Squaring the Culture




"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

08/29/2009 (12:23 pm)

Excusing the Politically Correct

I have avoided the entire Edward Kennedy discussion, choosing instead to pray for the man’s soul. I detested his politics; I was incensed by his involvement in besmirching the reputation of Judge Robert Bork; I heard good things about his personal treatment of employees and constituents; his family has a big house a few miles from where I’ve been living for the past 2 years; he had a reputation as a philanderer and a drunkard; he was a well-liked power broker in the US Senate. That’s how much I know of the man, and I feel I’ve already said too much about a man whose funeral is proceeding even as I write this. He should rest in peace.

However, I’m incredulous after having read this misguided editorial by Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune, who wants us to consider what a shame it would have been if the accident at Chappaquiddick had been the subject of a 21st-century-style media feeding frenzy.

This disgusting piece implies that if it had taken place today, the media would have gone berserk over the accident, turning it into a circus and, in the process, ending Kennedy’s political career. It then simply assumes that nobody disagrees that the remainder of Kennedy’s life was such an unmitigated boon to the public good that we all would have been worse off for his career having ended.

250px-chappaquiddick_bridge1What astounds me is how clueless Zorn is about the protection of privilege in America, particularly Democrat privilege, and how this protection by the press makes a mockery of the central requirement of a free society that every citizen must be equal before the law. The unequal treatment before the law rides on an awful inversion of morality: the bizarre notion that if a man’s politics are Democratic enough, no moral malfeasance, no matter how horrific, is sufficient to offset his virtue. Virtue is defined as “supporting Democratic party initiatives.”

It’s the same blindness that was exhibited as it was becoming embarrassingly obvious that President Clinton was a pathological liar, a perjurer, a grafter, and possibly even a serial rapist. Democrats simply closed their ears and eyes. How could somebody who supported welfare, ecology, and women’s rights be considered morally bad? He is such a good man, simply by virtue of his politics!

This substitution of political correctness for moral character is evil, and undermines our republic.

There is no legitimate doubt that Kennedy avoided serious investigation into the accident by virtue of the fact that he was, in effect, royalty. Whether there ought to have been a conviction, or even an arrest, is completely beside the point; there ought to have been an investigation, and there would have been… except that in Massachusetts, Kennedys are not the subject of investigations, because they’re Kennedys.

There are valid reasons to object to the manner in which media turn a tragedy into a circus. However, the process serves to ensure that no party is exempt from public scrutiny, and eventually from the law. Kennedy did plead guilty to leaving the scene of an accident, arguably because there was no way to avoid the public knowing that he had done so. He was sentenced to 2 months in prison, but the sentence was immediately suspended by the judge. Appropriate press attention could have served to ensure that a proper investigation took place.

So public scrutiny, and particularly press scrutiny, is a necessary goad to produce appropriate legal action, and protects our liberties — when applied in a fair and impartial manner.

The fact is, however, that press attention has long since ceased to be applied fairly and impartially.

In fact, it has become disturbingly common, in modern America, for Democrats generally to believe they are above the law, with good reason. Republicans who get charged with a crime step down; Democrats never do, and the press protects them. Try to imagine what a Lexis-Nexis search of the mainstream media articles would reveal of the $90,000 in Representative Jefferson’s freezer (D, La), the bribery tapes capturing Representative Jack Murtha (D, Pa) making deals, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s (D, Ca) shuffling of more than $1 billion in defense contracts to her husband’s company, Senator Harry Reid’s (D, Nv) profiting from land scams, or dozens of the scandals instigated by President Bill Clinton (try to find a discussion of the possible graft in declaring the Grand Escalante Staircase a national park, for instance). Compare them to the unhinged attempts to tie Abu Graib to high public officials who had nothing to do with it (43 days on the front page of the New York Times), the number of mentions of the Abramoff scandals, the coverage of possible indictments of Tom Delay, who, so far as we can tell, is guilty of no crime, and the unspeakable savagery aimed at Sarah Palin, who has not even committed the public appearance of a crime. The truth is, we rely almost entirely on conservative blogs and talk radio for information regarding violations of the law by Democrats, whereas the least foible of any Republican becomes a front-page story and headlines the 6 o’clock news. The Chappaquiddick accident would never become a feeding frenzy unless the Senator were a Republican.

tk-diagram3This is not to say that there has never been an instance of Republicans currying favor so as to avoid prosecution; it happens. However, the imbalance between the way Democrats and Republicans treat felons within their ranks is stark, and makes it clear which party is currently a danger to the rule of law.

One wonders whether Mr. Zorn, or any other Democrat, would so blithely ignore possible disagreement over the value of a politician’s public service if that politician were not of their party. And then one realizes, there is no need to wonder; Ronald Reagan’s death did not benefit from this same assumption of positive feeling, and the deaths of such figures as Tony Snow and Jerry Falwell were used as excuses for rage-filled diatribes against the right. No, in the modern press, liberals are saints, and conservatives, devils. Consequently, the irresponsible killing of a young woman is treated as an unfortunate accident simply because the man who committed it has the right politics in the eyes of reporters. In such an environment, where correct politics are the only publicly-accepted measure of virtue, it is only a matter of time before a legislature passes laws to outlaw conservatism. Liberty is not safe where morality is measured by political correctness.

Zorn’s editorial is nonsense. If he has so little regard for equal protection and so little awareness of how he’s savaging it, he would serve the public better if he kept his mouth shut. However, it is because the law he treats as meaningless still has some power that he retains the right to publish his opinion. He may learn, soon enough, that if he continues to saw the limb of equal protection, it will not be conservatives alone who fall from the tree of liberty; it will be everybody, including himself.

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125 Comments »

August 29, 2009 @ 1:43 pm #

Yes.

All that you point out is true. The press supports ignoring corruption – as long as it’s from the “right” (meaning correct, not as in directional) side.

They support undermining the principle that all are equal before the law. This is the pathway to the largest Banana Republic in the world.

August 29, 2009 @ 2:24 pm #

I did not expect to have you provide an example so quickly of how lip service paid to decency by conservatives does not necessarily lead to the PRACTICE of decency.

Am I right that Kennedy was not quite in the ground when you chose to post this? I suppose the press, both liberal and conservative, is all over the funeral story, so it’s a hot item right now…but not as hot as Kennedy’s eternal destiny, right?

August 29, 2009 @ 2:25 pm #

Maybe it would be better to delete that comment, Phil. After some thinking, it feels like trying to “fix” you again.

But common decency does call for honoring the dead for a time, right?

August 29, 2009 @ 3:32 pm #

No need for deleting anything, Jim, the only forbidden topic is the “you’re assuming the least charitable position” one.

I did cringe a little when I posted this, and I at least paid lip service to Master Kennedy. Nor do I really take him to task for anything here; I’m not flogging Kennedy so much as flogging the press, and I justify it simply in that I’m answering a very bad editorial by somebody else. But I do make myself liable to the charge that I’m not giving appropriate deference to the dead, and I’ll shoulder that burden gracefully, as it may be true.

August 29, 2009 @ 5:35 pm #

Thanks, Phil. You and I have had a bit of a rough week; I didn’t want to keep the peddle to the metal on that tack.

August 29, 2009 @ 7:08 pm #

I thoroughly enjoyed your article. I remember reading this and thinking how ridiculous his thesis was. My comment to his article was that no one, right or left, is above the law, ever.

I have to say I disagree that we cannot write/speak about someone who has died unless we do in a positive manner. While I believe we should be as respectful as possible we also should tell the truth. That is what you did her. Thank you.

August 30, 2009 @ 6:18 am #

Brilliantly thought out and written, Phil. Your last sentence brought to mind the character of Sir Thomas More as he addressed his son-in-law, William Roper, in A Man for All Seasons:

What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? . . . And when the last law was down–and the Devil turned round on you–where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? . . . [D]‘you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

August 30, 2009 @ 6:37 am #

darkhorse: Your admonition that we should ‘honor the dead’ brought to mind a sermon I listened to yesterday.

Now I’m not a religious person, and haven’t attended church in a number of years. So how did I happen to listen to a sermon, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

Do you recall that black person who was standing outside Obama’s town hall meeting with the AR-15 slung over his back? The media discovered that he was an evangelical Christian, and started investigating his church, which turned out to be the Faithful Word Baptist Church of Tempe, AZ.

If you visit their website, the audio of Pastor Steven L. Anderson’s sermons are available there. The media locked onto the one he gave called “Why I Hate Barack Obama”, in which Pastor Anderson said “I want him to die and go to hell”, and “I want him to melt like a snail”.

The lefties simply went nuts over that, but unlike them, I actually listened to 50 minutes of the sermon, and thought it was pretty good, philosophically speaking. The basic theme was “Does God love evil people?”

Using scripture, he came to the conclusion that no, God doesn’t love people who do evil, and neither should we mortals. He asked the rhetorical question, “Should we have loved Adolph Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Pol Pot…?” Had the sermon been given after his passing, I’m sure he would have added ‘Ted Kennedy’ to his list.

Personally, I don’t love or honor people whom I believe to be evil – and that would include Ted Kennedy – but hey, that’s just my way of thinking.

August 30, 2009 @ 11:39 am #

John:

While I am quite glad I don’t know you personally, based on this assessment, I am very, VERY glad you live in this world, since “God so loved THE WORLD that He sent His son…”

God can pick up the slack where I, as a human, fall short.

August 30, 2009 @ 12:07 pm #

darkhorse, you’re putting an awfully heavy burden on the almighty.

August 30, 2009 @ 12:24 pm #

Hi John,

Fortunately, He put the heavy burden on himself! And you are right, I have a whole lot of shortcomings!

Let me clarify my comment a little bit, though. The certainty that another human represents evil (and the certainty that I don’t) is the very certainty that flew the planes on 9/11.

You say you are not a religious person…and that is reason to rejoice; neither am I. But there are several quick places in the Christian scriptures that I think may help you discover the nature of God toward “evil” people:

Rom. 5:8 – “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Matthew 5:44-45 (the words of Jesus) But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

John, it’s easy to listen to those who say what you want to hear. It’s much harder to listen for the truth, no matter what you want. I want to apologize for my Christian brother who so misrepresented our God.

August 30, 2009 @ 12:51 pm #

That’s a line I love as well, John. Thanks for bringing it up.

August 30, 2009 @ 1:58 pm #

I am a Christian brother, and I will call Mr. Obama what he is; evil. His policies are designed to bring about more misery and less dependence on God. That is evil, plain and simple.

Will someone now apologize for me?

August 30, 2009 @ 3:54 pm #

Chris,

This is what acerbic political talk tempts people, Christian and otherwise, to do…make flesh and blood your enemies. You are told in no uncertain terms by the “Christ” in “Christian” that this is not true.

