Friday, May 25, 2007

Torture, and the asymmetrical publicity thereof 

Don Surber points out that all the usual lefties who claim objectivity -- Amnesty International, The New York Times, and so forth -- have been silent on the revelation of al Qaeda's systematic methods of torture.


Read Mr. Surber's post, and then consider this: What accounts for this asymmetry? Is it that these organizations believe that they ought to apply different standards to the United States and al Qaeda? Is it that they would prefer to drive world opinion against the United States than against al Qaeda? Or is it because their purpose is to effect change, and they know that the United States is susceptible to change through moral suasion and al Qaeda is not? If the last, then what else will change the pro-torture stance of radical Islamists? If it is the war that America is leading against the jihad -- which global public opinion increasingly opposes -- then does the asymmetrical publicity of torture advance the interests of all the prisoners in the world, or only those lucky few in the hands of the United States?

Never mind the obvious point that not even unreconstructed anti-Americans accuse the United States of using methods comparable to those taught by al Qaeda.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

MORE: Richard Fernandez is good on this, too: "Torture and the meaning of words."


By Blogger Gordon Smith, at Fri May 25, 04:49:00 PM:

On behalf of the entire lefty community allow me to state the completely frickin' obvious to everyone except those who think lefties are pro-terrorist:

"Torture bad."

Are we happy now?

Can I now advocate that the U.S. stop torturing people, so we can have the moral high ground and not fall to the level of the terrorists?


By Blogger SR, at Fri May 25, 06:13:00 PM:

Thanks for that at last SH.
Oh, by the way, we already have by far the moral high ground when compared by any standard to AlQ.  

By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Fri May 25, 07:11:00 PM:

Can I now advocate that the U.S. stop torturing people

Yea, I'm pretty sure our interrogator's drill and cleaver budget could be slashed from $0.00 down to $0.00  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri May 25, 07:44:00 PM:

Dear Sir,

This exposes the utter ridiculousness of the argument that we shouldn't torture becase they might do it to us. Torture has been employed by all of our enemies in all wars from WWII to the present.

Any politician who doesn't recognize how silly this argument is shouldn't be considered for high office. Senator McCain has been saying exactly this for quite a while.

Roy Lofquist  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Fri May 25, 08:56:00 PM:

You miss the point, Screwy. Countless words and endless breath has been wasted by leftists protesting and bitching about US torture programs that don't exist. Even mentioning the word 'torture' can get you dismissed from the Interrogator Course. (or HUMINT Collector, or whatever the hell they changed the name to) But when an actual, real live how-to MANUAL is picked up off the corpses of our enemies, not a peep. A Manual that was written based on experience gained in part from torturing Americans. (soldiers and otherwise)

Oceans of rage for unapolagetic terrorists living in open cells who have rock music played at them and who might be hit one or twice. (with special written permission) But not a god damned thing about US and Iraqi soldiers who have had power tools driven through their joints.

Can you explain why? Or is this how "I support the troops but not the war" works?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri May 25, 10:33:00 PM:

Protests, legal action, etc. by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the UN, Democrats, Screwy etc. for the torture on the body of Pvt. Anzack, including whip and burn marks, not to mention his murder etc. are zero.

They don't care, at all, about the torture and murder of our troops because they say nothing. But they scream up and down about loud music or sleep deprivation (aka every College Dorm in America).

In Orwell's words: they are objectively pro-terrorist.  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Sat May 26, 01:22:00 AM:

Screwy falls into the usual false dichotomy of progressives: mentioning anything evil about our enemies without a reflexive whipping of ourselves is evidence that we don't notice or care about our own faults and are willing to justify anything. There may be such conservatives who are unable to make such elementary distinctions, but I have yet to meet them. Progressives who can't make distinctions I seem to run into all the time.  

By Blogger Gordon Smith, at Sat May 26, 08:58:00 AM:

What y'all may not understand is this:

The terrorists are naturally, obviously, by-their-very-nature the Bad Guys who are willing to employ every awful, inhuman tactic under the sun to chase their virgins.

The United States is naturally, obviously, by-our-nature the Good Guys who are supposed to wield justice with wisdom and special regard for the rights of the individual, holding up an example for all nations to follow, leading the world in democratic principles.

This is why "lefties" are upset when the U.S. engages in torture, does away with habeas, concentrates power in the executive, rattles our terrible swift sword at any small group of thugs who so much as says Death To America. We're better than this. We're a nation of visionaries who recognize the inherent value of every life and the importance of walking the walk.

So quit your ridiculous whining about how the left doesn't ever express outrage about the terrorists - it's because we've already made up our minds there. Terrorists = bad. Done deal.

U.S. is supposed to equal good, but this administration doesn't agree. They think that the U.S. is supposed to equal victorious by any means necessary rather than victory within the principles that made us great.

