Who Are You Calling a War Criminal?

The dangers of making simplistic historical comparisons

It's fun to be idealistic in a world of moral absolutes. I know because I'm a columnist. But when we start discussing history, things always seem to get complicated.

The Daily Show's Jon Stewart learned this recently when debating the Foundation for Defense of Democracies' president, Cliff May, about the harsh interrogation techniques administered during the George W. Bush administration.

When May asked Stewart whether he also considers Harry Truman to have been a war criminal for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the host answered yes. A few days later, however, Stewart apologized for his blasphemy, saying Truman's decision was, in fact, "complicated."

Things were indeed complicated. They are always complicated.

That's the point.

Please, don't get me wrong. For numerous reasons, I'm ecstatic that the United States triumphed over the forces of jackbootery during World War II. But staking moral claims on old wars is a bad idea for either side of this debate.

In fact, if Barack Obama believes, as he recently stated, that the nation "lost its moral bearings" under his predecessor, he will have a hard time defending any presidency.

After all, if waterboarding is a war crime, the dropping of an atomic bomb on a few hundred thousand innocent civilians surely deserves some serious consideration for rebuke. At the very least, it's a fair topic for discussion.

Just as surely, Franklin Roosevelt's presiding over the destruction of Dresden, which caused 30,000-40,000 civilians to be incinerated, is at least as terrible as long-term sleep deprivation.

If Bush deserves war crime status for holding terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay (which Obama has yet to close), then we safely can say that FDR merits more of a historical lashing for the forced internment of 100,000 Japanese-Americans to "war relocation camps."

If Bush is a war criminal for denying terror suspects habeas corpus, then what is one to make of Abraham Lincoln, who suspended habeas corpus for all American citizens during the Civil War? Or of President Woodrow Wilson, who backed the Espionage Act, which forbade Americans from using "disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language" about the government?

Because, if we buy the argument that the ends never justify the means, we can't give presidents passes. If you argue that times and morality have evolved, that situations have changed, or that some causes are greater than others, then you're offering up distinctions, and you should accept some, as well.

The need to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been debated for decades. When President Bill Clinton backed the NATO bombing of Serbia—at least 500 civilians were killed by NATO, according to Human Rights Watch—he claimed that the bombing was necessary to "deter an even bloodier offensive against innocent civilians."

If that argument sounds familiar, it is because it is utilized all the time. Did the bombing of Serbia, Japan, or Iraq save lives in the long run? Did the waterboarding of prisons save Americans from terror acts? I just wish a proponent would say, "We can't know for sure."

At this point, I can hear Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men encapsulating the opinion of many: "I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said 'thank you' and went on your way."

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  • Fluffy||

    Bah. The fact that the farther one goes into the past, the more moral slack we generally cut historical figures, does not mean that it's inappropriate to judge the Bush administration for its misdeeds.

    I guess Harsanyi thinks that if we discovered when Bush left the White House that he was keeping slaves chained in the basement, we should just ignore that, because Washington and Jefferson owned slaves, too.

    "Hey, it's not really so bad that Bush had walled up some sex slaves in his basement - Thomas Jefferson was banging Sally Hemings, after all."

  • KT||

    Bah. The fact that the farther one goes into the past, the more moral slack we generally cut historical figures, does not mean that it's inappropriate to judge the Bush administration for its misdeeds.

    Agreed. We don't judge historical figures by today's standards because everyone would seem like a racist, sexist jerk, among other things. Sure, they actually were racist and sexist, but as Grampa Simpson would say, that was the style at the time.

  • ||

    After all, if waterboarding is a war crime, the dropping of an atomic bomb on a few hundred thousand innocent civilians surely deserves some serious consideration for rebuke.

    Phrase for the day: Laundry Listing - the claim that Issue A cannot be discussed without also discussing Issue B (and C, D, etc). Intentionally muddying the waters and inducing paralysis by information overload.

    And why do people always use the phrase "innocent civilians?" They are inherently neither innocent nor guilty, they are just civilians. This also implies a universal opposite - guilty soldier, which is also bogus.

    There is no worse time to have a national debate about the US Atomic bombing of Japan. It's a dead issue, no pun intended.

    The issue of whether the Bush administration overstepped its bounds is a very real, and current issue, and one which we need to debate and resolve now, and on its own merits.

  • Gimme Back My Dog||

    The unwritten part of the definition of "war criminal" is that your side must lose the war.

  • ||

    "There are few absolutes."

    I presume the author means, other than ones I use when making my point?

    Nothing is more absolute than the phrase "The world is not black and white, but shades of grey." That is a very balck and white statement.

    No President should be justified in killing innocents in the name of their statist dream. Right is right, and wrong is wrong.

  • ||

    Did FDR have an opinion on gay marriage? Why didn't he do more to support it? Couldn't he have done more to prevent the spread of AIDS?

  • ||

    I don't have a problem prosecuting people for any torture that occurred, but I think the point made by torture supporters, that members of Congress and others knew about this and sanctioned it, means that it won't just be members of the administration that should go down. Also, if we're actually criminally prosecuting people for their involvement in this, everyone who was even noncriminally involved should be out of government, right?

    As for precedent, fine. I wish Obama were spending his first term prosecuting Bush and his minions, rather than screwing up our country even more than it already was.

  • Nikola T||

    I actually appreciate this article. These things are not really a matter of right and wrong, but what is more right.

    Is it more right to drop an atomic bomb, or is it more right to allow the war to continue?

    Is it more right to severely frighten a person, or is it more right to allow the plans he knows about to continue?

    It's a moral equation, people. Not black and white.

    I think we can all agree that this should not be secret. Let the American people know what's happening and let the chips fall where they may.

  • ||

    Tonio,

    And why do people always use the phrase "innocent civilians?" They are inherently neither innocent nor guilty, they are just civilians. This also implies a universal opposite - guilty soldier, which is also bogus.

    Because civilians involved in the production of materiel can be considered legitimate targets (i.e. non-innocent or "guilty" civilian.)

    And there is a universal opposite: the "guilty" solider who deliberately commits acts outside the legitimate and defined rules of warfare, someone who knowingly kills true non-combatants (children, the elderly, wounded, POWs, etc.) or other acts considered war crimes.

    (I am with you on laundry listing, though.)

  • ||

    [2¢] When discussing the morality of acts one must take the accepted mores of the time of said acts into consideration.

    That does not give the Bush administration condoning and practicing torture a free pass.[/2¢]

  • Mike in PA||

    Hey I like the moral equation thing. I even liked it when I was talking about it 2 weeks ago.

    Sometime the ends really do justify the means. Not all the time, but sometimes. Especially if the means are relatively mild, but the ends are catastrophic.

  • ||

    Todays Wall Street Journal had an article about several dozens, and by some reports, of hundreds of Afgani's killed by US forces in a recent skirmish. Various NGO's have estimated that hundreds to thousands of Afghan women, children and elderly have died as a result of various strikes and drone attacks.

    I can never understand why killing women and children (uh, are we trying to help Afghni's or not?)is less offensive than torturing someone you think is involved in terrorism. O yeah, collateral damage. If we are serious (Ha, Ha, Ha) about the moral high ground, we have to take it where it leads. No bombing if there is a POSSIBILITY of killing a civilian.

  • Nikola T||

    I even liked it when I was talking about it 2 weeks ago.

    Sorry, I didn't mean to step on your toes. I saw it somewhere and thought it was a good point.

    The only problem is that to the government, the ends are always catastrophic. That's why it needs to be made public. - Everything.

  • ||

    What's wrong with the notion that even our elected overlords cannot act without consequences?

    Fuck deference.

  • ||

    But this is a libertarian web site. You guys peddle in absolutes. Why can't you be as firm on things like torture (or gay marriage), on which the libertarian position should be self-evident, as you are on other matters?

    How about: the government shouldn't torture, ever. I think there are few things with simple answers, but even I can be comfortable with this position.

  • ||

    Torture= mental or physical suffering therefore those who torture should be criminalized.

    Abortion causes mental and physical pain for the fetus therefore those who condone and conduct abortions should be criminalized.

    Would enjoy watching the nuancy/ reality based crew unravel this analogy.

  • ||

    JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!
    What the fuck reason? Seriously! What the fucking fuck???

  • ||

    fresno dan,

    No bombing if there is a POSSIBILITY of killing a civilian.

    Congratulations, you've given everyone a perfect way not to get bombed, drag a civilian along with them. You might as well say "No bombing."

    And civilians get killed in combat situations constantly with no bombing at all. Be a pacifist if you want, but don't be supercilious about it.

  • ||

    War is always going to result in atrocities and war crimes. That's why you avoid war at all costs. Including inventing wars like the "War on Drugs" or the "War on Terror".

  • ||

    I did not expect to see a defense of torture on Reason. I really didn't see this one coming. What warren said.

  • ed||

    innocent civilians

    The Japanese children were certainly innocent enough, but the culture that gave rise to a brutal military dictatorship bent on enslaving China, Indochina and the Philippines? Not so much.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    I didn't see anything about a defense. I just read an article that encouraged you all to engage your brains instead of acting like your POVs are accepted and anybody who dares disagree with you is an apologist, statist or some mixture thereof.

    The airheads have taken over this debate, on both sides.

  • aspushkin||

    Excuse me, but if intentionally bombing civilian population centers to further military goals isn't a war crime, then what the fuck is?

    I can't get enough of this self-exultant "wisdom" of those who refuse to say that we ought not slam people's heads into walls or threaten their children. Something tells me that we won't get the same moral relativism in the next piece on eminent domain.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    This just shows how dumb the concept of "war crimes" is.

  • ||

    War is always going to result in atrocities and war crimes. That's why you avoid war at all costs. Including inventing wars like the "War on Drugs" or the "War on Terror".


    Bingo. But, sometimes the war is brought to you. Then, perhaps the moral stance should be to do whatever necessary to end the war as quickly as possible?

    Would be great if the whole of humanity were made up of pacifists, but that damn reality rears it's ugly head and we are left with only song writers imaging it were so.

  • Fluffy||

    I didn't see anything about a defense. I just read an article that encouraged you all to engage your brains instead of acting like your POVs are accepted and anybody who dares disagree with you is an apologist, statist or some mixture thereof.

    There's TAO, the famous torture opponent, standing up against torture again!

    Kudos.

  • ||

    War is always going to result in atrocities and war crimes. That's why you avoid war at all costs. Including inventing wars like the "War on Drugs" or the "War on Terror".

    Kinda hard to argue with that. Well said.

    I fucking hate complimenting Epi.

  • Fluffy||

    but the culture that gave rise to a brutal military dictatorship bent on enslaving China, Indochina and the Philippines?

    Hey, don't pick on European and American culture like that!

    Them's fighting words.

  • ||

    Then, perhaps the moral stance should be to do whatever necessary to end the war as quickly as possible?

    I am sympathetic to the concept of "kill 100,000 to prevent an estimated death toll of 1,000,000", which is why I don't go apeshit over the A-bombs on Japan.

    Ending a war as quickly as possible can involve delving into terrible moral areas, though. Bioweapons? Chemical weapons? Is it always worth it to end the war as quickly as possible?

  • The Angry Optimist||

    There's TAO, the famous torture opponent, standing up against torture again!

    Kudos.



    I figured you would come along and show how ignorant you are at some point. Kudos back.

    your lack of intellectualism on this issue isn't making me look bad.

  • ||

    "That's why you avoid war at all costs."