Believe what you want, but all I can do is ask you, please don’t associate your belief in hatred with Jesus.

August 30, 2009 @ 5:51 pm #

This is what acerbic political talk tempts people, Christian and otherwise, to do…make flesh and blood your enemies. You are told in no uncertain terms by the “Christ” in “Christian” that this is not true.

So tell me, darkhorse, and this is a serious question — what would you have done, and what would you have felt, if you had been a Christian living in Germany in 1937. Let’s assume Christians around you felt that Chancellor Hitler was potentially dangerous, and that you could at least see the possibility.

What do you think you would have been saying about Chancellor Hitler in 1937? This would be after Krystalnacht, but before any military adventurism, after new Eugenic policies regarding the mentally ill but before any serious talk of a “Final Solution” to the “Jewish problem.”

How does “We wrestle not against flesh and blood” sound in that context?

August 30, 2009 @ 6:10 pm #

I cannot tell you what I would have done at any time during the years of Hitler – I am not there, and am a weak man of flesh and blood.

But I can tell you how I would have hoped to act. I hope people would have witnessed me praying for God to stop Hitler. I would hope to have been known to be praying for God also to save Hitler from whatever brought him to where he was, and to help him understand the truth.

And, if I was fortunate enough to have been nearby him, I hope I would have had a chance to show him what real love looks like, because he apparently had very little of that for his entire life.

Alternatively, I pray that I would have had the strength to first; shelter the mentally ill, and get them out of the Reich. If God led me to try and protect them further, I pray I would have had the strength to arm myself to do so; but I am uncertain ahead of time if that is what God would call me to do.

Anything but humility in approaching ghastly hypotheticals like this is foolhardiness, to say the least!

I hope my answer passed whatever test you’re giving me. Showing love and prayer for my enemies is what Jesus said shows that I am his child.

August 30, 2009 @ 6:23 pm #

Phil, remember I was responding to John’s quoting of the sermon from the guy in Arizona that said:

“The media locked onto the one he gave called “Why I Hate Barack Obama”, in which Pastor Anderson said “I want him to die and go to hell”, and “I want him to melt like a snail”.”

There is nothing at all about the Jesus I have walked with the last 27 years that would say anything like this…do you have the same reaction?

August 30, 2009 @ 8:14 pm #

darkhorse –

I have a hard time accepting a sermon with a title like “Why I Hate…” followed by any person’s name. On the other hand, I recognize that there is a valid place for rage, that hatred of evil is love of God, and that there exist circumstances in which giving vent to rage is the godly thing to do (go read the closing verses in the book of Isaiah if you doubt me, or Psalm 2.)

I know it’s not possible for any of us to say what we would have done in another time or place. The point was that you’re using “we wrestle not against flesh and blood” as a club to beat your fellow Christians who are expressing genuine and appropriate concern about an incipient tyrant, and that if you place the same statement in the context of facing the Nazis, it becomes obvious that the fact that demons are involved does NOT, in the SLIGHTEST or in ANY REASONABLE SENSE, make it appropriate to ignore dangers arising from evil men. I think your use of this passage for that purpose is a horrid twisting of the scriptures, and I think you should stop doing it.

It is the case that we should forgive our enemies, and love them. It is NOT the case that, having forgiven them and chosen to pray for their redemption, that we should ignore the harm they do. To say so is to imagine that there’s no need for police because we forgive all felons. It’s BUNK. It’s NO EXCUSE for ignoring the fact that the man in the White House is attempting to turn the United States into the Soviet Union, in clear opposition to the intent of the document from which all the authority of his position flows. We do wrestle against demonic elements — and they seem to be in charge of that Marxist you voted for. I hope he can be redeemed. I also hope the nation survives his presidency. I have little hope of either — and my prayers for his soul will not prevent me from participating in whatever active measures I can imagine to limit the damage he does and get him the hell out of the White House at the earliest possible moment, and his bevy of death-loving radicals with him. To do less is to fail in my duty to Christ.

Would you use “we wrestle not against flesh and blood” as an excuse not to stop a neighbor from beating his wife? Would you limit your activism to praying that the demons would stop oppressing them? No? Then knock off the BULLSHIT interpretation that that passage somehow makes it inappropriate to notice what evil men do and to try to stop them.

August 30, 2009 @ 8:17 pm #

How does your view fit with this:

Luke12:

52 For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.

53 The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

August 30, 2009 @ 8:21 pm #

Phil -

I am very, very sorry you chose such a vital, central topic to the gospel to consider carefully how you could:

1. Put me in the wrong, and also
2. Still sound Christian yourself in the process.

There is so much riding on this; you did not carefully read what I wrote. You asked me what you represented as an honest question; you did not pay much attention to an answer that came from my heart.

If you believe you are worse off for me being here…I’m just about to do you a favor.

August 30, 2009 @ 8:47 pm #

Do as you please, Jim, but you’ve used that nonsense about “flesh and blood” against me, too. It wasn’t just something you drummed up for John Cooper; heck, he’s not even a Christian, really. So your ducking behind that sermon as an excuse is just that — an excuse. You’re twisting a passage to try to stop activism against evil men, and it’s wrong. If my facing you with the fact of what you’re doing makes you leave, well, then, it’ll make you leave, and I guess we’ll all just live with that.

August 31, 2009 @ 6:42 am #

If our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers that work on this planet, then we must oppose their carnal tools. Those who allow themselves to do the work of Satan on earth are our enemies as well, or we have no enemies, and are called to do absolutely nothing but pray, pray, pray while evil is done all around us. Is that the prescription for Christians that I’m hearing from progressives?

August 31, 2009 @ 11:42 am #

Politics and Christ do not operate with the same lines of demarcation.

It is politics which confuses the flesh and blood person with the evil (or good) of one’s ideology. It is politics which can identify an enemy as evil and one’s self as righteous strictly on the basis of one’s ideological loyalty. It is politics which can say we fight against principalities and powers and not against flesh and blood, but if flesh and blood get in the way– too bad!

Christ draws his line perpendicular, so to speak, to the world’s right and wrong, good and evil. To say that Obama is evil (and that therefore it’s okey-dokey to hate him); to say that fighting against flesh and blood is to be expected if we’re ever going to get at those nasty principalities and powers (and that prayer is ‘nothing but’) is to remain in politics. And should be judged accordingly. It’s political babble. It certainly is not an insight from Christ and the word of God.

Christ and the word of God have the unique ability to sort out the dividing line that runs through every human heart. The line is not drawn according to whether one is evil or not. (We all are that.) The line is not drawn according to our ideologies, nor our talents or sparkling personalities. The line is Christ himself. Are we with Him or are we not?

We may or may not discern Christ in the heart of Obama or anyone else; but we can know whether Christ is welcome within our own hearts. Once that is established, everything changes. (2 Corinthians 5:16-21) And I would think our hatred for flesh and blood people would not be compatible with the grace we have found at the cross of Christ.

August 31, 2009 @ 11:45 am #

A discussion of the same topic from a different viewpoint:

http://sipseystreetirregulars.blogspot.com/2009/08/duty-active-duty-marine-corps-officer.html

August 31, 2009 @ 11:50 am #

And while on that page, this article points up the issue pretty plainly.

http://sipseystreetirregulars.blogspot.com/2009/08/thanks-for-tip-officer-cheeks-it-aint.html

August 31, 2009 @ 12:04 pm #

dullhammer –

Undoubtedly true, and you’ve apparently made darkhorse very happy by articulating better than he what he meant.

My objection is, though, how can we do the will of God in this world without resisting the efforts of evil men doing evil things?

That question does not presuppose that any individual is free from human flaw; but plainly, some men seek good, others evil. I just finished watching “Defiance,” an account of the Bielski Partisans who protected and fed some 1,200 Jews in Belarus during WWII, Jews who would have been exterminated had they remained in the ghetto. The Bielskis were not particularly holy men, but they were resisting plain evil. Does Christ approve?

Sometimes, resisting evil requires human action. In fact, ALL THE TIME, resisting evil requires human action, because God has ordained that all His works in our world will be accomplished through human agency, and the devil is likewise constrained, and cannot work without human permission and approval.

So I pose to you the same question I posed to darkhorse: if your neighbor is beating his wife, do you pray to bind the demons, or do you intervene and protect her? (I believe the correct answer is “both.”) Christian imperatives require that you forgive your neighbor, even while you can still see his knuckle-prints on his wife’s cheekbone; but love does not constrain you from intervening, nor does it prevent you from knocking him senseless if necessary.

I don’t advocate hating Barack Obama here on this blog. I advocate defending God-given liberty. The latter does not require the former; but it does require that we recognize clearly the myriad ways in which Barack Obama threatens our liberty.

August 31, 2009 @ 12:04 pm #

I’ve just read the original article again, plus the comments. I find that I’m confused about just exactly what people are saying.

Is the question about whether Obama is morally evil, and therefore should be destroyed, or is the question about whether the People of this nation have a right to demand that a political leader remains true to the ideals of the nation?

Personally, I don’t want to deal with question one. I have no idea of Obama’s moral culpability – that’s a judgment above my pay grade. I do have speculations, but they’re irrelevant. I _do_ however have a right to judge his actions against his oath to “protect and defend” the Constitution of the United States. He can’t claim lack of understanding – he studied Constitutional law – unless his studies were from the aspect of “know your enemy”, so the only conclusion I can reach is that he intends to revise the Constitution. There is provision for revision of the Constitution – it’s called “Amendments”, but he does not intend to use that method. That alone indicates that his oath was taken falsely. In fact, it’s entirely possible that his entire assumption of the office is under a false flag, and he is as much an enemy as was Khruschev. As an enemy of the US, we have the right to remove him – one way or the other – from office. We could ask nicely…do you suppose he’d just say “Yeah…you’re right – you caught me!” and walk away? I don’t think so.

Is it your choice then to accept that we messed up and accept a complete change in our government with a great sigh and a statement that “It’s the will of God”? Very islamic. A’salaam aleikum.

I’d prefer that we pray as if all depends on God, and act as if all depends on us.

August 31, 2009 @ 12:15 pm #

Yes, I do want to thank dullhammer for cutting to the chase far better than I could, in my bumbling. Because he’s articulate, he didn’t earn a “bullshit” from Phil, and that’s something, I suppose.

But I step back in here for a moment to make sure everyone here knows that I believe Phil is repeatedly misrepresenting what I said. He said:

“Sometimes, resisting evil requires human action. In fact, ALL THE TIME, resisting evil requires human action, because God has ordained that all His works in our world will be accomplished through human agency, and the devil is likewise constrained, and cannot work without human permission and approval.”

All of these are contained in the answer I gave him about early Hitler. Every last thing! I only changed the perceived order from prayer and trust in God first, and strength to act out of that relationship later, if He calls me to it.

