In which I agree with Jerry Falwell

Yes, the moral rot runs deep. It’s 2006, and the United States Senate is debating the legalization of torture. Anyone who doesn’t vote to overthrow the Republican domination of Congress this fall is enabling torture.

I guess the cultural conservatives were right all along: the moral rot in this country runs unspeakably deep. It’s 2006, and the Senate of the United States is having a debate about torture: not about outlawing it, but about permitting it. And by some weird alchemy the proponents of dishonoring the flag by making it the banner of war crimes and crimes against humanity have claimed for themselves the mantle of patriotism. (Yes, Rush Limbaugh has actually said that if we suffer another terrorist attack, it will be John McCain’s fault.)

In the past week I’ve spoken to two decent and intelligent people who get much of their information about current events from conservative sources. Both of them, quite sincerely, repeated to me the winger talking point about how all the CIA has been doing to captives is playing loud music and keeping them in overly air-conditioned cells. It makes the silence of the Germans about the death camps much easier to understand: if something is too horrible to believe, it’s easier not to believe it. And of course those who don’t believe that we’re torturing people tend to be completely convinced that the people we’re not torturing, or sending to places such as Syria not to be tortured, deserve it, in the sense that they’re in fact involved in terrorism: which also turns out to be false.

If you can stand to read it, Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch has a chilling essay in Monday’s Washington Post making the simple point that measures that leave no cuts, bruises, or broken bones &#8212 sleep deprivation, for example &#8212 can be just as devastating as more picturesque methods.

For those of my readers still in doubt about how, or whether, to vote this November, just recall that the Bush Administration will certainly claim even the limited electoral success of holding on to the Republican Congressional majority as vindication of its criminal conduct and a license to engage in more of it. Whatever reasons you have for disliking the Democratic leadership, Mr. Bush has given you a simple choice: vote for candidates who can defeat his Congressional accomplices and enablers, or be complicit in torture.

Tell me, my libertarian friends: were the tax cuts really worth it?

Footnote Based on my small sample, pointing out that we learned about the cold cell from the KGB and about waterboarding from the North Vietnamese turns out to be a potent eye-opener among the class of people who get too much of their news from Fox News and National Review Online.

Second footnote Am I the only one to find it strange that no prominent politically conservative religious leader, Christian or Jewish, has drawn from the Biblical statement that human beings are made in the image of God what should be the obvious conclusion: that torturing them is a defacement of that image, and therefore blasphemous as well as unjust? Someone needs to tell me again that religiosity helps enforce morality; for some reason I keep forgetting.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

43 thoughts on “In which I agree with Jerry Falwell”

  1. > Tell me again that religiosity helps enforce
    > morality; for some reason I keep forgetting.
    Worse yet, a large majority of the population believes that religion is the *only* possible source of morality.

  2. One point on morality you may wish to recall comes from Pirke Avos: "he who is kind to the cruel ends up being cruel to the kind."

  3. Gee, this is a tough one: Vote for people who'd torture thousands of potential adult terrorists, or vote for people who kill little babies by the millions, and get really pissy when it's suggested that the babies get anesthesia before they're dismembered.
    See, it's not that difficult to justify for a large percentage of the population.
    As for me, while I have on a couple of occasions voted for the lesser evil, I think I'm going to leave a lot of lines blank this November, for lack of candidates who are sufficiently "lesser" to stomach voting for.

  4. Don't bother trying to use reason on Brett. As we've all had the joy to learn over the years he's completely immune to it.

  5. A lot of what one hears (from Our Beloved Leader) and reads (in the press and in right-leaning blogs) is that the activities that we're talking about aren't "really" torture–they're simply "aggressive interrogation techniques."
    I'd propose the following thought experiment to anyone who claims to believe that we aren't torturing people. Suppose you have been imprisoned because you're suspected of having knowledge of something. If the "aggressive interrogation techniques"–sleep deprivation, enforced standing for extremely long time periods, stripped naked and held in a cold cell, while periodically being doused with ice-cold water–were used on you, would you feel that you were being tortured? If not, why not?

  6. Donald
    Suppose your family was in a shopping mall that was collapsed during a jihadi attack in, say, Iowa. You found out that the CIA had in custody a Morroccan who was part of the terror cell that commited the attack. You found out he was being questioned for 2 weeks prior to the attack, but because of our new laws, all they can do is ask him questions for 2 hours at a time, for 8 hours a day (interrupted by prayer breaks, meals and rest periods). He provided no information.
    Who would you blame?
    1. The CIA for not getting the information to stop the attack? (And of course Bush)
    2. The jihadis who commited the atrocity?
    3. The liberal judges and terrorist coddling members of congress who are more concerned with how we appear to the world than killing the enemy who has vowed to murder us?
    My bet is #1.
    I assume you will never admit that this is not about us. It is about them. They want to kill us, subjugate us or convert us. Those are the options we are working with if you succeed in dictating how we respond to this aggression.
    Sorry to break this to you, but outside of the protective bubble of Western Civilization, there is a whole lot of people who want you dead. Now.
    You either recognize this fact and deal with it or get out of the way of people trying to protect themselves from the fate that your PC adled mind can't seem to deal with.
    People are sacrificing and dying everyday to make sure that this event does not happen to you or your family. Wake up!

