It Is Kind of Amazing

Larison:

One of the things that has kept me from saying much over the last week or so is my sheer amazement that there are people who seriously pose such questions and expect to be answered with something other than expressions of bafflement and moral horror. Something else that has kept me from writing much on this recently is the profoundly dispiriting realization (really, it is just a reminder) that it is torture and aggressive war that today’s mainstream right will go to the wall to defend, while any and every other view can be negotiated, debated, compromised or abandoned. I have started doubting whether people who are openly pro-torture or engaged in the sophistry of Manzi’s post are part of the same moral universe as I am, and I have wondered whether there is even a point in contesting such torture apologia as if they were reasonable arguments deserving of real consideration. Such fundamental assumptions at the core of our civilization should not have to be re-stated or justified anew, and the fact that they have to be is evidence of how deeply corrupted our political life has become, but if such basic norms are not reinforced it seems clear that they will be leeched away over time.

I have to admit to being surprised that the right seems to not only have instinctively rushed to defend torture (when, of course, they are not busy insisting that it isn’t torture), but now they are attempting to shift the debate into one in which we discuss the relative merits of torture (look at all the good intel I got while drowning this guy!) while bringing in the lawyers (I guess Andy McCarthy has moved on from Obama’s birth certificate) to make sure that their legal behinds are covered.

Considering what they have done with virtually every other aspect of the Bush years, I honestly expected them to do what they did with the trillions of dollars of spending and debt that happened with a Republican congress and a Republican President Bush- first, pretend it didn’t happen, then after being forced to acknowledge it did happen, claim that everyone was doing it and blame the Democrats and scream about Murtha and Barney Frank, and when that didn’t work, just pretend that it was “other” Republicans who aren’t “real conservatives” (Move along, these aren’t the wasteful spenders you are looking for) while ranting about earmarks. That is what they did with spending, I figured they would do it again with torture.

But they didn’t and they aren’t. Instead, they are mobilizing and going balls to the wall in defense of sadism. It is really quite amazing, and a testament to just how sick and detestable and rotten to the core the Republican party has become.

124 replies
  1. 1
    Mike S says:

    Your former home and blogmate has rounded another bend:

    Is Obama Rushing Another Attack?
    It is all a gamble on this question: at what point will the nation stop entertaining the proposition that it is all George Bush’s fault?
    Posted by Erick Erickson (Profile)
    Monday, April 27th at 10:45AM EDT
    75 Comments
    We know, because Joe Biden told us, that the Obama administration expects us to get attacked again domestically.
    That’s the working M.O. of this administration: no matter what we do, we’re going to eventually get hit again. The Obama administration views the seven years after 9/11 as more a fluke than a successful strategy by George Bush to prevent domestic terror attacks.
    So if the working theory is that we’re going to get hit again, what is the best response? After all, the public does credit George Bush with keeping us safe at 9/11.
    The best strategy would look something like taking a band-aid off quickly. Get the pain over fast. And if an attack happens quickly enough into the new administration, they can blame Bush.
    So the Obama administration is working hard to release all the memos on interrogations, change all the policies Bush implemented, and clear out the old as fast as possible. Never mind that if it were done slowly over time, our terrorist enemies might not be so incited to attack.
    If your working premise is that they are going to attack anyway, get them incited quickly, get it over with, and blame Bush.
    There is no other justification for so quickly making us less safe.

  2. 2
    Bootlegger says:

    The way They bounce from one argument to the next reminds me of the McCain campaign. “It’s not torture (by definition)”, “it was effective even it was torture”, and finally “torture is just an opinion and you can’t arrest anyone for their opinion.”

    I swear I’m getting whiplash just keeping up, I don’t see how they keep track themselves.

    Also, a new metaphor for hapless Dems, the battered woman. The image of the abuser passed out on the couch is just priceless.

  3. 3
    Bootlegger says:

    @Mike S: Just waiting for that rush of supersecret memos to stage their next attack.

  4. 4
    JenJen says:

    I watched Errol Morris’ excellent film about the abuses at Abu Ghraib, “Standard Operating Procedure,” last night, and I’m still stunned and horrified by it.

    I find the most horrible sentiment being expressed vis-a-vis the Bybee Memos is the “romanticization” of torture. Peggy Noonan didn’t even blink when she romanticized and waxed, and she had the audacity to repeat it over the weekend on CNN. It’s being picked up everywhere, the whole “Bush had to make TOUGH decisions, what if it were your family, etc.” It’s horrifying. It’s simply horrifying.

    I think one of the bigger questions we should be asking here is, “what happened in America?” Like Larison, I’m so dumbfounded by any torture apologist that I’m left rather speechless. Being a Gen-Xer, my grandparents’ generation fought WWII, my great uncle survived the Bataan Death March, and I grew up having my impressions of war cemented while looking at my hobbled, sweet, old beyond his years, detached uncle, asking for explanations, and the following words, used by my grandmother when she told me about her brother:

    “We don’t talk about what happened to Uncle George outside the family. Ever. It’s better not to talk about it at all, of course, but you need to know. And I’ll answer your questions.”

    It’s not very romantic if you can’t even talk about it, is it? That’s the part I don’t get; when did it become OK to just blow off torture, committed in our names? So I suppose to me, the shock I’m feeling now is mostly of the “what the hell happened to us” variety.

  5. 5
    Zifnab says:

    But they didn’t and they aren’t. Instead, they are mobilizing and going balls to the wall in defense of sadism. It is really quite amazing, and a testament to just how sick and detestable and rotten to the core the Republican party has become.

    You gotta appeal to the base. The Republicans aren’t going to walk back their die-hard commitment to tax cuts or deregulation either.

  6. 6
    myiq2xu says:

    Good thing the Obama administration is going balls to the wall to prosecute Bush administration lawbreaking.

  7. 7
    smiley says:

    I have to admit to being surprised that the right seems to not only have instinctively rushed to defend torture (when, of course, they are not busy insisting that it isn’t torture)

    That’s not what their doing. They’re defending Bush, Cheney, and their whole administration. It’s the us-against-them mentality that made the whole Bush era pretty hard to take. And, what part of illegal don’t they understand?

  8. 8
    El Cid says:

    I have started doubting whether people who are openly pro-torture or engaged in the sophistry of Manzi’s post are part of the same moral universe as I am…

    I, on the other hand, am quite farther along in the doubting process, as my path of doubt began several decades ago.

    I started asking myself quite earnest questions when I found out we didn’t have too much of a problem hiring Guatemalan generals to slaughter tens of thousands of innocent people for being the wrong ethnic group and being near ‘rebels’, as long as there was a bit of ‘plausible deniability’ and a nod to Congressional oversight.

    That was a bit of a let-down in the moral universe, in my crazy fringe view.

  9. 9
    John Cole says:

    Red State has seriously lost the plot.

  10. 10
    sturunner says:

    But the real moral question about torture is that since it doesn’t work, why do they advocate it?

  11. 11
    JK says:

    Bill Maher: The GOP Is Acting Like a Guy Who Got Dumped
    http://www.alternet.org/story/.....got_dumped

  12. 12
    Mr. Stuck says:

    And the really scary thing is, it’s not just Right Wing Bloggers taking the low road. Both comprehensive polls out over the weekend, Gallup and ABC/Post, show a basic split on citizen support, or not, on the utility of torture. Didn’t see the partisan breakdown, but would expect it to be mostly along party lines. Though a small majority want an investigation.

    Edward’s was right about one thing, on at least some issues we are two countries. One living in modern times, the other in Medieval on the topic of prisoner treatment. ALL of this shit needs to come out, prosecutions or not.

  13. 13
    BFR says:

    But they didn’t and they aren’t. Instead, they are mobilizing and going balls to the wall in defense of sadism. It is really quite amazing, and a testament to just how sick and detestable and rotten to the core the Republican party has become.

    I think it’s because they’ve spent the past 40 years defining themselves as the “tough” party – tough on commies, tough on drugs, tough on crime etc. etc.

    Ceding ground on torture would be for them to say that they are at parity with the Democrats on a national defense issue, which they (the GOP) probably believes they can’t afford to do.

    So, even if you really want to throw Bush & Cheney overboard, you can’t really do it unless you also want to throw away what you perceive as your own strength relative to the Democrats.

  14. 14
    KG says:

    I was really disappointed today to hear that the Dean of my law school, who I had for Con Law and who I consider a bit of a friend, was defending some of this stuff. I just don’t get how so many people that I know and respect, who have always shown themselves to be decent, good people (if not slightly misguided) can be so far gone down this road. It saddens me, it really does, because it calls into question one of those assumptions that we typically base our politics on: those things which unite us far outweigh those things which divide us.

  15. 15

    […] It Is Kind of Amazing 27 Apr Not surprised […]

  16. 16
    eric says:

    Here is the fundamental tenet of the current form of American conservatism: admitting fallibility on one issue, suggests fallibility on all issues and that is wholly impermissible.

    Or to put it more cheekily, being republican never means having to say you are sorry.

    This is part of the larger intellectual battle being waged around the world and one you see in Catholicism with the ascendency of the new ultra-conservative Pope. The Church, just as with the current GOP, must defend ALL of its views to deter challenges to its most fundamental tenets.

    For example, if the Church is wrong about an abstinent clergy, it could be wrong about the evils of homosexuality, or vice versa.

