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Monday, Sep. 15, 2014

I (almost) believe in evil again

Posted Wednesday, February 20, 2008, at 6:34 PM

I don't quite believe in evil -- which is not to say I don't believe evil things happen. I've been an avid reader of the news since I was about 12. I know that every minute of every day there are many people in many places doing unspeakably horrible things to many other people. It's just that I don't think some force called evil is *making* those things happen. What we call evil is more a complex set of personal, political, ideological, religious forces, factors and histories all coming to expression in the cruel and/or diabolical acts that make the front page or the evening newscast.

So of course I can see why people are tempted to believe in evil. It's much easier to say, for one thing. It's much easier to think about. It's a problem that's easier to oppose than to understand.

But now I'm tempted to give the concept of evil a second chance, at least in a very specific case: The Bush administration's use of torture and its attempts to justify the use of torture.

I haven't read Glenn Greenwald's new book, "A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency," but I suspect I might agree with its argument. Bush seems to adhere to an absolute, unbending belief in Good and Evil, which is an extreme version of the common sense of good and evil. Absolute belief in Good and Evil seems to lead to a disturbing phenomemon: Each side begins to resemble the other. Blindfolded, we might have trouble knowing which is which.

George Bush has been assuring us regularly and with great passion since September 11, 2001, that evil exists, that evil-doers are out to get us and that only by following his lead can we defeat evil and its doers. Implicit, so certain that it doesn't merit mention, is that Mr. Bush is good.

But in his moral certainty and sense of righteous mission, our president succumbed to the old trap that hubris always lays for its victims. Our government has resorted -- in the name of good, in the interest of protecting the American people -- to torturing our enemies. But torture, like the terrorism it's being used to combat, is an unredeemable technique.

Our president has become what he professes to abhor.

Critics of the administration have long suspected torture was used early on in Bush's war on terrorism; some claim its still routinely a feature of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay; and of course the photos from Abu Ghraib confirmed it. But until this past week the administration adamantly denied that it condoned torture.

Then intelligence chief John Negroponte spilled the beans and the adminstration officials decided they better add some spin to the mix to see if they could yet again avoid taking responsibility for violating the moral standards of the nation, not to mention U.S. and international law.

Prior to Negroponte's confession, the administration line went like this: We don't torture. We can't discuss techniques because that would tip off the terrorists. We can't say whether waterboarding is torture because that would tip off the terrorists.

Now, White House spokesman Tony Fratto tweaks the official line thusly: "Fratto said waterboarding's use in the past was also approved by the attorney general, meaning it was legal and not torture. Officials fear calling waterboarding torture or illegal could expose government employees to criminal or civil charges or even international war crimes charges."

Note that it is not the fact that by universal consensus waterboard is considered repugnant and cruel -- even Attorney General Michael Mukasey admits that if he was subjected to waterboarding he would consider it torture -- that makes the administration relunctant to admit to it. It's the fact that it might result in criminal charges.

In essence, the administration is trying to invoke a kind of blanket Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination against everyone who authorized or participated in waterboarding and other torture techniques. It's sort of like a robber saying, "Well, I did transfer funds in an extraordinary manner, but my partner in crime assures me that it's legal under the circumstances to do so and therefore is not robbery."

Can you imagine a cop falling for that? Me, either. And I'm not falling for the Bush administration spin designed to convince us that when it allows torture it's legal because its legal counsel says so.

I read these things and I'm suddenly born back to my years growing up in a conservative Iowa household during the Cold War. As a teenager I read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago, George Orwell's 1984 and Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon. I learned from those books and from my deeply patriotic parents that only enemies of freedom, totalitarian dictators and their thugs, the most evident and immediate incarnations of evil, would resort to torture to satisfy sadistic cravings and inflict whole populations with a paralyzing fear that would allow them to be more easily controlled.

Now that suspicions about our administration have been confirmed by the administration itself -- now that it's clear our government has more in common with those ruthless old Commies than this naive Iowa boy would ever have imagined possible, I think its time to dust off the idea of evil and put it back into play.

And now that the head of our Justice Department has declined to initiate an investigation into the use of waterboarding, presumably because members of the staff might be implicated, I wonder if Congress will finally finally take some action.

Even the Republicans in Congress should be willing to hold this administration accountable, if not for reasons of morality and honor then for the practical polical expedient: The flagrant violations of law and the nation's principles perpetrated by the Bush administration are going to haunt the GOP at the polls for a generation if they don't do the right thing. And soon.