  7. JohnCV makes an argument that has three assumptions (at least). First, that the person captured by the CIA knows something; second, that the CIA knows that s/he knows; and third, that torture (and only torture) will get him/her to reveal it. Based on those assumptions, he concludes that doings something evil (torture) that good may come of it is OK.
    But the only thing that's certain in his chain of reasoning is the evil that I do (or condone). The rest is not certain.
    If people I loved died in a terrorist attack, might I (or some version of myself) wish that someone had done something, anything, to prevent it? Sure. But would that represent what I think is what is right? Not necessarily. This is the same false dichotomy that Michael Dukakis got faced with in the 1988 presidential debates, and it is not a good guide to policy.
    So would I, thinking and acting rationally, in my own, and my country's best interests, accept torture as a policy instrument? No. It assumes too much. It creates evil. It may, on the basis of false confessions create, even more evil. It's a bargain that my rational self cannot make, even if, in extreme emotional pain, I might claim otherwise.

  8. JCV:
    I get it. On the off chance that someday, somehow, Jack Bauer might find someone who may or may not have crucial, urgent information, we should encourage the torture of tens of thousands of SUSPECTS. uh, how about not.
    I'm not for giving up a large measure of freedom for some minuscule, potential increase of safety.

  9. But, John, why do they want to murder us…….usually, people on the other side of the globe from you are not necessarily intrested in your lifestyle, or religion. There has been no Moslem attempt to invade and conquer the US, I have not met any Moslem Jerry Falwells trying to sell me Mohammed.The shoe is on the other foot. We have invaded their countries, some with military, some with money, and our Christian missionaries are actively trying to convert them in their own countries. Now, I do not carry a brief for any religion, but we need to look at both sides and understand why things happen as they do. Since we are the country with the power and most of the military might on the globe it is rather silly to say we need to resort to torture and any other inhuman action you can think of to maintain our security. The only people who can attack us internally are people who are willing to die in the attempt and the only defense we will ever have is to look at the reasons they are willing to do this, and I am betting that more than religion is in the mix.
    BY THE WAY, YOUR EXAMPLE IS LIKE A SCRIPT FROM 24 HOURS……WATCH BETTER TELEVISION.

  10. JCV, Suppose *your* family was the unfortunate family in the Iowa.
    However, what *you* find is that the Morroccan in CIA custody knew nothing whatever about any terrorist plans. Instead, because of the torture, he simply gave the CIA a series of false leads to get them to stop torturing him.
    As it happens, in following these false leads the CIA dissipated resources that otherwise would have been spent tracking down several other leads that in fact after the attack turn out to have been authentic and highly actionable. To wit, had these leads been followed up on, they almost certainly would have led to the discovery of the actual terrorists involved and thus thwarted their plan.
    Oh, and as a bonus, news of atrocities committed by the CIA soon reach the ears of other jihadists, who use it to recruit more terrorists and lodge more terror attacks at home and abroad.
    Who would you blame? (I won't restrict your answers to a numbered list. Please show your work.)

  11. The "ticking time bomb" scenario is very rare.
    But even if it weren't, here's what happens.
    The FBI or CIA or NSA have the guy. They know he knows. They need to know NOW.
    You know what they do? THEY USE WHATEVER METHODS THEY NEED TO USE TO GET THE INFO… AND THEN THEY TAKE THE CONSEQUENCES.
    See, Bush isn't asking for permission to use torture. They've *been* torturing. All he wants is sanction to do it without taking the consequences.
    Exceptions can always be made. Extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary steps be taken. BUT YOU DON'T MAKE THE EXTRAORDINARY, ORDINARY BY LEGALIZING IT.
    "B-b-but they want to kill your family!!" What are you, a pussy? Lots of people have wanted to destroy America. But that doesn't mean we sacrifice what it means to be American, just to protect our stuff!
    What good does it do for you to gain the whole world, and lose your soul?

  12. I'm having trouble with the phrase "decent and intelligent" referring to people whose primary news source is conservative talk radio. That fact alone leads me to believe that these two individuals are neither decent or intelligent, but that it would be too inconvenient for you, Mark, to cut them off from your life or to call them on their depravity. That's how the German's succeeded.

  13. All those who favor "aggressive interrogation techniques" should be required to experience them first hand. While we're at it, send their girl or boy children (just one, if they're twins) to fight in Iraq. And to try to live on their social security payments, medical payments, etc. You get the idea.

  14. Mark, when is someone at RBC going to comment on John Yoo's oped piece in Sunday's NYT?
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/17/opinion/17yoo.h
    Yoo's argument for expansive presidential power fails because Yoo bases it in part on the claim that "the presidency, unlike Congress, is the only office elected by and accountable to the nation as a whole." But, Bush and Yoo were bent on expanding presidential power from the beginning even though in 2000 Bush had been granted the office by a quirk in the elctoral college and not by "the nation as a whole." Yoo also seems to forget that the Founding Fathers, fearing raw democracy, established a republican form of government that specifically removed from the president any possible claim to being the choice of "the nation as a whole."

