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The Perils and Pitfalls of a Torture Witch Hunt

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The raging question of the moment is whether it is a good idea to prosecute members of the Bush administration for war crimes, crimes against humanity or just for some simple crime because they condoned the torture of three well known terrorists and in the process discovered and prevented a "second 9/11" attack on the United States.

Some have argued that wrong is wrong and must be punished. Others argue that the ends justify the means. In a nutshell, this is is the eternal conflict between the lesser and greater evil. Is it excusable to do something which is morally wrong if it prevents something much more heinous? One of the perils of being in a position of authority in government is that part of that job is to make the unpleasant decision to occasionally do something immoral in order to prevent a greater evil.

When our leaders do this they run the risk of being held accountable in the judgment of their successors or in the judgment of history. What happens, quite often, is that they are held accountable in the immediate aftermath and then exonerated by the court of history, which tends to be more dispassionate. When Harry Truman authorized the murder of thousands of innocent civilians with the atomic bomb to save the lives of even more soldiers and end World War II, he was not held accountable under the law and the debate over his culpability still rages among historians.

There are many who would like to single out top members of the Bush administration for punishment because they approved the waterboarding of three known terrorists, but the main stumbling block to doing this is that the US did not have a clear law on torture of foreign spies or terrorists and the Geneva Convention does not apply to prisoners who are not identifiable, legitimate military combatants. In fact, the Geneva Convention was specifically worded to exclude spies and saboteurs and terrorists and fifth-columnists from its protections. The US Criminal Code makes the same assumptions as the Geneva Convention about to whom restrictions on torture apply. There's a giant loophole where the Geneva Convention assumes that terrorists will be treated as criminals, not prisoners of war, but where US law and the rights guarantees of the Constitution do not apply to foreign nationals. Ultimately the problem here is not the actions of the Bush administration, which some would like to punish out of spite rather than legal justification in some sort of McCarthyesque witch hunt. The real failure is not having clear and applicable law prohibiting agents of our government from torturing those not protected by the Constitution.

That omission is hardly accidental. It has been an unstated matter of policy for decades. It creates a level of deniability which is very useful in dealing with spies, terrorists and other foreign operatives in covert situations where time is short and the stakes are high with little accountability. It was a vital protection for clandestine operatives in the cold war and that usefulness has not gone away. But it is clearly immoral and as a practice its existence relies entirely on acceptance of the idea that the ends justify the means and that a little immorality is acceptable when preventing a greater evil.

Although the Bush administration followed the same rules under which our government has operated for generations without generally being taken to task for the occasional excess, if we're just fed up with it and want to make them an example, there are three scenarios under which members of the Bush administration can be tried for authorizing torture.

The first is under international law. This could be done by retroactively applying a new definition of who is a legal combatant under the Geneva Convention, replacing the definition written into the document with a broader interpretation, which likely would not stand up in any reasonable court. Another option would be to use some other marginally applicable international law, such as the UN Convention on Torture, which does not itself ban torture, but is merely a guideline which states are supposed to follow in passing their own laws banning torture, a requirement which the US did not follow through on. To act on this would require our courts to agree that international laws are binding on US citizens and the US government, even when we have not explicitly signed off on them or enacted them in our own Congress. That means a huge surrender of US sovereignty to the international legal system, which I can't believe would be acceptable to most of those who argue against torture on the basis of individual liberty and natural rights.

The second would be under the Constitution, which would require accepting the idea that the rights embodied in the Bill of Rights are universal rights and not merely rights guaranteed to and protected for US citizens. That's a powerful moral position to take and one which civil libertarians may agree with, but I find it hard to believe that most people will accept the additional burdens which come with that admission, such as the opening of the borders and the imposition — perhaps even by force — of the authority of the Constitution outside of the borders of the US.

The third alternative is just to try them because torture is morally wrong, regardless of whether the Constitution or any US laws apply, and without giving up any sovereignty by applying international law. This could be done 'just because' or by applying a new law on torture retroactively, which would be blatantly unfair. Either of these options amounts to throwing the rule of law and any idea of due process as provided by the Constitution out the window, and trampling our own laws and shredding the Constitution because it's the "right" thing to do — at least in the heat of the moment and the spirit of righteous revenge. This option may not be so popular with anyone who has the good sense to realize that if the rules can be discarded in one righteous cause then there's no restraint on who might be the next to be the target of a witch hunt, including controversial individuals or unpopular minority groups.

Personally I'm partial to the idea of expanding the protections of the US Constitution to apply to all people in the world with no reservations. But I think it sets a terrible precedent to apply law selectively or retroactively. Under the law as it has been practiced, the actions of the Bush administration were no different than those of previous administrations and there has never been a US law or an international treaty to which the US has agreed which prohibits torture of foreign terrorists. If I were Obama and I were serious about this issue I'd make fixing that oversight the main priority and set aside the idea of a witch hunt, because once the vengeance train gets rolling it's very hard to stop.

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About Dave Nalle

  • M ark

    …the Geneva Convention was specifically worded to exclude spies and saboteurs and terrorists and fifth-columnists from its protections. The US Criminal Code makes the same assumptions as the Geneva Convention about to whom restrictions on torture apply.

    Dave, what wording in the US Code gives you this impression? From TITLE 18; PART I; CHAPTER 113C; § 2340 the restriction apparently applies to any person within the alleged offender’s custody or physical control. I can find no exception for spies, terrorists, etc.

  • Lumpy

    Let’s start by trying FDR for crimes aainst humanity for interning the japanese americans.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Lumpy, you still haven’t backed up your claims of two million in attendance at the 4/15 tea party demonstrations. Why don’t you start with that?

  • Bliffle

    It’s amazing that so many people leap to the defense of torture. What purpose can torture serve? The experts at interrogation say that it does not work for eliciting information, as in the “Ticking Bomb” fantasy. Indeed, it may be counter-productive, as appears to be the case in the torture of some terrorists. Torture seems only to be good at eliciting fake confessions for show trials, such as the Soviet Moscow trials.

    Defenders of torture seem to be Nice People who wouldn’t hurt a fly, under other circumstances.

    I suspect that they simply want to project an image of toughness, meanness, and vengeance-capability that they hope will scare their enemies.

    Perhaps they believe that by projecting an appearance of bristling belligerence they will discourage malefactors from acting. But it appears not to work.

  • Lumpy

    break free of the media programming blicho. learn the code words and lern to do the math. the clampdown is here and you’re wither with the oppressors or the resistence.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    Well I can see why he’d have some trouble with the code words. Apparently spelling is subject to the same creative guidelines as both math and facts.

  • Lumpy

    keep being a patsy for the statists cindy. your poseur coffee shop anarchism gives them the pretext they need to take away our rights.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Media programming? I just asked you to offer proof to the claims you made, lupniuy, which you have been unable to do. I could barely understand your response, which appears fueled by cough-syrup binges, but feel free to distract with all the nonsense and jibber jabber you like. It’s a common tactic among those who lack proof as well as the integrity to admit when they are wrong.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    Lumpy, think about it this way.