If Democracy, with all of its high-minded values, can't defeat a few thousand thugs with some car bombs and dreams of a caliphate, then it wasn't as strong as we thought.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sat May 26, 10:23:00 AM:


I certainly do not object to good faith arguments that the United States should adopt different tactics in dealing with prisoners (whether giving access to the Red Cross, softening our interrogation techniques, whatever). These are all worthy arguments to have. The problem comes when supposedly objective "internationalist" organizations express unremitting outrage at American practices that even forty years ago would not have raised an eyebrow, and remain arrestingly silent at far worse Islamist practices. Yes, America has almost certainly hurt its own moral authority among "moderates" with these practices, but that damage has been magnified many times over by the asymmetrical publicity that allows people to think that the United States is really "no different" from al Qaeda.

If press coverage had been so anti-American during World War II (for example), one can easily imagine journalists and NGOs (had they existed) saying that strategic bombing undermined the "legitimacy" of the war against fascism, and that really there were no moral differences between the behavior of the two sides. Yes, it would have been legitimate to wonder whether strategic bombing was necessary to achieve the result. It would *not* have been legitimate to complain about strategic bombing on the one hand and not complain about the razing of the Warsaw Ghetto or Auschwitz on the other.  

By Blogger Tom the Redhunter, at Sat May 26, 12:41:00 PM:

"So quit your ridiculous whining about how the left doesn't ever express outrage about the terrorists - it's because we've already made up our minds there."

Really? I've been to every major anti-war demonstration in the past few years (to counter-protest them, of course) and haven't seen a single sign among their thousands denouncing the terrorists or anything they do. They have plenty of signs denouncing the US, though.

Funny thing, but they have no American flags, either. I've seen lots of Che Guevera, Palestinian, Hezbollah, and UN flags but almost no American ones.

But maybe it's because we're all just supposed to assume that you've made up your minds there, too.  

By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Sat May 26, 01:56:00 PM:

If Democracy, with all of its high-minded values, can't defeat a few thousand thugs with some car bombs and dreams of a caliphate, then it wasn't as strong as we thought.

I never thought it was "strong". All of recorded history suggests when it pops up somewhere, it is rather fragile and easily destroyed by its enemies within.

The fundamental nature of democratic process is paralysis. If that paralysis persists long enough, it can be fatal or at a minimum, very debilitating (ex. Haiti and its dozens of fractious political parties)  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun May 27, 08:26:00 PM:

The problem, Screwy, is obvious.

It is that, since you refuse to denounce our enemies for their far worse practices, you willingly allow yourselves to be used as propaganda tools by them.

Thus they are allowed to do anything they want, no matter how heinous and not much fuss is made over it because, as you say, it is so very "obvious" that sawing the heads off young girls and relief workers and civilians is wrong/bad.

But just let one of them even allege we flushed their Inner Koran (even if it turns out not to be true) and the wrath of the entire world is focused on us like a lasar beam because we are being held to a far higher standard. "We" are civilized.


Morals are morals. Both sides should be held to THE SAME STANDARD. Except our wonderful Lefty Moral Equivalence Brigade insists on equating grossly disparate acts, which is about the most profoundly immoral thing imaginable (especially for the poor victims of these terrorists). One really has to wonder why you all feel more sorry for accused terrorists supposedly suffering at the hands of American jailers than you do for the victims of these terrorists?

Answer: because it was never about the suffering of the victims - if it were, you'd apply a fair standard. It's about punishing an administration you disagree with.

- Cass  

By Blogger Gordon Smith, at Sun May 27, 11:35:00 PM:

The fair standard I apply is simple:

Democracy is superior to tyranny, and the Rule of Law is central to an operating democracy.

Terrorist groups are, by nature, contemptible. The United States is a promise that we are working to build and fulfill. The Bush administration has demonstrated an unfathomable incompetence in the face of the terrorist threat.

You think so little of me. It's unfortunate. You cast me as someone who doesn't care that people are dying. It's unfair and wrong, but that won't stop you from saying it.

If both sides are held to the same standard, then let that standard be a high-minded one. Maybe then the terrorists can fall into history's well of shame, and the United States can rise to become a more perfect union.

We are under the microscope, yes, but that's what happens when we aspire to ideals like the Rule of Law, justice, and liberty. We are held to standards set forth by our forefathers, and the behavior of the Bush administration takes us further from those standards every day.

Terrorists are...well...terrible. The United States need not be.

I wonder why this creates such a gulf between us. It doesn't have to.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Mon May 28, 06:44:00 PM:

So a false allegation of flushing a book down a toilet justifies lawsuits, diplomatic protests, and mass demonstrations, but actual, physical, hard core torture performed on your own countrymen does not... because we should take it for granted that you think it's bad.

That is an incredibly warped and ego-centric view of things.

Allow me a counter-example using the same logic. *ahem*

A person is accused of urinating on the Bible in a public square. This is met by lawsuits, global attention by NGOs, UN statements, and riots in which people are killed.

