Barack Obama

Obushma Watch: Torture Photo Flip Flop and Reactions Division

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Glenn Greenwald at Salon, the most delightfully angry man on America's progressive left these days, checks out Obama's tortuous explanations and flipflops on torture photos and accountability for Bush-era crimes. The whole thing is a hoot; here are some highlights.

It's difficult to react much to Obama's complete reversal today of his own prior decision to release photographs depicting extreme detainee abuse by the United States.  He's left no doubt that this is what he does:  ever since he was inaugurated, Obama has taken one extreme step after the next to keep concealed both the details and the evidence of Bush's crimes, including rendition, torture and warrantless eavesdropping……. 

Obama's claim—that release of the photographs "would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger"—means we should conceal or even outright lie about all the bad things we do that might reflect poorly on us.  For instance, if an Obama bombing raid slaughters civilians in Afghanistan (as has happened several times already), then, by this reasoning, we ought to lie about what happened and conceal the evidence depicting what was done—as the Bush administration did—because release of such evidence would "would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger."…..

How can anyone who supports what Obama is doing here complain about the CIA's destruction of their torture videos?  The torture videos, like the torture photos, would, if released, generate anti-American sentiment and make us look bad.  By Obama's reasoning, didn't the CIA do exactly the right thing by destroying them?…..

Obama's claim that he has to hide this evidence to protect our soldiers is the sort of crass, self-serving exploitation of "The Troops" which was the rancid hallmark of Bush/Cheney rhetoric.  Everyone knows what the real effect of these photographs would be:  they would highlight just how brutal and criminal was our treatment of detainees in our custody, and further underscore how amoral and lawless are Obama's calls that we Look To the Future, Not the Past…..

For all of you defend-Obama-at-all-cost cheerleaders….I have this question:  if you actually want to argue that concealing these photographs is the right thing to do, then you must have been criticizing Obama when, two weeks ago, he announced that he would release them.  Otherwise, it's pretty clear that you don't have any actual beliefs other than:  "I support what Obama does because it's Obama who does it."….  

Also, the OLC torture memos released several weeks ago surely increased anti-American sentiment.  Indeed, those on the Right who objected to the release of those memos cited exactly that argument.  How can anyone cheer on Obama's decision today to conceal these photographs while also cheering on his decision to release the OLC memos?  Those who have any intellectual coherence would have to oppose both or support both.   Those two decisions only have one fact in common: Obama made them.  Thus, the only way to cheer on both decisions is to be guided by the modified Nixonian mantra: what Obama does is right because Obama does it.

Matt Welch way back in 2005 laid out the reasons why the government would do all it could to keep future torture photos under wraps. It isn't only on national security crimes that the difference between our past two presidents seems insignificant; check out past Obushma blogging on budgets and spending.

NEXT: Robert Samuelson: "burgeoning debt could trigger a future financial crisis"

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  1. It might actually be smart of Obama to hold back on releasing these photos, though not for any reason he’s providing.

    If he fights their release, the courts will overrule him. This is a good thing. It’s better that a legal precedent in favor of transparency be set. Obama can just say “I want to do it this way, and this is how it’s going to be,” (i.e., release the photos because I said so) but then whoever succeeds him in the Oval Office could just turn the tables again. However, if the courts force the release of the photos, the courts will not only promote transparency in this instance, they will ensure that neither Obama nor a future president can make the specious argument that we need to hold back in order to avoid anti-American sentiment.

    I can’t be sure that this is what Obama has in mind, but I believe it is at least plausible. This has happened before. He is covered politically because, as Greenwald points out, America is stuffed to the gills with fawning Obamaphiles who will follow him into a put of fire if he asks. He curries favor with Republicans and Bush-loyalists. And the courts provide a strong and potentially enduring move toward transparency.

  2. “Everyone knows what the real effect of these photographs would be: they would highlight just how brutal and criminal was our treatment of detainees in our custody, and further underscore how amoral and lawless are Obama’s calls that we Look To the Future, Not the Past…..”

    The agrument that Greenwald and people have been making is that torture is bad because it destroys our moral capital and creates more enemies. If that is true, then isn’t releasing toture porn a really bad idea? Doesn’t that create more enemies. From a strictly utilitarian view point, wouldn’t it be better to destroy the photos and stop torturing people? I don’t see how releasing the photos accomplishes anything beyond making people like Greenwald feel better. If Greenwald really cared about torture, he would not be worried about the photos and would instead be spending his time trying to make sure the government actually stopped doing it.

