May 17, 2007

Bush in trouble? GOP for Torture?--a birthday rant

I was going to be nice today, but then I remembered that it is my birthday--not Paige Patterson's or George Bush or the religious right's (when is their birthday, anyway--the realization that Bob Jones University might be forced to integrate?). Anyway, it is my birthday and I will rant if I want. :)


The Republican party scares the crap out of me. Did anyone see the debate last night? According to the clips I saw, Romney scored big applause points by calling for "enhanced interrogation techniques" and wanting to "double Gitmo."

The Republican Party--the Party of Torture?


I might have been harsh on Paige Patterson's pronouncement the other day. I know that Tony has some closer knowledge of the man. My knowledge is from the SBC purge (as I have noted before) and so my take on him is from a pretty cynical place. And it seems that whenever I hear these people speak on the important issues of the day, they are almost always wrong. They have been wrong on feminism, wrong on the environment, the war, torture, science, etc. James Dobson bad mouths Giuliani for many things, including his divorces, but forgives Newt Gingrich?

Unfortunately, these are all the legacy of Jerry Falwell.


President Bush was asked today to comment on the James Comey testimony that includes the President himself sending his "hired goons" (Gonzales and Card) to John Ashcroft's sickbed to get him to approve a program that all the seasoned lawyers had already said was illegal. Ashcroft, it should be noted, had signed off on this before, but according to one source I read, did so because his own advisors were barred from reviewing the program. Comey forced the issue and therefore convinced Ashcroft to stop it.

Bush is asked about that visit. He goes into this entire thing about it being a "sensitive and classified" program that he isn't going to talk about but assures us that it is necessary because there is an "enemy that lurks."

The question wasn't about the classified program. The question was about the President sending his goons to override the acting AG. But I think his response is telling. He knows that there is a iceberg looming here. If enough Republicans find this appalling, then we could see impeachment proceedings against Gonzales, and who knows what could follow after that.

It is stunning. The President knew that this was illegal and still approved it. He would have kept doing that except Ashcroft and several others threatened to resign. The PR would have been devastating and Bush changed the program to make it legal.

Pretty amazing, eh? Bush is not impeached for breaking the law (a felony under FISA), but Clinton is for his dalliance with Monica (not a felony).


napoleon15 said...

The idea that the US uses torture, even on al-Qaida war criminals, is absurd. I've posted a few examples of real torture over at napoleon15.blogspot Comparing sleep deprivation and other interrogation techniques used at Gitmo to actual torture such as I described is both stupid and insulting to US military personnel.

napoleon15 said...

Oops, that would be

ubub said...

Napoleon, while I appreciate your attempt to defend U.S. soldiers, saying of our enemies, "they did it, too!" is not a viable defense.

Your view of torture is neddlessly narrow because it excludes psychological torture. No one would deny the horror of the practices you cite, but those practices are certainly not the only techniques of punishment or interrogation that are morally, and, yes, legally, considered to be torture.

Ridicule is not a sound rhetorical strategy. I have read the post on your blog and believe you can drop the disrespect.

Streak said...

I would also add that I believe we charged Japanese with war crimes for things like "water boarding," and we should also note that we have also had suspected terrorists die in our custody.

Oh, and one more thing, how do we know they are all "al-Qaida war criminals?" Has there been a process of determining the difference between the guy caught up in some local rivalry and turned in by a snitch and those who actually beheaded journalists or constructed IEDs?

Americans don't torture, and most military minds agree with what McCain said the other night (to considerably less applause than Romney's "let's get em'" speech received) that torture doesn't work and it harms us in world opinion. Second, we used to believe in a process of laws--something about due process where we see people as innocent until proven guilty. Those standards, I would add, used to be part of our justification of assisting the development of democracy.

I write all this and then note that the first link on your blog is to Ann Coulter. Not wanting to commit an "ad hominem" error, I will assume that is there for comedic reasons rather than an example of one of your favorite "thinkers."

napoleon15 said...