    I can argue with that. That is beyond stupid. I guess the British should have avoided war at all costs and turned over their Jews to the Nazis? I guess the U.S. should have avoided war at all costs and sent the Japanese an apology after Pearl Harbor? I guess the South Koreans should have avoided war at all costs and let Dear Leader turn their country into a communist hell hole? The list goes on and on. There are some costs that most defeinitely are worth bearing. If your civilization can't defend itself with the sword, it isn't worth a bucket of piss anyway.

  • ||

    What, no link to Bill Whittle's evisceration of Jon Stewart?

    Here you go.


    -jcr

  • Some Guy||

    I might be more OK with torture if I thought we were better at figuring out who to use it on. We know of dozens of random people who were in Gitmo for no good reason. How many don't we know about? How many are still there? What percentage of the total number of prisoners are completely innocent?

    Jack Bauer wouldn't be nearly as sympathetic a character if half the people he beat answers out of were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  • ||

    "War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature, and has no chance of being free unless made or kept so by the exertions of better men than himself." - John Stuart Mill

    That said, using this very correct thought to excuse torture is probably not what JSM had in mind.

  • ||

    Congratulations, you've given everyone a perfect way not to get bombed, drag a civilian along with them. You might as well say "No bombing."

    That's what Hamas has been doing. Seems to have a certain degree of propaganda value amongst those who want Israel to vanish.

    -jcr

  • Naga Sadow||

    TAO,

    I was talking to a guest last night about Michael Vick. He felt that Vick should be given a 10 year sentence. I pointed out that even murderers can get paroled in 2 to 5 years. He took that to mean I was a Vick fan. A lot of people suck at moral relativism, bro.

  • ||

    Is it always worth it to end the war as quickly as possible?

    Mutually Assured Destruction.

    It's time to stop pussyfooting around.

    Instead of non-proliferation, we give *everybody* The Bomb.

  • ||

    John, stop your fucking chest beating. I didn't say "never go to war." I said to avoid it if at all possible. Obviously, once the Nazis started attacking people, it changes the equation.

    Please shut the fuck up about going into WWII; it's been done to death here. What I was talking about, at least, is the qualification of dealing with terror groups as "war" and what tends to come along with anything you designate as a "war": winning at all costs, including shit like torture.

  • ||

    "Congratulations, you've given everyone a perfect way not to get bombed, drag a civilian along with them. You might as well say "No bombing."


    No, we still bomb. But, by placing the responsibility for the deaths on the bomber rather than the shithead who was fighting a war while hiding amongst civilians, we are rewarding hiding among civilians. We are creating an international order where it pays to be a terrorist.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Naga - thank you for that. It's kind of like daring to speak out about the hysteria about "child predators" and how unfair society's current treatment of them is. Most people think that means I'm pro-child-predator.

    Ditto insane statutory rape laws.

  • ||

    After all, if waterboarding is a war crime, the dropping of an atomic bomb on a few hundred thousand innocent civilians surely deserves some serious consideration for rebuke.

    Sure. What's your point?

  • ||

    """There are some costs that most defeinitely are worth bearing. If your civilization can't defend itself with the sword, it isn't worth a bucket of piss anyway."""

    Yet those are the countries we defend. We've scarificed a shitload of men for buckets of piss.

  • ||

    Sug,

    Because civilians involved in the production of materiel can be considered legitimate targets (i.e. non-innocent or "guilty" civilian.)

    Absolutely. And what about civilian farmers who grew rice which ultimately went to feed the troops...

    That's why it's best to avoid trite, emotionally charged phrases like "innocent civilians" to refer to large groups like the population of Hiroshima.

    Oh, and shut the fuck up, Tony.

  • ||

    I guess the U.S. should have avoided war at all costs and sent the Japanese an apology after Pearl Harbor?

    Once Pearl Harbor has been bombed, you are in war notwithstanding your best efforts to avoid it.

  • ||

    Our incredible economic and military supremacy should make it possible to get our way without war most of the time. It's the ineptness of our government, particularly when it comes to diplomacy, that makes us resort to violence so often.

    Once danger of actually using force is that it occasionally doesn't work, giving our opponents an opportunity to study and exploit our weaknesses.

  • Elemenope||

    Instead of non-proliferation, we give *everybody* The Bomb.

    I've said this before, only half kidding. Universal proliferation means that the cost of war would go up so steeply for any actor, it would be overall less likely a rational actor would engage in it. (And yes, even megalomanaical dictators are rational to the extent that they wish to act in ways that prolong their rule and the intact nature of the state they rule over).
    ------------

    But why *isn't* it OK to discuss how dropping atom bombs on two cities might be a war crime? Instead of, say, dropping a warning in Tokyo Bay and then dropping a second on a city (in necessary) as was suggested by the strategic air command?

  • Elemenope||

    Oh, and shut the fuck up, Tony.

    Totally uncalled for. Tony, ehm, *disagrees*. He isn't a troll. You can still tell the difference between the two, yes?

  • ||

    Please shut the fuck up about going into WWII; it's been done to death here.

    Who the fuck cares if it has been done to death. It has been done to death because it puts lie to passifistic platitudes. If the platitudes would go away, talk of World War II would go away. Further, I dind't just mention it, I also mentioned the Korean War. You could mention about a million other wars that were worth fighting. The world is filled with nasty people who like nothing better than to show up, take over and burn your place to the ground. If you don't like that fact, too fucking bad, go live in another world I guess.


    "What I was talking about, at least, is the qualification of dealing with terror groups as "war" and what tends to come along with anything you designate as a "war": winning at all costs, including shit like torture."

    I don't really understand what you were talking about. No question, Afghanistan and Iraq are wars. They are guerilla wars but wars nonetheless. Should you torture in war? Generally no. But, you also shouldn't fight a war while hiding amongst civilians either and that is what we are up against. So, frankly, while torture is wrong, our enemies, considering their tactics, are in no position to complain about it.

  • ||

    It's the ineptness of our government, particularly when it comes to diplomacy, that makes us resort to violence so often.

    violence is the last refuge of the incompetant, right?

  • ||

    Because civilians involved in the production of materiel can be considered legitimate targets (i.e. non-innocent or "guilty" civilian.)


    No. You're not allowed to ambush a civilian defense worker as he's waiting for the bus to take him to the aircraft factory. You are, on the other hand, allowed to ambush the soldier while he's waiting for the transport to take him to the front. (You can drop a bomb on the factory for the purpose of destroying the enemy's war production capacity, and that bomb may incidentally kill the worker if he happens to be there, but you aren't allowed to target him specifically.)

  • ||

    The world is filled with nasty people who like nothing better than to show up, take over and burn your place to the ground. If you don't like that fact, too fucking bad, go live in another world I guess.

    John, your need to project on me some sort of pacifism that I do not engage in is somewhat telling, in that if I don't agree with your take on these wars, I must be some sniveling coward who would never defend myself. That is, of course, asinine, yet it's where you go instantly, even though I didn't say anything about rolling over for aggressors. Maybe you should think about that a little.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Totally uncalled for. Tony, ehm, *disagrees*. He isn't a troll. You can still tell the difference between the two, yes?



    Yes. And Tony IS a troll. Go read his post, El. You don't have to reflexively defend every "dissenting" voice here, especially when they are attention-whoring.

  • ||

    "It's the ineptness of our government, particularly when it comes to diplomacy, that makes us resort to violence so often."

    I think we don't resort to violence often enough and we don't make it clear enough what will happen when we do. Every war we have been into in the last 60 years, except Vietnam, has been the result of our enemies miscalculating and thinking that we would not react with force or that if we did we were unprepared to make it effective. World War II started for the US because the Japanese believed that we were unready for war and if they just hit quickly and hard enough they would win. Korea started because Kim Il Sung thought he could invade the South and we wouldn't do anything about it. The Gulf War I started because Saddam thought that he could invade Kuwait and we would not do anything about it. Afghanistan started because Osama Bin Ladin believed that 9-11 would cause us to leave the Middle East. Gulf War II started because Saddam thought we would never invade without UN approval.

    All of those wars started because our enemies perceived our weakness. None of them started because of our strength.

  • ||

    But why *isn't* it OK to discuss how dropping atom bombs on two cities might be a war crime?

    We won.

    duh

  • The Angry Optimist||

    You're not allowed to ambush a civilian defense worker as he's waiting for the bus to take him to the aircraft factory.



    Yes. But is that a *good policy*? If the materiel factory is a legitimate target, then why aren't the people who make it run?

  • ||

    I've always wondered why we didn't just demonstrate the atomic bomb rather than actually destroy two cities. The Japanese had acted crazy enough to perhaps justify bombing them into submission (as we'd been doing to a much more devastating degree with conventional explosives), but surely a gigantic explosion in an unpopulated area might've caught their attention.

    I've read reasons for us not doing that or not bombing a purely military target, but I'm not convinced. I think there may be something to be said for it being a not-so-subtle threat against the Soviets, too, though I doubt that was a deciding factor. Part of the shock today, of course, is over the use of atomic weapons at all, not so much the number of people killed (which is a little sad in itself).

    In any event, lots of people were going to die in the conclusion of that war, one way or the other. Horrible business, but we didn't have a lot of options in the end.

  • ||

    """Should you torture in war? Generally no. But, you also shouldn't fight a war while hiding amongst civilians either and that is what we are up against. So, frankly, while torture is wrong, our enemies, considering their tactics, are in no position to complain about it."""

    But that falls when you bring morallity in war, good versus evil. If the good side adopts the tactics of the evil, it becomes an agent of evil. You can't say X is wrong if you do it, and that's a two way street. I agree that the enemies are in no position to complain, but we also lose the position to complain when the bad guys decide to torture when they believe it's necessary for the security of their state.

  • ||

    Tony is a liberal who believes what he says - even if he is an attention whore. He's a troll, only in the Hit-and-Run definition - ie. non-libertarian poster. I almost never agree with him - but I'm with him on the no-torture thingy.

    I wonder if our liberal posters feel the same way about posting here as SugarFree does about posting on feministing?

  • ||

    Epi,

    I wasn't even responding to your post. If you are not a pacifist, good for you.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Agreeing with Tony that the government shouldn't torture is easy. I'm also, conveniently, pro-puppy and pro-rainbow.

    Defining what is and is not torture is a much harder exercise, however.

  • ||

    "But that falls when you bring morallity in war, good versus evil. If the good side adopts the tactics of the evil, it becomes an agent of evil. You can't say X is wrong if you do it, and that's a two way street. I agree that the enemies are in no position to complain, but we also lose the position to complain when the bad guys decide to torture when they believe it's necessary for the security of their state."

    But what if it is necessary to win? Should the civilized side allow itself to be murdered and over run by the uncivilized side? I don't think so.

  • ||

    I've always wondered why we didn't just demonstrate the atomic bomb rather than actually destroy two cities.

    We only had two of them, so if the gambit didn't work... Plus cities being destroyed wasn't what made them surrender, after all firebombing tokyo didn't do the trick, and it killed more civilians than both a-bombs combined.

  • ||

    AO

    For the record, I am pro puppy but most definitely anti-rainbow.

  • ||

    Don't the Japanese bear some responsibility for the A-bomb for you know, starting an aggressive war and prosecuting it to the bitter end and refusing to surrender even after the cause was hopeless?

  • ||

    If you're gonna do laundry-listing, then it behooves you to examine that list one by one:

    Bush II's administration using a convoluted shredding of the constitution and various treaties to call torture NotTorture (TM) in the name of preventing a theoretical catastrophy that, given that administration's recent history, was a dubious outcome at best: Wrong.

