Today on Blogcritics
Home » Politicans & War Crimes: Why Do We Allow This?

Politicans & War Crimes: Why Do We Allow This?

Please Share...Print this pageTweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Pin on Pinterest0Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

Let’s get to the core of this thing. Let’s cut to the quick. The bone. The meat.

Why do we really allow this?

Remember the question asked of John Yoo, cheerleader for uncontrolled executive authority: If the president deems that he’s got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, is there no law that can stop him?

And the answer he gave there and in his August 2002 memo: “No law, no treaty.” “I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that.” And in The President’s Constitutional Authority to Conduct Military Operations against Terrorists and Nations Supporting Them (2001), Yoo said “In the exercise of his plenary power to use military force, the President’s decisions are for him alone and are unreviewable.” (link)

What he’s saying is, not only can you torture an individual, you can torture his child just to pressure that individual. I guess you could also torture innocent villagers, just to get them to identify the partisans amongst them (just like the Nazis in all those WW2 movies).

So, are you a parent? I want you to think about that: your child tortured merely to extract information from you.

Now imagine I’m the torturer – I’m holding a wicked big sharp knife to your already sadly abused child’s throat. I want you to really try to imagine it, to feel the helplessness, the humiliation, the frustration and anger, the panic and self-hate.

Now, what would you exchange for your child’s life? The life of the torturer’s child? The lives of the torturer’s entire family?

What about the life of a random death row prisoner? Or a paedophile? Or the children of a “terrorist”? Or his whole family? Or the family of a Palestinian, an Israeli, an Arab or an Afghani, an Iraqi or a Pakistani?

If you said “no” to all of these, I really don’t believe you. Be honest. Really try to imagine it, feel it. Anyone who can honestly say “no” to all of these are displaying saintly forbearance.

So what about an entire family, tribe, village or neighbourhood. What about an entire people or nation?

Most people (I think) will start to hesitate at this point, if not earlier. But the point is, if you’re honest, nearly all of you will say “yes” at least once in this series of possibilities. And maybe to all.

As a nation, America has said yes to all of these. As a nation you are murdering entire families, tribes, villages or neighbourhoods. Simply because some serial liars have told you some among them are a threat, “terrorists.” Many more are dying simply so that your children can be more comfortable.

And this is a clear example of how our leaders exploit basic human impulses, even the best, including values like motherhood. Our stories and movies valorise the mother fighting for her cubs, we recognise this both as instinct and social value.

So by telling you a certain group represent a threat to you and yours, including your children, our leaders trigger this kind of response.

Throw in a few death images for good measure, and we’re done. It seems we’re wired that way, the product of our history, of countless generations in primate dominance hierarchies and tribal societies.

So you’ll support the barbaric murder of tens or hundreds of thousands of outsiders, foreigners, and still get a warm fuzzy from it. You’re being virtuous, you’re protecting the family.

And for as long as this goes on, we’re all doomed to futures of violence, bloodshed and injustice.

Led by venal criminals who feel no compunction about using these techniques in the pursuit of power and profits.
Edited: [GH]

Powered by

About Chromatius

"You are not big enough to accuse the whole age effectively, but let us say you are in dissent." Thomas Merton. The Unspeakable.
  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Ridiculous, superficial, loaded with hyperbole and yet somehow not even amusing. Another pointless slam from the left. Congratulations.

    As a nation, America has said yes to all of these. As a nation you are murdering entire families, tribes, villages or neighbourhoods.

    A lovely and manufactured sentiment, unencumbered by truth. Where are these entire villages, tribes and families we’ve wiped out? A few accidental deaths doesn’t add up to intentional mass murder.

    You need to learn some basic English word definitions. Look up the difference between ‘kill’ and ‘murder’ sometime.

    Next ludicrous logical fallacy. You seem to think that the administration is clearing their every military action with the American people. Guess what, they aren’t. We delegate the decision making in a crisis situation to them. That means they make the decisions they deem necessary without actually consulting us, so trying to transfer the blame for their choices onto us as individuals just doesn’t make any logical sense. If they go too far, then they are answerable for making that decision, but it remains their decision, not ours.

    What your article strikingly lacks is any evidence that these terrible war crimes you allege have ever actually taken place, and without that it’s just more fear and hate mongering.