    But for Greenwald it has nothing to do with torture or morality. It has always been about being angry and about doing as much damage to the country as possible. Fortunately, Obama doesn’t look at it that way.

  3. I don’t say this often, but Obama made the right choice.

    Releasing the photos is a violation of the torture victims’ right to privacy.

    None of them consented to have their pictures taken, none of them can give proper consent to the release of those pictures (since they’re all still in jail), and nobody else can consent for them, since they’re the wronged party in the whole matter.

    This isn’t about Obama, or Bush, or even Cheney for that matter. It’s about some human beings that got treated like Michael Vick’s dogs. They have a right not to be humiliated in the aftermath, I think.

  4. Those who have any intellectual coherence would have to oppose both or support both.

    We’re talking about politicians and their enablers, here. Intellectual coherence is not highly prized.

    ……

    But for Greenwald it has nothing to do with torture or morality. It has always been about being angry and about doing as much damage to the country as possible. Fortunately, Obama doesn’t look at it that way.

    Did you fall off your roof yesterday, John?

  5. I don’t see how releasing the photos accomplishes anything beyond making people like Greenwald feel better.

    The real reason for releasing the photos is to have another stick to beat the Bush administration with. The fact that doing so will cause collateral damage to current US activities is merely a price we should be willing to pay, because no price is too high to pay when it comes to beating the Bush administration bloody.

  6. Releasing the photos is a violation of the torture victims’ right to privacy.

    Extra credit for novelty.

  7. “But for Greenwald it has nothing to do with torture or morality. It has always been about being angry and about doing as much damage to the country as possible. Fortunately, Obama doesn’t look at it that way.

    Did you fall off your roof yesterday, John?”

    Screw you P Brooks. Greenwald is an angry nasty person. I have no doubt he wishes the country ill. There is no point in releasing hte photos. As Matt points out above, it is a violation of the detanees rights. It is an outright violation of the Geneva Conventions to photograph prisoners and release their photos for public consumption. But the Conventions don’t matter to Greenwald. All that matters to Greenwald at this point is that the US has done wrong and must be punished. Greenwald is nothing but an angry puritian fanatic.

  8. “Releasing the photos is a violation of the torture victims’ right to privacy.

    Extra credit for novelty.”

    It is a violation of the Geneva Conventions P. Brooks. How would you feel if I kidnapped you, hung you upside down naked and put the photos on the front page of the New York Times?

  9. no price is too high to pay when it comes to beating the Bush administration bloody.

    We should never hold anyone in authority accountable for anything they do. If they fear there may be consequences to their lawlessness, they might not be willing to ignore the Constitution. That would be bad.

  10. I’m just putting in a vote for releasing the photos — Don’t want this to become a P. Brooks vs. Torture Apologists cage match.

  11. “We should never hold anyone in authority accountable for anything they do. If they fear there may be consequences to their lawlessness, they might not be willing to ignore the Constitution. That would be bad.”

    yes Brooks. It is one hell of an idea. Let throw everyone in jail for pursuing a policy that was signed off on by OLC, briefed to and overwelming supported by Congress and supported by the public. That is a hell of an idea.

    At some point it becomes a bit like the scene from the diciplinary council in Animal House where the guy says that attacking the fraterity is really attacking the university which is really attacking the education system and so forth until finally it the whole proceeding is an attack on the country at large. There is a little bit of that here only seriously. At some point the culpability for this gets so large that it is pointless to do anything. You want to get Bush, great throw him in jail. But throw everyone in Congress in jail who could have stopped it but gave it the green light. But really, why punish them when they were only reflecting the desires of their constituents who to this day overwelmingly support torture. What we really need to do is just round everyone up who supports torture and throw them in jail. The majority of the country supports this and needs to be locked up. Or maybe we should just move on. Just a thought.

  12. “It is a violation of the Geneva Conventions P. Brooks. How would you feel if I kidnapped you, hung you upside down naked and put the photos on the front page of the New York Times?”

    yes, i’d much prefer it be kept under wraps so that more people would have to face what i had.

  13. “Releasing the photos is a violation of the torture victims’ right to privacy.”

    That’s Onion fodder right there, gentlemen.

  14. “Screw you P Brooks. Greenwald is an angry nasty person.”, said the pot.

    “…overwelming [sic] supported by Congress and supported by the public.”

    Since only a few, select members of Congress were briefed, and the public at large didn’t know what was going on (and still don’t know exactly what happened, since there have been no investigations), this argument is…what’s it called again? Oh yeah, bullshit.

