Debaters Weigh In on Prisoner Abuse

Lots of engaging debate in the comments. Here's a quick review of some -- but by no means all -- of the most intriguing arguments.

Debater Turnabout asks the question that is at the crux of this debate: "The American ethos is all about fair play, that's why we signed the Geneva Convention. Do we fight dirty (torture) when the other guy (terrorist) doesn't play fair?"

Chris Ford answers: "the Geneva Convention is a reciprocal treaty between signatory nations. Al Qaeda never signed onto it, flouts all its rules, executes its captives - yet Turnabout 'feels' that every such unlawful combatant should be treated as an honorable soldier???"

But it's about our character, not theirs, Turnabout responds, asking: "Are we John Wayne or Dirty Harry?"

"History will not be kind to those that could have done something to stop this egregious distortion of our values but preferred instead to look the other way," writes Patty in Louisville, Ky. (part of a rare thank you to the print media for charging ahead in covering this story.)

Colonel Chip writes a long comment from the military perspective, noting that those who support torture tend also to be those who have never seen combat.

The American military has long had to struggle with problems of morality on the battlefield. Contrary to what many may think, that struggle has largely been won by the forces of good. Our enemies in the past were always amazed as to how quickly the American soldier, sailor, marine, or airman turned from fearsome warrior to merciful soldier. No end of stories abound as to how our humane treatment of prisoners was in stark contrast with those of some of our enemies.

As an aside, "Patton's Ghost" is obviously ill-read (along with being a moron) since one of the things that Patton was vehement about was the proper treatment of prisoners taken by his troops. For all his fuss and bluster Patton was also a moralist at heart and fully understood the value of treating POWs humanely -- it made the enemy all that more willing to surrender.

Col. Chip notes in a later comment that not torturing -- and even protecting detainees -- can lead to cooperation, while torturing rarely produces the desired information. Robert Baumer thanks Colonel Chip for his comments and adds, "Bloggers on this page should understand that their fundamental right to post opinions is rooted in the fact that men and women in uniform have defended this right since our country was formed."

A couple Debaters also mentioned the fact that Americans did not torture Japanese captives during WWII (this should not be construed as saying anything nice about internment camps) even though the courtesy was not reciprocated. According to Dave, that sort of morality "is what made the United States a guiding light to the rest of the world."

But that morality doesn't apply, JD asserts, when "we are in a battle of civilizations which has been ongoing since biblical times." In a later comment, JD adds, "Our opponents do not have such a concept" of debating and airing different points of view freely. "Their society is completely foreign and different. They do not know or understand our way of life."

I certainly see JD's point that among hard-core terrorists, dissention is not exactly highly regarded. But to characterize it as a "battle of civilizations" completely disregards the fact that terrorists are not "a civilization." If the reference is to Muslims in general (which could be inferred from the mention of "biblical times"), that is horribly unfair. Extremists are a tiny proportion of Muslims, just like they're a tiny proportion of Christians and a tiny proportion of Jews and a tiny proportion of Hindus.

It's not a clash of civilizations, but a clash of ideology -- or, more accurately, a revolt by an ideological minority against civilization itself. As a Post editorial last week rightly pointed out, the bombings in Jordan once again showed that terrorists attack everyone, including fellow Muslims.

One Debater urges everyone to read this Slate piece by David Cole. Another Debater cites Jonah Goldberg's post on torture, in which he writes: "The argument that using horrible tactics will cost us everything is predicated on the assumption that such tactics have never been used. For if torture costs us our soul and destroys our civilization, how is it that we have a soul or a civilization to lose at this late date to begin with?" Goldberg writes, "One can make the argument that we should not torture mass murderers on moral or pragmatic grounds without elevating the moral status of mass murderers."

Quite true. One such pragmatic argument against torture might be that inevitably, innocent people would be tortured. As we know, innocent people have been held -- and are being held -- in American custody in the War on Terror.

Anne in The Netherlands adds this sobering thought: "Everyone seems to be forgetting that beyond the moral argument that torture is wrong, there is another moral argument: we always tend to forget the torturer. It is an impossible burden for our guys."

In response to Ghost of Patton's reference to the treatment at Abu Ghraib being like that doled out by fraternity boys, Liss comments that a key difference between hazing and torture is that fraternity pledges are at least there by choice. "There may be social pressure" not to walk away from the hazing, she writes, but "I don't think it is comparable to being locked up as an 'enemy combatant' with, by definition, no rights, no supervision, and the threat of something worse always around the corner."

Skilled debater Chris Ford beats up on torture opponents' slippery slope argument. "Some people have such a 'we must extend all Constitutional rights to the foe or we lose them ourselves on a slippery slope' phobia they oppose any coercion. Besides rejecting ticking bomb scenarios presented to them, say any coercion is torture, including hypothetical painless 100% accurate truth serums, actual high tech devices in prototype that measure brain activity, eye changes between truth and lying."

It's an interesting point -- just how far can coercion go before it crosses the line into torture? What is torture? Perhaps most importantly, how much coercion and/or torture are Americans willing to accept in their name? Are some forms of "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment" O.K. while others are not? And without the McCain Amendment, where should U.S. interrogators draw the line?

By Emily Messner |  November 14, 2005; 12:46 PM ET  | Category:  Your Take
Previous: Two Thumbs Down | Next: Does Torture Work?


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The ticking time bomb scenario is probably the best debated scenario because it represents the most acceptable rationale for torture because it is ultimately argued from a utility perspective: if pressed with two bad options, the loss of thousands of lives or the incredible pain of one, which option leaves a worse taste in our mouth?

The problem with this approach is its failure to ask a key question. We do not approach utility unconditionally; many person's lives are not assumed valuable in our equation. We don't, for example, allow a murderer to claim "If you sentence me to death it would hurt me" as a reasonable defense. The assumption is that this person has violated their "right not to be killed".

We also do not think it is wrong to attack and kill enemy combatants. Again the assumption is that these people have abandoned their "right not to be attacked" by engaging in certain kinds of behaviour. Saddam Hussein seems to be one of these types of people.

But why? What has Saddam done to warrant our refusal to extend to him the "right not to be attacked"? It is precisely those morally bankrupt behaviors that we are focused on in this debate, like torture or gassing one's population, that gives us sufficient pause in considering his well being when we rule against him.

No one has argued successfully that torture is justified in and of itself. All arguments are predicated upon an ends-justify-means basis because it would be an impossibly difficult task to speak on the merits of torture (of which there are none) without mentioning the merely potential merits of the result of torture (perhaps saving lives)

If we think persons such as Saddam Hussein have the ability to sacrifice their "right not to be attacked" then we need to extend this qualification to all persons as a matter of consistency.

We should hope that if the United States of America is functioning as a Democracy it is only engaging in behavior that the population accepts. If the population accepts torture than all American citizens are, at the very least, complicit in torture.

And thus the argument is self-defeating. If we must argue from a utility standpoint that torture protects lives, we are already assuming that those lives are worth protecting. But if we accept that torture is the type of egregious sin that can possibly result in the loss of "rights not to be attacked" than the argument falters. By accepting torture as a viable defense strategy, a democratic population admits that it has no right to claim any defensive strategy.

Further discussion should explain why populations that torture people deserve to be defended in the first place. Until you can establish the incorrectly assumed "rights" of people who torture, the ticking-time-bomb scenario is illogical.

The ticking time bomb assumes that there are innocent lives to be saved. But in so far as those "innocents" are at least complicit in the crime of torture, in what sense are they "innocent" at all?

The reason that Americans are "innocent" and terrorists are not is because we correctly identify torture as morally bankrupt (as the Senate claimed unanimously last week) and the enemy does not.

Posted by: Will | November 14, 2005 01:39 PM

The U.S. has been torturing people for a very long time. We used to not know anything about it, but now there are nasty little leaks all over Washington and abroad. So, the question is "Did the use of torture for all these years by the CIA and other military outfits really work -or- has it just been snowballing all these years into a huge mass of ineffectiveness...and now we truly see the error of our ways?

Is much of the intelligence we have now a result of successful torture -or- merely the inferior security of our enemies?

I don't think any of us civilians can say for sure. And could we trust someone who is former Company or a Veteran Intel officer to tell us the absoulte truth? Could that person tell us the truth without being placed in a Gulag?

We can argue on the propriety of the treatment of terrorists until we are blue in the face. But what is the argument if we don't know all of the answers? What is the answer if it is not torture....bribery, sending them to bed without dinner?

Maybe torture isn't the most morally acceptable means. War is not morally acceptable either, but it is acceptable. At its core, war exists because it is for the greater good. Not all wars are for the greater good, but those like WWI and WWII were just that. Is it moral to Is it acceptable to kill in times of war for the greater good....yes.

Perhaps the War in Iraq is not acceptable, but the war on terror is. And if we have to torture terrorists for valuable be it. Would you rest better knowing your employment building was next on the list and the attempt had been thwarted -or- that some hatefully violent people got 3 HOTS and a Cot while staying tightlipped, awaiting their release from prison?

Posted by: BT | November 14, 2005 03:08 PM

To Will: You could argue from a utility standpoint that torture should be outlawed the same way we have speed limits - the law preserves the common good. We don't prosecute everyone who tortures (the CIA) and we don't prosecute everyone who speeds (someone on the way to the hospital).

Posted by: Turnabout | November 14, 2005 03:50 PM

I appreciate the distinction but as far as my argument goes I believe it is irrelevant. We prosecute everyone who speeds "unlawfully" (or try to) and we make exemptions because often times we think speeding is justifiable. So is homicide (self defense).

Some behaviors are NEVER justifiable. The best example that comes to mind is rape. I happen to beleive that torture is also one of those kinds of behavior.

I have presented one reason we might reject torture-that-saves-lives as "justifiable".

Posted by: Will | November 14, 2005 04:08 PM

Suppose you capture a member of Al Queda in your hometown, carrying a suicide bomb, yet the bomb failed to go off. You are given the decision to lock him in jail for a trial, or be handed over to a government agency to be interrogated and possibly never seen again. What do you do?

Posted by: Turnabout | November 14, 2005 04:38 PM

To Will: So you would say that if you captured a suicide bomber, it wouldn't be permissible to torture him (or her) to find out if there are other suicide bombers nearby?

Posted by: Turnabout | November 14, 2005 04:41 PM

The ticking time bomb analogy seems to be the only reasonable justification for torture. I have criticized that analogy because I do not think torture is morally justifiable.

If we presented the analogy but instead of "innocent lives" we substituted "Saddam Hussein" less people would be willing to accept its premise. We wouldn't want to torture anyone to save Saddam Hussein's life because we think he is guilty of moral crimes, for example.

If distinctions between "innocent lives" and "Saddam Hussein" are to be at all meaningful they have to describe something tangible. One of the things that distinguishes those two entities are that "innocent lives" haven't tortured people and Saddam Hussein has. If, as I have argued, the "innocent lives" we are describing are complicit in the crime of "torture" (by voting for people who torture others, for example) than in what sense are they "innocent"?

Why should I be interested in the safety of someone who tortures?

Posted by: Will | November 14, 2005 05:03 PM

To Will: Babies are innocent, and haven't voted for Saddam. Maybe we can torture potential baby killers?

Posted by: Turnabout | November 14, 2005 05:10 PM

The ticking time bomb analogy describes a group "innocent lives" and I was trying to point out why that description is erroneous.

Wars are justifiable even if they cost "innocent lives". Not everyone voted for Hitler and many people who probably voted against him died as a result of United States military operations in Germany. I would argue that those deaths are justifiable.

Some entities can be justifiably attacked so to say that some action (torture) "saves innocent lives" needs to ask the important question of whether or not those lives are indeed innocent. One of the reasons that we were justified in invading Germany in World War 2 was because it tortured large amount of people (concentration camps).

The time bomb analogy assumes that the entity to be defended is the kind who it would be unjust to attack. I'm trying to point out that the fact that America doesn't torture people is precisely WHY it would be unjust for someone to bomb us.

Posted by: Will | November 14, 2005 05:20 PM

Has American democracy died an electronic death in Ohio 2005's referenda defeats?
By Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
Online Journal Contributing Writers

Nov 14, 2005, 00:12

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While debate still rages over Ohio's stolen presidential election of 2004, the impossible outcomes of key 2005 referendum issues may have put an electronic nail through American democracy.

Once again, the Buckeye state has hosted an astonishing display of electronic manipulation that calls into question the sanctity of America's right to vote, and to have those votes counted in this crucial swing state.

The controversy has been vastly enhanced due to the simultaneous installation of new electronic voting machines in nearly half the state's 88 counties, machines the General Accountability Office has now confirmed could be easily hacked by a very small number of people.

Last year, the US presidency was decided here. This year, a bond issue and four hard-fought election reform propositions are in question.

Issue One on Ohio's 2005 ballot was a controversial $2 billion "Third Frontier" proposition for state programs ostensibly meant to create jobs and promote high tech industry. Because some of the money may seem destined for stem cell research, Issue One was bitterly opposed by the Christian Right, which distributed leaflets against it.

The Issue was pushed by a Taft administration wallowing in corruption. Governor Bob Taft recently pleaded guilty to misdemeanors stemming from golf outings he took with Tom Noe, the infamous Toledo coin dealer who has taken $4 million or more from the state. Taft entrusted Noe with some $50 million in investments for the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, from which some $12 million is now missing. Noe has been charged with federal money laundering violations on behalf of the Bush-Cheney campaign. Taft's public approval ratings in Ohio are currently around 15 percent.

Despite public fears the bond issue could become a glorified GOP slush fund, Issue One was supported by organized labor. A poll run on the front page of the Columbus Dispatch on Sunday, November 6, showed Issue One passing with 53 percent of the vote. Official tallies showed Issue One passing with 54 percent of the vote.

The polling used by the Dispatch had wrapped up the Thursday before the Tuesday election. Its precision on Issue One was consistent with the Dispatch's historic polling abilities, which have been uncannily accurate for decades. This poll was based on 1,872 registered Ohio voters, with a margin of error at plus/minus 2.5 percentage points and a 95 percent confidence interval. The Issue One outcome would appear to confirm the Dispatch polling operation as the state's gold standard.

But Issues 2-5 are another story.

The Dispatch's Sunday headline showed "3 issues on way to passage." The headline referred to Issues One, Two and Three. As mentioned, the poll was dead-on accurate for Issue One.

Issues Two-Five were meant to reform Ohio's electoral process, which has been under intense fire since 2004. The issues were very heavily contested. They were backed by Reform Ohio Now, a well-funded bi-partisan statewide effort meant to bring some semblance of reliability back to the state's vote count. Many of the state's best-known moderate public figures from both sides of the aisle were prominent in the effort. Their effort came largely in response to the stolen 2004 presidential vote count that gave George W. Bush a second term and led to U.S. history's first congressional challenge to the seating of a state's delegation to the Electoral College.

Issue Two was designed to make it easier for Ohioans to vote early, by mail or in person. By election day, much of what it proposed was already put into law by the state legislature. Like Issue One, it was opposed by the Christian Right. But it had broad support from a wide range of Ohio citizen groups. In a conversation the day before the vote, Bill Todd, a primary official spokesperson for the opposition to Issues Two through Five, told attorney Cliff Arnebeck that he believed Issues Two and Three would pass.

The November 6 Dispatch poll showed Issue Two passing by a vote of 59 percent to 33 percent, with about 8 percent undecided, an even broader margin than that predicted for Issue One.

But on November 8, the official vote count showed Issue Two going down to defeat by the astonishing margin of 63.5 percent against, with just 36.5 percent in favor. To say the outcome is a virtual statistical impossibility is to understate the case. For the official vote count to square with the pre-vote Dispatch poll, support for the Issue had to drop more than 22 points, with virtually all the undecideds apparently going into the "no" column.

The numbers on Issue Three are even less likely.

Issue Three involved campaign finance reform. In a lame duck session at the end of 2004, Ohio's Republican legislature raised the limits for individual donations to $10,000 per candidate per person for anyone over the age of six. Thus a family of four could donate $40,000 to a single candidate. The law also opened the door for direct campaign donations from corporations, something banned by federal law since the administration of Theodore Roosevelt.

The GOP measure sparked howls of public outrage. Though again opposed by the Christian Right, Issue Three drew an extremely broad range of support from moderate bi-partisan citizen groups and newspapers throughout the state. The Sunday Dispatch poll showed it winning in a landslide, with 61 percent in favor and just 25 percent opposed.

Tuesday's official results showed Issue Three going down to defeat in perhaps the most astonishing reversal in Ohio history, claiming just 33 percent of the vote, with 67 percent opposed. For this to have happened, Issue Three's polled support had to drop 28 points, again with an apparent 100 percent opposition from the previously undecideds.

The reversals on both Issues Two and Three were statistically staggering, to say the least.

The outcomes on Issue Four and Five were slightly less dramatic. Issue Four meant to end gerrymandering by establishing a non-partisan commission to set congressional and legislative districts. The Dispatch poll showed it with 31 percent support, 45 percent opposition, and 25 percent undecided. Issue Four's final margin of defeat was 30 percent in favor to 70 percent against, placing virtually all undecideds in the "no" column.

Issue Five meant to take administration of Ohio's elections away from the Secretary of State, giving control to a nine-member non-partisan commission. Issue Five was prompted by Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell's administration of the 2004 presidential vote, particularly in light of his role as co-chair of Ohio's Bush-Cheney campaign. The Dispatch poll showed a virtual toss-up, at 41 percent yes, 43 percent no and 16 percent undecided. The official result gave Issue Five just 30 percent of the vote, with allegedly 70 percent opposed.

But the Sunday Dispatch also carried another headline: "44 counties will break in new voting machines." Forty-one of those counties "will be using new electronic touch screens from Diebold Election System," the Dispatch added.

Diebold's controversial CEO Walden O'Dell, a major GOP donor, made national headlines in 2003 with a fundraising letter pledging to deliver Ohio's 2004 electoral votes to Bush.

Every vote in Ohio 2004 was cast or counted on an electronic device. About 15 percent -- some 800,000 votes -- were cast on electronic touchscreen machines with no paper trail. The number was about seven times higher than Bush's official 118,775-vote margin of victory. Nearly all the rest of the votes were cast on punch cards or Scantron ballots counted by opti-scan devices -- some of them made by Diebold -- then tallied at central computer stations in each of Ohio's 88 counties.

According to a recent General Accountability Office report, all such technologies are easily hacked. Vote skimming and tipping are readily available to those who would manipulate the vote. Vote switching could be especially easy for those with access to networks by which many of the computers are linked. Such machines and networks, said the GAO, had widespread problems with "security and reliability." Among them were "weak security controls, system design flaws, inadequate security testing, incorrect system configuration, poor security management and vague or incomplete voting system standards, among other issues."

With the 2005 expansion of paperless touch-screen machines into 41 more Ohio counties, this year's election was more vulnerable than ever to centralized manipulation. The outcomes on Issues 2-5 would indicate just that.

The new touchscreen machines were brought in by Blackwell, who had vowed to take the state to an entirely e-based voting regime.

As in 2004, there were instances of chaos. In inner city, heavily Democratic precincts in Montgomery County, the Dayton Daily News reported: "Vote count goes on all night: Errors, unfamiliarity with computerized voting at heart of problem." Among other things, 186 memory cards from the e-voting machines went missing, prompting election workers in some cases to search for them with flashlights before all were allegedly found.

In Tom Noe's Lucas County, Election Director Jill Kelly explained that her staff could not complete the vote count for 13.5 hours because poll workers "were not adequately trained to run the new machines."

But none of the on-the-ground glitches can begin to explain the impossible numbers surrounding the alleged defeat of Issues Two through Five. The Dispatch polling has long been a source of public pride for the powerful, conservative newspaper, which endorsed Bush in 2004.

The Dispatch was somehow dead accurate on Issue One, and then staggeringly wrong on Issues Two through Five. Sadly, this impossible inconsistency between Ohio's most prestigious polling operation and these final official referendum vote counts have drawn virtually no public scrutiny.

Though there were glitches, this year's voting lacked the massive irregularities and open manipulations that poisoned Ohio in 2004. The only major difference would appear to be the new installation of touchscreen machines in those additional 41 counties.

And thus the possible explanations for the staggering defeats of Issues Two through Five boil down to two: either the Dispatch polling -- dead accurate for Issue One -- was wildly wrong beyond all possible statistical margins of error for Issues 2-5, or the electronic machines on which Ohio and much of the nation conduct their elections were hacked by someone wanting to change the vote count.

If the latter is true, it can and will be done again, and we can forget forever about the state that has been essential to the election of every Republican presidential candidate since Lincoln.

And we can also, for all intents and purposes, forget about the future of American democracy.
Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, available at, and, with Steve Rosenfeld, of WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO, to be published this spring by The New Press.

Posted by: Che | November 14, 2005 05:25 PM

Well, the debate's still going strong on the other page it started on. If some of it is moving here, I'd just like to say those that are pro-torture keep saying 'if torture works, so be it'. Torture isn't water, people; Torture is torture. You can't just say 'so be it' and not think there will be serious ramifications to our nation if we adopt torture as an acceptable American standard. Taking that 'so be it' step WILL come with a price. Maybe you need to drop the paranoia and hysteria for a second so you can fully think through an American government that tortures as policy. But you're too frightened by 9/11 to do that, apparently.
What is really beginning to bother me about this debate is that the pro-torture crowd (a minority here) seems to have very little faith in our great nation. Why is it that suddenly you consider the United States of America is in need of adopting torture to win it's wars and achieve it's goals? We didn't need it in the past, so why do we need it now? Desperately grasping at torture as a tool is the mark of a coward. We can play fair AND win this war on terror. To disagree with that is to say this country is weak. To suggest we need torture is to suggest we don't have what it takes to defeat the terrorists and prevent their attacks without resorting to the use of torture.
Now, if you want to say we've been using torture for years anyway, that is a valid point in and of itself, but what we are discussing here is an open policy of America and Americans condoning torture as an acceptable practice. That's a whole other ballgame than whatever covert operations may or may not have occurred in the past that may or may not have involved torture. Either way, I still feel torture is un-American and should not be done by our government; In fact, the Constitution is very clear that things 'cruel and unusual' are NOT to be perpetuated, and were not 'American' in the eyes of our founding fathers. We would be fools to suddenly doubt and ditch their wisdom just 'cause we can't keep our cool in the face of this Al Qaeda threat.
Thing is, this isn't some desperate battle for survival where we have to resort to whatever it takes to win, no matter how lowdown and dirty it may be. This is a battle where we are still very much the superior force. We can win this war on terror without using torture, so let's do just that. Let us as Americans defeat these terrorists while maintaining the higher moral ground; Not only can we beat them, but we can beat them without compromising our standards, without relenting a single speck of what has made and will continue to make the USA the great nation it is. Let's stop arguing, and let's all agree that torture is beneath our dignity and time-honored American values. That we've even gotten this far into the torture debate is downright shameful. Don't let the terrorists compromise us like this any longer.

Posted by: ErrinF | November 14, 2005 05:25 PM

The discussion on torture seems to get bogged down in senseless hairsplitting on the one hand and the most extreme abstraction on the other.

You have two clear cases of torture: Guantanamo Bay and Abu Graib; torture bunkers run by the CIA overseas. The Vice President wants CIA be exempted from the law that torture is illegal according to international and US law.

So, that amounts to just one thing: is torture to be outlawed per se, or are there exceptions?

Torture is wrong not because someone says so, but because it goes against what human beings are in their very being. - it is an attack on their humanity.

All other doomsday scenarios like allowing the torture of one individual in order to get information on other terrorists etc. are ridiculous because they are soooo.... hypothetical. The presumption here is that the piece of information obtained through torture is going to be useful in preventing an attack. How do you know that's what's going to happen? What if false information is given because of the pain inflicted on the torturer? How do you know that the detinee is "valuable?" By torturing him?

It all seems so weird. Now think of it this way: you want to impose a law which you apply to some people but not to yourself. You want to have the freedom to torture some because you think they are against you. What if that other person were to claim the same right because he thinks you are against him?