    If the GOP is wrong about torture, it could be wrong about the evils of homosexuality, or vice versa.

    The fear of moral relativism is so strong that they (the GOP and the Church) have to deny institutional error to avoid falling into a moral chaos, which is their true fear.

    eric

  17. 17
    Brachiator says:

    But they didn’t and they aren’t. Instead, they are mobilizing and going balls to the wall in defense of sadism. It is really quite amazing, and a testament to just how sick and detestable and rotten to the core the Republican party has become.

    Sadly, it’s not just the Republicans. Ordinary citizens either support torture or putting the matter aside because they honestly want to think the best about the United States, and want to try to accept the argument that torture became necessary because of the imminent threats of a new terrorist attack, or that torture was measured and not excessive (whatever that means).

    The denial runs deep, but is understandable. And sadly, Obama may find that he loses some support among voters if he continues to force people to confront what has been done.

    On the other hand, the Democrats are over-doing the Pontius Pilate routine. The hard truth is that in a democracy, it is hard for Democrats to argue that they are not to some degree culpable. Pelosi, Reid and other Democratic leaders had every opportunity to look deeper into what Bush and company were doing, to vote against it, to put any obstacle they could in their path.

    They chose not to do so.

    Democrats who chose to support Bush, or to meekly oppose him, chose their careers over morality. They cannot claim moral purity now.

  18. 18
    Steve V says:

    I chalk it up to two things. First, the lamentable fact that politics is a team sport, and the partisan commentators’ job is to see all fouls called on their guys as illegitimate or at least questionable; second, the fact that the interrogations issue is bound up within a larger suite of issues tied to national security, and they will go to the mat over any of the issues within that “national security” suite.

  19. 19
    peach flavored shampoo says:

    We wouldn’t need to a have an active policy on torture and rendition if we hadn’t elected a Muslim, terrorist jab-fisting terrorist palling arounder.

    You just never know when Obama will be forced to order Obama waterboarded and renditioned, in the event he knows the codes to the nukes….the very ticking time-bomb scenerio I’ve read about.

  20. 20
    celticdragon says:

    Go check out the rabid denunciations of Kathleen Parker over at Town Hall…

    Another conservative who started going off script on torture, so the base screams and tells her to go to HuffPo or DailyKos.

    I think one of the bigger questions we should be asking here is, “what happened in America?” Like Larison, I’m so dumbfounded by any torture apologist that I’m left rather speechless.

    Second that sentiment from another GenXer who is feeling shocked and disheartened.

  21. 21
    Rick Taylor says:

    That’s how I felt going into the Iraq war. It’s a basic principal of any civilized modern country, you don’t go to war except as a last resort. You only go to war when the other party has initiated hostilities. There are borderline cases of course, where the other party is preparing an imminent attack, or where you’re acting to protect other people rather than to an attack on yourself, but the basic principal is clear. War is so horrifically destructive and unpredictable, it’s always a last resort. It was depressing to see that we hadn’t learned that in this country in the twenty first century. It wasn’t just Republicans either; the point of view that of course a war against a party that wasn’t currently threatening us and was actually frantically trying to avoid war, wasn’t even considered a serious point of view in the mainstream. It wasn’t even an argument.

  22. 22
    LD50 says:

    Great Maher quote I found by jumping around on the various links:

    Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota recently said she fears that Obama will build “reeducation” camps to indoctrinate young people. But Obama hasn’t made any moves toward taking anyone’s guns, and with money as tight as it is, the last thing the president wants to do is run a camp where he has to shelter and feed a bunch of fat, angry white people.

    (From here.)

  23. 23
    Slide says:

    History is not going to be kind to the torture apologists. In due time, the Bush years will be seen as a very dark and unfortunate episode in our nation’s history. I too have been amazed that there is such defense of what would seem to me to be indefensible. And that includes the likes of Broder, Cohen and Ignatius. I guess they are really defending themselves as they shamed their profession in their quiet acquiescence to what we all knew what was going on.

    It is one of the reasons why we can’t just keep on walking as Peggy Noonan would want us to. If we don’t investigate and hold accountable those responsible for this travesty then we are tacitly approving lawlessness and immorality. It will be wrenching, divisive and will probably suck the oxygen out of the Obama administration but I don’t see any choice.

  24. 24
    Lee from NC says:

    @JenJen:

    What Jenjen said. I just don’t even know how to frame a question or rebuttal to someone who would defend the use of torture. It really feels like someone pulled the rug out from under me. No matter how much we (as Americans) disagree on some issues, I thought we all had a basic, nonspoken understanding on some things.

    Murder is bad. Torture is evil. Etc. But now I look around and see that not everyone in the country is with me on some of these basic hallmarks of civilization. It leaves me speechless.

    Certain elements of our society will go balls to the wall to stop 2 gay people from marrying. But torture? They stand and cheer over the “toughness” of the torturers.

  25. 25
    Cat Lady says:

    I wonder how long Buchanan will let Larison stay on his site. The pundits, including Buchanan, have all agreed that the debate now is whether torture worked. It’s ILLEGAL. It’s always been illegal. A lot of illegal stuff is effective, but that’s why we have f’ing LAWS. The rot at the core of the political/media establishment is being revealed, and we’re just going to have to bear witness, watching in horror, and pointing with our mouths agape. What will be interesting is to see what the apologists say when the real sick stuff gets released, because it will – the people who won’t be prosecuted will want to talk. The CIA destroyed tapes of some of the most grotesque sessions – guaranteed, there are copies out there.

  26. 26
    blogenfreude says:

    Pat Buchanan (debating Jonathan Turley on Tweety’s show):

    You may be right on what the law says, but there is a higher moral law. That’s what… That’s what Dr. King was all about.

    We torture because it’s moral.

    Why are sociopaths given such a platform?

  27. 27
    gnomedad says:

    Great post; thanks for making this crucial point.

    Extreme ideologues of all types seem to reach a point where doing what is normally considered evil becomes a virtue because it proves how just your cause is. It also locks you in to the ideology because to let it go you’d have to admit you did or approved of evil.

    I’m really sick of the “kool-aid” metaphor but it applies here, only the Repubs have poisoned their souls.

  28. 28
    tomjones says:

    Don’t be too hard on the Republicans, John. I think we all know that had it been, say, a Kerry administration guilty of these offenses, we would have had no more ardent supporters of investigation and prosecution than the Republicans.

  29. 29
    TenguPhule says:

    Why are sociopaths given such a platform?

    Because someone forgot to add the trapdoor below and the rope above.

  30. 30
    Mike S says:

    That’s what Dr. King was all about.

    Dr. King was about supporting torture?

    Time to find a new hero.

  31. 31
    Chi-city says:

    They are the party of entitlement, power and ownership. When your drunk with entitlement, power and ownership you think that you can do anything as long as it involves you getting yours. The line between legal v. illegal, moral v. immoral, and right v. wrong get’s clouded. Once the smoke clears, the party is over and the hangover kicks in, it’s sometimes shocking to see which side of the line you are on. I am all for the American dream but don’t live yours at the expense of mine.

  32. 32
    Steve V says:

    I would add a third point to my previous comment, agreeing with BFR @13. The interrogation issue strikes me as an extension of the “tough on crime,” pro-vigilante strain of conservative advocacy I’ve been hearing since the days of Rose Bird.

  33. 33
    JoyceH says:

    One thing that those of us who still retain our sanity and our morals need to do is to immediately and decisively shut down any attempt to bring up the ‘ticking time bomb’ scenario.

    Look, this isn’t hypothetical anymore. We don’t have to debate fictional ‘what if’ scenarios. We have a REAL record of torture to debate. And what happened was that the Bush administration developed an elaborate torture program and did not hold it in reserve for the ‘ticking time bomb’ situation. They didn’t even hold it in reserve for ‘actionable intelligence’!

    They IMMEDIATELY began applying their shiny new torture techniques to detainees that had already been in custody for months, which means they tortured detainees who could not possibly have useful information about upcoming attacks, because if they had known something about an attack, their coconspirators on the outside would have changed the details as soon as they were captured.

    Not only that, but the administration almost immediately began using these techniques to try to force confessions of something that was untrue, an Iraq-Al Qaeda connection.

    I’ve always opposed torture both because of the basic immorality and human rights issues, but also by how easy it would be to corrupt – say you’ll only torture in the ‘ticking time bomb’ case, and eventually you’d move on to ‘they know something useful’, and then to ‘they MIGHT know something useful’, and eventually on to ‘get them to say what we want, even if it’s untrue’. But the REALITY was so much more horrifying that I could have imagined in my worst nightmares. We went from the “legalization” of torture to the forced false confessions in less than a YEAR!

  34. 34
    Mr. Stuck says:

    OT sort of.

    Meanwhile, in other news at the front on the GOP’s WAR ON COMMON SENSE FOR IDEOLOGICAL PURITY. Just heard on CNN, that tomorrow there should finally be a vote on notorious baby killer Kathleen Sebellius for HHS Secretary. Dems are guardedly confident they will have the 60 votes necessary to get her confirmed.

    Yes, they expect a filibuster due too GOV. Sebellius’s Pro-Choice position. This, while the HHS is understaffed because there is no Secretary to appoint them. Of course everyone knows the HHS Secretary doesn’t do that much. It’s not like we have the threat of a Flu Pandemic or anything.

