, those charged with the oversight are more interested in how they are going to play on the nightly news than they are in winning the war. Again I point you to Pelosi and Harry Reid and water boarding. Briefed in private, everything is cool. Ask them on the nightly news, and they are aghast that the President would authorize such a thing.

Wars run by committee fail. Period. Just look at the Vietnam war. We didn't lose a single major conflict in that war, and all but decimated the Viet Cong after the Tet offensive, but because of congress and the nightly news, we forced ourselves into defeat.

There are far too many Democrats hoping for that shot of the last helicopter leaving the roof of the embassy in Iraq, just so they can say, "I told you so".

Well said Frank. Especially your last line.

I agree with Frank about Vietnam. With enough military personnel and 30 years of successive administrations willing to ignore the desire of the American people to let the strategically unimportant country of Vietnam decide its own political fate, we would now be victorious. That would mean there would still be a brutal, puppet dictator installed as President of Vietnam supported by US military presence and taxpayer dollars. As evidenced by the 30 years following WWII, the NVA and Viet Cong would still be waging a costly guerilla war against this state. (Yes, I know the N. Vietnamese did horrible things as victors. I'm not an apologist Hanoi Wally) This also describes victory in Iraq. I would prefer to have Iraq as a Vietnam-style trading partner in 30 years rather than still be a hated, occupying army.

Frank, you could have saved a lot of time just by saying, "I agree with torture." Critical to the Republican platform is re-defining torture so that activities that have always been seen as torture are no longer called torture. That the media have bought-into "enhanced interrogation" doublespeak doesn't make it less than torture.

John McCain has spoken out against torture, and then when it came time to vote to ban it -- again, just for effect since torture is already illegal -- he voted against that ban. John McCain wants it both ways. You're willing to give it to him; I'm not.

As for Democrats being briefed and agreeing, well, it would be difficult to imagine anything less relevant. Congressional Democrats have, in general, been cowardly and craven in the face of the post-9/11 Republican juggernaut. Of course they went along; they're chickenshits. Of course they're brave now that there's little political risk; they're still chickenshits.

It's still torture; it's still illegal; Republicans are still in favor of it.

As for your interpretation of executive "energy" as being license for the President to ignore the law and ratified treaties...well, all you're doing is agreeing with my point. You're in favor of torture and you believe that the President is above the law. Thank you for your honesty. Clearly, the Republican Party is the right place for you to be.

OK Tom, here is a question for you. Since you oppose harsh interrogation, what WOULD you do to gain information from detainees with links to terrorism? Do you think rational discussion would be successful? Three hots and a cot? Instead of offering nothing but hatred toward the president (like most democrats), please put forward your ideas that would be so much more effective. A rousing round of Cumbyya perhaps????? (on second thought, that WOULD be torture) :)

You mistake scorn for the President for hatred. I don't hate the President. I simply think he's failed to fulfill his sworn duty to preserve and protect the Constitution -- which is the President's primary job. He is, in my assessment, an enemy of the Constitution.

The essence of radicalism is the inability to recognize a middle ground. Surely you must be able to see that there is something between torturing prisoners and treating them as treasured guests. Right? I mean, you're not some kind of nutcase, are you?

The United States has, since the days of General George Washington, treated its prisoners with dignity and honor. We have somehow managed to get intelligence from the enemy without resorting to torture. (I know: there have always been isolated episodes of torture. It happens in every war. The difference is that the Bush Administration is trying to regularize it.)I believe that we should use those legal and moral techniques that have proven themselves in the past.

Perhaps you believe there is something unique about today's enemy that makes the old rules unrealistic. Perhaps you would like to argue that today's terrorists are harder cases than, say, the Japanese in World War II. Perhaps in making that argument you'd demonstrate exactly my point about Republicans: you're in favor of torture. You've justified it in your own mind, and that's the kind of country you want. Why not just admit it?

I, personally, believe that the reason we're torturing today is because we lack the courage to stand up for what we purport to believe. The "cost of liberty" we're so fond of talking about is a cost that we, ourselves, don't want to pay. We'll outsource the sacrifice to the military while we stay home and surrender our values in exchange for a little safety. And, if we're Republicans, we'll feel patriotic doing it.