I know it a drastic step, and not one I relish the thought of, devisive as it will certainly be, but it seems to me the only acceptable, legal and moral recourse available, a step that even most of the administration's fiercest critics (self included) have been reluctant to advocate until now, is impeachment.

For both Bush and Cheney, partners in crime.

Seems like the least our legislators could do. I know it seems melodramatic, but the more I think about it the more I believe that the soul of the nation is at stake here -- not just how we're viewed by the rest of the world but how we're able to see ourselves.

The Constitutional standard for impeachment, the commission of "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors" seems to be adequately met by the admission that agents of the government have been authorized to torture prisoners. If torture of any kind and for any reason isn't enough to justify impeachment, I despair for our future. It's a very blatantly defiance of the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, if nothing else. And violating the Constitution isn't enough, shouldn't blatant acts of evil do the trick?

Our leaders often demand accountability in others. We have not only the right but the obligation to demand that they be held accountable.


Comments
Showing comments in chronological order
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this ought to get the pot stirring. (because that is what witches do)

-- Posted by SecretAgentMichaelScarn on Thu, Feb 21, 2008, at 5:46 AM

You are courageous to advocate the obvious,in a conservative small town. Only by appropriate punishment of the criminal acts of Bush and Cheney can we begin to restore our nation to a position of moral leadership in the world.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Thu, Feb 21, 2008, at 11:22 PM

I saw Rep. Ike Skelton at the Democratic Party dinner Saturday and I asked him what Congress could do about the administration's admission that it had tortured prisoners.

He said the House was working on legislation to ban such practices, something the Senate recently succeeded in doing.

It seems odd to have to outlaw something that's always been illegal, and even so, it doesn't address the confessed transgression. So I asked whether there was anything the House could do about past actions.

"There's not much you can do when they control the Justice Department," Skelton said.

From a practical perspective, he's right. As attorney general, Alberto Gonzales was notoriously beholden to Bush and even his replacement, Mike Mukasey, has shown no taste for holding the president and vice-president accountable.

That's just another alarming aspect of the Bush administration -- it's iron grip on the mechanisms of government that are supposed to be impartial if not nonpartisan.

Time for a special prosecutor, perhaps.

-- Posted by Eric Crump on Mon, Feb 25, 2008, at 6:19 PM

I would be willing to bet that your view on torture in general would change if your son, daughter, wife or some other loved one was being held captive by a militant force and it was well known that they were being brutalized, raped or some other unspeakable thing. Our military has captured some individuals that are known to have knowledge of where your loved one(s) are being held. What do we do now? Feed them 3 square meals a day, give them comfy beds to sleep in, keep them warm and well clothed or, do we apply all means necessary to extract the knowledge of where the captives are and save their lives? It wouldn't even take a second for me to decide and I'd beg to help!!!

-- Posted by Maynard G Krebbs on Tue, Feb 26, 2008, at 1:10 PM
ERIC CRUMP's response:
Ah yes, torture is a good method of exacting revenge. I'll grant you that. If, that is, you happen to be torturing the right person, the one who actually is guilty of the crime in question.

One problem with torture as it's usually practiced is that it happens prior to conviction of a crime. If the wrong person has been apprehended, someone who didn't do anything wrong or doesn't really know anything you need to know, what then?

I couldn't agree with you more Mr. Crump. After WWII the U.S. tried, convicted and put to death Japenese soldiers for using this method of torture. It has been proven that torture methods do not work (perhaps John McCain could explain it to the president). We should remain steadfast in the morals and standards this country was founded on and hold to the principles that are outlined in our Constitution.

-- Posted by modemocrat on Tue, Feb 26, 2008, at 5:29 PM

What an appropriate nom de plume for Maynard Krebs. While defending torture, he makes one of the better arguements against it. His supposition as to what if it was your son or daughter implies that you would torture, or do anything else to save them. Guess what, we tortured, now just how do you think the families, friends, and countrymen of those we tortured are responding?

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Tue, Feb 26, 2008, at 7:09 PM

our constitution was written to protect OUR citizens. Not those who are trying to destroy the USA. Get real!

-- Posted by j p frog on Wed, Feb 27, 2008, at 9:22 AM
ERIC CRUMP's response:
I'm not expert on the constitution, by any means, but I've looked and I haven't found where it suggests that its protections only apply to U.S. citizens.

It certainly doesn't prohibit us from protecting ourselves from our enemies, either. But it does spell out the limits of power and the checks put in place to insure that we do not devolve into dictatorship.

One problem with Bush's arguments that he can authorize torture to protect us from terrorists is that he uses our fear of al Qaeda not to protect us from them but to expand his own power.