    Dave

  • http://chromatius.blogspot.com/ Chromatius

    Well, you’ve responded to single paragraph, perhaps just a sentence.

    And with the sort of reductio ad absurdam so characteristic of the right wing attack media – “You seem to think that the administration is clearing their every military action with the American people”.

    I doubt I do seem to say that, actually. Wasn’t there just an election? Isn’t America a representative democracy?

    Actually, the point of view is not particular left wing. These processes have been going on time out of mind (as I point out), the techniques used by both ‘right’ and ‘left’, as well as warlords, witchdoctors, monarchies, empires and priesthoods. And prehistoric human tribes.

    Basically you’ve ignored the core arguments and comments of the piece and attacked the rhetorical tail, the rhetorical ‘hook’.

    As for ‘any evidence that these terrible war crimes you allege have ever actually taken place’, it wasn’t the point of the piece. And there is no shortage of such, unless you rely on Fox News and the like for your intelligence.

    But hey, you got it right on hyperbole. Well spotted…

  • RedTard

    These techniques are what makes the world go round. Our thin veil of ‘civilization’ is a complex illusion held together at the point of a gun and the threat of violence.

    You may choose to think that you don’t get robbed, raped, and murdered everyday because of the graciousness of your fellow man, the more accurate reason is because of that big bad vicious gang of enforcers known as the police.

    Insulated in our ivory towers, we don’t connect with that large part of the world where calling the police to report a crime could just as easily catch the crook or land you in a ditch with a bullet in the back of your skull, where being the wrong religion or race could get you hacked to pieces with a machete.

    The violent overwhelming force the US uses has virtually ended the threat of country vs country warfare on large swaths of the globe. We have saved millions of lives by being the biggest baddest nutcrusher in the world.

    I doubt there will be a situation where child nutcrushing is warranted, but if it comes up I trust our president to make the right call. Just the thought of a good nutcrushing makes me want to spill my guts right now.

  • http://chromatius.blogspot.com/ Chromatius

    Indeed. A complex, multi-layered thing, inhabited by many competing forces.

    Although I suspect I have more experience of “that large part of the world” than you would credit. But I’ve also done an ivory tower stint, as a historian.

    I don’t accept your figures at all, but we don’t have time for that discussion here. Even defining terms is a huge exercise. (It will happen; I do believe that forensic examination of these issues at law will be a big part of our future economies).

    At least you’re honest.

  • http://www.booklinker.blogspot.com Deano

    While I appreciate the sentiments expressed in the post I find it disingenous that you are so vehement in citing the US alone when, bluntly, the sum total of US involvement in torture and abuse, while reprehensible and repugnant, barely scratches the surface of what happens in places such as Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Burma, China, North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, and wide swaths of Africa and Asia.

    Tortured and abused is tortured and abused, no matter who is running the facility. The U.S. are neither the only game in town nor the worst by a long, long measure. You might want to take a good look around and widen your focus, otherwise citing the U.S. while ignoring the many, many, worse and more abusive nations in the world just makes you look hypocritical.

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    well, once difference is that the united states presents themselves on the one hand as the shining light of democracy.

    not exactly something that burma, sudan, etc. have been doing.

  • http://chromatius.blogspot.com/ Chromatius

    I’d agree – the most powerful, over-armed nation in the world, with imperial pretensions and media dominance, it’s influence built on a heavily marketed mythology – one which is subscribed to by many other nations. It’s behaviour is worth our attention.

  • http://parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    If it were just the loony lefties crying foul, one could dismiss this entire issue as just another left- or right-wing ideological witch hunt.

    Thankfully, there are many Republicans and conservatives who are just as concerned with this administration’s abuses of power, loss of U.S. moral authority, violation of both U.S. and international law…and, just to add meat to the grill, their continuing failure to fix the New Orlean’s problem.

    This ain’t a left vs. right issue any longer, and it doesn’t help to present it as such. Throughout our history, we’ve held ourselves to a higher standard–much like Hebrew National Franks. And those foolish people overseas, many of them anyway, believed us.

    I confess to being thoroughly confused by the Muslim world and the religion of Islam, but it does bother me that our allies are turning against us. One can blame them–but they sure stood behind us after 9/11.

    Could it be that Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld’s arrogance and insensitivity has anything to do with that?

    Naaah.