You might want to read to read my most recent post, as I've moved beyond arguments over the meaning of the word "torture." I would be interested to see a refutation of my arguments. As for due process of law, that applies to American citizens (including dirty-bomb suspect Jose Padilla), not to Osama bin Laden or his henchmen. About Ann Coulter, I consider her to be mainly entertaining, and sometimes informative. You might also note that I have a link to Dead Issue, which is a Liberal blog. That being said, I am a Conservative, and proud of it.

Streak said...

Napoleon15, with all due respect, before we follow you on your plug for your own blog post, you might want to respod to our comments here. Myself, Ubub, and Bootleg Blogger all challenged some of your notions of torture and how you defined the parameters.

Streak said...

Oh, and since the due process comment was in response to me, the central issue of who we are torturing (however you define the term) is still relevant. Many of the people who ended up in Gitmo or Abu Ghraib were not terrorists, or we don't really know if they were, because we lacked any kind of process to determine that. Due process is not some nicety or loophole, but a way to really figure out some form of justice.

Bootleg Blogger said...

N15- You don't really make arguments- just offer opinions, which is fine, but in the end we have a difference of opinion. You believe that your enemy's nature (nice vs not nice) should determine how you treat prisoners. This is a moral (or amoral) stance that you are comfortable with. Much of the American empire has been built on the willingness perform acts that would normally be held in contempt by the very society for which they are committed. I understand that you believe this to be acceptable, even desirable. I disagree. This isn't an argument to be refuted with data so it doesn't really matter that you don't include any. Some of us don't think these acts should be committed on our behalf. As i mentioned before, we're talking about OUR character, not "their's". All for now- BB

Streak said...

The Daily Dish: Betrayal : "On a long plane ride the other day I came upon a passage in James Bradley's "Flyboys" that you may not have seen, and that touches on the history of torture, how abberant this is for us. It's an account of the air war over Japan in World War Two, and about, among other things, the inhumanity of the Japanese captors towards American pilots. A downed pilot named Nielson remembers:

"I was given what they call the water cure. I was put on the floor with my arms and legs stretched out, one guard holding each limb. A towel was wrapped around my face and water was poured on. They poured water on this towel until I was was almost unconscious from strangulation, then they would let up until I'd get my breath, then they'd start all over again. I felt more or less like I was drowning, just gasping between life and death.'"

When the American public learned how their American soldiers had been treated, they were outraged. This was torture then and is torture now. Only now, we have a President and members of his own party who justify it, want to make it legal, and defend it as moral.

steve s said...

N15, as the only other conservative that occasionally posts here, I dope you stick around. Not that I can't handle myself ; ) , but any debate is enhanced by a variety of viewpoints.

You are correct, in that the Sup. Ct. has said on numerous occasions that the Constitution is not always applicable to 'enemy combatants.' That being said, I think that this position is not the right one. I think that these people should receive a trial. If they are guilty, let them go to prison. If they are not, they need to be set free. I am also not all that comfortable with torture. Not only does it bring up moral questions, it has been shown to be unreliable.

Streak said...

Hey, Tony, I guess you aren't conservative. :)

Steve, I am not sure you are the type of conservative who defends torture. That seems to be a whole new breed of the GOP and one that I really don't understand. Especially since it is the part of the party that also likes to see itself as religious and moral.

Tony said...


I am a conservative, but one that obviously seems to be in the minority.


I think we should look at torture as a bit more than an "unreliable" method. It seems you hold a bit of a utilitarian view of torture, one that the majority of my conservative friends hold. As long as it is "them" and not "us" then torture is morally acceptable, which I must say, I really do not comprehend.

However, Mr. Napoleon seems to get the religious connection, so maybe he can explain it to us.

Oh, and Streak, don't insult other "thinkers."

Streak said...

Tony, great point. The utilitarian approach is problematic. Do we support torturing other human beings if it is effective and useful?

steve s said...

In all fairness, I did say 'moral questions' before I mentioned the reliability. In other words, even if we could convince ourselves that we had a really compelling justification, it would not only likely be morally wrong, but ineffective. I have never advocated torture here, or anywhere else, for that matter.

Streak said...

Steve, your point is well taken.

But back to the original issue in the post--has the GOP become the party of torture? Will the presidential candidates have to prove to their base their willingness to torture Muslims in order to get the right wing's approval?

And it is still the Democrats who are accused of being run by their extremists. I don't think so.

steve s said...