  35. 35
    Jay B. says:

    Buchanan doesn’t own American Conservative and I don’t believe he has any relationship with them now. Greenwald wrote something to this affect fairly recently.

  36. 36
    scav says:

    What? The three vocal opinion party given two dems in a room wouldn’t be going after pro-torture dems? ha. dems have special pitchforks for their own. The roots aren’t lockstep enough.

  37. 37
    JK says:

    @blogenfreude: When did Pat Buchanan start citing MLK in an approving fashion?

  38. 38
    Roger the Cabin Boy says:

    Just the fact that they even want to debate this is depraved. And trying to justify it because it “gets results” or “48% would approve it under certain circumstances” shows what monsters we have among us. It’s immoral (and illegal). Period. Like pedophilia. End of discussion.

    And John, regarding those who did the strapping down and poured the water, I seem to remember from my Army training that the least private (or presumably agent) is responsible for knowing the difference between a lawful order and an unlawful order. One is not required to obey the latter and if one does one bears the same responsibility for the consequences as the one who issued it. The “I was only obeying orders” defense was effectively put to rest at Nuremberg.

  39. 39
    Slide says:

    @JK:

    The three vocal opinion party given two dems in a room wouldn’t be going after pro-torture dems?

    can someone translate this to me? I feel like I have stroke and none of the words make any sense

  40. 40
    Zifnab says:

    @blogenfreude: Cause they have all the money. One might question why sociopaths have all the money, but then you’re walking the long dark road that eventually leads to So cia lis m.

    And, speaking of slippery slopes, how short a trip is it – really – between decrying torture in Abu Ghraib and denouncing aerial raids with civilian causalities (read: virtually all of them)? If you can’t lock a guy in an iron box and fill it full of insects, can you justify snatching him off the street in a midnight COIN raid to begin with? What happens when sicking dogs on detainees becomes outlawed? Can firing white phosphorous into crowded buildings be far behind?

    You’re threatening the very foundation of warfare when you begin respecting a generic human’s right to live a healthy and happy life. Once you stop brutalizing people in captivity, how long before you prohibit brutalizing people all together?

  41. 41
    SLKRR says:

    @JoyceH:

    But the REALITY was so much more horrifying that I could have imagined in my worst nightmares. We went from the “legalization” of torture to the forced false confessions in less than a YEAR!

    It’s even worse than that. The “legalization” of torture was done in order to force false confessions. The confessions were a feature, not a bug.

  42. 42
    RSA says:

    Check it out: Charles Krauthammer in 2005:

    Torture is not always impermissible. However rare the cases, there are circumstances in which, by any rational moral calculus, torture not only would be permissible but would be required (to acquire life-saving information). And once you’ve established the principle, to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, all that’s left to haggle about is the price. In the case of torture, that means that the argument is not whether torture is ever permissible, but when–i.e., under what obviously stringent circumstances: how big, how imminent, how preventable the ticking time bomb.

    Krauthammer goes on to argue why we should be torturing KSM:

    If Khalid Sheikh Mohammed knew nothing, or if we had reached the point where his knowledge had been exhausted, I’d be perfectly prepared to throw him into a nice, comfortable Manhattan cell and give him a trial to determine what would be fit and just punishment. But aslong as he had useful information, things would be different.

    Because, you know, maybe 183 torture sessions per month still leaves us unsure whether KSM has useful information.

  43. 43
    JenJen says:

    @blogenfreude: Didn’t click on the link, as I’ve already met my self-imposed mandatory Buchanan quota for today, but is this in the same vein of his argument that “If you weren’t mad about Hiroshima you can’t be mad about this?”

    Buchanan has been taking the “torture question” to a whole new level lately.

  44. 44
    JK says:

    Will Bunch provides a nice takedown of Politico’s coverage of the torture debate

    Torture is not about “winning the afternoon,” OK?
    http://www.philly.com/philly/b.....on_OK.html

  45. 45
    scav says:

    tomjones suggested dems would be ok with torture if dems had been in charge. Given that dems go after each other under the best of circumstances (e.g. two dems in a room can be guaranteed to have three vocal opinions), I expressed doubt that this would be the case. People often are slack-jawed and stunned when I really get into my own verbal brain space because I’m angry about something.

  46. 46
    Slide says:

    @gnomedad: I saw the same give and take between Buchannan and Turley and was amazed as well how Pat was trying to suggest that torture was the higher moral ground… simply amazing

  47. 47
    Mr. Stuck says:

    @Brachiator:

    Though I agree that dems too easily went along with Bush right after 9-11 allowing Bush to run amuck.

    However, they made some honest efforts to correct their mistakes afterward. Dems were out of power completely until 2006, and then controlled congress by the slimmest of margins. There were efforts to extract info from Bush that was largely ignored and all of the bills were forced into watered down status, just to get some sanity restored. Whereupon, Bush just made signing statements and ignored what little restraints that were placed on his behaviour.

    As for being told about torture, I think that is a total canard. They were given the slimmest of knowledge with penalty of felonies if they told anyone, even their staff. This was a Bush CYA operation imo, and not legitimate.

    They have some culpability, but very little compared to the perps in the Bush Admin.

  48. 48
    Garrigus Carraig says:

    Although this torture conversation is indeed eerie, it’s worth remembering that the US has always indulged in the destruction of innocent lives of minorities at home or perceived enemies abroad. There is not a single decade since King Philip’s War (at the latest) in which we’ve not dropped the hammer on someone. Nor are we alone, I imagine, in this.
    .
    I think we tend to have an overblown sense of our own morality. Maybe because our 20th century opponents were so alarmingly craven, the bar got lowered? I don’t know.

  49. 49
    John PM says:

    I’m really sick of the “kool-aid” metaphor but it applies here, only the Repubs have poisoned their souls.

    Should the Book of Revelation ever actually come to pass, I am convinced that it will be the Republican “Christians” who will be left behind and who will be the staunchest supporters of the Anti-Christ. There is no way that anyone can honestly read the Gospels and call themselves Christians if they support torture. Each so-called “Christian” who defends the use of torture needs to explain how he or she is going to get into heaven.

  50. 50
    The Cat Who Would Be Tunch says:

    I’ve been fearing that this line of thinking, i.e. torture gets results and thus, is justified, would start percolating in the media during debates about torture.

    Do the (recent) advocates of torture not realize what an incredible slippery slope this leads? This’ll just spiral into madness. It’s going to be incredible hard to criticize other countries (pick your country of choice) for jailing and torturing dissidents when all they have to do is claim that said dissidents posed a national security risk. When asked for proof, the reply will inevitably be “Sorry, that has to be classified under State Secrets privilege.” What about torturing people to get “proof” that there’s an imminent attack from another nation, only to find that the evidence is false since the victims just told you what you wanted to hear? Oh wait…

    Confirmation bias, morality issues, and effectiveness be damned. Say it with me, torture advocates. What you’re telling the world is that IOKIYAA. That’s American Exceptionalism at its finest.

  51. 51
    Ash Can says:

    @scav: lolwut

  52. 52
    GeneJockey says:

    Well, these guys pass around videos like the gun camera footage of “ragheads” being shot literally to pieces by the 30 mm cannons on an Apache helicopter, and pictures like a man whose head appears to have “popped” like a balloon from a sniper’s bullet.

    These images are made okay by the fact that it’s “The Enemy”.

    And they pass around videos of 9/11 victims jumping from the WTC, and Americans being beheaded.

    These images are made okay because by viewing them, “You’ll know what’s at stake”.

    There is a level of sadism and savagery in them that 9/11 released. Maybe it’s the fear, combined with the humiliation of having been “pantsed” by crazy nihilists in a cave in Afghanistan. Maybe they always had it and it only needed a trigger to let them express it openly.

  53. 53
    scav says:

    Garrigus Carraig: So, we give up standards of behavior to aspire to? Better still, give up standards to aspire to while vocally patting ourselves on the back for our supreme moral rectitude? whited sepulchers indeed.

  54. 54
    Cat Lady says:

    @John PM:

    Christ was put in the ultimate stress position. The “Christians” are defending the Romans. Welcome to Republican opposite world, where Pat Buchanan cites MLK to justify establishment abuse of the powerless. My head hurts.

  55. 55
    scav says:

    Cat Lady. Worse, weren’t the Xtians thrown to the lions primarily because they wouldn’t support the state religion and sacrifice to the gods in order to protect the nation? We are so down the rabbit hole.

  56. 56
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    Second that sentiment from another GenXer who is feeling shocked and disheartened.

    Be shocked, but don’t be disheartened. We are finally entering the infected wound is exposed to sunlight phase of this moral crisis, or at least we will if people push hard enough for it. This is how we make progress, by exposing these things. It is always one step back, two steps forward.

    People who tell you otherwise, that the US has never ever done anything like this before are in most respects giving you a sanitized view of US history, with all the internal repression, imperialism, racism and genocide edited out or forgotten: Slavery. The Trail of Tears. Nits make lice. No Chinese wanted. Jim Crow. The Palmer raids. The WW2 internment camps. Anti-semitism. Lynchings. McCarthyism. My Lai. The School of the Americas. The list goes on and on..