    The dropping of an atomic bomb on a few hundred thousand innocent civilians: Prevented an incredibly obvious outcome, clearly foreseeable at that time, of an incredibly bloody invasion of Mainland Japan that surely would have resulted in horrific casualties on both sides far exceeding by possibly several orders of magnitude the death toll from Hiroshima and Nagasaki: the least bad choice available which ultimately saved large numbers of lives. OK in my book.

    Franklin Roosevelt's presiding over the destruction of Dresden, which caused 30,000-40,000 civilians to be incinerated: Deliberately killing civilians for non-military goals: Wrong.

    FDR merits more of a historical lashing for the forced internment of 100,000 Japanese-Americans to "war relocation camps." Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong. Did I mention wrong? (P.S. Almost everything FDR did was wrong. Worst president ever.)

    What is one to make of Abraham Lincoln, who suspended habeas corpus for all American citizens during the Civil War? Wrong.

    Or of President Woodrow Wilson, who backed the Espionage Act, which forbade Americans from using "disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language" about the government? Wrong.

    So there you have it. With the exception of nuking two Japanese cities, the laundry list of historical events that can be raised to try to justify Bush's overreaches are all wrong, just as what Bush's minions did is wrong.

    Next thread?

  • Elemenope||

    Defining what is and is not torture is a much harder exercise, however.

    Only in retrospect, when you care about the people being accused thereof and/or feel complicit. It's seriously easy to do it before-the-fact.

    You solve the Wittgensteinian problem by, before it starts, casting your net a little wide of "these things are torture" that include perhaps a few things on the raggedy edge. Better to be sure, right?

    As opposed to, better to cast the net too narrowly so to have wiggle room after the fact so that if we did cross a line we can pretend the line is fuzzy, such as the current utterly retarded public debate?

  • ||

    The Angry Optimist | May 6, 2009, 1:50pm | #

    Agreeing with Tony that the government shouldn't torture is easy. I'm also, conveniently, pro-puppy and pro-rainbow.

    Defining what is and is not torture is a much harder exercise, however.


    If you don't like the moral arguments against torture - how about the utilitarian one? It doesn't work. Under that standard, the only interrogation techniques that should be allowed are non-coercive ones that are commonly used for law enforcement purposes. They are very effective - so whats the fucking point other than to exact revenge?

  • ||

    John,

    Questions about whether we needed to use the A-bombs aside, yes, the Japanese had fitted themselves for the disaster. It's a shame that so many people on both sides had to die to stop their government's aggression.

    I think it can be a different question when everything is really on the line--which it most assuredly isn't today, World War IV B.S. notwithstanding--but even then there has to be some point where we can't go. Nuking the whole planet should be out, for instance.

  • Elemenope||

    Yes. And Tony IS a troll. Go read his post, El. You don't have to reflexively defend every "dissenting" voice here, especially when they are attention-whoring.

    I did read his post. He's saying that libertarians are generally inconsistent about what they (we) choose to care about when it comes to liberty and often have extremely odd (less charitably, wildly skewed) priorities.

    He's right. That truth is inconvenient. It doesn't make him a troll to say so.

  • ||

    """Defining what is and is not torture is a much harder exercise, however."""

    It's easy if you don't look at the technique per se, but the circumstance of how the techique is used. It's all about using fear of a repeated techinque to coerce talk. That's why I don't view waterboarding as torture per se, but waterboarding is used in torture. We've waterboard more US citizens than we have terrorist.

    If I stab you in the hand, that in and of it's self is not torture, but if I repeat the process until you give the answers I want, that's torture.

    Of course the dictionary is never right when you need ambiguity.

  • ||

    Agreeing with Tony that the government shouldn't torture is easy. I'm also, conveniently, pro-puppy and pro-rainbow.

    I, too, am pro-puppy. Their meat is far more tender than those gamey-tasting older dogs.

  • aspushkin||

    The question of the precise definition of torture and the question of whether or not we tortured at Gitmo are separate. No, I don't know exactly where the line between torture and not-torture is. But it is eminently clear that what happened was waaaaay over that line. Shackling people for days in stress positions? Sticking them into coffins with no freedom of movement? Slamming people's head into a wall (and no, I don't care if the wall was "flexible" or that they put a towel around the guy's neck)? Keeping them awake for ELEVEN DAYS STRAIGHT? Are you people fucking crazy?

    If you want to take the amoral, nihilistic position that we should be able to do whatever we want, go for it-- you're a twisted individual, but at least you're intellectually honest. But to argue that this stuff wasn't torture? Give me a break.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    You solve the Wittgensteinian problem by, before it starts, casting your net a little wide of "these things are torture" that include perhaps a few things on the raggedy edge. Better to be sure, right?

    As opposed to, better to cast the net too narrowly so to have wiggle room after the fact so that if we did cross a line we can pretend the line is fuzzy, such as the current utterly retarded public debate?



    By that logic, I'll just pass a law that says "Bad things are illegal. Don't do bad things."

  • The Angry Optimist||

    He's saying that libertarians are generally inconsistent about what they (we) choose to care about when it comes to liberty and often have extremely odd (less charitably, wildly skewed) priorities.



    Or, less charitably for you, "libertarians are inconsistent when they don't agree with me." You might as well have just owned up to it.

  • Naga Sadow||

    prolefeed,

    My favorite animal? The bald eagle. Not because I'm patriotic, because it tastes good.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    But to argue that this stuff wasn't torture?



    What is it that makes those things you listed torture? Please show your work.

  • kinnath||

    Nothing beats the smell of chum in the water on a nice sunny day.

  • ||

    Pro Libertate,

    I've always wondered why we didn't just demonstrate the atomic bomb rather than actually destroy two cities.

    In addition to what domo said, I've also read that they were afraid they'd bring the Japanese generals over and it wouldn't go off. After the Trinity test though, I don't know why they couldn't have sent the test footage to the Japanese.

    Personally, I think the bomb should have been used on a military target first (maybe a carrier group), and then, if they were still refusing to surrender, a population center.

  • aspushkin||

    Angry Optimist-

    What is it that makes you an individual as opposed to a random collection of cells that is indistinct from the guy standing next to you? Please show your work.

    Or let's try it another way-- if you refuse to believe that what we did is torture, let's take an example that (I hope) you would agree would definitely constitute torture-- sticking a spiked metal pear up someone's ass. Now, Optimist, please tell me, what makes that torture?

  • The Angry Optimist||

    I mean, Tony's post wasn't anything better than the "No True Scotsman" fallacy.

  • Elemenope||

    Or, less charitably for you, "libertarians are inconsistent when they don't agree with me." You might as well have just owned up to it.

    When state torture matters less to a guy than a 3% marginal tax hike, something is objectively fucked up.

    QED.

  • Elemenope||

    My favorite animal? The bald eagle. Not because I'm patriotic, because it tastes good.

    You eat carrion birds? Yech!

  • Warty||

    Defining what is and is not torture is a much harder exercise, however.

    No it isn't. Read the relevant chapter of The Gulag Archipelago.

  • aspushkin||

    Elemenope

    Hear hear!

  • Mad Max||

    'So there you have it. With the exception of nuking two Japanese cities, the laundry list of historical events that can be raised to try to justify Bush's overreaches are all wrong, just as what Bush's minions did is wrong.'

    I think you missed the point of Harsanyi's article. If you criticize George W. Bush, then you have to criticize Saint Lincoln, Saint Woodrow Wilson, and Saint FDR. And nobody wants to do *that,* right?

  • The Angry Optimist||

    sorry, aspushkin, I asked you first. And your "gotcha" example actually runs in favor of the Government, in that criminal statutes that are ambiguous should be construed in favor of the defendants.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    When state torture matters less to a guy than a 3% marginal tax hike, something is objectively fucked up



    I'm sorry, but for whom is this the case? I hear this Strawman Libertarian thrown up a lot, but I haven't seen him.

    Of course, you're begging the question some more, in that if what occurred was not torture, then perhaps that explains why the outrage is limited, eh?

  • ||

    "He's saying that libertarians are generally inconsistent about what they (we) choose to care about when it comes to liberty and often have extremely odd (less charitably, wildly skewed) priorities."

    Libertarians are more consistent in defense of liberty than conservatives and liberals. We believe in both fiscal freedom and social freedom. Liberals believe in only social freedom and conservatives believe in only fiscal freedom and gun rights.

  • kilroy||

    Thanks to JCR for posting that link.

    Elemenope, go watch it.

  • Elemenope||

    By that logic, I'll just pass a law that says "Bad things are illegal. Don't do bad things."

    Wow, jee, when you push any idea to extremes it becomes automatically retarded. I said cast the net a little wide, not cast the net across the Atlantic fucking Ocean.

    Try to take the idea as it was presented, not some cheap rhetorical distortion thereof.

  • ||

    "When state torture matters less to a guy than a 3% marginal tax hike, something is objectively fucked up"

    I think that comes closer to describing a conservative than a libertarian.

  • Elemenope||

    Libertarians are more consistent in defense of liberty than conservatives and liberals. We believe in both fiscal freedom and social freedom. Liberals believe in only social freedom and conservatives believe in only fiscal freedom and gun rights.

    Correction. *Libertarianism* is more consistent in defense of liberty. On paper. "Libertarians*, in practice, not so much.

    I'm sorry, but for whom is this the case? I hear this Strawman Libertarian thrown up a lot, but I haven't seen him.

    Then you haven't been paying attention.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    But "casting the net a little wide" is exactly what we do not want to do in the world of criminal prosecutions, El. That was kind of my point. Criminal statutes, I think as a matter of justice, are to be narrowly construed.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Then you haven't been paying attention.



    Ah, it's so obvious that you cannot point to an example, eh?

  • Elemenope||

    And we could get tied up in Scotsman-knots all fucking day, but at the end of it, the topics which seem to energize libertarians (i.e. by-and-large the comment population on this site) are much more property issues, and much less social issues, with some vagary on the narrow area of drugs (which are both).

  • ||

    "I think you missed the point of Harsanyi's article. If you criticize George W. Bush, then you have to criticize Saint Lincoln, Saint Woodrow Wilson, and Saint FDR. And nobody wants to do *that,* right?"

    They're all war criminals as far as I'm concerned.

  • Naga Sadow||

    P Brooks,

    I don't wanna deal with the expense of a nuke. Can I have some other doomsday weapon?

    Elemenope,

    Ever had some wings with SSSSSSSSSSSWWWWWWWWWWWEEEEEEEEEEEEEETTTTTTTTTTTT habanero sauce? Teh AWESome!

  • Elemenope||

    But "casting the net a little wide" is exactly what we do not want to do in the world of criminal prosecutions, El. That was kind of my point. Criminal statutes, I think as a matter of justice, are to be narrowly construed.

    Wider class: Harmful behavior
    Narrower included class: Torture

    Definition of torture is such that if we were to draw a Venn diagram, how big the second circle is in relation to the first (how much volume it take up of the first.) And no, justice would cry no tears if proportionately more of that circle were filled by the second than were strictly necessary for the identification and prosecution of torture, so long as it is defined as such prior to the action at question being taken.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Perhaps the reason that people get energized about certain issues more than others is that they see that, in the long run, those issues are going to affect their lives much more than the others?

    As a general proposition, it is not a good thing if the government tortured two (or four, or six, or whatever) individuals captured in Afghanistan or Pakistan. not good. however, what is more likely to affect me...Kelo or potential torture?