And that's more dangerous to our future than anything al Qaeda can do to us.

Eric; Your pathetically ill, demented, liberal views make me sick of my stomach. The 'new age' philosophy you spew is certainly nothing new (it has been around for a long time), but its poisonous venom is becoming more destructive in our society and to our nation than ever before. You 'enlightened" people and the misguided, mindless zombies that buy into your baloney are far more dangerous than any other threat to our freedom. To actually argue with your distorted, senseless statements is kind of like 'spitting in the wind' because your distain and hatred for those things that are actually decent and good, and your adherence to those things are actually wrong and 'evil' is so apparent that I really doubt that anyone could ever change your mind. You are so far off track that it would take a long journey for you to look at issues with any 'common sense' or reality. But, it is worth the battle to fight against the 'movement' lead by like-minded people who hold be your views, at stake is the very existence of our nation. I'm sure my comments will be perceived by many as being harsh, critical, and cruel, but sometimes that is what is needed to break through the 'sugar coated' garbage that comes from you and those who believe the nonsense you put forth. By the way Satan always twists evil into good and good into evil, just thought I would throw that at you Eric, although I seriously I doubt you would ever be capable of comprehending it.

-- Posted by Billfromraytown on Sat, Mar 1, 2008, at 1:50 PM
ERIC CRUMP's response:
Coming from you, Billfromraytown, I take that as a compliment. Thanks.

I like your observation about Satan. Sounds like you are suggesting that the Bush administration is merely a pawn of Satan.

The way I would put it: "Satan" is a personification of the effects too much power has on humans -- it leads to paranoia, ruthlessness and violence.

Apparently, we are in agreement on this issue, your rhetorical flourishes notwithstanding.

Billfromraytown, I wondered where you have been hiding. After all the cautions that have been made about not using this site as a forum for personal attacks what do you do when you first jump in but launch a vituperative attack on an individual without one iota of rational discourse concerning the ideas he presented. I would not have said anything except you have obviously chosen to waive the rules of decorum, so back at you. Dig deep Bill if it is there, and come again against the ideas with sound counter arguments instead of a foolish personal attack. That is my challenge to you. As for now, as with George W. Bush, your mission is not accomplished.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Sun, Mar 2, 2008, at 12:20 AM

Billfromraytown, I wondered where you have been hiding. After all the cautions that have been made about not using this site as a forum for personal attacks what do you do when you first jump in but launch a vituperative attack on an individual without one iota of rational discourse concerning the ideas he presented. I would not have said anything except you have obviously chosen to waive the rules of decorum, so back at you. Dig deep Bill if it is there, and come again against the ideas with sound counter arguments instead of a foolish personal attack. That is my challenge to you. As for now, as with George W. Bush, your mission is not accomplished.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Sun, Mar 2, 2008, at 12:27 AM

Apparently it's okay to attack our President and Vice President using half-truths and out-and-out-lies. Then when someone challenges your falsehoods with a response you can't handle it. As usual, you liberals can put it out but you can't take it. I am grateful that our President has had the courage to stand up against the personal attacks that you and your like minded comrades unload on him every day. He fortunately still has the intestinal fortitude to do a lot of the right things in spite of it! No, he's not perfect, but I don't know one human that is.

If you want to spew out garbage (some your garbage may be sugar coated, but it's still garbage), then expect to get some dumped back into your face from time to time. As I stated before any attempt to argue relating to your misguided statements is like spitting in the wind, but to challenge you with a little truth about your twisted philosophy is a much better plan of attack, sorry you don't care for it (not really).

-- Posted by Billfromraytown on Sun, Mar 2, 2008, at 4:35 PM

Bill from Raytown you once again ignored every point that Mr. Crump made, and chose to splutter in vague generalities. You even enlarged your unspecific attack from Mr. Crump to include a large portion of your fellow American citizens. You are one of the few remaining supporters of the failed policies of this administration. You have gone to the bunker with Bush. I no longer will attempt discourse with you. I give up.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Sun, Mar 2, 2008, at 9:25 PM

The Commander of our troops in Iraq, General Petraeus wrote to his troops as follows. "Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they are frequently neither useful nor necessary." George W. Bush said that he would follow the suggestions of General Petraeus. George W. Bush lied.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Sun, Mar 2, 2008, at 11:05 PM

