Because freedom can't protect itself
Did you not know that Arabs only understand the language of force?
Nicely said. I'd like to add a theme I've been developing in my work. The irrational enemy frame is part of a larger picture. I use "frame" here in the sense of George Lakoff, with an important addition. As lakpff points out, the reactionary world view uses a simple "one size fits all" model of causality. It is called "direct cause". AGENT ----> EFFECT. The real world is not like this. Causality in the real world involves intertwined multiple causes. (Look at the myth of the unwanted effects from prescription drugs being "side effects" when all are effects of the drug). Since the direct cause model really doesn't help to explain events in the real world, the believer in this model is forced to rely on authority for explanations. Hence the wrote, parroted mantras we hear so often. I just wanted to say this to weave what you are saying into a larger, and useful model of what we are dealing with in this kind of approach.
Since we are immersed in a culture of entertainment, films like "Rendition" may be helpful in diluting the position of the Michael Medveds of our society. We know most of our citizenry will not read books like Johnson's "Inverted Totalitarianism" (see a superb summary at http://www.alternet.org/democracy/85728)to show how critical the ACLU fight is on this and other fronts; thus, Robert Greenwald, Michael Moore and other courageous producers and directors like Rendition’s Gavin Hood (who tacked on an ACLU torture/rendition documentary to his Rendition DVD release) are essential for us to have any hope of a turnaround.
Not only do I not know that but find my Arab friends among the most gentle people I know. Could it be that you are projecting your own violent tendencies onto them?
Judging an entire group of people by the actions of only a small percentage of that group is illogical and provocative. Torture has never proven to be an effective tool in the course of attaining and maintaining freedom; it is, in fact, a deterrent toward that cause.
P.S. on Inverted Totalitarianism: sorry, Wolin's book, Johnson's summary. Actual primary title: Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism
I think Daniel Larison confounds the rationalization for torture with the justification for torture. All of the examples he cites are attempts to justify the use of torture; however, one needs also to ask why torture is selected as an appropriate tool for obtaining a desired outcome (Note that this ranges for eliciting information to punishment for a misdeed). Why is it that despite evidence that torture does not elicit valid data or permanently change behavior, authorities still resort to it? I believe that the answer, in part, is that they find the eliciting act so personally offensive that they use torture, in part, as an act of vengeance. If this notion is valid, then it suggests that we need to educate and select our interrogators more skillfully.
Bernard T. Engel
Great idea. I look forward to reading comments and adding some of my own. Thanks, Anna
An intriguing argument. Then if torture is typically not effective anyway, why exactly is it used?
The ACLU is correct to tie the torture of alleged combatants and domestic surveillance. Torture is hardly reserved for al Queda operatives in this second term of the Bush administration. Since the torture memos became public and Geneva Convention disbelievers AG Gonzalez and Secretary Chertoff were elected in 2005 torture has become a way of life in America. Death rates are up, the economy is in shambles, primarily because of a mysterious "housing correction".
What is wrong? Torture has been popularized by public debate on a subject that is irrefutably in the wrong and that TV show 24. Torture your children with psychiatric drugs to avoid the "hard" stuff being passed out by cardiac laboratories. Torture your account holders by prosecuting bad bills with unlawful entries in conspiracy with landladies that may or may not have been authorized by the local police to poison. Torture the men until they can't work, 800,000 unemployed since last year, so women can work, 300,000 more are employed, the article making this report was censored from Google. Most of all torture the population so that they will help liquidate, for health care providers, the 16% of the GDP frozen in health sector.
If the US economy is going to recover torture must be taboo. Politicians and landladies need to stop peddling their "angina" to every Tom, Dick and Harry prosecuting corporate America. Until the housing correction ceases to turn homes into torture chambers the economy and public health is going to fail and so are the corporate conspirators. Torture is not okay in any circumstance and the legislature really needs to make this clear to the landlady who is getting away with murder and destroying the economy.
For the average individual watching the TV news and listening to whatever pundit they prefer, we see the irrational acts of terrorists which then provides our government with the justification for treating them irrationally. We forget entirely that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." Torture is wrong simply because we are better than our enemies and irrationality doesn't fit with our values. DuPont
The person who left the first comment is clearly a sheep, who has had the wool pulled over their eyes by the govt. Not surprising. It's easier to stay warm and isolated under this wool covering, than be exposed to the cold hard truth. I consider it un-American to generalize in such a grotesque way, especially when America is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Stop following the herd, and stop listening to what is said in the media. Do your own research, use your brain and make your own decision.
Read your old history books. Those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it. These tactics of dehumanization, stripping of rights and humanity, power grabbing by an elitist class from the people and misdirected "patriotism" combined with unaccountability for governmental actions are leading the United States of America- into the mold of WWII Germany Naziism. Nothing is new here- except the fact that WE THE PEOPLE of untarnished reputation are being swept into the positions of future war criminals and committers of atrocity at home and abroad. When will this direction be changed, soon I'd hope- for everyone's sake.
God Bless the true America and her ideals!
I would like to think Post #1 was intended to be sarcastic. I'm going to assume that anyway.
Aside from that, as Post 13 notes, "Nothing is new here".
Dehumanization of the enemy is one of the most basic tools of a government bent on making war--particularly a war in which true provocation by that enemy is thin, absent, or fabricated.
Nos. 4, 5, and 12, it's pretty clear to me that the first poster was making a joke. I'm really surprised that you can't tell that.
I have never known torture to accomplish anything except injury, death or a lifetime of hatred with no result except satisfying a sadistic urge for vengeance, that is almost always regretted.
- Vernon E. Holt
There is a word for what the government is doing in how they portray the enemy, and that word is pseudospeciation.
It is much easier to do things like torture and kill children when it is done against something that is less than human.
It's ironic when right-wing bloviates talk about the despicable creatures in Iraq who launch attacks on US troops while "hiding" in civilian areas.
No one questions what our troops are doing in civilian areas killing them.
AC-130 gunships level buildings in urban areas from a nice safe distance. We use cluster bombs and fuel-air explosives in urban areas.
We feel terrible when soldiers die, but it's not un-American to say that we are waging a despicable war that works against our security and that it is being supported by idiots who buy into our government's lies.
The creation of a class of enemies who deserved no rights whatsoever under Geneva or any human rights treaties (like UNCAT) has been a goal of some of the perpetrators of this for a long time. Douglas Feith wrote the opinion to President Reagan that resulted in the U.S. not ratifying 1977 Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions precisely because he did not want the terrorist scourge du jour (the PLO) to have "legitimacy", i.e. rights under Geneva or the ability to accede to Geneva. He subsequently argues that they deserve no rights as an incentive to accede to Geneva, which he has effectively prohibited them from doing.
John Yoo and Jack Goldsmith were active since the 1990's chipping away at "customary international law", and others were making stinks about the cruel and unusual punishment clauses applying only to convicted criminals in the U.S., not to any prisoners prior to their appearances in a court.
So when September 11 hit, after the genius of the combined legal talents in the U.S. and Pakistan deciding to create prisoners without rights by calling them immigration violators awaiting deportation (at Kohat prison), these people were all ready with the "terrorists have no rights" junk. Goldsmith would later opine that civilians under the Fourth Geneva conventions could be deported to Black Sites as long as they hadn't been "accused" yet.
Get this type of lawyers out of our government and out of our academia and out of the private think tanks, or forget ever being able to enforce humanitarian rights ever again for anybody.
"Enemies have been excluded from the realm of the rational, and necessarily terrorists must be irrational, else they would not be terrorists and would not be our enemies — no rational person could be our enemy, as the tautology would have it" -- a discouraging parallel here to the Soviet argument for administering mental health "care" to dissidents: a critic of the state suffers from anti-social tendencies, hence from a mental illness.
I agree with you whole heartedly ondelette!
Feith, Yoo, and Goldsmith should all be behing bars rather than practicing behind the bar.
I think many are missing one important fact. Those who torture and those who condone torture are sociopaths. These people have no sense of remorse of any kind. They live for themselves and if any one stands in their way, well, they are detained or tortured, or worse, executed. We are not surprised when a robber shoots and kills a bank teller for couple hundred dollars but some how we can not wrap our minds around the theft of the 3rd largest oil reserve in the world. Revenue from Iraq's oil is estimated in the trillions. Now do you see the picture? We are governed by sociopaths.
Toture is putting up with the ACLU. Why don't you go after the Islamo-facists instead? Guess it's because they don't give a tinker's damn on any of this and would just as soon cut your throats as anyone's.
Very well-written piece! Indeed, the current U.S. torture policies are based on lies: denying that it exists and justifying it on grounds that appeal to raw instincts, but do not stand to reason.
However, U.S. torture and U.S. clampdown on civil rights are the symptoms of a much bigger problem: the fact that the U.S. government, like virtually all governments, does not view public service as a high priority, but rather as a necessary evil, providing just enough of it to placate the people under its jurisdiction.
Sadly, by focusing on side-issues such as torture, privacy or sexuality, the ACLU misses this very real and central problem.
Would the ACLU care to get closer to the real problem while staying within its mandate? How about requiring, at long last, a criminal investigation into the 9/11 attacks, which provided a convenient pretext to undermine civil rights at home and human rights abroad, and their cover-up? It is an open secret that this will point to the U.S. government as the main author of 9/11. Once the U.S. government is publicly exposed as a powerful and vicious sponsor of terrorism, it may "discover" that its mission is not to threaten people and spread fear, but to serve people and spread love. Who knows? It may become the ACLU’s best friend.
The Catholic Church knows Water Boarding quite well, as that was one of there favorite methods of torture doing the Spanish Inquisition, They should ask the Pope what he thought about it for the Catholic Church invented it. And now Bush a Born Again Christian? Activated it in the 21st Century, Isn't it time he be Impeached?
Posting as 'has_te'
[not anonymous, at all]
There are several currently active malign operatives in the Oval Office's Axis of Evil who are are so 'less than human'
--I sometimes think--
that taking them to the lower levels of a basement, for a lo-ong time, doing some intensive interrogation might be a really splendid idea.
--I sometimes think--
So it was with a great deal of regret
that I gave up all those fantasies..for all the reasons you have outlined so beautifully...and a few of my own.
I put together a litany of 5 good reasons why I must not venture, [even mentally, mayhap?] onto that slippery slope -- but none are nearly so tightly argued as yourthesis outlined here.
Congratulations and thanks.
Hannah Arendt, in her work, "The Origins of Totalitarianism," (1951) wrote that totalitarian movements and their leaders deliberately violate the values of the society in which they arise and seize power:
"...the propaganda of totalitarian movements which precede and accompany totalitarian regimes is invariably as frank as it is mendacious, and would-be totalitarian rulers usually start their careers by boasting of their past crimes and carefully outlining their future ones ... "(Arendt, p. 5 of "Totalitarianism")
Arendt then quotes Franz Borkenau's words from his 1940 work, "The Totalitarian Enemy:"
[The Nazis in Germany] "were convinced that evil-doing in our time has a morbid force of attraction."(p. 231)
Once a democratic society that is transforming into a totalitarian state succumbs to this attraction of lawlessness and crime, it becomes complicit in the further crimes of the regime. That is one of the goals of totalitarianism: to corrupt and debase a society so that it will at a minimum permit, if not condone, further crimes. Denial of civil rights and civil liberties, Imprisonment without access to legal counsel or trial, aggressive war against other nations absent any provocation, disregard of legislative, legal and judicial institutions, all these are steppingstones down the path to totalitarianism. Then, when these are reluctantly, but sufficiently, accepted by the society, a totalitarian regime institutes martial law, political purges, imprisonment and execution of dissidents. and wholesale ethnic purging and extermination.
Many Americans now believe that a change in the regime in Washington will correct America's course, allowing a 180-degree turn away from totalitarianism. They are wrong. Unless ALL the illegal and immoral acts of this regime are repudiated and repealed, and their perpetrators prosecuted and punished, we will continue down the totalitarian path. NONE of the presidential candidates likely to win the office have promised to do this. The Bush administration has accumulated vast power in the Executive Branch at the expense of the other two Branches, and that power will remain where it is barring decisive and far-reaching action by the next president. "Absolute power corrupts absolutely," as Lord Acton said. I think the current presidential candidates rather like the idea of being dictators, that is, if the current regime decides to relinquish power!
The callously practiced laws of torture and persecution by the Bush administration inside and outside the USA must be seen an instrument of fascism and Nazism. Every member of a civilized community would, without any let and confusion, reject and condemn the application of such barbaric activities and would positively espouse the cause of ACLU in lodging its protest against such transgression of humanity.
One of the most important things to understand about the authorized use of torture by agents of the United States government is how it has been justified by the lie that 9/11 was caused by these "enemies". If there were a real criminal investigation of what actually happened on 9/11, most fingers would point to the current occupants of the White House.
Excellent article. Justifying torture is an excercise in mental masturbation that really DOES cause blindness.
At one time before 1948, the immigrant Jews were the terrorists as they attempted to establish their nation. The Palestinians didn't want to loose their nation either. Yet today, they are deemed terroists and Irael is considered an allied country of the US. It's all prespective, not reality that makes humans murder humans for resources, and the more distant the better, since murdering a brother or sister is immoral.
Apparently Hamas is now Hummus. They've been advised by a top fashion designer to get a complete makeover.
It's just a question of finding the "right" "torture". LSD might work nicely, in ways you cant imagine: deprogramming. It would take a few weeks or a month. Any desired info will only be "given" when the prisoner cant remember his "reason"--being that it has been "dissolved"- to withhold it. Works every time. Try it.
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