Okay, I’ll try and be out now.

August 31, 2009 @ 12:58 pm #

>>Christian imperatives require that you forgive your neighbor, even while you can still see his knuckle-prints on his wife’s cheekbone;>>

Disagree. It is for your neighbor’s wife to forgive him – not you. Wrong has not been done to you – it has been done to her. In fact, you have no right to forgive him. Your imperative is to give succor to the wife, and possibly see to it that justice is given to the husband. Just exactly what that justice might be is a different issue.

August 31, 2009 @ 1:09 pm #

>>My objection is, though, how can we do the will of God in this world without resisting the efforts of evil men doing evil things?>>

>>…but plainly, some men seek good, others evil.>>

You make the assumption that you can judge the soul of the man. I’d disagree. If you take out the “evil” of “evil men”, then I’d agree with the first statement. On the second, I think that the individual who seeks evil is probably rare. Most seek good – the problem is the determination of good. Did Hitler really think that Jews were causing great evil in the world? I have no idea. That’s what he said. He may have considered them in the same way that we consider leftists and liberals in our setting. So I want to leave out a moral judgment. I think we have every right to judge what is good for _us_ – as members of society, not just personal benefit – and we have the right to protect ourselves from those whose efforts endeavor to take from us those rights which we enjoy as a society. We may in fact be wrong. _We_ may be choosing wrong. There’s where we need to pray for guidance – that we make right choices – and discussion such as these are good so that we can examine our choices and the motives that drive those choices. But not to choose? That’s not a moral option.
“The lukewarm I will vomit out of my mouth”

August 31, 2009 @ 2:31 pm #

“Most seek good – the problem is the determination of good. Did Hitler really think that Jews were causing great evil in the world? I have no idea. That’s what he said. He may have considered them in the same way that we consider leftists and liberals in our setting. ”

I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that is how leftists and liberals think of conservatives. Howard Dean said as much in those words, “I hate them.”

I believe this is why they are far more vitriolic than conservatives in general. Most of us consider liberals wrong headed and sadly mistaken, naive, …, whatever. I save the label of evil for the Ted Bundy’s, the Hitlers, the Pol Pots, the pure predators of the world. Typical liberals frustrate me, certainly, but I think that probably most generally mean well in what I feel is their misguided way.

But many, if not most, of them sincerely consider us to be bad people, if not out and out evil. I believe they practice liberalism much as a religion. This is part of why they are so intransigent on any subject involving their ideology and why they view everything from the election of Barack Obama to the weather coverage of hurricanes from a political prism of leftism.

August 31, 2009 @ 3:07 pm #

Phil,

“My objection is, though, how can we do the will of God in this world without resisting the efforts of evil men doing evil things?”

That is not an easy question. The difficulty for the Christian is that he or she is a dual citizen in this world. He is a citizen of his native country (Paul was a Roman citizen and he used that fact quite effectively . . . even politically you could say) and he is a citizen of the Kingdom of God.

I certainly think we should be about resisting the efforts of “evil men doing evil things”. What we need to recognize, though, is that there are natural ways of resistance (i.e. the Bielski Partisans [great movie, _Defiance_, btw]) and there are ways we might call “unnatural”. They could be called supernatural, but that calls up the miraculous too quickly to mind and that is not the point here. The ‘unnatural’ ways are those which most purely express the power as coming from God.

Jesus’ call to ‘turn the other cheek’ must be seen in his call for disciples to uniquely follow him. It is not a call for a new political or even ethical system for everyone to follow. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. were very effective in their employment of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:39 but it would be wrong to conclude that Jesus simply introduced a clever way for a minority to exert power over the ruling forces. (Saul Alinsky, evidently, can do the same thing in spades.) Jesus’ words were strictly for his followers and they were for his followers in regard to their being citizens of the Kingdom of God. The refusal to turn the other cheek, for example, is a refusal to respond in the natural (even justified) way of ‘eye for an eye’. And in his teaching to ‘go the extra mile’ Jesus commands more than mere refusal; there is a positive grace extended to the Roman soldier forcing the carrying of his garment. And there are other examples.

My point here, though, is that the person is acting as an ambassador of the Kingdom of God. I find no problem with that same person in another circumstance acting in accordance to his role as a citizen of his country or as a spouse or as a good neighbor. The good neighbor role certainly doesn’t conflict with intervening with a wife beating, especially in light of the Good Samaritan. That parable would even tell us that the neighbor role is not restricted to our physical neighbors. The rub comes in when roles might overlap and conflict. In such a case a Christian must defer to the ‘unnatural’ way of Christ. And it is unnatural. It must come from faith and the grace of God.

In summary for this thread: a Christian can be involved in politics and do a lot of what is natural in politics and yet stay seasoned with the saltiness of Christ. In some cases a Christian may even be called to stand for a cause which is unambiguously in keeping with the priorities of the Kingdom of God (abolition of slavery, for example). And yet he may achieve that cause with fairly normal employment of politics and much prayer (without the prayer the natural employment of the politics would fail). But when it comes to the ultimate achievement for the Kingdom of God there is no political, military or personal power on earth which can take the place of the Church. That achievement is the changing of a person’s heart from being evil, “deceitful and wicked above all things”, to being the temple of the Holy Spirit of God. And to bring that heart into full conformity to Christ.

In this unique work the Body of Jesus Christ (i.e. the Church) is still casting out demons and raising the dead all around us. And the evil in politics and politicians alike must sense that this ultimate “winning of hearts and minds” is truly their greatest threat on the planet.

August 31, 2009 @ 3:58 pm #

And of course…right after saying I can’t judge the morality of the man, I run across this:

http://astuteblogger.blogspot.com/2009/08/we-will-not-be-silenced-how-obamas.html

So…can lying to promote the “good” for a society be condoned as not morally wrong?

How about when dealing with other nations?

I remember Carter as a very moral man (not so sure about that these days) but can – should – a leader be completely honest in dealing with other nations? if that is not in the nation’s best interest?

August 31, 2009 @ 6:05 pm #

A correction to my last post (which I hope you could figure):

Where I say, “The refusal to turn the other cheek”,
I should have said, “The refusal to hit back and to offer the other cheek”

August 31, 2009 @ 6:07 pm #

Disagree. It is for your neighbor’s wife to forgive him – not you.

In a strict, legal sense, this is correct, but the reality is that if you see him beating his wife, you’re going to be angry on her behalf. It’s not your place, you may have no right to it, but you’ll be angry nonetheless — and it will become necessary in practice for you to forgive him, or the anger will eat you alive. Trust me, I’ve had to go through this exercise more than once.

August 31, 2009 @ 7:02 pm #

Phil–

You’ve got a pretty good theological discussion going here. As we can all see, these basic metaphysical questions are still not settled after 2000+ years.

You posted earlier that “John Cooper [is] not even a Christian, really.” Well, that’s not really accurate. I’m what you would call a ‘backslider’. I *was* a Christian in my youth – Baptized and everything – but I eventually came to a point where the logical contradictions in the Bible became just too great – exactly as we have seen in this discussion. Is God a loving God, or a vengeful God? Eventually, I had to choose to use – or discard – my mind as a means of living on the earth. I chose to use it, as best I could.

If anybody cares, the event that pushed me over the brink was the photo of Billy Graham with his arm around Richard Nixon sanctioning the Vietnam war.

August 31, 2009 @ 7:12 pm #

>>Is God a loving God, or a vengeful God?>>

?? God is a loving God…_we’re_ the ones with a problem.

Did you expect Billy Graham to be perfect? or to have perfect understanding of God? (even if he’s better than most of us?)

>>I’m what you would call a ‘backslider’. I *was* a Christian in my youth – Baptized and everything>>

So…is you is or is you ain’t? You were, you left and then came back? Or you were and you left, and you still aren’t? In which Phil is right … you aren’t a Christian…really. You may have been once, but you no longer are.

August 31, 2009 @ 7:45 pm #

>>…and it will become necessary in practice for you to forgive him, or the anger will eat you alive.>>

I’ll have to think about that one. It’s a righteous anger, but I can see the problem with it. If you take steps to resolve it, you may commit a wrong, and if you don’t, you have to resolve the anger somehow. I can see how that could be a problem. It doesn’t seem to me that forgiving him is the right answer – but perhaps it’s still the only solution.

September 1, 2009 @ 7:07 pm #

I hope you guys are still around in eight years so I can raz you all about all this “evil” nonsense.

Obama is neither a marxist nor a tyrant. He’s a bit to the left of you all, but not that much. You’re working yourself into a tizzy about nothing. In fact, I’d book bets that the nation will survive Obama, but that would be a sucker’s bet for you guys – I couldn’t possibly loose.

What absolutely amazes me is that the last republican administration engaged in illegal spying, tortured detainees, some to death, and mislead the nation into a horrific and senseless war, and the only evil you all can see is in Obama.

Amazing.

Joe

September 1, 2009 @ 8:20 pm #

Well…at least his illegal spying was on enemies of the nation.

What do you think about the power to take control of the internet?

And you know what? I’ll settle for that torture. If it’s a choice of the “torture” as handed out by the CIA and the lives of myself and/or my family, I’ll vote for the torture. I don’t like it, don’t like the need for it, but that’s where I stand.

As for the “senseless war” – we won it. Obama was against it, and is for winning the war in Afghanistan. You know what? He’s going to escalate and then back out. He’ll lose. Reason? Because he’s not a military man, and apparently not an historian, and also apparently isn’t aware that Afghanistan is an army eating country. Besides, he’s a Democrat and has no stomach for what needs to be done to win. He’s gutless. His lefties will force him out, and he hasn’t the backbone to stand up to them. They’ll lose for us in Afghanistan like they did in Vietnam. Bush was smarter – he changed the battleground to where we could win. All of the muslim countries are pretty much in concert – but we had cause to enter Iraq. I’d have rathered we went into Iran – but there was no cause. Iraq had violated the terms of ceasefire time and time again – remember – Congress approved military action, not Bush alone.

You say he’s just a bit left of us all? You’re blind in one eye and can’t see out of the other if you think that. He’s a communist. His mother was, his grandparents were, his mentor Frank Davis was, Ayers is – all of his background is communist based.

But if that’s ok with you…so be it. We’ll see what comes next, I guess.

I assume that you’d die before permitting torture of any description being done in your name, and you’d allow your entire family to die first as well.

Your choice. Very admirable. And when you and your family are dead and gone, life will proceed as the living deem necessary.

September 1, 2009 @ 10:03 pm #

Suek,

How do you know who the government was spying on? How do you know the spying was limited to “enemies.” This trust the govenment mindset is the hallmark of an authoritiarian mind – at least when our guys are in charge, right?