One more thought before I give it up for sleep on this dark and rainy night in Oklahoma. Whether or not George W. Bush is ever actually impeached and convicted is yet to be seen. Nevertheless, he has already gone through a defacto impeachment and a conviction by a large portion, perhaps even a majority of the American people.To many his words and deeds at this point are seen as no more than a dog barking at the moon. This group of American patriots would not take one step forward at his command, opting instead to follow their own hearts and minds to seek the better course. He is becoming more of a pariah than a president. Many are just hunkering down to endure his last days, and hoping that he doesn't take some ill begotten action in his remaining time that gets us in a bigger mess. So, yes the social impeachment and conviction has occurred. We the people have examined the facts, found him guilty, and the punishment is that he is no longer significant.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Sun, Mar 2, 2008, at 11:39 PM

E. Crump, you sure now how to get your readers riled up. Have you been taking tips from JJ?

Anyway, I really enjoy these blogs on the website and look forward to reading more entries from the staff. I think weblogs are the perfect place for both less formal and opinionated pieces such as this and the friendly racecar blog.

-- Posted by SecretAgentMichaelScarn on Mon, Mar 3, 2008, at 8:02 PM

George W. Bush recently recieved the lowest poll approval rating of any President in history. Nineteen percent. Lower than Nixon as he resigned in disgrace. Yes I believe that puts him in the insignificant category.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Wed, Mar 5, 2008, at 11:44 PM

Better check out President Harry Trumans ratings before he left office. I think you might be suprised, guess he wasn't significant either! Glad Pesident Truman had the guts to do some of the right things also, even in the face of bad poll numbers.

-- Posted by Billfromraytown on Thu, Mar 6, 2008, at 2:28 PM

Bill, as your hero used to say "there you go again". Truman's poll rating never sank below twenty percent, nor had anyone else before George W. Bush who has failed at every thing he has attempted, except achieving the lowest poll rating.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Thu, Mar 6, 2008, at 11:24 PM

When you consider the margin of error when polling a handful of people, it's hard to say whether President Bush or President Truman has won the honors. As usual Oklahoma Reader, you can't see the forest for the trees. It really doesn't matter what the poll numbers are saying, it's whether or not a president is willing to do what is right in spite of them. I realize your hero President Clinton (the one that actually did get impeached) governed by polls, but to do that is blatantly wrong. I know the cattle industry is big out there in Oklahoma; you have apparently been around so much B.S. that you have trouble distinguishing the B.S. from the green grass. At one point in his second term, near the end of the Korean War, Truman's public opinion ratings reached the lowest of any United States president at that point in history (very similar to where President Bush's are now), but popular and scholarly assessments of his presidency became more positive after his retirement from politics and the publication of his memoirs. Many U.S. scholars today rank him among the top ten presidents. Time and history will tell the real story about President Bush's time in office, not you, your liberal comrades, or some pathetic little poll you refer to.

-- Posted by Billfromraytown on Fri, Mar 7, 2008, at 5:47 PM

Hay Bill! Perhaps my senses are dulled by the cattle byproduct, but not to the point that I can't distinguish huge quantities of it, such as when you go on one of your rants. Comparing Bush to Truman is ludicrous. A more appropriate low rate comparison would be to Nixon, same party, some of the same problems. Watergate, Plumegate. Maybe there would have been the same results if the Bushies had not done a more cunning job of destroying, hiding, and stonewalling the evidence. So Scooter Libbey took the rap. Every body knows that he wouldn't go to the bathroom without asking Shooter Cheney for permission. Of course Cheney has always pulled the strings on the Bush puppet, at least when Karl Rove's arms got tired. Obviously Plumegate went all the way to the top. Outing an undercover C.I. A. Agent, for shame, not one of your boy's better momemts. Some call it treason (to plagiarize your favorite blonde lunatic anorexic). Oh, by the way I don't walk in lock step with any administration, certainly not the Clinton ones. My thought is that WWII might not ever have happened if the German people had not adopted the position that he is my leader and I must be loyal, I must ignore his transgressions, I must follow my leader, I must help crush all dissenters for they are traitors, he is the leader of my party and my country. When I see certain Busheviks adopting the same attitudes it makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Sat, Mar 8, 2008, at 12:02 AM

Oklahoma Reader, you and your like minded liberal comrades live in a dream world. I was around during the hippie error, I didn't buy into that kind of thinking then and I don't now. Truth and reality elude you, wallowing in the mud won't accomplish anything, but I guess it makes you and your kind happy.

-- Posted by Billfromraytown on Sat, Mar 8, 2008, at 9:33 AM

In case you were wondering, yes "hippie error" instead of era. Their misguided ideas and the things they stood for, and those things they were against were dead backwards. The result of their movement was a huge error that has had a devastating impact on our society for a long time now. I suspect that you (Oklahoma Reader, and Mr. Crump too for that matter) are both left-overs from that flawed movement.