So, it all boils down to the age-old golden rule: DO NOT DO UNTO OTHERS WHAT YOU DON'T WANT DONE UNTO YOU. And that means: "don't justify torture;" "don't create exceptions because they will come back to haunt you" (as has already happened in the Iraq affair).

Posted by: Milton | November 14, 2005 05:26 PM

Nice of Emily Messner to start a new thread off based on the posters who debated her earlier "torture" thread. So sorry if it appears as ingratitude, Emily, but I must say something about your view of extremists:

"Extremists are a tiny proportion of Muslims, just like they're a tiny proportion of Christians and a tiny proportion of Jews and a tiny proportion of Hindus."

I honestly don't think all the world's religions have the same number of violent extremists therein, nor are the predilictions of the vast majority in how they react to extremist violence in any way similar. There is simply no equivalency between radical Islam's effect on both Muslims and "infidels that must die" - and extremists of other religions.
Nor in the general reluctance of "moderate Muslims" to regularly and in large numbers denounce extremist Islamist's attacks on Jews, Christians, heretic Muslims.

When Baruch Goldstein killed a dozen plus Muslims in Hebron, Jews everywhere condemned his terrorism. Hindis regularly denounce Hindu extremists and punish fringe parties associated with their extremism. Same with Christians, who together with Jews and Hindis, account for less than 2% of reported acts of terrorism from 1990-2003. National liberation movements (inc Muslims) and narco-terrorists for 9%. Muslims for the other 89%.

Certain true moderate Muslims have despaired over the Islamic world's "Code of Silence" in not commenting on radical Islamist atrocities or the propensity to blame the acts on the Jews. Deep down though, Muslims are keenly aware they are becoming almost synonymous with the practice of terrorism, as one Egyptian said after Beslan:

"It is a sad, terribly sad state of affairs where one knows that almost all of us(Muslims) are not terrorists, yet knows almost all terrorists are Muslims."

Back to torture topic.

I think one of the great points of confusion is that some feel we have a moral obligation to treat uniformed POWs complying with laws of war, indigenous insurgents who are unable to openly field a uniformed army but who otherwise mostly strive to hew to laws of war, and unlawful combatants who reject all or most laws of war - treat them all the same with no "down side" for being unlawful combatants.

They do not realize that US law (unanimous Ex Parte Quirin) and past practice, plus the Geneva Conventions - clearly distinguish between the three groups and have a major objective to strongly discourage uniformed soldiers and insurgents from becoming unlawful combatants. People forget that in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War, WWI, WWII, and Korea that enemy found behind our lines out of uniform were systematically executed. On summary order or by verdict of a military tribunal within days of apprehension. The reason for this is not sadism towards unlawful combatants - but recognition that they were many times more lethal in not wearing display that clearly marked them as combatants and that their harboring in a civilian population endangered those civilians to a great degree. And those unlawful enemy who are terrorists in practice further engage in slaughter of innocent civilians rather than hard military targets, putting themselves even further outside the Hague and Geneva Conventions ---so both Conventions make a point that unlawful combatants are not in any way protected parties if captured, nor are they due automatic treatment as "civilians". Both Conventions have no problem with killing unlawful combatants on the spot.

The very nature of the unlawful combatant compells coercive interrogation and acknowledgement that some innocents may be swept up in order to defeat an enemy organization not openly distinguishing themselves from a civilian population. If enemy combatants are terrorists, we cannot just deploy soldiers and police to identify the enemy by their green Jihadi headbands and forest green uniforms with red-checked scarfs - then engage them. To defeat them, we must find a few and use those few to find others hiding in the civilian populations. It is imperative to wrap these deadly groups up, and I have heard no credible ideas coming out of the liberal camp that substsitute for coercive interrogation. Stuff like "be nice to them and they will love us" then reject their God and ideology and talk freely. Or, give them all free lawyers the US taxpayer foots, and offer every Jihadi a trial - which will so impress them with America's goodness and freedoms that they will cry and beg us to forgive them for being so mean. And release all who are not "criminals". Funny, of course, given there is no "crime", for example, to being a Yemeni national Jihadi terrorist on an expired Visa caught with floor plans to a local synogogue with security guard locations, ventilation ducts, and estimated number of "eliminatable children spawn of the Zionists" over at the childrens activity center in the synogogue....Yep, send that one back into the population on his own recognisance until he appeals his immigration case or until he commits "an actual crime"!

Or, a final liberal defense of terrorists is that these are oppressed people that just need the "root causes" of anger like joblessness and poverty addressed...

None of those fine ideas has a chance against a committed enemy that thinks they are winning against a soft, decadent Western culture. It is telling we had no immigration permitted from fascist countries years before and during WWII, no effort to fight the war by addressing the "root causes" of Japanese anger, no pointing out that most Germans were moderate and only 2% belonged to the Nazi Party, or no lawyers and full due process civvie trials were ever offered for the 750,000 German POWs we had in the USA under the notion that if they were "criminally innocent" they would be free to rejoin the Luftwaffe or Wehrmacht.

This is similar to insurgents, but the world largely agrees that native insurgents have more rights until they engage in other acts that make them unlawful combatants - like Iraqi Sunni insurgents going after Shiites in their mosques with car bombs.

And once unlawful combatants are captured, their fate for violating all rules of warfare should be leniency in return for information - or no leniency granted.

I am still hopeful that we will come up with a reasonable policy. Right now the blind opposition to any coercive measure in interrogating the enemy in order to root the rest of them out - is a subtrefuge for the real beef - "We hate George Bush more than anything". Another huge attack on America would instantly change that, refocus America on the fact we face an enemy every bit as evil as the Nazis or Stalinists that must be defeated -and put the Leftists and libertarian party on the run, but no one wants that. Eventually, we will reach new social norms that better define torture and what constitutes "terrorism". It would be better if we do not pay in American lives because some have such absurdly high "scruples" they endanger their fellow citizens by insisting that no interrogation take place unless the Muslim jihadi "is OK with it".

Posted by: Chris Ford | November 14, 2005 05:31 PM

As a rationale for torture, the ticking time bomb scenario is a chimera. There would be no reliance on any information since the person being tortured expects to die, and has no pragmatic reason to divulge truthful information.
Torture is reprehensible because it encourages reciprocal treatment, and from that point on, the "slippery slope" becomes a sheer drop. No thinking military commander would sanction it because of the implications for his/her soldiers. And let's face it, Ghost of Patton sounds more like Ghost of Limbaugh or Liddy than a thinking person.
Defining torture is indeed problematic; the standard is probably akin to Potter Srewart's definition of obscenity("I know it when I see it").
Finally, we should set the standard for how we treat our enemies, because anything less is simply Darwinian, or a triumph of power rather than principle.

Posted by: Dan | November 14, 2005 05:32 PM

As to the hypothetical question of if I captured an Al Queda member, yes, I would turn them in to be interrogated. I would NOT turn them in to be tortured, however. There is a huge difference in my view between the two, and I believe most Americans share this outlook (and were sickened by the black spot on our nation's history and honor that happenned at Abu Ghraib). Interrogation? By all means. Torture? Not in my country! Not in my name!
Any other hypothetical situations to throw out there?

Posted by: ErrinF | November 14, 2005 05:37 PM


Your points are well received.

You've made a moral distinction about terrorists, namely that they are evil. I agree, they are evil. America is not evil. I assumed (perhaps incorrectly) that one of the reasons that terrorists are "evil" and Americans are not is because American do not torture people and terrorists do.

Do you disagree?

Posted by: Will | November 14, 2005 05:43 PM

JD is quoted as saying, of Islamist terrorists, "They do not know or understand our way of life."

With respect, I'm tempted to say the same thing about people over here who support torture by our government.

Posted by: Beren | November 14, 2005 05:45 PM

ErrinF writes:

"Why is it that suddenly you consider the United States of America is in need of adopting torture to win it's wars and achieve it's goals? We didn't need it in the past, so why do we need it now? Desperately grasping at torture as a tool is the mark of a coward. We can play fair AND win this war on terror. To disagree with that is to say this country is weak.

1. We generally faced identifiable foes in the past who did not primarily target soft-defended civilian populations and who fought us on the field of battle. Even the NVA and VC were more open fighters than the radical Islamic Jihadis. When we found the enemy straying into unlawful combat, attempting to infiltrate our lines out of uniform, summary execution was the normal American response - (for the 1st 180 years of our history).

2. But even in past wars, the knowledge that enemy info can save thousands of lives by beating up even killing one enemy captured is pretty irresistable. In the Civil War, a captured enemy courier or high-ranked officer got the 5th degree and then some, because that one enemy life was worth inflicting pain on, even death, to save thousands of your brother soldiers. Even after Hague and Geneva, we gave coercive interrogations that involved threats, slapping around, sleep deprivation - etc. in Vietnam. Which to an America-hater, are as clearly "torture" as fingernail pulling, the dread "panties on the head", and the awful unspeakable "Koran abuse"..

3. The mark of a coward is not making an unlawful combatant pay for flouting the rules of war. The Frenchman Roger Trinquier posted an excellent essay on the tradeoffs an unlawful combatant makes, that they must be willing to accept. (I put the URL on the last thread) By not fighting in uniform and targeting secretaries in the WTC, flight attendents, and peaceful Shiite mosque-goers or pregnant unarmed Israeli females - they are far safer than a soldier who stands distinguished by uniform as a bona-fide target of the enemy on the field of battle. So when they are caught, they have to accept the down side, that they will pay a hell of a price for violating laws of war. (Except Lefties who think unlawful combatants deserve even more rights than enemy in uniform)

4. The mark of the coward really should go to those that rationalized their way out of intervening in the Rwanda genocide by their very "concern" over human rights. If we had gone in and shot any Hutu with a machete that ran away from us, surely "innocent Hutus merely cutting crops and startled by white oppressor race people suddenly showing up" would have been killed, high ranking staffers in Clinton's administration argued. And no time existed for a full Congressional vote on war. Nor did the so-called "supreme moral and legal authority", the UN, seemed inclined to cheer an American intervention. And what if some of the Hutus rounded up were innocent? With no lawyers or trials. Better to sit back than expose ourselves legally...concluded the Clinton Team Lawyers. Clinton said later his instincts were to go in and he was argued out of it, and he regrets that to this day.

5. Errin has never been in the military. It is no game Errin, and the last thing we soldiers or Vets ever want is a "fair fight", playing "fair" with an evenly matched opponent.

6. Without coerced interrogations, the only we we will identify the Jihadists in our midst is surveillance such as wiretaps, informers, checking on suspected terrorist's records. But the same people that oppose "tooooooortuuuuuure!!" also oppose such non-torturous methods covered in the Patriot Act - if you grant them that all interrogations that the radical Muslim does not willingly sit through and has no right to the "5th" - are torture.

So it is not hard to see the truly weak are those that have made "civil liberties for terrorists" and proposing giving unlawful combatants every break they can think of.

Why? Mainly because they hate America. And Bush, they hate him even more.

What the radical Islamists do is liberating deconstructionalism, they believe. Terrorists are their allies in tearing down the rotten structures of the West, and many of these weak Leftists have reacted with glee at successful terrorist attacks and the countdown to their magic 2,000 American troops dead as if it was some huge Christmas present they were getting.

Any incident involving US troops, the Left happily puts in the worst possible terms for America, giving the Jihadis the benefit of the doubt and presuming evil instead on American troops and the American Administration and culture.

Posted by: Chris Ford | November 14, 2005 06:43 PM

You know, I just realized I really, really dislike conservative talk radio and the FOXnews mindset, as there are way too many people stuck in that unreal world of constant manipulation and skewed bias. Bunch of lemmings who love hearing themselves say the same thing over and over again.
The reason I bring this up in this debate is because you conservative types can't seem to ever concentrate on the arguments at hand. Everything turns into liberal vs. conservatives, another imagined battle in the non-existant culture wars.
We are arguing pro-torture vs. anti-torture here, not liberal vs. conservative. Everybody that opposes your view is NOT, I repeat NOT, necessarily a liberal. I for one am a libertarian and a progressive, and I have no time for conservatism or liberalism, as they are both VERY OLD and REACTIONARY viewpoints that I personally have no need for, and think this country would be better off evolving past (The Reps and the Dems WILL go the way of the dinosaur one of these days).
What bothers me most as an independent voter is how CO-dependent these conservative types are on the liberals, and vice versa. You conservatives wouldn't know what to do if you didn't have your beloved liberals to complain about and attack. The ultimate hypocrisy is that you act as if the Democrats and Republicans HAVEN'T comfortably been sharing power together for nearly 150 years when in fact they HAVE and would in NO WAY jeopardize this grasp of power they both share. Those in power never risk that power, and, no matter what you say, you would not risk another political party coming along to replace or share power with the Democratic party; You would not exchange a known enemy for an unknown enemy, even if that unknown enemy WEREN'T liberal. So enough with this stupid farce of turning every argument into liberal vs. conservative... it's just a SHOW, much like that stupid talk radio is a SHOW, and FOXnews is a SHOW. Try having an original, REAL thought of your own one of these days. I'd love to hear a dialogue from somebody that isn't just the regurgitation of the usual conservative dribble I hear over and over again from various bores that ALL use the same arguments and accusations. And, by the way, stop saying every argument made against bad governmental policy is in fact Bush hatred in guise, especially when your defense of such policies is blind loyalty to Bush. I oppose ANY president, person, or politician that thinks torture is an acceptable American value. And I didn't need some obese, pill-popping radio host or blow-dried FOXnews blowhard to give me that view. You call yourself conservative? Conformist is a more accurate description...
Now that that's out of the way, Chris Ford is using specious reasoning to justify torture. He is making his argument step by step, taking logical leaps that aren't necessarily true, especially when he keeps implying torture and interrogation are the same thing. They are not: You can effectively interrogate without it having to lead to the point where it is abuse (i.e. torture). To suddenly adopt torture as acceptable is to let fear guide you rather than honor, to soil the prestige of our great country not unlike the horrible Abu Ghraib blight on our history that will never go away, Now, maybe 9/11 frightened you so much that you no longer care what it takes to protect you from the terrorists, but some of us in America aren't afraid of our enemy, and don't feel the desperate, hysteria-driven need to suddenly compromise our HIGH American values and adopt whatever cheap, dirty tactic it takes to fight this war on terror. We can beat them without lowering ourselves to amoral standards such as torture. The war on terror isn't some dirty infighting in the back of an alley where you have to do whatever it takes to win... it's a global conflict of ideas and forces that we can easily win by maintaining our high moral ground. I'm no military strategist, but the one thing I do know is that you don't give up your position if you have the higher ground. As an American, I emphatically denounce torture as an unnecessary and ignoble tool that debases our American values (such as no cruel and unusual punishment) needlessly. We can have our cake and eat it to. We can defeat our enemy on our own terms. To say otherwise is unpatriotic, to be guided by the fear of our foes rather than pride in ourselves, our standards, and our country's rich, torture-free history. Now there's some REAL conservatism for you, not that cookie cutter view so many follow these days.

Posted by: ErrinF | November 14, 2005 06:44 PM

Chris Ford, you wrote: "Why? Mainly because they hate America."

No. If we hated America, we'd be glad to see it sinking into such moral degradation. It's because we love it that we're so angry about what is happening. Who cares more about a kid becoming a drug-addict? A stranger? Or the kid's parents?

As Errin rightly says, 'liberal' v. 'conservative' is a red herring here. There's nothing especially 'conservative' about supporting torture. (Or if you think there is, please explain what it would be, and how it would be logically related to other 'conservative' principles.) What logical connection is there between thinking we should torture detainees and, say, wanting lower taxes, or a smaller role for government?

Much of this is really just partisanship, not principle. If a Democratic president were encouraging torture by US personnel as a matter of policy, then many Republicans who are now defending the practice would be complaining about the deep stain on our national honor, while some of the Democrats who are now complaining about the practice probably (sadly) would be making excuses for the practice. But don't confuse politics with principles. Plenty of self-described conservatives oppose torture by US personnel. Or are you going to say that there are only nine conservatives in the US Senate right now? (Cf. McCain amendment, passed 90-9).

Posted by: Beren | November 14, 2005 07:12 PM

Chris Ford has overlooked a number of things. First, the war on terrorism is not like other wars of the past. It is not against a nation-state; it is not a war in the conventional sense where enemies are identified as soldiers. But the President says that this is a "war" and that he is a "war time president." Assuming that it is a "war" (which it is not) one would think that those taken prisoners are "prisoners of war." If this is not a war then those taken into custody must be called "suspects." A suspect in a crime must is presumed innocent unless he is proved guilty. In the case of hundreds of detainees in Guantanamo Bay there has been no charge sheet at all. Those guys don't know why they are there in the first place. So the logical thing sould be to bring charges against them. Hear them out. If they are found guilty they must be punished. If they are found innocent then they must be released. But holding people for four or more years without bringing up charges against them is ABSURD. It is totally against all norms of decency and rule of law this nation has ever upheld.

The second issue is torture. It has been proven beyond doubt that confessions obtained from prisoners by torture is invariably useless.

Thirdly, the administration is trying to blame Congress for the Iraqui mess. Congress was asked to say yes to the president's decision already made. Basically the authorization to go to war was obtained under duress - "if you are not with us you are against us." This is tantamount to confession obtained under torture.

Congress was given only some of the documents. All doubtful material was withheld. So, for the administration to pretend that it would not have gone to war had not Congress pushed it sounds hollow. Consider the pressure put on the United Nations to back this war; Colin Powell being sent to the UN to present a deceitful case for non-existent WMD.

In short, there is no one to take responsibility for the actions taken and/or left untaken. Everybody is intent on passing the buck. But the buck must stop somewhere!

Posted by: Frank S. | November 14, 2005 07:20 PM

While the discussion here in America is focused on who is to blame for the rush to war and why torture is being practised against detainees here and abroad, much of the foreign press has been looking at the broader picture. Many seem to observe a pattern of disregard for civilized norms and conventions. Here is an analysis by a foreign reporter.
CONCERNED AT the environmental consequences of having dumped thousands of pounds of chemical weapons of various types into the ocean off its coast soon after World War II, the U.S. in the 1980s decided to prepare a master-list of all such dumps for future monitoring.

The report, authored by William R. Brankowitz of the Army Chemical Materials Agency, was titled "Summary of Some Chemical Munitions Sea Dumps by the United States" and was printed for internal circulation on January 30, 1989. Among the 50-plus incidents catalogued involving mustard gas, lewisite, and other nasty chemicals were the following two: Between September 14 and December 21, 1945, 924 canisters of White Phosphorous (WP) cluster bomb munitions from the Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland were loose-dumped in the Atlantic Ocean along with WP smoke canisters and smoke projectiles and arsenic trichloride; and then on June 18, 1962, 5,252 WP munitions were dumped in the Atlantic along with mustard projectiles, 20 drums of cyanide and 421,157 pounds of radiological waste. Another report prepared in March 2001 titled "Offshore disposal of chemical agents and weapons conducted by the United States" by the Historical Research and Response Team of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, corroborated the same information, including the dumping of WP.

These reports are significant because they tell us that as far as the U.S. military's own inventory of weapons was concerned, White Phosphorous was classified as a "chemical munition" or a "chemical agent and weapon" as recently as 1989 and 2001. And for good reason too. The WP had been dumped into the ocean in 1945 and 1962 but was obviously considered dangerous enough for the U.S. Army to be concerned about its toxicity five decades later.

So how come a weapon that is not considered kosher enough to dump in the ocean in 1945 is OK to dump on human beings in Fallujah, Iraq, some 60 years later? And even if the Pentagon believes it's OK, how come it can get away with now saying WP is not a chemical weapon?

For a war launched by the United States in the name of dealing with the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction, the allegation of chemical weapon use levelled by Italy's RAI television channel last week was undoubtedly as incendiary as the munitions in question. Quoting former U.S. Army personnel involved in the massive, no-holds-barred military assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah last November, a documentary produced by Sigfrido Ranucci and Maurizio Torrealta charged the U.S. with the indiscriminate use of White Phosphorous munitions and showed graphic and shocking visual evidence of the effect this weapon produced on its human victims, many of whom were civilian. According to the military affairs website,, WP "results in painful chemical burn injuries. The resultant burn typically appears as a necrotic area with a yellowish color and characteristic garlic-like odor. White phosphorus is highly lipid soluble and as such, is believed to have rapid dermal penetration once particles are embedded under the skin." Basically, the chemical burns the human body but can leave the clothes covering it intact. This is exactly what the Italian documentary showed.

In the documentary, Maurizio Torrealta asked Peter Kaiser, spokespersom of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, whether White Phosphorous was a prohibited substance. "No, white phosphorous is not prohibited by the Convention on chemical weapons in the context of war operations, provided that use is not made of that substance for its toxic properties. For example, white phosphorous is normally used to produce smoke bombs that hide troop movements, and this is considered a legitimate use with respect to the conventions. But if the toxic or caustic properties of White Phosphorous are used as a weapon, then it is prohibited."

I did a Google News search of how the U.S. media was reporting the allegation and discovered that apart from the Boston Globe and Christian Science Monitor, virtually no "mainstream" American newspaper had bothered to cover the story. A few ran denials by the Pentagon that the U.S. had used illegal weapons but most chose to ignore the issue altogether. To the best of my knowledge, not even the Daily Press of Newport, Virginia -- whose probe into the presence of deadly White Phosphorous landmines in Chesapeake Bay led to the two Army reports mentioned above being declassified last month -- reported the Fallujah allegations let alone the coincidence of WP being involved.

One of the collateral benefits of defeating a country in war is that victory brings with it not just Victor's Justice but Victor's Book-keeping as well. Thanks to Paul Volcker and the CIA-run Iraq Survey Group of Charles Duelfer -- which preceded him and couldn't find WMDs and so decided to find a corruption scam -- we now know the fate of virtually every farthing paid into and out of the Iraqi oil-for-food accounts. What we don't know is how many Iraqi civilians have been killed in U.S. offensive operations -- "We don't do body counts," General Tommy Franks had famously said -- or how they died and are still dying. After Nuremberg, all aggressors have realised the value of sloppy record-keeping.

When the allegation of chemical weapon use in Fallujah first surfaced last December, the U.S. State Department swung into action to deny the charge. On December 9, 2004, its International Information Programs posted a response on its website under the section "Identifying Misinformation": "[S]ome news accounts have claimed that U.S. forces have used `outlawed' phosphorus shells in Fallujah. Phosphorus shells are not outlawed. U.S. forces have used them very sparingly in Fallujah, for illumination purposes. They were fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions at night, not at enemy fighters."

The State Department's response was carefully formulated because the Chemical Weapons Convention -- to which the U.S. is a signatory -- does not outlaw the use of WP if the purpose is to use the smoke the munition generates to mark a target or obscure ground movement or even as an incendiary against material facilities. But using it as a weapon to directly attack human beings is generally considered illegal since the CWC bans the use of "any chemical which through its chemical action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm to humans or animals." Thus, the ST100-3 Battle Book published by the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth in July 1999, notes in chapter 5: "Burster Type White phosphorus (WP M110A2) rounds burn with intense heat and emit dense white smoke. They may be used as the initial rounds in the smokescreen to rapidly create smoke or against material targets, such as Class V sites or logistic sites. It is against the law of land warfare to employ WP against personnel targets." (emphasis added)

Accordingly, on the day the Italian documentary was to be telecast, Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, spokesperson of U.S. military in Iraq, admitted the use of WP in Fallujah as a battlefield prop but told Amy Goodman on National Public Radio: "I know of no cases where people were deliberately targeted by the use of white phosphorus."

Unfortunately for the State Department and Lt. Col. Boylan, an in-house Army magazine, Field Artillery, had already published a breathless and rather candid account of the utility of deliberately targeting people with WP by three soldiers who had taken part in Operation Phantom Fury. "White Phosphorous proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE (high explosives). We fired "shake and bake" missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out."