  15. Wow, I seem to have touched a nerve here. I am will answer in a composite post for the typical responses I assumed I would get (and got):
    1. "You just hyperventilating – there is no wolf at the door" or "they hate us because of our policies"!
    A: Do you have any clue as to how many Hindus have been killed since 9/11? How about Indonesian Christians? Perhaps Copts? What about Buddhists in Thailand? Russian children? Swedish women raped in Malmo?
    Do you read any foreign papers? Do you even read what the islamists themselves say they are going to do?
    Just for a quick count, go here:
    http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/
    Perhaps you can provide a link to a moderate muslim group trying to stop the violence.
    All muslims are not violent, but then all Germans were not nazis either. The 'good ones' did not stand up to his evil and the awful consequences followed.
    Sorry, closing your eyes, putting your fingers in your ears and going LALALALALALALALA is not going to change the facts.
    2. "Bush just wants to torture people 'cuz he's evil. Torture does not work. Torture is just wrong and we should just forget about getting information from captured war criminals." (BTW you must accept the war criminal handle because if they are to recieve GC treatment, they are then subject to it's terms. Those caught in civilian clothes and/or attacking civilians are war criminals. Execution is the typical wartime sentence).
    A: Do you know what kind of 'torture' is being proposed? Physical discomfort. No physical injuries, no mental damage. You know what? I'm OK with that. I won't flinch at a bit of non-lethal physical abuse either whene needed.
    You apparently have forgotten what evil is and who we are dealing with – murderous scumbags who gleefully to slit the throats of children. How much pain and torture was inflicted on those poor souls slowly burned in the WTC or Pentagon. Speaking to thier families for the last time knowing they would die soon. I wonder what was going through te hminds of those who fell/jumped from eth 90th floor on thier 45 second fall to earth.
    What mental anguish did Daniel Perl or Nick Berg suffer on the way to getting thier throats sliced open?
    Is there a possibility that someone who does not know something is put through this type of iterrogation? About as often as the 'ticking-time-bomb' scenario, I suppose. There a manifold checks to ensure our time is not wasted on low level or false candidates, however I and millions of others believe the risks are worthwhile to save attacks on innocent civilians.
    3. If they feel strongly about a suspect, they should torture him, get the inforamation and then ask for forgiveness after they save the world.
    A: Yeah, that'll happen in a bureaucray. Besides I thought you said torture didn't work…
    Again, its' not about US. It's about THEM. Get over your self-centered mindset that we are the nexusof everything that happens in the world and it's all about us.
    This war started 1400 years ago. The only reason it stopped in 1638 at the gates of Vienna was because the muslims have lacked the means, not the desire for conquest. Ask OBL about al-Andalus or the re-establisment of the Caliphate. Ask Ahmidinijad about the 12th Imam. He's doing his level best to create the world chaos that Shia requires for his return.
    Also just one other point – in 700 BC, the Midlle East was Christian. The muslims captured the ME by force. The Crusades were a response to that. Just so we keep history in order.
    READ THE KORAN – it's all in there. Read the teachings of mohammed. The islamofascist leaders are not being decietful, in fact they they are very open in thier own media. For Western consumption, we get taqqiyah – lying for advancement on islam (which is specifically permitted in the koran). Try here for some good translations of TV speeches and friday sermons:
    http://memritv.org
    BTW Miriam, prosteltysing is muslim countries is punished by death. Conversion from islam is punished by death. But what if your assertions were even remotely accurate – is it your position that muslims would be justified in savaging innocent civilians because missionaries are spreading the Gospel in the ME? Oh, and just for teh record, I have seen 1 or 2 episodes of 24. Not bad, I don't watch much TV.
    Clavis. please.
    "What good does it do for you to gain the whole world, and lose your soul?"
    Peace At Any Price, huh? Well you're writing checks someone else will have to cash to keep you safe.

  16. Kleiman, at his best. See, also, Olberman's transcript, Re: Bush's "four simple words"… over at FDL… Why is *Bangkok* having a coup? What are we missing here? ZT

