Tuesday, June 06, 2006


First, let's talk torture. Justin is in high dudgeon about Americans doing it. Everyone who cares about America ought to be concerned here, and be thinking hard about the issues involved.

Justin quotes John "Balloon Juice" Cole:

The next time an Abu Ghraib happens (and there will be a next), there will be no wiggle room for Cheney et. al., and those who blindly support this administration are going to have to find new ways to call us all traitors or pussies because we want safeguards put in place for the humane treatment of prisoners.

And adds his own verdict:

Oh, they’ll find ways John. They always do and people always fall for it.

Which seems to me to play into exactly the mentality that the other half of "Balloon Juice" was carping about recently. That is, it seems like a cheap bid to short-cut serious thought or discussion (or, heaven help us, dissent) by asserting, "Anyone who doesn't accept what I think about this accepts the opposite or the inverse of it, and is thus morally criminal," or something like that.

I offered Jeff Goldstein's words as a more thoughtful approach to the emotional topic, and probably a better starting point to seek out a moral, but sane, position:

The Pentagon and Intelligence Community have valid concerns. For a variety of reasons, terrorists do not deserve the same level of protection as uniformed enemy prisoners of war. Further, the language of Article 3 is rather ambiguous when applied across cultures, especially the wide gulf between the West and the Muslim world.

Still, this is an incredibly hamhanded way of addressing these concerns. Even though our enemy by no means adheres to international law, our failure to do so undermines our moral authority. This is not a small thing, whether we’re talking about sustaining support at home, building coalitions with our Western partners, or even the “battle for hearts and minds” in the Arab world. That they don’t follow the Geneva protocols does not prevent our failure to do so from being used against us for propaganda purposes.

Furthermore, international law is almost invariably a matter of the United States and similarly-minded powers imposing our value system on the rest of the world, not vice versa. As such, it behooves us to live up to our agreements to maximize their legitimacy. To the extent changing circumstances make these agreements problematic, we should work to amend them.

I don’t agree with everything Jeff has to say on the topic. But that's probably better for that purpose than ranting about the “they” and how evil/stupid “they” are.

Justin, however, insists on them:

“They” are people who would call those who oppose torture traitors. The blanket is apt for all it applies to. And those who fit that mold are neither evil nor stupid. They’re just scared, and a frightened animal is always the most dangerous kind.

Which makes me wonder, do such creatures exist? Or are they a kind of boogeymen meant to stoke the fires of indignation on one side and bully any objecting voices into silence?

Is there evidence that there is a set of people, large or small, who say such things? “Anyone who opposes torture is a traitor.” I Googled that and got “did not match any documents.”

Are they larger or more important than other groups of people John and Justin could be noticing or addressing, e.g. the U.S. military, the U.S. government, mainstream Republicans, independent voters, concerned citizens, etc.?

Or is this an effect of too much time spent shouting across the fishbowl?

[P.S.: The movie is much, much scarier than the poster. At least it was when I was 8]

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