    …and yet. And yet the list gets shorter over time too. The things which were “acceptable” 100 or even 50 years ago which are no longer “acceptable” today, they all got that way because our predecessors went through a process of outrage and reaction and cultural change very similar to what is going on today. In my view this is part of what Dr. King was pointing at when he said the moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice.

    There is also a generational aspect to this. Each generation as it ages, as it grows into power and takes over the establisment, it turns into the monsters which its children will have to fight and overthrow in order to make progress and reaffirm our values. Just about everything vile and evil in US national life that has been tossed out, is gone now because at some point the reason: “Because shut up, that’s why. That’s the way things have always been. Now get off my lawn” wasn’t good enough anymore.

    That’s how realignments happen.

  57. 57
    Peter K. says:

    Garrigus Carraig:

    I think we tend to have an overblown sense of our own morality. Maybe because our 20th century opponents were so alarmingly craven, the bar got lowered? I don’t know.

    I think you’re right, but things have gotten better with human rights on the international scene recently.

    At the same time, things were better in the past like the Geneva Conventions, but in the late 70s and 80s with the backlash of the rightwing and Reagan and Dirty Harry, etc., things turned again which is what we’re still dealing with.

    Also these days you have the ticking bomb scare stories of nuclear bombs and biological weapons.

  58. 58
    BombIranForChrist says:

    Osama bin Laden lit the match, and the Extreme Right is fanning the flames.

  59. 59
    JenJen says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ: It wasn’t my intention to start the Gen X argument, but I did think it was relevant to the issue, as most Gen Xers had grandparents who fought in the Second World War, and uncles who fought in Vietnam, while being oddly (and quite gratefully) spared the conflict of war ourselves. We were pre-schoolers during Watergate, grade-schoolers during Ford and Carter, middle-and-high-schoolers during Reagan, college kids during Bush and full-fledged grown-ups during Clinton. Our political opinions and experiences were shaped by, honestly, partisanship and a healthy dose of bitterness. We also lived through the brunt of the Cold War, and were young enough to really see the promise for the world when it ended. I think our age and experience is why so many people of my generation were so utterly offended and shocked by Bush, as in, “Oh Jesus, seriously, we’re doing this again, we’re going back to this shit again, we’re going to start a war, even? WTF?”

    Oversimplifying it, of course…

    The election of Barack Hussein Obama (although Gen X can’t claim him) felt to me like the greatest Gen X accomplishment so far; I felt like it was such an utter repudiation of the politics we grew up with, even more so than a repudiation of just the Dubya Decade. I was hoping we were getting closer to just really moving forward, but the torture “debate” (how can there be a fucking debate about fucking torture?!) is serving as a reminder that we have a really long way to go, and that I’m not so sure I understand my fellow Americans as much as I thought I did.

  60. 60
    Luc says:

    The loss of the identity of this country (example torture) demonstrates very much the enormous success of Bin Laden. One terror attack has contributed significantly to the economic crisis, has ruined the reputation of the super power (Iraq war), and made it loose its identity. The Bush administration likely acted perfectly according to Bin Ladens’s scheme.

    Hopefully some is reversible.

  61. 61

    […] – Daniel Larison at The American Conservative [Props=Balloon Juice] […]

  62. 62
    Mnemosyne says:

    “You may be right on what the law says, but there is a higher moral law. That’s what… That’s what Dr. King was all about.”

    You know what else Dr. King was about? Going to jail for breaking immoral laws. He went to jail at least three times, and that doesn’t even count his numerous arrests that did not result in jail time.

    Who thinks we’d get a new “Letter from Birmingham Jail” out of Yoo or Cheney?

  63. 63
    Brachiator says:

    @Mr. Stuck:

    However, they made some honest efforts to correct their mistakes afterward. Dems were out of power completely until 2006, and then controlled congress by the slimmest of margins. There were efforts to extract info from Bush that was largely ignored and all of the bills were forced into watered down status, just to get some sanity restored. Whereupon, Bush just made signing statements and ignored what little restraints that were placed on his behaviour.

    Again, the question is, what does a democracy do, how does it react, when atrocities are committed?

    Is is sufficient for Democratic congress people to fall back on procedure? To just make an effort?

    Ultimately, I don’t think it is sufficient. Nobody resigned, citing their principles. Nobody pushed to get the truth out.

    The plain fact is that Republicans and Democrats backed Bush in his trumped up war because they were afraid that opposing Bush/Cheney might mean that they would lose their cushy positions.

    And even among the citizenry. Too many believe that as long as you hang with the correct, self-righteous crowd, and as long as you blog about a moral outrage, then you have done your work.

    It is not sufficient.

    As for being told about torture, I think that is a total canard. They were given the slimmest of knowledge with penalty of felonies if they told anyone, even their staff. This was a Bush CYA operation imo, and not legitimate.

    Bullpuckey. We all saw Gitmo. We all read the memos from the neo-con goons rationalizing torture. We heard talk radio hosts sagely intone that fighting the war on terror was so important that it was reasonable to suspend some Constitutional rights, and that if it meant saving lives at home, then torture might be the right thing to do.

    The last time I looked at the Constitution, the Congress was co-equal to the president. They could not be punished for telling anyone, not if they were willing to fight it out.

    But again, it is too easy, to comforting, to put it all on Bush and Cheney. It is all too easy to blame the Republican base.

    And all too hypocritical.

  64. 64
    Tom says:

    I have to think that part of the reasoning these people use in justifying torture is they can’t imagine American servicemen and women being captured in large numbers ever again. Part of the horror with respect to torture is imagining the same conduct being applied to our own flesh and blood, and in a world where America spends as much on defense as the rest of the world combined, and our biggest threat isn’t even among the tiniest of nation-states, well, I can see how this generation could become inurred to it. Even during Vietnam we had large numbers of captured soldiers, sailors, and airmen. And back then we prosecuted our own for war crimes like waterboarding. But combine the ‘it-can’t-happen-here’ attitude with victim names like Abu and Mohammed, well….

  65. 65
    georgia pig says:

    The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. -John Kenneth Galbraith

    It is fascinating how a depraved selfishness seems to be at the root of so much of modern conservative dogma. Torture is just another manifestation, i.e., my right to treat others as objects in the name of even the most speculative fears about my own security and the speculative benefits torture might provide to it overrides any and all duties to a common humanity. Therefore, I concoct all manner of bizarre rationalizations, such as “it’s not really torture” and “torture works.” And a lot of these folks consider themselves Christians and law-abiding. Jeez, what a joke.

    And think about how fundamentally cowardly these assholes are. My guess is that even if they were presented with the one-in-billion proverbial “ticking bomb” scenario, they’d shit their pants and wait for a legal opinion from Jay Bybee to make sure they wouldn’t suffer any consequences for acting like Jack Bauer. Remember when people used to take moral dilemmas like those in The Caine Mutiny seriously?

  66. 66
    Mnemosyne says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    As JenJen and Peter K. said, I think the disconnect was that we finally started to feel like maybe we had learned our lesson that torture is counterproductive (also morally bad), only to get sucked back in. One step forward, two steps back.

  67. 67
    Bill Teefy says:

    The righties are still defending the extreme methods necessary in Nanking and the absolute necessity of the Pearl Harbor attack I mean those Chinese were not accepting the Co-Prosperity Sphere (marketing tip-of-the-hat to Tokyo Peggy Noonansan) and the US was storing up the weapons of mass destruction which threatened their oil and stuff.

    The part I find hardest to get is that we once were a nation proud to have sacrificed all those young men to stop crazy SOBs who launched pre-emptive wars and tortured their captives and chuckled at the toothlessness of the Geneva man.

    Now we are Oberst von Scherbach and Sergeant Schulz and asking each other whether the Gestapo should or shouldn’t have to do whatever is necessary.

  68. 68
    Mr. Stuck says:

    Is is sufficient for Democratic congress people to fall back on procedure? To just make an effort?

    That “procedure” is how our political system works. It is how our legislative branch works and has for two centuries. Not perfect, but that’s the system. And the idea that dem congresscritters should resign because Bush is breaking laws, or vetoes bills, or they get filibustered, is the height of haughty dumb.

    And I already said they gave in of Iraq, though most of the country was for it, at that time. Your advocating a congressional coup of sorts. Maybe that would have worked, but I doubt it, and likely would have made it worse IMO. Further, that dems didn’t do all they could have done, this I agree with. But to equate their culpabilility with goopers is the real Bullpuckey.

  69. 69
    JK says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Who thinks we’d get a new “Letter from Birmingham Jail” out of Yoo or Cheney?

    You won’t get that. What you’ll get instead is a new Apprentice (Libby’s novel not the reality tv show)

  70. 70
    JenJen says:

    @Mnemosyne: I really do wish I could have expressed it as perfectly as you have. That’s it, exactly… it’s like, you wake up from a nightmare, you take a deep breath, you have a few beautiful days, and then BAM! Right back in the middle of a nightmare.

  71. 71
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    I think our age and experience is why so many people of my generation were so utterly offended and shocked by Bush, as in, “Oh Jesus, seriously, we’re doing this again, we’re going back to this shit again, we’re going to start a war, even? WTF?”

    I think what you are dealing with here is an unresolved problem in American politics since the end of the Cold War – who is the Enemy now, and how do we deal with them? There is a paranoid and Manichean strain in American politics with very deep historical roots, which is almost certainly not going to go away any time soon, which requires that there always and forever be An Enemy, because we define ourselves via binary opposition against some scary Other.