I would certainly say that some members of the GOP are comfortable with using torture. Ron Paul isn't (from 2004 column):

"Legal issues aside, the American people and government should never abide the use of torture by our military or intelligence agencies. A decent society never accepts or justifies torture. It dehumanizes both torturer and victim, yet seldom produces reliable intelligence. Torture by rogue American troops or agents puts all Americans at risk, especially our rank-and-file soldiers stationed in dozens of dangerous places around the globe. God forbid terrorists take American soldiers or travelers hostage and torture them as some kind of sick retaliation for Abu Gharib."

Unfortunately, Ron Paul isn't well liked by the GOP or much of the conservative media. The chair of the MI GOP is trying to get Paul removed from any future debates and Sean Hannity ridicules him, while supporting his buddy, Ghouliani.

napoleon15 said...

"Do we support torturing other human beings if it is effective and useful?"

That depends on how far it is necessary to go, and what steps have been taken to ensure that innocent people are not tortured. If it gets to the point where the suspect has to have body parts burned off with hot irons or his family members tortured to death in front of him, that's obviously not appropriate.

As for whether or not torture works, why would is it still around after thousands of years if it doesn't work? Why also is it necessary to train military personnel and terrorist recruits to resist torture if it doesn't work?

napoleon15 said...

"It dehumanizes both torturer and victim..."

We don't have to make decent people do the torturing. There are plenty of crooks, thugs, and psychos willing to do the job for us, just like there are plenty of crooks, thugs, and psychos willing to spy for us.

Streak said...

So N15, even though we prosecuted Japanese for waterboarding, that is ok for us to do? Because we are better?

steve s said...

I'll have to look for them, but I recall some studies that showed people that were tortured or subjected to 'strong' methods of interrogation, would confess to things they did not do. As for why it is still used by some, I can't answer that. I would ask you if you can think of any other actions by this gov't (or any other other modern state) that don't make a lot of sense. I can think of dozens of stupid laws or policies.

Streak said...

so as long as I hire a thug to kill or torture for me, I am not morally responsible? If I hire someone to waterboard for me, or send people like Maher Arar to another country that will do my torturing for me--then I am absolved?

Streak said...

Hell, people murder and have done so for as long as there have been humans. Should we also make that moral as long as the murderer is convinced they are right?

That seems to be the logic. When Japan tortured our troops, those were war crimes. When we torture Al Qaeda or suspected Al Qaeda, we are ok?

N15, just a reminder. We have countries like Jordan now justifying their own torture policies based on our justification. The country that once claimed moral superiority in the world now has a President and Vice President who think that waterboarding (once again, a war crime in WW2) is a "no brainer."

napoleon15 said...

Could you provide some documentation that the Japanese were ever tried for war crimes for waterboarding illegal combatants?

Here's part of a comment I posted on my blog in response to another anti-torture person:

"It would be acceptable, though, to make the suspect believe that his relatives will be harmed if he doesn't start talking. It would also be acceptable to make him believe that he will be tortured (for real) or killed if he doesn't start talking. That's the general idea behind water boarding: to make the suspect think he is about to die."

Do you agree with this or not? If not, then what methods of interrogation are acceptable?

Also, I will argue that it is perfectly acceptable to make use of thugs when fighting thugs. There are a very few of them in the military, the CIA, and the FBI; why not use them against terrorists? Are you some of those who would have opposed making an alliance with the USSR for the purpose of defeating Nazi Germany?

Streak said...

All you need to do is google it.

I love that you refer to people as "anti-torture." Americans used to be all anti-torture. The fact that you defend torture is disheartening to me.

You conflate aligning with the USSR with hiring thugs? I think you might need a little logic refresher. It is one thing to align with a political force that shares your common enemy. That is one of the oldest features in foreign policy: the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

But what you posit is to seek out thugs and criminals and put them to work for us. That is one thing, but then you want to justify it and make it moral. That is unseemly, and I would dare say, unamerican. We don't torture. It is in our goddamned constitution--a document conservatives worship, or say they do. I suspect the only parts they like are the second amendment and the 1st when it justifies Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter's hate speech.