-- Posted by Billfromraytown on Sat, Mar 8, 2008, at 10:34 PM

Well Bill I know that you are not a left-over because there is nothing on your plate. You are going to vote for Hillary aren't you? After all Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter said you should. I don't see how you could vote for McCain since he is against water boarding and what would he know about the efficacy of torture any way? Any president who advocates torture should be impeached. I just thought I would get back to the original premise that started all this.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Sun, Mar 9, 2008, at 1:07 AM

To suggest that water boarding and torture is the same thing is like suggesting that tin and gold are the same thing. You don't have a clue; you are bitter and driven by the left wing media and other liberal nincompoops. To suggest that I do what a radio talk show person advocates is utter nonsense. Fact is that there are conservative radio personalities that do voice many of MY opinions (and the beliefs of multitudes of others in our nation who still posses a little common sense). Again, Oklahoma Reader you don't have a clue, I doubt that you would ever be able to understand, the truth evades you, no actually it appears that you evade the truth!

-- Posted by Billfromraytown on Sun, Mar 9, 2008, at 1:10 PM
Eric Crump's response:
Actually, Bill, to suggest that waterboarding is torture is like suggesting gold is a metal. It is, by some accounts, the gold standard of torture, going back as least as far as the Spanish Inquisition and (given the ingenuity with which humans torment each other) probably farther.

And although he continues to walk a rhetorical tightrope (hoping not to criminally implicate CIA and Justice Dept. staff), Attorney General Michael Mukasey tipped his hand when testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in January:

Ted Kennedy: So I won't even bother to ask you whether waterboarding counts as torture under out laws because I know from your letter that we won't get a straight answer, so let me ask you this: Would waterboarding be torture if it was done to you?

Michael Mukasey: I would feel that it was.

See: http://thinkprogress.org/2008/01/30/muka...

Good bye Bill.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Sun, Mar 9, 2008, at 11:46 PM

In response to the "witch" comments....maybe we should pass the Behead the Witch Act. Then we can post the footage of the gruesome results on websites all over the globe while we all dance in the streets screaming "God is Great!!" at the top of our lungs. We can give our infants and toddlers submachine guns to wave in the air as we party down in celebration. Clearly waterboarding is the greatest evil of our time and is victimizing the least deserving and helpless of the world population. So what if it saves the lives of a few worthless American infidels? Isn't it waay more important to worry over the comfort and mental health of the poor Arab man who only wants to kill us? Is that really too much to ask? I think we should all just kill ourselves now so we won't have to put the poor babies through the effort of having to chase us down.

*sarcasm*

*whispers to Eric* your turban fell out a little...no a little to your left...there you got it.

-- Posted by moodyblue on Mon, Mar 10, 2008, at 4:32 PM

Eric, one might FEEL that going without a meal or two is torture. What someone FEELS verses REALITY is not necessarily one and the same? Your left-wing, bitter, hatred shines through in all you say. I suppose Ted Kennedy is probably a hero in your book. He is certainly a wholesome, saintly man, whose thoughts, words, and deeds should be honored and admired by all.

-- Posted by Billfromraytown on Mon, Mar 10, 2008, at 10:36 PM

Wow -

I have to say, after the suggestion was made that I read this blog & the comments, I am surprised at the vehemence with which people believe that waterboarding is NOT torture. I'm pretty sure that even Dubya & friends have changed their minds on this one, given all the bad press they've gotten lately on it. The point of the matter is - how can we expect our troops to be treated when they are captured when we do things like waterboarding to "enemy combatants" or POW's or whatever you choose to call them?

-- Posted by koeller77 on Tue, Mar 11, 2008, at 2:15 PM

Koeller77, so I take it that you believe cutting someone's head off or flying planes full of people into buildings full of people and water boarding is comparable. These people are TERRORISTS; they want to kill you, your family and all freedom loving people. We are not dealing with an opposing army from any particular country; we are in a war with Muslim TERROISTS who are fanatics!

It amazes me that you left wingers are so full of hatred towards President Bush and Republicans that you are totally blind to the truth and reality. You are a foolish bunch that may eventually be the downfall of our nation, the threat from the likes of you is great.