    Before we had scary Mooslims to make us look under the bed for monsters it was the Commies and before that it was the Krauts (there was near hysterical Germano-phobia during WW1) and before that it was just plain anybody who was non-white (this strain has been the most persistent of all), which if you go back into the 19th and 18th Centuries meant not just what we might think of today but also Spaniards and Italians and more generally all Catholics, and most comically of all the Germans (there is a funny quote from Benjamin Franklin where he goes on and on about how the Germans aren’t really white people like the English).

    That we can simply skip this game altogether is a thought that has occurred to some of us, and judging from the fact that after 9-11 Arab-Americans were not rounded up into camps (like the Japanese Americans during WW2) I’d hazard a guess that the number of people who are done with that way of thinking has expanded over the last generation or two, but it is I think a very slow process. Early European colonists arriving here in the early to mid 1600s brought with them this sort of thinking as baggage from the sectarian conflicts they were fleeing from (e.g. the English Civil War and the Thirty Years War), so this is a problem we’ve already been working on for 400 years. It is going to take a while longer before it is completely gone.

  72. 72
    tomjones says:

    @Roger the Cabin Boy: While it’s true that one has no obligation to follow obviously unlawful orders, we have qualified immunity for those acting under “color of law” for a reason.

    Do we really want soldiers to hesitate in the face of an order from a superior officer, especially one that’s backed up by a certified ‘get out of jail free card’ legal opinion?

  73. 73
    Mike G says:

    It is really quite amazing, and a testament to just how sick and detestable and rotten to the core the Republican party has become.

    It’s no surprise – Repigs were great buddies with all manner of torturing and murdering South American military dictatorships for decades, from Chile to Argentina to Paraguay.
    Not to mention looking the other way at any random slaughter in Latin America. So long as the local goons used the excuse of “communists” and were friendly to Repig-crony corporations, they couldn’t be bothered even pretending to care.

  74. 74
    gnomedad says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    People who tell you otherwise, that the US has never ever done anything like this before are in most respects giving you a sanitized view of US history, with all the internal repression, imperialism, racism and genocide edited out or forgotten: Slavery. The Trail of Tears. Nits make lice. No Chinese wanted. Jim Crow. The Palmer raids. The WW2 internment camps. Anti-semitism. Lynchings. McCarthyism. My Lai. The School of the Americas. The list goes on and on…..and yet. And yet the list gets shorter over time too. The things which were “acceptable” 100 or even 50 years ago which are no longer “acceptable” today, they all got that way because our predecessors went through a process of outrage and reaction and cultural change very similar to what is going on today. In my view this is part of what Dr. King was pointing at when he said the moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice.

    Nicely put. In order to progress you have to be willing to look. Too many want to “just keep walking” or accuse those willing to look with “hating America.”

  75. 75
    Brachiator says:

    @Mr. Stuck:

    That “procedure” is how our political system works. It is how our legislative branch works and has for two centuries.

    There have been times when the legislative branch stood up to or more actively opposed the executive branch.

    Not perfect, but that’s the system. And for dems congresscritters should resign because Bush is breaking laws, or vetoes bills, or they get filibustered, is the height of haughty dumb.

    If the Congress thought that Bush was breaking the law, they could have chosen to impeach him. Why didn’t they?

    And I already said they gave in of Iraq, though most of the country was for it, at that time. Your advocating a congressional coup of sorts.

    Nonsense. I am not advocating anything that is not already in the Constitution.

    On the other hand, supposedly progressive fools who want to have Bush and Cheney tried for war crimes are advocating a position for which their is absolutely no Constitutuional precedent.

    But you give the game away. You admit that most of the country was for the war, so the Democrats played “go along.” Not a very morally principled stance.

    Maybe that would have worked, but I doubt it, and likely would have made it worse IMO. Further, that dems didn’t do all they could have done, this I agree with. But to equate their culpabilility with goopers is the real Bullpuckey

    Odd. At Nuremberg, people were prosecuted who weakly claimed that they didn’t know, or that they were only following orders.

    How is that any different from Congressional Democrats?

    It’s not that people in Congress of both parties didn’t know. They didn’t want to know. And even you admit that in some cases they were bowing to their perception of the popular will. No one wanted to appear to be weak on national security. So they willingly went along. And now they want to appear to be “shocked, shocked,” to find that torture was going on.

    You can try to clean the crap up all you want. It still stinks.

  76. 76
    celticdragon says:

    JenJen

    The election of Barack Hussein Obama (although Gen X can’t claim him) felt to me like the greatest Gen X accomplishment so far; I felt like it was such an utter repudiation of the politics we grew up with, even more so than a repudiation of just the Dubya Decade. I was hoping we were getting closer to just really moving forward, but the torture “debate” (how can there be a fucking debate about fucking torture?!) is serving as a reminder that we have a really long way to go, and that I’m not so sure I understand my fellow Americans as much as I thought I did.

    Exactly.

    I grew up in the Republican party. I was a classic child of the Reagan 80’s (I graduated from HS in 1985).

    What the fuck happened to the Republicans??!

    Really…What the Fuck?

    Torture?

    Prisoners disappeared?

    Secret prisons?

    God hates fags?

    I honestly never thought we would outdo the bullshit we perpetrated with the Japanese internment camps.

    I never entertained the notion that I would really feel ashamed of my country…but here it is, staring me in the face.

    True, a new day is here, so we are told. How can we really move on without a reckoning for this? Not the E-3s and E-4s from West Virginia who were betrayed by the chain of command…but making the powerful come to account?

    I don’t see how we do it without severe additional damage being dome to our polity, but we have to do it. I won’t be surprised to see political violence and an attempted assassination come of this. We have to bring sunlight in. We are actually breaking as a country in some ways, and excising this wound must be accomplished.

  77. 77
    JK says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ: I like your sentiments, especially the reference

    the moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice

    I think the task is made more difficult by Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity. They have legions of gullible followers and few members of the MSM ever call them out on their jaw-dropping BS. They have the platform to provide powerful pushback against that arc.

  78. 78
    hat's the says:

    @celticdragon:

    I’m not ashamed. I didn’t and don’t support torture. I think if it were debated properly, or even rationally, most people would oppose it.
    I have as much responsibility as I have power. I vote, I donate, I even (horrors) canvass. That’s the extent of my power.
    I’m perfectly willing to accept responsibility for my own actions. I’m not shouldering this shame.

  79. 79
    Mr. Stuck says:

    There have been times when the legislative branch stood up to or more actively opposed the executive branch.

    They command no divisions, no law enforcement agencies. Just the power of the purse. I guess they could have shut down the government to make Bush behave.

    If the Congress thought that Bush was breaking the law, they could have chosen to impeach him. Why didn’t they?

    They could have, and I’m not sure they shouldn’t have. It would not have removed him from office, and there was NO chance of the Senate convicting to do that. They made a calculation that the choice was, winning elections and attaining power to make changes. Or, make a gesture of principle, and do a toothless Constitutional maneuver to make some feel warm and fuzzy. On second thought, I’m glad they chose the latter.

    On the other hand, supposedly progressive fools who want to have Bush and Cheney tried for war crimes are advocating a position for which their is absolutely no Constitutuional precedent.

    Funny that, I thought a President breaking international treaties on torture was covered in the Constitution.

    But you give the game away. You admit that most of the country was for the war, so the Democrats played “go along.” Not a very morally principled stance.

    They are firstly elected to represent their states or districts and the peoples therin/ There are different notions on morality in America at given points in time. The point in time for selling the Iraq war, was when people were scared. Not particularly noble. But human/ Bush pushed for war, not dems. And 150 voted against it in both houses, while 100 voted for it.

    On the other hand, supposedly progressive fools

    I am a Moderate fool! Or a fool Moderate.

    You can try to clean the crap up all you want. It still stinks.

    Looks like the Bushies CYA operations have worked on some.

  80. 80
    Corner Stone says:

    It is really quite amazing, and a testament to just how sick and detestable and rotten to the core the Republican party has become.

    It’s not amazing to those of who’ve been alive for 30 years or more and actually looked at the rotten beast that is the Republican Party.
    Nixon, Reagan, Atwater, DeLay, Rove – these people didn’t just pop out of a box. They’ve ran the RNC at one level or another for over forty years.
    The Republican party hasn’t “become” this – it’s always been this way. What did you think you’ve been voting for for 20 or 30 odd years?

  81. 81
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    What the fuck happened to the Republicans??!

    Really…What the Fuck?

    Torture?

    Prisoners disappeared?

    Secret prisons?

    God hates fags?

    I honestly never thought we would outdo the bullshit we perpetrated with the Japanese internment camps.

    I never entertained the notion that I would really feel ashamed of my country…but here it is, staring me in the face.

    All this stuff was going on the whole time all through the 1970s and 1980s and on up to the present. What is different now is that dirty things we used to do secretly, at a distance via proxies, have come home (see for example Mahmood Mamdani’s Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror). That is why it is staring us in the face. The chickens came home to roost, so now more people can see the feathers and smell the chickenshit – you don’t have to be a DFH anymore.