    In Jamesons Veritas

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Well, you’ve responded to single paragraph, perhaps just a sentence.

    A sentence which summed up much of what you were saying in the article. I didn’t think it was necessary to quote the whole thing when you provided such a pithy and appropriate sentence to respond to.

    And with the sort of reductio ad absurdam so characteristic of the right wing attack media – “You seem to think that the administration is clearing their every military action with the American people”.

    What right wing attack media would that be? The scary bugaboo of Fox News which has been a constant forum for some of the most forceful criticism of the administration?

    I doubt I do seem to say that, actually. Wasn’t there just an election? Isn’t America a representative democracy?

    I thought you said you were a historian. It seemed believable given your left-leaning and naive perspective. I saw a lot of that among my colleagues when I was teaching college history. But even they acknowledged – if pressed – that the US is a constitutional republic, not a democracy as such. To be the kind of democracy you want we’d need to have the ability to recall public officials by plebescite and get rid of this pesky system of divided powers. Not that mob rule would make the government any better. Likely quite the opposite.

    Basically you’ve ignored the core arguments and comments of the piece and attacked the rhetorical tail, the rhetorical ‘hook’.

    So now you’re saying that was meaningless rhetoric unrelated to the rest of the article? Perhaps you should go back and delete it then?

    As for ‘any evidence that these terrible war crimes you allege have ever actually taken place’, it wasn’t the point of the piece. And there is no shortage of such, unless you rely on Fox News and the like for your intelligence.

    Like a lot on the irrationalist fringes, you don’t seem to be able to tell the difference between isolated incidents of impropriety and the systematized abuse which defines war crimes. You really ought to spend some time reading up on real war crimes and truly oppressive government sometime. Hey, you could start by reading about some of the practices of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

    Dave

  • http://chromatius.blogspot.com/ Chromatius

    I’m no constitutional expert, but doesn’t representative meets you vote representatives who you trust to take decisions on your behalf for a period of time, except in very unusual circumstances?

    You seem to assume/suggest democracy is a plebiscite on every decision. I’m not sure that’s the case.

    “Representative democracy is a form of democracy founded on the exercice of popular sovereignty by the people’s representants. It is a theory of civics in which voters choose (in free, secret, multi-party elections) representatives to act in their interests, but not as their proxies—i.e., not necessarily according to their voters’ wishes, but with enough authority to exercise initiative in the face of changing circumstances.” (link)

    At least you live in a constitutional republic; I live in the UK, where we’re ruled by royal prerogative. Still, the Bush regime seem to be generating an effective post-republican equivalent. Keep up the cheerleading….

    And still no comment on the actual subject of the article. But much continued controversialisation of one sentence. Sounds familiar….

    “Fox News which has been a constant forum for some of the most forceful criticism of the administration?” Uh, I don’t watch it that much, must have missed those few seconds…

    Funny, you make passing use of the word ‘irrationalist’, deployed as insult, but actually that’s the closest you come to the point I was making.

    College, I forget, is that a university or a high school over there?

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    I’m no constitutional expert, but doesn’t representative meets you vote representatives who you trust to take decisions on your behalf for a period of time, except in very unusual circumstances?

    Yes, but it’s a system where you don’t have the ability to compel them to vote a particular way on a particular subject. You roll your dice in the election and then it’s in there hands and you take your chances. They frequently decide that they know better than the general public what’s good for the country. Sometimes they’re right – because much of the general public is stupid and ill-informed.

    You seem to assume/suggest democracy is a plebiscite on every decision. I’m not sure that’s the case.

    It can be the case if the government is designed that way. The American left would like to make it that way. The problem is that such a system leads to rule by the hysteria of the mob and demagogues.

    At least you live in a constitutional republic; I live in the UK, where we’re ruled by royal prerogative.

    Oh please. The queen has no role in setting policy and your PM is in about as weak a position as any leader in the western world.

    Still, the Bush regime seem to be generating an effective post-republican equivalent. Keep up the cheerleading….

    You know, you folks can keep saying this but it will never make it true. The facts just don’t back it up. Bush’s aggregation of power is nothing compared to prior presidents in times of crisis, both real and imagined.

    And still no comment on the actual subject of the article. But much continued controversialisation of one sentence. Sounds familiar….