Gotta love the euphemisms. He calls it “harsh interrogation”.

Be at least honest and say what you mean: You would be willing to treat people like animals, stripped of all their dignity.

I much prefer to see humans – no matter how unpleasant and cruel they may be – always as humans, with dignity that they cannot loose and that nobody can take away from them. You do not kill nor torture humans.

(And besides that: the success of harsh interrogation is still kind of debatable. You see, under pain people will tell you everything you want them to tell you.)

Michael,

I much prefer to see humans – no matter how unpleasant and cruel they may be – always as humans, with dignity that they cannot loose and that nobody can take away from them. You do not kill nor torture humans.

That's all well and good in a perfect world. unfortunately we don't live in a perfect world.

The question I have is this, what exactly would you be willing to do with the detainees to gain actionable intelligence? We can debate whether or not water boarding is torture all day long. Smarter men than you and I have been doing it for quite some time. But if you want to treat them with the dignity that they cannot loose, just how do you propose you question them? Maybe just ask them really nicely if they will give up any plans they have?

How much time and evergy have we all spent here debating something that has been used exactly three times in this five year war? Three times. I can guarantee you that hundreds of U.S. servicemen have undergone this during training over the last five years, but we've only used water boarding for intelligence gathering three times. Of course Tom is then going to give the standard, "If we can believe what they report" answer. If water boarding is torture, should we then not be prosecuting the SEAL and Special Forces instructors who are performing this exact same technique on our own troops nearly every day?

And Tom, I did not say that I am agreeing that the President has carte blanche to ignore the law. What I did say is that I was agreeing with the Supreme Court, who said that the President has the power he needs to prosecute a war, pretty much at his discretion, to ensure the safety of the country. You can make snide comments about me all you want, but I think I'm pretty safe of this one. Unless you want to also make the same accusations about all the previously mentioned presidents.

But at least we can all agree on one thing; the Democrats are definitely chicken shits. At the beginning of the war they were all about preaching about Saddam's WMDs and voting for the use of force against Iraq. When the war started and the MSM was rushing to embed with troops so they could all show how manly they were, they continued to support it. But as soon as the media decided that any war that lasts longer than 100 days needs to be shown in the worst possible light, they all went running as far to the left as they could, embracing groups like Code Pink, and acting like they had never been briefed about anything going on with the war. The Democratic rank and file has pretty much swallowed it all hook, line and sinker.

But I'll end with the same questions I started with. Everyone wants to condemn water boarding as torture, and Michael wants the terrorists to retain their dignity, so just what do you all propose we do to question them? Just how far do you go? Mean looks? Begging? Open hand slap? Sleep deprivation?

If you had a high ranking member of Al Qaeda in your own personal custody and you knew, 100% certain, that he knew where and when the next 9/11 style attack was to take place, just what would you do to convince him to tell you the details?

My definition of torture is quite simple: inflicting pain or suffering on someone that is already in your custody. (Wether or not your aim is to gain information doesn’t really matter to me. I would always call it torture.) Waterboarding quite obviously fits that definition.

I would argue that invoking self defense is a valid position in defending torture as a practice. (I guess only lunatics would object to killing people when it comes to self defense.) In my eyes however, there is an important difference between people that pull the trigger and people that merely know who will pull a trigger or when or where a trigger will be pulled. Plus: if you can ask (and torture) them they already are in your custody. That’s not the same as someone running around, killing people. By all means, keep them locked up and don’t give them a chance to communicate, but don’t torture them. The only thing you can do is ask them. That is quite true. I would agree with that.

I don’t really care if there were 3 cases or 300, it was torture anyway. (You are of course right, 3 cases aren’t as bad as 300.) However, your position is that torture is good and should be allowed. Mine is that it’s wrong.

Here we can probably only agree to disagree. But if I were to share your opinion it would get me thinking that our definition of civilized doesn’t really include torture.

For me a terrorist is nothing more than a murderer. They should be treated as such and we shouldn’t start to create this sort of extra class of crimes that allow us to react in any way we want. We can especially not allow the government to react any way they want. That gives them far too much power. And that is in any case very dangerous. Also, very un-american.