    The country was founded by property owners, who needed the state to protect their interests and make sure they kept the power.

    It led to a giant state (despite the constitution).

    There will always be people who realize that this system is flawed (you know, the one’s with consciences left)…they’ll create an even a bigger state to try to combat the negative effects of the original imbalance in power.

    Your revolution is doomed to failure every time.

    (Concerning rights–you may wish to stay tuned for the post I’m about to make. It probably applies to you as well as Dave.)

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    Dave,

    I am sure you have seen this. What I don’t understand is how you can fail to identify with the innocent people who were tortured, simply because they were not soldiers, but civilians. Should this ‘war on terrorism’ continue the way it is going, soon you may be a victim of your own reasoning.

    Oh and these people have broadened their term, they call it the war on terrorism and crime.

    Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC) has done a strategic ‘study’ to profile potential domestic terrorists: The Modern Militia Movement

    Columbia Missourian

    Never in my wildest dreams would I have suspected that the seemingly mild-mannered, elderly neighbor with the Ron Paul yard sign prominently displayed was a prospective militia man or urban terrorist.

    The analysis center-compiled report flagged certain activities of individuals or groups, linking them prone to militia membership or domestic terrorist activity. These indicators include “subversive” literature, selected political bumper stickers [such as Ron Paul or Bob Barr] and religious and anti-abortion paraphernalia. The “Modern Militia Movement” document identified supporters of third-party candidates and those displaying the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag of the Revolutionary War and even the American flag as objects for added surveillance.

    Fox News – Glenn Beck:

    The report was put together by the Missouri Information Analysis Center. It warns that militia members, most commonly associate with third-party political groups. They may display constitutional party, campaign for liberty or libertarian material.

    Militia members are quote, “usually supporters of Ron Paul or Chuck Baldwin or Bob Barr.” A motivation for militia activity, according to the government now, is the anticipation of the economic collapse of the U.S. Government.

    Oh. And the report continues that militia members may have cartoons and bumper stickers. Yes, with anti-government rhetoric. Or sometimes, they’ll have a Ron Paul bumper sticker, or they’ll have this flag, “Don’t tread on me.”

    MIAC has a page where you can turn your neighbor in for ‘suspected terrorist activity” right over the internet. One of the boxes to check off says:

    Miscellaneous Suspicious Activity with a Terrorism Nexus

    (Best get rid of your Libertarian literature and your don’t tread on me flags.)

  • Franco

    I don’t see how you can prosecute Bush and any members of his administration for crimes involving methods of interrogation that are all the exact same methods practiced and used on our own US forces in SERE training.

    I think it is an excellent debate that Americans are questioning whether we should or should not be using these methods on our deadly enemies.

    If it can be shown that hundreds, or thousands of lives were saved by applying SERE interrogation methods on the worst terrorists then it becomes a harder debate for the no vote.

    If we were using electric drills and boring holes through the skin and muscle in the joints of arms and legs and eyes, just like our enemies do in Iraq and else where, then the fever of this debate would be fully warranted, But were are not, we are talking about SERE training methods of stress positions, cramped spaces, and the ever dreaded waterboarding.

    The leftwing extreemist in America today are so anti-US everything that it has become a mob of vengeful destroyers with their torches red hot wanting to trasform America into their own image. The only reason they want to burn Bushes at the stake is to have it stand as the last cremation of what they hope is the last memory of conservatism.

    I just wish the debate could really be intellectually discussed on the basics of if it saving lives. Because there are those who are convinced it does and has. Before we burn them too we should seek to understand why they say so.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    Franco,

    I think, there are times when an ad hominem attack is about the most honest reply a person could give.

    But I’m practicing changing my ways. So, that’s all I can say about your post.

  • Jordan Richardson

    I don’t see how you can prosecute Bush and any members of his administration for crimes involving methods of interrogation that are all the exact same methods practiced and used on our own US forces in SERE training.

    I think the answer is actually in this statement. That your own troops had to be briefed and prepped for these techniques and methods is evidence alone that they were beyond the normal context of interrogation. The military was briefed on those methods so that they’d know what to do and how to react to having such things inflicted on them. When those techniques, call them what you want, are subjected to normal civilians and others without that training and preparation, you can probably imagine why it would ruffle a few feathers. At least I certainly can…

    If it can be shown that hundreds, or thousands of lives were saved by applying SERE interrogation methods on the worst terrorists then it becomes a harder debate for the no vote.

    It would be a harder debate, yes. Unfortunately, that proof is sorely lacking. As is the proof that the techniques actually produce valuable information in any context. Quite the opposite, the information obtained via these techniques is often proven to be false. And that just wastes valuable time, which in turn can and possibly has cost lives. Were the aforementioned to be proven,
    would that be a harder debate for the “yes” vote? Somehow I doubt it.

    The reason I doubt it is that, once again, this has become a ridiculous political debate. It is no longer about the morals and ethics of a nation trying to defend itself. Instead, it is about left and right and political sides of the aisle. There is a refusal to critically examine the issue. If one does criticize, the notion of being “anti-American” or “not American enough” comes up and immediately decreases the validity of the discourse. It’s no wonder that many Americans aren’t even intellectually capable of entering honest discourse anymore.

    As damaged as the public conversation has become, with its infusions of twin political ideologies and partisanship bullshit, there are still some who hold to a moral standard that goes above and beyond which politician one supporters.

    Before we burn them too we should seek to understand why they say so.

    Because they, like all other politicians, want to save their own asses first. They’ll worry about moral responsibility later, all the while waving the ridiculous notion of “security” to distract the huddled masses. There’s only so much any country on earth, no matter how powerful, can do to remain safe. The real measure of morality in a changing world is the extent to which one is willing to go to do so and the lies they’re willing to tell in order to maintain order.

  • zingzing

    oh god, i have to agree with dave. change the laws. make it so that we can’t do things we can’t do to our own something we can’t do to anyone else. we shouldn’t be doing it anyway, so change the law.

    but such is the political climate that if obama, et al, go after bush, et al, then the damn thing will just come around to bite obama, et al, whenever the republicans get back into office. they can AND WILL find something if they think retribution is in order. no former president has ever been tried on war crimes for what he did during his administration, and putting bush and his cronies in jail would just be a horrible example to make.

    (what we SHOULD DO, of course, is just leave it be and see if those folks at the hague can make bush/cheney/etc piss their pants for the rest of their natural lives. inhuman bastards should be in such a state they can’t tell scotch from urine.)

    torture is wrong, but torture after the fact is only “politics,” and that’s not the same thing.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    To start at the beginning.