    Also, I think you have a much easier time being outraged against things that are transparently unjust, even if the magnitude of injustice is smaller, than things that are murky, even if the magnitude of injustice if the allegations are true is much larger.

  • ||

    What is it that makes those things you listed torture? Please show your work.

    For some reason, I suspect the counterargument consists of little more than "We did it. And we're the good guys. It can't be torture. We're the good guys. And we define torture as 'stuff the bad guys do.'"

  • The Angry Optimist||

    P Brooks - actually, the counterargument is "What makes a sand heap a heap?" Perhaps that's an exercise in annoying pedantry. I'm willing to admit that.

    I understand that there should be outrage in principle, but Khalid Sheikh Muhammed is such an unsympathetic case that, try as I might, I cannot just turn this one up to an 11 and screech at everybody about it.

  • ||

    "Correction. *Libertarianism* is more consistent in defense of liberty. On paper. "Libertarians*, in practice, not so much."

    Can you give us examples, Elemenope?

  • ||

    TAO,

    Your point seems to be that the torture (or coercive interrogation techniques)question isn't clear cut from a moral standpoint. Given that, I'm curious what system you would personally advocate for us to decide when to use said methods, and what methods we should use. I'm not looking for specific examples, rather some brief idea of what you would consider an acceptable moral framework.

  • Morris||

    There are probably more Esperanto speakers or libertarians. Donate generously. Nick Gillepsie needs the money for hair die and leather jackets.

  • Mao||

    Leaders of evil states are all bad. Let's hear it for Osama!

  • Morris||

    Actually, Harsanyi makes a very interesting point. But all attempts to overcome human nature by implementing idealistic programs seem inevitably to lead to ever greaters crimes. Libertarianism (or socialism or communism or any other isms)--nice theory, wrong species.

    I think Harsanyi is always in the proces of becoming what he detests.

  • Fluffy||

    I figured you would come along and show how ignorant you are at some point. Kudos back.

    your lack of intellectualism on this issue isn't making me look bad.


    Fuck you, cunt.

    Other than the fact that you declare yourself against torture, what evidence do we have that you actually are?

    In EVERY SINGLE LAST THREAD ABOUT TORTURE HERE FOR THE LAST TWO FUCKING YEARS, you have stood up for torturers, opposed investigating torturers, made moral excuses for torturers, and attempted to muddy the waters in the case against torture.

    Agreeing with Tony that the government shouldn't torture is easy. I'm also, conveniently, pro-puppy and pro-rainbow.

    I think I'm entitled to take this as evidence of how seriously you take this issue.

    Wow, you're anti-Mengele. Congratulations. [Maybe. I think. After all, he was conducting research, so maybe you think that being anti-Mengele doesn't show enough "nuance".]

    What is it that makes those things you listed torture?

    Last time I checked, no one we convicted of war crimes for engaging in similar conduct during the Phillipine insurgency or during World War II has had their convictions vacated or set aside.

    I understand that there should be outrage in principle, but Khalid Sheikh Muhammed is such an unsympathetic case that, try as I might, I cannot just turn this one up to an 11 and screech at everybody about it.

    Because you're not anti-torture. You're pro-torture. You just occasionally lie and say you're anti-torture, because that's a clever rhetorical tool. "Now, I am certainly anti-torture, but I think in some cases..."

  • ||

    "Personally, I think the bomb should have been used on a military target first (maybe a carrier group), and then, if they were still refusing to surrender, a population center."

    The bombing fo Hiroshima and Nagasaki had nothing to do with Japan's surrender. The bombs were dropped to send a message to the Soviets. Japan had already offered terms of surrender. Their only stipulation was that the Emperor not be tried as a war criminal. We ended up accepting those very terms. From the standpoint of Japan's surrender, the bombs were totally unnecessary.

  • ||

    Let's start with two things about torture.

    First of all, torture is wrong. It is evil. (It is conceivable that it is the lesser of two evil but it is still evil.) If you do not agree with this, then you are despicable and have no place in a discussion with civilized people.

    After WWII, the Judgement of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East said that water boarding was torture - "Among these tortures were the water treatment." If you do not think water boarding is torture, then you should be in favor of posthumously granting pardons to the Japanese convicted of torture. If you claim water boarding is not torture and do not favor a pardon, you are either immoral or an idiot. Either way, you have no place in a discussion with civilized, intelligent people.

    I am not being too harsh. In fact, I am being way too easy on the apologist scum who have brought shame on the US. I cannot believe that torture is being discussed as an option in the US. Everyone who had anything to do with the torture belongs in jail. "I was only following orders" was not an acceptable excuse for the Nazis and it is not an acceptable excuse for modern day torturers. Evil, evil, evil. If you are an apologist for torture, you are slime. You are scum. I cannot express revulsion I feel.

  • ||

    I would consider every president mentioned in this article to be a war criminal.

    The only exception I would make would be the dropping on the bombs in WWII.

    But these actions:

    -Interogation techniques under Bush Jr
    -The actions in Nicaragua and Iraq/Iran War by Reagan
    -Roosevelt's presiding over the destruction of Dresden, which caused 30,000-40,000 civilians
    -FDR's forced internment of 100,000 Japanese-Americans to "war relocation camps."
    -Abraham Lincoln, who suspended habeas corpus for all American citizens during the Civil War
    -Woodrow Wilson, who backed the Espionage Act, which forbade Americans from using "disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language" about the government
    -Clinton in Serbia and Kosovo

    If they were all still alive, i'd advocate locking them all up.

  • ||

    John,

    Japan is not solely to blame for the bombing of Pearl Harbor. There has been plenty of scholarship about Pearl Harbor. Roosevelt was trying to be as provacitive as possible, he wanted Japan to fire the first shot. He issued deliberate orders to prevent Admiral Kimmel from doing things to protect Navy forces as well as preventing Kimmel from having certain information. FOIA searches have shown that the Japanese diplomatic code was broken and the Japanese military code was broken prior to Pearl. FOIA searches have shown that the Imperial fleet did not maintain radio silence (as was alleged in the official story) on the voyage across the Pacific from November 25th to December 7th, and the US had been picking up periodic radio intercepts. Roosevelt issued the Vacant Sea order, ordering ships out of the north pacific which gave the Japanese Navy a wide berth to sail to Hawaii unmolested.

    Roosevelt earlier refused to even see Japanese diplomats, including the Prince, who offered to come in person, which was never done having the royal family leave Japan. This refusal to negoticate precipated the collapase of the prime minister's government at the time, and ushured in the jingoistic Togo's junta.

    A lot of good work was done by Robert Stinnet in his book Day of Deceipt. There is a wikipedia page on it. Even Stinnet comes to the conclusion that FDR did the right thing, that the deception was a grim necessity. But if that is your argument, saying popular opinion can't be trusted to know when its right to go to war, then my question would be why even bother to pretend to have a democracy?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_of_Deceit

  • Fluffy||

    As a general proposition, it is not a good thing if the government tortured two (or four, or six, or whatever) individuals captured in Afghanistan or Pakistan. not good. however, what is more likely to affect me...Kelo or potential torture?

    "I am not a Jew, but I do own real estate, therefore Kelo is worse than the Holocaust."

    This exercise in moral absurdity brought to you courtesy of TAO.

  • ||

    From here.

    I've put this detail in a series of posts, but it really deserves a full post. According to the May 30, 2005 Bradbury memo, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003 and Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in August 2002.

    On page 37 of the OLC memo, in a passage discussing the differences between SERE techniques and the torture used with detainees, the memo explains:

    The CIA used the waterboard "at least 83 times during August 2002" in the interrogation of Zubaydah. IG Report at 90, and 183 times during March 2003 in the interrogation of KSM, see id. at 91.



    Note, the information comes from the CIA IG report which, in the case of Abu Zubaydah, is based on having viewed the torture tapes as well as other materials. So this is presumably a number that was once backed up by video evidence. [emphasis added]



    I am at a loss to see how this (waterboarded 6 times a day for a month) can be considered borderline.

    Hmmm, I wonder* if sleep deprivation and stress positions were used concurrently?

    * Not very much. I'm a cynical bastard.

  • ||

    The bombing fo Hiroshima and Nagasaki had nothing to do with Japan's surrender. The bombs were dropped to send a message to the Soviets. Japan had already offered terms of surrender. Their only stipulation was that the Emperor not be tried as a war criminal. We ended up accepting those very terms. From the standpoint of Japan's surrender, the bombs were totally unnecessary.

    Link? Because this is the first I've heard of the Japanese offering to surrender prior to the nukes, rather than planning a suicidal defense of the mainland down to the last man, woman, and child capable of wielding a weapon.

  • ||

    As I recall, there may have been an attempt to surrender between the atomic bombings. Even that seems clouded--it's not like there was an e-mail with a read-receipt, so this is probably one of those unprovable mysteries.

    I sure the hell would've surrendered after Hiroshima.

  • ||

    yeah - me too

  • ||

    For more on WWII, Pat Buchanan's book the Unnecessary War is good. For more and the deception at Pearl Harbor see
    John Denson's chapter from Reassing the Presidency, free online at

    http://books.google.com/books?id=hJGpAT7IWhwC&pg=PA453&lpg=PA453&dq=roosevelt+and+the+first+shot&source=bl&ots=KB2eMUZbho&sig=lVVueragDd7khhL7xIjB5sfHGU0&hl=en&ei=ytwBSpK1BJa6tgOhtIz_BQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3


    My point is that facts are stubborn things, and there are a lot more ways to avoid war like Episiarch was talking about.

  • ||

    My understanding is that the first nuke dropped was not used on an exclusively military target like a carrier group, or a demonstration target like a vacant bit of ocean near Tokyo, because the U.S. only had two nukes at the time. The worry was that if the first nuke was perceived as a sign we didn't have any stomach to use it to cause mass casualties, and the second was perceived as possibly the only remaining nuke we had, then we would have been screwed when they waited and waited for the non-existent third nuke to be dropped.

    And, given that the Japanese government didn't surrender after the first nuke, these worries appear to have been spot on.

  • ||

    Yes there were offers of terms of surrender, but Roosevelt was committed to a policy of unconditional surrender, in Germany and in Japan. This, coupled with the leaked details of the Morgenthau plan, which was used to strike fear in every German home, Goebbels called the plan a Jewish murder plan to kill 43 millioin Germans, he said every German house should resemble a fortress, contributed to the Germans fighting so hard at the battle of the bulge when the end was already in site for the germans and the war was lost. Even Allan Dulles said that it looked like Washington was doing everything possible to make this war harder to fight. General Patton was only outspoken in his criticism of the way the war was being handled. Same with in Japan, they offered surrender if they could keep their emperor, and Washington said no, unconditional surrender, MacArthur realized that the country would be much easier to occupy if they were allowed to keep the emperor so the Japanese actually got that one.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Poor Fluffy. He doesn't understand that I was trying to explain to El why it is certain people feel the way they do.


    In EVERY SINGLE LAST THREAD ABOUT TORTURE HERE FOR THE LAST TWO FUCKING YEARS, you have stood up for torturers, opposed investigating torturers, made moral excuses for torturers, and attempted to muddy the waters in the case against torture.



    Oh, you so fucking fail, Fluffy, it makes me laugh.

  • ||

    That is, if we had had a dozen nukes in our arsenal, we could have spared civilian Japanese lives with a gradual ramp-up: drop a demonstration nuke in the ocean; drop a nuke on a carrier group or other exclusively military target; warn that the next nuke would be on a small population center, and the next after that on a big population center, and then follow up on those threats.