  15. It is a violation of the Geneva Conventions P. Brooks. How would you feel if I kidnapped you, hung you upside down naked and put the photos on the front page of the New York Times?

    Even so, John, I’d be madder about the kidnapping and the upside-down hanging than I would about the photo. The way we treated those people was shameful, illegal, and (this is a much smaller matter) totally unsuited to the gathering of good information.

    Fuck terrorism.

    It doesn’t happen very often, and even if it did, it wouldn’t faze me much. I know where I’m going when I die, my likelihood of dying in a thunderstorm is greater, and even if it wasn’t, I’d rather die in an exciting way than a boring one.

    My problem is with the law becoming lawless.

  16. Brian, it’s like Glenn Greenwald and Ted Rall are having an angry contest.

  17. “Since only a few, select members of Congress were briefed, and the public at large didn’t know what was going on (and still don’t know exactly what happened, since there have been no investigations), this argument is…what’s it called again? Oh yeah, bullshit.”

    They sure as hell know now and the policy is still supported. As of April only 27% of the country thinks that torture should never be used.

    http://people-press.org/report/510/public-remains-divided-over-use-of-torture

    You may not like that fact or agree with it. But tough shite sometimes life is like that. That would make you???? Yes stupid and ilinformed.

  18. “Even so, John, I’d be madder about the kidnapping and the upside-down hanging than I would about the photo. The way we treated those people was shameful, illegal, and (this is a much smaller matter) totally unsuited to the gathering of good information.”

    Regardless, you can’t be Greenwald and screem like an angy chimp for six years about the Geneva Conventions until violating them suits your purpose. It is a violation of the conventions to release those photos. And it is a violation for good reason. Greenwald doesn’t give a shit. The Conventions only matter when they suit his purposes.

  19. “It doesn’t happen very often, and even if it did, it wouldn’t faze me much. I know where I’m going when I die, my likelihood of dying in a thunderstorm is greater, and even if it wasn’t, I’d rather die in an exciting way than a boring one.”

    Honestly, if I could send you out as a sacrificial lamb and let them cut your head off in return for peace, I would. But sadly, we can’t do that. So we are kind of stuck with trying to prevent it.

  20. At some point the culpability for this gets so large that it is pointless to do anything.

    “Never steal anything small.”

    Is this a country where the rule of law still prevails, or not?

    If you want to give Bush a pass, then you need to shut the fuck up about Obama’s cult of personality.

  21. “You may not like that fact or agree with it. But tough shite sometimes life is like that. That would make you???? Yes stupid and ilinformed [sic].”

    But at least I know how to spell.

    Also, we don’t know exactly what happened because all the photos haven’t been released and no formal investigation has been conducted. If people like you had their way, Obama wouldn’t even have released the torture memos, I suspect.

    Finally, nice selective use of statistics. I followed your link. The survey shows Americans evenly divided between torture should often/sometimes be used and rarely/never, within statistical error. I don’t think anyone can honestly argue that we’ve used torture rarely during the last eight years.

    “The Conventions only matter when they suit [Greenwald’s] purposes,” said the pot.

  22. “Is this a country where the rule of law still prevails, or not?

    If you want to give Bush a pass, then you need to shut the fuck up about Obama’s cult of personality.”

    That is just question begging Brooks. Take another example. Fire bombing Japan was a violation of international law even then. But, it was in the middle of a brutal war and the public supported it and never had a problem with it. And no one at the time ever said it was illegal. Only later did they admit that it probably was illegal. Now, you love the law so much, what do you want to do with it? Shouldn’t we have gone back in the 1950s and tried LeMay as a war criminal? And all of the Generals who signed off on it as well as the pilots who flew the flights? They are responsible for the deaths of 100s of innocent civilians. That is a hell of a lot worse than torturing KSM.

    We didn’t do that because it would have been pointless. Whatever the sins of World War II, they belonged to the entire country, not just Curtis LeMay and the odd B29 pilot. The same is true here only on a smaller scale. Yes, we should live by the rule of law. But, as they say, consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. Not all situations are as easy as you want them to be.

  23. Regardless, you can’t be Greenwald and screem like an angy chimp for six years about the Geneva Conventions until violating them suits your purpose. It is a violation of the conventions to release those photos. And it is a violation for good reason. Greenwald doesn’t give a shit. The Conventions only matter when they suit his purposes.

    Okay, so if both sides are advocating a violation of the Convention, then I’m going to side with the people who are doing so in hopes of defending, rather than violating human rights.

    That was easy.

    I appreciate your willingness to have them come for me first, btw. It’s mighty big of you.

  24. “Finally, nice selective use of statistics. I followed your link. The survey shows Americans evenly divided between torture should often/sometimes be used and rarely/never, within statistical error. I don’t think anyone can honestly argue that we’ve used torture rarely during the last eight years.”

    27% think it should never be used. The rest of the country thinks it is ok sometimes. It just depends on what sometimes means. That is not an evenly divided country. You and Brooks are clearly in the minority. That doesn’t mean you are wrong about torture. You may be right. But the point is that, the use of torture wasn’t the work of a few people in the Whitehouse. It was a well known policy supported at the highest levels of both Congress and the exectutive and supported by a large segmet of the population.

  25. “Okay, so if both sides are advocating a violation of the Convention, then I’m going to side with the people who are doing so in hopes of defending, rather than violating human rights.”

    Greenwald isn’t defending people’s rights. He is argueing for the use of photos of people to further his political agenda. He just wants torture porn. You don’t need the pictures to argue against torture. Releasing them accomplishes nothing except allowing creatures like Greenwald to exploit people.

  26. “But the point is that, the use of torture wasn’t the work of a few people in the Whitehouse. It was a well known policy supported at the highest levels of both Congress and the exectutive [sic] and supported by a large segmet [sic] of the population.”

    The Whitehouse is the executive.

    If a large segment of the population supports torture, then let’s hear exactly what happened. The Bush administration’s mouthpieces have been saying it wasn’t torture for eight years. Limbaugh’s been saying it’s no worse than frat house pranks. OK. Tell us exactly what happened and show the fucking pictures.

  27. John,

    Let’s not wiggle off the hook here. You and Greenwald both want torture porn, but in different ways. He wants to see it distributed more widely while diminishing in quantity, while you want more of it, but kept under better wraps.

    Both are creepy, but in different ways.

  28. Fire bombing Japan was a violation of international law even then.

    We’re talking about sadistic abuse of prisoners in custody, and government officials attempting to cover up that abuse. Bush and Cheney weren’t pissed off that American MPs were humiliating and tormenting Iraqi prisoners for their own amusement; they were pissed that the world found out about it.

  29. “It was a well known policy supported at the highest levels of both Congress and the exectutive and supported by a large segmet of the population.”

    But alas, against the law.

    Of course, as has been pointed out, most people in Congress and the public seemed to not know wtf we were doing in this area at the time.

  30. The agrument that Greenwald and people have been making is that torture is bad because it destroys our moral capital and creates more enemies. If that is true, then isn’t releasing toture porn a really bad idea? Doesn’t that create more enemies. From a strictly utilitarian view point, wouldn’t it be better to destroy the photos and stop torturing people?

    Because for your brilliant plan to work, people have to be retarded.

    Seriously.

    Basically, any Stalinist asshole could use the same argument to justify the way leftists who visited the USSR in the 1920’s and 30’s lied to the West when they came back.

    Here’s an idea: there is nothing you can accomplish by hiding the evidence and trying to cover it up – even if you do succeed in doing so, which is highly doubtful – that I can’t also accomplish by releasing the photos, investigating and punishing the guilty, driving the policymakers who backed the policy out of public life forever, and renouncing the broader set of policies that made torture seem like a good idea. But my preferred course of action has lots of additional benefits that your course of action doesn’t. Therefore I choose mine.

    All that matters to Greenwald at this point is that the US has done wrong and must be punished.

    What’s wrong with that?

    I have absolutely no problem with someone whose viewpoint begins and ends with the notion that politicians, military officers, and intelligence operatives who have done wrong must be punished. That seems like the position any moralist would take.

    But, to John, anyone who believes in justice is just an “angry, angry person”. Well, if you believe in justice and are governed by douchebags, you are likely to spend a high percentage of your time at one level or another of outrage.

    The fact that doing so will cause collateral damage to current US activities is merely a price we should be willing to pay, because no price is too high to pay when it comes to beating the Bush administration bloody.

    If the Bush administration had people tortured and then covered it up, then sure, absolutely – no price is too high to pay to beat them bloody.

    I have no problem with that at all.

  31. One problem is that a common defense of the torturers is “we should not make this a criminal matter, this is a political judgment, Bush et al., that made this choice must be judged politically not judicially.” Well, if that is what you want, then the public needs to see all the evidence and consequences in order to make an informed judgment on whether we approve or not of such tactics.

    If you want to not release to the public this sort of stuff because an investigation that could actually end in prosecutions is going on, then I can better understand that.

    But it seems like you want your cake and to eat it too John.

  32. “Basically, any Stalinist asshole could use the same argument to justify the way leftists who visited the USSR in the 1920’s and 30’s lied to the West when they came back.”

    If we were talking about not saying anything you would have a point. But that is not the issue. The issue is the photos. What purpose does releasing the photos serve when everyone knows the techniques involved? What, if people see the photos they will somehow think differently than if they just know what happened? That is a steaming pile of horseshit and you know it. The photos will be released and the Limbaughs of the world will say big deal and the Greenwalds of the world we celebrate how horrible the country is and how happy they are to see things turn out badly. They will both do and think the same thing either way. All that will be accomplished is further violating the Geneva Convention and giving our enemies better propaganda. You conflate releasing the photos with admitting what happened.

    “I have absolutely no problem with someone whose viewpoint begins and ends with the notion that politicians, military officers, and intelligence operatives who have done wrong must be punished. That seems like the position any moralist would take.”

    Yes and moralists are generally fanatics who would slice off their nose, or usually someone else’s, to spite their face. The point is what is best for the entire country’s interests from this point forward. Releasing the photos by Greenwald’s own logic does nothing but create more enemies. I don’t know fuffy, maybe we can release all the photos and there will be such an outrage in the world, everyone will hate us. Will that make you feel better? What is it going to take for you and Greenwald to feel like the country has been punished enough? At this point the whole thing is just self flagulation or in some people’s case, malace.

  33. “Well, if that is what you want, then the public needs to see all the evidence and consequences in order to make an informed judgment on whether we approve or not of such tactics.”

    That is a good point. But there is a problem; releasing the photos violates the Geneva Conventions. And, it is seeing the photos is vital to forming an opinion on the issue. Indeed there are lots of things about important events that we keep from the public out of decorum. For example, we never released the full transcript of the space shuttle Challanger disaster where the astraunauts can be heard dying. Why not release that in the name of transparancy and the rule of law? Ultimatley, I think Greenwald just wants to jerk off over the pictures.

  34. John, do you think the U.S. should always follow the Geneva Conventions?

  35. I don’t know fuffy, maybe we can release all the photos and there will be such an outrage in the world, everyone will hate us. Will that make you feel better? What is it going to take for you and Greenwald to feel like the country has been punished enough?

    I can’t speak for Greenwald, but I would like two things:

    1. For everyone in designing, implementing, or covering up our torture policy to face criminal penalties. [Please note that at this point it’s entirely possible that the set “everyone” also includes Obama, if he has conspired with Holder to obstruct justice.]

    2. For people who deny that abuses took place or minimize what took place as “frat pranks” to no longer be able to credibly make such a statement.

    That would satisfy me.

    Isn’t it a bit absurd, John, for you to be asking what would satisfy “us”, when “we’ve” gotten precisely nothing so far? “Why, oh why can’t you be satisfied with the nothing at all you’ve gotten so far? Will your endless demands never end?”

    Our war on terror policies have been superficially changed. But virtually no one in the chain of command who participated in torture has been punished. No one. They continue to go about their jobs every day as if nothing ever happened. MAYBE a Yoo has to labor under the dreadful burden of nasty emails being sent to his potential employers. That’s it.

    And the world will only hate us if we continue to employ our same set of policies. Not just the torture policy, but the broader set of policies in which torture took place. The problem is that you feel entitled to have those policies continue, and are angry that I won’t devise for you a way to have the US come clean on torture while continuing to, say, intervene in events in Pakistan. And I simply don’t accept the responsibility to split that difference for you. If the only way for us to come clean on torture and have it work out is for us to simultaneously abandon our current Pakistan policy, or our current Israel policy, or our current Iraq policy, oh well. If doing the right thing on torture undermines other policies, you might want to stop and consider the wisdom of continuing those other policies. But don’t complain to me about it.

  36. Because for your brilliant plan to work, people have to be retarded.

    To paraphrase me, ‘Retards? In my American populace? It’s more likely than you think.’

  37. Challenger disaster – not a crime. Cause found and reported. Blame apportioned.

    That’s not happening here.

    “Ultimatley [sic], I think Greenwald just wants to jerk off over the pictures.”

    Nice bit of psychological projection, there.

  38. US Constitution, Article II, Section 1

    Before he enter on the execution of his office, he shall take the following oath or affirmation: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

  39. “Our war on terror policies have been superficially changed. But virtually no one in the chain of command who participated in torture has been punished. No one. They continue to go about their jobs every day as if nothing ever happened.”

    And you know what Fluffy, I will give you 10 to 1 they are probably torturing people or at the very least things that would offend your delicate sensibilities right now with at least the implicit approval of President McHopey. Further, we tortured people in far worse ways than this in every war we have ever fought. Go read about the SOG in Vietnam sometime. Or, you ever wonder how it was that Britain got every Nazi agent in Britain to turn and provide false information back to Germany? Every one of them? What by asking nicely? Ever read about the U.S. own Malamandy massacre that happened in Sicily in 1943 and was never reported by the media and resulted in not one conviction? Now we are going to throw the President, the AG and the Speaker of the House in prison over water boarding KSM? That is just fucking comical.

  40. Well, if you believe in justice and are governed by douchebags, you are likely to spend a high percentage of your time at one level or another of outrage.

    Just quit reading the news, Fluff. Bury your head in the sand and your outrage level goes way down. At least I imagine it does, judging from all the people I see around me. Ignorance does appear to be bliss.

  41. the innominate one,

    I don’t think anyone can honestly argue that we’ve used torture rarely during the last eight years.

    So how many people have been tortured during the last eight years while in US custody? That’s a number I wouldn’t mind knowing. Showing me some pictures doesn’t give me that number though.

    To my knowledge, people have been prosecuted for detainee mistreatment in Iraq. Maybe more should, but I don’t know if having every piece of evidence out in public is the best idea.

    Now I separate the Iraq treatment as different from Guantanamo. Iraq is more of a conventional battlefield and it’s probably best to offer Geneva protections.

    Still, if a combatant doesn’t fight by the rules, they don’t get the protection of the rules.

  42. “Still, if a combatant doesn’t fight by the rules, they don’t get the protection of the rules.”

    We used to have that rule and as a result people tended to fight by the rules. Now, if you don’t abide by the rules and hide among the civilian population, you get a gold plated criminal trial and the undying love and defense of P. Brooks and Fluffy. In the 21st Century, it pays to be a terrorist.

  43. And you know what Fluffy, I will give you 10 to 1 they are probably torturing people or at the very least things that would offend your delicate sensibilities right now with at least the implicit approval of President McHopey.

    Good, then we can prosecute his ass for torture as well. Everybody does it is not a moral argument, John.

    We have a set of laws in place that specifically proscribe torture. Those laws appear to have been broken by the government. Ergo, it’s time to prosecute people and let them lay out the evidence in a court of law.

    If you want to make the case that we should not have these laws, go for it. But to sit there and insist we shouldn’t prosecute because this time it’s special is bullshit. That way lies the dissolution of our system as a government of laws, not men.

  44. We used to have that rule and as a result people tended to fight by the rules.

    You’re big on historical allegory, John. Were the Green Mountain Boys terrorists or soldiers?

  45. “You’re big on historical allegory, John. Were the Green Mountain Boys terrorists or soldiers?”

    They were partisians. If they fought while hiding in the civilian population and not wearing uniforms, the British had the legal right to hang them on the spot and rightly so. Partisian warfare is the most brutal and barbaric form of warfare there is. Until the last half of the 20th Century when terrorists became armies of liberation, world powers tried to do everything they could to discourage it.

  46. JB:

    So how many people have been tortured during the last eight years while in US custody? That’s a number I wouldn’t mind knowing. Showing me some pictures doesn’t give me that number though.

    I don’t know the number, that’s part of my point. We need an investigation and disclosure. Some people need pictures to have the reality brought home to them, though. A picture is worth a thousand claims of torture and all.

    Now I separate the Iraq treatment as different from Guantanamo. Iraq is more of a conventional battlefield and it’s probably best to offer Geneva protections.

    Still, if a combatant doesn’t fight by the rules, they don’t get the protection of the rules.

    Without fair hearings, how do you know who the real combatants are? Further, we’re supposedly morally superior to them. If we follow your formulation, that distinction disappears. Indeed, apparently is already has. Also, many fighters in Iraq are just as much “irregulars” as those in Afghanistan. Finally, the Geneva conventions may have different standards for different situations (regulars, irregulars, spies, etc.) but there is not a set of individuals who don’t have treatment prescribed and proscribed under the conventions.

  47. “If you want to make the case that we should not have these laws, go for it. But to sit there and insist we shouldn’t prosecute because this time it’s special is bullshit. That way lies the dissolution of our system as a government of laws, not men.”