    Mark, I refer you to the section specifically on War Crimes, Chapter 18: § 2441, Section C which refers specifically to the definition of protected individuals in the Geneva Convention. You then go to Section IV of the Geneva Convention which makes a very clear definition of who the agreement considers a protected combatant and to Section 3 to see who it considers a protected non-combatant.

    Those definitions specifically exclude people involved in armed conflict or acts of violence who are not part of an organized and uniformed military. This has been interpreted to mean that the Geneva Convention and US laws deriving from it do not apply to terrorists.

    This argument is certainly technically correct, even if we can agree that it is morally wrong.

    Dave

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Cindy, MIAC was rescinded and an apology was issued as soon as it became known by the public. And Glenn Beck is a weeping, posturing lunatic.

    I agree there are grounds for concern, but at least in this case the forces of oppression seem to be getting discredited as fast as they are exposed. Even Janet Napolitano is on the run over the DHS report I wrote about a couple of weeks ago.

    Dave

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    Dave,

    I think Glenn Beck is an insane lunatic. That doesn’t mean he didn’t accurately describe what was in the report. And that was the purpose of my quote, to show the contents of the report.

    ???

    Is there an unwritten code against using insane people as references when they are accurate?

    I agree there are grounds for concern…

    Good Dave. I’m glad to hear that.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    “putting bush and his cronies in jail would just be a horrible example to make.”

    Not if they broke the law, and just to be clear I am not saying they did, but if they did, what example does it make to let them get away with it?

    “torture is wrong, but torture after the fact is only ‘politics,’ and that’s not the same thing.”

    “after the fact”? That’s one of the more foolish defenses I have read. How can it be wrong in the present, but okay when it occurred in the past? If it’s wrong, it’s wrong.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    zing,

    If government breaks the law–they are supposed to be subject to prosecution just like anyone else. If that isn’t upheld then how do you expect to protect yourself from arbitrary government? It is part and parcel of the rule of law for that reason.

    Think about what it would mean if a society espoused allowing those who have power over them be above the law? How do people protect themselves from the state eventually becoming a totalitarian dictatorship then?

    Also: The law only ever can be applied ‘after the fact’…

  • Ma rk

    Dave, so it looks like torture can be approached as a war crime under Chapter 118 and/or as a crime under Chapter 113C. Is there reason to argue that the restrictions found in 118 that you point to apply to 113C?

  • Doug Hunter

    “How can it be wrong in the present, but okay when it occurred in the past?”

    A little thing we call laws, and yes believe it or not they do change. Also, there is no absolute, god given, right and wrong. Moral values and the concept of right and wrong change over time. People with alot more sense and compassion than your statement represents realized this and built protections into our system that prevent people from changing the law after the fact then going back to hold you accountable. This is knows as ex post facto law and is prohibited in most common law derivatives.

    Additionally, the protection from after the fact law changes is explicitly enumerated in the constitution Article 1 section 9 where it is stated that “No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed. ” In other words you can’t go back and change the law regarding waterboarding and then prosecute people.

    Now, that being said, I am a layman reading these things so a professional opinion probably is different. Lawyers and judges can twist any law or protetion and make it say anything they want. That is why judges will state that Geneva Convention applies to terrorist even though the text of the Geneva Convention lists as requirements for protection:

    (b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;
    (c) that of carrying arms openly;
    (d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

    Terrorists do no wear a distinct sign as a distance, terrorists usually hide their weapons to avoid detection, and terrorism of the 9/11 variety I hope is not within the law of war.

    Any laymen reading this would be forced to conclude it didn’t apply to terrorists, but thats because you haven’t been properly schooled in the in law. Laws are made for normal people, not lawyers judges and politicians.

  • Doug Hunter

    “How can it be wrong in the present, but okay when it occurred in the past?”

    A little thing we call laws, and yes believe it or not they do change. Also, there is no absolute, god given, right and wrong. Moral values and the concept of right and wrong change over time. People with alot more sense and compassion than your statement represents realized this and built protections into our system that prevent people from changing the law after the fact then going back to hold you accountable. This is knows as ex post facto law and is prohibited in most common law derivatives.

    Additionally, the protection from after the fact law changes is explicitly enumerated in the constitution Article 1 section 9 where it is stated that “No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed. ” In other words you can’t go back and change the law regarding waterboarding and then prosecute people.

    Now, that being said, I am a layman reading these things so a professional opinion probably is different. Lawyers and judges can twist any law or protetion and make it say anything they want. That is why judges will state that Geneva Convention applies to terrorist even though the text of the Geneva Convention lists as requirements for protection:

    (b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;
    (c) that of carrying arms openly;
    (d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Yes, Doug; the laws are not static and they can and do change – sometimes for the worse and sometimes for the better. Which makes them far from perfect; the question is whether laws have been skewed to suit the purposes and designs of the powers that be. You’re not naive enough to insist that such things don’t happen. So the legal code at any point in time can be questioned as to whether it represents and reflects the highest standards of justice; and there are unjust laws against which some consider it their duty to rebel.

    I am not going to argue with you against your position as to the “relativity of morals.” That would take too long. Only to indicate that when we do come to a realization that certain laws may be unjust, we can correct them. And by virtue of what? is my question. By appeal to what higher standard?

    Laws are imperfect expression of the common morality – imperfect because the highest moral standards are unenforceable to a population at large. But the common morality is their only valid source.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    If government breaks the law–they are supposed to be subject to prosecution just like anyone else. If that isn’t upheld then how do you expect to protect yourself from arbitrary government? It is part and parcel of the rule of law for that reason.

    Ironically, although a lot of people believe what you wrote here, Cindy, it’s not actually true. Very much the opposite. The government and elected officials have always enjoyed something called “Sovereign Immunity” which protects them from most prosecutions. The only exceptions to this are things like injunctions and constitutional challenges, but suing for damages or criminal liability is virtually impossible.

    Our actual course or redress against government is to vote it out of office.

    Dave

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    So would you say that the Watergate proceedings were illegal, or any other action initiation by the office of a special prosecutor? How come “sovereign immunity” didn’t apply to those cases? Or are you saying it was disregarded?

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    Thanks for cheering me up with that new info, Dave.

    It seems there’s a whole book on it:

    Sovereign Immunity or the Rule of Law

    This book explores the inherent conflict between the philosophical concept of the rule of law on one hand and sovereign immunity as it exists in the United States today on the other.

    This is a good example of why the law is absurd.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Not only that, Cindy. All it basically means you cannot name the Federal or State government as part of the laws suit (and even these exceptions are sometimes waived). But it says nothing about immunity of government officials.

    A last ditch effort, I’d say, by those who don’t want to see the shit disturbed.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Interesting question, Roger. The Office of the Special Prosecutor is different, because it’s the government investigating itself. The SP is appointed by the administration to investigate that administration. That was the case with Clinton and Nixon and the Bush investigation which took down Scooter Libby.