Sorry for the rant tonight, but this is ridiculous. Amerians don't torture. Or if they do, they expect to receive punishment for it. They don't torture and then turn around for an award.

I don't understand you conservatives, I really don't.

Streak said...

n15, since I am dumping on you tonight, perhaps you can help me out. Where are you coming from here? Do you have experience with the military, or terrorism? Have you studied it?

I don't ask mean spirited, but merely want to know where you are coming from here.

napoleon15 said...

Yes, aligning with the USSR is similar to hiring thugs. We also recruited the Mafia to help us in Sicily during World War II. Whether you are aligning yourself with an evil nation or hiring thugs, you are recruiting evil to help you fight against other evil.

I note that you didn't respond to this comment, "'It would be acceptable, though, to make the suspect believe that his relatives will be harmed if he doesn't start talking. It would also be acceptable to make him believe that he will be tortured (for real) or killed if he doesn't start talking. That's the general idea behind water boarding: to make the suspect think he is about to die.'

Do you agree with this or not? If not, then what methods of interrogation are acceptable?"

As for my credentials, I don't claim to be an expert in this field, and you apparently don't either. I have studied quite a bit of history, though.

We do have one thing in common, and that is a love of football. What's your favorite team? I love the Broncos, myself.

napoleon15 said...

Oh, one other thing. I don't know what makes you think that the Bill of Rights applies to al-Qaida.

Streak said...

Ok, you asserting that aligning with the USSR is the moral equivalent of hiring thugs is just that--your assertion.

As for what you asserted, I don't accept it. The Geneva conventions don't accept it. Nor did I say that the BOR applied to Al Qaeda. What I did say is that we stand for certain things--and torture is not one of them. The fact that you continue to defend torture puzzles me.

What is your moral basis here? Is it purely that you believe that torture works and therefore is utilitarian? Or that you believe that we are morally superior to begin with?

What does America stand for? If we are not some kind of moral nation, then it is simply what we can do at any given point?

Streak said...

So are you saying, btw, that it was fine when the Japanese waterboarded American soldiers? That should have been considered perfectly appropriate--and even defensible? What about when the Soviet Union used such techniques--fake burials, hypothermia, waterboarding, fake executions?

Saddam Hussein liked waterboarding.

napoleon15 said...

"Is it purely that you believe that torture works and therefore is utilitarian? Or that you believe that we are morally superior to begin with?"

Both. I believe that any torture should be kept within limits, though, as I stated earlier. We should take care not to torture innocent people; interrogation methods should not cause severe, lifelong handicaps; and such methods should be a last resort. Yes, I believe that the USA, while obviously not perfect, is absolutely the best nation the world has ever seen, and therefore is morally superior to the terrorists. The USA affords more freedom and justice to its citizens than almost any other nation ever has; feeds and clothes much of the world; protected the world from Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and the Soviet Union; has led the world in the advance of civilization and technology for more than one hundred years; and all this despite being the wealthiest, most powerful nation in history. We could enslave the world and massacre anyone who resisted if we wanted to, but we haven't; instead we've helped the world. What have the terrorists done? They treat women and non-Muslims like dirt; train their children to blow themselves up and murder as many as innocent people as possible; try to keep their people ignorant and backward; and let their people starve while they hoard all the wealth for themselves. They are evil incarnate, much like Hitler or Stalin. We, the USA, do more than is our duty to help the world; the terrorists want to enslave the world. Yes, I would say that the USA is morally superior to the terrorists, whether it practices torture or not.

napoleon15 said...

You still haven't said what interrogation methods are acceptable to you, or how far we can go to make someone talk and potentially hundreds or thousands of lives.

napoleon15 said...

That should be "and potentially save hundreds or thousands of lives."

ubub said...

What is acceptable? Those techniques permitted by law, including international law and all relevant treaties and conventions.

So why do we torture? Why does it persist? Perhaps because human beings are cruel. It appeals to our base nature, our sense of vengeance, not our utilitarianism.

napoleon15 said...

Ubub, we are not bound by anything the UN says or does, and I honestly wish we would kick them out of the country. As for internationl treaties, we should abide by those unless they are ridiculously constraining, but I don't know of any that apply to illegal combatants like terrorists. The Geneva Convention allows any combatant fighting without a uniform or fighting in another uniform to be executed on the spot.