    We just didn't have the luxury of such a ramp-up. We had just two bombs.

  • ||

    "The dropping of an atomic bomb on a few hundred thousand innocent civilians: Prevented an incredibly obvious outcome, clearly foreseeable at that time, of an incredibly bloody invasion of Mainland Japan that surely would have resulted in horrific casualties on both sides far exceeding by possibly several orders of magnitude the death toll from Hiroshima and Nagasaki: the least bad choice available which ultimately saved large numbers of lives. OK in my book."

    In response to Truman's request for estimates of the number of US troops that would be killed in an invasion of Japan, the Chiefs of Staff came up with an estimate of 40,000, not 500,000 that Truman disingenuously told the public. But such an invasion wasn't necessary anyway because as MacArthur believed, Japan was ready to surrender. Japan had asked Russia to negotiate a surrender for them with the US.

  • Elemenope||

    Criminal statutes, I think as a matter of justice, are to be narrowly construed.

    I want to come back to this, because something else bothered me about it. It elides a key distinction in this case, in that we are talking about laws constraining behaviors of the state (and agents thereof). Stop me when this sounds crazy, but we are a government of enumerated powers, and as such unlike (in fact the opposite of) citizens, governments can only do what they are told they can do (by statute) and forbidden to do everything else.

    In short, laws tell governments what is allowed, whereas laws tell citizen what is disallowed. That cocks up your analysis something fierce, because the people we are talking about here are agents of the state, not private citizens doing citizeny things.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    It doesn't really, El, because it's still a criminal statute. Even though, perhaps, we should read it broadly to constrain what the government does, the fact that it makes it an individually-punishable crime means that we have to read it narrowly.

    Let me put it another way: The Eighth Amendment should be read broadly, but statutes that attempt to punish individuals who go beyond the Eighth Amendment should be construed narrowly, because it's difficult to define "cruel and unusual punishment" such to the point that it allows people to structure their lives around straightforward readings of the law.

  • Fluffy||

    I followed your link, and you don't have any posts on that page, pal.

  • ||

    "Yes there were offers of terms of surrender, but Roosevelt was committed to a policy of unconditional surrender, in Germany and in Japan. This, coupled with the leaked details of the Morgenthau plan, which was used to strike fear in every German home, Goebbels called the plan a Jewish murder plan to kill 43 millioin Germans, he said every German house should resemble a fortress, contributed to the Germans fighting so hard at the battle of the bulge when the end was already in site for the germans and the war was lost. Even Allan Dulles said that it looked like Washington was doing everything possible to make this war harder to fight. General Patton was only outspoken in his criticism of the way the war was being handled. Same with in Japan, they offered surrender if they could keep their emperor, and Washington said no, unconditional surrender, MacArthur realized that the country would be much easier to occupy if they were allowed to keep the emperor so the Japanese actually got that one."

    So the bombing was totally unnecessary since we accepted the original terms of surrender that the Japanese offered.

  • ||

    El, the only caveat I have with your analysis is that people are guilty of war crimes - not states. A war criminal uses state power to commit his atrocities, but he is the actor - not the state - and is prosecuted as such.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    yes, I do, chumly. I used to go by a different handle. Here's a hint: starts with an "Ayn" and ends with a "_Randian"

    which is why your assertion about the last two years was such a bald-faced lie: this handle hasn't been in existence for two years.

    So fuck off.

  • Elemenope||

    Oh, you so fucking fail, Fluffy, it makes me laugh.

    Actually Fluffy got you stuffed on the horns of a trap, because you (posting as ayn_randian) on that thread clearly argued that waterboarding is torture. In seeing that, your current arguments are in bad faith and/or just fucking stupid.

    See, if you were consistent on this point as fluffy accused, you'd merely be a moral idiot.

    I don't know which one I'd rather be.

  • Kolmogorov||

    Harsanyi seems to be working form the idea that our past heros are above criticism. I don't know what to call that other than idolatry. Harsanyi seems to expect that the mere mention of names like Lincoln, FDR, and Truman will reduce otherwise thinking people to worshipful acolytes. All of the things he mentions are, I would have thought obviously, things worth our moral consideration. Whether or not we conclude that dropping atomic bombs deserves our rebuke, it is amazing that Harsanyi thinks that mere discussion of that would be so far off the table that it would serve as a potent rhetorical point against torture critics.

    Maybe I am misreading his article as a defense of torture. Sometimes it seems as though his point is that there are no pure hands in the past we can point to to justify our current positions. OK, fair enough. It is perilous for either side to say "FDR did this", or "Lincoln did that", or "Churchill said such and so". If that is his point, he's right about that. None of these men are infallible gods that we should look to them for the perfect template for government behavior. What is right or wrong springs from our ideals and principles, not from the perfect examples lived out by men of the past.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    And have I argued that waterboarding is not morally torture here?

    Regardless, I am currently distinguishing between the exceptionally vague criminal statute and moral torture here. Just because my former arguments lacked this nuance or understanding of the law does not mean I am somehow doubling back on myself.

    For one, we now have evidence that the legislature was put on notice as to the interpretations lent to the law, and that they either implicitly or explicitly OK'd that interpretation.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "Take President Barack Obama. As David Harsanyi writes, if Obama really believes, as he recently stated, that the nation "lost its moral bearings" under his predecessor, Obama will have a hard time defending any presidency."

    Indeed the notion that waterboarding enemy combatents captured in a foreign land out of uniform (who are neither covered by the U.S. Constitution or the Geneva Convention) crosses some unprecedented bright line of morality doesn't know much about the history of WW 2. Especially so of the war in the Pacific on the island hopping campaigns toward the Japananse home islands.

    The Japanese soldiers were fanatical, tricky and cruel and our soldiers responded in kind. They did what they had to do to win.

    Maybe Obama should watch the documentary "Hell in the Pacific" or some of those war documentaries on the History channel. I heard one Marine describe how they dealt with any Japanese soldiers they happened to capture alive after the interrogators got through with them. He said they eitehr shot them in the back of the head or cut their throats with their K-Bar knives if they were close to the front line and didn't want the enemy to hear the shot.

    He wasn't the least bit apologetic about it - nor should he have been.

  • ||

    I'd rather be waterboarded than lit on fire, but both are pretty twisted. Then, war is pretty twisted.



    Let's try really, really hard not to go to war anymore. Pretty please?

  • Elemenope||

    El, the only caveat I have with your analysis is that people are guilty of war crimes - not states. A war criminal uses state power to commit his atrocities, but he is the actor - not the state - and is prosecuted as such.

    I agree that muddies it a bit but since that's always true, how is one to deter states from being bad actors if the *actual* actors are all persons entitled to "strict construction of statute"?

    Look at it this way, the interrogators are given a manual, and told, "these things written here are the things that you are allowed to do. If you go outside of the things in this manual, you are treading on legally proscribed territory and are liable." How is that any different from a doctor being criminally liable for putting someone in harm's way by *intentionally* ignoring established medical procedure?

  • Elemenope||

    Or to be clearer, you don't have to enumerate every single way a doctor may deviate from established medical procedure in order to charge him if he intentionally does deviate from procedure.

  • ||

    I think we probably could've avoided nuking cities in Japan (surely we had the capacity to produce more bombs on short order), but the feeling at the time was probably "Why bother waiting?", because we were bombing the crap out of Tokyo and killing thousands already. The "unconditional surrender" policy also played a role, I'm sure, as did the apparent Japanese mania for a suicidal defense.

  • ||

    So the bombing was totally unnecessary since we accepted the original terms of surrender that the Japanese offered.

    No we didn't. Surrender pre-second bomb was offered with the Japanese keeping their emperor. Post-second bomb it was sans emperor.

  • Elemenope||

    For one, we now have evidence that the legislature was put on notice as to the interpretations lent to the law, and that they either implicitly or explicitly OK'd that interpretation.

    It's 1900.

    Alabama legislature passes a law against murder.

    Black guy gets lynched.

    Someone polls Alabama legislators.

    Alabama Legislators say "well, we didn't intend that law to apply to the negro."

    Does that make lynching magically legal?

  • ||

    "And, given that the Japanese government didn't surrender after the first nuke, these worries appear to have been spot on."

    They were'nt really given much time to surrender. It was more or less a one - two punch.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    I am going to say that I honestly wouldn't mind seeing investigations and attempts at prosecutions. The rule of lenity should apply, but only at trial or on subsequent appeal.

    Of course, one of the things that many of us fear is that prosecuting former Administration officials on what is arguably a vague or very ambiguous legal point, given all of the paper concerning it in the first place, is going to look like political, whether it is or not.

    Also, I think any prosecutor is probably boned on the requisite mens rea.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    El, should I leave it to you to figure out why your analogy in re: lynching is bad?

    If Congress writes " severe physical and mental pain" and Congress later says "these techniques are not what we had in mind in the statute"...what are you going to do?

  • ||

    They were'nt really given much time to surrender. It was more or less a one - two punch.

    Not true.

  • ||

    Maybe I am misreading his article as a defense of torture.

    Sure came across that way to me. And, considering his historical examples one by one, they (with the exception of the nuke dropping) were all what I consider abuses of power by a sitting president. And, I don't revere ANY of those former presidents, and in fact consider two of them (FDR and Wilson) the worst presidents we've ever had.

    So, sort of excusing the Bush administration by citing what were apparently intended as exonerating examples that I don't consider acceptable or exonerating in any way -- that's a fail in my book. I'll exaggerate a lot now for the sake of clarity: this article falls into the argumentative category of "but -- but -- other men on the block beat their wives even worse, and they are all respected in the community, so me beating you is NotBad TM".

  • ||

    """For one, we now have evidence that the legislature was put on notice as to the interpretations lent to the law, and that they either implicitly or explicitly OK'd that interpretation."""

    That doesn't mean shit with regards to the legal or moral argument. The gang of four, or eight, doesn't equate to the legislature either. To say the legislature was put on notice is false. If you want to be closer to the facts you would say around 2% of the legislature was notified.

  • ||

    "No we didn't. Surrender pre-second bomb was offered with the Japanese keeping their emperor. Post-second bomb it was sans emperor."

    Where do you get your history, Solana? It was unconditional surrender from the beginning. When the Japanese offered the same terms of surrender of getting to keep the emporer, we accepted it.

  • Elemenope||

    No, you should spell it out. How is the analogy bad?

  • ||

    And, I don't revere ANY of those former presidents, and in fact consider two of them (FDR and Wilson) the worst presidents we've ever had.

    Exactly. FDR and Wilson were easily the closest things this country has ever had to fascist leadership. Since when is similar behavior to those two a defense of anything on this site?

    Poor article all around.

    Torture = never cool.

  • ||

    They were'nt really given much time to surrender. It was more or less a one - two punch.

    Hiroshima -- August 6th, 1945
    Nagasaki -- August 9th, 1945
    Surrender by Japanese government -- August 15th, 1945

    Quick timing, but really -- if your government still is not convinced you need to surrender three days after being nuked, do you think some additional time between bombings would have caused them to cave? How much more time? And do you think the additional time might have caused them to think, hey, that was the only bomb they had?

    I mean, it took them fucking 6 more days AFTER the second nuke to finally cave. That's crazy stubborn.

  • ||

    "They were'nt really given much time to surrender. It was more or less a one - two punch.

    Not true."

    Hiroshima was bombed on August 8, Nagasaki on the following day.

  • ||

    The point of the article is not to defend torture but to attack moral inconsistency, IMHO.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    The analogy is bad because laws apply to everybody when they are passed. It would require the Alabama legislature to define black people as not people.