A pro-choice woman activist is raped and ritualistically slaughtered and left hanging from a lamp post in the front yard of Christian Coalition Local 417, who doesn't deny their guilt.


Because everyone should already know that that's bad.

Now doesn't that seem STUPID to you?  

By Blogger Gordon Smith, at Mon May 28, 09:29:00 PM:

You want I should sue Al Qaeda?

Demonstrate on the streets of Asheville against what Al Qaeda is doing?

Join a global NGO, so they can come down hard on Al Qaeda?

That, Dawnfire, sounds stupid.

I instead support the candidates and policies that I think will bring the speediest, best end to the conflict. George W. Bush has demonstrated no expertise, and for all his talk of listening to the commanders on the ground, a whole lot of them were let go, and many more have come out publicly against his tactics.

You want me to yell at Al Qaeda? O.k. Then what?

Al Qaeda = very, very bad men. That's settled, right?

Now, is it o.k. for us to talk about how we want our own nation to behave?

Stupid, indeed.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue May 29, 10:28:00 AM:

And just how many POWs in vietnam were tourtured that the liberals will never mention and hollywood leftists will never show in any movies  

By Blogger D.E. Cloutier, at Tue May 29, 02:49:00 PM:

SH: "We are held to standards set forth by our forefathers..."

Do you mean those guys who beat slaves and slaughtered Indians?

Yes, SH, you should join a global NGO and help your fellow human beings in Iraq. It may be a sin to kill. But it is not a sin to get shot at.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Tue May 29, 04:00:00 PM:

Somehow, you have again managed to miss the point. Or at least, faked it in order to avoid answering the real question. Event A triggers reactions. Event B does not. Why?

I think DEC may have hit it. Burning US flags, waving Bush=Hitler signs, and breaking windows of cars with Department of Defense tags (a continuous problem here in California) is safe.

An example.
Notice the line of police officers passively standing there.

Line up and wave signs, and chant slogans, and tell yourself you're 'fighting for democracy and peace.' On a street, guarded by state and city police, in your own country. Perfectly safe. (which says a lot about the country you're out protesting at the time)

Actually fighting for peace and democracy is not so safe. You might get shot. You might get captured and then tortured!

No no, it's better to stay at home and protest against the people who are fighting for peace and democracy and actually GETTING shot and tortured. Because they don't meet your standards. Because they should meet and defeat the sickest and most brutal bastards in the modern world every day and remain paladins.

"Oh my, you slapped a prisoner! You should be in jail! That's torture! So what if that prisoner was captured in the act of actually torturing people with power tools? We can't do anything about that."

That about sum it up? We're to be held to a different, higher standard because we're inherently better than them.

And you get to determine that standard, back home in safety, because the people who are not meeting your standard continue to protect you to the best of their ability, despite it all.

Just so we're clear.

You know, I remember the days after 9/11. There were people, already, protesting against retaliating. There were others who were talking on TV, radio, and the Internet about how we deserved it and brought it on ourselves. Because we should hold ourselves to a higher standard. The laws of civilized behavior don't apply to foreign, barbarian peoples, only us.

There were other people who were in line at the recruiter's office. I know, because I was there, too.

This exchange reminded me of that.  

By Blogger Gordon Smith, at Tue May 29, 04:36:00 PM:

So angry...

Hiya Dawnfire. I don't usually get to have this kind of extended exchange with you, so I'll honor it with another response.

"Oh my, you slapped a prisoner!"

That's silly, and you know it.

It seems that you want to have our guys be able to do anything that their guys are willing to do. That lowers our guys to the level of their guys.

I'm sure you have a mountain of assumptions about me and see me as some archetypical lefty with whom you imbue every offense, real or imagined, that the left has ever committed.

I'm not all that. I'm just a guy with a set of values.

Our forefathers did slaughter Indians and keep slaves. Should we keep doing it? Or should we aspire to the values they placed in our Constitution, in our Declaration?

Fighting for peace is like fucking for abstinence by the way. We don't fight for peace. We fight for victory, and that's why we ought to get out of Iraq. The victory, if there was one, was to topple Saddam. Now we're policing a civil war. We're having our guys get killed by the Iraqi army troops they trained. We're on one side of a polyhedron, and there's no way to turn it into a tidy circle.

I'm against torture because torture is wrong. Doesn't matter who's doing it. I'm against murder for the same reasons. I'm against throwing our troops into a meat grinder with no military solution for the same reason.

You be mad at me if it helps you feel better. It's just you against the world, big'un.

The values you're so ready to discard because you're too busy wetting your pants over a future Caliphate are the values that make our nation different. They're the promise of justice and the Rule of Law.

Without protecting those, we're just fighting to see who's got the biggest dick, and that's pathetic.  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Wed May 30, 09:22:00 PM:

Screwy, I don't think you have understood the argument against you. I think I could give back an acceptable version of your argument to you. Can you have a stab at summarizing the arguments you are criticising here? I really think you only get half of it.  

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