  82. 82
    Wag says:

    The Right no doubt wants to further untie the Military’s hands. If they succeed in getting the US to accept torture, then it should be a piece of cake to abrogate the treaties against germ warfare and nerve gas, too. after all, we need to be able to take the fight to THEM before them bring it to US.

    ANYTHING TO PROTECT THE FATHERLAND…er, homeland.

  83. 83
    Corner Stone says:

    @sturunner:

    But the real moral question about torture is that since it doesn’t work, why do they advocate it?

    Was this snark?
    I can’t tell so I’ll just say this – of course it works. You will never, ever convince a wingnut otherwise. That is why the utility of torture is not to be allowed into the debate.

  84. 84
    Mr. Stuck says:

    @Mr. Stuck:

    I’m glad they chose the latter.

    Should be former/

  85. 85
    JenJen says:

    @celticdragon:

    I grew up in the Republican party. I was a classic child of the Reagan 80’s (I graduated from HS in 1985).

    What the fuck happened to the Republicans??!

    Really…What the Fuck?

    Well, well! Class of ’84 here. :-)

    I spent my very first vote on the reelection of Ronald Reagan. I can’t really remember why anymore; I was young, Mondale was utterly steamrolled by Reagan’s political apparatus, and it just seemed like the right thing at the time. But honestly I regret that vote, the first and last vote I would ever cast for a GOP Presidential Candidate. I spent the next few years living in (then West) Germany, returned to the US to finish my college education, and became a Democrat.

    I think something about Europe did it for me, but damn was it ever eye-opening realizing that the rest of the world didn’t actually think you were all that awesome. I imagine the GOP argument to that would be, “Well, Jen, you’re just a big pussy.” Yeah, but it didn’t take long for me to realize it was awfully strange to put all the nuclear weapons in the Euro-Theater and then take the button back to the US, you know? It just rocked my world, it really did, and you also have to consider the time; pre-fall of the Eastern Bloc and all.

    But those Republicans are not these Republicans, and I have no idea where the new, modern crop came from. The Repubs I argued with back then would at least give me the time of day, we’d disagree on ideology but at the end, agreed that we were just fundamentally American, and isn’t it great to be able to disagree and then drink a beer? It brings me back to my original query: “What the hell happened to us?”

    A debate about torture. We’re debating torture. If that isn’t ludicrous, I’m not sure what is. I first recognized it during the march to the Iraq War, and again, when the wound was ripped open during Hurricane Katrina, and I was surrounded by people mostly much younger or much older than I, using terms like “culling the herd” to describe what was happening in New Orleans. I knew we were f’d up then, I was horrified at my own countrymen, at that very moment. And that’s the moment I thought we weren’t ever going to get it back, you know? We weren’t ever going to be really, really American, ever again.

    I don’t want to be right.

  86. 86
    grandmavicki says:

    The only reason for the recent results of the Gallup Poll is the concerted campaign for justification by Cheney et al. If and when we finally find out what information we gleaned from torture there may be an entirely different result. Neither way is the right way of course. The entire argument is specious and sickening, that the US should adopt torture under any circumstances saddens me beyond words.

  87. 87
    asiangrrlMN says:

    First of all, Pat Buchanan does not get to quote Dr. King. No, that is not negotiable. It’s a travesty.

    Second, I want people to stop debating the efficacy of torture because (and I can’t believe I’m quoting him) as Shep Smith said (and I’m paraphrasing), “I don’t give a rat’s ass if it worked. We are America. We don’t fucking torture.”

    That is or should be the bottom line. We don’t torture.

    This needs to be hammered home over and over. I am somewhat of a moral relativist (somewhat), but this is the bottom line. We don’t torture. We don’t international laws. Period. We have GOT to stick to this.

    If there were Dems who were in on this, then they need to be held accountable as well. This is not a partisan issue–it is a moral issue. The truth needs to be known.

  88. 88
    JenJen says:

    Digby FTW, as usual:

    I just pray no fellatio was involved in the torture regime or there is going to be hell to pay.

    If you have a stack of Pepcid handy, don’t miss the gut-churning “moral relativism” Michael Gerson op/ed she links to.

  89. 89
    Catsy says:

    Thanks for this. I was beginning to feel shrill, because even at the more civil forums like ObWi I am completely unable to be polite to torture apologists anymore. It’s as if someone walked into a room and started trying to convince everyone that raping toddlers was okay in the name of national security. The ideological difference between these creatures and actual historical Nazis can be measured in the flag they wave and the minority they hate.

    It’s really that simple: there are some things that civilized people and countries don’t ever do. You either get that or you don’t, and if you don’t then there is something fundamentally wrong with your moral compass, and you should be shunned by decent people just as we shun unrepentant racists and child rapists.

  90. 90
    LauraM says:

    It’s really that simple: there are some things that civilized people and countries don’t ever do.

    There are some things that I really thought were just settled. This is one of them. I know there have been and are disagreements about so many things, but I thought there were some things that everyone agreed on. One of them is: civilized countries don’t torture their prisoners. Or at least that they shouldn’t, that if they do then the people who did it or ordered it can be understood to have committed a crime.

    That’s what’s most disturbing about all this. Not just that it was done, but that so many people are actually arguing, seriously, that there’s nothing wrong with that.

    My brother is a Republican. Not a crazy one, he’s a reasonable guy. I’m a left-leaning Independent. We talk about politics quite a bit. We’re far enough apart in general to give us stuff to argue about, but close enough that we can argue it from a common set of terms.

    Lately I’ve been avoiding the subject. I’m afraid to ask him what he thinks about torture, because I might learn something about him that I didn’t want to know ….

    First comment BTW. Hi. Hope I did this right.

  91. 91
    Mr. Stuck says:

    @LauraM:

    First comment BTW. Hi. Hope I did this right.

    You did just fine. And Hi! back, and welcome. At least one cuss word used to be required, but civility has broke out lately. Mostly. A little.

  92. 92
    Roger the Cabin Boy says:

    @tomjones

    And if that order is to shoot unarmed, handcuffed prisoners? Or civilians? Our military depends on soldiers knowing the difference between right and wrong and acting accordingly. When they don’t and are caught they suffer the consequences, regardless of rank. And “conditional immunity” won’t prevent the Army from throwing your ass out with a DD.

  93. 93
    JK says:

    Since the currently proposed moral justification for torture as information-gathering is itself morally unjustifiable, we are better off treating the prohibition of torture as morally absolute. The laws of a liberal democracy must clearly and firmly reflect these moral considerations, even if a scenario as portrayed in the time-bomb example should ever arise in actuality. In such a highly implausible case, in which all the conditions of prior knowledge of the victim’s guilt are equally in place, those who choose to torture must nonetheless face the consequences of severe legal sanction.

    – Thomas C. Hilde’s Testimony before the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Field Hearing, University of Maryland , College Park, December 10, 2007
    http://newsdesk.umd.edu/Helsinki/hilde.cfm

  94. 94
    JenJen says:

    @LauraM: Not only did your comment work, it was well-written and just lovely to read. :-)

    Welcome!! Laura W will be along shortly, I hope, with your welcome package of gifts, soaps, sundries and such. ;-)

  95. 95
    Mike Furlan says:

    I have started doubting whether people who are openly pro-torture or engaged in the sophistry of Manzi’s post are part of the same moral universe as I am.

    Says Mr. Larison who is a proud member of the “League of the South.”

    The League of the South has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as:

    rife with white supremacists and racist ideology.

    http://www.splcenter.org/intel.....sp?pid=455

    Seems to be the same “moral universe” to me.

  96. 96
    El Cid says:

    Well, my personal example of surprise was in realizing that with the habeas corpus debate we were having to start from first principles regarding things I thought had been settled with the Magna F*@%ing Charta in the 13th Century.

    Debates about ‘why should the government have to bring charges against those being held,’ or, ‘why do we have to have fair trials when we’re dealing with bad people’, or ‘what, you mean the rulers have to follow the laws too?’

    It was then that I went from occasionally feeling like we were all tottering on a giant sharpened edge ready to fall into a pit of anti-civilization, to feeling like that all the time.

  97. 97
    qingl78 says:

    The argument is not about torture but wether or not the US has the right to do what ever it wants and is morally justified in which ever choice it makes. Similar to the last 60 years was a long exercise in justifying selfishness as the most moral thing that a person could do. Think of this as Objectivism in the foreign and domestic policy.

  98. 98
    wilfred says:

    You want amazing? Tally up the numbers of innocent people killed in US drone attacks in Afghanistan and the NWFP. Start, or end, with the 60 children blown to pieces in August of last year, or the 500+ women and children killed in Gaza while the Philosopher King wanked on about human rights.

    People knew that this torture was going on for years and said nothing. Now their consciences have caught up with them. Bravo.

    How long before the consciousness of these attacks that kill children get some attention?

  99. 99
    victorianist says:

    Here’s a liberal point of view about torture:

    “Like formal law, the rules of individualist ethics, however unprecise they may be in many respects, are general and absolute; they prescribe or prohibit a general type of action irrespective of whether in the particular instance the ultimate purpose is good or bad. To cheat or steal, to torture or betray a confidence, is held to be bad, irrespective of whether or not in the particular instance any harm follows from it. …

    “The principle that the end justifies the means is in individualist ethics regarded as the denial of all morals. In collectivist ethics it becomes necessarily the supreme rule; there is literally nothing which the consistent collectivist must not be prepared to do if it serves “the good of the whole,” because “the good of the whole” is to him the only criterion of what ought to be done.” (166)

    By “liberal,” I mean Friedrich Hayek in his 1943 “Road to Serfdom,” which last I checked used to be considered a conservative book. Here he’s describing the ethics of Nazis and communists. How far the conservatives have fallen!