  17. Clavis said: ""B-b-but they want to kill your family!!" What are you, a pussy?"
    Exactly. In a parallel universe, Ann Coulter is a liberal and her book is called "Gutless: The Cowardice of Republicans." In that universe, she also has a moustache.
    Torture, profiling, and indeed the whole of the post 9/11 RMA harm us. They are stupid, cowardly, and wrong.
    These policies are stupid because they don't work. Profiling creates thousands of false alarms for every true positive. Hence its operators learn to ignore the profile. Torture, similarly, creates dozens of red herring leads. Anyone relying on these measures will be wasting 99.99% of their time. Moreover, these policies actively deter cooperation by moderate insiders with knowledge of the plotters. The gatorade bombers and the Miami cases were both broken by inside informants. Anything that reduces the number or willingness of informants to come forward is stupid and counterproductive.
    These policies are cowardly. They are cowardly because they are motivated by fear. The probability of a successful terrorist attack is orders of magnitude lower than the probability of getting hit by lightning. Anyone who doesn't live in a Faraday cage, but advocates torture and/or profiling or illegal wiretaps is therefore a coward. Moreover, America is a large, strong, and resilient nation. It can withstand attacks of the 9/11 scale, or much larger, and still find and kill terrorists *indefinitely*.
    Torture, profiling, and such policies are also wrong. They are wrong for the Biblical reasons cited by Mark. They are wrong because our nation is founded in liberty, and our laws and the treaties we have signed, to wit, the law of the land, forbids these practices. They are also wrong as a simple matter of patriotism: anyone who values his own family over and above the liberties and freedoms of his fellows, has no right to wrap himself in the flag.
    Many people think we can win against Salafist terrorists by a simple question of tactics and technique. This is both thoroughly American and thoroughly wrong. The center of gravity is Bin Laden and co's apostasy, and the battleground is in the minds of those who adhere to Salafist theology (not in the minds of those who vote Democrat). Any technical or tactical measure that does not contribute to victory on that battlefield must be discarded. The political, economic, and strategic levels of this conflict determine our tactical choices. Anyone who can't see this is part of the problem, and actively if unwittingly aiding and abetting the axis of evil.

  18. John, It is Mariam, and I was almost sure that 700 BC no one was christian, but then, I may not know as much history as you do. I thought I had made it clear that I see no good coming from either torture or holy war……on either side. I would have thought the futility of war, however it is labeled, would be obvious to a student of history such as yourself.

  19. To go to the second footnote, the "prominent politically conservative religious leaders" are more interested in one of those adjectives than the other. Guess which adjective takes first place, "conservative" or "religious"?

  20. No Nym
    "Torture, profiling, and indeed the whole of the post 9/11 RMA harm us. They are stupid, cowardly, and wrong.
    These policies are stupid because they don't work. Profiling creates thousands of false alarms for every true positive. Hence its operators learn to ignore the profile.Torture, similarly, creates dozens of red herring leads. Anyone relying on these measures will be wasting 99.99% of their time."
    What is your source for these statements? I fail to see how the President of the US would go to the congress and make a public debate seeking clarification of these methods if they don't work. Given the results of the last 5 years, you are obviously wrong.
    "Moreover, these policies actively deter cooperation by moderate insiders with knowledge of the plotters. The gatorade bombers and the Miami cases were both broken by inside informants. Anything that reduces the number or willingness of informants to come forward is stupid and counterproductive."
    Umm, why would we 'torture' voluntary informants?.
    "These policies are cowardly. They are cowardly because they are motivated by fear. The probability of a successful terrorist attack is orders of magnitude lower than the probability of getting hit by lightning. Anyone who doesn't live in a Faraday cage, but advocates torture and/or profiling or illegal wiretaps is therefore a coward. Moreover, America is a large, strong, and resilient nation. It can withstand attacks of the 9/11 scale, or much larger, and still find and kill terrorists *indefinitely*. "
    Did you read that before you published it?
    Let me parahrase: We are stupid and evil for using tough measures to prevent attacks on our civilians. Moreover, to prove our resiliency, we will tolerate massive civilian murders indefinately.
    Please sir, may I have another?
    What is your hobby, walking down dark alleys in the bad part of town with a sign on your back saying 'I have lots of cash'?
    OBL has recieved official blessing to kill up to 10 million Americans, and wound 20 million more. Lets show'em just how resilient we are and invite them in. What do you say?
    "They are wrong because our nation is founded in liberty, and our laws and the treaties we have signed, to wit, the law of the land, forbids these practices. They are also wrong as a simple matter of patriotism: anyone who values his own family over and above the liberties and freedoms of his fellows, has no right to wrap himself in the flag."
    Our nation was founded on the sacrifices of a relatively few brave men who risked their lives, the lives of thier families and thier personal fortunes. It was founded FOR liberty, not on it.
    Perhaps you could site the treaty that obligates us to ignore potential threats. I'm sure you could name at least one.
    So patriotism, as you define it, means ignoring young ME males with one way tickets on airliners? Which article of the Bill of Rights covers that?
    While we're talking about liberties, what about the rights of the other passengers to expect that they will arrive at thier destination alive, or is that trumped by the the offense of being profiled?
    Since you are so aggresively defending our liberties, I'm sure you are an NRA member.
    "Many people think we can win against Salafist terrorists by a simple question of tactics and technique. This is both thoroughly American and thoroughly wrong. The center of gravity is Bin Laden and co's apostasy, and the battleground is in the minds of those who adhere to Salafist theology (not in the minds of those who vote Democrat). Any technical or tactical measure that does not contribute to victory on that battlefield must be discarded. The political, economic, and strategic levels of this conflict determine our tactical choices. Anyone who can't see this is part of the problem, and actively if unwittingly aiding and abetting the axis of evil."
    What?
    Look, do you believe we are at war or not?
    If we are at war, we must kill the enemy before they kill us. That's how wars work.
    After they have been thoroughly defeated, we can help them rebuild a free nation(s) that allows thier citizens to have hope for thier childrens future. That is the only way this will ever be resolved.
    When you have a philosophy that states "we love death more than you love life", there will never be negotiations or peace.
    When a mother is prouder that her son is getting an education than he detonates himselve at a wedding, then we can work towards lasting peace.
    Of course if we're not at war, then this is all just one big misunderstanding.
    We should go back to sleep now, nothing to see here, just move along…