(Again, I have to add my concerns about the effectiveness of torture. I doubt that it is the miraculous cure everyone hopes it is. Especially when it comes to fanatics.)

Frank, what you wrote is so wrong I don't even know where to begin. So let me begin at the end. If I had had a high ranking member of Al Qaeda in your own personal custody and you knew, 100% certain, that he knew where and when the next 9/11 style attack was to take place, just what would you do to convince him to tell you the details? I'd torture him. I'd torture him for as long as it took and if i killed him I wouldn't feel bad for a second.

Now, how many people have we tortured and how many times did the scenario you cite exist? My guess is that the answer is, respectively, thousands and never. Arguing the most extreme case is fun, but it's kind of stupid. The point of this is that the Bush Administration is making torture a standard procedure, bureaucratizing it, making it normal. One of the reasons we did so poorly in the war at first is that we participated in something close to mass torture. We tortured everyone, even people who had nothing to do with terrorism. We don't know how many because that information is classified.

As for whether waterboarding is torture, it was torture during World War II when the Japanese did it to our soldiers, and we tried several Japanese for the war crime of waterboarding. Now, according to you, it's not torture. Once again, you're proving my point.

Finally, you're going to have to cite the specific Supreme Court decision that said the President can ignore ratified and signed treaties. It seems to me, just about every Supreme Court case pertaining to the Bush Administration's conduct of this war has gone in favor of the rule of law, not against it. Perhaps I missed something.

What you and your Republican cohort are forgetting is that American moral authority is a form of power. Read the accounts of the refusniks from the Cold War. One of the things that gave them hope was that the United States didn't become like the Soviet Union.

We're doing better in Iraq now because we're not acting like oppressors. Our soldiers are having more contact with people, making evident what we both know: that American soldiers are good people there to help. We don't always get it right, but at least we're standing for something.

Torture doesn't work. The information you get is untrustworthy. It diminishes "soft power" without aggregating "hard power." It's morally reprehensible.

Republicans like it because Republicans live in a paranoid fantasy world. The whole idea that all torture can be justified because an episode of "24" had a ticking bomb scenario is ridiculous.

As to your ridicule of my distrust of what the Bush Administration says, that's hardly an irrational point of view. Dishonesty is one of the hallmarks of this administration. That you don't recognize that doesn't make you more credible.

"If you had a high ranking member of Al Qaeda in your own personal custody and you knew, 100% certain, that he knew where and when the next 9/11 style attack was to take place, just what would you do to convince him to tell you the details?"
Ahh, laws and ethics. Since this is hypothetical, I give the answer I would hope I could rise to in the situation.
Get the information any way I could, then insist that I be prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law. The 100% certain part takes some of the ethical burden off me but doesn't stop me knowing that my actions are ethically wrong. The legality of the act does not change because I had good intentions. I'm curious to know the answer to this quandary from those who feel that God™ has an active involvement in the world. Would the God™ of the New Testament want you to flay a man's child in front of him in order to get the information that would save (a)1 person (b)20 people (c) 100 People (d)20,000 people? If a religious person can take the decision out of God™'s hands it is like the old punchline, We know what you are, we're just arguing about the price.

I won't add much here as Frank has pretty much bitch slapped you all up one side of the comments section and down the other. I'd just add that we're talking about three people who were water boarded, which for the record I do not consider torture, and others who had various degrees of harsh techniques used. While my problems with Bush are various - for one he didn't prosecute the war with sufficient lethal force in my estimation - I am glad that the hand wringers weren't in charge either, since they would have lost the whole thing long ago.

What is most sad, and the noted conservative rag the WaPo pointed this out yesterday, is that it is quite clear that the Democratic party, having hitched its wagon to the war is lost canard is now actively searching for any way to declare this venture lost prior to the election.

How anyone can claim that waterboarding is not torture is beyond me.

Severe suffering is inflicted. How could feeling you would drown not be just that?

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines torture as “the (…) practice of inflicting severe pain on someone” as does the United Nations Convention Against Torture (they also explicitly include severe suffering).