You’re okay with torture? I’ll bet you are. But not if it occurs to your children, correct? There’s unmistakable evidence that we tortured detainees who did absolutely nothing wrong. You’re okay with that?

But I will say I admire you for admitting this. Most people won’t say it as forthrightly as you.

Won in Iraq? Really? What about all those bombs that keep exploding and killing dozens of people. What’s going to happen when we leave? And how many people lost their lives, and how much money was spent, achieving this “fabulous” result?

Lose in Afganistan? Yes we are going to lose in Afganistan – but not because Obama’s not a military man. There’s no way to win in Afganistan.

What has Obama ever said or done that indicates he’s a communist? A communist, by the way, favors state ownership of the means of production. Obama has said repeatedly, that he doesn’t want the government to run private companies.

What background are you talking about?

As far as my being willing to die, and allow my family to die, in order to prevent torture, I am certainly willing to run the alleged increased risk of dying in a terrorist attack to prevent torture.

Are you really saying “I love my life more than my honor.” This is a new development; defending torture by exhalting cowardice.

As for your last comment about how “life will proceed as the living deem necessary,” you might want to read Plato’s Apology and Crito. They are short and very readible dialogues – and they have much to say about what sort of lives are worth living.

Joe

September 2, 2009 @ 10:34 am #

Let’s start again.

Would you consider it a negative to be a Marxist?

Do you consider capitalism to be a bad social model? (bad meaning one that causes suffering or distress to a large segment of society)

Do you consider communism to be a better one?

How about socialism?

>>I am certainly willing to run the alleged increased risk of dying in a terrorist attack to prevent torture.>>

Betcha that’s cause the risk is so low.

>>You’re okay with torture?>>

No, not really. And that isn’t what I said. What I said was that I didn’t like it or the need for it, but I prefer for an enemy to be tortured than for me or my family to die.

>>What about all those bombs that keep exploding and killing dozens of people.>>

Are we placing those bombs? You think it was better when Saddam was in charge?

>> What’s going to happen when we leave? >>

Don’t know. The answer depends on who’s doing the bombing. It’s probably the Iranians – but it could be the Sunnis. The Sunnis were the power along with Saddam – they want the power back again. In that case, they’ll keep fighting until someone achieves dominance. Iranians are masters of intrigue. Their war with Iraq lasted 10 years and had no definitive outcome. It is most likely that the reason that Saddam deliberately led the world to think that he had WMD was to keep the Iranians at bay. He thought that the US would never actually do anything – after 10 years of pushing the limits. Has Al Qaeda left some of their activists? They absolutely do not want democracy in any muslim nation.

What would happen if you simply remove the police from cities?

>>Are you really saying “I love my life more than my honor.” >>

And here I thought that Conservatives were supposed to be the “black” or “white” people! So you’re saying that if I’m not willing to die rather than torture to get information that would save my “tribe”, I have no honor? Does your concept of honor permit me to kill my enemies?

>>This is a new development; defending torture by exhalting cowardice.>>

Defending
exhalting
cowardice

Twisting words, spinning arguments.

Bovine excrement.

September 2, 2009 @ 10:39 am #

Background = those who raised him, those who taught him.

Are you saying that you are unaware that his mother and his grandparents were communists? Would you consider it irrelevant if you _did_ know that to be a fact?

Have you not heard Frank Davis and his influence on Obama? Do you assume that the link was “merely” sexual?

What do you know about Ayers? His background…his actions and philosophy as part of the CAC?

September 2, 2009 @ 11:26 am #

Give it up, Joe. Suek is into guerrilla-style argument. Formal training in careful argumentation is rendered useless.

Suek: I think the question Joe asked is very, very important. If there are two choices:

1. Live in an America that is “safe”, but has sold it’s character by being willing to torture (anyone, but even innocents if there is information to be gained); or

2. Live in an America that refuses to sell it’s character for safety, and chooses freedom because that is vital to its character…and accepts whatever safety problems that causes.

The way you answered that showed me there’s only one person playing word games here.

September 2, 2009 @ 11:49 am #

darkhorse…

Do we have the right to kill in self defense?

September 2, 2009 @ 12:46 pm #

How come you didn’t include door number 3, darkhorse?

3. Live in an America that punishes those who have responsibly made the tough, conscientious, legal decisions on the battle lines of harsh interrogation which have saved lives and kept our country free enough to have this lovely discussion?

Maybe the word game accusation cuts both ways?

Prior to this, I was going to object to the liberal use of the word ‘torture’. It begs the question by oversimplifying the debate. That also seems to be a word game conveniently not recognized here.

Even the revelation of the drill and death threat employed by the CIA do little or nothing to establish a top down administration endorsement of torture, despite the partisan cries to the contrary, for those threats are admitted to be beyond what was appropriate (though just barely). Keep in mind the analogy of the battle line, not a mere legal line. Should we be liberally prosecuting soldiers who do bad things in war? I was going to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’. But the answer is ‘NO’. Because the key to the question is the liberal use of the word ‘liberally’. Take that out of the equation and I’d be pleased to give a hearty ‘maybe’. Same goes for the liberal bloodlust to prosecute the previous administration.

I do not intend to exchange blows on this topic. I’m just leveling the playing field as I see it. I’ve got to go do some religious stuff.

September 2, 2009 @ 1:40 pm #

Suek said:

“Do we have the right to kill in self defense?”

Separate topic. Not many ethicists rule that one out : )

Dullhammer:
____
“How come you didn’t include door number 3, darkhorse?

3. Live in an America that punishes those who have responsibly made the tough, conscientious, legal decisions on the battle lines of harsh interrogation which have saved lives and kept our country free enough to have this lovely discussion?
______

Dullhammer, I am being honest about ME here — Once we are willing to cross the torture line, especially when the President orders interrogators to cross lines that we agreed not to cross (waterboarding – agreed to be across the line by war hero McCain), once we are willing to cross that line, we have cashed in the very nation we are trying to keep safe.

As a separate issue – those who violate US Law should be prosecuted…or, again, we have cashed in the very nation we are trying to keep safe.

Just an opinion…and I am not saying I know for 100% about any particular individual this applies to.

September 2, 2009 @ 2:10 pm #

>>Prior to this, I was going to object to the liberal use of the word ‘torture’. It begs the question by oversimplifying the debate.>>

I agree with you. But because of the word games and the fruitlessness of attempting to define that which is almost undefinable (but I know it when I see it!), I chose to grab the bull by the horns. As you see, the assumption is then made that given my position, I obviously am in favor of all forms of the most atrocious tortures imaginable. It’s the risk you take when you argue with dishonest people.

>>Separate topic. Not many ethicists rule that one out : )>>

Maybe, maybe not. Ok…so “not many ethicists rule that one out” qualifies as yes…it’s ok to kill in self defense.

Just be sure it doesn’t hurt, right? Because then it would be torture, and that wouldn’t be allowed.

The logical conclusion is therefore that prisoners have no intelligence value, so there is no reason to take prisoners. If there is no reason to take prisoners, and if killing to prevent being killed is acceptable, then we should kill rather than take prisoners. Just kill quickly.

September 2, 2009 @ 2:13 pm #

>>Suek is into guerrilla-style argument.>>

Thank you, I think. That sounds like a compliment. If not, perhaps you could define it for me.

>>Formal training in careful argumentation is rendered useless.>>

That sounds like an admission of defeat.
:)

September 2, 2009 @ 3:06 pm #

aBOUT THAT

http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2009/09/red-alert-white-house-plans-massive.html

September 2, 2009 @ 3:07 pm #

Oops.

About that Federal government collection of info:

Link…

September 2, 2009 @ 3:11 pm #

“I am being honest about ME here”

Your honest opinion about what you think here is not how you challenged suek. I grant you “door number 3″ would not be what you believe, but it is one of the options on the table at the present time. The two sided question you put forth therefore is a false dilemma, i.e. a “guerrilla-style argument” if you will.

If you had left the first sentence off of your post @ 11:26 am you might then simply be mistaken about there being a ‘door number 3′. But because you claim to see suek’s problem with games, you leave yourself with no excuse for doing the same thing. And ‘honest’ doesn’t cover it. Sorry.

As for your opinion, though, I’m not knocking you for putting it out there. It’s a commendable and valuable contribution for our making the most of that freedom thing. :)

September 2, 2009 @ 3:14 pm #

suek,

You might want to check out some previous threads here at Plumb Bob on this. Ones I specifically have in mind are:

12/19/2008 (6:45 am) Those Who Make the Hard Decisions
12/28/2008 (7:47 pm) Harsh Interrogation

Phil and the following discussions covered some excellent ground.

September 2, 2009 @ 3:24 pm #

The flip side to the argument saying that one should never torture in any circumstance is that it is easy to say from comfort. The uncomfortable question for men of good conscience is: If your son or daughter or Wife or Husband were vaporized by a suitcase nuke, would the torture of one man been ok then?

Most conservatives or traditionalists when they Ok the use of torture are thinking in these types of extremes. It is a trade off for everyone does the use of physical or psychological torture justify saving lives? For most people on the Right, this is a trade they are willing to make. For most of those on the Left, the price of moral superiority or safety is more important than Life.

Of course, most of those on the Left look at 9/11 as a fluke, and that they themselves and those they care about will never truly be in danger. Or that they will have a better chance of winning the lottery than of it ever touching them in any meaningful way. So it is an easier choice to make from that vantage point. It is too impersonal.

For many of those on the Right, there is no moral question. For them, these men are our enemies. They have chosen to take up arms against us and attempt to kill our men and women in uniform or commit acts against innocent civilians and have therefore voided whatever right they had to civil treatment. To them Life, no matter whose it is, justifies the questioning or brutal torture of men who have set themselves against us. In addition, many on the Right are much more likely to have loved ones serving in the armed forces. If not they are much more likely to sympathize or put themselves in their shoes. They are not thinking of the poor bastard who got caught in a sweep and was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. For them the choice is too personal.

For me personally… I think Torture has to be illegal. My heart tells me that you cannot do Good by committing Evil. My head says you have to play the odds. The momentary physical or mental discomfort of these men cannot be weighed against innocent life.

However, I usually err on the side of my gut when morals are involved. Dispassion can sometimes lead you as easily astray as Passion.

Our intelligence forces have to know that there will be consequences if they go too far. It becomes way too easy to step over the line for no good cause, since there are no repercussions.

The operative, either military or intelligence, has to know that he will face an accounting for what he does if he goes too far. If he is sure that the subject has a piece of information, he has to be willing to go to jail or face court martial in order to get it. It has to be worthwhile. It cannot and should not be sanctioned as a broad policy. This serves to mean that whatever extraordinary methods they take will only be used in the most dire of circumstances, when they are sure in their own minds that the subject has vital information. This also serves to weed out frivolous use.