  21. Mariam
    Sorry for the typos, of course around 700 AD .
    "I thought I had made it clear that I see no good coming from either torture or holy war……on either side. I would have thought the futility of war, however it is labeled, would be obvious to a student of history such as yourself."
    I agree with you that wars are not 'good'. No sane person wants war.
    However many wars are *neccessary*.
    But what is futile is attempting to negotiate with a sworn opponent who desires your utter destruction. There is no ground for accomodation.
    How then, would you respond when a nation/ideology declares war on you – and then acts on that declaration? This is the situation we now face. Refusing to acknowledge that fact only increases your vulnerability.

  22. johnCV, I trust those who make their living doing interrogations — if they don't think they need the authority to do waterboarding, and many have gone on record stating that they do not need or want such authority, then that's good enough for me. Indeed, they want it to be clear that they don't have such authority in order to be able to resist the importuning of the Rumsfelds and the Bushes of the world to use illegla tactics that, coincidentally, they don't believe work.
    Thi is in addition to everything else I have read on the subject, which suggests that such tactics are unnecessary and frequently counterproductive. The coup de grace for me is that neither Bush nor anyone else of his ilk will state in the light of day just which tactics they would like to use. These tactics are not state secrets, they are using the word clarity when what they really mean is obfuscation of what is legal so that they will have a thin reed of defense if they utilize tactics that are well known to violate the conventions.
    All this talk about sworn enemies makes it seem as if these enemies materialized last week out of nowhere, or that our prior enemies were less serious. They were not. We are better than these thugs, and we have the tools to get information without resorting to extreme tactics. That we would use those tactics is a choice that says nothing about our enemies, sworn or not, but a lot about us.

  23. But, John, why do they want to murder us…….usually, people on the other side of the globe from you are not necessarily intrested in your lifestyle, or religion. There has been no Moslem attempt to invade and conquer the US, I have not met any Moslem Jerry Falwells trying to sell me Mohammed.The shoe is on the other foot. We have invaded their countries, some with military, some with money, and our Christian missionaries are actively trying to convert them in their own countries. Now, I do not carry a brief for any religion, but we need to look at both sides and understand why things happen as they do. Since we are the country with the power and most of the military might on the globe it is rather silly to say we need to resort to torture and any other inhuman action you can think of to maintain our security. The only people who can attack us internally are people who are willing to die in the attempt and the only defense we will ever have is to look at the reasons they are willing to do this, and I am betting that more than religion is in the mix.
    BY THE WAY, YOUR EXAMPLE IS LIKE A SCRIPT FROM 24 HOURS……WATCH BETTER TELEVISION.

  24. John, you mentioned means in relation to the OT´s coming close to Vienna. I do believe the same thing applies now, as I have not heard of any Moslem nation capable of making war on the US. The stated reason from Mr. BL was that the US had violated holy territory by putting foriegn troops in the holy land of Moslems, a quest where he was successful, I believe,didn´t our pres pull the troops out of SA. He had to steal the planes to carry out his attacks. To even consider a replay of the conflict between the Byzantine empire and the Catholic church is understandable in the case of Mr BL who is a bit of a blowhard and looking for a bunch of men to kill and maim themselves for his goals, but for you or me to take this seriously and decide that we have to jettison all decency and every freedom we have, to say nothing about mortaging the future of our decendents to the third or fourth generation and destroying the quality of life for 90 % of the people in the US, in order to fight this phantom, is to fall for the same load of BS I have lived with for 50 years, the cold war with another phantom bogeyman. Believe it if you must, but pay attention as the years roll along and it will be revealed to you bit by bit as my phantoms were revealed to be exactly that.

  25. "Little babies? That phrase is just deeply, deeply offensive to reason. Talk about rhetorical slippage!"
    Joseph, in the case of some late term abortion, it's not at all offensive to reason. In fact, it's offensive to reason to insist that a viable 3rd term baby, who is only a few centimeters from being legally recognized as a separate individual, should NOT be refered to as a "baby".
    In the case of most abortions, there just happen to be a lot of unreasonable people out there, whether you or I like it, or not.
    So long as a large percentage of the American people find abortion morally offensive, and the Democratic party is seen as defending it, the GOP will be able to get away with an awful lot of morally offensive behavior before decending to moral parity with the Democratic party in the eyes of it's base.
    Something Mark should have recognized.