-- Posted by Billfromraytown on Tue, Mar 11, 2008, at 7:10 PM

He who argues with a fool is a fool.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Tue, Mar 11, 2008, at 11:34 PM

Eric,three things I want to mention about your article on evil. One it really got things stirred up. I keep seeing the terms liberal thrown around as though it is a bad thing. I am a liberal and I'm proud for what it represents. A conservative is defined as one who wants to maintain the "status quo", a liberal is a person who is willing to look at alternatives and act on them if it is appropriate. If everything were "status quo" this country would still be practicing slavery, the Louisiana Purchase wouldn't have happened and women still would not have the right to vote, and the current technologies of today would not exist.

I also keep hearing about Muslim terrorists and yet we never use the words Christian or Jewish terrorist. The tenants of the Muslim faith are peaceful. For centuries the Muslims, and the Jews coexisted peacefully. The Prophet Mohammad ibn Abdallah admired the Jewish and Christian because they were the people of the "Book". The God of the Jews and the Christian had spoken to his people. Mohammad admired the Jews so much that he actually considered converting to Judaism.

The biggest problem we have with terrorism in the middle east is these so called Muslim's don't practice the tenants of the Muslim faith and there is no one in authority willing to step up and take a stand and denounce these killers for what the are. The word Muslim means: One who surrenders his or her whole being to the Creator. The word Koran simply means "Reciter". Most people don't know that the Mother Mary is mentioned more times in the Koran than in the Bible. Joseph was well spoken of and Mohammad called Jesus Christ the Prophet of His people.These don't sound very threatening to me but then these terrorists aren't truly Muslims. As a final note, it has be proven time and again that torture does not render reliable information. Interrogators will get any responses they desire during torture, but then the statements have to be verified and it's not hard to believe that a person being tortured will tell you whatever they think you want to her just to get it to stop.

Finally, I take offense of the national media when they report of terrorist bombers. I believe the correct term would be terrorist murders because that is what the truly are.

Just one mans opinion. What do you think?

-- Posted by John Q. on Wed, Mar 12, 2008, at 3:30 AM

Billfromraytown:

I don't believe that I was saying that we shouldn't waterboard. My husband is a veteran of both Bosnia & Iraq and has seen first hand what is done to our captured troops. My only comments were that I find it hard to believe that someone believe that waterboarding isn't torture. Further, I asked a simple question - how do we expect our captured troops to be treated by admitted terrorists if we're not treating our captives without torture? By the by - my Republican, right-wing husband agrees with this view, as do many of his fellow veterans.

-- Posted by koeller77 on Wed, Mar 12, 2008, at 11:37 AM

Oklahoma Reader;

You keep saying you aren't going to talk to me anymore, even said goodbye. But then you keep making comments to me; I think you secretly like me, its okay if you don't admit it. Go ahead and say you don't like me and I'll know what you really mean……

-- Posted by Billfromraytown on Wed, Mar 12, 2008, at 2:09 PM

There sure are some opinionated people on here. I love this country for the pure fact that we can have these discussions and disagree without being incarcerated. That is one thing that makes the USA the best country in the world. Now to upset some people, I think this article is a little misleading Eric. You make it sound as though the Bush administration is the one and only administration that has knowingly tolerated or agreed with waterboarding. The truth is, this is a technique that has been used in our country for many generations. You throw in your constitutional rights as a reason to not use this technique as well as a reason to release terrorist being held if they are not given a timely trial. The constitution is for citizens of this country only. I suppose that ILLEGAL immigrants are actually not breaking the law and should be allowed the use of our constitution as well in your book. Is waterboarding torture, probably? Is it a successful technique to gain useful information, some of my friends tell me that answer is yes, sometimes. To cut this short, if you have an issue about waterboarding, don't just look at this administration. Waterboarding goes back a long ways. The only reason we hear about these things now is the advancement of technology that allows us all to watch news 24/7 or get on-line and read news 24/7. We did not have this kind of media coverage in previous wars, so the civilian population was not informed of these techniques. Also most past politicians may not have had an issue with these techniques, so that might be why it is just now coming up in this administration. I know Bush has done badly on some things. Why don't you keep your focus on those things Eric and not the things that have been in practice for generations and generations? Once again to state my point Eric, you make it sound as though Bush designed and implemented waterboarding, and that is just not true!

-- Posted by cjay on Thu, Mar 13, 2008, at 7:08 AM

That is true; Bush did not design & implement waterboarding. What he did was break the law (both domestic and international) by allowing it to be done. We did hear quite a bit about water boarding during WWII....about it being used on United States soldiers....oh wait, we tried, convicted and imposed the death penalty beacuse of that. Also, I am confused about what immigration issues have to do with torture?