This may seem hypocritical. So be it. A civilization worth fighting for must stand for something, but it has to stand.

September 2, 2009 @ 3:50 pm #

Dullhammer -

Option number 3 allows torture, assuming torture happened in violation of US Law. So it is really equivalent to option number 1, IF torture is as serious to someone as it is to me.

No guerrilla fighting intended, and I don’t think you understood me, or you wouldn’t have lofted the unfair accusation.

September 2, 2009 @ 3:55 pm #

Horatius observed:

“Most conservatives or traditionalists when they Ok the use of torture are thinking in these types of extremes. It is a trade off for everyone does the use of physical or psychological torture justify saving lives? For most people on the Right, this is a trade they are willing to make. For most of those on the Left, the price of moral superiority or safety is more important than Life.”

Horatius, the only reason you are able to make this into a “conservatives think this” vs. a “liberals think that” issue is because the Commander-in-Chief in question was a (quasi)-conservative.

There are plenty of conservatives who disagree with you – and I think John McCain carries enough moral force to rebut your point.

It has to be at least WORTH CONSIDERING, what your head is telling you about “Torture should be illegal.” All the silly writing off of anyone who says otherwise seems to point to a willingness to protect an administration, more than to a standing on any kind of principle, no?

September 2, 2009 @ 4:02 pm #

>>For me personally… I think Torture has to be illegal.>>

Actually, I agree. I also think there may be exceptions, but they need to be _exceptions_. The exceptions then are based on the situation, and each case needs to be judged individually.

About that communist possibility:

http://www.americasright.com/2009/09/van-jones-and-gathering-storm.html

September 2, 2009 @ 4:32 pm #

Darkhorse,

I don’t agree that door number 3 allows torture and I certainly do not agree that it is equivalent to number 1. But I think you might be right that I didn’t understand you. Maybe I should have first taken issue with the point about McCain’s line drawing (but those details are probably better argued by someone else). My understanding is that when the line actually got drawn the administration stopped the waterboarding. And I’ve yet to see how waterboarding clears the line for torture in the first place.

Given that I see doors 1 and 3 as quite different, I had to see your answer as inconsistent. Be that as it may, I offer a pre-emptive apology for a misunderstanding which I still probably do not quite have clear. But if you thought points number 1 and 3 were equivalent, I can at least see where you were coming from. No guerrilla fighting intended on my part either.

September 2, 2009 @ 4:32 pm #

Darkhorse-
Where is the protection of a administration. I said that anyone who crossed the line should have to answer for what they do.
As far as “All the silly writing off”- what did I say that was untrue? You argue that Torture is wrong. That it is wrong in every case. So the torture of someone who has information which could save innocent lives is wrong. Therefore morals mean more than innocent life in this particular equation.
I am not saying you are wrong. I too believe that ideals are worth dying for. I believe I argued that I am just not sure it is worth me allowing innocent people to die for me to maintain my own moral clarity.

September 2, 2009 @ 5:45 pm #

dullhammer…

Thanks for the reference. Very worthwhile – probably could have saved us the trouble of going through the exercise again!

Looks like the relative positions are still the same…

September 2, 2009 @ 6:08 pm #

All this talk of torture, but no real definition of torture. Is what the CIA did really torture? I ask because it certainly looks alot different than what other countries consider torture.

It seems to me torture is a word that keeps getting flung around by the liberals/leftist/whatever-you-want-to-call-thems like some kind of righteous billy club.

It’s a very emotionally electrifying word nowadays that doesn’t always seem to mean what the user thinks it means.

September 2, 2009 @ 6:33 pm #

Horatius:

I apologize, when I spoke of “writing off”, I wasn’t speaking of something in particular that you said. However, I was using the fact that you separated the torture debate into conservative vs. liberal, which it is not.

I am neither, but it seems self-evident to me that we should not be willing to lose who we are as a nation, just to save our nation.

It seems more honorable to die with our honor, than to survive having given it up.

September 2, 2009 @ 6:48 pm #

>>It seems more honorable to die with our honor, than to survive having given it up.>>

And perhaps at some point you will have the option of making that decision – for yourself.

I’d appreciate having the option to make the same decision – for me.

I also believe in forgiveness and reparation.

September 2, 2009 @ 6:57 pm #

Suek -

We’re not talking about individuals here. We’re speaking about preserving our nation, and its honor. Keeping on track – we are talking about making a decision, all together as a people, whether we are willing to give up who we have historically been as a nation in order to save our individual skins.

Some of us are arguing that protecting a conservative administration, and those who took orders from it, from prosecution from breaking U.S. law is similarly giving up who we are as a nation, historically.

Yes, we are talking about exceptions – and whether we should allow them, as a nation. Nobody needs to ridicule anyone else for disagreeing here…but the importance of the issue seems pretty big to me.

Then again, what do I know? (My favorite line to sign off a sermon : )

September 2, 2009 @ 7:26 pm #

>>Keeping on track – we are talking about making a decision, all together as a people, whether we are willing to give up who we have historically been as a nation in order to save our individual skins.>>

No, actually, we’re talking about the actions of individuals.

September 2, 2009 @ 7:27 pm #

And once again -

specifically which law are we claiming is broken? Which law specifically prohibits waterboarding?

September 2, 2009 @ 7:54 pm #

Wow, what a discussion!

Both the Convention on Torture and the United States Code define “torture” as “acting with the specific intent to inflict severe mental or physical pain or suffering.”

And let me head off the inevitable distortion of what “specific intent” means. The law distinguishes between specific and general intent crimes. Second degree murder is a general intent crime. If I intentionally shoot you and you die, I’m guilty of second degree murder even if I didn’t have the specific intention of killing you. I only need to have intended to perform the act that I could foresee would cause your death.

Pre-meditated murder is a specific intent crime. I have to have planned to kill you before hand and executed my plan – that is, I had to have had the specific intent to kill you – not merely to shoot you.

To be guilty of torture, a person has to act with the specific intention of inflicting severe mental or physical pain or suffering.

I took the time to explain this distinction to cut off the temptation some will have to argue that if an interrogator’s intention was to get information, not merely to inflict pain or suffering, he lacked specific intent under the statute. This is a mistake – it confuses motive with intent. Motive is why you do something. Intent is your state of volition in doing an act – was the act intentional, reckless, negligent, etc.

Put another way, interpreting “specific intent” to mean “sole or ultimate purpose” would make sadism an element to the torture statute. But sadism is not an element of the torture statute. Any act one does to intentionally inflict severe mental or physical pain or suffering violates the law.

Did Bush administration officials act with the specific intention of inflicting severe mental or physical pain or suffering on the detainees?

Of course they did. That was their plan. They have admited that “breaking” the detainees was their goal. Dick Cheney spoke repeatedly about “taking the gloves off.” And if their own admissions leave any doubt in your mind, think about enduring any of the techniques described in the documents that have been released. If you don’t think being forced to stay awake for 11 straight days is designed to cause severe mental and physical pain and suffering, or being highchained, naked, in a 54 degree room, for hours at a time while interrogators periodically douse you with cold water is designed to inflict severe mental or physical pain or suffering, you’re nuts.

So, let’s cut the crap. These officials commited war crimes. Either we believe in our ideals and insist that the law be upheld – like it is for everyone else – or we should repeal the torture statute and withdraw from the various conventions that prohibit torture. We need to stop lying to ourselves about who we are and what kind of nation we want to have.

And we need to stop with the euphemisms. Totture is torture. Andrew Sullivan explained why we use euphemisims when he wrote “[t]he minute you use the English language in defense of torture, you disgust yourself. Language matters, as Orwell understood. It is the first thing to be dispensed with in the defense of the indefensible.”

Joe

September 2, 2009 @ 8:02 pm #

Suek,

I know of not one person who has undegone waterboarding who has denied that the experience constituted severe mental and physical pain and suffering.

There’s no specific law against using the rack or thumbscrews, but they are still illegal pursuant to the torture statute.

Joe

September 2, 2009 @ 8:38 pm #

Restricting treatment to limits practiced by the Army was passed by Congress, vetoed by Bush. It has not been raised by Congress again. Why not? Obama would sign the law, if they would pass it.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123362332302441815.html

Look, Joe. There is no need for torture. CIA personnel and military personnel do not do torture for pleasure. Will you grant that?
So, if you will grant that, then surely you would also agree that the prisoner can stop whatever painful process is occurring at any time by simply telling the interrogators what they want to know.

So why don’t they?

September 2, 2009 @ 9:05 pm #

Suek,

It matters not one whit whether “CIA personnel and military personnel do not torture for pleasure.” US and International Law do not ask the question of whether someone is torturing for sport – only whether someone is torturing.

Though I daresay that it would be presumptuous to acts as if we know for a clear fact that nobody is enjoying what they’re doing.

September 2, 2009 @ 9:12 pm #

Suek,

I suspect that most of the CIA operatives don’t torture for sport – although there are probably some sadists in the mix.

But as Darkhorse said, legally speaking, it doesn’t matter. Morally speaking it matters some, but not enough, in my opinion, to exhonerate it. But legally speaking, not at all.

Joe

September 3, 2009 @ 3:25 am #

…the prisoner can stop whatever painful process is occurring at any time by simply telling the interrogators what they want to know…

For the most part, the documentation surrounding the torture cases under discussion/investigation makes it clear that, in the actions under dispute, nothing the victim might say will stop him from being tortured. In the cases under discussion the prison guidelines, programs, etc. were built to ensure that detainees were given “painful process” regardless of anything they might say. It’s true, yes, that you can scream “Stop! I’ll talk!” before being tortured–assuming you aren’t gagged or upside down in a latrine–but, generally, if a deliberate threat to cause significant harm in the context of an interrogation program is carried out it’s torture. A number of reports and documents–from the Taguba report forward–show that many threats against detainees were carried out, regardless of any communication to/from the victim.

There are plenty of complaints that detainees were (are) mistreated in various ways that might constitute lesser offenses than torture–threats of torture, bad food, humiliations of various kinds–but, for the most part, the significant legal cases focus on more or less universally accepted acts of torture like beatings, waterboarding, exposure, hanging upside down, and so on.

September 3, 2009 @ 7:00 am #

The whole argument here turns on defintions of torture.

Numbertwopencil makes a interesting point:

“There are plenty of complaints that detainees were (are) mistreated in various ways that might constitute lesser offenses than torture–threats of torture, bad food, humiliations of various kinds–but, for the most part, the significant legal cases focus on more or less universally accepted acts of torture like beatings, waterboarding, exposure, hanging upside down, and so on.”

I have heard several people use the definition of torture as “The infliction of physical OR MENTAL harm upon a prisoner.” The mental harm part is where the wicket gets a bit sticky.

