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Cathy Young assesses the damage that playing around with torture has done to America's image.

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  • ||

    It's a continuum. The better we behave, the more moral weight our words and actions carry; the worse we behave, the less they carry. I think we're still head and shoulders above the rest of the world when taking all freedoms into account, but we certainly could be doing better.

    I'd rather lead by example than try to beat others into our way of doing things.

  • ||

    This illustrates the Bush Administration's true failing. He's trying to bring liberty to the world, a goal that requires playing to world public opinion and using soft power, but he denigrates world public opinion and despises soft power.

    When administration apologists reply to complaints that torture only creates more terrorists by citing "security," it's another instance of this. Yes, we'll be more secure if we imprison a terrorist than if we let them go, but we can never win the war on terror that way. The Bush Administration is simply not fighting the war on terror to win.

  • ||

    My hope is that when Bush and Company finally leaves, saner policies will prevail and people around the world will take note of the change. Unfortunately, regaining a good reputation is usually a long and difficult process once lost.

  • ||

    He's trying to bring liberty to the world, a goal that requires playing to world public opinion and using soft power, but he denigrates world public opinion and despises soft power.

    I would say bringing liberty requires changing world opinion, rather than playing to the opinion of entrenched elites.

    I would also say that, when Bush has denigrated [certain segments of] world opinion and downplayed soft power, it tended to be in circumstances where said opinion and power were being used against the US agenda, and not in a way that would advance the cause of liberty anywhere in the world.

  • ||

    Kristof tells the harrowing tale of a Chinese woman [...] who ran afoul of the authorities [and] was imprisoned in a labor camp, badly beaten and injected with drugs for trying to tell her story[...]; she is now disabled as a result of her maltreatment in prison.

    Wow. So she\'s like a Chinese Paris Hilton?

  • ||

    It was the torture thing that first made me start throwing the "incompetent" word around in reference to the Bush Administration... ...back when even its opponents seemed to treat it like a brain trust.

    I didn't think it was possible to make people feel sorry for terrorists, but I was wrong. If making people feel sorry for terrorists amid the War on Terror isn't the very meaning of incompetence, then I don't know the meaning of the word.

  • ||

    I think the problem arises out of Bush's black-and-white view of things. If the sole motive of terrorists, or anyone who supports them, is their evil, freedom-hating nature, then there is no way to protect America besides fighting them wherever they appear. Also, since in the Bush viewpoint they are more incarnations of pure evil than human beings with complex motivations, we need not concern ourselves with their human rights.

    It's a very tempting way to view the world, especially for a Christian. We believe that underlying the muddled mess of history, there is a great battle between pure good and pure evil, so it's quite easy to identify certain people with one and certain people as the other (this tendency also plays out in every generation of Christians seeing the events of the Apocalypse as occuring in their own time). Unfortunately, reality is, that while there are angels and demons, they are not to be found in human flesh. While in this world, we must plan our affairs as if there is nothing supernatural going on, and trust that God will take care of the powers we cannot see.

  • ||

    It's not just Bush. Clinton's hands weren't all that clean, and we crossed the line numerous times during the Cold War. I'm not advocating isolationism or ignoring reality, but we have room for improvement.

  • Ashish George||

    "I would also say that, when Bush has denigrated [certain segments of] world opinion and downplayed soft power, it tended to be in circumstances where said opinion and power were being used against the US agenda, and not in a way that would advance the cause of liberty anywhere in the world."

    I'm not sure what's meant by that "certain segments of" qualification. Public opinion in almost every country in the world was against the invasion.

    As for the "cause of liberty", I'd be interested to hear how the Iraq War uniquely advanced that cause in a way that, say, invading Myanmar or Cuba or some other despotic regime would not have.

  • c||

    I don't know what gives you guys the idea that Bush was trying to spread "liberty" around the world. From where I'm standing, it doesn't look to me like he's a big fan of liberty.

    His stated goal (after the first stated goal of capturing Osama, and his second stated goal of capturing Saddam's WMDs, fell through) was to spread democracy, not liberty.

    It's sad too, because the liberty thing would probably have worked.

  • ||

    c,

    The only thing that can be spread at gunpoint is chaos.