In the course of two years, the world has borne witness to the ease with which the United States has broken one civilised norm after the next. First out was the taboo against indefinite detention, then the one on torture and collective punishment, then the ban on the use of disproportionate force and the use of indiscriminate weapons in closely confined areas where non-combatants could be targeted. In Fallujah, that martyred city which will now take its place in the annals of human infamy alongside Guernica, the U.S. appears to have crossed yet another frontier. And there is no Paul Volcker to catalogue the crime.

Posted by: Brian | November 14, 2005 07:36 PM

Ah, jeez. 'The Left! The Left! The Left!', like some deranged reactionary parrot with brain damage. At least Chris numbered his points so they can easily be rebutted. Still too stuck in his imaginary culture wars to actually focus on what our argument is, which is an America that tortures versus an America that considers itself above torture. Not liberal vs conservative, not bleeding heart vs hardliner, not pro-Bush vs anti-Bush. Torture is the topic, plain and simple. Now to respond to his points:
1) Execution is not torture. I would support execution of unlawful combatants as long as it is accompanied by due process of law (being killed in battle or self defense is seperate from execution; And, sorry, no stretching self defense into pre-emptive action)
2 ) Interrogation's fine; Torture is unacceptable. While I argue that torture is simply immoral and un-American, others more qualified (like John McCain, torture victim and patriot) argue that torture is ineffective and counterproductive. I have tremendous faith in our armed forces and intelligence agencies that they are skilled enough in what they do to get results without degrading their honor and ours by resorting to torture.
3) I never said it was the mark of a coward to enact just punishment against those that engage in unlawful warfare. I said it was the mark of a coward to resort to torture, which is cruel and unusual punishment, against unlawful combatants, or anybody, for that matter. But I don't believe we're debating torture as punishment. We are debating torture as an acceptable American practice, not as a form of punishment. I would suggest somebody read my definition of a coward in my original post rather than your misrepresentation of my view.
4) Rwanda? You're going way off topic here, and are starting to use some very artistic license with my comments on what marks a coward. I feel we should have intervened in Rwanda, but if we did so, we'd do it along a Constitutional process. And even then, torture would not have been part of our hypothetical Rwanda intervention.
5) I'm a little speechless by this one. After making various arguments on how unlawful combatants deserve punishment for unfairly fighting in war, you suddenly shift gears and say that, as a soldier yourself, you don't want to be hampered by fairness and lawfulness set upon you in battle. I mean come on... is this John Kerry I'm debating with? 'Cause you just pulled a doozy of a flip flop. I may not be a member of the military, but at least I'm not a hypocrite. Are you or are you not going to be a 'lawful combatant'? If you are, then you have rules you have to follow, rules that I feel as an American include no torture (as in the Constitution does not allow it or any other form of cruel or unusual punishment). If you're not, then you are no better than Osama Bin Laden and his ilk. But, being in the military, you have no choice: You will be a lawful combatant, and you will uphold the standards and values of the United States of America that you are sworn to protect and serve. You shouldn't be hampered on the battlefield, but you shouldn't be given a blank check to do whatever you want to wage an 'unfair' fight. I may not be your commanding officer, but I am an American citizen, and you in the military represent me and my country. You can't just do whatever the hell you please, because I will have to pay for any heinous acts performed by you. It's hard for me to support the troops when they do crap like Abu Ghraib and make me and my beloved country look bad in the eyes of the world and ourselves. Standards like no torture are made and upheld for a reason, and aren't to be abandoned willy nilly depending on the current situation. My life and my country are no game either, not that I ever suggested anything that had to do with this torture argument was in anyway a game.
6) Intelligence and interrogation are all the tools we need to find Jihadists in our midst. We don't need to take interrogation to the extreme of torture. The Patriot Act has nothing to do with torture. I oppose both, but there's simply nothing in the Patriot Act that allows torture, so it is irrelevent to this argument, much like your 'the left is the problem' argument you end your post with.
The Jihadists are the Jihadists, and the Lefties are the Lefties. For you to come off as though a Jihadist and a Leftist were one and the same thing, both on the same side, just denotes further the irreperable brain damage and delusions that can occur from constantly listening to too much conservative talk radio and FOXnews programs. You are so wrapped up in this propogandist script you've been playing along with and buying into for who knows how many years that you aren't really much of an effective debater. Try and see if you can make a post without having to going on a 'Lefties' rant or a Clinton-bashing sidetrack for once.

Posted by: ErrinF | November 14, 2005 08:02 PM

"Only one person manipulated evidence and misled the world - and that person was Saddam Hussein." - Bush.

This is a strange twist to the current debate which shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe that the administration misled the nation on the motive for the Iraqi war.

Saddam is under trial and we hope that his atrocities will be brought to light in the court of law pretty soon.

But the current debate is not about the Iraqi dictator, rather it is about why we invaded Iraq.

Assuming that Saddam "misled" people about WMD were we misled by his misleading? But did he not say that UN weapons inspectors were welcome to do their job? Did not UN ask for some more time to complete the inspection?

So, we were misled by Saddam? He lied to us about the "absence" of WMD? Or, did he say that he possessed WMD (and we believed him) and then later (after a brutal war and thousands of lives lost)we found out that he did not possess them? Or, the other way around, did he say he did not possess WMD and (again, after a brutal war that has claimed the lives of more than 2000 of our men/women in uniform) we found out that he did not lie but told the truth after all?

So, how did Saddam mislead us about the motive for this war of choice?

Where is the misleading?

Posted by: Christ F.S. | November 14, 2005 08:16 PM

ChrisF.S.--- on the question of who misled whom here's a detailed analysis that appears in The Christian Science Monitor - Nov. 15, 2005.



By Peter Grier | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

WASHINGTON - The first time the State Department intelligence analyst saw the documents he thought there was something weird about them.

The ones dealing with a purported uranium deal between Niger and Saddam Hussein's Iraq bore a validation stamp that seemed a bit funky, for one thing. And that companion paper! It outlined some kind of bizarre military campaign against world powers. Iraq and Iran were supposedly in it together - preposterous, given their enmity - and the whole thing was being run out of the Nigerien Embassy in Rome.

"Completely implausible," the analyst later recounted for investigators.

Because the documents had come from the same source, and were similar in appearance, they were probably all suspect. Maybe now the CIA and the rest of the US intelligence community would believe what the State Department had said for months: These allegations from a foreign intelligence service that Hussein was hunting for "yellowcake" - a uranium concentrate - in Africa were unlikely to be true.

But the CIA didn't look at the documents. A little over three months later President Bush, in his 2003 State of the Union speech, said 16 fateful words: "... the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

This is the story of how those words came to be, and how their effect rippled through the years, ultimately resulting in the criminal indictment of a high administration official, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Culled primarily from US government reports and congressional testimony, it deals with nuclear materials, foreign spies, and a secret trip to the finest refueling stop in Africa. It centers on a peculiar set of documents - provenance as yet unknown - that a presidential inquiry three years later found to be "transparently forged."

Much about the affair remains to be discovered. But one thing now seems clear: If US intelligence agencies had spent more time studying the evidence in their possession, the president might never had said those words. Scooter Libby probably would be in his White House office today.

The intelligence community's "failure to undertake a real review of the documents - even though their validity was the subject of serious doubts - was a major failure of the intelligence system," the presidentially appointed Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States concluded last March.

* * *

In its natural state uranium occurs in tiny concentrations. Thus, the first stop for crushed rock from many uranium mines is a mill, where it is bathed in sulfuric acid, dried, and filtered. The result is a coarse uranium oxide power that is often yellow in color. That's where it gets its nickname, "yellowcake."

Yellowcake is itself a raw material. Enriched, it can serve as the beating heart of a nuclear power plant. Enriched to a higher level, it can serve as the fissile core of a nuclear bomb. For that reason, the destinations of yellowcake shipments are of interest to intelligence officials around the world.

Sometime in October 2001, a foreign government told US intelligence it had information indicating that Niger was planning to ship several tons of yellowcake to Iraq. (This government goes unnamed in official US accounts, but it is widely reported in the media to have been Italy.)

Several things about this allegation made sense. Along with Canada and Australia, Niger is one of the globe's largest producers of uranium. And Hussein knew all about yellowcake. He already had 550 tons, subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections.

Still, US analysts were unimpressed. The report lacked detail. The US Embassy in Niger checked with the head of the French-led consortium that ran Niger's mines. According to an embassy cable, the reply was indignant: There was "no possibility" of such a diversion.

In February 2002, US intelligence received a second foreign government tip - from a country unnamed by unclassified US material. This contained more information, including an alleged verbatim text of the Niger-Iraq accord.

The State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), its in-house intelligence-analysis agency, thought the whole thing baloney, since any nation that tried to transfer such a large quantity of a suspicious material was likely to be caught.

But the rest of US intelligence was taking notice. The source of this information was credible, claimed the CIA's intelligence-gathering directorate. So on Feb. 12, the Defense Intelligence Agency issued a finished intelligence product on the topic.

"Iraq probably is searching abroad for natural uranium to assist in its nuclear weapons program," concluded the DIA analysis.

It was at this point that the matter of Niger, Iraq, and yellowcake rocketed from intelligence ephemera to prime policy concern. The reason? Dick Cheney.

* * *

Vice President Cheney read the DIA product on the day it was produced, according to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which investigated prewar intelligence and reported on it in July 2004. That day he asked his intelligence community briefer what the CIA thought about the Niger issue.

The result was a very unbureaucratic scurry of activity.

First, the CIA fired back an assessment that in so many words said, "We're working on it." It promised to see if the information could be corroborated.

Second, CIA experts began to confer as to how this corroboration could be done. Who could make discreet inquiries in the region? One Counterproliferation Division expert offered up a name: ex-Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who happened to be her husband.

The subsequent exposure of that expert - the clandestine operative Valerie Plame - led to the naming of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to investigate the leak. In turn, that led to the indictment of Mr. Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, on charges of false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice.

But that was all in the future that February day. Ms. Plame was just someone talking up her husband's credentials - he "has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines," stated her memo to superiors.

She was blunter with her husband. She told congressional investigators that when she approached him on behalf of the CIA she said, "there's this crazy report" about Niger selling uranium to Iraq. Could he go to Niger and check out the deal?

* * *

Niger is not the center of the universe. Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick realized that when she arrived there to take up the post of US ambassador in the fall of 1999.

One of the only ways she could lure top US officials for a visit was to encourage them to stop for refueling if they were overflying the region.

"I worked very hard to make Niger the best refueling stop in Africa," Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick told congressional investigators.

On Feb. 24, 2002, she snagged a big one: Marine Gen. Carlton Fulford, then deputy commander of US European Command. She decided to use his visit to raise the uranium issue with Nigerien officials. At her urging, General Fulford asked Niger's President Mamadou Tandja about it. President Tandja assured him that Niger's goal was to keep its uranium in "safe hands."

Two days later, Mr. Wilson landed on Owens-Kirkpatrick's doorstep. She'd already raised the issue with Niger's leaders, so she asked her CIA-dispatched visitor to limit his meetings to ex-officials and business contacts.

Wilson agreed. Among the people he met was former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki, who said he was unaware of any yellowcake contracts with rogue states - and that if any existed, he would know. Mr. Mayaki also mentioned that in 1999, when he was still in power, he'd met with an Iraqi delegation to discuss expanding commercial relations. He interpreted this to mean that the Iraqis were interested in yellowcake - it was Niger's biggest export, after all. But he told Wilson he'd steered the conversation to other topics, and then let the matter drop.

Before he left, Wilson told Owens- Kirkpatrick that as far as he was concerned it appeared highly unlikely anything was going on. Back home, he told CIA debriefers the same thing. He figured this information would be distributed to the White House, and Vice President Cheney, directly. Instead, the CIA produced no paper in response to his trip, and gave his effort a middling grade of "good."

It was not surprising that Nigeriens would play down reports of a yellowcake sale, analysts felt. One CIA officer believed Wilson's trip actually provided some confirmation of what the foreign tips were saying. Former Prime Minister Mayaki had acknowledged meeting with an Iraqi delegation, after all.

In the end, the US intelligence community had a fairly consistent response to ex-ambassador Wilson's dip into intelligence-gathering. "No one believed it added a great deal of new information to the Iraq-Niger uranium story," stated the report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

* * *

About one month after Wilson's trip, the CIA's intelligence-gathering arm received a third tip from a foreign government - again unnamed in unclassified US papers - that Niger and Iraq were working a yellowcake deal.

This report had yet more detail. The CIA's Iraq nuclear analyst (who is unnamed in government reports, as are most US intelligence analysts involved in this matter) saw nothing obviously suspicious about it. True, it contained one glaring mistake, but at the time it didn't seem like a big deal. The report placed July 7, 2000, on a Wednesday. That day was actually a Friday.

The relevant folks in Foggy Bottom remained unimpressed. Over at the State Department's INR, the Iraq nuclear analyst continued to argue that the whole thing didn't make sense. The substantial amounts allegedly involved amounted to a large percentage of Niger's yellowcake production. France controlled the mines - and anyway, one of the mines was flooded.

The CIA analyst stuck to his position. Niger wasn't the only place Hussein was supposedly shopping for uranium, he noted. Separate intelligence reports said Iraqi officials had been looking for yellowcake in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In the end the CIA and State counterparts "agreed to disagree," according to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Meanwhile, it was becoming clear to many in Washington that a US-led war to oust Hussein was possible, even likely, in the near future. By late summer 2002, key senators were beginning to complain that they would soon have to vote on a resolution on use of force in Iraq without a comprehensive US intelligence community estimate of the state of Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

So US intelligence began compiling one. On Sept. 25, the CIA hosted a big interagency meeting to discuss a draft of this National Intelligence Estimate. The uranium section was straightforward, repeating that a foreign government passed along reports of Hussein's interest in yellowcake.

The only analyst present who voiced disagreement was the one from State's INR, which serves as the department's in-house intelligence-analyzing agency.

The uranium text stayed in. But it wasn't included in the "key judgments" section. The consensus in the room held that Iraq's efforts to get more yellowcake weren't crucial to the argument that he was rebuilding his nuclear-weapons program.

"We'll leave it in the paper for completeness. Nobody can say we didn't connect the dots," said the person in charge of the paper, the national intelligence officer for strategic and nuclear programs.

INR added a footnote that it found the uranium claim "highly dubious." But in the finished product, that dissent was all but lost. It was separated from the section on the alleged uranium deal by 60 pages.

Meanwhile, the British government made public its own official conclusions on the Niger subject, on Sept. 24, 2002. In response to unrest in Britain about the possibility of war, it issued a white paper on Iraq's WMD programs that, among other things, stated "there is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

* * *

The story of the documents may begin in Italy, in 1991.

That year - the year the first President Bush launched the first US war against Iraq - someone broke into the Nigerien Embassy in Rome. Reportedly, nothing was taken except paper - official letterhead of the Republic of Niger.

Eleven years later, on Oct. 9, 2002, an Italian journalist named Elisabetta Burba contacted the US Embassy in Rome. Ms. Burba worked for the magazine Panorama, part of the media empire of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and she had a question: Could the US authenticate some interesting documents that had come into her possession?

The papers depicted some sort of contract for uranium between Niger and Iraq. The source, who had provided them to Panorama, wanted 15,000 euros in return for publication, said Burba. Her bosses wouldn't pay that kind of money unless they were sure they weren't being misled.

That was what she told US diplomats in Italy, anyway. The diplomats were glad to oblige.

On Oct. 15 the embassy in Rome faxed the papers to the State Department's Bureau of Nonproliferation in Washington. That same day the bureau passed copies to State's INR.

This is the point when INR's nuclear analyst figured something was really wrong. That paper alleging a military campaign against world powers - it seemed ridiculous. And it had the same authentication stamp as the ones dealing with uranium.

At an interagency meeting the next day, intel analysts from the DIA, the Department of Energy, and the National Security Agency all snapped up copies of the documents. Four CIA employees attended that meeting. None remembers taking the Niger papers, although a postmortem search turned up copies in a CIA vault.

At that point the alleged uranium deal just wasn't a significant part of the CIA's argument that Hussein was rebuilding his nuclear program, the analysts later said. "Getting the documents was not a priority," one told Senate investigators.

Within months, that would change.

For one thing, the IAEA became interested in the alleged Niger-Iraq yellowcake deal. On Jan. 6, 2003, an IAEA official asked the US for any information it had backing up the claim.

And the INR analyst kept at it. On Jan. 13, he sent an e-mail to colleagues outlining his reasoning why the purchase agreement "probably is a hoax."

Reading this e-mail, the CIA's Iraq nuclear analyst realized he didn't have the supposedly ridiculous documents the missive discussed. He asked for copies.

The CIA finally received copies of the original foreign language documents detailing the supposed Niger-Iraq contract on Jan. 16, 2003.

* * *

On Jan. 27, 2003, at a National Security Council meeting at the White House, someone handed George Tenet a paper copy of Bush's State of the Union address, to be delivered the next evening.

Then director of Central Intelligence, Mr. Tenet was a busy man, and he dealt with this document in the manner of busy people everywhere. He didn't read it, he testified later.

Instead, he handed it to an executive assistant, who presumably wasn't supposed to read it, to give to a top official in the CIA's intelligence directorate, who was. That official, being as busy as his boss, didn't read it either.

Thus nobody at the CIA's top levels saw that the president's signature speech of the year contained an assertion, sourced to British intelligence, that Hussein was seeking uranium oxide from Africa.

Three months earlier, Tenet had called the White House and insisted that similar words be excised from another speech.

But on Jan. 28, Tenet could only stand by while the president repeated the allegations for a TV audience of tens of millions.

"The Director of Central Intelligence should have taken the time to read the State of the Union speech and fact-check it himself," later concluded the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Of course, the White House had been trying for some time to get CIA clearance for the president to publicly mention this allegation. Truth be told, the CIA had been sending back a message that was mixed.

Mid-level CIA analysts had no problem with Bush mentioning yellowcake. Throughout the fall of 2002, when the NSC would send over proposed presidential language on the subject, they would merely edit it, making minimal changes such as inserting "up to" before a reference to "500 metric tons."

But Bush had never publicly brought up the subject. By October, CIA higher-ups seemed chary.

On Oct. 6, 2002, the NSC sent over the sixth draft of a big speech the president was to give in Cincinnati. It contained a reference to Iraq "having been caught attempting to purchase up to 500 metric tons of uranium oxide."

Tenet and other top CIA officials told the White House to take it out. Reporting on this was weak, Tenet said. Bush should not be a "fact witness" on the issue. On Oct. 7, he delivered the speech in Cincinnati, without any uranium reference.

Down in the CIA's ranks, some continued to believe that Iraq and Niger were probably working a deal, they later testified. They believed that right up to the moment when the primary evidence for it was exposed as a fraud.

* * *

At some point in the process of drafting the State of the Union speech in 2003, White House officials decided that the speech's assertions about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction would look better if they were sourced.

Discussions with mid-level CIA officials led speechwriters to believe that the reference to yellowcake was sensitive, and that the agency preferred it to be laid on the British, who had mentioned it publicly in the fall of 2002.

Stephen Hadley, then deputy national security adviser, said at the time that the White House was not aware of any question about the solidity of British sourcing. But Mr. Hadley had been involved in the decision to strike a reference to Hussein's interest in uranium from a Bush's Cincinnati speech in October 2002. "I should have recalled at the time ... that there was controversy associated with the uranium issue," said Hadley in 2003.

* * *

On Feb. 4, 2003 - a week after the State of the Union speech - the US finally sent electronic copies of the Niger documents to IAEA offices in Vienna. Jacques Bute, then head of IAEA's Iraq Nuclear Verification Office, was in New York that day, and the US sent him copies as well.

On March 3, the IAEA told the US Mission in Vienna its conclusion: The documents were obvious fakes.

The little mistakes were telling. The papers referred to a Nigerien Constitution of 1965, which had been passed in 1999. The foreign minister who purportedly signed the papers was not in office at the time. The letterhead was obsolete, years old; and references to various Nigerien state agencies were riddled with errors.

"We have therefore concluded that these specific allegations are unfounded," IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei told the UN Security Council on March 7.

US intelligence began backpedaling with alacrity. Within weeks an internal intelligence community memo concluded the yellowcake deal was "unlikely." On June 17, 2003, a CIA memo for the Director of Central Intelligence said, "we no longer believe that there is sufficient other reporting to conclude that Iraq pursued uranium from abroad."

Then, on July 6, Wilson wrote his now-famous op-ed for The New York Times, "What I Didn't Find in Africa," which outlined why he had never believed the Niger story. Wilson also appeared on "Meet the Press." The Washington Post published a story on the Niger subject based in part on a Wilson interview.

On July 7, Scooter Libby had lunch with White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, according to court papers. This guy Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, Libby is said to have told Mr. Fleischer. That information wasn't widely known.

Soon, it would be.

* * *

The question of who forged the Niger documents remains open. The FBI this month closed a two-year investigation of the subject, saying only that agents believe the whole scheme was "for financial gain."

News reports have focused on Italy - and specifically on Italian intelligence. The Italian newspaper La Repubblica has published a series alleging that Italian intelligence passed the documents to Washington and London knowing they were fake. Italian intelligence chief Nicolo Pollari denied this charge in a closed-door briefing for Italian lawmakers this month.

Britain has not retracted its claim of the Iraq-Niger connection, saying it has other evidence confirming the deal.

The US now believes all the evidence it has seen, including the multiple foreign government reports, came from one source: the tainted papers.

"The CIA concluded the original reporting was based on the forged documents and was thus itself unreliable," says the report of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States.

Who knew what when? A chronology.

Oct. 15 CIA issues an intelligence report on a possible sale of yellowcake uranium from Niger to Iraq. Source of the tip is a foreign government, later identified in news reports as Italy.


Feb. 5: CIA's second intelligence report, again citing a foreign government service, includes more detail about alleged yellowcake deal. It includes what is said to be "verbatim text" of the accord.

Feb. 12: Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) writes an intelligence product titled "Niamey [Niger's capital] signed an agreement to sell 500 tons of uranium a year to Baghdad." Its basis: CIA's previous reports.

Vice President Dick Cheney reads the DIA report and asks his CIA intelligence briefer for more information.

CIA, scrambling to learn more, taps former Ambassador Joseph Wilson to travel to Niger. He is suggested for the trip by his wife, Valerie Plame, a clandestine CIA employee.

Feb. 24: Nigerien President Mamadou Tandja assures a US visitor that his country's uranium is "in safe hands."

Feb. 26: Wilson arrives in Niger.

March 1: State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research publishes an assessment titled "Niger Sale of Uranium to Iraq is Unlikely."

March 5: Two CIA officers debrief Wilson at his home upon his return.

March 8: CIA report on Wilson's trip rates his information as "good," meaning it adds to the US intelligence community's knowledge of an issue. It judges the trip's most important information to be a former Nigerien official's admission that he met an Iraqi delegation in 1999.

Sept. 11: National Security Council (NSC) staff contact the CIA to clear language about Iraq's alleged attempts to obtain yellowcake, for use in a presidential statement. CIA suggests adding "up to" before "500 metric tons." Statement is never used.

Sept. 24: British government publishes a "White Paper on Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction," which states "there is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

NSC staff contacts the CIA to clear another statement for the president. CIA suggests the phrase "of the process to enrich uranium" be changed to "in the process to enrich uranium." Statement is never used.

Oct. 1: US National Intelligence Council publishes a comprehensive National Intelligence Estimate, "Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction." It repeats allegations about Iraq, Niger, and yellowcake but notes that US intelligence has not confirmed foreign government reports.

Oct. 2: CIA deputy director testifies before Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Of reports of Iraq's interest in Niger and yellowcake, he says: "We don't think they are very credible."

Oct. 4: NSC sends CIA a draft of a speech President Bush is scheduled to give in Cincinnati. It contains a reference to the possible yellowcake deal. CIA Director George Tenet ultimately calls the White House to get it removed.