By that definition it becomes the same as sexual harassment- anything can then be called torture, by the victim. He or she gets to set the standard.

Waterboarding to me, seems somewhat mild on the torture scale but that may be because I have run across some truly gruesome things in my study of history. However, we are not putting waterboarding on a scale of one to ten, we are asking a positive/negative question on it by itself.

I think it has to fall under the heading of torture. It fits all of the particulars even in a historical context, minus lasting harm. In actuality it is an even better form of torture (from the perspective of the interrogator) because it leaves the subject able to answer questions indefinitely, with no lasting physical harm.

So if we assume that waterboarding then constitutes torture, where does that leave us? Perhaps it means that there should be a change in law in order to allow certain techniques, while forbidding others.

The crux of the Bush admin’s argument is that it is not torture. Congress has refused to take it completely off the table and classify it specifically as torture.

Joe and Darkhorse argue that we are prohibited from using torture, and by their definition (and mine) waterboarding falls under that umbrella, and so the Bush officials who urged it should be investigated.

I think congress should first make a ruling or take it to the Supreme court as whether to classify waterboarding one way or another, that way everyone is clear on their definitions.

September 3, 2009 @ 9:55 am #

For the most part, the documentation surrounding the torture cases under discussion/investigation makes it clear that, in the actions under dispute, nothing the victim might say will stop him from being tortured.

This is about as far from the truth as a statement can be.

The overwhelming indication of the various reports that have funneled out of the government over the past 8 years is that once information is forthcoming, treatment becomes extremely benign. As I pointed out in an earlier discussion, the questioners at the CIA actually use La-Z-Boy recliners as a reward for cooperative detainees, and have them questioned by older women. That’s not a joke.

In fact, the reports document a conscientious, diligent effort to keep all practices within the bounds of civility, and to provide controls over all sorts of behaviors that could even plausibly descend into genuine torture. It happens that the most horrific instances reported in the recently-regurgitated CIA investigation (it was actually 5 years old, but bringing it up again at this moment has no plausible purpose in changing the subject; that thought is only thought by fanatics who assume the very worst about Obama) were all performed by the same questioner who was a civilian contractor, and the legal issues related to that have apparently already been addressed.

It bears mentioning that the worst acts reported were designed (by the contractor who was overstepping his bounds) to simulate treatment, by deception, that the detainees would recognize as common and regularly in use in the states from which they came. So the question arises again — as it ought in the minds of everyone who claims to be morally offended by the behavior of the US, but mysteriously never does — why, exactly, are we talking about prosecuting US officials of war crimes for simulating certain acts, but not prosecuting officials of other nations who are well-known to actually perform these acts. The answer “It’s us, and we’re better than that,” is simply nonsense. Global communication is well-established, and if we want acts of brutality to cease, we must address the brutality where it exists, not where one or two mavericks want some dupe to imagine it exists.

The entire “anti-terror” campaign in the US is phony, a political game by some to obtain power, an emotional control game by others to assert moral superiority using power words. The infants are controlling the parents here.

September 3, 2009 @ 10:00 am #

Was this man tortured?
If so, who should be prosecuted?
If not, why is it ‘crap’ to point this out?

http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=23220

September 3, 2009 @ 10:43 am #

>>But as Darkhorse said, legally speaking, it doesn’t matter. Morally speaking it matters some, but not enough, in my opinion, to exhonerate it. But legally speaking, not at all.>>

Spoken like a true lawyer.

This may come as a shock to you, but those we’re fighting against don’t respect our laws.

The fact of the matter is that there’s a reason why they don’t stop the “torture” by giving answers – and that is because THEY ARE AT WAR WITH US. THEY INTEND TO KILL US. That may not matter to you. You would rather die than violate a law.

But the fact is, the law has _not_ been violated – so what is your defense now? You have said “torture is illegal” but waterboarding is not legally defined as torture.

If you can find proof of where it has been, provide it.

I expect you to ignore that just as you ignored my questions above. Phil’s right – it’s a game to you.

>>The entire “anti-terror” campaign in the US is phony, a political game by some to obtain power, an emotional control game by others to assert moral superiority using power words.>>

September 3, 2009 @ 10:48 am #

“I have heard several people use the definition of torture as “The infliction of physical OR MENTAL harm upon a prisoner.” The mental harm part is where the wicket gets a bit sticky.

By that definition it becomes the same as sexual harassment- anything can then be called torture, by the victim. He or she gets to set the standard.”

This is the feeling that I am getting. What constitutes torture changes depending on who currently is in charge.

Even looking cross-eyed at someone could be considered torture with this definition.

September 3, 2009 @ 10:59 am #

numbertwopencil said:

“For the most part, the documentation surrounding the torture cases under discussion/investigation makes it clear that, in the actions under dispute, nothing the victim might say will stop him from being tortured.”

Phil said: “This is about as far from the truth as a statement can be.”

Phil – what follows your statement there appears to be a general statement about the CIA’s treatment overall of prisoners…while numbertwopencil was discussing the cases UNDER INVESTIGATION.

I think that’s an important distinction.

September 3, 2009 @ 11:00 am #

Suek said to Joe:

“This may come as a shock to you, but those we’re fighting against don’t respect our laws.”

What you’re implying, Suek, is that, since they don’t, WE shouldn’t respect our laws, either. That’s okay…if you want to be like them.

September 3, 2009 @ 12:04 pm #

>>What you’re implying, Suek, is that, since they don’t, WE shouldn’t respect our laws, either.>>

To a certain extent, yes. And specifically by that I mean that laws which are intended to be enforced in “normal” times might have to modified or even ignored in “abnormal” times, meaning times of conflict.

Although you and Joseph have still not provided proof that waterboarding is legally considered torture, so perhaps we’re still within the law in any case. That should make you happy.

September 3, 2009 @ 3:44 pm #

If we are fighting an enemy that is fielding uniformed soldiers AND is making a good faith effort to abide by the rules outlined in the Geneva Convention then we are obligated to do so also. And yes, subjecting uniformed soldiers to waterboarding would be wrong. However if we are fighting an enemy that is not using uniformed soldiers, and/or is not abiding by the rules set forth in the Geneva Convention, and other accepted rules of warfare, it is suicidal for us to bind ourselves to the strictest and most fanatical interpretations of the Geneva Convention. There is nothing dishonorable in our country saying, “We would like to play by our rules but if you insist we can and will play by your rules”. I have no interest in dying an honorable death while fighting an enemy that has no honor.

September 3, 2009 @ 7:34 pm #

Suek,

This link

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15886834

provides a history of waterboarding. At the end of the article it cites several cases in which United States officials criminally prosecuted waterboarding.

One thing worth mentioning is that when you read John Yoo’s memoranda on these issues, he never mentions these prosecutions. Not once. Legal advice in good faith? Please.

There are potentially thousands of ways to intentionally inflict severe mental or physical pain and suffering. No statute could anticipate all of the possible methods, so the statute defines torture using concepts that are easy to understand.

Any method by which someone intentionally inflicts severe mental or physical pain and suffering is illegal torture. Waterboarding inflicts severe mental and physical suffering. Don’t believe me, watch this clip.

http://www.tmz.com/2009/05/23/radio-host-waterboarded-hilarity-doesnt-ensue/

Enough already! Argue in good faith.

The “extraordinary times” and “national security emergency” rationales always accompany government sponsored torture. The first thing any ex tyrant accused of torture says is, “I did it to protect the nation from its enemies” Unfortunately, such men can rarely distinguish political opponents from real enemies, just as we find it hard to distinguish between terrorists and those who our government have accused of being terrorists. That’s why the Convention on Torture specifically precludes these excuses as legal defenses. Make such an exception, and you undermine the entire prohibition.

But I do admire your unwillingness to lie to yourself. You’re support government torture – albeit in very limited circumstances. Most people who support torture remain unwilling to say so forthrightly.

Joe H

September 3, 2009 @ 9:46 pm #

One thing worth mentioning is that when you read John Yoo’s memoranda on these issues, he never mentions these prosecutions. Not once. Legal advice in good faith? Please.

Joe, in all honesty, I think you’re too personally invested in this to see the matter clearly. I cannot begin to understand why that would be so, but it’s apparently so.

The reason Yoo never mentions the prosecution of “waterboarding” is because what the administration was contemplating was so very far from what we prosecuted that it simply has no bearing. What you’re complaining about is as if a lawyer is advising his client on the burning of trash on his industrial lot, and claiming that the lawyer is acting in bad faith because he does not explain past prosecutions for arson.

I suppose it’s at least plausible that Yoo did not do his homework and did not know that the prior cases existed, but somebody I know thinks it’s a bad idea to adopt the worst possible interpretation when there’s doubt and a less damning explanation exists.

September 3, 2009 @ 10:17 pm #

“I suppose it’s at least plausible that Yoo did not do his homework and did not know that the prior cases existed, but somebody I know thinks it’s a bad idea to adopt the worst possible interpretation when there’s doubt and a less damning explanation exists.”

Very, VERY good Phil, on the last line. I am laughing!

But consider your analogy: what is the breadth of “past prosecutions for arson”? Then, consider the incredibly narrow scope of the question of waterboarding and torture, the scope in which Yoo was working.

It doesn’t seem like Yoo could have written very long without mentioning the past cases, unless the topic was intentionally being avoided.

September 3, 2009 @ 10:32 pm #

All of you insist on arguing legality at the expense of commonsense. Your fiddling while Rome burns. In the real world our enemy often chooses the rules of engagement; if we insist on bringing a gun to a knife fight we simply lose.

September 3, 2009 @ 10:37 pm #

Let me correct that; it should be bringing a knife to a gun fight. Oops!!!

September 3, 2009 @ 11:02 pm #

Dale:

It’s just a question of what we’re willing to turn ourselves into to “win”. Should we bomb the schools of mainly Al Qaida areas, targeting their children so they stop bothering us?

Now THAT would be showing we want to win!

September 3, 2009 @ 11:03 pm #

However, it would be a different “we” that came out on the other side.

September 4, 2009 @ 10:06 am #

>>However, it would be a different “we” that came out on the other side.>>

This is a true statement.

The innocence of childhood is endearing and much to be desired. Once lost, it never can be again as it was.

Nevertheless, I maintain that it is _not_ better to die in order to preserve that innocence, but rather that by maintaining life, we obtain the wisdom to judge the value of the price we pay for our freedom.

Some experience war and learn that no prize is worth the price. Others take away the lesson that the prize is worth any price. It seems to me that you and I are simply expressing these two incompatible views – you believe that you’d rather die before dishonor your ideals. Fine…I’m perfectly willing to let you do so. I refuse to die if there is any way to avoid it – including dishonor.