  • ||

    jb-

    He's trying to bring liberty to the world, a goal that requires playing to world public opinion and using soft power

    England- Blair
    Australia- Howard
    Germany- Merkel
    Canada- Harper
    France- Sarkozy

    That represents over 50% of World GDP-- Every one of whom defeated the more "anti-American" candidate.

    The only "loser" was... Spain.

    Well done with the "world public opinion" and "soft power", Bushie...!

  • ||

    "His stated goal (after the first stated goal of capturing Osama, and his second stated goal of capturing Saddam's WMDs, fell through) was to spread democracy, not liberty."

    Yeah, I think a lot of people associate the two.

    ...I'd be interested to see how those who will still stand up in public and support spreading Democracy as a pro-American strategy account for what's happening in Gaza.

  • ||

    "I would also say that, when Bush has denigrated [certain segments of] world opinion and downplayed soft power, it tended to be in circumstances where said opinion and power were being used against the US agenda, and not in a way that would advance the cause of liberty anywhere in the world."

    Having the swing vote in Western Europe on our side made a big difference in the Cold War.

    ...and about that US agenda, when we get some perspective and look back, I suspect we may see the Abu Ghraib photos as the begining of the end of the American swing voters willingness to give the President the benefit of the doubt.

    The Bush Administration undermined domestic support for their own agenda.

  • ||

    Cathy Young writes: "It is also worth noting that the Bush administration's worst encroachments on traditional constitutional rights-such as detentions without trial-have been directed at people who are not U.S. citizens."

    Jose Padilla is a U.S. citizen.

  • ||

    "Jose Padilla is a U.S. citizen."

    Ali al-Marri isn't.

  • Marc Mongenet||

    After 9/11, everybody in the world was shocked. Everybody in the Western world was ready to act against terrorism, acted, and is still acting (Operation Enduring Freedom).

    Then, instead of going on with the War on Terror (Ben Laden is still free!), Bush decided to invade Iraq. The War on Terror credibility ended at this time.

    And worse, the USA gave no end of bogus reasons to invade, and everybody (out of the USA) immediately saw they were bogus. It was insulting and caused many demonstrations. The international credibility of the US administration stopped at this point. After that, Freedom Fries, Guantanamo, torture (including Abu Ghraib), secret CIA prisons in the world (including Poland and Romania), the increase of terrorism acts (including Madrid and London)..., were only reinforcing entrenched prejudices against Bush and the USA (he was elected and reelected.)

    Tens of thousands of people were killed in Iraq and the War on Terror is a failure.

  • Ashish George||

    England- Blair
    Australia- Howard
    Germany- Merkel
    Canada- Harper
    France- Sarkozy

    The Christian Democrats still had to include the Social Democrats in the ruling coalition because of the closeness of the election. And the left parties in Germany actually got a majority in 2005. So that was still arguably a victory for the "anti-American" team (or the good guys, if you don't buy neoconspeak). Prodi also won in Italy.

  • thoreau||

    I agree with just about everything that Ken Shultz said.

  • ||

    Strange article.

    George Bush, who has most certainly been a friend of liberty, is indicted on the basis of what Nick Kristof and Zbig Brzezinski allege, Cathy Young, after sawing back and forth, finds him guilty, and a queue of bobblehead dolls go bob bobbing along with her.

  • ||

    .. thoreau sayeth

    I agree with just about everything that Ken Shultz said.

    .. I would post more except that Ken Shultz usual states my opinion better than I ever could ..

    .. Hobbit

  • dhex||

    "George Bush, who has most certainly been a friend of liberty..."

    lolz.

  • Patrick R. Sullivan||

    Nick Kristoff is a disingenuous jerk. Scooter Libby is about to go to prison because Kristoff wrote two articles about Joe Wilson and his infamous trip to Niger. Articles that were filled with misinformation.

    Further, he admitted his sources included two people 'directly involved' with Wilson's trip. Who later turned out to almost certainly be Joe and Valerie Wilson.

    Kristoff sat on his hands watching Patrick Fitzgerald persecute people for disclosing something that Kristoff had been told by the Wilsons themselves; that Valerie worked at the CIA. Kristoff is deeply implicated in a Kafkaesque miscarriage of justice by an illegitimately appointed prosecutor.