    I responded to what seemed to stand out as the subject. Perhaps you could point me to what I missed. Perhaps the absurd hypothetical in the third paragraph? The one about crushing testicles which bears no relationship to anything that has or would ever happen?

    “Fox News which has been a constant forum for some of the most forceful criticism of the administration?” Uh, I don’t watch it that much, must have missed those few seconds…

    Actually, between critics of the administration on the left and the right Fox airs more criticism than any other network, since the others generally only give airtime to the same tired half-critics of the left and a few strident loons like Paul Krugman.

    College, I forget, is that a university or a high school over there?

    It’s the undergraduate portion of a university, so the next level up from high school.

    Dave

  • http://chromatius.blogspot.com/ Chromatius

    It’s nothing to do with Brenda

    Royal prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege, and immunity, recognised in common law jurisdictions possessing a monarchy as belonging to the Crown alone. It is the means by which some of the executive powers of government are possessed by and vested in a monarch with regard to the process of governance of their state are carried out. It is not subject to parliamentary scrutiny.link

    Check the link and see the astonishing array of powers – including ‘the declaration of war’.

    Bliar took us to war under the royal prerogative.

    The UK is not a republic – the only reason we still have a monarch is so the executive can exercise these powers without parliamentary scrutiny.

    I meant what I said: “At least you live in a constitutional republic; I live in the UK, where we’re ruled by royal prerogative. Still, the Bush regime seem to be generating an effective post-republican equivalent. Keep up the cheerleading….”

    Your democracy is in mortal danger.

    I don’t know why you keep returning to this issue: “you don’t have the ability to compel them to vote a particular way on a particular subject”. “You seem to think that the administration is clearing their every military action with the American people. Guess what, they aren’t.”

    No I don’t, because that’s how representative democracy works, as I said. You might want to read up on hypothecation, though.

    My point was that popular assent/consent had been given in the re-election of Bush/Cheney, when the shape of this conflict, and the lies and manipulation leading to it, were clear.

    I do hope you weren’t teaching constitutional history.

  • http://adamash.blogspot.com adam

    Excellent piece, Chromatius. Thinking about putting it on my blog with your url. Loved your blog, BTW. It’s great when Blogcritics yields discoveries like your blog.
    Adam.

  • http://chromatius.blogspot.com/ Chromatius

    Feel free. Glad you liked it.

  • Dave Nalle

    My point was that popular assent/consent had been given in the re-election of Bush/Cheney, when the shape of this conflict, and the lies and manipulation leading to it, were clear.

    What lies and manipulation would that be? Things may look different to you over there in the UK, but from where I sit nothing was done to ‘sell’ this war beyond what was natural and appropriate, despite all the unproven and unsubstantiated claims to the contrary. People voted for Bush knowing that he would continue to prosecute the War on Terror to the benefit of the safety of the United States. That doesn’t mean that they approved the specific methods employed by the administration, but I think everyone knows that war comes with costs, even if it’s a war on an idea or ideology.

    As for our democracy being in trouble, that’s not news. And it has nothing to do with Bush’s rather cautious and moderate exercise of executive power. The real threat to the democratic element of our government comes from the massive corruption in the election of our legislators and the fact that voter apathy has given them carte blanche to be totally unresponsive to the will of the people.

    I do hope you weren’t teaching constitutional history.

    The Constitution is woven throughout the history of the United States.

    Dave

  • http://chromatius.blogspot.com/ Chromatius

    What lies and manipulation would that be? .. from where I sit nothing was done to ‘sell’ this war beyond what was natural and appropriate.

    Not a lot of basis for discussion there.

    corruption in the election of our legislators
    No argument there, nor to the unresponsiveness.

    But “voter apathy” is only one aspect of the problem – the electorate is manipulated in variety of irrational ways to be pliable. Apathy is just one manifestation.

    And one of these techniques was the topic of the orginal article.

    Check.

  • Bliffle

    The Founders of the US specifically did not want a democracy, citing the failures of Greek democracies. For example, Socrates was condemned by a democratic jury. Plato devised The Republic to dampen the excesses of The Mob by interposing elected Patricians. The Founders contrived the system of Checks And Balances to dampen the power of the Patricians. One of my concerns is that this administration, having successfully tamed the Congress, will seek to also dominate the SCOTUS, thus bringing all government forces under the admins sway and eliminating the Checks and Balances, thus subverting the Founders intent. I consider this very non-conservative and very radical.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    I’m forced to agree with Chromatius here.