    And I cannot really think of a good analogy here. Do we have other laws that use arguably nebulous concepts like "severe physical or mental pain"?

  • The Angry Optimist||

    bookworm - nope. the August 6th and August 9th dates are correct.

  • ||

    "I mean, it took them fucking 6 more days AFTER the second nuke to finally cave. That's crazy stubborn."

    As long as we insisted on unconditional surrender, they weren't going to cave. The war ended only after we softened and allowed them to keep their emperor.

  • ||

    I've put this detail in a series of posts, but it really deserves a full post. According to the May 30, 2005 Bradbury memo, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003 and Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in August 2002.

    You realize, of course, that those numbers refer to the number of "pours", not the number of separate sessions. It makes it sound worse than it actually was.

    Just keepin' it reality-based.

  • ||

    Hiroshima was bombed on August 8, Nagasaki on the following day.

    Where the hell are you people getting your history from?

    Hiroshima, August 6th.
    Nagasaki, August 9th.

    Surrender in accordance with Potsdam was not until August 15th.


    In fact, Japanese cabinet members were discussing surrender when Nagasaki went up in flames.

    I'm not even defending this, but if you're going to come at me, please come at me with facts.

  • aspushkin||

    Optimist,

    Are you fucking serious? Yes, we have many, many other laws that "use arguably nebulous concepts." In fact, by the radical (and obviously false) skeptical approach that you've applied to earlier postings, there isn't any concept that isn't "arguably nebulous."

  • The Angry Optimist||

    aspushkin - what laws would those be? If it's so prevalent, I expect you to provide examples, not that there are "lots".

  • ||

    Hiroshima was bombed on August 8, Nagasaki on the following day.

    No, Hiroshima was August 6, Nagasaki August 9. The Japanese spent the intervening days debating whether and what sort of conditions they wanted to negotiate for. They could have surrendered on the terms finally offered and accepted post-Nagasaki, but did not.

  • ||

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_casualties_of_the_U.S._invasion_of_Afghanistan

    "fresno dan,

    'No bombing if there is a POSSIBILITY of killing a civilian.'

    Congratulations, you've given everyone a perfect way not to get bombed, drag a civilian along with them. You might as well say "No bombing."

    And civilians get killed in combat situations constantly with no bombing at all. Be a pacifist if you want, but don't be supercilious about it."

    "you might as well say no bombing"
    Well, that my point - No bombing if you think life is sacred, and precious, and valuable. I don't it is always - and sometimes to defend life very, very nasty things must be done. I don't think I was supercilious about it - - I think logical consistency demands that if torture, of someone who is least suspected of war or terrorism (I don't believe in distinguishing them), and who after the treatment is still alive, is the worst possible thing, that it strikes me that killing (O, I forgot maiming and a lifetime of being deformed) is much, much worse.

    I just find it amazing how people do not want to think about the innocent killed by the US in war. Some justified, some not. But never pretend that bombing from the air is clean, surgical, or falls only on the unjust. Or that it is quick, or that legless, armless, deformed people do not result. If people accept that, I just find it strange - I will maim you, I will burn you, I will blind you, and your mother, and your wife, and your children ...but I am moral becasue by god I will not give you a wet willie...please.
    Stalin - the death of one man is a tragedy, the death of a million a statistic.

  • ||

    El,

    I agree that muddies it a bit but since that's always true, how is one to deter states from being bad actors if the *actual* actors are all persons entitled to "strict construction of statute"?

    I guess my point is that it's not possible to deter a state from anything - only to deter people from using the power of the state criminally. I don't think it is any different from the doctor example - except in severity. I think laws against war crimes are similar to laws against murder, in that they may be narrowly proscribed but still interpreted broadly enough to get the job done. we don't have to criminalize every possible way of killing a person. The problem with torture is it's harder to define than murder in a legal sense. That said, it really shouldn't be any harder to define than plenty of other criminal acts. I'm not a lawyer, but that's my thoughts...

  • aspushkin||

    AngryOptimist-
    Here's two quick examples off the top of my head:
    1. The distinction between assault and aggravated assault is "arguably nebulous."
    2. Any law against "disorderly conduct" or "disturbing the peace." Is talking quietly while walking down the street "disturbing the peace?" Well, it's "arguably nebulous."

    Still waiting for you answer on whether shoving a spiked pear up a detainee's ass would be torture. If yes, please "show your work."

  • Fluffy||

    You realize, of course, that those numbers refer to the number of "pours", not the number of separate sessions. It makes it sound worse than it actually was.

    We don't really know that.

    The "No, that # means pours!" was unofficially offered as a possible rationalization after the memos were released. There's nothing in the document itself to suggest that. Frankly, the notion that the exact number of "pours" was being tracked strikes me as a bit outlandish. It's as if we had a memo released that said that guards fired their weapons at prisoners 500 times, and someone tried to explain it away by saying, "Oh, they're counting each individual shotgun pellet as its own shot".

    I am going to say that I honestly wouldn't mind seeing investigations and attempts at prosecutions. The rule of lenity should apply, but only at trial or on subsequent appeal.

    Fine. Now we agree. See how easy that was?

    yes, I do, chumly. I used to go by a different handle. Here's a hint: starts with an "Ayn" and ends with a "_Randian"

    which is why your assertion about the last two years was such a bald-faced lie: this handle hasn't been in existence for two years.


    I am entitled to apply a one handle / one person rule.

    If you want to be given credit for your historical statements about something, don't change your handle.

    You got me on the two years thing. So you only supported torturers "during" two years [2008 and 2009] and not "for" two years. My bad.

    In any event, you have now called for investigations and prosecutions and that's good enough for me.

  • ||

    In a democracy, one wins a debate by convincing most of the folks. Most of the folks revere FDR, Truman, Lincoln, Reagan, Clinton, etc. To be morally consistent, one cannot single out Bush for criticism given what other U.S. presidents, esp. recent presidents, have done. But if you lambaste Clinton, Reagan, FDR and Lincoln, most Americans will disagree with you, because 65% of 'em love our past presidents, esp. those to whom we have dedicated awesome monuments. Hence, to win the popular debate against Bush's torture, you must be intellectually dishonest and assert FDR was a modern day Galahad (everyone clap!) whereas Bush is a sub-human monster (everyone boo and hiss!).

    The reason Jon Stewart apologized for his Truman comment is because TV viewers were killing him for saying it. Privately, he still thinks it's right. One can defend Stewart's opinion, but if you do that, the masses won't love your TV show and you will not get to host the Oscars.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    you were asked first, aspushkin. It is incumbent on those who wish to criminally prosecute people to demonstrate why that prosecution is warranted, not the other way 'round.

    The enhancing factors for assault and aggravated assault are spelled out in the statute:

    From the FBI.

  • ||

    Truman wrote in his diary that when he met with Stalin, that Stalin had some questions so he told him to "fire away" and he said that Stalin did "and it is dynamite - but I have some dynamite too which I'm not exploding now."

    The implication is obvious to me. The dynamite was the atom bomb and its purpose was to show the Soviets what we had and what it could do. It served no purpose in ending the war in the Pacific because the Japanese were willing to surrender without having the bombs dropped on them. They only stipulated that they be able to keep their emperor.

  • ||

    Just an absolute disgrace to see this posted on this web site of all places. A post advocating full nationalization of the banking industry would be less inappropriate.

    For shame.

  • ||

    Just one other question, as it comes up so much. Why is being incinerated by a nuclear bomb more onerous than all the fire bombing that actually killed many more Japanese civilians? There is a great video documentary interviewing Robert Mcnamara, where he states that he certainly would have been tried as a war criminal had the Japanese won. There is a listing of the civilians killed in each Japanese city.
    I refuse to think as a "citizen" or "nationalist" or a "patriot". I think as a human. This does not mean that I think "Americans" are bad, or any other people are better. But I do not close my eyes to reality.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Like I said, I think one of the problems we have is the moral weight that the term "torture" carries with it. If the criminal term were more benign and less emotionally loaded, I don't think 90% of this would even be an argument.

  • aspushkin||

    Optimist:
    From the link you posted: The Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program defines aggravated assault as an unlawful attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury. The Program further specifies that this type of assault is usually accompanied by the use of a weapon or by other means likely to produce death or great bodily harm. Attempted aggravated assault that involves the display of-or threat to use-a gun, knife, or other weapon is included in this crime category because serious personal injury would likely result if the assault were completed. When aggravated assault and larceny-theft occur together, the offense falls under the category of robbery.


    Ok, so "inflicting severe physical or mental pain" is "arguably nebulous," (and therefore, apparently, meaningless), but "severe or aggravated bodily injury isn't?"

    Also, I answered your question. I said that the fact that we cannot define the precise outer limits of a phenomenon does not always (and, in fact, usually does not) prevent us from agreeing that a given item or phenomenon belongs to a broader category. You can't "define" a chair, but this is only problematic when we are dealing with a marginal member of the category. For the vast majority of things we call chairs there would be no debate as to its membership in the category. Now please... is shoving a spiked pear up someone's ass torture? If so, please "show your work."

  • aspushkin||

    Furthermore, any time the law posits the judgement of a "reasonable person," it is "arguably nebulous." Please refrain from asking for substantiation of claims that are obviously accurate.

  • ||

    Like I said, I think one of the problems we have is the moral weight that the term "torture" carries with it. If the criminal term were more benign and less emotionally loaded, I don't think 90% of this would even be an argument.

    I think it's emotionally loaded because of the horrible repugnancy of the act. I doubt re-naming it would change many opinions. In fact, such an attempt would likely invite scorn and derision as a cynical attempt to "rebrand" the practice.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    alright, now we're getting somewhere. so, now you know why the spiked pear thing is criminally torture, but I guess what I am saying is that waterboarding is, as you put it, a "marginal member of the category" of things included in the concept, if it's to be included at all. You're absolutely right to say that just because the outer limits of a concept are fuzzy does not invalidate the entire concept, but you are wrong in saying that those activities that constitute the outer edge of the concept are automatically included AND that those of us arguing over those marginal inclusions are just stupid.

    So, in short:

    For the vast majority of things we call chairs there would be no debate as to its membership in the category.

    So too with the spiked pear. Sleep deprivation, on the other hand...

  • ||

    Honestly, as much as I think some prosecution might be warranting, I'd like even more to see a bright line drawn that would establish that torture and torture-lite are illegal.

  • aspushkin||

    Good, I do agree we are getting somewhere. But I (and many, many others with whom I disagree on a number of political and moral issues but who are acknowledged as "experts" on security and/or interrogations) would contend that you're perception of the severity of waterboarding is way, way off; i.e. those who have experienced it (even those who would be sympathetic to its use) have repeatedly declared unwaveringly that waterboarding is torture. Ditto for keeping someone up for ELEVEN DAYS, and shackling in agonizing stress positions for extended periods of time. And you are absolutely out of your mind if you think leading people to believe that they are going to be or already have been transferred to the custody of people whom they believe will use even more severe methods, or that their children are in physical danger of being subjected to such tactics does not cause "severe mental pain." This is why even people like Cheney aren't really seriously contending the "torture" designation, but cynically claiming that it "worked."

  • ||

    I also do not accept the argument that prosecution of prior administrations should not occur because it would invite retaliatory prosecutions and witch hunts. I say - let them burn the witches. Maybe people in government will start to have a more healthy fear of the power they weild once it gets turned on them. Plus, every resource spent in internecine squabeling prevents its use harrassing normal citizens for much lesser offenses.