  • ||

    Cathy Young writes: "It is also worth noting that the Bush administration's worst encroachments on traditional constitutional rights-such as detentions without trial-have been directed at people who are not U.S. citizens."

    Jose Padilla is a U.S. citizen.


    Yes, as was Yaser Esam Hamdi. There was, um, a rather well known Supreme Court case in which the court rejected the government's claim to the right to hold a citizen indefinitely without a meaningful opportunity to contest the detention.

    I'm going to be generous to Ms. Young and presume that when referring to the administration's "worst encroachments" she meant only those which have not subsequently been shot down by the Supreme Court.

    Nonetheless, to write that "worst encroachments" and not mention that the Bush administration was, in fact, detaining U.S. citizens without trial until the Supreme Court stopped them just seems wrong to me.

  • Why Not?||

    I get the realpolitik argument that it's worse for the US administration to mistreat its own citizenry, as it's nominally supposed to protect according to its own internal rule-book.
    But morally, any person subjected to mistreatment (ie torture) should matter equally to the self-professed individualist.

    And any comparison to authoritarian regimes is meaningless, since they do not hold themselves to the standards of liberty and democracy that the US (imperfectly in an imperfect world) professes and seeks to embody. US citizens in general know better than to think torture a good thing, and they appear to vote accordingly over time.

  • LarryA||

    Civil libertarians sometimes tend to forget that terrorism is a real threat, not just something the Bush administration made up to frighten people into submission-even if the administration has used this threat as an excuse to expand government power and has often exaggerated the level of danger from specific terror plots.

    Which, of course, is one of the dangers of exaggerating the level of danger. Crying wolf and all that.

    To take comfort in the fact that we are better than Communist China or Putin's Russia is to hold America to a rather low standard for a beacon of freedom.

    Amen. However in Russia torture and executions for political dissent are business as usual. At least the U.S. has a moral record to blot, and Cathy isn't in danger of being disappeared for saying so. Yet.

  • Genius||

    Some thoughts on torture:
    (1) The constitution only prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment." It never defines what amounts to cruel and unusual. Therefore, torture isn't necessarily unconstitutional depending on one's standards for what is "cruel and unusual."
    (2)Even if we ended torte, there is no reason for other nations to BELIEVE that the U.S.A has stopped torture.
    (3)It is doubtful that ending torture will improve the U.S.A's reputation.
    (4)Also, many who are tortured have tortured others.
    (5) If the use of torture saves lives, then it would, in the long run, lead to an increase in freedom and a corresponding decrease in suffering and the loss of freedom.
    Torture may be absolutely necessary in emergencies (e.g., Somewhere terrorists will kill a bunch of hostages sometime soon unless we find them or give in to their demands).

  • Too Much, Too Much||

    Too much 24 for you.

  • ||

    Patrick R. Sullivan wrote: " Scooter Libby is about to go to prison because Kristoff wrote two articles about Joe Wilson and his infamous trip to Niger. "

    So why did Scooter lie, then? Again and again and again? Before Fitzgerald ever even came onto the case?

    Kristoff didn't make Scooter lie.

  • a Duoist||

    At every opportunity Mr. Bush has had during the past six years to demonstrate his obvious commitment to "liberty," he has shown that he sees 'freedom' as an ideology, not as a moral philosophy.

    It's a fundamental shortcoming, reminiscent of Napoleon's commitment to spread the Rights of Man from the barrel of a gun. To this day, not a single street in France bears Napoleon's name; just his tomb is named. Mr. Bush is likely to be held in the same regard; a believer in 'freedom' as an ideology, instead of as a moral philosophy.

  • ||

    'The constitution only prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment." It never defines what amounts to cruel and unusual. Therefore, torture isn't necessarily unconstitutional depending on one's standards for what is "cruel and unusual."'

    What the-? I think *torture* pretty much by defnition is cruel. Otherwise, we'd have to call it something else. I can only imagine a dialogue something like this when I read this inane comment: "Listen Mr. Baddie, you better tell us where the bomb is or we're going to just...oh, I don't know, have you sit in the corner for awhile...maybe spank you with a feather a few times for good measure..."

  • ||

    What a misleading blurb to Cathy Young's article. There are, what, two references to US government policy on torture (one being a link to someone else's article). The majority of Young's complaints about US policy are about habeus corpus and sedition issues.