-- Posted by modemocrat on Fri, Mar 14, 2008, at 3:38 PM

Modemocrat; As usual your facts are only half right; the other half appears to always be wrong! There have been trials and convictions for some who TORTURED other people, and the death penalty has been imposed on a few. The problem is that this was all due to REAL torture, NOT for weatherboarding. Also, it was usually due to the fact that there were international agreements with other nations that certain things would and wouldn't be done to captured soldiers from those nations. These are TERRORISTS that we are dealing with; we have been very gentle with these people and treated them quite well for who and what they are. They are NOT captured soldiers from another countries army. They will always torture and usually kill any of our soldiers that they capture irregardless of anything we do or don't do! In most countries when a known terrorist is captured they are subject to REAL torture and then being shot if still alive! I am proud of our president and the courage he has. Clinton had b_ _ _ s but unfortunately he never used them for the purpose of acting with courage, just for his own pleasure…….

-- Posted by Billfromraytown on Fri, Mar 14, 2008, at 7:58 PM

cjay,

I'm sorry you got the impression that I think Bush, et al., invented torture or that current interrogators are the first in our nation to use it. Of course, past violations of the law don't justify current violations of the law. (Wouldn't defense attorney's love *that* -- "People kill each other all the time, therefore my client shouldn't go to jail for killing someone").

The Bush administration's innovation is in trying to justify torture (see John Yoo, author of the famous Justic Department "torture memo," cleverly rationalize torture by attempting to distinguish it legally from cruel and inhumane treatment, http://tinyurl.com/m26hj ) and, recently, legalize it (see http://tinyurl.com/2nlpeq )

What I find extraordinary and appalling is Bush's insistence that we must resort to torture in order to combat terrorism. He's insisting that we become what we purport to hate. Torture may have been committed under other administrations, perhaps, but none that I know of have said we *must* torture in order to survive.

It suggests an incredible lack of confidence in our tradional moral principals (which I had been given to understand the president fervently believed in) and in our national resourcefulness and power. Only the weak and paranoid resort to torture. It's a sure sign that you don't have the patience or intelligence to obtain information any other way because it is commonly regarded as ineffective in obtaining reliable information.

As General David Petraeus has said: "Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. That would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary."

http://tinyurl.com/35wpe7

By vetoing the bill that would have banned torture (again! it's already unconstitutional, after all) Bush has gone far beyond anything any previous president has done: He has gone on record as advocating the use of torture against those *the government deems to be enemies.* As I said in my original post, this is a turn of events I would have found inconceivable while growing up. I was certain that the United State of America was the one nation that would never resort to such tactics, much less have a leader who would defy law, tradition, morality and Congress to reserve the right to do it.

-- Posted by Eric Crump on Sat, Mar 15, 2008, at 10:21 AM

Eric,

So you read a memo from a general who we will most likely see in politics one day soon and believe it. The general has to come out against this if he one day wants to be a senator, and also you say he mentions torture does not work, but does he include waterboarding as torture? When I think of torture I think of electrocution, burning, chopping off fingers, starvation or beating a suspect. We are pouring water down someone's throat. It is a sensation of drowning, but not actually drowning. Once again these are terrorist that we are dealing with. They capture our soldiers and cut their fingers off or worse they cut their heads off and film it and put it on the Internet for all to view. I know two wrongs do not make a right, but from my friends, who deal with these people, waterboarding is effective to get information from some of them. If we can get some information, isn't that better than getting none? There are other ways we get information also but I am sure you would consider them torture as well. In my first post I never said waterboarding wasn't torture, but giving terrorist milk and cookies and telling them to talk to us when they feel like it doesn't seem to work. Also I don't seem to recall there being a law that makes waterboarding illegal. What law is there that outlaws it? Isn't that what congress was trying to pass that the president vetoed? So why would we impeach or convict him on something that isn't even illegal yet? You also state Bush "cleverly rationalize torture by attempting to distinguish it legally from cruel and inhumane treatment", is this really true? What torture is this he is rationalizing? The waterboarding again? To me not making enough money to live my lifestyle would be torture. Can I sue if my salary drops to "torture" level for me? Should we sue the DMV for long lines, after all a lot of people do consider that torture? Torture is in the eye of the beholder, If we outlaw all interrogation techniques we will get no information. The military is horrible at getting information because good cop, bad cop doesn't seem to scare a terrorist!

Modemocrat,

My reference to illegal immigrants and the constitution was in response to seeing Eric bring up the constitution in his story. I glanced and can not see where it was in the story, but I may have misinterpreted what he was saying. I thought he might be saying we were in violation of our constitution by waterboarding these terrorist. I was just saying, if Eric thinks terrorist should be covered by our constitution I assume Eric believes the illegal immigrants would be covered by the constitution.