Oct. 9: An Italian journalist provides the US Embassy in Rome with documents that purport to detail the Niger-Iraq yellowcake dealings.

Oct. 15: Documents are faxed to State Department in Washington.

Dec. 19: On its website, the State Department posts a response to an Iraqi declaration to the UN. Iraq's declaration "ignores efforts to procure uranium from Niger," says the response. This is later changed to "... uranium from abroad."


Jan. 13: Iraq nuclear analyst at State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research circulates an e-mail to counterparts in the intelligence community denouncing Niger documents as "clearly a forgery."

Jan. 16: CIA receives foreign-language originals of the Niger documents.

Jan. 26: Secretary of State Colin Powell addresses the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "Why is Iraq still trying to procure uranium?" he asks.

Jan. 28: In his State of the Union address Bush says, "[T]he British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

Feb. 4: US government provides copies of the Niger documents to the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Feb. 5: Powell briefs UN on alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. His speech includes no reference to Niger or yellowcake purchases.

March 3: IAEA informs the US that it believes the Niger papers to be forged.

March 11: CIA circulates a limited-distribution assessment that does not dispute IAEA's findings.

March 19: US airstrikes against Iraq begin.

May 29: On or about this date, I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, asks an undersecretary of State for information about Wilson's trip to Niger, according to prosecutors. Libby is given a series of oral reports.

June 11: On or about this date, a State Department official tells Libby that Wilson's wife works at the CIA, and that State Department officials are saying she had a hand in his selection for the trip.

June 12: The Washington Post publishes a story about Wilson's trip to Niger that questions the accuracy of Bush's State of the Union assertion about Niger.

June 17:: A CIA memorandum finds there is not sufficient evidence to conclude that Iraq has been pursuing uranium from abroad.

July 6: Wilson's op-ed, "What I Didn't Find in Africa," appears in The New York Times.

July 8: Libby meets with then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller and discusses Wilson's trip. Among other things, Libby advises Miller that Wilson's wife is a CIA employee, according to prosecutors. He has subsequent discussions with NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert and Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper.


March 4: On or about this date, Libby, under oath, is said to tell a federal grand jury that Tim Russert told him that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, and that when he heard it he was "taken aback."


Oct. 28: Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald announces that Libby has been indicted by a federal grand jury for making false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice.

Posted by: Bloomberg | November 14, 2005 08:28 PM

Frank S. - "Assuming that it is a "war" (which it is not) one would think that those taken prisoners are "prisoners of war." If this is not a war then those taken into custody must be called "suspects".

No, you set up a false dichotomy in arguing anyone in custody must either be a legitimate protected POW or a criminal suspect. You make that argument in ignorance of the rules of war as specified by the Hague and Geneva Conventions.

An unlawful combatant, such as a terrorist, is a separate beast. They are not automatically criminals, many being brave men dedicated to advancing their ideology or cause above all wartime laws & restrictions - willing to take risks and forgoe protections other soldiers have if captured as long as they can have the stealth to get into the heart of the enemy and strike.

You may wish to Google on Ex Parte Quirin sometime and review the unanimous Supreme Court decision that led to a rapid 2 month trial, appeal, & execution of 6 of 8 Nazi terrorists delivered by submarine, including one American citizen.

Frank S again - "But holding people for four or more years without bringing up charges against them is ABSURD. It is totally against all norms of decency and rule of law this nation has ever upheld."

Utter crap, Frank S. We held 750,000 Nazi POWs without charges for as long a period of time, NVA POWs for a longer period.

Frank S yet again - The second issue is torture. It has been proven beyond doubt that confessions obtained from prisoners by torture is invariably useless.

Frank does not appear to have read how Khalif Sheik Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind's interrogation by the CIA which included the "toooooooortuuuuuuure" of waterboarding and sleep deprivation forced out details of 3 follow-on Al Qaeda unlawful combatant Ops, one of which by being thwarted saved the lives of thousands of Americans and Singaporese, according to the Singapore Gov't.

Frank S just indulges in blind pap. Blanket "feel-good" statements various ideologues make like "the forces of good always win in war because they are morally superior to an evil foe", "The Marxist dialectic always points the proper path to progress and triumph over reactionary elements", "The Jews are at fault", "torture never works because prisoners are always smarter than their captors" - all may feel good to the ideologue saying them, but none are generally true.

Frank S one more time - "Thirdly, the administration is trying to blame Congress for the Iraqui mess. Congress was asked to say yes to the president's decision already made. Basically the authorization to go to war was obtained under duress - "if you are not with us you are against us." This is tantamount to confession obtained under torture."

Ah, yes, Frank! Congress is not responsible because Bush "toooooortuuuuured" Congress into voting the war. That's a good one! Without even putting panties on the two-faced POS Kerry's head!

Errin talks about how to interrogate effectively without getting into torture, but of course does not deign to define what the boundaries are. Panties on JohnKerry's head to force his vote to use force on Iraq? Her point that interrogation is not torture is something I agree with, but I am pretty sure our boundary lines are quite different. Not surprising, because many define interrogation as optional based on the "feelings" of the innocent accused unlawful combatant who has yet to receive his team of ACLU lawyers....

As for her claim that it is wrong to point out liberals who hate America are against all means of rooting out the radical Muslim enemy - interrogations, wiretaps, records raids, library and flight school records without alerting the terror cell they are under scrutiny - anything under the Patriot Act as an alternative to interrogation....Well, the center of opposition is indeed the "usual suspects" on the Democratic Left.

Beren echoes Errin that all who voted with the Manchurian Candidate 90-9 were not quasi-traitors like Boxer, Durbin, or Kennedy. Or pure slease political opportunists like Schumer and Kerry. Sadly, Bush has long deserved such a slapdown for his arrogance, poor communications skills, and unwillingness to work with Congress. This was more about John Warner and other centrist Republicans wanting to stick it up Bush's ass than anything else.

The "libertarians" mentioned are peripheral. They are about as important as Vegans in terms of following or power.

Earlier, Errin proudly stated that the right to freedom is natural and inalienable, thus not dependent on soldiers sacrifice. I find that most naive. In our history, we have seen 24 million men give up their freedom and be involuntarily drafted to sacrifice through duty to protect that scrap of paper, the Constitution, and give it additional true meaning and force. Another 30 million were volunteer military. Those men, and recently a small number of women, have surrendered "god-given liberty" in meeting the call for duty, when confronted by a foe. 1,400,000 have died in Americas wars or peacetime military training, plus some 3,300,000 non-fatal casualties. Roughly 1,000 soldiers paid in blood for each word in the Constitution...

Freedom is not free. It is not even constant as a given, as freedom must be compromised by forced Drafts and other war restrictions in times of great peril. That that has always been how it is - so liberty can be enjoyed unfettered in peacetime.

Posted by: | November 14, 2005 09:19 PM

Errin -

You take some comments into the deepest recesses of your mind and scramble them around, such as my observation that the US does not want an even fight - into us wanting to fight with no heed to the rules of war.

Next you say you support execution and interrogation of unlawful comatants, but only so long as "no torture" is used. But you don't define torture. Instead, you waste your words by not defining what torture is vs. interrogation - but get off on a lengthly rant about FOX news, which wasn't offered in my area until 2002.

Like FOX is some key.

Lefties sure hate FOX!

"OK Mustafa! Choose. Errin wants to be nice and give you a bullet in the head. We want information, so we will torture you with panties on the head, sleep deprivation, and beer."

"I am a brave Jihadi, so I reject Errin's mercy. I courageously choose staying awake by dancing all night with your infidel slut soldier females, their used panties on my head, preferably black lace, and Heineken, chilled, if you have it, American pig!"

Amazing what the Jordanians did in just 2 hours to the Iraqi radical Sunni cow who tried blowing up a wedding party. Had her singing like the fat lady at the end of the opera, without a visible mark on her body. They must have been nice to her! I wonder if the Jordanians requested 6 Jewish lawyers from the ACLU to represent her and she talked from the sheer joy and gratitude for the Jordanian's gesture.

Posted by: Chris Ford | November 14, 2005 10:00 PM

Christ F.S. ----

Your posting on "who misled us into war" is very interesting. But you must read E.J. Dionne Jr.'s Op-Ed column in Washington Post, November 15 "Another Set of Scare Tactics."

Posted by: Joe | November 14, 2005 10:14 PM

Anonymous (recent) writes, "Utter crap, Frank S. We held 750,000 Nazi POWs without charges for as long a period of time, NVA POWs for a longer period."

This isn't relevant to your argument. We held them as prisoners of war, with all the rules that accompany that designation. Of course, if you're suggesting we do that with the people we picked up in Afghanistan (or who were handed over to us by their own personal enemies in Pakistan who wanted the bounty money), then fair enough. I'd accept that. But I doubt that's what you're suggesting...

You're certainly right that there's such a thing as an unlawful combatant. But this administration has claimed that it has the exclusive right to decide who is such an unlawful combatant. That means that, in violation of the laws of war that you yourself acknowledge, we could take uniformed soldiers prisoner and just decide that they were 'unlawful combatants' and there would be no way for them to prove otherwise. The administration has claimed the right to do this to anyone (including US citizens) anywhere in the world (including on US soil). If you're a conservative, and you share the concerns of the Founders about potential abuses by those in government, doesn't such a sweeping claim of authority trouble you? Unless you also support torture of lawful combatants, you should be worried about the administration's position, because it would allow the executive to get away with the torture of captured _lawful_ combatants just by making an un-appealable declaration of their status.

Anonymous also writes: "Frank does not appear to have read how Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind's interrogation by the CIA which included the "toooooooortuuuuuuure" of waterboarding and sleep deprivation forced out details of 3 follow-on Al Qaeda unlawful combatant Ops, one of which by being thwarted saved the lives of thousands of Americans and Singaporese, according to the Singapore Gov't."

I haven't read it either. Perhaps you could include a link? I agree with you that it's ridiculous to compare the administration's selling of the war to Congress with torture.

Anonymous also writes: "liberals who hate America are against all means of rooting out the radical Muslim enemy - interrogations, wiretaps, records raids, library and flight school records..."

Oh for goodness sake. Did you pay attention to what Errin was saying? Part of the point was that you should question whether this liberal/conservative dichotomy really makes sense. Is either one a coherent intellectual idea, rather than just a hodge-podge of political positions? Liberals don't 'hate America' any more than conservatives 'hate minorities/civil rights/vc.'As for fear of wiretaps, searching of library records, and so on, I remember that not very many years back, there were a lot of 'conservatives' who thought that the FBI were a bunch of 'jack-booted thugs' and thought that Janet Reno was a threat to personal freedom. Concern about wiretaps shouldn't be a liberal/conservative issue. After all, suspicion of government has long been a 'conservative' principle.

Anonymous writes, re the McCain Amendment: "This was more about John Warner and other centrist Republicans wanting to stick it up Bush's ass than anything else."

I see. You don't think there was any reason why they chose _this_ issue in particular, then, when they have gone along with Bush (a much better candidate, really, for the title of Machurian Candidate, btw, than McCain) on so many other issues? If they thought torture was so crucial, so vital to our struggle against Al-Qaeda, don't you think they could have picked a fight over something else?

Anonymous also writes: "Errin proudly stated that the right to freedom is natural and inalienable, thus not dependent on soldiers sacrifice. I find that most naive."

I don't think she said the second bit ("thus not dependent on soldiers' sacrifice"), did she? But as for the first part, she's in good company, as I'm sure you must know. Would you call the writers of the Declaration of Independence 'naive'? If so, we could do with some more naivete around here.

Anonymous also writes: "In our history, we have seen 24 million men give up their freedom and be involuntarily drafted to sacrifice through duty to protect that scrap of paper, the Constitution, and give it additional true meaning and force. Another 30 million were volunteer military..."

Yes. And very many of those very people utterly abhor the destruction of the principles they fought for. That is why so many in the Pentagon (aside from the civilian leadership) _support_ banning torture by US personnel. Those people that you write about have handed down to us a noble tradition. What right to we have to throw it away or destroy it? You neglect to mention, also, that in those conflicts you list, in which we faced greater odds and greater danger, and took more casualties, we did not have to resort to torture to win.

But more than this, I would say that I agree with you entirely when you write that 'freedom isn't free'. And if, as Bush likes to claim, the battlefield in this new conflict is 'everywhere', then we as civilians are also, in our own way, participants in the fight. And we civilians should do our part by having the courage to face the negative consequences (if there turn out to be any) of maintaining our tradition of abiding by the rule of law. That's what it means to be a free people - the burden and the responsibility isn't only upon the soldiers; some of it rests upon all of us. We decide to take the risk of buildings being blown up, if that's the cost of maintaining a free and just society.

Towards the end of your post you mention naivete. But it seems to me that the naivete is with those who think that there is some way of making terrorism on US soil impossible, if we're just willing to spend enough money, violate enough of our principles, use enough force and so on. There isn't, though. Nothing can make terrorism impossible. It would be bad enough if you were asking us to sacrifice our principles and torture detainees, if thereby we could gain real security. But we can't. Nothing can guarantee total security from terrorism. So what would really happen would be that, by a kind of devil's bargain, we would sacrifice our principles and get very little, if anything, in return. It would be poetic justice, in a way. As one of the founders said, those who would sacrifice liberty to gain security deserve neither.

Posted by: Beren | November 14, 2005 10:19 PM

Is "fair and balanced?" Here's something for you, Chris Ford.

Bush Tries to Blame War Critics for Administration's Failings

Monday, November 14, 2005

By Martin Frost

When a president of the United States makes truly outrageous statements, he deserves to be called on them. That's exactly what happened last Friday when President Bush spoke on Veterans Day.

Here's the "call."

First, let me qualify the witness.

As a Democratic member of Congress, I cast the following votes: In 1991, I voted to give "Bush 41" the right to commit troops against Saddam Hussein; In 2002, I voted to give "Bush 43" the right to commit troops against Saddam Hussein. Additionally, I voted for the $87 billion to conduct the war.

President Bush on Friday attacked the patriotism of Democratic congressmen and senators by saying that elected officials who now raise questions about the actions leading up to the current war in Iraq are letting down our troops in the field and giving aid and comfort to the insurgents.

Somewhere along the line, President Bush seems to have forgotten his basic civics lesson about how a democracy works. Thanks to our successful revolution against King George III, we have the right to dissent in this country. We have the right to question the actions of our own government. To suggest otherwise would be to relegate us to a dictatorship. And, after all, we have been telling the Iraqi people about the virtues of a democracy.

We now know that the intelligence relied upon by the Bush administration to take us to war was faulty. We have every right to ask for a full explanation about how the administration got it so wrong, and about how they used the intelligence to convince Congress and the American people that military action against Saddam Hussein was justified. That's exactly what the current bi-partisan six member investigation in the U.S. Senate is undertaking.

In the meantime, Congress and the American people are clearly supporting our troops in the field. We all want them to be successful in helping bring democracy to Iraq and we hope they can complete their mission as quickly as possible. For the president to suggest that Congress does not support the troops is truly outrageous.

Now, let's get to the question of the pre-war intelligence. The issue is not whether the administration intentionally falsified the intelligence but whether the administration was diligent enough in pursuing accurate intelligence-- and whether the administration hyped the intelligence it had obtained to sell the war.

I was a member of the Democratic leadership (serving as caucus chairman) in the months leading up to the congressional vote in 2002. We were bombarded by the administration with conclusions about the intelligence rather than the actual intelligence itself.

Specifically, we were constantly reminded that Saddam Hussein had used poison gas against the Kurds, and that, at the time when U.N. monitoring of Iraq began in 1992 following the successful first Gulf War, he had biological and chemical weapons. Even though these weapons had subsequently been destroyed, we were assured that he must now have more since he'd had the original capability. We were also told that intelligence sources indicated he was well on his way to developing nuclear weapons.

All of this turned out to be false.

Thus, it is perfectly reasonable to inquire about how the administration got it so terribly wrong and why it hyped this intelligence so aggressively. In fact, press reports have now indicated that Italian intelligence sources tried to warn the administration that its information about efforts by Iraq to obtain yellowcake uranium from Niger was based on a forged document.

In hindsight, members of the House and the Senate could have insisted on seeing documented proof about the administration's claims; however, we should all -- elected officials as well as the public -- be able to assume that our own government is telling us the truth about something this important.

It's time for the president to get on with our country's business rather than trying to blame Democrats for the mistakes that his own people made.

Martin Frost served in Congress from 1979 to 2005, representing a diverse district in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. He served two terms as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, the third-ranking leadership position for House Democrats, and two terms as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Frost serves as a regular contributor to FOX News Channel, and is currently a fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a law degree from the Georgetown Law Center.

Posted by: Lea | November 14, 2005 10:28 PM

Whatever, Chris. You couldn't take my arguments head on so you again retreat into your right/left dream world, and start some weird babbling about Jewish Lawyers and the ACLU, at the same time coloring my arguments in illogical shades in a weird quasi-conversation (from your weird, quasi-mind). But, though you are a lost cause who wants to be a spoonfed rank & file Republican for his entire life, I can at least take your argument apart quite easily for the rest of us here who desire logical, productive discussion rather than partisan ostrich acts. Here goes:
Your first paragraph claims I scramble your words from one post of yours into saying you feel the US wants to fight without regard to rules. Yet, I never said such a thing about the US... I said that about you! Anybody can check your 6 point post above and see that you spent your first 3 points talking about how unlawful combatants should have to pay for not being lawful in combat, then your fifth point is that 'we soldiers' (which I would assume meant you) don't want to be made to have a 'fair fight' in combat. I simply stated what a hypocrite you were for desiring an unfair fight (i.e. an unlawful combat) for yourself, and yet you claim being an unlawful combatant is wrong and deserving of extra punishment. As far as I am concerned (and most anybody with a thesaurus handy), fair equals lawful equals even. Combat equals fight equals war. We're not talking firepower here; We're talking morality. I sincerely doubt I am alone in America in that I desire our military to be fair, lawful, and even in their moral conduct. You could grasp this if you wanted to, but you apparently don't want to. If there has been a miscommunication, maybe you should elaborate more on how torture relates to fair fighting, and how you differentiate fair fighting and lawful combat.
Next paragraph you claim I support execution and interrogation of our enemy unlawful combatants, but don't condone torture (and yet don't define torture). Well, except for interrogation, you are not fully representing my stance. I claimed an unlawful combatant could be executed if they committed an act that was punishable by death AFTER DUE PROCESS OF LAW. That was sure selective of you to leave that out. As for defining torture, I didn't realize that was my job, as I think it doesn't take much to figure out what I mean by interrogation yes, torture no. If you need a definition, go get a dictionary. A child could understand what I mean by okaying interrogation up until it reaches the point of torture. According to your logic, I need to specifically define every single word I use for you to understand my points, perhaps because you have trouble thinking for yourself. Again, it isn't a giant leap of logic to know what I mean by torture is unacceptable, interrogation is acceptable.
Next you talk about FOXnews, how I ranted in length about it. Truth is, I mention it once in the context of saying how unfair and extremely biased your view was that Jihadists and Leftists are on the same side and want the same results. And I don't just focus on FOX, but I also focus on conservative talk radio in the same sentence. That is hardly a rant on FOXnews, let alone a lengthy one, and anybody can read your posts above to see that your 'Jihadists are Leftists are Jihadists' comments are pretty much in lockstep with what we hear on the various conservative propoganda machines, whether they be radio or TV. You can try to deny you listen to Rush and watch FOXnews, but your diatribes give you away, as they are the cliche', skewed ramblings indicative of all those shows and the people that listen to them. Free thought ISN'T your forte, and your Rightie arguments are a dime a dozen.
Next, another Leftie comment in one of your posts. Again, I don't know what purpose this serves besides the fact that you can't go a single post without at least one Leftie rambling. I still have no clue what this has to do with me, as I have already stated I am a progressive libertarian. Leftism means liberalism, socialism, and communism, all ideas that are from the past (and therefore not progressive) and are not libertarian whatsoever. My only guess is that your mind can't fathom that somebody who argues against you ISN'T a Leftist liberal. Again, you Righties would be lost without Lefties to villify and complain about... so much so that you create Leftists where there aren't any (as in me). And again, you are sounding verbatim like a conservative talk radio listener with this Leftie obsession. Ever heard of individualism, Chris? Independence??
Next comes your little stereotype play about Mustafa the Jihadi and me. First, you claim I want to arbitrarily put a bullet in his head, even though I specifically stated that any execution of enemy combatants should only happen after due process of law. Due process of law is NOT "Errin wants to be nice and put a bullet in your head". What a gross, deliberate misrepresentation on your part. You then characterize torture as panties on the head, lack of sleep, and beer. Those are some strange psychological interrogation tactics (may be too on the 'unusual' side to be considered very American or constitutional), but they sure as hell aren't torture. Torture is being threatened with death or physical pain, which is near impossible to do with a pair of panties, a beer, and a guy not getting enough sleep.
Lastly, you reference the Jordanian woman who confessed her crimes on TV for the Jordanian government. Chris, you have no clue or idea what got the woman to that point of confession. You can assume torture, but unless you have actual proof of what it was, it could have been torture-free interrogation that got her to talk, it could have been a deal being cut, it could have been her family was threatened, money was offerred, or God knows what. Unless you specifically know what got her to talk, you cannot interject her to this conversation and claim she proves your argument because YOU have made assumptions on what got her to talk, assumptions that could easily be false unless you have some facts to back it up. Even then, the Jordanian woman is a red herring, for we are discussing whether America should adopt torture as a policy, not Jordan. What Jordan does is up to the Jordanians; We here are Americans (mainly) discussing what is right for America.
What this all leads to is this: Are you going to face my arguments head on like a man using debate and logic, or are you going to continue to misrepresent what I say in half truths and weird, baseless analogies? I'll gladly argue against your pro-torture views for as long as I have the spare time to, as there is no way a spoonfed reactionary like you can face me in a straight debate. Maybe your arguments make perfect sense to you, but it is obvious to others that you are not fairly and fully debating me point for point, but are instead being evasive with your responses and representations to me and my anti-torture position. Like you said before in a previous post, the last thing you want is a fair fight with an even opponent.

Posted by: ErrinF | November 15, 2005 12:01 AM

OK, for what it's worth, I'm a dude, not a girl. I guess the name can be confusing. Not that I really care about the confusion, but I thought clarity was fair.
Also, I interjected FOXnews into my debate with Chris; It wasn't Chris who did it, so I don't know if it's fair exactly to start focusing FOXnews on him, even if it is a tad suspicious that his views are so akimbo to a Bill O'Reilly or whatever other blowhards are on that agenda-driven network. Still, I take him for his word if he says FOXnews is not relevant to him and his pro-torture arguments.
And, finally, enough with arguing against my freedom. Freedom is inalienable and unconditional, and is part of all of our very existences. Nobody's knocking on my door asking for compensation for MY freedom. I'm free now, and will be free all my life, and no argument can ever, ever take that away from me. I could truly and utterly give a toss about any of you uptight jokers that want me to confess some sort of gratitude and indebtedness of MY freedom to somebody or something else. AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN!!! If my blatant and boisterous regard for my freedom and independence is too much for you, I could really care less. Because I'm free! Get it? And how dare you NOT want me to be free... at least Beren was smart enough to recognize that all I'm doing is making the words of the Declaration Of Independence my own and representing them in a way unique to me. Good company indeed.

Posted by: ErrinF | November 15, 2005 12:23 AM

Ha ha. I thought you were a girl pecking away at the keyboard.

Many here seem to think they should be given POW-like status. I tend to disagree because doing so would appear to subvert the basis of rules of war concerning POWs.

Okay, say we decide not to hurt or scare the bejeezus out of them during interrogation. Instead, we politely ask them to tell us what we need to know, and if they refuse, we put them in a cruddy prison cell for the rest of their lives.

Should we offer them the possibility of working for us, for example, making lisence plates or working on the road crew, southern style, to escape their dreary existence of being locked up in a tiny room with several others? Is that slave labor? What should we do with them.