Torture is torture is torture. Just because it leaves no scars doesn’t mean it isn’t. If the police were to waterboard you, would you accuse them of interrogating too harsh?

Michael,

You seem like a nice sort, so I'll be gentle. If the police water boarded me it would be a violation of my rights as a US citizen. See, I'm not an unlawful combatant, and my dear sensitive friend, there is a difference.

Like so many before you, you need to just close your eyes to some unpleasantness while we win this war. It ain't pretty, but it is necessary. And just in case you're wondering, we are on the side of individual rights, self determination and freedom. That makes us the good guys.

Oh, and we're not cutting the heads off of innocents. That's generally how you can tell these things. Hurry, Bill Mahr comes on soon!

Love and Peace,

Pursuit

So torture is only torture if US citizens are tortured? Nice.

Boy, that makes me as a non US citizens quite uneasy.

(If I may say, unlawful combatants are still humans. Fucking assholes, maybe, but still humans. I would say that you do not torture humans, not that you do not torture US citizens.)

I can understand your pragmatism and I understand and agree that your ideals are great and far superior to anything a Bin Laden has to offer. It’s only that ideals are just that and will only get you so far.

Pursuit, whether or not you think a bit of waterboarding is a very serious thing, there are BDSM dungeons where people pay for that sort of thing after all. I take issue with you saying that we are on the side of individual rights, self determination and freedom.

There are between 100,000 and 1million iraqi civvies dead as a result of our crusade for individual rights. I bet you could put up with quite a bit of non self determination before some rightous bastard from the USA makes a decision that blows up your family.


Oh sorry for getting off topic. The cynical disregard demonstrated for laws and treaties when it doesn't suit the current goal is pathetic.

Unfortunately waterboarding is regarded as torture no matter how soft core it is, if you are going to do it at least be up front about it and see if the public agrees with you.

There are between 100,000 and 1million iraqi civvies dead as a result of our crusade for individual rights.

Great point. Now where was all your righteous anger when it was Saddam and the Pig Latin Boys who were slaughtering Iraqis by the tens of thousands every year for decades?

Follow up question: Coalition forces are there slaughtering terrorists by the truck load. Terrorists fight back by blowing up civilians. Is it therefor your proposition that bad guys should pretty much be allowed to do whatever they want, because to confront them means they'll hurt civilians? Because if that's the case, why don't we just hand over control of the world to the likes of Osama, otherwise they'll just keep on committing terrorists acts until we learn the error of our ways and welcome our new masters.

Michael,

Please show me where I said "torture is torture if only US citizens are tortured". Otherwise, try to argue in a way that is intellectually honest.

As for you Mr. Bezza, do you mean to propose that we should run each action in the war past the American public for approval? I'm sure you don't mean this. As Frank said, and I'm paraphrasing, war is hell and we need to do some things that are less than pleasant if we mean to win. It is clear the Democratic party is less than committed to winning. One of the reasons we don't see if the public agrees with us and discuss every tactic is because of the cheap political points the Dems try to score when these actions are revealed.

As for your dead Iraqi problem, I think Frank makes the point well. I'd only add that Saddam began by attacking Iran, then gassed his own people and followed that by invading Kuwait, with a clear eye on Saudi. We were patrolling the no-fly zones and getting shot at daily as a result of Saddam's actions, and it was quite clear that the sanctions regime was collapsing. Saddam was supporting terrorism across the middle east and would have become aggressive again given the way things were going. I hat to have to spell all this out to you again, but you seem to believe everything was just hunky dory before our "crusade".

Nice word choice there by the way.

Pursuit, you say waterboarding you is unlawful, waterboarding unlawfuls is lawful. I know you don’t really think of waterboarding as torture, nevertheless, you seem to make a difference here, based on citizenship. If you would be all in favor of waterboarding unlawful combatants that happen to be US citizens, let me know. If that’s the case, I misunderstood you.

The thing I like most about this set of comments is that the Republicans arguing most vociferously in favor of torture are doing it to refute my argument that Republicans are in favor of torture. The fact that you believe torture to be justified and necessary is not a refutation of my argument. It's simply a justification for the basic Republican position in favor of torture and an Executive Branch with unlimited power to apply torture without meddling by Congress or the Courts.