Streak said...

N15, I think the military has had procedures in place for 50 years that they used against captives. People who fight professionally understand that torture is for sadists and amoral thugs. You, apparently, have no problem with that and think that torture is acceptable as long as we give enough to others. I love how callously you say that we could enslave the rest of the world--suggests that you have a very inflated view of our military power. I am sure the Chinese military would read your post and laugh at the ignorant American.

The basic question is what are you willing to have done to our people. If you are willing to allow waterboarding on our people when they are captured, then by all means. Especially if you are willing to be waterboarded yourself.

Saying that we are the most moral is another one of your assertions. And when we torture people, we are not being moral. It is a fairly easy equation. Your morality sounds suspiciously like Monty Burns from the Simpsons--who said that he was the richest man in town, and should be able to run over all the children he wants.

One last point, and I fear that we have very little in common besides the Broncos. We don't define our morality by our enemies. The fact that radical terrorists are willing to blow innocent people up, does not give us permission to hook up electrodes to individuals or waterboard them. Our morality is defined by how we see individual rights. We don't have to apply our constitution to suspected terrorists, but when we torture people, we lose credibility. In fact, your moral justification for torture is essentially the terrorists justification for terrorism. It works.

We should be better.

Streak said...

Oh, and by the way, N15, this may not be popular in conservative circles (especially the UN hating ones) but we are obligated by little agreements called treaties. When we sign those, we are supposed to actually abide by them.

Of course, since America didn't hold up its end of any of its treaties with Indian peoples, why should our word be any different overseas.

Oh wait. I forgot that we were the most moral country on the planet.

ubub said...

I appreciate your thoughts on the UN and "ridculously constraining treaties." Let me respond again to your question this way:

"This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding."
-United States Constitution, Article VI

As Justice Hugo Black wrote, "Great nations, like great men, keep their word."

steve s said...

While I think the UN is, for the most part, useless *, we are bound by the treaties we have signed. They have the same force as law.

We have outlawed torture in our own country. I believe the UCMJ also outlaws torture. We are signatories to several treaties that ban torture. There are numerous studies that show it is ineffective. What is the appeal?

*It is hard for me to have any shred of respect for an organization that is as corrupt and inept as the UN. Most recently, they voted a minister in that is part of one of the most brutal and evil governments in the world, Zimbabwe

ubub said...

By that same line of reasoning, it is hard to have respect for any instituion that participates in the overthrow of democratically elected governments, trains and funds foreign death squads who commit atrocities against their own citizens, and generally follows the law of nations only as it suits its own interests. That institution is also under investigation for widespread corruption and ineptitude. I still believe in the promise of the United States even as I weep for the reality.

steves said...

Suit yourself. I wasn't trying to start a contest as to who was least deserving of respect. I am not anti-gov't, but I have a difficult time respecting any gov't. What gov'ts do you respect? Do you think the UN is doing a good job in regards to anything?

napoleon15 said...

By "ridiculously constraining" treaties, I meant ones that have outlived their usefulness or are just plain stupid to begin with. For example, Jimmy Carter's treaty with Panama to return the Panama Canal was stupid. The same goes for arms control treaties, unless the US gets the better part of the deal (as in Reagan's treaty with the Soviet Union). If treaties potentially threaten our national security, they should be set aside; otherwise they should be kept.

Streak said...

Right. We should abide by agreements (that we signed) if they are in our favor. Just as if you should be able to simply not pay your adjustable mortgage if the rate goes up. Or if the house is worth less than when you bought it.

Sorry, but that is ridiculous. This is exactly what has gotten us into so much hot water around the world--deciding which rules we will follow or which agreements we will actually live up to. Not only ridiculous, but immoral.

napoleon15 said...

Sorry, Streak, but it's your reasoning that is ridiculous. If an incompetent President like Jimmy Carter signed a treaty with China to give up all but 10 of our nuclear weapons in exchange for them giving up all but 200 of theirs, that would be stupid and should never be complied with. To do so would be immoral because it would place the lives of millions of Americans in jeopardy. If ANY treaty puts American national security at risk, it should be set aside. It would be irresponsible and immoral not to do so.