-- Posted by cjay on Wed, Mar 19, 2008, at 1:46 AM

I am torn on this topic. I have seen first hand what has happened to our and our allies, soldiers. I was in Bosnia in 1999 when Kosovo kicked off and in Iraq in 2003. I have also spent time in Korea (want to know about hostilities lasting a long time look up Operation Paul Bunyan, 1976) and Nicaragua. When I first arrived in Iraq a team who had been sent out on a public relations mission (to go house to house to warn citizens of upcoming explosions to destroy ammo deposits or UXO -- Unexploded Ordinance). They were captured while out. We found them several weeks later. Their eyes had been drained using a hot needle so the wounds would cauterize and the tips of their penises had been burned shut. They died when, unable to urinate, their bladders literally exploded inside them. While I do not condone the use of similar activities, I don't buy the argument that our using water boarding and the five techniques (stress positions, another technique that has been in the news) will cause our enemies to use them. I think they went way beyond that long before 2003.

That said, I would like to clarify some items. I only do this because it irritates me when someone uses arguments like "it is unconstitutional" when it is actually written in the constitution. First, the US Constitution does not specifically limit its protections to US citizens. However, the 14th amendment does state, "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." According to my constitutional law courses this means constitutional protections apply to US citizens and anyone within state jurisdiction. This is one of the reasons why it is argued that foreign born combatants caught on foreign soil should not be returned to the United States.

Second, I see many people stating that it is prima fascia that water boarding is torture. In case #5310/71 in 1977 the European Court of Human Rights determined that beating of prisoners, the Five Techniques, and similar techniques, while inhumane, do not constitute torture. Even the United Nations Convention Against Torture does not list specific methods of torture and provides a definition that is subject to interpretation. Since the definition of torture is a very subjective and emotionally charged issue I wanted to look to other sources.

Lastly, we must remember that the term unlawful combatants was not nefariously contrived by the current administration. It was originally utilized by another Republican administration…………….......Abraham Lincoln's at the end of the Civil War when dealing with confederate soldiers. I was glad to see that Mr. Crump did not address the Geneva Conventions. There has been some debate regarding the applicability of this document. What is true is that the third Geneva Convention does specifically outline what combatants or military members (clergy or medical personnel/ non-combatants) the Geneva Convention applies to. It is rather lengthy, but boils down to they must follow the tenets of the Geneva Convention, carry arms and fight openly, be a member of a governmental army or militia, and wear a "fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance". This does not apply to most, or any of the individuals we are speaking about.

The Fourth Geneva Convention addresses civilians. However, it does state, Civilians shall enjoy the protection afforded by this section, unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities." In addition, the International Committee of the Red Cross has stated, "If civilians directly engage in hostilities, they are considered "unlawful" or "unprivileged" combatants or belligerents".

I am not sure whether water boarding is torture. I do know I have done worse and would do so again should my family ever be in danger. My belief is that we should continue to utilize the most human methods possible in order to accomplish the mission and weigh our actions and their consequences very carefully.

-- Posted by koeller75 on Wed, Mar 19, 2008, at 11:42 AM

I read a couple postings up that it is unconstitutional. Where in the constitution (if it were to apply to the individual) is it unconstitutional? If you are refering to the 8th amendment I might point out that the Supreme Court has been very specific that it applies only to punishments. Many suits brought by US prisoners have been dismissed because their complaints were not directly related to their punishment.

-- Posted by koeller75 on Wed, Mar 19, 2008, at 11:47 AM

I don't speak as eloquent as Bill & Oklahoma, but i do have an opinion! My vote go's to Oklahoma on his views! Everything he has stated makes more sense to me. I have always said, in my opinion,Bush is a pawn in all this! he is pathetic little Man, that has been setup to take the fall for all this,and really don't realize what is happening!Our is to stupid to see it. I worked with a guy ,that the more you bragged on him,the more you could take advantage of him! does that make any sense? Well anyway that's what i think , happened to Bush,he's simple minded! That still dont get him off the hook! He and all the rest are Crimes and need to be Charged!this has to take place to even start to heal this Country!The only way to do this is to go through your Representative,and protest!!

-- Posted by Jo on Wed, Jul 2, 2008, at 8:11 PM


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Eric Crump is a former editor of The Marshall Democrat-News. He lives elsewhere now but still loves Marshall and Saline County. He's trying to catch up on all the stories he should have written while he was on staff.