I’m aware of the prosecution of certain Japanese with charges that include waterboarding. Unfortunately for their prisoners, waterboarding was not the most severe of the tortures they endured. I have some strong feelings about this – a personal friend of my mother’s was a nurse who survived the Bataan Death March. As a nurse, she did what she could for those others that she was able to help.

One of the things you overlook is that for us, waterboarding is the exception. For those we oppose, it is the rule. Waterboarding or worse. They don’t have a lot of water to spare in the middle east. They don’t waste it on the enemy.

You also maintain that this is not a personal choice, and that “all” agree with you, that the dishonorable is unacceptable to the majority of us and as a country, we are unified. I call bull pucky.
Congress passed a law defining waterboarding as torture, and hence illegal. Bush vetoed it. Congress then had the option to pass it over his veto. They didn’t. If the agreement with the waterboarding being torture was so universal, why didn’t they? They have had the majority in Congress since 2006 – that’s 3 years, in case you’re not counting. Certainly the discussion has been out there … they now have a president in office who certainly would sign such a bill – why haven’t they passed one? Could it be that the position you espouse isn’t quite as universal as you’d like to think?

September 4, 2009 @ 11:22 am #

Darkhorse:

I make the claim that there is such a thing a commonsense, and that life on this earth would be impossible without it. No we do not have to target children to win, nor do we need to pull the finger nails out of captured prisoners to get information. However, commonsense tells me that they are not entitled to all the protections that would be afforded to a uniformed soldier.

I don’t think you guys think Islamic Terrorism is a real threat to our country. While I think we are in the fight of our lives, you think it’s a good way to get a former President you don’t like. Your not interested in the rule of law your interested in sticking it to the former President.

How about this for a commonsense rule; use the least force necessary to win, but make damn sure that you do WIN.

September 4, 2009 @ 12:42 pm #

Phil wants to believe that our “version” of waterboarding did not rise to the level of criminal torture. If that’s so, why did we do it? If waterboarding doesn’t inflict “severe” mental and/or physical suffering, what’s the point? Wasn’t the point of these “enhanced” techniques to “break” hardened terrorists? Can you break detainees with “mild” or even moderate degrees of pain and suffering? Perhaps over time – but wasn’t the need for “intelligence” urgent?

The guy in the video, a previously outspoken conservative defender of the practice, found the experience unbearable. And he wasn’t even tied down and helpless. He said that he didn’t want to say this, but its torture. Why do you continue to deny this?

Phil, to the extent that I’m personally invested in this issue, its out of shame for our country. I’m ashamed that we’ve done this. But I’m even more horrified that people like you and your blog readers, who, I’m sure, are otherwise descent people, are willing to defend the practice by any government, much less an American government.

However, I do admire your readers in the following sense – they’ve come to terms with the fact that what we did was torture, and they’re defending our actions on those terms. You seem to still be in a state of denail regarding that issue.

Joe

September 4, 2009 @ 12:58 pm #

For those of you who are interested, this post details the manner in which we dealt with Nazi interrogators whose “strengthened” techiniques we milder than our own.

http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/09/the-gestapo-precedent-for-eits.html

Joe

September 4, 2009 @ 1:21 pm #

Hi Dale,

(I know we can get this thread to 100 messages if we try);

Please don’t make horribly generalized statements just to win the argument:

“I don’t think you guys think Islamic Terrorism is a real threat to our country.”

Just exactly do you think “you guys” is? I highly doubt that there are very many Americans who don’t understand the threat. If we are unwilling to cross certain lines to preserve our nation, it’s not a matter of intelligence; it’s a matter of principle.

“While I think we are in the fight of our lives, you think it’s a good way to get a former President you don’t like. Your not interested in the rule of law your interested in sticking it to the former President.”

An FYI here: I am a registered Republican and voted for George W. Bush. I appreciate the difficult situation he and his staff found themselves in after 9/11, but I want to live in a country that lives by the rule of law. If laws were broken, prosecutions should happen. If Bush wasn’t involved, fine!

September 4, 2009 @ 2:16 pm #

Ok, ok… I am somewhat surprised this thread has made it this far.

If waterboarding, “enhanced” techniques, etc. are off the table, what are we to do? Is it OK to allow more Boeing guided missiles? Do we sit in fetal position and hope to God nothing else happens and the terrorists leave us alone? What do we do?

Are you wishing more attacks happened so you can claim the US was at least “honorable?” How honorable is it to let innocents die when you have the power to stop it? Is lethal force OK to stop murder? Isn’t that what this really boils down to?

Please, no legalese crap for an answer either. It is very convenient to hide behind a law to cover dubious morals.

September 4, 2009 @ 2:25 pm #

Darkhorse:

Your right generalized statements are usually a bad idea and I accept your criticism. However, and I intend for this to be my last comment on this thread, if Islamic Terrorism can and should be dealt with by normal law enforcement then normal protections should apply; that is to say the rule of law. On the other hand if this is a war, and I think it is, we need to win it. Darkhorse, we are where we are now because good and descent men were willing to cross certain lines throughout our history, and if they had not been willing, it is possible that we would not now be able to have this kind of a conversation. War is what it is. We can try and limit it’s destructiveness but it’s never going to be a good thing. Sincerely, Dale…

September 4, 2009 @ 3:40 pm #

I think what Darkhorse and Joe are saying is something along the lines of Lincoln:

“Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that all men are created equal. We now practically read it, all men are created equal except negroes. When the Know-nothings get control, it will read, all men are created equal except negroes and foreigners and Catholics. When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty—to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy….”
-With thanks to Project Gutenburg

As I said before I would tend to agree with them. However, History does not deal well with idealists. The history of the Martyrs of the Church attests to this.

I remember reading on another blog a few years ago about Torture. The post discussed a book written in the mid-30′s talking about the incidence of torture in various countries. The sections on Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany were pretty gruesome (bad enough Joe and Darkhorse would probably say they were the kinds of things Bush would do! I kid… sorta.)

The book (or the sections highlighted by the poster at the time) said that American incidences of torture were virtually unknown… except in the case of Policemen. It then went through where the phrase “The Third Degree” came from.

The poster pointed out that incidences of crime were much lower before the treatment of suspects and Miranda laws were enacted. He drew the corollary that perhaps the higher incidence of crime was a result of criminals no longer truly FEARING the police. His argument that humane treatment of suspects means that perhaps you have to trade for a much higher crime rate, due to human nature.

My argument in that case as well as torture in general, is that the trade off (if it truly is a one or the other argument, which I am not sure it is) is worth it. People should not be afraid of their own police. That is just as much a harbinger of Totalitarianism as anything Pres. Obama has done.

However, as Nick would point out there is the matter of existence. Empires, or any nation, traditionally do not fall because of outside threat. They fall because of a lack of will. The outside threat usually merely exposes the weakness already present in the system. The Barbarians did not bring about the fall of Rome, the barbarians merely kicked over the rotten house that was all that was left of the Empire.

The American Republic will not fall because we do not choose to torture terror suspects. However, is the fact that we are not willing to question our enemies aggressively symptomatic truly of our desire to be better people, or rather a lack of will to do what is necessary to preserve a nation that has, on the whole, been responsible for more good than any other in the course of human history?

I believe that the American Republic will not fall because of outside threat. The snake in the garden will come from within, as it always does. For us I belive it will take the form of people who are willing to demonize their political opponents, and everything they stand for, for political gain and out of a desire for power and control masquerading as social justice.

Lincoln again:
“All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”
-from Abraham Lincoln Online

September 4, 2009 @ 4:11 pm #

>>they’ve come to terms with the fact that what we did was torture, and they’re defending our actions on those terms. >>

I resent being called a “they”. I am a me. No one else has taken the same position I have, and I alone speak for me myself. And ‘me myself’ is as close to ‘they’ as I expect to get!

That said, I don’t think waterboarding _as it is done by the CIA_ is torture. I think it is tortuous, but not torture. It certainly absolutely panics those upon whom it’s used, whether it’s our guys or theirs, but it (again, as it’s used by the CIA) does not do permanent physical injury, and doesn’t even cause severe pain – it causes panic. You might get the same effect with some people by closing them in a coffin with hundreds of harmless spiders – it’s a mental thing.

“It still relies on the innate fear of drowning and suffocating to coerce confessions. ” (from your npr link)

I agreed to the acceptance of waterboarding as torture in order to cut to the chase.

>>The guy in the video, a previously outspoken conservative defender of the practice, found the experience unbearable.>>

He’d probably find a 10 mile hike at double time with an 80 pound pack unbearable as well. Or how about functioning in 120* weather with a 80 lb pack plus bullet proof armor? Did you know that some Iraqis actually believed that our soldiers had “chill pills” because they found it so hard to believe that they could function as they did/do in their climate with the equipment they carry? They heard soldiers use the term, and figured that they had some kind of miracle drug that allowed them to function…

I have some links for you on the use of waterboarding by the Japanese. Not only was it not the same as that used by the CIA – nor was the use of it by the Spanish – but it was not the waterboarding specifically that Japanese soldiers were charged with – it was only one of many brutal mistreatments and tortures of prisoners and civilians by the Japanese. Unfortunately, I’ll have to wait to post the links – they’re on another computer. No access at the moment.

September 4, 2009 @ 5:49 pm #

Suek,

You admit that waterboarding causes panic – that one fears that one is drowning. But you still say that isn’t torture?

Inflicting evere . . . mental . . . suffering = criminal torture. Panic that you are going to be drowned while strapped helplessly to a board seems to me to be the epitomy of “severe mental suffering.”

You disagree?

Nick,

First, you’re arguing based on the premise that torture works. But the expert concensus is that torture is not a reliable source of accurate information – it is only a reliable method of getting someone to say what they think you want them to say. Moreover, if you torture someone who truly has no information of the sort you want, you’re 100% certain to get bogus information, which is precisely what you don’t want.

The main purpose of torture by governments has always been to extract false confessions – something for which torture is very effective. Getting accurate information is not something that torture is useful for.

However, even if torture worked, there are proven humane methods of extracting accurate information. Your defense of torture also presumes that we have no other effective means of getting information – and that is simply false.

And even if we had no other effective means, are we so afraid that we must turn ourselves into monsters? Those who say we have to be afraid, that we have to torture, are saying that America is impossible. That we can’t honor our ideals and achieve an acceptable degree of safety.

I don’t accept that premise. And it is worth remembering that the very purpose of terrorism is to terrorize people. Al queda can kill people, but it can’t destroy America unless it can terrorize us into doing so ourselves.

Joe

September 4, 2009 @ 6:21 pm #

That’s a nice dodge Joe. Too bad you didn’t answer the questions… at all.

September 4, 2009 @ 6:29 pm #

BTW- my questions are just as valid even if torture does not work.