  26. Brett, JohnCV said, "kill little babies by the millions." Your argument depends on the point of viability, or the definition of "late-term," so if you are arguing in support of JohnCV's language, you would do well to che3ck your facts. According to the CDC, around 1.4% of US abortions happen after the 21st week. In 2000, there were 1.2 million abortions in the US. Let's round up & say that means a couple of thousand abortions occur in the US each year after the 21st week of gestation. Now consider that a fairly large percentage of such abortions are done to save the mother's life or because the fetus is no longer viable & you get down to a pre3tty small number.
    A heartless moral calculus, you say? I agree. I would argue that if you believe abortion is evil, then you have the moral obligation to oppose even a single abortion. Me, I put the rights of the mother, who is indubitably a person, against even a highly developed fetus when the moral calculus gets done.
    But that's not my main point. My main point was about rhetoric. How come the radical anti-abortionists have to lie if their cause is so morally powerful. They have to talk about killing "millions of little babies," when, as I have demonstrated above, that's not what is happening. The extreme anti-abortion right is intellectually bankrupt & has to rely on hysterical exaggeration to make its arguments. It is impossib le to have a rational discussion when one side lies about the facts.

  27. I think the Pope counts as a prominent Christian religious leader, and in most culture-war areas, he is a conservative. He has stateted both that international humanitarian law is morally required of everyone, and the Catechism says that: "Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity"

  28. Sam, I think the way that Mark has it formulated it isn't enough for reactionary Catholic bishops to agree with him publicly–they also have to agree with him on the meaning of blasphemy. Since they don't–for good reasons, I think, since his innovation in meaning would turn most any conduct which is both sinful and which harms another into blasphemy–they are, apparently, immoral. It's a very cleverly stated point, so don't go looking at it very closely.

  29. jonCV said: "What is your source for these statements?"
    Probability theory, specifically Bayes. Out of a population of 1 billion or so Muslims, say there are 100,000 terrorists. If your profiling scheme is 99% accurate, with only a 0.01% chance of a false positive, the breakdown is this:
    0.99 *100,000 terrorists caught = 99,000 in jail, 1,000 left free.
    0.0001 * 999900000 non-terrorists falsely accused of being terrorists = 99990 jailed innocents.
    In other words, with the best profiling methods, 50% of the "terrorists" behind bars are innocent. Since FIB and CIA rely on polygraphs, a method with a false positive rate on the order of 20%, we know that this is an underestimate. I recommend that you read what actual security experts, such as Bruce Schneier, say about the futility of profiling. Data mining and similar surveilance methods perform no better. This is why the "but you have nothing to fear" argument is bogus: the best possible methods lead to 50% of suspects being false leads. The methods as used in the real world lead to higher false positive rates.
    Therefore, anyone serious about catching terrorists will eschew profiling, first as a waste of resources and second as a tactic that radicalizes more people, leading them to oppose American efforts, if not support the jihadis directly. Indeed, we can judge the seriousness of pro-war folks by their stance on profiling and data mining.
    "Given the results of the last 5 years, you are obviously wrong."
    What results? Iraq, has become Jihadi University. They have moved from Iraq into Afghanistan, and from there they will move into the west.
    "why would we 'torture' voluntary informants?"
    We don't. Are you being deliberately obtuse? If you are a Muslim with vital information, or just a hunch, are you more or less likely to go to the FBI after being humiliated in airport security? If your family has had a member falsely arrested, will you be more or less likely to come forward? If you see pictures of Abu Ghraib, and the people responsible for it not in jail, will you be more or less likely to come forward?
    If you are a bored Iraqi youth, do stories about Americans torturing people make you more or less likely to join up with the insurgency? Really, counterinsurgency is simple (in theory). Why can't the pro-war crowd adapt their strategic and operational aims so we can win?
    "We are stupid and evil for using tough measures to prevent attacks on our civilians."
    No. We are stupid and evil when the "tough measures" we use to prevent attacks in the short term lead to more serious and numerous attacks in the long term. We are stupid and evil when we send troops to Iraq and then use conventional tactics rather than counterinsurgency tactics. It kills US soldiers unecessarily, it lets the jihadis escape to the west, and it radicalizes more jihadis.
    "Moreover, to prove our resiliency, we will tolerate massive civilian murders indefinately."
    No. We will not tolerate them, as shown by the mopping up of the Taliban in Afghanistan. What terrorists cannot do is threaten the existence of the US. Any policy predicated on the notion that the jihadis can destroy the US reveals the proponent of said policy as a coward. Compared to the number of people killed by lightning or DUIs, terrorism is small potatoes. Anyone who loses sight of that is irrational. But then, we know they also like profiling. Playing toy soldier won't work any better than Clinton's playing cops and robbers. We need a cloak and dagger strategy.
    "Perhaps you could site the treaty that obligates us to ignore potential threats. I'm sure you could name at least one."
    No treaty obligates us to ignore threats. You're changing the subject. Our treaties, and our Constitution, obligate us to treat prisoners with respect. There is some merit to the argument that terrorists ought to be treated under the law as pirates, but no one on the pro-war side has yet taken this option seriously. Instead, they have said to protect our constitution we must ignore it.
    "So patriotism, as you define it, means ignoring young ME males with one way tickets on airliners?"
    No. Patriotism, as I define it, means respecting our constitution and our nation as being more important than our own selfish concerns. It means I'm willing to risk riding on planes with your bogeymen, knowing that our rights are protected. It means that I'm willing to limit the means and methods used by our country, knowing that in the end liberty and freedom will trump Salafism. I genuinely believe that freedom is the best way, and that we can protect ourselves and enjoy our freedoms at the same time.
    "Since you are so aggresively defending our liberties, I'm sure you are an NRA member."
    I was for a while, but they sold out on the RKBA. GOA is more my speed these days.
    "Look, do you believe we are at war or not?"
    Yes.
    "If we are at war, we must kill the enemy before they kill us. That's how wars work."
    No, that's not how wars work. Wars work when you *defeat* the enemy, before he defeats you. There are three means of defeat, per Col. Robert Leonhard's theories on maneuver warfare. First, you can meet the enemy, strength on strength and try to kill him. This works if you're stronger, and he can't recover. What we've seen in Iraq repudiates this as a strategy for defeating Salafism. The recruitment of new jihadis has met or exceeded the kill rate we've inflicted so far, so much so that they can export their minions to Afghanistan to help their allies there.
    The second way to defeat the enemy is by disruption: you interfere with his logistics, his finances, and his recruitment. Iraq's borders aren't sealed against any of these. In the wider war on terror, the pictures from Abu Ghraib and the president's statements ENHANCE the recruitment of new jihadis, and ENCOURAGE new finances and weapons deals. The strategy is backfiring.
    The third way to defeat an enemy is by dislocation: you deceive him, you subvert his networks, you entrap him with bogus arms deals and false targets so he's not hitting you anywhere it hurts. I hope some of this is happening, but if Bush and company are advocating profiling and data mining, then 50% of their operations of this type are wasted efforts, and more regular HUMINT operations will either be neglected or wrongly targetted.
    Your focus on killing alone reveals either your lack of education in basic military science, or an infantile obsession with violence motivated by fear. From Clausewitz through Liddell-Hart, Leonhard and Luttwak, or even classics like Sun Tzu or Musashi, killing the enemy is known as wasteful, risky, and generally the sign of desperation or stupidity.
    "After they have been thoroughly defeated, we can help them rebuild a free nation(s) that allows thier citizens to have hope for thier childrens future."
    They will never be defeated by killing them. The battlefield results in Iraq prove the signal failure of this strategy, backed by literally hundreds of years of military theory. The Jihadis in Iraq continue to replace their losses. They export them to Afghanistan and parts unknown. Moreover, you can't find the lone operators like the beltway snipers, or the jeep jihadi by any of the methods you espouse as essential to protecting my family.
    "When you have a philosophy that states "we love death more than you love life", there will never be negotiations or peace."
    Those who hold to this philosophy must be defeated, either by killing them (a net losing proposition in the long term), or by isolating and starving them. They must be isolated politically, by getting the cooperation of other nations. Perhaps by recognizing terrorists as pirates, or perhaps with armed suasion (not working real well in Iran, now, is it?). They must be isolated economically, by cutting up their finances, and by convincing those who might finance them that it's either a waste of money or that the Salafists who hold the philosophy are actually heretics. But you and Bushco would rather give Saudi Arabia a blowjob than actually fight the source of the Salafist's funding. The terrorists must be isolated theologically and morally, by showing that it's a Muslim heresy and by *not torturing them* to radicalize more Muslims, either out of sincere belief or out of revenge.
    "Of course if we're not at war, then this is all just one big misunderstanding. We should go back to sleep now, nothing to see here, just move along…"
    The only misunderstanding is in your feeble knowledge of military history and strategy. Counterinsurgency and counterterrorist operations are long, difficult, and sometimes dirty. They also require the utmost restraint and a long term view towards isolating the evildoers and convincing others to not support them. So far, everthing about Operation Iraqi Freedom has had the exact opposite effect.
    C'mon, johnCV, all I'm asking is that we adapt an win. It's not that hard. But then, I want to win this war, and you and your cronies only want to fight it.

  30. We found out about sleep deprivation from the Soviet Union too. In "The Gulag Archipelago" Solzheinitzen wrote something like (I am quoting from memory) "The interrogation tactics of the GPU/NKVD are characterised by their immense variety. Except for sleep deprivation, which was a common theme of their interrogations, they had no standard technique."
    I think the whole series of techniques was developed to test and toughen special forces volunteers based on the techniques used by the North Vietnamese
    Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh, that's not the way we're gonna win.

  31. Robert Waldman said: "Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh, that's not the way we're gonna win."
    Exactly. Who are we going to let advise us on our strategy? Ho Chi Minh, or the boots on the ground?
    The 101st Airborne, and many Marine units, were in Iraq in 2003 fighting an effective counterinsurgency campaign. The Marines, at least, were moved out of their AO and taken to fight the first and second battles to reclaim Fallujah (this, after the Marine commander in charge was ordered not to use COIN tactics, but to go in full force). When the Marines returned to Haditha, they found their former allies on the police force executed. No one would help them anymore. To this day, Haditha is a war zone. See this month's Atlantic for more details.
    So, why is it that johnCV and his cronies trust Ho Chi Minh more than the US Marines? You know, the Marines who are risking their lives every day?
    I can't think of any reason other than rank physical and moral cowardice. Meanwhile, Iraq is a recruiting poster and training ground for Al Qaeda, and our enemies or potential enemies in Iran and North Korea have grown stronger. But, trust, us, stay the course. Torture is working. No more Americans have been killed. Except for those Marines and soldiers, who were ordered to avoid using an effective strategy.

  32. NN, JOHN……..HERE WE ARE DISCUSSING THE NUMBER OF ANGELS ON THE HEAD OF A PIN……CLAUSEWITZ TO SUN TZU…..HOW TO FIGHT A WAR…..WHICH IS BASED ON THE PREMISE THAT WAR IS NECESSARY.
    IF WE REALLY BELIEVE THAT THEN ALL THIS DISCUSSION IS FOR NAUGHT. WE MIGHT AS WELL GO BACK AS FAR AS GENGHIS KAHN AND KILL EVERYTHING IN SIGHT. HE WAS AT LEAST HONEST AND DID NOT DEPEND ON A LOT OF PURE DRIVEL TO JUSTIFY HIMSELF.

  33. Mariam, I don't follow your argument. Killing terrorists is sometimes necessary but never sufficient to secure our objectives. Torture and similar measures are inimical to our larger strategic aims, and they should be avoided. Torture and similar measures violate the law of the land, and should be avoided. Torture and similar measures waste time and resources, and should be avoided.
    Those who advocate on behalf of torture and similar measures don't want victory, they want war. Those who advocate against torture don't want war, they want victory. With victory comes peace.
    It may be that the terrorists are so operationally inept that we could mostly ignore them, and thus avoid "war." I accept that they are operationally and strategically inept, but I don't think they can be safely ignored.

  34. YOU GUYS ARE ABSOLUTE PROOF OF THE POINT OF THIS BLOG…MORAL ABSENTEEISM. YOU DISCUSS THE COSTS AND BENEFITS OF TORTURE AND HOW TO WIN A WAR…NEVER QUESTIONING WHETHER WE CAN MAINTAIN OUR HUMANITY AND DO THESE THINGS. NEVER RECOGNIZING WHAT ARTHUR CLARK POINTED OUT IN SEVERAL OF HIS BOOKS…..WAR IS FUN…THERE ARE NO RESTRAINTS….YOU GET TO LIVE OUT YOUR WORST FANTASIES WITHOUT GOING TO JAIL. THE ADDED FILLIP THAT YOU MAY GET KILLED IN THE PROCESS IS AN ADDED HIGH. WAR WAS THE HIGH POINT IN THE LIVES OF THE MAJORITY OF MEN I KNOW WHO WERE IN WW2 AND KOREA…..EVEN VIETNAM. YOU GET TO BE ALL YOU CAN BE AND HAVE ALL THOSE WHIZ BANG TOYS TO PLAY WITH….WOW, WOW, WOW. THE OTHERS WOULD NOT DISCUSS IT AT ALL.
    WAR ON TERROR IS NO WAR….IT IS TWO GANGS OF RUFFIANS FIGHTING EACH OTHER WITH VERY FANCY WEAPONRY WITH THE AMERICAN TAXPAYER PAYING THE BILL…..LIKE THE WAR ON DRUGS……THESE ARE WAYS TO SYPHON MONEY DIRECTLY FROM THE TAXPAYER TO THE WEAPONS MAKERS…..AND, I MIGHT POINT OUT, THAT WEALTH IS THEN GONE. A SPENT BULLET, RUINED TANK, CRASHED PLANE, DEAD SOLDIER IS A BIT OF WEALTH GONE NOT TO BE RECOVERED…..UNLIKE ROADS, BRIDGES, HEALTHCARE, EDUCATION, DECENT JOBS THAT PAY ENOUGH TO LIVE…YOU KNOW, ALL THE THINGS PROMISED BY THE AMERICAN DREAM. YOU BOYS NEED TO TAKE A LOOK AT YOUR OWN DREAMS. DO THEY INCLUDE BECOMING ADULT PEOPLE.

  35. Just a comment on the Second footnote to the original post:
    After listening to some 'Christian' radio I've come to the conclusion that Evangelicals may be able to relate better to the word 'persecution' than to 'torture'.
    A common theme of many sermons is how Christians are persecuted for their beliefs, and the bar seems to be remarkably low for what is deemed persecution, e.g., not being able to witness at a pep rally.
    It may be more effective to describe the treatment some people have recieved from our CIA 'consultants' as being PERSECUTED for the color of their skin or because their name resembles that of a suspected terrorist.
    Hey, it's worth a try.

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