    To my knowledge there has never been an attempt to use a Special Prosecutor to investigate a previous administration, and it’s a very troubling idea.

    Dave

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I see your point. I wasn’t aware of that.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Dave,

    Is there any problem with BC “posting new articles” site? It won’t save my draft. Should I email you to help be troubleshoot, or is the site temporarily down?

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    Dave,

    Something else I found while I was looking at that. It’s about your what your buddy, Friedrich A. Hayek said.

    As Hayek observes, the Constitution did not give the people rights. Instead, the Constitution was a law — a higher law — imposed on the officials of the national government to prevent them from interfering with preexisting rights.

    (snip)

    Today, of course, the thinking of the American people is entirely different. Believing that their rights come from government, they believe that government can rightfully regulate or take them away. Thus, since the 1930s, the American people have lived under a political order in which governmental officials have omnipotent power over their lives and fortunes.

    Moreover, unlike their ancestors, Americans today believe that politicians and bureaucrats can be trusted with unlimited political power.

    (Mind you, I don’t much care for Hayek, or how he applies these ideas, but these particular ideas themselves sound about right.)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    The rights were (declared to be) unalienable; the constitution only confirmed that.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    oops I forgot the end:

    The idea that life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness are fundamental, preexisting rights with which no governmental official can legitimately interfere is an alien notion to our fellow Americans. The belief is that Caesar — the state — should have the power to regulate and take away that which he has given.

  • zingzing

    el bicho, i believe: “”after the fact”? That’s one of the more foolish defenses I have read. How can it be wrong in the present, but okay when it occurred in the past? If it’s wrong, it’s wrong.”

    it’s always wrong, as i said. it’s just not punishable. make it against the law (at least here in the states), and it will again become torture. as of now, it’s just a fact we have to deal with, and a political tool that can be used by AND AGAINST obama. it means nothing if we can’t punish the fuckers what did it. i guess you gotta read between the lines in what i said.

    cindy: “If government breaks the law–they are supposed to be subject to prosecution just like anyone else.”

    exactly. unfortunately, we can’t do much about it. if the loopholes in that law allow bush, et al, to get away with it here in the states, maybe international law should be applied. but that’s for the hague to decide. they can press charges if they like. but for obama to go after them directly would be a mistake.

    “If that isn’t upheld then how do you expect to protect yourself from arbitrary government? It is part and parcel of the rule of law for that reason.”

    change the damn laws to reflect it then.

    “Also: The law only ever can be applied ‘after the fact’…”

    if it’s a law at the time it’s broken. but… it appears that it’s not.

    i think you both missed my point. what bush, et al did was wrong, and should be against the law here in the states. but it’s not. so we can’t do shit. but the hague can. (and that is obama’s best route.) so change the laws, but forget about u.s.-based prosecution.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Exactly, zing.

    Dave tells me that the office of special prosecutor has never been used to look into possible offenses of past administrations. Maybe so. But in that case, it’s about time to apply it to cover such cases. Otherwise, they’ll all think they’ll have immunity from prosecution once they leave office. They must be on the leash – for seven years at least – in accord with the statue of limitation.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Zing, in your zeal to see Bush up for war crimes at the Hague you forget something called national sovereignty. The US would never stand for one of our presidents being tried for crimes outside the country. And if the nation did stand for it, that would pretty much be the end of the nation.

    Plus, as I understand it, the US is one of a handful of countries which is not a signatory to the statutes under which Bush could be tried. The UN and international courts have no more power over us than we choose to give them.

    And I also feel that going after Bush for war crimes trivializes that entire process. It’s vindictive and irreposnible and a precedent which no one in any position of power wants to set.

    Cindy, IMO Hayek was dead on about rights. It’s what the founding fathers clearly also believed. Those fundamental rights are inherent to the human condition. They aren’t granted by the Constitution and cannot legitimately be taken away or infringed by government.

    Dave

  • zingzing

    dave: “Zing, in your zeal to see Bush up for war crimes at the Hague you forget something called national sovereignty. The US would never stand for one of our presidents being tried for crimes outside the country. And if the nation did stand for it, that would pretty much be the end of the nation.”

    hrm. i don’t think i care as much as you do about national sovereignty, especially when our president has been committing crimes not punishable under our national laws… but which are punishable in international courts. i also don’t think it would be the end of our nation if he sat in a jail cell. he did some horrible things. i think he should be tried. but, it probably won’t happen anyway.

    “Plus, as I understand it, the US is one of a handful of countries which is not a signatory to the statutes under which Bush could be tried. The UN and international courts have no more power over us than we choose to give them.”

    sigh, you’re probably right. we are a sneaky bunch, ain’t we?

    “And I also feel that going after Bush for war crimes trivializes that entire process.”

    what process? how so? if you’re saying that bush’s war crimes are trivial, then… well, we just disagree.

    “It’s vindictive and irreposnible and a precedent which no one in any position of power wants to set.”

    i don’t know if it’s irresponsible… “responsibility” is something that the bush admin had trouble defining or recognizing. vindictive, yes. “a precedent which no one in any position of power wants to set,” yes–i said as much in my first comment.

  • Clavos

    Where’s the benefit in being “vindictive?”

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Self-righteous satisfaction?

    Dave

  • Clavos

    If that, even. Certainly nothing beyond, but there’s a whole lot of downside.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    I have a particular respect for you Dave, because even if you and I don’t agree about exactly what rights are–you, like me, are for them. And you are for them in a way that’s different than the average way, much of the time. (That said, I think you would do well to take a look at what you thought in college.)

    Anyway, interestingly (to me), some tea people, agorists, anarcho-capitalists, libertarians (whatever they are) are following me on twitter. I have no idea why. Maybe they’re spies. But I think it might be because of a sort of commonality. (One’s icon is a ‘don’t tread on me flag’. Despite that, I haven’t considered turning him in to MIAC yet. :-)

    Dave, twiiter is a very useful thing to get real time news on an event right from the people involved at the event. You should try it for news stories. If I liked to write–I’d be writing a lot because the info is so fresh and direct.

    Mark,

    You would like it too, I think . It’s like the perfect graffiti networking system. I am graffittiing the anarcho-capitalists with anti-capitalist messages at the moment.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Cindy,

    Next time tell me how to set it up. I tried it once but failed.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    There is no benefit in being vindictive as far as I can see. I can’t agree that the point, for me, is vindictiveness zing. It’s about justice for those harmed. Also, if one doesn’t hold those in a position of leadership responsible for their actions, what message does that send to potential leaders? They are above the law?

    Things don’t happen overnight. The move toward more state control happens incrementally. What effect will knowing one is above the law have on one’s choices?

    Keeping in mind, people in power will often do what is in their interest to keep and enlarge that power.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Cindy, I do have an inexplicable following on Twitter. Having created an account but having never having posted to it I have about two dozen Twitter followers. I prefer to use Facebook. But I understand there’s some way to sort of merge the two together. I’ll work on it.

    Dave

  • zingzing

    did i say there was a benefit/point to being vindictive?

    no… i said that it would be vindictive. that that is a fact. that there is that quality to it.

    who started any such rumor that i like the vindictive factor in all this?

    ahh, it was clavos, who forgot his reading glasses. “vindictive” is almost always said with negative connotations… really, i can’t think of a time when it is not… so, i’m pretty surprised someone took anything else out of it.

  • zingzing

    in fact, for the THIRD TIME, i’ll say that if obama goes after them, it will be a political mistake: “such is the political climate that if obama, et al, go after bush, et al, then the damn thing will just come around to bite obama, et al, whenever the republicans get back into office. they can AND WILL find something if they think retribution is in order.” (from #14)

    and “it’s just a fact we have to deal with, and a political tool that can be used by AND AGAINST obama.” (from #34)

    the “vindictive” quality of all this is the worst thing i see in it. that’s the precedent i think is the most dangerous.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    Dave, What’s your name on twitter? I can’t find you.

    The best description is, it’s like having an unlimited number of assistants getting you details, currents news, and photos related to your story.

    Roger, You want help joining/using twitter? Not a problem. Just let me know. I’ll help you by email.

  • zingzing

    oh god, twitter=ultimate evil. deepest, darkest stain. damn spot.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I tried to open the a/c once and even think I have a password but it looks too complicated; so I don’t know what’s the status. Yes, help me.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    why zing? sending a message to whoever will be looking at specific keywords is like being able to influence the world for free–without spray paint or wheat paste. also the news part i mentioned.

    so, why don’t you like it? i can’t imagine not liking it. you don’t have to use it for stupid things.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I guess zing can’t distinguish one from the other. Just kidding!

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    did i say there was a benefit/point to being vindictive?

    no…so sorry…i wasn’t clear…Clav asked, and that part was answering him. the only part meant for you was my opinion about vindictiveness.

    no… i said that it would be vindictive. that that is a fact.

    it wouldn’t be for me. but, yes, it is a fact it would be for some. i just meant that’s not a justification nor the only thing it would be (again you didn’t say it would be the only thing…that part might be implied in what Clav said–i think)

  • Clavos

    zing,

    I lost my reading glasses back in 1872 and have been blind ever since, but my reader dog does an outstanding job for me — he’s the one who pounced (pun intended) on the “vindictive” line.

    Blame him. His name is whatever you want it to be. No, really — that’s it.*

    *Two full days spent sitting in a hospital ICU has somewhat scrambled my weltanschauung.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    “A little thing we call laws, and yes believe it or not they do change.”

    It’s your statement that lacks sense. What does it have to do with the discussion because you don’t appear to be following the conversation?

    zing says torture is wrong but it’s too late to do anything about it now. Is the attorney general talking about changing the laws and then going after people? Or is he having an investigation to see if laws were broken.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    “suing [The government and elected officials] for damages or criminal liability is virtually impossible.”

    See Paula Jones

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Mark, it’s not a question of whether torture is a crime under US law. Clearly it is. It’s a question of whether US law applies to foreign nationals captured in a war zone who are not qualified as POWs.

    Dave

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “keep being a patsy for the statists cindy. your poseur coffee shop anarchism gives them the pretext they need to take away our rights.” (#7)

    Actually, that’s the sharpest remark I’ve yet heard Lumpy make.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    You know Roger, I thought the same thing when I read that.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I should have caught it as it happened. I’m still laughing.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    What’s also hilarious is you and Dave on Glenn Beck – using a raving lunatic as a credible source.

    Is the medium the message?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    And don’t forget the good ol’ Franco with the quote of the year:

    “If we were using electric drills and boring holes through the skin and muscle in the joints of arms and legs and eyes, just like our enemies do in Iraq and else where, then the fever of this debate would be fully warranted.”

    How come you missed that?

    This thread alone would make a best-seller if you were well-connected with a literary agent.

  • M a rk

    Dave, I understand the question that you raise. However, a straightforward reading of 113C is that, unlike 118, it prohibits torturing any person without exception. What’s the argument (and I imagine that one can be constructed) that this isn’t the correct reading…where’s the wiggle room? I don’t see a reason to claim that the exceptions of the Geneva Conventions apply.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    How can you expect a straightforward reading from the sophists (and I don’t mean Dave)?

  • Bliffle

    Perhaps the Obama administration will take to torturing their enemies in congress until they agree to his socialist plan for america.

    After all, what is to stop him?

    Unless, of course, the republicans in congress don the uniforms of some internationally recognised and properly constituted sovereign power instead of hiding behind the blue suits, white shirts and ties that any saboteur or spy would use to avoid detection.

    Absurd, of course. Unbelievable.

    But then, so are the events of the past 10 years.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Dave,

    The links to BC Politics articles are still broken; not so with the Music section.

    Roger

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dave –

    What price our nation’s honor?

    We prosecuted our own soldiers and executed Japanese soldiers for waterboarding…and then WE have it as government policy!

    We took the lead in the Nuremberg trials where we prosecuted torture after the most horrific war in human history…and now WE torture!

    George Washington flatly rejected the use of torture even when the British and Hessians were torturing the colonists – and did so to keep from giving our enemies any further excuse to hate us…and now we’ve ignored the example he set.

    WWII interrogators of both German and Japanese prisoner invariably found that special intelligence ops officer who led an interrogation team stated not only that the strong-arm tactics didn’t work – while the confidence-building tactics listed in the Army Field Manual DID consistently achieve good results – but also that “the US military’s use of torture is responsible for the deaths of thousands of US soldiers because it inspired foreign fighters to kill Americans.”

    Dave, our national honor MEANS something to you, as it certainly does to me…and part of preserving one’s honor is holding oneself accountable. If we are to LEAD this world, we have to show them that we are NOT afraid to show the world that America abides by the Rule Of Law, and that not even our leaders are exempted.

    If you believe yourself to be a patriot, then you must stand for our nation’s honor. Our leaders committed crimes against our nation’s laws, against international treaties to which we are prime signatory, and against our national tradition begun by none other than George Washington.

    You’ve got a choice, Dave – one path upholds the honor of our nation, and one does not.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Glenn,

    Jordan had it exactly right when he concludes his #13 as follows:

    “There’s only so much any country on earth, no matter how powerful, can do to remain safe. The real measure of morality in a changing world is the extent to which one is willing to go to do so and the lies they’re willing to tell in order to maintain order.”

    In fact, the entire #13 is a gem.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Cindy,

    Are you able to access the new & improved site? Have you signed up for the preview?

  • Cindy

    For people who still believe torture might elicit valuable information:

    No evidence torture stopped terror attacks (10 minute news video)

    CIA Inspector General documents say no evidence “enhanced interrogation” stopped an attack

    The interrogators who ‘waterboarded’ Abu Zubaydah requested permission to stop. They felt he was compliant and truthful and nothing more could be gained. The CIA refused and ordered them to continue anyway. (from the video)

    Condoleeza Rice approved waterboarding Abu Zubaydah

    Last fall, Rice acknowledged to the Senate Armed Services Committee only that she had attended meetings where the CIA interrogation request was discussed and asked for the attorney general to conduct a legal review. She said she did not recall details. Rice omitted her direct role in approving the program in her written statement to the committee.

    Why would she fail to report that she was the one who gave approval to the CIA for the torture of Abu Zubaydah?

  • Cindy

    Are you able to access the new & improved site? Have you signed up for the preview?

    I don’t understand. Sign up? Never heard about signing up for anything.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Mark, I think you’re missing the point here, which is that none of this applies because US law doesn’t apply to foreign nationals captured and held outside the US.

    Dave

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Glenn, I think you misunderstand. Where have I defended torture here or suggested that torture works or is a good idea. IMO that’s largely irrelevant.

    This article is about the question of whether a witch hunt over the issue is a good idea.

    You also seem to think that catch-words like Honor and Patriotism have relevance here. They don’t. They’re manipulative abstractions.

    Showing strength is far more important than showing honor in the real world, and in this case we show strength by admitting our faults nad moving on.

    And your argument that our use of torture in 3 instances encoruaged our enemies to engage in torture is ridiculous. They were murdering and torturing before 9/11 and they continue to do it today. Nothing we did encouraged or discouraged their behavior in any way.

    Dave

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I was referring to a newsletter from BC about launching the new site – starting tomorrow; preview available on request today to those who say “yes.” Anyway, the new site must’n be operational yet, because the links to the new articles are not working on the Politics section (although they do on the other sections).

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    I’m preparing to deal with a massive software upgrade at work this week. Not sure if I can cope with a Blogcritics redesign at the same time. Oy vey.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Are you involved in the project?

  • zingzing

    dave: “US law doesn’t apply to foreign nationals captured and held outside the US.”

    mmm, tasty loopholes. there’s a massive disconnect between the letter of the law and reality if we really believe we can do whatever the hell we want as long as it’s not in a specific geographical location or to a person holding a specific passport.

    could i take an irishman to jamaica and cut his toes off without facing the consequences? no. so why can my government? (let’s not get bogged down in the specifics here…)

    i know. let’s pick up george in crawford and take him over the border and put him face down in a pigpen.

  • Baronius

    I think that Franco’s right that our interrogation methods don’t constitute torture, or at least it’s not a clear case. You can argue that the Bush administration crossed the line, but they were definitely trying not to. You wouldn’t write 300 memos if you were unconcerned about crossing the line. You wouldn’t waterboard; you’d rip people apart with pliers. Torture is the easiest thing in the world to do. Interrogating someone while respecting their rights is tough. That’s what we were trying to do.

    Why is this still an issue? Because disapproval of Bush was Obama’s one qualification for the presidency, and now that he’s president and enacting controversial policies, he’s got to keep the country united behind him. One hundred days into the Obama presidency, he’d much rather we critique the Bush presidency than his own.

  • Cindy

    The US seems to have an exceptional number of immoral liars running it. I am beginning to believe in American Exceptionalism after all.

    American torture
    (From the video)

    Japanese were tried by the US for using ‘waterboarding’ during WWII. “Welcome once again to American Exceptionalism”. (where everyone is held accountable except the US)

    Torture is a bipartisan affair. Congress was briefed on ‘waterboarding’ 2002. Think Nancy Pelosi will want to investigate herself?

    Torture works: The best recruiting tool for terrorists was the torture going on at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

  • Cindy

    I think that Franco’s right that our interrogation methods don’t constitute torture…

    They did when Japan did them.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    But Cindy, you’re the good guys. It’s OK when you do it.

    (The question of what actually makes you good guys as opposed to bad ones would benefit from further critical scrutiny.)

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Despite the blatant double standard, however, bear in mind that waterboarding was probably what Japanese torturers did when they were in a good mood.

  • Cindy

    Perhaps we should have levels of torture. Some forms can be renamed to make them morally acceptable. They can call it ‘gentle torture’.

    Baronius and Franco. In a very real way each of you is personally responsible for the ability of the US to even think of torturing people.

    The rest of us are responsible for not doing something about it.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Here’s another example, Cindy, in #77, of an otherwise sensible person blinded by false values. They’re all coming out of the woodwork.

  • Baronius

    Cindy and Roger, I raised a reasonable point. If you want to question my values or my responsibility, please do so clearly and specifically. Your indignation is not sufficient to persuade anyone.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    There was no indignation on my part, Baronius.

    Unfortunately, I have come to realize that you suffer from a permanent blind spot.

    Perhaps the remark was less than discreet in that it was addressed to Cindy, referring to you in the third-person. And for that I do apologize.

    But I still stand by what I had said.

  • Cindy

    Bar,

    I can’t persuade you. But I was perfectly clear.

    If you don’t know what torture is. If you are under any circumstance willing to vacillate on whether or not torture is torture. If you can conceivably make an excuse for it. Then, you (personally) are the reason a society can get away with it.

    You are a problem for society.

  • http://jetssciencepage.blogspot.com/ Jet

    Perhaps Baronius, the indignation had to do with you attempting to interrupt a private converstaion?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    O must, Jet, that you’re fully recovered since you start on your business of insinuating things. For which I am glad.

    I think, however, that my response to Baronius was more than adequate in terms of making my meaning clear.

    And as a matter of fact, yes, me and Cindy are having a private conversation, but that’s on another thread.

    Welcome to the world.

    Care to visit sometime?

  • Baronius

    Actually, Jet, there have been a lot of participants on this thread. That may be why I find it so bothersome that Cindy and Roger shut me down without supporting their statements. You see, Jet, I find it bad form when someone doesn’t address the person he’s really talking to. It’s much worse, however, to put someone in the impossible position of having to defend himself against the charges of “blindness” and “being a problem”. That’s indignation, plain and simple; and it’s impossible to talk to someone who puts himself so far above you so as to not even hear you.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Baronius,

    You would be far more convincing if I knew you put your own ass on the line and join the Iraqi expedition or the mercenary force rather than shooting your mouth from the sidelines. If even if you were a woman seeing her children come back in body bags. Then we could talk about your values and moral standards.

    Until then, my friend, your words sound very hollow indeed. That’s why I deem you false.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    And no! You’re wrong! It’s no indignation, because the purpose of indignation is to evoke an appropriate response. But in your case, I’m afraid, it’s way to past that. At present, I deem you as incorrigible. So pray to your God, because I can’t help you.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Another telling expression: “I find it bothersome.” (Like being “annoyed,” perchance?) Is it perhaps because logic doesn’t cut it anymore and as a matter of fact, you really have no ground to stand on?