    At least you live in a constitutional republic; I live in the UK, where we’re ruled by royal prerogative. Still, the Bush regime seem to be generating an effective post-republican equivalent. Keep up the cheerleading…. He has the issue right on the money.

    Having outlined the royal perogative – that which the crown can do as sovereign of the United Kingdom, you seem to be unable to appreciate the fact that for all the yacking in the press and in the congress, your president is creating a royal perogative. Another huge blind spot in the American psyche.

  • RedTard

    “creating a royal perogative”

    He was granted his authority to go after and kill terrorists. He stretched that to include listening in on their communications as well. How dare he!

  • http://chromatius.blogspot.com/ Chromatius

    And yours, RedTard. And everyone else’s. And not just phone calls.

    Check out my piece on Dust, in pending right now.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Chromatius, thank you again for posting the link on the royal prerogative. It has been quite an education for me. It appears that many of the features of the “parliamentary republic” that Israel pretends to be has its origins in the concept of the royal prerogative present in the British monarchy.

    It would be helpful for any American who is a serious student of constitutional law in his country to learn about what the royla prerogative really means. It would be instructive in understanding the background against which such documents as The Federalist Papers were written and in understanding how the founders of your republic intended it to differ from the British monarchy they had separated themselves from.

  • http://chromatius.blogspot.com/ Chromatius

    No problem, glad to be useful. The way I see it the idea is that we develop a shared understanding of the issues, assumptions and terminology.

    I believe if we can forget 20th century ideas of left/right for a while, real conservatives and real progressives should find a lot of common ground these days.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    He was granted his authority to go after and kill terrorists. He stretched that to include listening in on their communications as well. How dare he!

    Indeed, how outrageous that he should think it would be helpful to be able to find the terrorists before killing them.

    Dave

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    I believe if we can forget 20th century ideas of left/right for a while, real conservatives and real progressives should find a lot of common ground these days.

    If you put away the way these words have been redefined and go back to their political roots then they are inherently incapable of finding common ground because conservatism and progressivism are natural opposites. You may have progressivism confused with liberalism. Liberalism and conservatism do indeed have a great deal of common ground. You appear not to have much in common with either group, however.

    Dave

  • http://chromatius.blogspot.com/ Chromatius

    A footnote on Royal Prerogative:

    “Britain’s most senior judges will be asked today for a ruling that could lead to the war in Iraq being declared an illegal “crime of aggression”.

    Until now, the courts have taken the view that they cannot rule on the Crown’s prerogative powers to wage war. But today the law lords will start hearing appeals by peace protesters who claim they were entitled to commit “criminal” acts in an attempt to prevent what they saw as the greater crime of launching an illegal war.

    Nobody has been punished for aggression in international law since the Nuremberg Tribunal executed former Nazi officers in 1946. The new International Criminal Court does not yet have jurisdiction over the crime, partly because of difficulties in agreeing a definition of it.

    But the Government has been told by its senior legal adviser that ministers could face such charges under English law.

    In the Attorney General’s advice to the Prime Minister of March 7, 2003, Lord Goldsmith said: “Aggression is a crime under customary international law which automatically forms part of domestic law. It might therefore be argued that international aggression is a crime recognised by the common law which can be prosecuted in the UK courts.”

    Lord Goldsmith warned Tony Blair to expect opponents of military action to bring a case against the Government or military personnel. “We cannot be certain that they would not succeed,” the Attorney General said. “ (link)

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Chromatius,

    Looking at your link at the Telegraph only convinced me that you’re seeing a very “American” approach to this in terms of what the Law Lords are doing. In can get interesting indeed.

  • http://chromatius.blogspot.com/ Chromatius

    #26 I’ve observed that most traffic to my blog is from the US, which suits me anyway, most of my comments are directed at America. I’ve been an amateur student (and ocassionally professional) of US government and policy most of my life.

    So, yes, I cast most of the discussion for American eyes. On paper America is a better democracy that most, certainly than the UK, and it’s quite disconcerting how easily it’s all been undermined by corrupt influence-peddling, money and media.

%d bloggers like this: