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Thoughts from a Yellow Dog Democrat living in Olympia, in the great BLUE state of Washington

I am a liberal because it is the political philosophy of freedom and equality. And I am a progressive because it is the political path to a better future. And I am a Democrat because it is the political party that believes in freedom, equality and progress. -- Digby

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Torture

George Bush has made me sick a lot over many of his actions but there is nothing he's done that has upset me more than his ordering torture in my name. I am ashamed, mad, scared. Another blog set out the basic attempts to justify the use of torture are:
1. The Euphemism Gambit. The Torture Apologist has no better friend than the scare quote. Take any outrage against human dignity, stick it in scare quotes, and voila! You've suddenly announced that both the victim and the protestor against the outrage are faintly ridiculous bed-wetters we can all snicker at. So you write, for instance, "Some Defeatocrats who care more about terrorists than about the 3000 people we lost on 9/11 whine that waterboarding is "torture", but I think blah blah blah, etc." Also useful to the Euphemist is the Orwellian multi-syllabic word. Don't call it "strappado" or "the cold cell". That makes people think of the Spanish Inquisition or the terrifying basement of Stalin's Lubyanka. Call it "enhanced interrogation" (NOT "Verschärfte Vernehmung" even thought that means "enhanced interrogation"). That upbeat yet bland phrase makes people think "Our interrogation scientists in their clean white lab coats are making wonderful breakthroughs in the science of Keeping Us Safe!"
Case in point: Michelle Malkin
2. The "Appeal to the Extremely Hypothetical Extreme Situation" gambit (the Ticking Time Bomb, for instance).
Case in point: Alan Dershowitz
3. The "Pretend It's Impossible to Ever Know What Torture Is" gambit. This is done by saying, "Oh. I oppose torture, but could you please define for me *precisely* what torture is in a way that can never ever ever create the slightest semantic confusion in a forum of 2000 internet readers who are bound and determined to look for loopholes? I promise I am totally sincere!" In short, you pretend to be baffled about how to define torture for ever, reject all attempted definitions, refuse to offer your own, and then shrug that, much as you'd like to obey the Church, there's simply no way to know what torture is, so it's best to just maintain the status quo (which just happens to be that the Bush Administration can order the torture of anybody it deems an illegal combatant).
Perfect example: Michael Mukasey and here's a good YouTube
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5. The "Human Rights are Only for *Legally Recognized* Human Beings" feint. This is a favorite for people who fancy themselves masters of international law. The argument is basically the same as Catholics for a Free Choice. Point to some loophole in human law and use it to trump the law of God. The Catholics for a Free Choice person says "I can't see where a fetus is a human being in the image and likeness of God in US law, so let's kill it!" The torture advocate says, "I can't see where an illegal combatant is a human being in the image and likeness of God in international *or* US law, so let's torture it!"
As defined by George Bush himself. Cheney and Rumsfeld also concur.
6. The "We Can Kill People in Wartime, So Why Can't We Torture Them Too?" maneuver. The key is to will yourself to be too stupid to recognize the difference between shooting somebody in combat and mowing helpless prisoners down with a machine gun. Once an enemy becomes a prisoner, you can't shoot him anymore because he possesses certain rights as a human being in the image of God. For the same reason, you can't torture him.
Tom Stephens wrote extensively about this
7. The "These Bastards Deserve Whatever They Get!" shout. While cathartic, what this line of emoting fails to attend to is that we have now departed the last shred of sanity in justifying torture and made clear that the purpose of torture is not "gathering intelligence" (it is notoriously bad for that) but working out our vengeance against and hatred of the enemy. That is one of the reasons the Church opposes it: it degrades us. The victim suffers the pains of this life, but we endanger our own souls with the everlasting pains of hell. In addition, it overlooks the fact that some of the people we have tortured did not, in fact, "deserve" it. 80% of the victims at Abu Ghraib had not been charged with anything. Maher Arar: perfectly innocent. Abdallah Higazy: innocent. Dilawar: innocent. So the result is very often that you lose your soul and get *nothing* in return. Or else you get bad intel like the "confessions" of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed that sent us off on wild goose chases (confessions extracted after threatening to torture his *children*, by the way).
We saw Mitt Romney support this during the Republican YouTube debate
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10. Also popular is the "So you're saying we should give the terrorists a kiss and a glass of warm milk and tuck them in at night!" This is a favorite straw man approach from people suffering from the bipolar notion that the only alternative to war crimes is delusional happy face pollyanna unreality. Such people forget that this is not the first war we've ever fought and that we do have a long experience of treating prisoners humanely without torturing them.
We know this because Cheney told us that the detainees are being treated better than they would be by any other government on the face of the earth.
11. This amnesia also accounts for another favorite rhetorical trope: The "9/11 Changed Everything" cry of Generation Narcissus. Being a Generation that fancies itself the summit of all human history, it is a generation that tends to talk as Never Before Have We Faced Such Evil. Therefore, war crimes are okay because it not like we're fighting pantywaists like Nazis and Communists. We are the grand exception to the general rule against war crimes because our enemies are uniquely, extra-special super-duper evil. Ours is a high and lonely destiny, etc. blah blah.
Again from VP Cheney
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I'm sick of this. We have GOT to stop torturing and atone!

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