    My recollection tells me that the Bush believes it does not condone torture, because it believes its interrogation techniques do not fall under an accepted and reasonable definition of torture. While the administration's critics seem to have such a broad definition of the term that anything that happens to a prisoner that is even mildly unpleasant is described as torture. Which appears to be why they don't discuss specifics very much, just an abstract accusation that the US is torturing prisoners taken as fact. Yet somehow, Bush still takes heat from the same people for having a black and white view of the world.

  • Leather Goods||

    I'd like to see Bush give a 10 minute answer to the question "what is liberty?" just to see him botch the answer. The man pays lip service to liberty, but has zero affinity for it. mindless fear and blind obedience are more his style, not freedom or liberty. This is what we get for hiring the scion of a propaganda agent to lead us. At least his dad knew he was lying.

  • Patrick R. Sullivan||

    'Kristoff didn't make Scooter lie.'

    That's a pretty odd perspective to find at a libertarian site. Usually people here understand what is no damn business of government.

  • Genius||

    half-wit:
    "What the-? I think *torture* pretty much by defnition is cruel. Otherwise, we'd have to call it something else. I can only imagine a dialogue something like this when I read this inane comment: "Listen Mr. Baddie, you better tell us where the bomb is or we're going to just...oh, I don't know, have you sit in the corner for awhile...maybe spank you with a feather a few times for good measure...""
    My response: Consider the following:
    (1) There are degrees of cruelty. If torture is the infliction of cruelty, then just about any punishment can be considered torture to some degree.
    (2) half-wit misses the point, the point being that the debate is largely one of arbitrary semantics (e.g., if torture is by definition cruel, does that mean that castration isn't torture as long as we don't call it torture?)

  • ||

    Since there are degrees of 'genius' then any level of intelligence, even someone with an i.q. of 3 could be considered a genius - heck even someone with a half-wit could be considered a genius as long as there is at least one person in the world with a quarter wit or no wit at all. If we use language in a such a sloppy way, believing that 'degrees of something' equates to the absolute arbirtariness of terms, then there is really no point in sticking to any definition of anything. Ultimately we end up with the opposite definition of the normative understanding of what a term is.

  • RPin2008||

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVqALWf92EI

    You give them too much credit. I think the Neocons get off on torture. See video

  • ||

    "There is a big difference between arresting someone for criticizing the government and arresting someone on suspicion of involvement in terrorism. Civil libertarians sometimes tend to forget that terrorism is a real threat, not just something the Bush administration made up to frighten people into submission . . ."

    This is absolutely incorrect on both counts. The interesting thing is that this is the only mitigation of the thesis of the article; leaving the administration wholly without excuse.

  • kromos||

    "There is a big difference between arresting someone for criticizing the government and arresting someone on suspicion of involvement in terrorism....."

    Except in cases where administration holds "exclusive" right to define terrorism. So, there is in fact no difference what so ever in arrest made for critisizing goverment and arrests based on terror suspicion.

  • ||

    I do believe we should clean up our own country before we go sticking our noses in someone else's backyard. Our government shows NO respect for our own citizens (as the steamrolling of our rights has been showing), and we're going to stand around and tell other countries "you're not treating your people right"? It's like a child abuser giving parenting classes.Double the problem with the whole "If you're not from our country we can treat you however you like".

  • ||

    "It is also worth noting that the Bush administration's worst encroachments on traditional constitutional rights-such as detentions without trial-have been directed at people who are not U.S. citizens."

    I'm sure the omission of Jose Padilla was an accident.

    Also, throughout the article she mentions the "arrest" of terror suspects. I'm not sure, but I don't think we're arresting them, since an arrest tends to imply a trial or even being charged with a crime. What we are doing is indefinite military detention along with a dollop of torture, which is something considerably stronger and more heinous. The use of this kind of language tends to blur the picture and soften the verbal impact of what's really going on.

  • ||

    It is not againt the law to wage war against the United States, it is war. There is a difference.

  • Mike Reason||

    Who cares what the international community thinks, as long as they know not to screw with us. I say we put all detainees at Gitmo on trial, if they are proven innocent we let them go, if they are proven guilty we use them for forced labor and medical research.

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