September 4, 2009 @ 6:49 pm #

Nick, I thought I answered your main question by saying we have other humane ways of getting the information we need – which implies that I think we ought to interrogate detainees – just without torture.

Your other questions are baiting questions, with a hint of insult. As you may have noticed, I try not to inslut people I disagree with.

Joe

September 4, 2009 @ 6:55 pm #

Actually, Nick there was one additional question that was legitimate.

Is it legitimate to use lethal force to prevent murder? Yes, if you have to. But the government’s torturing of someone who it thinks might know something about a possibly planned future attack is quite another matter.

Joe

September 4, 2009 @ 11:50 pm #

OK, I’ll grant one question was baited, but the rest are legitimate to this discussion.

>How honorable is it to let innocents die >when you have the power to stop it?

I find this pretty central, considering you and darkhorse both are speaking to the honor or lack thereof in torture/no torture scenarios.

I think this is being painted as B&W when really it is quite grey (or should be).

And I still want to know what these “other” options are.

Are you going to do it? No.
Are you going to do it? No.
Are you going to do it? No.
OK… moving on…
Are you going to do it? No.
Are you going to do it? No.
Are you going to do it? No.
Well, I guess that settles it. :-)
Seriously. What are these other options?

September 5, 2009 @ 12:04 am #

Thanks Horatius, you said what I was trying to say only better. Dale…

September 5, 2009 @ 10:52 am #

Funny, Nick : )

Now that we’ve shattered the record for a number of comments here, we can probably wind this down. But I think the most important thing (to me – that’s for you Suek) is that:

1. It’s not a “liberal” vs. “conservative” issue. That’s too simplistic. Yes, there are some people out to get Bush the Republican at any cost, but the question of national honor cuts across any party lines.

2. It’s not a “wimpy” vs. “win” issue, or a “dumb” vs. “smart” issue. Plenty of people on both sides understand all the aspects to the argument…and feel strongly their way based on their understanding.

September 5, 2009 @ 10:57 am #

Any doubts about whether this issue is not partisan, this quote is from Carol J. Williams of the LA Times this morning, concerning the 9th circuit panel investigating whether rights were violated for holding prisoners without cause after 9/11:

“Members of the panel, all appointees of Republican presidents, characterized Ashcroft’s detention policy as “repugnant to the Constitution, and a painful reminder of some of the most ignominious chapters of our national history.” “

September 5, 2009 @ 10:57 am #

>>You disagree?>>

The problem here is that you base your argument on the fact that under the law, torture is illegal. Ok…no disagreement here. It’s law.

Then you argue that waterboarding is torture. _That’s_ a problem.

Congress has passed a law that specifically made it illegal, and the president vetoed it. Congress did _not_ override his veto, and has not attempted to establish it as a law since then. That means that as the laws stand today, waterboarding is specifically not considered torture under the law.

If you can find me something that is different from that, then I’ll yield. Until then, no matter what you may consider is or is not torture, waterboarding is not illegal. Congress can make it so, and it has not.

All other discussions are really just your opinion and mine – and the law really doesn’t care much for extra-legal opinions.

September 5, 2009 @ 10:59 am #

And we know how reliable the 9th Circuit decisions have been when appealed…

September 5, 2009 @ 11:07 am #

Quite some time ago (a day or so, but that’s like years in this thread’s accelerated time continuum) I wanted to ask . . .

if anyone could provide me with a history of “Drilling through the head” along with any citations of cases where the US officials criminally prosecuted this ambiguous interrogation technique. Thanks.

September 5, 2009 @ 11:32 am #

Suek -

It wasn’t the 9th circuit court – here’s the article so you can read it.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-ashcroft-rights5-2009sep05,0,2169737.story

September 5, 2009 @ 12:13 pm #

1)>>concerning the 9th circuit panel investigating whether rights were violated >>

2)>>It wasn’t the 9th circuit court>>

From the article:

3) “a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the former attorney general immunity from liability ”

darkhorse – it’s pretty early in the AM to be drinking…!

September 5, 2009 @ 12:16 pm #

>>if anyone could provide me with a history of “Drilling through the head”>>

I think you’ll have to check the Al Qaeda handbook for that one.

If you want a US history, look for it under “_threatening_ to drill through the head”.

A useful threat since it was actually done under Al Qaeda questioning practices.

September 5, 2009 @ 12:35 pm #

A bit of levity…but it reminded me of this thread:

http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2009/09/cathy-writes-texas-deputy-sheriff-vs.html

September 5, 2009 @ 1:04 pm #

Suek -

What I meant was that it wasn’t the 9th circuit court as a whole – it was a panel of 3 Republican-appointed judges that came to the conclusion.

I think my point of non-partisanship is safe from your guerrilla tactics : )

Jim

September 5, 2009 @ 1:46 pm #

There you go with the guerilla tactics again – what does that mean?

September 5, 2009 @ 2:13 pm #

Suek -

Let me explain the “guerrilla tactics” comment -

Guerrilla Tactic arguing is when you fasten on to a word or phrase that somebody says that isn’t central to what they’re saying – and try and use it to make their central argument look wrong.

You’ve only done it a couple of times in this whole argument chain, but I get frustrated enough with it (based on past experience) that I have to call it out when it happens.

I think I have that in common with Phil, actually…

September 5, 2009 @ 3:30 pm #

>>Guerrilla Tactic arguing is when you fasten on to a word or phrase that somebody says that isn’t central to what they’re saying – and try and use it to make their central argument look wrong.>>

That has never been my intent. The possibility is that _you_ may think the word or phrase is not central to your point, but perhaps I _do_. Obviously, if that’s the case, if you challenge it immediately and specifically, I’d need to explain _why_ I think it is.

I’ve always been a language person – I like words. I loved to listen/read William F.Buckley. He’s probably the only writer of my lifetime that could send me to a dictionary for nearly every article, in order to get the full sense of the article. His use of vocabulary was very precise, and many today lack his preciseness.

That said, I’m particularly aware of _this_ phenomenon:

http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/09/the_point_of_the_dagger.html

And I’m particularly sensitive of use of words in such a way as to change the meaning and/or intent of the original material. It is entirely possible that you and Joseph are either unaware of your having done such a thing – or you do so deliberately. At this time, I’m assuming the former, and if that’s the case, then I can understand why you’d think I was attempting to change the subject, so to speak. Perhaps further explanation when it happens will solve the problem.

If the effort is deliberate, then we’re on opposite sides of the fence, and I’ll fight tooth and nail to keep the language plain and focused.

OK? Clear?

September 5, 2009 @ 3:38 pm #

“Guerrilla Tactic arguing is when you fasten on to a word or phrase that somebody says that isn’t central to what they’re saying – and try and use it to make their central argument look wrong.”

That’s kind of narrow from what I thought it was. It seems like a good phrase to cover just about any bad-faith argument. Logical errors, but instead of being poor thinking they are deliberate attempts to evade and obscure. Like red herrings, such as Darkhorse describes, but also ad hominem and outright lying.

Just my opinion. Nothing official. Is yours Trademarked yet, Darkhorse? Maybe we could go in on this together. I think there’s quite a market out there.

And Suek, I think your arguing style might be Ninja. With a little pit bull thrown in when necessary. It’s certainly not dishonest.

September 5, 2009 @ 4:42 pm #

Suek -

You made a little comment about the 9th Circuit Court that does not appear to change the meat of the argument I was making one little tittle. All it did was try and cast some kind of doubt on the argument itself.

It’s okay, it was a flippant comment. We all make them here and there. But it wasn’t Germain to the point, not at all. THAT is what I meant by guerrilla tactics.

Even if I grant that EVERY decision of the 9th Circuit gets overturned (it’s a very tiny amount actually, just as with other circuit courts), it still doesn’t change a thing. Three Republican appointees said Ashcroft was breaking his promise to uphold the constitution.

Does the performance of the 9th Circuit change the point of non-partisanship?

September 5, 2009 @ 4:45 pm #

And by the way:

“And I’m particularly sensitive of use of words in such a way as to change the meaning and/or intent of the original material. It is entirely possible that you and Joseph are either unaware of your having done such a thing – or you do so deliberately.”

Or you are forced to admit that you may be looking at the things we say through the Buckley-colored glasses : )

You are talking about a professor of Philosophy and an attorney here. If I take bets on who might be making the thinking error, guess which side most will come down on?

September 5, 2009 @ 5:52 pm #

>>Does the performance of the 9th Circuit change the point of non-partisanship?>>

No…even a broken clock is right twice a day.

To be honest, I didn’t focus on the “appointed by Republican Presidents”….

I had heard that this was a decision that had been made so I kind of skimmed it. I’m not sure whether I think it’s a good thing or a bad thing. It _is_ interesting that given the make up of the 9th court that all three were Republican appointees. Wonder if that was deliberate?

September 5, 2009 @ 6:00 pm #

>>Or you are forced to admit that you may be looking at the things we say through the Buckley-colored glasses : )>>

No force required. I’d be proud to have that designation.

>>You are talking about a professor of Philosophy and an attorney here.>>

And Obama is an attorney as well. As you might guess…so what! He’s still anathema as far as I’m concerned.

>> If I take bets on who might be making the thinking error, guess which side most will come down on?>>

Depends on who they agree with – no matter what degrees and qualifications you might have.

Most disagreements, it seems to me, end up originating with basic assumptions, which rarely seem to enter into discussion. I’ve asked a number of very basic questions of you and/or Joseph (you seem like twins), most of which could be answered with very short answers – yet neither of you has answered them.

I wonder why?

If for example, you start out with the basic idea that capitalism is bad, it’s probably pointless to discuss much of anything. We might discuss _why_ you think that, but it’s a pretty basic principle, and if you are of that opinion, discussion isn’t likely to go anywhere.

September 5, 2009 @ 6:50 pm #

“I’ve asked a number of very basic questions of you and/or Joseph (you seem like twins), most of which could be answered with very short answers – yet neither of you has answered them.”

Then you haven’t been listening.

“If for example, you start out with the basic idea that capitalism is bad, it’s probably pointless to discuss much of anything. We might discuss _why_ you think that, but it’s a pretty basic principle, and if you are of that opinion, discussion isn’t likely to go anywhere.”

You’re not describing anyone here, fortunately!

September 9, 2009 @ 11:29 am #

>>What background are you talking about?>>

http://newzeal.blogspot.com/2009/09/obama-file-84-why-was-obamas-brain.html

Just to get the facts into the file…

September 9, 2009 @ 4:02 pm #

All,

Just for what it’s worth: this comment thread has now reached 124 separate comments (125 including this one) which is, if I’m not mistaken, more than double the previous record. Thanks for all the interest.

Phil W.
http://www.plumbbobblog.com

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