I guess this too would be considered by many here as cruel and unusual punishment, against what we stand for as Americans etc.

On the other hand, the idea of being captured by the US would not seem so bad to a terroist. He has all the advantages of stealth and also status in par with a recognized combatant. This surely would inspire more to join the cause, because the consequences of capture are minimal, and the potential for killing us decadent pigs very high.

Taking of off here boss!

Posted by: johnnyg in NE DC | November 15, 2005 01:36 AM

Fox website has always been less biased than the TV, which is mostly fiction.

I know its a bit off topic, but thanks for the Christian Science post. It misses a few things, however. An IAEA head said it actually took them 2 hours to realize the documents were forged. In the US anonymous CIA agents have said we knew immediately they were forged. The fact that these were buried for months is very troubling.

I digress. 9-11 changed everything. It made us more like our enemy. But in our case its not progress.

Posted by: patriot 1957 | November 15, 2005 01:51 AM

"I digress. 9-11 changed everything. It made us more like our enemy. But in our case its not progress."

There is some truth to that statement, but I feel that we are still learning, trying to figure this out. Eventually, we will.

Posted by: johnnyg in NE DC | November 15, 2005 01:59 AM

Oh please johnnyg. We've had 229 years to figure out who we are as a nation. Are we Reagan's shining city on the hill or not? We spout off that Osama and his ilk are evil because they do not respect human rights, they torture, and do not respect the rule of law. So what does it make us when we do not respect human rights, torture, and do not respect the rule of law?

Do we obey the Rule of Law or not? Or is there one rule of law for Bush cronies and another for everyone else?

Look at it this way. There are always times when it is permissible to deviate from the Rule of Law - thou shalt not kill - except in self defense, which happens rarely. Thou shalt not lie - except when your boss asks if you like her new dress. Thou shalt not steal - except after a natural disaster when your baby is starving and the grocery store is full of infant formula (and which happens rarely). Add to it - thou shalt not torture - except when there is a ticking time bomb - which in reality happens rarely as most insurgencies are highly compartmentalized and most prisoners have very limited knowledge.

Cheney has erected a smokescreen to keep us from the real issue here - who are we and how much like Osama can we become and still have any moral credibility left in the world?

Posted by: patriot 1957 | November 15, 2005 02:34 AM

Beren says:

"That means that, in violation of the laws of war that you yourself acknowledge, we could take uniformed soldiers prisoner and just decide that they were 'unlawful combatants' and there would be no way for them to prove otherwise."

The Geneva Convention says a competent tribunal of the capturing force rules if the captured combatant met the conditions to be treated as a honorable POW. It's in Section IV. There are 5 criteria. There is no provision for each captured soldier or terrorist to obtain a lawyer and conduct adversarial due process. That is all coming from a mindset that unlawful combatants should be treated like criminals, which effectively gives them more rights than a soldier captured in uniform. The drafters of Geneva wanted nothing to do with "trials" except for war crimes. The last thing they wanted was the creation of "Perverse Incentives" that would so favor the unlawful, out of uniform combatant that soldiers would elect to take the unlawful route.

The general assumption was the "competent tribunal" would be a senior field officer who would decide if an unlawful combatants surrender would be accepted or they would be shot out of hand. Typically, the unlawful combatants are shot out of hand - no trial, no due process - and fully in accordance with the traditional laws of war, and as laid out in the Hague and Geneva Conventions the US is signatory to.

Errin -

thumps his/her/its chest and brags about formidable debating skills. Which apparantly consist of projecting that people that disagree with Errin must be reactionary conservatives captured by the right-wing media.

A good sample of Errins lackadaisical skills in debate is the miraculous equation of soldiers saying they don't want a "fair fight" into "soldiers want to be unlawful combatants". No my dear, that is not what it means. It means we want Americans to be better trained, faster, smarter, with better technology and firepower than our opponents.

Another beauty is:

As for defining torture, I didn't realize that was my job, as I think it doesn't take much to figure out what I mean by interrogation yes, torture no. If you need a definition, go get a dictionary.

If it doesn't take much to figure out the difference between interrogation and torture, Errin, then why didn't you bother trying??? Perhaps because coerced interrogation encompasses a continuum that does at some point cross into a gray area between punishment and torture, and where that gray area begins and stops is entirely subjective? The two ends are easy. No one says offering a Jihai a lollypop in return for snitching out a brother suicide bomber is torture, no one would claim lopping off fingers isn't....but the stuff in the middle that causes discomfort or even mild pain is torture to some, legitimate coercion of life-saving information to others.

Perhaps because as Messner agreed, the definitions are not agreed to? A climate of confusion exists. A circumstance where some Lefties wish to make "torture" so broad brush and trivial it has no meaning? While some Bushies say it's where pieces and parts are removed or organ failure happens but before that stage anything goes? And the rest of the world is similarly perplexed at what exactly constitutes "humiliating" or "degrading" treatment which are left inexusably nebulous by the UN Human Rights Convention on Torture ???

Later, you actually do define "toooooortuuuuure" as: "Torture is being threatened with death or physical pain." Just threatened? Which nevertheless apparantly rules out the monstrous "Koran abuse", hillibilly perverts laughing at naked Iraqi ptramids, barking dogs, sleep depravation, small cells or cages, witholding food for lack of cooperation, the torture of being in legal limbo, slapping around, waterboarding, stress positions, humiliation of female guards, touching a Muslim with filthy infidel hands (which gives a Muslim the Islamic version of cooties - which requires ritual cleaning to remove the filth of infidel touch - a Jew's touch is worse and other unclean cootie causers like dog hair is "worser"), and famously, "panties on the head". Of course these and other "tortures" are ardently argued by others, including the usual America-haters, as constituting "tooooortuuuuure"! And your own words saying it is OK to execute an unlawful combatant - does it then makes that act constitute "torture" if we threaten to try a Muslim unlawful combatant before a tribunal then execute them if they don't talk?

The other factor is the Al Qaeda training manuals teach the Muslim combatant to lie constantly about torture and abuse if captured - as an honorable and not sinful tactic, because the Islamic tenet of Taqqiyah says it is OK to lie to an infidel to deceive other infidels in order to gain advantage, but not lie to a Muslim brother. So we have hundreds of captured combatants lying their asses off about their captivity. Al Qaeda and others are trained as well to attempt to contact lawyers to use the infidel's system against them. Many recently captured in Iraq have memorized the names of groups like the ACLU and Amnesty Int'l, British Muslim advocacy groups - and demand to be allowed to write them for legal representation.

Sometimes you pluck stuff out your butt, Errin - like your imagined "RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS" for unlawful combatants. Or legitimate POWs, for that matter. It doesn't exist in any Treaty. You may want lawyers for enemy combatants, but that's just you. It's nice and all that you want that, but it's not a legal treaty obligation. Sorry.

And the Iraq Sunni bomber? My educated guess is that the Jordanian state security had a nice heart to heart chat with her and that explains her motivation to appear on TV and tell folks what she was up to. If that happened in America, I doubt she would have been similarly motivated, especially if the ACLU folks had been allowed to lawyer her up.

I did like how you spent half you post on how I must be a Republican drone doing the bidding of FOX and talk radio. Quite the harangue. It is an amazing thing to watch liberal's nerve synapsis overload on dopamine imagining there is this vast evil thought control device capturing the minds of Red States.

And your rambling post ends with how you want to debate a "spoonfed reactionary" point for point?

You might start by making your own points, as a basher of America, on what alternative measures you propose to fight our first major enemy that fights out of uniform.

My own opinion is that people just don't want to admit we face a death cult that seeks WMD and must be defeated, until America has another big strike that spills lots of blood. 9/11 was simply too small, and it was one time. Beslan happened way over in Russia, so the kid's lives are of lesser value to many than if American kids were targeted in a school here. Our present progressive paradigm that the Left crafted over generations that treats all cultures as equally meritorious and seeks to advance the immigration, the rights, and legal protections of even our mortal foes is unsustainable and suicidal. For now, the whole construct is just too dear and precious to them to abandon even a bit of it in order to fight a formidable, highly intelligent enemy..Once they get past the Bush hatred, perhaps they will see clearer.

Because reality is staring them in the face. Iran is hellbent on getting nukes and even before they get them the radical Islamists there are saying who they want to incinerate 1st. The 17 Islamic warriors caught in Australia appear to have been targeting a large nuclear reactor in Sydney used for making large production runs of medical radioisotopes for destruction and disbursal of fission products over the city. In Ex Parte Quirin (1942), our Supreme Court answered exactly what sacred civil liberties are due to a mortal foe who comes at us as unlawful combatants seeking mass death...

Unanimously, they said - None.

Posted by: Chris Ford | November 15, 2005 02:44 AM

I think it would be a good idea for us as a nation to step out of the panic that 9-11 caused, and adopt the more cool-headed approach of countries that have dealt with terorism for a long time.

[Now, before I go on, to deal with the chorus of denunciation that probably just arose from some quarters: Yes, I remember 9-11. Quite well. In fact, growing up as the children of a US foreign service officer, an excellent target for a terorist, my sister and I were aware of the danger of terrorism long before 9-11. When the two US embassies were bombed in Africa, one of the people killed was the exact counterpart to my oldest childhood friend at our embassy in a neighboring country which, fortunately, was spared. When I went to visit my parents from college (also pre-9/11), there was some information that a bomb attack might be made on the embassy (a tiny little one, right on the street with no real defences, not one of those huge ones behind thick walls) and I watched my father go to work wondering if I'd see him again. I'm not unaware of the dangers. But the thing is, you go on with your life anyway. You do what you reasonably can to avoid the risk, but, as with earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, pandemics, inter-planetary collisions, and the like, you know that there is always some risk that can't be prevented, that you have to accept, if you don't want to live the rest of your life eating canned food in a specially designed underground bunker.)

The US didn't take terrorism seriously enough before 9/11, but since then we've been acting panicked and irrational - and that just puts us at greater risk, because it keeps us from making decisions that are in our best interest.

Yes, any of us could be killed by a terrorist. It's possible and we should remember that, and do what we can to stop it. But it's much more likely that any of us will be killed by a drunk driver. Or die of lung-cancer. Yet do those possibilities drive us to extreme measures? If convicted drunk drivers were automatically thrown into jail for life without parole, that would probably cut down on the practice. If smoking were universally banned, deaths from lung-cancer would diminish. Yet we do neither of those things. Why? Because they are modifications to our society's way of living that we view as too burdensome for the benefits that they would produce.

Similarly, people who know they live on major fault lines, or in the path of devastating hurricanes nevertheless decide not to relocate (if the population of California and Florida is any indicator). They could protect themselves from the danger. But to them, the added security is not worth the things that they would give up by relocating.

I could multiply examples, but you see the point. With dangers that we have a long history of facing, we make calm calculations about what we're willing to accept. We should do the same with the threat of terrorism. On all the proposed methods for combatting it, we should ask, "Is it worth it, given, on the one hand, the ammount of added security that it may provide, and, on the other hand, the negative effects that it might have?"

All of this may seem obvious, but I say it because I think that there is a longing for the pre-9/11 (illusion of) security from terrorism. And some people want so much to recapture that sense of security and are so much more frightened of terrorism than of other much greater threats to their lives and health, that in their panic they're willing to endorse any measure that seems to offer even the slightest chance of preventing terrorism.

But this is irrational, or at least inconsistent, because this is not how they deal with other threats. There are probably people who are willing to stoop all the way to torture for the slight (and I think it is very slight indeed) chance that somehow it might prevent them from being harmed by terrorists, yet are unwilling to give up smoking (even though they know that they're probably shortening their lives by years).

The downside to torture is severe: It is immoral, and a betrayal of this country's principles, but also, strictly pragmatically, it weakens us greatly in our fight against Al-Qaeda, a fight that depends upon close cooperation with allies who do care about things like torture even if we don't, a fight that Bush himself admits requires the persuasion of hearts and minds. Everyone that you torture has family, kin, countrymen, and co-religionists that are infuriated by what you do. If even one one-hundredth of one percent of those people turn to terrorism in their outrage, you've made the problem worse, not better. It is ultimately destructive to the professionalism and morale of our own troops who engage in it, and it damages domestic support for any military action we might take, because it seems to detract from the justice of our cause (and like it or not, that does matter to some people and they do vote, so what they think is a strategic concern).

The upside of torture is _very_ uncertain. I haven't seen your link to that story you mentioned, Chris Ford, but so far, I haven't heard any confirmed stories of information obtained through torture yielding any actionable intelligence. And I have heard and read many people who are knowledgeable about interrogation say that torture isn't useful as an interrogation technique.

I think that if we weigh the pros and cons of torturing detainees in the more level-headed way in which we weigh the pros and cons of other policies that claim to help protect us, we'll realize that it's unwise to torture detainees, a policy born more of fear and panic than calm, self-interested calculation (not to mention morality). Or at least, we should stop smoking, start exercising, ban concealed handguns, move away from natural disaster zones, and obey speed-limits first. All or most of those things are statistically much more likely to increase our longevity than breaking our long-standing rules by torturing detainees (many of them innocent).

Posted by: Beren | November 15, 2005 04:27 AM

My grand father was an French Army officer during the Agerian war for independance ; barely acknolewdging it even today, he witnessed torture... His take in it is :

1- Tortured people will tell you anything that you want but very rarely the truth,

2- France won on the military ground but, forty years later, is still considered the looser on the moral ground (though rebels were torturers too),

3- The French Army has learnt from its lessons: a four-star general was quickly suspended recently for covering up what looked like a murder in Ivory Coast. Judicial proceedings are under way against the soldiers.

The next time an incident happens involving the French Army, people will have more confidence in what it says.

Will you believe what the US Army says now?

Posted by: Emmanuel | November 15, 2005 07:35 AM

I think this debate has reached the point of "I can post better comments than
you". It is in danger of becoming so con-vuluted and repetious;it almost too tedious to read.

Posted by: Red Rose | November 15, 2005 10:19 AM

I must confess that I have reached the "wretching point" in listening to some of the contemptuous rhetoric of George W. Bush and his dwindling number of devotees.

They are given to all of these sweeping, grandiose scenarios that would have us believe that what is nothing more than the natural passion of the peoples of Muslim faith to have "infidels" expelled from their lands, is in reality some dark, malevolent, global plot to impose extremist Islamic principlea all over the world.

This a perfectly ridiculous scenario and is part and parcel of the same sort of insane, paranoid thinking--generated mainly by neocon ideology out of the PNAC--that insisted that Sadaam Hussein and Iraq were somehow involved in the 9-11 attacks.

Think about it for a minute. Who is it that has military bases stationed in nations all around the world? Who is it that has its troops occupying in one form or another, the nations where the Islamic religion is prominent? Who is it that is transmitting its own cultureal and economic dominance around the world? Who is it that routinely interferes in the political affairs of other nations under the guise of concern for human rights? Who is it that piously condemns terrorists as barbarous, bloodthirsty thugs, while using its own military might to change the regimes of other nations and reserving unto itself only the right to willy-nilly redefine the Genva Conventions and even the word torute itself?

Can you imagine how the people of this country would feel id a dominant cultural, economic and military superpower occupied its soil and swaggered about its cities day in and day out pronoucing that they were here to "liberate" us?

Posted by: Jaxas | November 15, 2005 10:26 AM

Chris Ford-

I appreciate that what defines torture needs to be discussed out in the open so that reasonable people on both sides of the issue can voice their grievences with the other side.

That seems to be occuring here in this thread, but it certainly is not happening in the public because this administration gets to unfairly chirp "We do not torture" without addressing what we DO and do not do to prisoners.

Do I think panties on someone's head is torture? Absolutely not. I also don't think it's necessary.

Do I think beating someone to death is torture? I think I might. I think reasonable people can agree on the types of things that constitute "non gray area" torture. There are dead prisoners and there is some evidence that these people might have been tortured.

It is as patriot 1957 said, the CIA doesn't necessarily need an exemption for torture, it already has a certain amount of latitude. Do I expect an agent to break the rules if there are imminent lives at risk? I think so.

Maybe waterboarding isn't torture, but it is the kind of issue that reasonable people can debate and reach a consensus on. If George Bush really feels that he needs to waterboard terrorists to protect us, he should be forced to come out and explicitly say so and facilitate the public discourse necessary to determine which kinds of behaviors we, as Americans, can stomach and which kinds we cannot.

Posted by: Will | November 15, 2005 10:41 AM

Jaxas wrote: "They are given to all of these sweeping, grandiose scenarios that would have us believe that what is nothing more than the natural passion of the peoples of Muslim faith to have "infidels" expelled from their lands, is in reality some dark, malevolent, global plot to impose extremist Islamic principlea all over the world. This a perfectly ridiculous scenario..."

Actually, its not so ridiculous (and I'm not usually given to conspiracy theories). The Osamas of the world would indeed like to restore the old Islamic order when an Islamic empire stretched into Spain and Africa and parts of Asia - and America and the other infidels did not defile their homeland with impunity. And for all our bravado, western religions and family structure and technological prominence are on the decline.

But Bush has it all wrong on what to do about it. We don't have the military might to fight another Crusade, I think we can all see that now. It has taken only a handful of Davids armed with incendiary device "slingshots" to tie up Goliath's mighty army, and the absence of justness of this invasion has made military recruiting a real problem. That's why the PR war is the most important one we're fighting. Do the secular Islamic peoples of the world want to join the rest of the world community in a kind of big world democratic melting pot (where their religion is at risk to weaken from assimilation and their children to be exposed to the decadence of Western culture), or do they want to follow the Osamas and restore the Islamic empire of 1000 years ago? They are all being called upon to decide.

We turned ourselves inside out because 3000 innocent Americans died on 9-11. What do we expect them to think when the rain of American bombs killed almost 6,000 innocent Iraqis in the initial invasion of Baghdad? We want their oil, we decided to remake their part of the world in our image without their consent, and we're not going home soon even if we withdraw from Iraq because we want their oil. How would the US respond if Canada decided to remove Bush or Cheney for us (and then hung out while the cronies of their leaders raped our natural resources). Further, what separated us from Osama, i.e. respect for human rights, is rapidly disappearing as we come to resemble our enemy.

Its the PR war that's important here. Secular Muslims need to pick the West over Osama. But our behavior as a nation is driving them the other way.

It all boils down to oil. If we didn't need their oil we wouldn't be putting our infidel selves into their lands. We wouldn't care how stable their governments are - how much do we care about Rwanda? America will not be safe until we invest all our talent and energy into a "Manhattan II" project to find ways to meet our current and future energy needs without foreign oil - and the answer isn't drilling more at home!

Posted by: patriot1957 | November 15, 2005 02:14 PM

Jaxas wrote: "They are given to all of these sweeping, grandiose scenarios that would have us believe that what is nothing more than the natural passion of the peoples of Muslim faith to have "infidels" expelled from their lands, is in reality some dark, malevolent, global plot to impose extremist Islamic principlea all over the world. This a perfectly ridiculous scenario..."

Actually, its not so ridiculous (and I'm not usually given to conspiracy theories). The Osamas of the world would indeed like to restore the old Islamic order when an Islamic empire stretched into Spain and Africa and parts of Asia - and America and the other infidels did not defile their homeland with impunity. And for all our bravado, western religions and family structure and technological prominence are on the decline.

But Bush has it all wrong on what to do about it. We don't have the military might to fight another Crusade, I think we can all see that now. It has taken only a handful of Davids armed with incendiary device "slingshots" to tie up Goliath's mighty army, and the absence of justness of this invasion has made military recruiting a real problem. That's why the PR war is the most important one we're fighting. Do the secular Islamic peoples of the world want to join the rest of the world community in a kind of big world democratic melting pot (where their religion is at risk to weaken from assimilation and their children to be exposed to the decadence of Western culture), or do they want to follow the Osamas and restore the Islamic empire of 1000 years ago? They are all being called upon to decide.

We turned ourselves inside out because 3000 innocent Americans died on 9-11. What do we expect them to think when the rain of American bombs killed almost 6,000 innocent Iraqis in the initial invasion of Baghdad? We want their oil, we decided to remake their part of the world in our image without their consent, and we're not going home soon even if we withdraw from Iraq because we want their oil. How would the US respond if Canada decided to remove Bush or Cheney for us (and then hung out while the cronies of their leaders raped our natural resources). Further, what separated us from Osama, i.e. respect for human rights, is rapidly disappearing as we come to resemble our enemy.

Its the PR war that's important here. Secular Muslims need to pick the West over Osama. But our behavior as a nation is driving them the other way.

It all boils down to oil. If we didn't need their oil we wouldn't be putting our infidel selves into their lands. We wouldn't care how stable their governments are - how much do we care about Rwanda? America will not be safe until we invest all our talent and energy into a "Manhattan II" project to find ways to meet our current and future energy needs without foreign oil - and the answer isn't drilling more at home!

Posted by: patriot1957 | November 15, 2005 02:15 PM

Jaxas wrote: "They are given to all of these sweeping, grandiose scenarios that would have us believe that what is nothing more than the natural passion of the peoples of Muslim faith to have "infidels" expelled from their lands, is in reality some dark, malevolent, global plot to impose extremist Islamic principlea all over the world. This a perfectly ridiculous scenario..."

Actually, its not so ridiculous (and I'm not usually given to conspiracy theories). The Osamas of the world would indeed like to restore the old Islamic order when an Islamic empire stretched into Spain and Africa and parts of Asia - and America and the other infidels did not defile their homeland with impunity. And for all our bravado, western religions and family structure and technological prominence are on the decline.

But Bush has it all wrong on what to do about it. We don't have the military might to fight another Crusade, I think we can all see that now. It has taken only a handful of Davids armed with incendiary device "slingshots" to tie up Goliath's mighty army, and the absence of justness of this invasion has made military recruiting a real problem. That's why the PR war is the most important one we're fighting. Do the secular Islamic peoples of the world want to join the rest of the world community in a kind of big world democratic melting pot (where their religion is at risk to weaken from assimilation and their children to be exposed to the decadence of Western culture), or do they want to follow the Osamas and restore the Islamic empire of 1000 years ago? They are all being called upon to decide.

We turned ourselves inside out because 3000 innocent Americans died on 9-11. What do we expect them to think when the rain of American bombs killed almost 6,000 innocent Iraqis in the initial invasion of Baghdad? We want their oil, we decided to remake their part of the world in our image without their consent, and we're not going home soon even if we withdraw from Iraq because we want their oil. How would the US respond if Canada decided to remove Bush or Cheney for us (and then hung out while the cronies of their leaders raped our natural resources). Further, what separated us from Osama, i.e. respect for human rights, is rapidly disappearing as we come to resemble our enemy.

Its the PR war that's important here. Secular Muslims need to pick the West over Osama. But our behavior as a nation is driving them the other way.

It all boils down to oil. If we didn't need their oil we wouldn't be putting our infidel selves into their lands. We wouldn't care how stable their governments are - how much do we care about Rwanda? America will not be safe until we invest all our talent and energy into a "Manhattan II" project to find ways to meet our current and future energy needs without foreign oil - and the answer isn't drilling more at home!

Posted by: patriot1957 | November 15, 2005 02:16 PM

sorry for the triple post - it kept telling me the page was unavailable and I didn't realize it was still posting it each time i tried!