  100. 100
    mclaren says:

    sturunner asked:

    But the real moral question about torture is that since it doesn’t work, why do they advocate it?

    Because they love torture. They adore torture. They dote on torture. Torture makes them feel good. Torture fills them with pride. When they watch someone being tortured, they feel like jumping out of their seats and bursting into song. Torture makes them want to dance in ecstasy. Torture is everything that is beautiful and true, noble and just, profound and delightful in life.

    Trouble is, it’s not just Republicans who love torture. America loves torture.

    Look around.

    Jack Bauer tortures people every week on the TV show 24 And Americans lap it up. They love it. Huge ratings. Look at movies like Saw and Hostel, so immensely popular that they’ve spawned not just one, two, three, four sequels. Saw II, Saw III, Saw IV. And what are these movies about? Torture. Nothing but non-stop onscreen sadistic horrific torture. “Hostel’s most famous scene shows a man taking a blowtorch to a woman’s face, her eyeball coming out and dangling from the socket. Later, another character snips it off with some scissors.”

    The rise of “torture porn” films in the mainstream movie business heralds a huge new money-maker for Hollywood — films that are basically about torture, all torture, and nothing but torture. And Americans flock to these films. They swarm to them like cockroaches on a rotting carcass.

    America is sick. Americans despise joy and love pain. Americans fear and loathe sex and detest the human body, while they adore torment and degradation and brutality. Just look at America’s favorite motto: No pain, no gain.

    Tells you everything you need to know about modern America, right there.

    Before you point the finger at the former administration , or at the Republican party, look in the mirror. What kind of video games do you play? Bioshock? Halo? These are games that make entertainment out of mass murder, out of tormenting and brutalizing an endless succession of subhuman opponents.

    The American soul has become rotten to the core. Americans love torment and despise pleasure, they loathe the depiction of sex onscreen, yet swoon over simulated mass murder and torture in “entertainments” like World Of Warcraft, Gears Of War, and carnivals of decay like Hostel and, to a lesser extent, Lord of the Rings, any Schwarzenegger film you care to name, essentially every big blockbuster Hollywood movie nowadays. It’s all about torture and mass murder, an endless vaudeville of devils, whether it’s spectacles of degradation like Silent Hill or orgies of blood-soaked depravity like Grindhouse.

    John Cole claimed that our newfound adoration of torture is

    a testament to just how sick and detestable and rotten to the core the Republican party has become.

    Not quite. It’s a testament to just how sick and detestable and rotten to the core American culture has become.

    As far as torture goes, all we need do is look at the sick depraved “entertainments” American eagerly ogle, the debased video games in which they endlessly torment and brutalize a succession of faceless subhuman victims, the torture-porn movies in which they delightedly gulp buckets full of popcorn while watching women get their eyes torn out and their faces ripped off onscreen, and you can say of America (just as Ben Kingsley did in the movie Death and the Maiden) “I loved the torture. I fell in love with it. I was sorry when it ended. I was very sorry when it ended.”

  101. 101
    Mike in NC says:

    It is fascinating how a depraved selfishness seems to be at the root of so much of modern conservative dogma.

    Maybe not so fascinating. Virtually all self-described GOP conservatives that I know are amazingly obtuse, selfish, mean-spirited, and filled of a sense of entitlement for God only knows what. They basically hate the human race.

  102. 102
    Mike in NC says:

    It’s a testament to just how sick and detestable and rotten to the core American culture has become.

    A favorite quote from a good friend of 30 years: “America is the greatest country in the world. And it’s also really fucked up.”

  103. 103
    HyperIon says:

    @JenJen: wine, i’m sure she’ll bring wine.

  104. 104
    wilfred says:

    You know, nothing works like sharia. You want to stop street crime, try that. You could leave stacks of money in the street and people won’t touch it. So if instrumentality is the main criterion, the conservatives should move to Saudia.

    @mclaren:

    Pleasure principle unfettered by neurotic repressive structures like morality, ethics or plain old -fashioned religious sensibility.

    Why not pull the wings off flies, or subject ants to magnifying glasses. There is no master narrative left, according to some (who are looking righter and righter), nothing to lean on other than appeal to something about ‘human goodness’ – which is so non-innate it has to be taught and learned.

    Now, however, repression is over. Long live pleasure, no?

  105. 105
    mclaren says:

    @wilfred: The effort to make America’s newfound love of torture and degradation into a liberal epiphenomenon falls flat when we recall that the all-time masters of torture remain the Grand Inquisition.

    Plenty of master narrative in the Inquisition…just a sick one.

    Sadism and the love of human debasement cannot so easily be foisted off as a “liberal” or a “conservative” sickness. It’s a human sickness. Re-read Lord of the Flies. Orgies of sadism aren’t what happens when people lose their “master narrative,” it’s not due to Hayek’s ridiculous “road to serfdom” (America remains by far, by far the most religious and least socialistic of all the G7 countries, yet we are the ones who have started torturing with mad abandon, not the secular democratic-socialist European societies, as Hayek’s foolishly false theory predicts). America has fallen in love with torture not because of “too much liberalism” or “too little conservatism,” but because we’ve simply decided to embrace barbarism.

    Every once in a while, the veneer of civilization becomes too burdensome for a culture and it shucks it off. Germany did it in the 1930s. Now America has descended into barbarism.

    It’s not a matter of politics. It’s a simple loss of common human decency.

  106. 106
    Siryn says:

    @KG: These people are driven by fear, and the response is visceral. It’s not rational at all.

  107. 107
    wilfred says:

    @mclaren:

    I think you’re missing the point. The master narative involved here is not religion but what followed religion – the post-Enlightenment wank of “America does not torture’ that rests on the belief that pre-Enlightenment blights like the Inqusition et al. were superceded by liberal democracy and its accompanying exaltation of secular humanism.

    So now what? My own belief is that torture and wholesale murder of Muslim civilians is just the latest displacement of the unabashed pleasure some people take in hurting weaker and innocent people given a lack of social controls – hence The Lord of the Flies.

    However, and as I continually point out, the current rash of atavism is aimed at one subject – the Muslim. We are not torturing Mexican drug smugglers (to my knowledge) or Russian mafia members.

    There is a lot of over-determination here. We are targeting a specific group for torture and murder based on their presumed essential ‘differentness’.

  108. 108
    TenguPhule says:

    How long before the consciousness of these attacks that kill children get some attention?

    Probably well ahead of wilfred feeling a shred of remorse for those hundreds of innocent Israeli women and children murdered by Palistinian gunmen and suicide bombers.

  109. 109
    wilfred says:

    @TenguPhule:

    Projection. I’ve always condemned that; you make Rachel Corrie jokes.

  110. 110
    Brachiator says:

    @Mr. Stuck:

    They command no divisions, no law enforcement agencies. Just the power of the purse. I guess they could have shut down the government to make Bush behave.

    Article 1, Section 8. Powers of Congress. “To make Rules for the Government….” But by you, we are no more evolved than when Andrew Jackson removed Natives Americans from their land and dared the other branches of government to stop him.

    They could have [impeached Bush], and I’m not sure they shouldn’t have. It would not have removed him from office, and there was NO chance of the Senate convicting to do that. They made a calculation that the choice was, winning elections and attaining power to make changes.

    We agree on the political expediency that the Democrats relied on. But political expediency does not absolve them of their moral and legal complicity in Bush’s actions.

    Funny that, I thought a President breaking international treaties on torture was covered in the Constitution.

    Where?

    They are firstly elected to represent their states or districts and the peoples therin/ There are different notions on morality in America at given points in time. The point in time for selling the Iraq war, was when people were scared. Not particularly noble. But human/ Bush pushed for war, not dems. And 150 voted against it in both houses, while 100 voted for it.

    I’ll settle for tossing 25 to 30 of those Democrats who voted for it on the same bonfire that I would happily toss most of the Republicans onto.

    Looks like the Bushies CYA operations have worked on some.

    Yes, we agree that you are playing the CYA game very well for those Democratic Party enablers of torture.

    hat’s the — I’m perfectly willing to accept responsibility for my own actions. I’m not shouldering this shame.

    We have a representative form of government. What responsibility should the citizens have when their elected representatives fail to stop torture?

    We now know that some suspects were waterboarded dozens, hundreds of times. It must be cold comfort to them to know that some people were really, really outraged about what happened to them. But not outraged enough to stop it when they first found about it, that they were waiting for someone else to try to convince a nation that had almost become an angry mob that security did not need to be built on fear.

    So here we sit. The old mob gave in to fear an authorized torture in order to secure its safety. The new mob has convinced itself that only conservatives are to blame.

    Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

  111. 111
    wilfred says:

    The new mob has convinced itself that only conservatives are to blame.

    Like Quentin at the end of ‘Absalom, Absalom`.

  112. 112
    Mr. Stuck says:

    @Brachiator:

    Where?