    Say it isn’t so?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Consider the intention, though: it’s to shake you up against unsurmountable odds.

    If anything, I’ll go to heaven (and others) for attempting this impossible feat. So why don’t you repent and confess your sins while there’s still a chance?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Reverting, if ever so briefly, to the tautology that “torture is torture” in comment #86, I wonder if Cindy* would elaborate a bit and get beyond the redundancy. What is torture, and is every attempt to make someone else uncomfortable “torture?”

    It strikes me that the rack would be “torture,” that slowly immersing someone in a vat of sulfuric acid would be “torture,” and that doing either to a child in the presence of a parent to extract information would all be “torture.” It strikes me that deprivation or defacement of “holy texts” and any number of other things would not be “torture.”

    This leads us to water boarding, conducted in the presence of a physician and with substantial precautions to ensure no lasting physical harm.

    Perhaps Cindy will elaborate.

    Dan(Miller)

    *I am directing this comment primarily to Cindy, but to avoid the suggestion that it might become part of a “private conversation” in which others could not politely join, a phenomenon of which I had not previously aware on BC, I have refrained from addressing it to her directly.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’m not gonna deny it now. I do want to make you look as ridiculous as you present yourself to be, to make you fall flat on your face, to make you wallow in your asinine opinions and attempts at self-justification. But ultimately, Baronius, consider this.

    The only reason why I do this because I still care. For you and all others who may or may not become privy to this conversation. And that’s my saving grace and the only thing that vindicates me.

    So the ball is in your court now, friend.

  • Baronius

    Roger, I feel like if I said something really snotty right now, I could really set you off. (It’s amazing how the internet hones some of one’s worst instincts.) I don’t want to do that, but for the life of me I can’t think of anything non-snotty to say. But here’s the thing: we don’t agree on this issue, and we’re not going to get anywhere by egging each other on, so there’s probably nothing else to say.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Roger and Baronius need to get a room.

    [that was for Cindy, although everyone else is free to enjoy it since you can’t have a private conversation on a public forum regardless of the delusions you suffer]

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    No, Baronius. I wouldn’t be ticked off, so be my guest if you can.

    You think I’m being overbearing and setting myself up over you. Damn right I do. Your own opinions condemn you. The worst part is – you know you’re fucking wrong, but your stupid pride won’t allow you to admit it. Why should I consider your life, Baronius (or any other American) any dearer that that of a detainee? Is that what your religion teaches you? You answer me this, and we may have a conversation.

    So yes, let’s close it at that because any further discussion is useless. But go ahead and say what you will if that’ll make you feel any better.

    I’m waiting!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Welcome to my world, Bicho. You can find the thread if you search hard enough.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    It’d seem to me you have a fascination with close quarters, Bicho, because you invariably keep on talking of Motel 6. Too bad you’re not a filmmaker. But then again, we’ve seen enough of ‘em already.

  • Baronius

    Dan(M) – I remember when McCain was trying to make the argument for a ban on torture (which was already US policy, btw), that some people made the same kind of argument you’re making. It’s impossible to define every possible action that could occur during an interrogation, and whether each one is permissible. The obvious analogy is the Warren Court’s endless rulings on police behaviour, which created the crazy technicalities in our jusice system. I’m afraid that once you start down that road, you can’t stop even if you want to; and we’ve begun the trip.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Now, that Dan (Miller) at his best. Perfect tact.
    Thank you.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, I suppose you have made it incumbent upon yourself now, Mr. Miller, to write a definitive opinion to the effect that waterboading is not culture.

    So why don’t you do it then in your next article? It only stands to reason.

    The inquiring minds want to know.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Yes, it is a “culture.”

    What we want to know why it’s not torture.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Baronius,

    The problem is that man’s ingenuity approaches the infinite. There is no way to come up with static and comprehensive lists of what is and of what is not “torture.” There is a way, and there seems to be a need, to define the term in some way providing a common understanding. Surely, “severe” physical or mental pain, and “serious” physical or mental pain, while modestly ambiguous and subject to being understood differently by different people, are more readily understandable than the word “torture.” Hell — some might consider listening to Rush Limbaugh or reading various comments on BC to be “torture.”

    I don’t expect Cindy, or anyone else, to devise definitive and exhaustive lists, good for all time. However, if a definition superior to that now provided by statute and/or the Geneva Conventions can be devised, it would be very helpful; certainly more so than chastising others for holding different views of what “torture” means.

    Dan(Miller)

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Re Comment #103 — it was posted today, here.

    Dan(Miller)

  • Baronius

    “I am going to slam my fist on the table. This in no way is intented to imply any threat of physical harm to you. If you consider this action to be inappropriate, you may notify your interrogational affairs representitive within 48 hours. This time period may be extended only for documented religious holidays. Do you understand this policy?”

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Baronius,

    Ah yes. But even then, it would depend on what might between the raised fist and the table: a revered holy text or, probably even worse, the detainee’s last pack of cigarettes. Or, possibly, his head or other vulnerable body part.

    Dan(Miller)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    No exhaustive or preemptive definitions of such concepts are possible. Try to define “love,” for example in any such way. And what kind? C.S. Lewis speaks of at least four; there are more.

    Still, it’s not that we’re all in the woods. We recognize cruelty, e.g., when we see it – even to animals (or perhaps especially to animals). Set a cat on fire and see what it will get you

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Dan Miller is very Wittgensteinian in refusing to take such seemingly simply acts as “raising one’s fist” as conveying/connoting undisputable meanings. There’s much more that depends commonality of certain basic understandings (shared by the speakers) than most people are willing to suppose.

  • M ar k

    Unless I’ve missed something BC designers have eliminated the Fresh Comments page in this site redesign that kicked off today. Mistake imo.

  • http://jetssciencepage.blogspot.com/ Jet

    Here’s a serious problem, apparently when you hit last page it takes you only to comment 100, then you have to hit “next page” till you find the end… that’s not good.

    You’re right Mark, I fought with it all last night and couldn’t find the fresh comments page either, unless it’s the sidebar that only displays the last five?????

    My favorites shortcut takes me to the home page.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Re #111 & 112: yes, and that makes for much poorer navigation, not to mention the ease of accessibility.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Consequently, the new & improved site is less “interactive.”

  • http://jetssciencepage.blogspot.com/ Jet

    Mark have you noticed that the fresh comments icon displays the comments, but not the article they were posted on?

  • http://pwinn.tumblr.com/ Phillip Winn

    Fresh Comments will be restored in the next couple of days, along with other missing bits. Thanks!

  • M ar k

    Cool, Phillip.