  • aspushkin||

    Pro Liberate--
    There is such a thing. It's called the Geneva Convention, and when the U.S. signed and ratified it it became the law of the land. Apparently that great paragon of "serious" centrism, Jon Stewart considers this ridiculous, but it bans touching prisoners. (Unless you argue that they aren't prisoners, which would seem to me to suggest that we aren't really at war)

  • aspushkin||

    sorry-- conventionS

  • ||

    I am bad at the splelling. reallly bed.

  • ||

    Like I said, I think one of the problems we have is the moral weight that the term "torture" carries with it. If the criminal term were more benign and less emotionally loaded, I don't think 90% of this would even be an argument.

    I think you're an idiot.

    Here's an idea- change your handle to Pretzel Logic.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    It's called the Geneva Convention, and when the U.S. signed and ratified it it became the law of the land.



    Well, not automatically. Congress has to take action to make it the law of the land. Signed conventions do not automatically incorporate into the law.

    but it bans touching prisoners.



    Um, I kind of doubt that.

    Of course, one of the problems with appealing to the Geneva Conventions is that the conservatives have a very good case as to why it should not apply to non-uniformed irregulars.

  • ||

    Sleep deprivation, on the other hand...

    Sleep deprivation is a form of torture. Because it is well known that SD can cause psychosis and hallucinations, it is useless as an information extraction technique. It serves no purpose than to inflict physical and mental distress.

    Stress positions and slapping? Still torture, but fuzzier on the edges than SD for the furtherance of information extraction.

    (I've been up for 75 hours straight due to insomnia plus drug reaction. I would have told you Hitler lived in my underwear drawer if that's what it took to go to sleep.)

  • The Angry Optimist||

    P Brooks - why?

  • ||

    I also do not accept the argument that prosecution of prior administrations should not occur because it would invite retaliatory prosecutions and witch hunts.

    Exactly; as long as our "bosses" are permitted to act without consequences, they will persist in doing any fucking thing they please.

  • ||

    I think it's emotionally loaded because of the horrible repugnancy of the act. I doubt re-naming it would change many opinions. In fact, such an attempt would likely invite scorn and derision as a cynical attempt to "rebrand" the practice.

    Uh, yeah. 'Torture,' like any other word describing the practices being discussed, is if anything a euphemism.

  • ||

    "Just one other question, as it comes up so much. Why is being incinerated by a nuclear bomb more onerous than all the fire bombing that actually killed many more Japanese civilians?"

    They're all wrong as it's wrong to wage war on civilians.

  • ||

    as long as our "bosses" are permitted to act without consequences, they will persist in doing any fucking thing they please.

    And precedent be damned - the fact they they have escaped the arm of the law for so long is a mistake, not a reason to continue down that road.

    SugarFree,

    When I was a cadet in the SERE program, they tortured us (to teach us how to deal with torture) These yahoos mock raped one girl and she went banannas (had been raped before, and justifiably had an issue with it) The Academy got sued and paid up - after a 60 minutes exposee. they canceled the torture part of the training the following year. Out of all the crazy stuff they did to us - some at least as bad as waterboarding, my personal worst experience was the sleep deprivation.

  • ||

    These yahoos mock raped one girl and she went bananas

    WTF? A) How does mock rape prepare you for real rape as a interrogation technique? and B) well... I just kind of go back to WTF?

  • ||

    I've heard some experts on the subject talk about how sleep deprivation is possibly the worst form of torture.

  • Chad||

    No, Hiroshima was August 6, Nagasaki August 9. The Japanese spent the intervening days debating whether and what sort of conditions they wanted to negotiate for. They could have surrendered on the terms finally offered and accepted post-Nagasaki, but did not.

    The Japanese were in complete disarray between the two bombings, almost to the point of a coup. Their understanding of Hiroshima was far from complete and the invasion by the Soviets on the 7th was as big or bigger of a factor in Japan's surrender than the first bomb. Of course, the Soviet invasion likely happened because of the bomb, so it cannot be looked at as a casual factor in isolation.

    In hindsight, we probably didn't need to drop the bomb on Nagasaki. The Soviet invasion combined with the Hiroshima bomb was sufficient to cause surrender. However, there was no way to know this in the chaos of that time.

    The Hiroshima bomb, on the other hand, almost certainly saved lives. Even if you optimistically assume that the war would have ended around the November time frame, more people still would have died in the conventional bombing campaign than died to the two atomic bombs. Estimates of war-related deaths (both military and civilian)during the summer of 1945 run around 4000-8000 PER DAY. It is easy to see that an extention of the war by just a few months would lead to more deaths than the atomic bombs. Additionally, any lengthening of the war into the fall/winter of 45/46, or anything less than a complete surrender on the part of the Japanese, would have led to massive suffering of the Japanese civilian population during the winter, and certainly would have led to many more deaths. The Japanese reconstruction saved many lives, and would have been unlikely in any scenario without the bombs.

    Indeed, it really is hard to come up with a plausible alternative that avoids the use of atomic bombs and results in a better Japanese post-war history than the one that actually happened.

    In short, even in hindsight, Truman generally made the correct decision. The Nagasaki bomb may have been overkill, but the Hiroshima bomb likely saved millions of lives and was instrumental towards shocking Japan onto the path of becoming world's most exemplary nations.

  • aspushkin||

    Re: Treaties:
    This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

  • ||

    domo,

    How long did they keep you up?

  • ||

    "bookworm - nope. the August 6th and August 9th dates are correct."

    I stand corrected on that point. I'm right on everything else though.

  • ||

    Mock rapes were quite common. I guess they would have used real rape if they thought it would be legal. This was not knitting class.

  • Fluffy||

    Of course, one of the problems with appealing to the Geneva Conventions is that the conservatives have a very good case as to why it should not apply to non-uniformed irregulars.

    The truly twisted arguments offered by so-called conservatives, and by Bush administration apologists, in this area are themselves one of the darkest chapters in the Bush II saga.

    The purpose of the Geneva Conventions [to the extent that they deal with POWs, at least] was to protect legitimate combatants from being subjected to criminal punishments for engaging in "normal" acts of war.

    In other words, POWs are supposed to possess privileges not possessed by ordinary criminals.

    This means that if you are not a POW, you are an ordinary criminal. It means that if you are an illegal combatant, you don't get POW protections and can be tried under military justice if you're in the war zone or civilian justice if you're not.

    It does not mean that you are an unperson.

    Neither the US military justice system nor the US criminal justice system would have allowed any of the various categories of detainees to be treated as the Bush administration sought to treat them.

    The fact that Bush apparatchiks jumped at the chance to try to find a way to define a new category of unperson is one of the things that makes them so despicable. The fact that they did a really shitty job of it makes them a national disgrace and embarrassment.

  • aspushkin||

    Couldn't have said it better, fluffy.

    Remarkable how an absurd idea repeated often enough on "Meet the Press" can become "a strong case." Sort of like this "looking forward" bullshit.

  • ||

    three days in that section, though I had already been on about 30-60 minutes a day for a week - caught 10 at a time. It is possible to sleep while walking.

  • ||

    Word up, Fluffy.

  • aspushkin||

    As anyone who has been up for over twenty-four hours under non-threatening, peaceful conditions can tell you that your mind starts to go. Now imagine 11 days with people trying to scare you. It's not "nebulous" whatsoever, optimist.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    aspushkin - unless a court deems a treaty to be self-executing, Congress must pass legislation with the express purpose of implementing the treaty.

    Fluffy - of course, that's the problem with saying there's a "War" on Terror.

  • ||

    Oh - the people who performed the mock rapes (in this case) were other cadets. How awesome would it be to see the guys in chapel two months later, or find out he's dating your roomate. This is ultimately what scuppered the program - Cadets weren't supposed to do this - normally it was NCO's who performed this part of the training, but these guys got over eager. But it became politically impossible to justify the practice by ANYONE once it came to light. Wasn't exactly good enough to say "ok, ok, we fucked up, now we'll only let enlisted people rape cadets". Kind of the same problem TAO is having in this fight.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Remarkable how an absurd idea repeated often enough on "Meet the Press" can become "a strong case."

    you are a spiteful little fucker, aren't you? Yeah, the ONLY people who believe this are SO FAR BELOW YOU, dude.

    Like, you know, Eric Holder.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "Just one other question, as it comes up so much. Why is being incinerated by a nuclear bomb more onerous than all the fire bombing that actually killed many more Japanese civilians?"

    It's not.

    By the way, as part of the planning for the invasion of the Japanese home islands (before the Atom bomb secret was let out), the military contemplated the use of poison gas.

  • aspushkin||

    Optimist-
    The relevant portions of the Conventions were ratified.

  • aspushkin||

    (caveat: I am not 100% certain on this point-- can someone clarify? I don't mean you optimist-- someone with relevant knowledge)

  • The Angry Optimist||

    amazing. can someone help aspushkin know what he's actually talking about please?

  • aspushkin||

    A spiteful little fucker? No, not really-- I actually see (I think) the point of your argument as it relates to civilian criminal procedures; that is, I'm generally inclined to favor not prosecuting when there is any question about the legitimacy or justice of either the law or its application. But I really don't think you understand how well-known it was in the intelligence community that doing this sort of shit was very, very dangerous in the legal sense. I'm less inclined to show mercy to those to whom we have entrusted the authority to essentially break the law (i.e. imprison people, which you or I couldn't do), and I'm petrified by the Condi Rice/Richard Nixon theory of law you seem to be advocating.

  • ||

    My understanding is that we did not ratify the 1977 bits - protocol one and two. you'd have to look up whats in there.

  • aspushkin||

    Let's agree to a modicum or respect, lest we turn others off this conversation, eh? I apologize for the snide remarks.

  • aspushkin||

    domo-- Yeah, that is what I meant-- I just don't feel like tracking it down now, and the last thing I wanted was to be assigned another research project...

  • ||

    me neither - sorry. if it wasn't miller time, i'd probably do the leg work. gotta go eat barbecue. have fun ya'll

  • aspushkin||

    Another point: The constitution provides for a way out of all of this. Bush could have issued a blanket pardon and that would have been that.

  • ||

    Domo, I've had the opinion that part of the purpose of exposing SERE school students to torture techiques is to drive home the importantance of evasion. I don't think anything can really prepare you for torture.

    Are you set for another 80 rounds of waterboarding? ;-)

  • Naga Sadow||

    Kind of an interesting fact about the two nukes we dropped.

    This one dude is visiting Hiroshima on business and WHAM!!! The world seems to explode around him. He survives and just barely makes it out of the city still alive. He heads back to his home to warn his family and get them out of the city and into the countryside. Unfortunately that other city is Nagasaki. When he's home, he tells his family the story of what happened in Hiroshima when WHAM!!! He grabs his family and ducks into the air raid shelter his family has. He is one of only a dozen or so people who have survived not one but TWO nuke strikes. Anyone know his name? It's been over a decade since I last read about that dude.

  • aspushkin||

    I don't know his name, but there was just a story about it in the mainstream press last month. They confirmed his story, I believe.

  • ||

    Should be found under luckiest person ever.

  • ||

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1165768/The-man-survived-TWO-nuclear-bombs-Lucky-Yamaguchi-tells-lived-Hiroshima--fled-home-Nagasaki.html

    There is is.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Naga:

    Hier!.

  • Naga Sadow||

    Ah found him.

  • ||

    There he is.

  • ||

    TrickyVic,

    Oh, I dunno, I've heard of a lot of people who haven't been nuked at all.