Posted by: patriot1957 | November 15, 2005 02:20 PM

OK, Chris, now you're just wasting my time. Until you start actually taking my debating points and arguing against them directly, I'll have to assume that you are deliberately being distractive rather than actually debating. The majority of what you said in your last post is so nonsensical and out of context that I can't even begin to address it, as it will just lead to more nonsensical, out of context posts from you.
I will try to address a few subjects that I think need to be addressed, though:
Unlawful combatants and fair fights - Those were your talking points, Chris. I suggest anybody read your 6 point post above, and see if they draw the same conclusion as me that you were a hypocrite for denouncing unlawful combatants as deserving extra punishment for being unlawful, and then you make a statement that US soldiers such as you don't want to fight fairly.
Try to pile on all you want to that, Chris, but the fact of the matter is that you contradicted yourself, and I caught you on it.
Defining torture and interrogation - Again, don't waste my time with this nonsense. Your need for me to define torture is irrelevant to the debate. We can all logically conclude the differences between torture and interrogation, and you can't bog down the debate by playing semantics. Then you claim I did indeed define torture, but again you took something I said out of context and misrepresented it. Rarely have I encountered somebody so selective in what they refuse to address or listen to. It was HIS analogy that had somebody being threatened with head-panties and beer as being tortured. I then said they would need to be threatened with something more serious like death or pain for me to consider it torture. When I mention torture in that situation, I was not giving it a definition, but was instead pointing out that the way he was defining torture in his analogy was lacking in that there was no pain or threat of death in the 'Mustafa' scenario he put forth. That he suddenly pulled my one line out of the context of that particular scenario makes me feel that he is misleading in his portrayal of my arguments.
Due process of law - This is an American right and something important to our Constitution and our rule of law. I feel as an American that EVERYBODY is deserving of due process of law. In fact, I would like it if the entire human race lived under our American Constitution, as it is a brilliant document and one of mankind's greatest creations. I'm not talking 'legal treatise', Chris. I'm talking about the American way of life and how we should do unto others just as we do unto ourselves. That Chris feels some people should be denied due process of law is repugnant and as un-American as it gets.
The captured female bomber in Jordan - Chris, an educated guess is still a guess. Until you can emphatically show just what exactly got that woman to talk, you cannot keep putting her forth as an example of how effective torture can be... BECAUSE YOU HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO PROOF THAT TORTURE WAS USED ON HER. What part of that don't you get?
Me as an 'America basher' - Ridiculous. I haven't been bashing America AT ALL. Anybody can read my posts here and see that I am very patriotic, very much in love with my American freedom, and a HUGE fan of our Constitution. And the main reason I'm anti-torture is because I feel we are the shining city on the hill that is above that kind of thing. Chris, I demand that you either retract that comment or put forth actual proof of me bashing America. Face me on this point, you coward, instead of just doing your usual skirting of the subject. I for one do not take lightly having my patriotism unfairly misrepresented.
Me as a liberal - Again and again and again I point out to Chris that I don't buy into the liberal vs conservative thing. Again and again and again he can't grasp that I'm not a liberal. I think years back I may have voted for some Democratic senators, but that's it. Chris needs to accept that there is more to this world than liberals and conservatives. If he calls me liberal one more time, I can only assume he has mental problems, as I have done all I can to point out the fact that I am a progressive with libertarian leanings that sees little merit in the leftist/rightest framing of politics.
FOXnews and conservative talk radio - I spend time discussing that in the context of Chris because most of his diatribe seems to come directly from that particular propoganda machine in that it sounds VERY similar. But, there is an easy way to nip this in the bud. Chris, do you watch FOXnews? Do you listen to conservative talk radio? If your answer is no, then I sincerely apologize for casting you as such. If your answer is yes, then I was right all along and don't see how you can argue against me using FOXnews in my debate with you.
The death cult we face - Chris, you are overly obsessed with our enemy as some sort of boogeyman, and we need to be realistic in this fight against terror if we're going to succeed. I fully understand the threat terrorism poses to us, and yet don't feel it is so great that we as Americans suddenly need to be abandoning our higher moral principles. What's sad is that you don't seem to understand that the terrorists want more than to just destroy our bodies... they also want to manipulate our minds to make us act irrationally in reaction to their terrorist acts. It's obvious they've done a good job of effecting your mind in this regard, but I for one am going to stand firm and not throw away the dignity and honor of America because of fear and hysteria. And while we're on the subject, who is the enemy: the terrorists or the leftists? You seem to have trouble seperating the two.
My own points on fighting the enemy - First off, don't elect incompetents like George Bush who screw up national security and let a 9/11 happen under their watch. The President's job is to take care of the national defense. Though the terrorist's are responsible for 9/11, the government is accountable, because it is their job to prevent such occurences, and they failed in doing that job big time on 9/11. We need a better group of politicians than what we currently have. Dems and Reps are stuck in the past, and may be dinosaurs that are ill equipped to face the present threat of Al Qaeda and international terrorism.
Secondly, don't let hysteria and fear rule our decision-making process. If our enemy is so very deadly, then all the more reason to stay calm and collected in the fight against them. And stop portraying our enemy unrealistically as George Bush does. To turn them into villainous stereotypes seperates us from truly understanding our enemy, and we need to understand them fully to fight the best fight against them.
Thirdly, realize that America has faced many threats in the past, and we've prevailed against all of them. We will do so in the war on terror as well, so there is no need to start radically changing our American principles, such as adopting torture as an acceptable American practice. Let's not make mistakes akin to the Japanese-American internment camps in WW2 or McCarthyism in the Cold War. Whatever happenned to American pride that we can triumph over any evil? Instead we see these days that America is somehow desperate and must resort to whatever possible to achieve victory. Again I say we can achieve victory without relenting one iota of our higher moral ground.
Lastly and most importantly, we need to capture Osama Bin Laden. It has been four years plus since 9/11, and he is still out there avoiding punishment for his crimes, plotting and masterminding his side of the battle against us. It is unacceptable that we no longer have Osama as our main focus, that we don't even bother to discuss his capture anymore, and that the American people aren't demanding that he be caught already. Our number one focus should be on capturing Osama Bin Laden. Instead, he is currently out of sight and out of mind to most of the American public. We need laser-like focus in going after Osama, but unfortunately we have swept his capture under the rug and no longer even mention the hunt for him. If this President does not have Bin Laden caught by the end of his term, he will have done the American people a great disservice.

Posted by: ErrinF | November 15, 2005 02:40 PM

I'd have to agree with patriot1957 that the idea that the Osama's and his ilk are indeed attempting, or at least would like , to establish an Islamic Caliphate stretching from Spain to Indonesia. In fact, they've gone on record as saying that much. To that extent, we do face a clash of civilizations, one that has gone on for over a 1000 years with a few respites in between. What we see with radical Islam coming to the fore is the frustration of the people's of backward and repressed societies, unable to effectively change their own situation by peaceful means, looking back to a time of supposed glorious civilization and lashing out at a world that has effectively left them behind. The campaign to transform those societies in such a way that will take the wind out of the sails of radical Islam's appeal is a just one, should we fail to do so, I fear the future of western civilization as we know it is imperiled. Rival societies have always sought, either by religion, economics or political means to transform the other into something a bit more palatable to themselves. History is replete with examples. I believe the administration has done a poor job of articulating this objective, afraid to suffer the political blowback in this age of cultural relativism.

Posted by: Deus Vult | November 15, 2005 03:00 PM

"The campaign to transform those societies in such a way that will take the wind out of the sails of radical Islam's appeal is a just one, should we fail to do so, I fear the future of western civilization as we know it is imperiled."

We are failing miserably. We were close - we had the world's sympathy and secular Muslims had a glimpse behind the curtain at the nature of the radicals. We took Afghanistan from the repressive nuts and gave it back to the people, and got Musharraf by the nuts. We had Libya's attention.

Then thanks to George II and his neocon friends it all went to hell. Most of Afghanstan is now back to the Taliban, the curtain has been pulled back on our disdain for human rights and we suddenly don't seem so different from old Osama any more, and we've given the terrorists new cause.

How don't people get it? Did the fascist right really get that much control over the MSM? or is it just that the MSM can't sell reason? Or are Americans just too poorly educated or redneck or insulated to get it? We need to get this right. Is there no one who can lead us through this minefield?

Posted by: patriot1957 | November 15, 2005 03:54 PM


Your's is a voice in the wilderness, Errin. I'm afraid it will not be picked up much less adequately responded to by Chris because you guys are talking two different languages. The premise of your argument is that there is a common humanity we share with all people of the earth, no matter we are Americans or not. As a people specially blessed with a long tradition of democratic and republican ideals of rule of law we must set an example.

I don't think Chris sees the world as you see it. His view is "us" and "them," "us" being "we do what we want to do" and "them" being "to hell with who I consider my enemy is."

So, don't be exasperated or frustrated if he does not address your concerns.

Posted by: bystander | November 15, 2005 04:47 PM

Thanks for the above snipe patriot. Geeze.

Transforming may or may not work because the prosecution of the war has not gone well. You can hate Bush, and spend a lot of your time complaining about him, but this will not move us forward. At least as an engineer, I try to contribute to the knowledge base that will eventually rid ourselves of any dependence on these Middle East jerk offs. I've seen some neat things like fuel cells that use methane and other hydrogen containing gasses (including H2), which are cleaner alternatives to burning fossile fuels.

I was a very big Bush supporter. I fully support the war, do not care why it started, and bought into the PNAC philosophy of converting these areas before really bad things come about. I still hope this works, but at the same time we must mandate or prioritize alternative fuel power source research. Bush has not been pushing this other front.

We must divorce ourselves from all contact with these cultures. They produce things like heroin, persian rugs, and terrorists. I can live without all of them. As we wean ourselves from their grasp, they become less and less significant.

Posted by: johnnyg in NE DC | November 15, 2005 04:56 PM


Posted by: ZsaZsa | November 15, 2005 05:09 PM

Suicides raise fears over Tamiflu

European regulators say there is no need to amend product warnings
Medicines regulators are monitoring the antiviral Tamiflu after reports from Japan that two teenagers who had taken the drug committed suicide.

The European Medicines Evaluation Agency said it was aware of the cases.

But it said there was no evidence there was a direct link between Tamiflu and the teenagers' suicides, and said flu itself could lead to delusions.

Tamiflu, the main weapon against a flu pandemic, is being stockpiled by governments including the UK's.

One of the things that has to be determined in these cases is if there was a causal link between the drug and the teenagers' actions
EMEA spokesman
The incidents in Japan took place in February 2004 and February 2005.

Both teenagers displayed abnormal behaviour before their deaths.

In the first case, a 17-year-old ran out of his house and jumped over a railing, falling into the path of a truck.

In the second, a teenager fell to his death from the ninth floor of his apartment building.

An estimated 33m people around the world have received Tamiflu. During the 2004-05 flu season in Japan, six million took the drug.

Safety review

Japanese authorities have amended the patient information which comes with the drug to list psychiatric effects, such as delusions, in the list of side effects.

However, a spokesman for the EMEA, said it had not been felt necessary to put similar warnings on the medication labelling in Europe.

He stressed flu itself could lead to such conditions, particularly in the elderly and the young.

He added: "Psychiatric side effects are one of the things that is most closely monitored in relation to all drugs.

"But one of the things that has to be determined in these cases is if there was a causal link between the drug and the teenagers' actions."

The spokesman said it was known one of the teenagers had taken Tamiflu before without any ill effects, but would not reveal which for reasons of patient confidentiality.

And he said the EMEA had evaluated 48 reports of psychiatric side effects from Tamiflu as part of a regular safety review of the drug in July this year.

Most - 28 - of those reports had come from Japan, with 10 coming from the US, five from Canada, three from Germany and two from France.

They related to serious abnormal psychiatric behaviour, such as delirium and hallucinations.

Evidence review

A spokeswoman for Roche, the manufacturers of Tamiflu, said the company was aware of the two Japanese cases involving instances of "abnormal behaviour".

She added: "The information on these two cases has been shared with other regulatory authorities around the world, who have taken them into consideration and made the decision that no change to the summary of product characteristics was warranted.

"These conditions are known complications of influenza and its associated high fever.

"A number of studies have clearly shown that use of Tamiflu does not increase the likelihood of such events occurring in patients with influenza."

The Department of Health has placed an order for 14.6m courses of Tamiflu to cover a quarter of the population in the event of a flu pandemic.

A spokesman said its drugs regulators would review the available evidence on the drug.

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Posted by: Che | November 15, 2005 05:13 PM

Thanks for your comments, bystander. No, I am not holding my breath expecting Chris to suddenly become an open minded, nonpartisan person. I just personally like to take people like him to task, especially since there's many people here who are listening to all sides and forming their own opinions. I will use your post however to say that I agree he is a lost cause, and I am through wasting my time with him... plus I still find him repulsive for calling me an America basher when I have been very clear that I LOVE the Constitution, the unique freedom that is to be an American, and a dedication to maintaining the high road for our great nation. It is irresponsible and sickening to so casually call somebody an America basher. Besides, the man's a coward who promotes the torture of human beings and can't handle a straight one-on-one debate without being dodgy, exagerrative, and misleading. Maybe he's a member of the Bush administration... they run from fair fights as well.
Oh wait! Was that 'Bush bashing'? Fine by me. Bush ISN'T America.

Posted by: ErrinF | November 15, 2005 05:53 PM

Deus Vult,
You wrote: "I'd have to agree with patriot1957 that the idea that the Osama's and his ilk are indeed attempting, or at least would like , to establish an Islamic Caliphate stretching from Spain to Indonesia. In fact, they've gone on record as saying that much. To that extent, we do face a clash of civilizations, one that has gone on for over a 1000 years with a few respites in between."

I think I'd tweak this a bit. We don't face a clash of civilizations inevitably. Osama just _wants_ us to. (And we're playing into his hands, but that's a subject for another posting.) Some commentators over here lately have started taking this 'clash of civilizations' line as well, but the history they use to prove it is usually very selective and generalized (a historian's FOX news maybe).

Posted by: Beren | November 15, 2005 05:55 PM

johnnyg's comments about completely divorcing ourselves from 'those cultures' are deplorable. It's downright racist he lumps all the Islamic nations together, acting like their only purpose is heroin and terrorism. Again, another hysterical, irrational mentality from somebody who was traumatized by 9/11. It's sad how much the fear of 9/11 radicalized some of our weaker Americans. I for one am not scared of Al Qaeda and refuse to start accepting or allowing ugly views like the ones supported by johnnyg.
If I may paraphrase his post...
"We must divorce ourselves with all contact from people like johnnyg. He produces stuff like ignorance, hatred, and racism. I can live without all of them."
Oh well, at least 'The Debate' gets to remind all of us how many ugly Americans we have in our country.

Posted by: ErrinF | November 15, 2005 06:03 PM

johhnyg it was frustration, not sniping. But I apologize anyway.

Its not that the war didn't go well. Its that the neocon philosophy to transform the Middle East by force and against their will never had a prayer to succeed in the first place. That's why it was sold by fearmongering about "mushroom clouds" and not as honest debate about the value of such a transformation. We had about as much chance of transforming the Middle East in our image as Mexico or Canada would have in transforming us into their image by force against our will (eh Senor?).

War is hell, but unjust wars that are civil and religious are HELL - uglier, bloodier and far less 'civilized'. Nearly every one of our top generals told us it was not a good move to invade Iraq. By Catholic standards the war was not just, or by almost any other standards either. We did not have world opinion on our side, and more importantly we did not have Muslim opinion on our side - the family mantra applies all over the world - I can fight with my brother but no one else better try to hurt him or they'll have ME to deal with. Twice as many innocent Iraqis died from the rain of American bombs on Baghdad as innocent Americans who died on 9-11. How did you feel on 9-11 to see your countrymen jumping off buildings? Did you seriously expect the Muslim world to shrug and call it collateral damage when theirs died?

But we believed we could eventually prevail in the court of world (and especially Muslim) opinion and get the job done because we were the good guys in the white hats saving the world for democracy (the John Wayne illusion) or the shining city on the hill breaking down the walls of oppression (the Reagan illusion). (How many countries did Ronald Reagan invade (besides Grenada)?) But the entire focus of this debate is - is that ineed who we are? Is this good vs evil - with us of course as good? Or are we liars and torturers like Osama and North Vietnam and Imperial Japan and North Korea? The answer is important. Osama the torturer promises to make Islam strong again - an empire where never again will another nation decide to transform it against their will, defile their holy land and control their natural resources. America the lying torturer promises what? - our way of life imposed on them at the point of a gun and with lots of collateral damage? If we want their consent to beome like us we better make it worth their while. Torturing their kin isn't a propitious start.

And we better fix the credibility gap too. Read some foreign papers. The world does not believe it is a coincidence that the yellowcake forgeries sat in our intelligence agencies for FIVE MONTHS (Oct 15 2002 till the invasion) and we couldn't tell they were forged, when the IAEA figured it out in TWO HOURS. They do not believe the odd coincidence that the information didn't get make it out of the "bowels" of the intelligence agencies that that Libi was a liar AND the information that the Italians told us the yellowcake documents were forgeries AND the infomation that Chalabi was a liar AND the information that Curveball was a liar AND the information that every one of our nuclear scientists (but apparently one) said the aluminum tubes weren't for nuclear weapons etc etc etc. They're not buying that much coincidence. Now its possible that the intelligence stovepipe also bypassed Bush so he is being honest when he says the Senate had the same intel as he did. But that raises even scarier questions about just who was in charge, doesn't it?

Do I have the will to sacrifice the young men in my family on the alter of neocon arrogance? In a word, NO. If a leader emerged who could give me a sincere apology for the scandalous behavior of this country, (setting up an elaborate cover to justify an unjust war and meanwhile making terrorism and public opinion WORSE), then we'll talk about sending the sons to die to fix our mistakes.

Posted by: patriot1957 | November 15, 2005 06:21 PM

Oh get real. We only deal with them because they have oil. For what other reason, pray tell, do we need trade with them? To buy the latest Syrian automobiles The cultures I speak of are the ones producing these problems. Syria, Iran, Packistan and Saudi Arabia. They are at source of all the current problems.
They are not our friends, they are jerk offs!

Posted by: | November 15, 2005 06:27 PM

And another thing errin, I have many assoicates and colleagues who are Middle of Eastern decent. The engineering field is full of all kinds of people of arab decent. Those that came here and divorced themselves from the crazyness of their homelands, being gifted and creative, have made it big here. I congratulate them.

Posted by: | November 15, 2005 06:39 PM

Those last two comments were mine. Call me a racist again errin, and I'll make you an ugly american.

Posted by: johnnyg in NE DC | November 15, 2005 06:42 PM

"Oh get real. We only deal with them because they have oil"

BINGO! You hit the nail on the head. So that means you're with the people who said this war is all about oil, not democracy or even WMD.

Must be true cause we sure don't care about democracy or suffering in Rwanda, do we?

So, if the Bush administration had actually developed an energy policy that made sense, we wouldn't have to deal with these "jerk-offs" any more, would we?

But instead for the past 5 years oil consumption and prices rose, cars and houses got bigger, oil profits skyrocketed, George and his cronies got richer, and we did exactly what about it besides drill and fill?

After 9-11 this president had a bully pulpit - people would have jumped off cliffs like lemmings if he asked them to. So did our leader ask us to conserve in the name of freeing us from dependence on these "jerk-offs"? Did he charge Detroit with making hybrids as good as a Prius so that every commuting car could get 60 mpg (my friend's Prius gets 70 mpg)? Where did he put more money - hydrogen cell technology or tax cuts for the rich?

You hit the nail on the head. This war is about oil. And our president has totally failed in his leadership to make us less dependent on the "jerk-off's" oil. And since we let them figure out that Goliath's mighty army could be contained with a few incendiery device slingshots we can't exactly just go in there and take what we want anymore, can we?

We need a leader willing to take our tax money out of a futile war and the pockets of his cronies and sink it into a "Manhattan II" project that you and your former jerk-off engineer friends can sink you teeth into and save the country.

Posted by: patriot1957 | November 15, 2005 06:57 PM

You silly people blathering over your right to torture have missed the point. The world now sees that the society it once looked to for moral leadership now displays neither morality nor leadership.
Unless you, the American people, turn very rapidly and repudiate the use of torture, then the consequences for the US and its allies will start to look like Act IV of a particularly gory Jacobean tragedy. The real tragedy will be that the main victims of this unravelling won't be Bush, Rumsfeld et al, but the poor and the powerless.

Posted by: JM | November 15, 2005 07:18 PM

JM - are you BRitish or Australian or ??

(Your syntax sounds British and you said you Americans not we Americans)

But anyway I so agree with your pithy comment.

Posted by: patriot 1957 | November 15, 2005 08:10 PM

Yes patriot 1957, it is about oil. I never said it was not. We deal with them for oil. We need to buy their oil. Without it, our economy would freak. The oil market is much too complex to start discussing here, in this debate about torture, so I won't go there.

About Rwanda, that is the one thing from the Clinton era that always bugs me. I am a Republican, but I admired Clinton for the politician he was. It was not Monica and not shady land deals that pissed me off about him. Ruwanda was a humanitarian, and yes, military operation that should have happened.

I ride a Vespa to work. I don't have to, but I do because the less oil I buy, the better I feel about this mess. I must add that it is fun too.

There are choices available now, but they do not fit everyone's situation. (Yes, SUV's are bad for fuel consumption and they are a pain to see around.) There must be long-term goals established, mandated ones, and Bush is not producing any serious results here. This dissappoints me.

You see, not everyone Republican is a lemming. I also do not have cable, so I have never watched FOX news (except local broadcast channel 5). I will remember these things come the next election, but don't count on me converting to the Democratic Party. Been there, done that.

Posted by: | November 15, 2005 08:12 PM

Private England sits in jail while Dick Cheney sits in the Capitol making the argument for torture.

Posted by: Hilton Weiss | November 15, 2005 09:04 PM

Australian. Our government is as culpable as yours. The difference is that you can do something about it sooner. Also your politicians have a tradition of some independent thought and votes in the Senate are not totally predictable.
The Australian scandal is that our government has let a foolish young man stay in the worst of US military behaviour at Guantanamo bay. David Hicks was in Afghanistan at the wrong time (2001). From all the evidence so far he isn't exactly the brightest boy in the room, but was originally seduced by the idea of fighting the communists in Kosovo. There was no way he could have been involved with the events of September 11. He was supporting the Taliban (then) the legal government (as ghastly as they are).
The British at least have removed their citizens from your torturers. You've removed your own citizens, but while Guantanamo exists, and prisoners are kept there without fair trial "America" and "justice" cannot be used in the same sentence.

Posted by: JM | November 15, 2005 11:20 PM

johnnyg, you are a racist. The only way you could make me an ugly American is by turning me into you, and that ain't gonna happen. Are you denying you are racist, or do you just not like it being pointed out to you?
Making sweeping statements such as you've made about Middle Eastern peoples mark you as a racist and a bigot. I suppose you'd also like to extradite all Middle Eastern people in America as well, or perhaps put them in internment camps.
Instead of making me an ugly American, why don't you explain to me how you aren't a racist and how the statements you've made against Middle Easterners aren't the writings of a bigot. Until then, I will continue to say that johnnyg is a racist.

Posted by: ErrinF | November 16, 2005 01:17 AM

No, aside from the illegal Atta types here, I have no problem with those here having Middle Eastern origins.

However, I do not believe we should continue to maintain any ties with those cultures who like seeing us killed. I listed the countries above, all approving of sending suicide bombers accross their borders to kill us, Iraqis, and now Jordanian civilians.

We should have nothing to do with them, just as we cut ties to Cuba. Do I hate cubans? No. I am glad every time one makes it to our shore. Do I dislike the country of Cuba. Yes. I do not approve of Castro's regeme.

Insofar as I generally agree with the ambitions of the PNAC, expansion activities over in the Middle East appears logical, or we can wait some time for democracy to take hold in Iraq and hope that it spreads. In the meantime, we should shun all the nations who wish to do us harm. That can only come about if we are not dependent on them, which we are. That is why we are "friends" with the ruling Saudi family.

The only way I see eliminating our dependency on these awful regimes would be to have a second front to develop alternative sources for power. This to me seems more rational than trying to change the regimes in several countries. Power would become more expensive at first, the oil producers would try to increase production and thus reduce cost, but we would refuse to take the bait. It would result in economic ruin for them. Maybe at that point they would see the light.

Better solution than torture isn't it? By the way, what I meant by making you ugly would have been the result of my fist though your screen, but of course that is an impossibility.

Posted by: johnnyg in NE DC | November 16, 2005 02:36 AM

Errin - You enjoy calling people who take the idea we are in a serious war as "repulsive, cowards" and folks like JohnnyG who works daily with Muslims as racists.