  • http://jetssciencepage.blogspot.com/ Jet

    Thanks Phillip-God you must be tearing you hair out by now… oh sorry :)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Glad to hear that, Phillip, because I couldn’t do without the kind of instant interaction, which to me is the most attractive aspect of BC. And let’s fixed that last page bit: some comments run well over a hundred; the BC people always want to stay on top.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    Help! I’m lost! lol

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    #97 – El Bicho

    Ah, thank you! I did appreciate that! :-)

  • Bliffle

    It was a nuisance when articles were paged, and now by paging the comments too, the problem is compounded.

    No useful purpose is served by unnecessary paging since the actual ASCII text data is small in any case. Neither bandwidth nor memory are much reduced by paging.

    Free us from this infernal fumbling with pages!

  • STM

    The site looks great. Big problem: where is the list of comments. Too hard to navigate, to check back with those with whom you’ve been in vigorous debate. Part of the fun of blogcritics was being able to call up that entire list of recent comments and see who was on line.

    Unless I’m missing something and you can still do that, REALLY big mistake guys, IMO.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’m in perfect agreement, STM. The ease of use and interactivity was paramount. Now it’s a pain in the arse.

  • Cindy

    Dan(Miller) and Baronius,

    I don’t expect Cindy, or anyone else, to devise definitive and exhaustive lists, good for all time. However, if a definition superior to that now provided by statute and/or the Geneva Conventions can be devised, it would be very helpful; certainly more so than chastising others for holding different views of what “torture” means. (DM)

    I am asking a question about ethics. You are both discussing ‘law’. What does looking at legal definitions have to do with ethics?

    Dan(Miller) doesn’t seem to consider a potential lifetime of psychological damage inflicted on–again let me reiterate–innocent people is all that bad, at least not as bad as dissolving their skin. Franco drew the line at drilling through flesh and bone.

    There is plenty of evidence for the borderline, to sway them that drowning is torture. That people’s consciences don’t feel so disturbed that they are compelled to search for it–that is a problem. This isn’t a chastisement. I have to live here, in the world, with your views and similar affecting me and other people every day. I’m stating a problem I have as a member of society. It’s a big one for me.

    If no one picks up arms there isn’t a war. It’s as simple and as complicated as that.

    If in a society each person’s morality told her that drowning people is torture, then there would be no question–it wouldn’t occur. It would be completely unacceptable. The people who hold that out as a question are the one’s who make the occurrence of such deeds possible. Because of them there is potential approval for such actions. With complete disapproval they would be eliminated.

    The world and society is nothing but a collection of people. What each one thinks and does carries weight. To the extent that they each look for definitions and search laws instead of their souls about questions of ethics, is the extent I see them taking part in maintaining a violent society and world.

    We understand that a child needs love to grow into a healthy person. Being able to define love isn’t very important to being able to give or fail to give it. Looking in a dictionary to see what love means won’t be very helpful to being a parent. It’s really very simple. Do to others what you would want done to you or yours. If you can imagine your young adult child as an innocent civilian swept up by soldiers, taken away from you, from his/her life and family, imprisoned for years and subjected to what happened to people in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, and you can say that is acceptable. It’s okay that that was done to your child. You can justify it. Then okay. But I wouldn’t know what to say to you.

    I apologize if you don’t find my perspective helpful to solving legal dilemmas. The connection I can make is that people change laws when people become more ethical and not until.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Very good point, Cindy. It’s morality (or ethics, as you call it) which is the basis of all laws; but the current laws only reflect the moral health (or disease) of society. And as society (by and large) becomes aware of existing moral imperfections, the laws change (for the better) to reflect that.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    BTW, Cindy. As of now, it’s almost impossible to communicate here on BC. The immediacy of contact has been lost. So I’ll be posting only now and then, until things improve. Perhaps it’s for the better.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Wow. One improvement already, even as we speak. The new comments appear immediately in the “Fresh Comments” section.
    One more crucial adjustment, guys: Please filter the comments so as to include only those which pertain to the section we’re in. If in Politics, I don’t want to see what’s happening in the Book Review (for I can always go to Book Review if I so desire).

    Thanks

  • Ma rk

    Dave, despite your claim:

    Another option would be to use some other marginally applicable international law, such as the UN Convention on Torture, which does not itself ban torture, but is merely a guideline which states are supposed to follow in passing their own laws banning torture, a requirement which the US did not follow through on.

    Chapter 113C was written specifically to implement requirements (guidelines if you prefer) of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which the US ratified in ’94 — the same year 113C passed. (What the US hasn’t ratified is the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which some argue threatens US sovereignty as it provides for international supervision of national governments.)

    It becomes ever less clear that it’s reasonable to claim that 113C ‘derives’ from the Geneva Convention and is limited by its exceptions.

    One of the provisions of the Convention against Torture:

    Article2, 2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

  • Ma rk

    (looks like some html code still isn’t functional – bold and italics don’t show up)

    Rog, I disagree with: “Please filter the comments so as to include only those which pertain to the section we’re in.” I’ve discovered articles through the comments page that I never would have seen otherwise.

  • Ma rk

    (experiment:

    Dave, despite your claim:

    Another option would be to use some other marginally applicable international law, such as the UN Convention on Torture, which does not itself ban torture, but is merely a guideline which states are supposed to follow in passing their own laws banning torture, a requirement which the US did not follow through on.

    Chapter 113C was written specifically to implement requirements (guidelines if you prefer) of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which the US ratified in ’94 — the same year 113C passed. (What the US hasn’t ratified is the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which some argue threatens US sovereignty as it provides for international supervision of national governments.)

    It becomes ever less clear that it’s reasonable to claim that 113C ‘derives’ from the Geneva Convention and is limited by its exceptions.

    One of the provisions of the Convention against Torture:

    Article2, 2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture. )

  • Ma rk

    (So ‘em’ and ‘strong’ are out; ‘b’ and ‘i’ are in.)

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    I could be wrong.

    Mark is talking about the ‘fresh comments’ page (a link that was below the 4 or 5 comments in the right side bar).

    Roger is talking about the 4 or 5 ‘fresh comments’ that used to appear in the politics right side bar.

    If so, I think you’re both right.

  • pablo

    Just a parting shot for ya Dave. As the new blogcritics website and interface sucks, I will not be contributing as a commenter either anymore, until such time as it is user friendly and attractive. So I just wanted to say bye to ya, by the way the photo of you that you use on this site looks like a mug shot, are you really as unfriendly and serious as you look pal?

    bye bye Davey. :)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    You’ve got it, Cindy.
    And BTW, Pablo, I share your sentiments about how unfriendly this whole thing is. It is a shame.

  • M a rk

    I’ll be happier when the links in that side bar widget actually go to the articles that the comments relate to.

    I have total faith in Phillip’s ability to work out the bugs and rescue the user friendliness of the site.

  • M a rk

    I’ll be happier when the links in that side bar widget actually go to the articles that the comments relate to.

    Problem fixed already…ask and we shall receive — or not.