    No one is above the law, presnit or not. And international treaties have the force of law when signed by the US/

    But political expediency does not absolve them of their moral and legal complicity in Bush’s actions.

    Look, I don’t disagree that dems have some complicity, we just differ on how much.

    I’ll settle for tossing 25 to 30 of those Democrats who voted for it on the same bonfire that I would happily toss most of the Republicans onto.

    This sounds a little more reasonable for rating culpability. I’ll bring the hot dogs and you bring the marsh mellows.

  113. 113

    how sick and detestable and rotten to the core the Republican party has become.

    I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!

    — Barry Goldwater, 1964

    Let me also remind you that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!

    — Barry Goldwater, 1964

    Ends justify means. What did folks think that would lead to?

    Family values, I guess.

  114. 114
    mclaren says:

    @wilfred: No, I got your point, you’re trying to blame secular humanism (and by implication moral relativism) for the breakdown in morals that led to torture. It’s just an invalid point, since an overwhelming mountain of evidence converges to disprove it. We find torture proliferating in excessively religious societies, not excessive secular societies, and the more religious, the more often we encounter torture — and for obvious reasons. Religion is based on faith and when someone refuses to share your blind mindless faith, the only solution is force. You can’t reason someone into having a religious revelation, but you can torture ’em into a state so deraged they accept your claims about crucified zombies, or whatever superstition you’re trying to peddle. Dialectical Marxist-Leninism, by the way, qualifies as a religion too.

    wilfred claimed

    There is a lot of over-determination here. We are targeting a specific group for torture and murder based on their presumed essential ‘differentness’.

    No, entirely wrong. The whole problem with torture is that once you start using it on some select subgroup, it spreads like wildfire and pretty soon the society starts using it on everybody, for every offense. And that’s what’s happening right now in America. Torture was initially confined to only “the worst of the bad guys” in super-secure black ops prisons, but now torture has spread like wildfire and is being used on ordinary citizens in everyday life.

    How many news stories do you read every week in which cops tase somebody 5 times for some utterly trivial or nonsenical reason? That’s torture. And it’s rapidly getting worse. Police are now pushing hard to get handheld microwave pain rays, and once that happens, you can bet you’ll see torture of ordinary citizens for no reason happening on the street every day of the week.

    Yes, it’ll soon be a common sight to walk down the street and see three cops torturing some random guy with a handheld microwave pain ray. They’ll be raying the guy as he crawls and screams like an animal, and if you try to interfere, they’ll ray you too, and you’ll be down on your knees pleading and begging them to stop because your skin will feel like it’s on fire too and you’ve never felt pain like that before in your life.

    Police armed with a device that produces limitless unbearable pain — and leaves no marks. Yep, no chance of anything going wrong with that plan, is there?

    Make no mistake: this is torture, and it’s coming to your police department soon. Maybe this year, maybe next year. They’re not just torturing muslims, they’re torturing your neighbor. They’re torturing your kid. They’re torturing your wife. Right now, using tasers…soon, the microwave pain ray.

    Wake up. America has become Torture Nation. This has nothing to do with “otherness” and everything to do with a simple sadistic desire to see other people writhe in agony on the sidewalk, howling like animals with unbearable pain.

  115. 115
    wilfred says:

    We find torture proliferating in excessively religious societies, not excessive secular societies, and the more religious, the more often we encounter torture—and for obvious reasons

    Please; see Robespierre, Stalinist U.S.S.R., GDR, modern day China, et al. I’m not absolving religio-centric societies of blame but your assertion is ahistorical.

    The whole problem with torture is that once you start using it on some select subgroup, it spreads like wildfire and pretty soon the society starts using it on everybody, for every offense. And that’s what’s happening right now in America. Torture was initially confined to only “the worst of the bad guys” in super-secure black ops prisons, but now torture has spread like wildfire and is being used on ordinary citizens in everyday life.

    But i hasn’t spread – it remains restricted to one group: Muslims, regardless of race. All of these ‘ ordinary citizens’ happen to be Muslims. That’s what I mean by over-determination.

    Your conjecture – that soon torture will apply to everyone – remains to be seen. I doubt it will happen since the whole point of maintaining the illusion of goodness is that such practices remain restricted to the one group that the dominant ideology has determined to be incompatible with its values, Muslims in this case.

  116. 116
    John S. says:

    Good thing Muslims have a strict policy of not torturing people, otherwise Wilfred’s argument would fall a little flat.

    Good thing Palestinian groups don’t constantly lob rockets at Israeli schools and civilian areas, or blow up suicide bombers in crowded markets, because that could almost be considered terrorism.

    Yup, the only acts of terrorism that exist in the world target Muslims. I just hope they don’t start torturing non-Muslims in retaliation, because there is no moral justification for torture.

  117. 117
    wilfred says:

    What a sttupid pathetic fuck you are. The only people that the US tortures are Muslims. Since the US is my country, it’s the one I care about. You can defend your country all you want.

    Israel Firsters get hypersensitive whenever someone points out that they are high on the list of child killers and torturers. But they’re only Arabs/Muslims (see Rahm’s father for the Israeli position on that).

    Criticize America – absolutely, but never israel , correct?

  118. 118
    LauraM says:

    Mr. Stuck and JenJen: Thank you so much!

    I’m another Gen-Xer (possibly–I’m not totally clear on when that starts) who voted for Reagan in my first election, 1984. I stopped considering myself a Republican sometime in the mid-1990’s, Newt Gingrich and then the Clinton impeachment being a little too much for me, but I still never, never would have expected the party to go anywhere near actually arguing about whether the US should torture. I’m just gobsmacked by this.

    I mean, I really thought there was no argument about that. It’s not the capacity for it that’s shocking, or that some people like it; it’s that we’re actually debating it as a matter of public policy. It’s like if someone decided to propose, “Well, maybe the United States would be better off if we encouraged more rape and murder.” I just don’t know what you can say to that.

  119. 119
    Pedro says:

    Says Mr. Larison who is a proud member of the “League of the South.”
    The League of the South has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as:
    rife with white supremacists and racist ideology.
    http://www.splcenter.org/intel…..sp?pid=455
    Seems to be the same “moral universe” to me.

    Yes and the America First Party advertises at the American Conservative.

  120. 120
    John S. says:

    What a stupid pathetic fuck YOU are, Wilfred. And a one-note fucking jukebox to boot.

    Just so we’re all clear, you don’t give rat’s ass who Muslims torture, you only care about Muslims getting tortured. That’s some nice moral relativism there, you fucking piece of shit.

    Muslim Firsters get hypersensitive whenever someone points out that they are high on the list of child killers and torturers. But they’re only Israelis/Jews (see your rantings for the Arab position on that).

    Put that in your pipe and smoke it you flaming asshole.

    My position – and the ONLY morally acceptable one – is that all torture and murder is wrong, no matter who the perpetrator OR victim is. It doesn’t matter if the aggressor is America, Israel OR Saudi Arabia. And it doesn’t matter if the victims are Muslim, Christian OR Jewish. It’s all morally repugnant. That clear enough for you, you fucking piece of shit?

    Now go fuck yourself.

  121. 121
    jonas says:

    @John S.:

    Yes, Islamic extremists maim and torture people: That’s why they’re the bad guys. Jeebus, this is exactly the shit Cole was talking about. Why is it that the standard winger response to any discussion about Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, torture or whatever is “well, do you have any idea what they’d do to you if they got their hands on you?”

    Yes, yes I do. They would probably mess me up pretty bad. And that’s why they’re the bad guys.

    For some reason conservatives are convinced that the correct response to the inhumanity of our enemies is to become more like them. Explain how that one works.

    On the other hand, no. Please don’t. You’ve said enough already.

  122. 122
    tc125231 says:

    @JenJen:

    It’s not very romantic if you can’t even talk about it, is it? That’s the part I don’t get; when did it become OK to just blow off torture, committed in our names? So I suppose to me, the shock I’m feeling now is mostly of the “what the hell happened to us” variety.

    JenJen, this was an insightful post. My only small additions are as follows:

    1. Even Peggy Noonan doesn’t talk ABOUT torture. She talks AROUND torture, using euphimisms. Orwell used to write extensively on this theme, and the support of the chattering classes for Stalin.

    2. A lot of people, such as my younger brother, close their eyes a lot because they don’t want to divide into “Us” and “Them”.

    Unfortunately, they are going to find that the choice has been taken out of their hands.

    I hope the Gen-X and my own children can change the equation. As a group, the boomers have done an execrable job. I don’t know if too much Doctor Spock made us incurably self-centered, or what.

  123. 123
    tc125231 says:

    @El Cid:

    started asking myself quite earnest questions when I found out we didn’t have too much of a problem hiring Guatemalan generals to slaughter tens of thousands of innocent people for being the wrong ethnic group and being near ‘rebels’, as long as there was a bit of ‘plausible deniability’ and a nod to Congressional oversight.

    Man, who do you think you are? Noam Chomsky? You have to get a Nobel Prize to be allowed to have realizations like that.

    Or…. maybe you should GET aprize for having them.

    Now all the authorities
    They just stand around and boast
    How they blackmailed the sergeant-at-arms
    Into leaving his post
    And picking up Angel who
    Just arrived here from the coast
    Who looked so fine at first
    But left looking just like a ghost.

    Bob Dylan, “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”

  124. 124

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