We can argue what torture is and isn't, but for the sake of simplicity let's use definitions of torture that the United States has endorsed in the past. In fact, let's use definitions that the political right has used in the past. Here are three:

1. We tried as war criminal Japanese who applied the "water cure" to Americans. Clearly, until the Bush Administration, Americans believed that waterboarding was torture.

2. When the Soviets used hypothermia on political prisoners, we called it torture, and we condemned the Soviets for doing it.

3. When the North Vietnamese used "stress positions" on, among others, John McCain, we called that abuse torture.

So there's our definition of torture. Now, waterboarding, hypothermia and stress positions have all been used by Americans on suspected terrorists. And all of those techniques seem to have been approved inside the White House.

OK, now let's look at the other half of the equation: the Republican belief in an Executive Branch answerable to no one, above the law. If you don't believe that to be the case, please explains the due process and checks and balances you would apply to the Executive Branch to limit the application of torture. If you don't believe there should be any, that's fine. That a legitimate -- if in my opinion morally reprehensible and un-American -- point of view. It is, in fact, the Republican Party's point of view, so if you agree with it the Republican Party is the right place for you to be.

On the other hand, if you do think there should be checks and balances on the President's ability to order torture, please explain what you think those limits should be.

And, by all means, be intellectually honest. They're really very simple questions; just answer them.

Intellectual honesty? Ya, we could use some. For example suggesting, in a typically Sullivanist statement, that the Republican belief is that the Executive Branch is answerable to no one, or that the basic Republican position is in favor of torture. Quite interesting, since at the very least Republicans believe the executive branch is answerable to the electoral process, and you know, we just keep winning those contests. Perhaps this year will be different, but until then it seems to me that it's the Democrats who have a problem with who is answerable to who.

And what of those nasty torturin' Repubs? Torture is a basic belief? Interesting since the presumed nominee agrees more in line with you, and won enough votes from....wait...for...it....Republicans(!) to win the nomination. Of course I don't know where those famous Republicans including Nancy Pelosi who were briefed on the techniques and feared they weren't tough enough now stand, but my guess is they didn't vote for McCain. Perhaps he was too soft on terror for them?

As for your three examples above, I don't know the specific cases but I'll take them as follows:

1. The Japanese were fighting a war, against lawful combatants who were uniformed and lets be honest, participating in the war because they were attacked by the....wait...for...it....Japanese! We waterboarded three dudes man. That's it, three, one of whom was KSM the main mover behind the operational planning of 9.11.01 and who could be subject to the ticking time bomb standard. I'd water board that fucker all day long, seven days a week to get him to talk.

2. This one is incredible, even for you. Russians, by your own admission, were using these techniques against their own citizens who were political prisoners. This is a distinction that Michael also fails to understand. Is it so hard to see the difference between a guy who murders a couple thousand people who's only crime was to go to work one day, and a tyranical regime that enslaves its own people?

3. Again, lawful combants, wearing a uniform see #1 above.

As for this whole no checks and balances thing, I really find it hard to believe you missed the testimony this week, the testimony last fall, the authorization to invade, the many debates and votes on FISA and all else that has been going on for five years. Maybe your cable is out?

I hear a lot of talk from your side about impeachment, unlawful breaches of our rights and so on. What I never see though is action from you guys. If things are as bad as you say, then by all means begin impeachment proceedings and start the war crimes trials. For some reason though, you guys never do this, which looks to me like political gaming as opposed to governing, and if that is the case, then your problem is not with me, Frank or anyone else in our torture club, it is with your own pathetic party.

This would be the party that stood by for a decade and did nothing as terror attacks against our country grew in size and frequency. This is the party who's leader had multiple opportunities to kill or capture bin laden and chose to do nothing. This is the party that erected a wall between domestic and foreign intelligence so that important information could not be used to fight back against the terrorists. This is now the party that says one thing in private when talking about Iraq and another publicly.

One final point. I won't speak for Frank, but I suspect he might agree here. I am not, nor have I ever been a Republican. I've made this point several times here, and it be nice if you took notice.

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