If your mortgage rate goes up too much, you don't have to pay it; you can sell your house and move elsewhere. That was a pathetic comparison. Really, is that the best you can do, Streak?

Furthermore, I would like to know whether you believe it's okay to lie to the enemy during war. For example, to leak the information (to the press, for instance), "We will attack at Point A" when in fact we will attack at Point C. After all, that would be dishonest, and (perhaps in your estimation) immoral.

steve s said...

This doesn't happen all that often, but I have to agree with Streak. If a president signed a bad treaty, it would still have to be approved by the Senate, so there are checks and balances. We are still bound by that treaty until such time as we can renegotiate a more favorable one. You may think this policy is not wise, but it is the way things are done.

napoleon15 said...

The President also has the ability to set aside treaties, as George W. Bush did in order to resurrect the Star Wars missile defense shield.

ubub said...

Please cite a source for this presidential authority.

napoleon15 said...

Bush did it, and I don't remember anyone complaining that it was unconstitutional. Maybe someone did, but I don't remember it.

Streak said...

Authority? Are you kidding?

N15 cites the "America can do whatever it wants" authority. And I don't think N15 understands the entire ratification process. Nor any of the rest of the American system, frankly. But hey, if Bush did it, then it must be ok, right?

Frankly, n15, I don't know what we have to talk about. Most of the conservatives I know actually understand that America's power is not unlimited, nor is their moral standing universal or automatic. I have only met a few wackjobs who have defended torture. You seem to be in the middle--saying what we do is NOT torture, and then saying we should be able to torture as many terrorists as we want because we are more moral and it works. Contrary evidence seems to not matter.

So, you guys are welcome to chat all you want. I am not interested in trying to make the argument that "torture=evil" any longer.

ubub said...

"I don't recall" and its subtle variations, including "I have no memory of that," was AG Gonzales' standard line when he appeared before the Senate. Those who counted his usage of these terms from the transcripts found 64 uses.

napoleon15 said...

Well, do you have any memory of it,Ubub? As I recall, Bush told Putin that he would set aside the treaty, and that was the end of it.

napoleon15 said...

By the way, I'm not a fan of George Bush; I disagree with many of his decisions, especially on illegal immigration. The last good President we've had, in my opinion, was Ronald Reagan, mainly for bringing down the Soviet Union, and for his economic policy.

steve s said...

Ubub mentioned Art. VI of the Constitution several posts back. I'll admit that my undestanding of international law is lacking (I had signed up for a class on international law, but dropped once I realized the professor was an ass), but I do recall some stuff from Con Law.

There are numerous cases which show that a treaty has the force of law. As such, the president may not neccessarily be able to set it aside. Your mentioning that Bush set aside a portion of a treaty with Russia doesn't mean that it was proper. Our government has made all sorts of unconstitutional actions and not all of them are challenged.

In the case of an international treaty, the country affected by the treaty or a member of Congress would have to initiate some kind of action. If it were a member of Congress, they would have to fufill the requirements of justiciablity described in Goldwater v. Carter (444 US 996) and Baker v. Carr (369 US 186) for the case to be decided.

I should note that the case of Goldwater v. Carter involved a situation where Jimmy Carter terminated a treaty with Taiwan. Many Senators were mad that he did this without the consent of the Senate and sued. The court declined to hear the case because the Senate had not exhausted it's own remedies.

From readind the various dissenting and concurring opinions, it is unclear how they would have ruled. Some of the justices stated that the president has the power to set aside treaties on his own and others said that he may not without the consent of the Senate. It appears that this issue is undecided, as I cannot find a more recent case.

Despite this, it well within the power of Congress to regulate the use of turture by US soldiers and agents. Additionally, they may cut funding to any program or country that used torture.

Streak said...

Thanks, steve. I don't think N15 has thought this through very well.

BTW, N15, my house analogy is still apt. You are correct, I could sell the house or default on my loan or something like that. In any of those cases, I don't get to both stop paying my mortgage and keep the house. What Bush, and most neo-conservatives want, is for Bush and his version of America to change the rules whenever it suits them.