    The point went completely over your head. The point is that when your government engages in something that is approved at every level and by the public at large, it is pointless and counter productive to then try to send a few sacrificial lambs to jail in the name of the “rule of law”. It was pretty damned illegal what we did to the Indians and a lot worse than this, yet, it would do more harm than good to give them their country back.

  48. The Constitution? That’s just a fucking piece of paper.

  49. The point is that when your government engages in something that is approved at every level and by the public at large, it is pointless and counter productive to then try to send a few sacrificial lambs to jail in the name of the “rule of law”.

    No, the point is made to everybody in the government that you might go to jail next time this crap rolls around. And this will make them, in theory, consider whether or not they want to give up that gold-plated pension for a few years in a federal penitentiary. The idea is to provide a disincentive for somebody doing it again.

  50. If they fought while hiding in the civilian population and not wearing uniforms, the British had the legal right to hang them on the spot and rightly so.

    Actually, they didn’t, even by British rules.

    One reason the hanging of Nathan Hale was seen as so shocking [by both Colonial and British observers] is because Howe did not give Hale at least the appearance of a trial.

    The Green Mountain Boys were properly subject to trial as traitors, spies and saboteurs, but they were not really subject to summary execution, even by British standards.

    He is argueing for the use of photos of people to further his political agenda.

    I missed this on the first go-round, but I feel it’s important to point out that in the linked Greenwald piece, Glenn is excoriating Democrats who are making excuses for Obama.

    So if Greenwald just wants the photos released to advance a political agenda, it is definitely not a partisan political agenda. He is venting his spleen here on Democrats and Obama – precisely what John claimed civil liberties advocates would never do, during the election.

  51. Some people need pictures to have the reality brought home to them, though.

    So? If doing so hands our enemies a good recruiting tool, thereby costing us blood and treasure, should we do it?

    I got no problem with a good ventilation of this issue, provided it is done for purposes other than scoring political points and balances the national interest in knowing what was done in our name against the national interest in not helping our enemies and endangering troops in the field. I have yet to see a convincing argument that releasing the photos adds useful information to this project without causing net harm.

  52. John
    You were the one who brought up that the public approves as a justification for this policy, but if the public cannot see or does not know what they are approving, then wtf?

  53. Maybe the Presidential Suit can brief the Congressional Leadership; confidentially. Then they can have a smiley photo op, and pat each other on the back in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner, with cake and ice cream.

  54. “John
    You were the one who brought up that the public approves as a justification for this policy, but if the public cannot see or does not know what they are approving, then wtf?”

    Why do you have to see the pictures to know what torture is? I have never actually seen two guys ass fucking or seen a picture of it, but I still know what it is and can make a judgement about it. For that matter, I have never actually seen anyone raped or seen a picture of it, but again, I can still make a judgement about it.

  55. “have yet to see a convincing argument that releasing the photos adds useful information to this project without causing net harm.”

    Well, if you ask people if they were for “enhanced interrogation techniques” they might say “yes” at a higher % than if you show them these pictures and say “are you for our government doing what’s going on here?” In order for us to be able to pass on the policy we should understand wtf we are talking about here…

  56. “Why do you have to see the pictures to know what torture is?”

    Exactly what is impermissible torture is what this debate is all about. Impermissible torture seems to be like obscenity, most people have to see it to know it… Having a visual aid seems necessary.

  57. ” I have never actually seen anyone raped or seen a picture of it, but again, I can still make a judgement about it.”

    Yes, but if we had people trying to minimize rape, to say “hey, it’s just what people in a frat do” or it’s just an “enhanced sexual technique” then we might be informed by seeing exactly what they are talking about.

    We are ina national debate right now about whether the tactics we used shocked our national conscience or not, and obviously verbal descriptions ain’t cutting it…

  58. “”Why do you have to see the pictures to know what torture is?””

    More to the point while you might not need to see the photos to know what torture is, you might need to see them to know if what went on, as partially captured in these photos, was torture.

  59. “I hold no brief for the Taliban — or rather, for the collection of various armed groups battling the occupation, when they are not battling each other or creating their own brand of “collateral damage.” I’m sure if they got hold of some white phosphorus, they’d use it. Why should they, in their small-scale way, be any more moral or humane than the full-blown, world-straddling war machine of the American empire? For those who turn to violence, who make blood their argument, there are rarely any restraints. But it remains extremely puzzling — not to say unbelievable — that the Americans would simply sit on all this “hard evidence” of chemical weapon atrocities by their relentlessly demonized enemies, for years on end, without ever saying a word.”
    Only interesting thing here, but it proves my point about human illogic. War is hell. You win by killing in ways that are unimaginably barbaric. Or you lose (children, only on Saturday morning Western serials was the gun shot out of the hands of bad guys) Civilians die horrible deaths. So why is “torturing” individuals suspected of being terrorists worse than killing innocent women, old, and children?
    I would just propose worry about “civilians” dying before worrying about suspected terrorists being dunked. The fact that it is not even discussed says alot.
    By the way, is the action now occurring in Afghanistan “legal.” No, really… is it?