  • ||

    Pretty amazing story.

  • ||

    No doubt.

  • ||

    unless a court deems a treaty to be self-executing, Congress must pass legislation with the express purpose of implementing the treaty.

    The Geneva Conventions are in force in the United States. Even if it's not a self-executing treaty, it has been explicitly implemented by war crimes legislation in the U.S.

  • ||

    WTF is this steady stream of torture apology doing polluting the pages of Reason?

  • aspushkin||

    Of the many problems with the libertarian movement, two are in play here: 1) there is a generally positive tendency to take a counterintuitive position, often framed as an agreement with a conservative argument on liberal grounds 2) much more destructively, there is a tendency to emphasize logical argumentation, sometimes to the neglect of the reasonableness of the conclusions. (see AngryOptimist) This second point explains how you get a jerk like Hans Hermann-Hoppe, who starts from libertarian first principles and arrives at the conclusion that in a free society many communities would and should ban gays.

  • aspushkin||

    Sorry-- I meant to point out that that's how you end up with torture apologies here. Pretty fucked up, I think.

  • aspushkin||

    I just noted saw that this colum n is also posted at townhall.com. I'm sure those retrogrades are lapping up yet another ludicrous justification for blatant criminality. (with regard to immigration, however, ILLEGAL takes on a whole different meaning). C'mon, reason, what gives? It's not like you've done too much on torture, and now this parade of bullshit?

  • ||

    with regard to immigration, however, ILLEGAL takes on a whole different meaning

    But don't dare call them racists. Even though the only consistent thread in these seemingly contradictory standards of adherence to the rule of law is that in both cases they think their stances protect them from brown people.

  • ||

    Am I the only one on this site who thinks the interrogation tactics weren't harsh enough?

  • aspushkin||

    Lisa--
    Ok, I'll bite. Please tell us why you think harsher torture should have been employed. Also, do you think it should have only been applied to those we "knew" were terrorists, or is there anyone else who deserves a spot on the rack?

  • Fluffy||

    Aspushin:

    It's really much, much more simple than that.

    1. George Bush cut taxes.
    2. Democrats are statist douches.

    Based on those two facts - which are both true, I readily concede - there are many, many, many "libertarians" who will contort themselves in whatever manner is required to defend the actions of a Republican President, no matter how reprehensible. Because they view not undermining the GOP as more important than the trivial question of whether the GOP stands for torture.

    You honestly don't have to look any farther for an explanation than that.

  • JB||

    I can wait until they dig up the corpse of that incompetent, retarded, cripple FDR and put him on trial.

  • JB||

    The Geneva Conventions are in force in the United States.

    Not Protocols I and II from 1977:
    http://ask.yahoo.com/20020212.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geneva_Conventions

  • JB||

    Doh, and that should have been *can't wait*.

  • ||

    Harsayni,

    Had Truman ordered men into Hiroshima, had them round up a hundred thou or so civilians and shoot them in the face, alongside some military targets too, would you consider that a warcrime?

    Now tell me how its different than dropping the A-bomb.

  • Kreel Sarloo||

    In war, what the winners do is a military necessity, what the losers do is a war crime.

  • Kreel Sarloo ||

    As for any crime I'm usually quite content if the perp simply stops committing the crime.

    In the case of BushCo torturers I'd be fine with the notion that the CIA was done with torturing "persons of interest".

    But I fear they're not. I suspect the torture's just gone where it was before Bush, out of sight.

    The President does not so much make it known that there is to be no torture but that he doesn't want to hear about it and he doesn't want anyone else to either.

    The rule the shrubs broke about torture is that they let a bunch of halfwit enlisted personel play the game. You need to leave it to the pros at the CIA.

  • ||

    I've heard some experts on the subject talk about how sleep deprivation is possibly the worst form of torture.

    I've worked with some real experts on the subject, and I gotta tell you, we always found sleep deprivation to be the *best* form of torture.

  • Mike||

    Uhm, its not that difficult.

    Bush is a war criminal for ordering the detention and torture of prisoners in contravention of the Geneva Convention. Just like those Japanese and Gernman generals who were actually convicted of war crimes after WWII were.

    Its not about trying to re-define what a war criminal is, its about applying the already well understood and accepted standards.

    Japanese generals were hung after WWII for doing what the Bush administration said wasn't torture and was legal.

    When the Soviets did it regularly, no less than Ronald Reagan called them the Evil Empire because of it.

    Things are war crimes because the violate the laws of war, as set out in the Geneva Convention. Gitmo, torture and secret prisons are certainly war crimes. If Hiroshima and Nagasaki can be shown to be in that, then they too are war crimes. So too Dresden.

    The problem isn't that some are suddenly calling historical events "war crimes" without context, but that people stopped calling obvious war crimes, "war crimes" in the first place.

  • Chad||

    Mike, it is exactly the hyperbole of comparing the Rape of Nanking or the gas chambers to sticking a wanton murderer's nose in water that breaks down this whole debate. Such things are not even remotely comparible in either a quantitative or qualitative manner.

    There is a big fuzzy grey area in this mess, and Bush went further into it than was in our own interests. Debate that helps us more clearly define the borderlines is fine, but hyperbole that compares the incredibly minor toe-over-the-line violations Bush may have committed to mass rape and murder is just plain ridiculous and unproductive.

    The funny thing is that during WWII we wouldn't even have had this debate. If you fought without a uniform, you were generally considered a spy and shot then and there.

  • ||

    It's not really a gray area. They used waterboarding precisely because it was torture. The CIA used it before the tactics were sanctioned by sham memos (written to justify past actions more than future ones). The CIA panicked because they didn't prevent 9/11 (remember those shady looking guys attending those flight schools who weren't interested in landing the planes? Oh yeah...oops) and resorted to medieval interrogation methods because it was easier than being educated on what forms actually work. Waterboarding has always been torture; it wouldn't have been used if it weren't.

  • JB||

    Tony, how many people were waterboarded in US custody?

    You don't even know the status of the Geneva Conventions in the US, but you claim to know what is and isn't torture. Please go buy a clue.

    Listening to your prattle is torture.

  • Dan Mage||

    The term "War Crimes," much like the term "Terrorist State," is somewhat of a redundancy. War is a crime, a state at war is a terrorist state. While their may be a nominal "aggressor" and "defender" in some cases, it is political authority itself that justifies its existence through the supposed necessity of war.

    The obligation to kill or die in the name of religion or state is the illusion that allows the phenomenon of the war state to continue. Until it is relegated to a museum of historical horrors where it belongs, there will be the crime and terror of war.

    Religion and statism are prime suspects in war crimes.

  • Tim||

    Exactly, Mike.

  • Tim||

    Also, exactly, Tony. People who seem to be questioning whether waterboarding is torture should learn more about the history of its use. The first documented use was in the 14th century and it was called "water torture" from then until a few years ago. During the Enlightenment in the 1800's, most European countries banned it because it was so morally repugnant. Its use was revived in the 20th century by imperial troops both European and American, Latin American dictators and the Khmer Rouge. "Water torture" is torture.

  • Tim||

    One more thing, if everyone ever gets to the bottom of this page. From the other perspective of questioning whether it is really a crime, one should consider the hypocrisy of Europeans who consider Bush a war criminal when they have had such a significant history of using water torture in the 20th century themselves. But European countries especially France like to be very holier than thou about US imperialism when they are even more guilty. And water torture and the Algerian War would be a perfect example. I'd like to think the 21st century has less torture, genocide and war than the last though and the use of water torture should be strictly outlawed.

  • ||

    There are indeed few absolutes, few certainties we see in this world, because when we look at anything we see both good and bad. IAC I think there is much puerility in the criticism of the Bush administration, and much hypocrisy. Puerility, because it bashes those who have protected the basher; hypocritcal , because its real purpose is to pretend that the present regime is pure of heart.

  • Justen||

    Two major flaws here:

    One, we have drawn, at least since the Geneva conventions, a line between injury and resultant torment incurred on the battlefield and the direct torture of individuals. This is a pretty well agreed-upon standard that we as a nation, via our representatives, have set and obligated ourselves to uphold. It's not a philosophical argument. There were no laws against internment camps or atom bombs in WWII, therefore there was no war crime prosecution for using them.

    Second, in our time we do however have a right and responsibility to hold our contemporaries to the law, and to judge their character based on the standards of our time. Just because a situation is complicated does not mean it is an excuse to forestall judgement on whether the course of action taken was right or wrong. If we find that these "interrogation techniques", extraordinary rendition, or the destruction of civil rights and liberties are justified and meet our current moral standards then so be it, let history be the judge; until we have the courage to ask the question, however, we are cowards and that is how history will see us.

  • Justen||

    @JB: at least two people were waterboarded, by the government's own admission. How many candy bars did you steal from the store? If it was only one, is that not a crime? Second, you do realize that the Geneva conventions are an international treaty, not subject to internal "status" evaluations or whatever nonsense you were suggesting up there, right? They're not just some idea some guy came up with or some reccomendation given by some bureaucrat, they are the letter of the law according to the United States Constitution.

  • Justen||

    Mike, it is exactly the hyperbole of comparing the Rape of Nanking or the gas chambers to sticking a wanton murderer's nose in water that breaks down this whole debate."



    You mean sticking an accused but not tried or convicted murderer underwater long enough to induce the sensation of drowning, which if you've never experienced it is quite agonizing and terrifying? In fact, I've had a nail pulled off and I've nearly drowned, and I can tell you I'd personally rather have a nail pulled off - in fact, I've only got 20 so they could only do it to me 20 times, rather than the near 200 waterboarding incidences that seems to be acceptable under their standards.

    Really though, the fact that it's clearly in violation of the law, and the fact that these people are not convicted of any crimes, are the real points here. Arguments about whether it was "torture" or just "unpleasant interrogation" are distractions of the real points. If the government is arbitrarily allowed to do things like this, regardless of what they claim about the suspect, even if the accusations are likely to be true, then we are in much deeper shit than Bin Laden could ever put us in with a couple airplanes.

  • ||

    If we train our own folks by using waterboarding, as we do, then it cannot be considered torture. Anything that we would NOT do to our own for training purposes - cutting off fingers or ears for example - would be considered torture. That's an appropriate standard.

  • aspushkin||

    Bigterguy--

    You're a fucking idiot. SERE trains soldiers how to deal WITH TORTURE.

  • ABC||

    Good to see that the writers at Reason hold to the adage that WWII was a good war because gramps fought in it. The dangers of making simple comparisons is that it prevents you from obfuscating the obvious moral inconsistencies and hypocrisies, and that would be bad for morale.

    Fuck Reason

  • aspushkin||

    And does anyone seriously doubt that had we allied with Hitler against the USSR he would now be considered "the lesser of two evils?"

  • john||

    Did you also know that terrorism affects women more than any other demographic

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    Please help us to stop terrorism by filling out a short survey at:


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    I would really value your opinion and the opinion of your readers. The long-term goal of this project is to facilitate a more diplomatic American foreign policy in the years ahead.
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  • ||

    The Left REALLY DOES think that FDR was a war criminal for Dresden and the Japanese internment, and Truman was a war criminal for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Lincoln was a war criminal for suspending habeas corpus, and Wilson was a war criminal for the Espionage Act, and Clinton was a war criminal for bombing Serbia. So all the authors examples of Presidents who supposedly got a pass for war crimes are incorrect, because the Left does not give them a pass, and these are not examples of "something so crazy nobody would ever think it" because the Left really does think it.

  • nike shox||

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