So lets get to the word that you are on the edge of:


It is a word that we are all reluctant to use, even for people that say dissent is patriotic and good if it means troops kill their officers.

You are just another Lefty who hates what America does, tries to undermine our national interests, generally hate American policy under both Partys, but shield yourself by claiming you love the "Constitution" and your guaranteed rights that are "given" and so immune to challenge from Americas enemy's that you have to sacrifice nothing personally in defending them and in fact, you wish to give the Islamist enemy soldiers the same rights.
That word, traitor.

You know the reason it is not used? Because it really doesn't have to be for now. The whole Leftist power edifice is slowly being dismantled in America, and finally now in Europe being seriously reconsidered - as a formidable enemy threatens the West and even Labour and liberal democrat parties in Europe are beginning to admit that lofty Socialist goals are economically unsustainable. And beginning to admit that 34% of all babies live-birthed in France, the Netherlands are Islamic, and above 20% now in Scandanavian countries - is cause to worry about the long-term survival of European countries as European.

Your power and influence are shrinking even under a mediocre and inarticulate President and under a Republican Party perverted by corporate cronyism and greed.

Your ilk simply aren't trusted by most Americans on national security, nor on your use of courts to bypass democratic processes to use liberal judicial activists to get your way.

The word traitor does not have to be used because you have joined your bethren way out on a limb and a new major Islamist attack will allow us regular Americans to happily ensure that limb is sawed off. And the American people are slowly, inexorably taking control of your last bastions of influence in academia, public employee groups, and the judiciary.

Welcome to irrelevance, Errin! Even the Democratic Party's hired consultants warn that the Democrats will never again hold power as long as hate-America bashers like you shape it's policies.

Oh, I forget, you aren't a Leftist! You don't hate America, though you criticize just about everything we do in our ignorance contrasted with your high enightenment...No...Instead you describe yourself as a "libertarian-progressive" who has transcended old "Rep-Dem" Party affiliation labels, even the old liberal-conservative continuum - such is the magnitude of your vast post-mod wisdom. Your dream of fighting a enemy that obeys know laws of war is to sacrifice nothing, show others how nice we are, and capture one terrorist OBL, so you can give him full legal due process...and even...obtain a criminal conviction!!

Wow, bin Laden in jail! That will change everything!! Brilliant thinking, Errin! Quite the Grand Plan to address the rise of a murderous, intolerant religious ideology that seeks the deaths of Jews, Christians, Hindis, gays, and even moderate Muslims in the way of it gaining supremacy. Binnie in jail after a 4 year due process trial workup and a year of making global speeches during his trial under his sacred 1st Amendment "rights". Wow! Such a deterrance to like-minded Islamist individuals that will be!!

Enjoy your slide into irrelevancy and the ash heap of history, my friend, and be prepared to deal with the T-word if the radical Muslims hit us with a WMD attack. Your best defense then will be not the "How DARE you question my patriotism!!!" defense but a simpler defense that calling a group of hate-America Lefties...err, sorry Errin...libertarian progressives Traitors is just mean piling on. You can argue at that point, given your kind is completely marginalized and out of power so badly even universities have stopped hiring your pals, that at that point, your kind are more to be pitied than scorned.

Posted by: Chris Ford | November 16, 2005 10:42 AM

Johnnyg. I am an Arab-American, and somebody who does find your comments racist and bigoted.

1) "We must divorce ourselves from all contact with these cultures. They produce things like heroin, persian rugs, and terrorists. I can live without all of them. As we wean ourselves from their grasp, they become less and less significant."

How is this statement anything but RACIST/BIGOTED? How can you have Middle Eastern friends and say something so blatantly racist and stereotypical. My parents left the Middle East for better educational, economic, and political opportunities, and most immigrants who leave their countries do so for better economic opportunities and good life for their children. Many are saddened leaving their countries because they are leaving their homes.

You don't support the regimes of these countries, but you have nor problem with the people. Then why the hell did you make such a racist comment. Perhaps, it was your bigoted subconcious come out to play.

Middle Eastern culture is not inherently violent, but it has been twisted by a few to give that perception.

2) You claim for isolation is completely counterproductive. If you want to address Muslim extremists as a problem, you have to engage moderate Muslims. Guess where those moderate Muslims live? THE MIDDLE EAST.

Do I dislike the Saudi Regime? Heck yeah. Do they represent the country of Saudi Arabia at the moment, sadly yes.

3) As for economic ruin for Saudi Arabis if we stop buying their oil. News Flash, we are not only consumer of oil, and look who is looming large and in charge in Asia, China. They alone would scoop up the oil we refused to buy from the Saudis.

In the end, I don't have a problem with your strategy of economic isolation from the Saudi government. I do feel your diplomatic isolation would be catastrophic for Middle Eastern diplomatic engagement. Finally, how can you expect people to take you seriously if you spout out racist comments.

Posted by: Middle Eastern Descent | November 16, 2005 10:55 AM

What is this ranting against "Lefties" and "leftist power edifice being dismantled in America?"

If someone does not agree with you, call him a "lefty," make a strawman of him and destroy him! Funny, ain't it?

Even as we are discussing about the terrible mistake the Bush administration made in letting the CIA run torture bunkers all over the world, the latest revelation is that under the very nose of our occupation forces in Iraq a hideous prison system has been operating. Iraqi prisoners tortured to such a degree as to make of them skeleton-looking Holocaust survivers.

Is the administration upset about it? I don't know. True, some officials here and there seem to have expressed shock. But we haven't heard a word from Dick Cheney, who (although himself an advocate of torture) should have condemned this practice without any ambiguity in the absence of the President now on his Asia tour.

Are you still advocating torture, Mr. Ford?

Posted by: Milton12 | November 16, 2005 12:48 PM

I am sorry for offending you Middle Eastern Descent. Please accept my apologies.

The "I can do without them" statement is directed to heroin, rugs and terrorists. Not all Arab people. And I still believe I can do without those things. I must, however, have oil.

Because those regimes I speak of repress their subjects, it also suppresses any advancement that would lead to a better way of life, such as the development of a strong middle class. This was happening in Iran under the Shah, but look what happened there. I worked for an Iranian in the 80's. He was a great guy. He told me once, "If there is ever an invasion of Iran from the US, I would be leading the first wave."

I think the fact that those in control can thrive economically simply by pumping oil out of the ground has caused many of the cultural problems, which includes extreme hatred among the under classes for the outside world. At the same time, those in control condone the terrorist acts because it is better it be directed at us instead of them. It is not often you see protests against the ruling governments of those regimes. Why, because the protesters would be thrown in jail for years, murdered etc. This does not happen often here. If it ever should, it would result in an outpouring of protest.

For nine years I lived within two blocks of the National Mosque in NW DC. While at St. John's High School here in the early 70's, I went by myself to the Mosque for a research project and spoke with the cleric in charge there. It was just he and I sitting barefoot in the middle of the room talking for hours. I am not afraid of Muslims and I find the ones I have met here to be very nice and intelligent people. A friend of mine who lived nearby, a Moroccan American, was a Muslim. He was about 5' 4". He was also a Marine and I had great respect for him and his family. We saw each other on almost a daily basis, and we miss them since we moved. You cannot believe what it was like living in that area of DC. Very international. I loved it.

Like you said Middle Eastern Descent, it is the twisted individuals in these countries that have produced cultures of hate. They have also prevented economic advancement of their people.

As far as China and India sweeping in and filling the gap, you are probably right. But I guess they would have to deal with the terrorists and not the US, since we would have nothing to do with perpetuating their plight.

Posted by: johnnyg in NE DC | November 16, 2005 03:03 PM

Milton12 - I don't care. Call them the "very liberal America-haters" or Errins post-mod "libertarian Progressives" or "Deaniacs" for all I care.

Whatever you wish to call them, they obsess so much about enemy "rights" and what France thinks of us that they can't be trusted with the security of the country, even though the Republicans are headed by an incompetent and are deep in greed and corporate cronyism.

So the campaign continues to slowly root the Lefties or whatever nome du jour you want to give them from positions of power and influence. The work will quicken if another 9/11 happens as Lefties in academia, the MSM, and the ACLU and sister organizations are marginalized.

As for the insurgents and terrorists we have, they are being coercively interrogated, and "torture" is something not defined nor was it ever much of a concern to the Left as long as communists were doing it.

And as for the Shia mistreating Iraqi Sunni bad guys in their custody, what is surprising so far has been the remarkable restraint of the Shiites in not just wasting large numbers of them. The Pesh Merga up North has been far more retributive, but control media access more closely.

Posted by: Chris Ford | November 16, 2005 05:08 PM


Whereas dozens of neocons did not think twice about tearing Harriet Meiers to pieces, they seem to be nowadays totally absent from the current debate on the legitimacy of the Iraq invasion.

So, where've all the neocons gone? What are their views on "rewriting" history - Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld seem to be troubled that the verdict of history on their actions might not be what they had expected.

Why do the neocons keep mum on the CIA torture chambers, the use of white phosphorus in Falluja, the torture prisons under US watch in Iraq? Do they support troop withdrawal or continued fight till the allied troops can "shake'n bake" the last "insurgent" with white phosphorus?

Posted by: Mae | November 16, 2005 10:22 PM


We're chomping on our collective bits to discuss Bob Woodward's sell out of the American public. Here's hoping you open a line Woodward's disturbing tack and flimsy excuse making. Judging by his public comments about the Fitzgerald investigatioin, Woodward could be misindentified as a Bush Insider if you didn't know his name.

Posted by: Truthteller | November 17, 2005 07:33 AM

I'm glad I re-visited this debate, mainly to see johnnyg apologize for his remarks, but also to see Chris Ford go on a CRAZY right-wing rant about me that is so sadly devoid of being in reality that it's almost laughable. Chris, you are so living in a fantasy world that it isn't funny. You are the poster child of the kind of brain rot that occurs from buying in too heavily to the Republican propoganda machine/culture. At this point, I really don't know what to say in that I think you have damaged what little credibility you have by going off on that diatribe that had nothing to do with anything. Talk about sliding into irrelevency! If you are indeed a soldier as you claim, Chris, you deserve a purple heart for just shooting yourself in the foot...
Back to johnnyg: Yes, I knew your 'make me an ugly American' was a veiled attempt at a violent threat. 'Engineers' should be able to fall back on their intellect, not their fists.
But enough with being antagonistic, johnny. I think your statements were racist and made you appear racist, but I take back labelling you a racist, as you took honest offense at such, which most racists wouldn't, as they'd be proud to bear the racist label. I apologize for offending you, and retract my statements branding you a racist, while at the same time still feeling the statements you made about Middle Eastern cultures were 100% wrong. It is fortunate Middle Eastern Descent weighed in on the topic, and I hope he/she noticed that plenty of us Americans not of Middle Eastern descent quickly come to the defense of such when racism bears it's ugly head.

Posted by: ErrinF | November 17, 2005 07:20 PM

Belittling the capture of Osama Bin Laden?!?! Listen, just because George Bush doesn't have what it takes to lead his government to the capture of Osama doesn't mean it's something that shouldn't have been done already. It's a bad thing to have Osama running around free out there, and a good thing to have him captured. It would be a major blow against Al Qaeda if we brought their leader to justice. Al Qaeda without Bin Laden is like the Nazis without Hitler. If you're really serious about winning the War On Terror, then you should be dead serious about hunting down and capturing Osama Bin Laden. I'm a bit ashamed at the American people for not pressing the issue more with our press and politicians.
And you right wingers need to capture him at this point to give yourself any real credibility on being the great warriors you claim to be. If you haven't noticed, Bush and the neocon agenda are crashing and burning as I type this, with the nation and the legislature beginning a process of 'Debushification' reversing all the 'progress' (I say that sarcastically) the Righties have had recently. Unless your side pulls a rabbit out of it's hat like Bin Laden, it is going to find 2006 to be the beginning of the end for conservatism in this country.

Posted by: ErrinF | November 17, 2005 08:01 PM

I believe a Grouse can out smart the Bush
administaive warriors and it's time for the American people clean up the neocon
propoganda and reverse the negative Global
position G.W. Bush has imposed on the Amerian CITIZENS.

Posted by: Concerned American | November 17, 2005 08:49 PM


It is one of the ironies of Bush administration's detainee policy that in its frantic attempt to rewrite history it finds itself in the truly paradoxical situation of being "torturers condemning (other) torturers."

The recent disclosure of prison cells in Iraq where detainees are routinely tortured is more than a simple embarassment to the Bush administration. It is the mirror image of Bush's torture policy in Guantanamo Bay, Abu Graib and elsewhere in the world where "rendition" detainess are made to endure unorthodox methods of intelligence gathering.And yet, newspaper headlines scream, "Discovery of prisoners' torture prompts U.S. warning about Iraqi militias."

For instance, U.S. Army Major Gen. Rick Lynch told reporters that Brig. Gen. Karl Horst discovered 169 men on Sunday and that the men were transferred to the Abu Ghraib prison the following day.

The U.S. Embassy condemned the mistreatment of detainees.

"We don't tolerate any incidents of abuse of detainees," said James Bullock, counselor for public affairs. "Even one case is too many."

Signs of an American inquiry into further abuse were apparent on Thursday. At a building that had one been a military intelligence facility under Saddam Hussein, U.S. troops visited with prisoners and Iraqi guards allowed the prisoners into the sunlit courtyard for the first time since their incarceration, said an Iraqi soldier who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"Today is exceptional. We let the prisoners out in the sun," he said. "We definitely beat them. If we don't, how would they confess?"

If torture is the way to make prisoner confess, what kind of confession is that? If torture is perfectly kosher with you why do you condemn other torturers who after all are assisting you in extracting "confessions"?

Posted by: Joe | November 17, 2005 09:03 PM

Errin continues her usual tack of being snotty and insulting people who disagree with her err...."progressive" politics. Her calling another poster racist is a 40-year long habitual reflex under Leftist Marcusan tactics. Not, of course, is Errin a Leftist.

As for getting bin Laden, it would be nice. Though we already have the creator and head implementor of 9/11 (KSM) now in captivity and singing like a bird after a little persuasion, it would be nice to see Binnie cornered and then shot. Just as long as he doesn't get in the welcoming arms of NYC's ACLU or the Southern Law Poverty Center or Michael Frankel's Center for Constitutional Rights. Aymin Al-Zarwahiri is more important, but I'd be happy to see our troops get him.

But many on the Left, or in Errins words, the "libertarian progressive" (not to mention Chomskyite) faction even opposed going into Afghanistan on grounds that "innocent Afghani babies" would die. But when they were younger, they all saw the Bond and other movies that claimed if only "Mr. Big", the "Mastermind" was slain, the whole ideology or evil, hierarchially aligned top down organization would collapse like a house of cards. Which of course is utter nonsense.

Long before Binnie, the ideology of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and Sayyid Qutb had spread out to other countries. Way back in the 50s, in fact. Radical Islam as an ideology has been around for awhile. It just got smarter and more lethal as the Algerians, Palestinians, Iranians, JI, Kashmir Islamoids, Hezbollah, and finally Al Qaeda started up. Al Qaeda is simply the smartest in using advanced technology, politically savvy people, and ruthless tactics to get what it wants. And unfortunately for Errin, her "Mr Big" fantasy is even more silly from the fact that Al Qaeda is a net centric warfare, diffused management..even franchisee model. Getting Binnie won't stop the radical Muslim ideology OR Al Qaeda.

The other problem is that radical Islam is rather popular in Binnie's most likely hiding place, Pakistan, and we are limited in what we can do unless we are willing to invade Pakistan basically to take revenege on one individual. Iran and N Korea are bigger problems. That and Iraq. Binnie is a 2nd tier priority...almost 1st tier...but we fight the war today, not the war of 4 years ago. We didn't go to war against Japan to hunt down "Admiral Evil", Issui Yamoto and his torpedo bombers. We went in to defeat Japan.

Posted by: Chris Ford | November 17, 2005 09:27 PM


Some of the recent developments within the Bush administration policy begin to show that loud protestations of Cheney and other top officials notwithstanding, the administration has already begun to finetune its exit strategy from Iraq. These seem to be some of the "withdrawal symptoms:"

1) repeatedly (and hypocritically) blaming Democrats for misleading on WMD and the rationale for war
2) blaming Congress as aiding the enemy when it demands for a concrete exit strategy
3) "discovering" torture chambers in Iraq and demanding tough action from the Iraqi government thus trying to take moral high ground on the question of torture (to cover up its own failed policy of torture in other parts of the world)

News report: A split between the United States and one of Iraq's most powerful officials widened Thursday over the recent discovery that prisoners were tortured by the police, as the Iraqi official played down the reports of torture while the American Embassy bluntly warned that abuse of prisoners would not be tolerated.

The American Embassy issued its statement, saying that "detainee abuse is not and will not be tolerated." In addition, the embassy said, "we have made clear to the Iraqi government that there must not be militia or sectarian control or direction of Iraqi security forces, facilities or ministries."

The American government is still grappling with fallout across the Middle East from the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal last year and may be taking this opportunity to try today regain some moral standing, especially among Sunni Arabs.

4) attempting to use the issue of torture chambers in Iraq as an excuse to pull out our troops
5) talking about the inevitability of civil war in Iraq and shake off responsibility for that.
6) blaming the Shia militias for using extreme methods of torture.

Posted by: Frank S. | November 17, 2005 09:37 PM

Chris Ford:

A couple of things.

1. What is it with you and the ACLU? I wasn't generally a big fan of theirs (it took Bush and his immoral behavior as CiC to get me to appreciate them). They and their lawyers have at times threatened religious freedoms that I hold dear. But why do you so often bring them up in this discussion? I don't think ErrinF or others opposing your viewpoint are ACLU lawyers, are they? What, to you, is the relevance of all these ACLU references?

2. I agree with you (yup, I do) about the relative unimportance of the capture of Bin Laden. Of course, it would be useful to capture him, since it would, at the very least, be a blow to the morale of Al-Qaeda-like terrorists around the globe. But in the main I agree with you: capturing Bin-Laden wouldn't do that much for us, because Al-Qaeda (and affiliates) are much more an ideology than a real organization. But that's one of the main arguments against torture:

Bin-Laden and Co. rely not upon their organization, but upon their ideology, to spread their message and accomplish their mission. And we actually contribute our own efforts to their PR campaign and the spread of their ideology when we torture detainees. Despite what Bin-Laden was able to pull off on 9-11, let's not blind ourselves to his inherent weaknesses. At that time, at least, he was viewed as a wacko by most of his own co-religionists and compatriots.

Now, what Al-Qaeda needs to do, strategically, if it is to succeed, is to convince a large number of people in at least a few countries in the Muslim world that Bin-Laden's view of history is right, that there is a climactic clash between the West and the Islamic world, and that the West poses an immoral and implacable threat to all Muslims. Unless Al-Qaeda (and affiliates) can convince their own people of this, they ultimately fail. By torturing Muslim detainees, we play into Bin-Laden's hands perfectly. Do you think he is disappointed when we torture terrorists? On the contrary. He rejoices, even if (and I do mean 'if') that torture gives us information about Al-Qaeda's plots. By torturing Muslims we're handing Bin-Laden a PR victory that he never could have achieved on his own. For every plot that we (maybe!) foil by torturing, we create terrorists willing to plan many more plots.

You have mentioned in other posts (I think) that accounts of torture by released detainees seem suspect to you, because Al-Qaeda trains its members to claim that they were tortured while in US custody. Perhaps they're just inventing stories of how they were abused? You say that. But think seriously about _why_ they're trained to say that. They're trained to say that, because the idea that America tortures detainees is potentially so helpful to Al-Qaeda in its campaign to legimitize itself in the Muslim world. If we want to counter that campaign, we have to establish a rock-solid reputation as a country that doesn't stoop to such tactics.

At other times, you (I think; certainly others who share your views) have pointed out that the terrorists (and insurgents) that we face have no intention of following the Geneva conventions. I know that. But if we follow those conventions, and they don't, they begin to lose the battle that they're most trying to win: the battle to convince the Muslim world that they, with their view of Islam and history, offer the best future to the Muslim world. If the Muslim world sees that Zarqawi will torture, but we will not, that provides one solid un-dismissable piece of evidence against what Bin-Laden is trying to sell the Muslim world on. It shows that actually these 'infidels', these 'Christian crusaders', have higher standards than these self-named "champions of the Muslim people". And, strategically, that's a serious blow to Bin-Laden and his ilk.

In the world we now find ourselves in, in the information age, PR is, itself, a weapon. To fight the battle we're faced with on that front, we have to abstain from torture. If, in the minds of most neutral observers around the world, this ever turns into "The Torturers v. The Terrorists", then we've lost in a way that even our military can't compensate for.

Or do you disagree?

Thanks for your post.

Posted by: Beren | November 17, 2005 11:13 PM

It is somewhat Orwellian to label Osama as the national boogie man. I have one of those magnets on my frige that says, "wanted dead or alive" along with a target superimposed on his picture. I just get that feeling once and a while when I see it.

Posted by: johnnyg in NE DC | November 17, 2005 11:56 PM

So, we can't invade Pakistan for the sake of one man, but we can invade Afghanistan over the exact same individual? Something smells fishy here.

You mean we can't because of manpower shortages. And that Pakistan is our ally. Oh yeah, and they have the bomb.

Al-Qaida's current cell structure also impinges on their ability to recruit. You can't join what you can't find. Hence allowing al-Ansar to merge enmasse. Growth becomes affiliation. It also means that networking cells toward unified strategic goals is more difficult. And finally, cell structures mean that interrogation and torture are unlikely to yeild the smoking gun that looser organization patterns of the past could have.