  60. More to the point while you might not need to see the photos to know what torture is, you might need to see them to know if what went on, as partially captured in these photos, was torture.

    It might not need to go public, but it sure as hell should be evidence in the prosecution.

  61. “Exactly what is impermissible torture is what this debate is all about. Impermissible torture seems to be like obscenity, most people have to see it to know it… Having a visual aid seems necessary.”

    Helpful perhaps but not necessary. Certainly not so necessary to justify the violation of the Conventions. It seems to me that people like Greenwald are operating on the following assumptions.

    1. That the Geneva Conventions were violated and that was a really bad thing.

    2. That these people were unfairly victimized by torture.

    3. The rule of law and by extension the Geneva Conventions are inviolate.

    I don’t agree with those, but that is not the point. The point is lets assume they are. If they are true, Greenwald is arguing that we should violate the law and further victimize these victims for what? To make him feel good?

  62. 1. That the Geneva Conventions were violated and that was a really bad thing.

    2. That these people were unfairly victimized by torture.

    3. The rule of law and by extension the Geneva Conventions are inviolate.

    Okay, there are US laws prohibiting torture completely separate from the Geneva Conventions. I personally don’t give a crap if it’s fair they were tortured/abused/coercively interrogated or not. I care whether or not my employees broke the laws we set up for them to operate under. Yeah, Geneva is one of those laws, but not necessarily the primary consideration here.

    You seem to be saying the law is irrelevant in situations like this because a bunch of third world goat herders pose such an existential threat to us we should abandon all of our safeguards against government abuse and overreach to fight them. I ain’t buying that crap for a NY minute.

  63. “Greenwald is arguing that we should violate the law and further victimize these victims for what? To make him feel good?”

    Oh come on, I don’t think Greenwald’s intent in wanting the photos to be released is to further victimize the victims but rather to vindicate them, it have the extent of their victimization be public so the public can make a political judgment about what has happened.

    The public can’t give its blessing or condenmation to such acts without knowing what they are blessing or faulting. Again, if you want to say we are dealing with this judicially (criminally) then OK, but if you say we are dealing with this politically then what we are dealing with cannot be hidden from the public.

  64. So, far Obama has pretty much reversed nearly every policy on national security and civil liberties that he opposed Bush on.

    I’d like to see a few Obama-voting civil libertarians eating their hats now, thank you.

  65. Er. I mean to say he has reversed himself and continued the Bush policies.

  66. Yeah, Hazel, but Obama has John in his corner now. Amazing. Second term, here he comes.

  67. Well, if you ask people if they were for “enhanced interrogation techniques” they might say “yes” at a higher % than if you show them these pictures and say “are you for our government doing what’s going on here?” In order for us to be able to pass on the policy we should understand wtf we are talking about here…

    MNG, you’re assuming that the photos actually enhance understanding, rather than inflaming emotions.

    Besides, I wasn’t aware that we were going to use these photos to set policy on what is allowed and what isn’t.

    Frankly, I’m a little mystified just what constructive purpose releasing the photos is supposed to serve.

    And finally, even if they do add some marginal information to a rational debate on these issues, shouldn’t there still be some balancing against the harm that releasing them will do? When in an armed conflict, it is routine to withhold information that will aid the enemy. Why does that rule not apply here?

  68. The quality of discourse here is astonishingly unprincipled and unreasonable.

  69. This actually qualifies as quite principled and reasonable as internet arguments go.

  70. “Releasing the photos is a violation of the torture victims’ right to privacy.”

    That’s a very good point, when made by truly concerned people who would then agree with the obvious solution: to release the photos to the victims and allow each victim to decide whether or not to allow wider publication.

    It’s a very bad point, when made with feigned concern by people who are just grasping at straws to support ongoing cover-ups and legal immunity for sadistic war criminals.

    I’d like to think that everyone here is in the former group… I mean, some libertarians do visit this blog occasionally, right? It can’t be *too* wild to suggest that victims of government-supported torture might be the right people to make decisions about their own privacy.

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