Posted by: Chris | November 18, 2005 12:08 AM

Some Things You Need to Know before the World Ends
by William Blum

November 10, 2005
The Anti-Empire Report

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Bird flu and capitalism

Preparing for and combating the threatened bird flu pandemic would be tough enough under the best of circumstances. But the circumstances the United States has to deal with include the reality that the country, more than any other on earth, is privately owned. It's corporations that we have to rely on to make virtually all the vaccines and drugs needed. The corporations, however, need financial incentives, perhaps the government paying for most or all of the research, and then turning the patent over to the corporations, as has often been the case; the corporations are concerned with being stuck with the cost of overproduction if it turns out that there's no pandemic; they're concerned about lawsuits from the inevitable cases of individuals who suffer ill effects from the vaccines or drugs; they get rather upset about a generic version being made available anywhere in the world; and they're highly concerned about obtaining a suitable profit margin, perhaps leading them to hold back on the supply to cause the price to rise. On top of all that, the corporate medical system has dumped millions of uninsured people into society's lap. How will these people fare during a pandemic?
What is needed is a mobilization reminiscent of World War Two. At that time the government commandeered the auto manufacturers to make tanks and jeeps instead of private cars. When a pressing need for an atom bomb was seen, Washington did not ask for bids from the private sector; it created the Manhattan Project to do it itself, with no concern for liability protection or profit margins. Women and blacks were given skilled factory jobs they had been traditionally denied. Hollywood was enlisted to make propaganda films. Indeed, much of the nation's activities, including farming, manufacturing, mining, communications, labor, education, and cultural undertakings were in some fashion brought under new and significant government control, with the war effort coming before private profit.
Those who swear by free enterprise argue that this "socialism" was instituted only because of the exigencies of the war. That's true, but it misses a vital point. The point is that it had been immediately recognized by the government that the wasteful and inefficient capitalist system, always in need of the proper financial care and feeding, was no way to win a war.
I would add that it's also no way to run a society of human beings with human needs. Most Americans agree with this but are not consciously aware that they hold such a belief. For this reason I've written an essay entitled: "The United States invades, bombs, and kills for it, but do Americans really believe in free enterprise?"{1}

The Wonderful World of Anti-Communism

Anti-communism is alive and well in the Washington, DC area. There's going to be a new statue, very near the Capitol: The Victims of Communism Memorial, which "will honor an estimated 100 million people killed or tortured under communist rule", a monument established by an Act of Congress.
Also coming soon: A Cold War Museum in nearby Virginia, to be located on a former Nike Missile Base and affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution. The state of Virginia has allocated a $125,000 matching grant for the museum. Francis Gary Powers, Jr., son of the man whose U-2 spy plane was forced to crash land in the Soviet Union in 1960, is the motivating force behind the museum and the associated online magazine "Cold War Times". The journal is hardly a corrective to the many anti-communist myths Americans were spoon fed, from their church sermons to their comic books, which have hardened into historical concrete.
It may be difficult for young people today to believe, but the lies fed to the American people and the world about the Cold War, the Soviet Union, and communism (or "communism") were much more routine and flagrant than the lies of the past few years concerning Iraq and terrorism, the most flagrant and basic lie being the existence of something called the International Communist Conspiracy, seeking to take over the world and subvert everything decent and holy. (In actuality, what there was was people all over the Third World fighting for economic and political changes that didn't coincide with the needs of the American power elite, and so the US moved to crush those governments and those movements, even though the Soviet Union or China was playing hardly any role at all in the great majority of those scenarios.)
I don't know how those behind the memorial arrived at their figure of 100 million victims. I would guess that they'd be hard pressed to explain it themselves. On their own website one finds this: "In less than 100 years, Communism has claimed more than 100 million lives."{2} So here they're saying it's more than 100 million even without including those tortured.
We've all heard the figures many times ... 10 million ... 20 million ... 40 million ... 60 million ... died under Stalin. But what does the number mean, whichever number you choose? Of course many people died under Stalin, many people died under Roosevelt, and many people are still dying under Bush. Dying appears to be a natural phenomenon in every country. The question is how did those people die under Stalin? Did they die from the famines that plagued the USSR in the 1920s and 30s? Did the Bolsheviks deliberately create those famines? How? Why? More people certainly died in India in the 20th century from famines than in the Soviet Union, but no one accuses India of the mass murder of its own citizens. Were millions actually murdered in cold blood in the Soviet Union? If so, how? The logistics of murdering tens of millions of people is daunting.
The ideological hijacking of history is never a pretty sight. Who, it must be asked, will build the Victims of Anti-Communism Memorial and Museum? To document and remember the abominable death, destruction, torture, and violation of human rights under the banner of fighting "communism", that we know under various names: Vietnam, Laos, Chile, Korea, Guatemala, El Salvador, Cambodia, Indonesia, Iran, Brazil, Greece, Argentina, Nicaragua, Haiti, Afghanistan, Iraq, and others.

Thought crimes

Ahmed Omar Abu Ali is a 24-year-old American citizen from Virginia who went to study at a university in Saudi Arabia. He was arrested by the Saudis, interrogated, and confessed to being part of an al Qaeda plot to assassinate George W. Bush while the president was visiting the country. Abu Ali is now being held in the United States by federal authorities. His defense attorneys and his family have contended that any statements he made in Saudi custody were obtained through torture and should thus not be allowed into evidence. Two doctors who examined Abu Ali found evidence that he was tortured in Saudi Arabia, including scars on his back consistent with having been whipped, defense lawyers have said in court papers. The prosecution has argued that he was not tortured, and the judge presiding over the trial, which began October 31, has agreed to allow Abu Ali's confession into evidence.
Abu Ali confessed to the Saudis about conspiring to carry out other terrorist acts as well, but I'd like to focus here on the alleged assassination plot. Law enforcement sources cited by the Washington Post have said the plot against Bush, "never advanced beyond the talking stage".{3} If that is indeed the case, and even assuming there was no torture involved, then I'd raise the question of whether a "crime", worthy of punishment -- and Abu Ali faces up to life in prison on the assassination charge alone -- was committed. Or does it fall in the category of a "thought crime" made famous of course in Orwell's "1984"? Someone should perhaps tell the Justice Department that "1984" was meant to be a warning, not a how-to guide.
Who amongst us has not entertained fantasies of horrible and nasty things befalling our dear George W.? I've imagined myself as the perpetrator of actions taking care of the entire Bushgang all at once, including Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice, Powell, Bolton and about a dozen other neo-con stars, all instantly falling victim to ... well, let's leave it at that on this FBI-patrolled Internet. But I've shared such pleasant thoughts with others in person. And they've shared theirs with me. And I'm sure that a million other Americans have had similar thoughts. Should we be indicted? How about His High Holiness Rev. Pat Robertson who publicly called for the assassination of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez? He did it in all seriousness. Speaking to thousands of people. Without being tortured.

The elephant in Saddam Hussein's courtroom

The trial of Saddam Hussein has begun. He is charged with the deaths of more than 140 people who were executed after gunmen fired on his motorcade in the predominantly Shiite Muslim town of Dujail, north of Baghdad, in an attempt to assassinate him in 1982. This appears to be the only crime he's being tried for. Yet for a few years now we've been hearing about how Saddam used chemical weapons against "his own people" in the town of Halabja in March 1988. (Actually, the people were Kurds, who could be regarded as Saddam's "own people" only if the Seminoles were Andrew Jackson's own people). The Bush administration never tires of repeating that line to us. As recently as October 21, Karen Hughes, White House envoy for public diplomacy, told an audience in Indonesia that Saddam had "used weapons of mass destruction against his own people. He had murdered hundreds of thousands of his own people using poison gas." When challenged about the number, Hughes replied: "It's something that our U.S. government has said a number of times in the past. It's information that was used very widely after his attack on the Kurds. I believe it was close to 300,000. That's something I said every day in the course of the campaign. That's information that we talked about a great deal in America." The State Department later corrected Hughes, saying the number of victims in Halabja was about 5,000.{4} (This figure, too, may well have been inflated for political reasons; for at least the next six months following the Halabja attack one could find the casualty count being reported in major media as "hundreds", even by Iraq's Iranian foes; then, somehow, it ballooned to "5,000".){5}
Given the repeated administration emphasis of this event, you would think that it would be the charge used in the court against Saddam, would you not? Well, I can think of two reasons why the US would be reluctant to bring that matter to court. One, the evidence for the crime has always been somewhat questionable; for example, at one time an arm of the Pentagon issued a report suggesting that it was actually Iran which had used the poison gas in Halabja.{6} And two, the United States, in addition to providing Saddam abundant financial and intelligence support, supplied him with lots of materials to help Iraq achieve its chemical and biological weapons capability; it would be kind of awkward if Saddam's defense raised this issue in the court. But the United States has carefully orchestrated the trial to exclude any unwanted testimony, including the well-known fact that not longer after the 1982 carnage Saddam is being charged with, in December 1983, Donald Rumsfeld -- perfectly well-informed about the Iraqi regime's methods and the use of chemical weapons against Iranian troops -- arrived in Baghdad, sent by Ronald Reagan with the objective of strengthening the relationship between the two countries.{7}

Shameless self-promotion

Before beginning her recent government position, the cartoonly-awful Karen Hughes reportedly was getting $50,000 (sic, sick) per speaking engagement. I ask for much less, much much less, but I'm getting too few offers. So if any reader has a contact with a university or other organization that is budgeted to pay honoraria to speakers, I'd like to ask you to inquire about a possible engagement for me. Muchas gracias.
I'd also like to announce that a greatly updated edition of my book Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower has just been published. It first came out in 2000.
Lastly, some readers have informed me that in the last report quotation marks and apostrophes were replaced by garbage. I'm trying to find a solution to this problem and I'd appreciate being informed by anyone who finds this happening with this report; even better, let me know if you know the cause and/or cure of this.


{3} Washington Post, September 9, 2005, p.4
{4} Washington Post, October 22, 2005, p.15
{5} New York Times, April 10, 1988, sec.4, p.3, re Iran; Washington Post, August 4 and September 4, 1988
{6} New York Times, January 31, 2003, p.29
{7} Barry Lando, "Saddam Hussein, a Biased Trial", Le Monde (Paris), October 17, 2005

William Blum is the author of:

Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2

Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower

West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir

Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire

Previous Anti-Empire Reports can be read at his website.

Posted by: Che | November 18, 2005 12:13 PM

1. Che - Do you have to paste the whole article? It was a good article - but a brief quote and a link is normally the rule on forums and blogs. Did you also have permission from Blum and his Conspiracy Site to reprint the whole article so you don't get into copyright law infringment?

2. Beren writes: "In the world we now find ourselves in, in the information age, PR is, itself, a weapon. To fight the battle we're faced with on that front, we have to abstain from torture. If, in the minds of most neutral observers around the world, this ever turns into "The Torturers v. The Terrorists", then we've lost in a way that even our military can't compensate for.

Or do you disagree?"

A. My beef with the ACLU, along with Leftist human rights groups like Amnesty -for starters, is they are giving aid and comfort to the enemy by taking all assertions the radical Islamists make as fact and eagerly joining in an adversarial process against America and the soldiers fighting. They (the lawyers supporting radical Islamist objectives) have tried broadening the definition of "tooooortuuure" to any "humiliating, degrading, or painful act" aimed at a protecting a captive terrorist from any sort of "coercive interrogation". The ACLU and other groups are even opposed to non-painful new technologies that could force someone to reveal something against their will - worrying that a bona-fide truth serum or scanner that showed physiological or brain activity distinctions between truth and lie ultimately put us all at risk of a police state so must be opposed for detainees.

B. The other reason I mention the ACLU so disparagingly is that it seeks to tear down existing structures in America through the lawsuit weapon, bypassing the democratic processes, by backing those "in dissent" of criminal or civil law or trumping the rights of the minority over the majority. Many simply hate America, Western Civ and seek deconstruction...So to that end, they are very active in pushing PR that America is evil to the rest of the world. The radical Islamists don't have to do lot of PR work. The Left is handing them the propaganda they need on a silver platter.

C. The notion that being nice to the enemy that follows no rules will "convert" them to our side is ridiculous. It's like saying a deeply religious Jew fighting for Israel will readily surrender state secrets if captured if his new Islamic buddies are only nice to him and show him the errors of his Jewish religion and alliegence to Zionism over a fine feast and by giving him copies of the Talmud to read.

D. We have to define what torture is and what terrorism is. Even better define who the Muslim enemy is. Without those conventions of legal definitions, hate-America groups will skillfully fricassee our efforts and undermine them by contervailing claims of the foe being "freedom fighters, butchering Jews is OK because all Jews are targets", anything a terorist objects to is "tooortuuure", the Madrassahs and Mullahs are "only exercising free speech" and should not be part of the war..and so on.

E. Realistically, people on the other side are ready to abandon "coercive interrogation" as a good way to set the Left up for further destruction of their power. Many Americans have lost their 9/11 memories on how serious and deadly an ideological foe we face. We shrink from war, and now obsess about the "hearts and minds" of innocent Muslims who cheer the Jihadis on but are not at the tip of the spear themselves. In WWII we didn't care too much about "innocent German puppy dogs" or "innocent Nipponese babies" and how blowing or burning them up in their cities - Might Make Them Hate Us!!!

Someone said politicians never get elected by over-estimating the intelligence of the American people. So it will take more bloodshed visited on the public to get them serious again about the radical Islamists. Then they have choices: (1) A cheap and easy solution is to blame Zionism and the neocons for all the problems if the Muslims hit a US city or two with Anthrax ot other WMD, and do as the Muslims request. Get out of the ME and abandon Israel to it's fate of being throttled to death by an oil embargo we won't break; (2) Accept the terms of Bin Ladens 1998 Fatwa. Which includes his demand of cleaning up a vile and purient way of life in the West that is exported to the Ummah by diffusion. Which means having the government regulate and police elements of American culture Muslims find extremely objectionable like the failure to subordinate our women, Hollywood, toleration of gays; (3)Take the Leftist approach. Light candles for the noble victims of the radical Muslim slaughter. Pledge to work to address the "root causes" of why America deserves to be punished. In the interim, seek France's moral authority in the matter, through a bold statement "deploring violence, even against Americans; (4) Get serious. Make this a total war, unlike Bush has done with his half-assed approach. Fight the Islamist ideology and take no half-measures; (5) Wait to see what goes down in Europe. That appears to be where most the Muslim "fun" will be going down. Do the Euros obsess about "terrorist rights" and radical Islamists can be accomodated with kindness - even more, or will they fight back and save their Civilization?

Posted by: Chris Ford | November 18, 2005 02:35 PM

It is amazing how Chris defines the world. How he expects anybody who lives outside his fantasy land to buy his arguments are beyond me. My guess is that he was 'raised Right', told life was a certain way and unable to accept there can be more to his world than dreamt of in his philosophy. While he obsesses that I am a pawn in some vast Left wing conspiracy, I don't even bother to acknowledge his merits as a debater any more. I'm not going to waste any more time on somebody like Chris Ford who is obviously a delusional Right wing crackpot. Besides, my debate with him seems to have devolved to little more than antagonization for amusement purposes.

Posted by: ErrinF | November 18, 2005 03:11 PM

I didn't expect the Bin Laden issue to turn into one of sour grapes. Sounds like his importance is being downplayed to excuse the failure of any real progress in his capture. Besides the fact that he needs to be brought to justice for his crimes, he also plays a tactical role in Al Qaeda, our chief enemy in the War On Terror. No claim is being made that Osama's capture will solve all our problems, or that Bin Laden is some sort of boogeyman. What I am saying is that Osama Bin Laden SHOULD be captured, so why isn't he yet? It is better for us as citizens to bring pressure on our government to capture Bin Laden rather than to excuse it's failings for not having captured him as of yet. Let's not have partisanship and political spin obfuscate the importance of the issue.

Posted by: ErrinF | November 18, 2005 03:21 PM

Chris Ford,

I read your recent post with interest. With respect, I have to say that I think your understanding of the war we're in is almost completely flawed.

1. I'll start with a comment that you make towards the end, where you say, "Get serious. Make this a total war, unlike Bush has done with his half-assed approach. Fight the Islamist ideology and take no half-measures;"

Okay, so tell me, if we're going to turn this into a 'total war', how do you wage war, at all, on an ideology? Can you shoot an ideology? Bomb an ideology and watch it explode? I commend your enthusiasm to fight it. But what about the strategy? Where are the details? How do you kill an ideology? What would a successful conclusion of this war look like to you? Do we win by getting governments friendly to us throughout the Muslim world? By capturing everyone who's associated with Al-Qaeda? See, an ideology isn't defeated by military means. You may (often) need to use military force in a supporting role, but the war won't be _won_ by the military, because the conflict isn't military in nature - it's ideological.

2. You write, "The notion that being nice to the enemy that follows no rules will "convert" them to our side is ridiculous." Ths is very revealing of a major misconception, I think. I didn't say that we would convert all of these jihadis to our side by abstaining from torture. I did say that it would help us greatly in 'converting' the general population in the Muslim world who are not terrorists. And look, the fact is that we _have_ to 'convert' those people. Them's the facts. You may not like it, none of us may like it, but it doesn't much matter whether we like it or not, because that's just reality. We have to win the ideological conflict in the Muslim world, or else we lose.

Remember that Al-Qaeda's main goals, at this phase of the conflict, are still really about the Muslim world, about gaining credibility and power there. The attacks on the west, even 9-11, as horrific as they were, did not have as their immediate strategic goal the destruction of the West. Al-Qaeda has to become much stronger before it can attempt something like that. Its immediate strategic goal was all about Al-Qaeda's position in the Muslim world, about simultaneously convincing the Muslim world that a) the West is out to get us and is trying to destroy Islam and all Muslims, and b) Al-Qaeda is a force that could actually inflict some prominent damage on the West, thus, Al-Qaeda can claim to be a credible defender of the Muslim world.

It's like trying to start a snowball fight. You stand on one side, and throw a snowball at the other. They throw back, but they miss you and hit someone near you. That person throws back, and so on. That is always a challenge in counter-terrorism (and counter-insurgency). The terrorists are delighted when you go after them but get innocent people instead, and kill them or torture them. You're making yourself look exactly like the kind of enemy that they're trying to convince their own people you are.

Now Al-Qaeda is trying to spread its ideology throughout the Muslim world. You don't really, in any of your posts that I've read so far, seem to address this issue at all, but you should. You say you want to wage a total war against this ideology, but you don't suggest any ideological means by which to do so. Engaging in torture is, as far as the _ideological_ conflict is concerned, the equivalent of distributing free rocket launchers in Falujah. You say you want to win that conflict (and I believe you). But then why do you want to do something so damaging to our cause.

There's a curious dualism in what you write (to bring up the ACLU!), because when you denounce the ACLU and Amnesty International for making comments about treatment of detainees, you have lots to say about how they're handing a propaganda victory to the enemy, how they're damaging this country, how they're hurting us in this war. But you go silent about these same things when talking about our _own_ actual practice of torture. If talking about US torture is so bad for our ideological struggle with Al-Qaeda (and you're right that it is), then so is actually torturing detainees, because it's inevitable that, if we do it, it will become widely known, and we won't be able to disprove it. So it seems to me that your criticism of the ACLU implicitly contains a critique of your own position on torture as well, a critique ably stated by McCain.

3. You write, "We shrink from war, and now obsess about the "hearts and minds" of innocent Muslims who cheer the Jihadis on but are not at the tip of the spear themselves. In WWII we didn't care too much about "innocent German puppy dogs" or "innocent Nipponese babies" and how blowing or burning them up in their cities - Might Make Them Hate Us!!"

More of the same misunderstanding. Look, anyone who wants to win this ideological war _should_ be obsessing about the hearts and minds of innocent Muslims, because _that is where the battle is being waged_. You might as well denounce someone for "obsessing about the terrain and military defenses of Iraq" prior to the war. That's where the battlefield is. We didn't pick it, we may not like it, but that's the way it is, and there's nothing to be gained (and much to be lost) by ignoring reality here. The simple fact is, that until we win over the general Muslim population, victory will remain beyond our grasp. I'm not saying it because I want it to be true; I'm just saying it because it is. Dispute this, if you can. Can you think of a way we could realistically say that we had defeated radical Islamist ideology, when large numbers of Muslims around the globe still believed it?

Your examples of Germany and Japan aren't relevant. Those were military conflicts, not ideological ones. (Yes, I know that ideology was involved. But our own goal, in victory, was military, not ideological.)

Thanks for your post, and thanks in advance for any reply you care to make.

Posted by: Beren | November 19, 2005 01:05 AM


I don't know that we can so easily separate ideology from military goals. The two are often deployed in tandem. For instance nationalist ideology and patriotism were deployed to invigorate the population toward war with Japan and Germany. The same can be said for the various engagements of the Cold War as well as the current morphing of patriotism into a "with us or against us" ideology against Islamic militant ideologies.

And as the conflict continues, the facile deployment of ideology becomes intertwined into the actual fighting to the point that distinctions are often artificial at best.

Nor do I suspect that we stand much of a chance at winning hearts and minds in the Middle East so long as we are actively militarily engaged. The anti-colonial ideology has become well established within Middle Eastern mindsets since the late 1800's. Contemporary "Islamic" ideas of protecting the dar al Islam (Islamic world) from non-Muslims trace not to the Middle Ages, but to the intermixing of Middle Age terminology with Lebanese Ursa Pan-Arab nationalism (which was strongly anti-colonial). This is not to say that we should or must leave the area to be effective, only to realize that continued occupation feeds directly into enemy ideology and military goals.

Posted by: Chris | November 20, 2005 11:34 PM

Emily wrote:
A couple Debaters also mentioned the fact that Americans did not torture Japanese captives during WWII (this should not be construed as saying anything nice about internment camps) even though the courtesy was not reciprocated. According to Dave, that sort of morality "is what made the United States a guiding light to the rest of the world."

Tell that to the Nazi "insurgents" ***after*** 1945, which were denied Geneva convention rights. They were caught and executed on the spot (with full understanding from ally governments of wavering such rights). This was kept top secret until recently.

And how about this...,,1640942,00.html

No, the US and any other country was not above in abusing POWs (:(


Posted by: SandyK | November 22, 2005 06:36 AM

Bad editing WP, bad editing (I'm much more careful on my smilies than that, anyway).

Especially the loss of the Tule Lake concentration camp comment (where indeed Japanese-Americans were tortured, and murdered).


Posted by: SandyK | November 22, 2005 09:01 AM

It is with regret that I announce the end of an era. The complexity of the current international scene is now beyond the level of comprehension of the US public. Proof of this tragedy lies in its incapacity to differentiate between gross atrocities (daily bombings of worshipers, women and children, mass media murder, etc.) and indiscretions (deprivation of dignity, piccies in Abu Ghraib, etc.)
It only remains for the US to apologise to apologize to all the terrorists and tyrants it has opposed (starting with the Barbary Pirates) and to post a "Business as Usual" sign as it withdraws from Iraq and Afghanistan. "We love you Adolf" leaflets could be dropped over Berlin on the way home.
Final step should be sending Cindy Sheahan and the rest of the "Not in My Name" objectors to standing up to Moral Outrage to act as Peacekeepers and Human Shields in all the Hell Holes that erupt around the world now that Honor is taboo and the World Policeman has quit.
Oh, and don't forget to find out when IQ went out of fashion!

Posted by: Richard Clarke | November 26, 2005 08:18 PM

From: Barr.Randy Moore
Banque Internationale
Du Benin (I.B.D.B)

Dear Sir,
To whom it supposes to concern:
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that you will never let me down either now or in future.
I am Barrister RANDY Moore,the attorney to Late paulton Allen, a foreigner and an Engineer with Atlas Engineering Co.
Late paulton Allen has an account with I.B.D.B, which he set up in 1986.He died in 1996 in an auto crash in Benin,I received a memo this year from the international remittance unit of I.B.D.B for an
interview,The Bank informed me on their policy to Freeze the account and redirect the funds back to government treasury because they saw no next of kin in Paulton Allen entire file Except me as his attorney but not his inheritor. He said it is the Central Bank Regulations and the I.B.D.B policy on dormant account for the period of ten years as the policy says that such fund should be forfeited to government treasury .

After scrutinizing his entire file within my Chamber i discovered that he had no next of kin in his entire file with us too.
On that issue I opened up to the manager on my intention to move the funds for investments abroad.He then advised me to look for a foreigner because Paulton Allens is not a citizen of Benin,And he told me that the fund will be processed as a contract sum in the name of the
new benficiary,the deposit was contract sum paid into late paultons account on the order of the Federal Ministry of finance to the Central Bank.
I am contacting you because of the need to involve a foreigner with foreign account as the foreign beneficiary. I need your full co-operation to make this transaction work.All I need from you is your full name and address,including your bank account informations
where the funds will be processed into.
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I need your urgent positive response.
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Reply to randy_moore99

Posted by: randy moore | December 3, 2005 07:06 AM

February 16, 2006

More photographs surfaced today of the sadistic torture and murder that took place April 2004 inside the Abu Ghraib prison. This abuse did not stem from a "few bad apples" as Defense Secretary Rumsfeld once intimated. It came willfully, purposely from the President and Vice President of the United States who decided a "policy" and then used Alberto Gonzalez (now promoted to Attorney General) to rewrite the very definition of torture.

The torture did not stop after the first photos were revealed and the few bad apples (scapegoats really) were prosecuted. It just went underground to be outsourced and made more terrible.

The first outsourcing began early on at Guantanamo where prisoners are held for years with no charges, no due process, no recourse, no milk of human pity. Their families have no way to find out their status or even if they are alive.

Today I viewed a graphic recreation of conditions on a slave ship. It moved me to tears. The slaves were chained, naked, prostrate, a look of horror mixed with hopelessness in their deadened eyes. These were the same eyes that looked up at me from the Abu Ghraib photographs.

Great civilizations come and go. Most are hoist by their own petard. President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld are implicated and the Senators who saw all the abuses, read all the reports, listened to all the desperate pleas for help from aid agencies and concerned soldiers, but DID NOTHING, they are moral cowards. Why is this President still President?

Posted by: Amy Scott | February 16, 2006 10:24 PM

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