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Sometimes the ends can justify the means

In the recent discussion about the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo, a few people contributed the classic aphorism that "the ends never justify the means" and "torture is always wrong." That happens to be something I've given a great deal of thought to, and I'd like to take that opportunity to discuss that at length.

As a moral principle, the idea that lofty, noble, good goals can never rationalize unethical behavior to achieve them is generally a good one. "The greater good" has been used by the most despicable people to justify their misdeeds. But is it an absolute rule? I think not.

There are times when the good to be achieved must be weighed against the wrong done in achieving it, and a very careful balance must be struck. And here are a few examples.

Alan Dershowitz, noted liberal law professor, puts forth the idea of allowing "torture warrants" when it is clear beyond a reasonable doubt that a person in captivity has information about an imminent, clear and present danger to innocents and is refusing to cooperate. His example is of a kidnaper who has buried a child with only a few hours worth of air, and says any means necessary should be used to get the information needed to save the child should be used -- up to and including torture.

I would add a second example: police arrest members of a terrorist cell planning a bombing, but the actual suicide bomber and bomb have already left for their mission. The terrorists know when and where the bomber will strike, but refuse to tell more, except that "it'll all be over in three hours."

In those cases, abiding by the "ends don't justify the means" argument, innocents will die -- but at least the authorities will have clean hands and clean consciences.

Taken to the extreme, I'm reminded of something I think I saw on the old "Batman" TV series. Batman and Robin were chasing a crook, but had to let him get away when he ran across the street. Batman insisted that he and the Boy Wonder proceed to the nearest corner and wait for the "Cross" signal instead of following the jaywalking bad guy.

To me, this smacks of unbridled egotism. Those who say "the ends never justify the means" are saying that they prize the sanctity of their own consciences above all else, including the lives of innocents. "We're sorry, Mrs. Jones, about your little girl. But at least her death goes to show what fine, upstanding, moral people we police are. I hope that's some consolation."

I'm not calling for casting off all the restraints of morality and civilization. I'm not saying that any and all things are permissible "for the greater good" or "to protect the innocent" or "for the children." But what I am trying to say is that there are times when dearly-held moral scruples must be weighed against the price that honoring them will cost.

And, even more importantly, who will pay that price.


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Comments (56)

But I thougth lefties were ... (Below threshold)
Reality Based:

But I thougth lefties were nuanced?

Hmmm.What's really... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmm.

What's really amusing is that "the ends do justify the means" for lefties, when it's in their interest and if it's a pet cause.

Embryonic stem cell research? Gun control? etc etc etc.

In every case the ends do justify the means, unless the lefties are opposed to it, in which case it doesn't.

You could call your second ... (Below threshold)

You could call your second example the "24 Scenario" as it is the common situation on the TV show '24' where Jack Bauer usually has some terrorist flunkie in front of him, knows an attack is imminent, and is trying to pull the info out of the guy.

In '24', Jack usually wastes no time, shooting the detainee in the knee, breaking something, etc. to get info.

The argument for making such exceptions when innocent lives are in immediate danger is compelling, in my opinion.

Except for the truly saintl... (Below threshold)
DaveD:

Except for the truly saintly that walk among us, most people are going to maximize their efforts to serve their own interests - ideologically, materially, etc. Our laws and whatever ethical and moral sensibilities we have are the means or the contract we have of assuring civilized existence with our fellow man. When that "contract" is broken and your welfare is threatened, how far do you go to defend yourself? Would you hesitate to kill an armed intruder in your home that is a threat to your family even though murder is a crime? What if it is not you personally but an outside agency such as the national government which under certain circumstances is given sanction to protect your welfare. It seems to me that the perception of how aggressive that outside agency should be will be as varied among individuals as their moral or ethical frame of reference. Like a good friend who might "take care" of someone bullying you, this good friend turns around and beats the bully to a pulp causing marked disfigurement more severe than the bully ever caused you. And you might be left with regrets at someone having been too brutal on your behalf. Jay, I think there are people out there who truly believe torture is always wrong. But I think those are very , very few. I also think most are sanctimonious types who feel they will never be inconvenienced by terrorism and so the Gitmo situation is just another means for them to complain about the inhumanity of the Bush administration. But these are the same people who also yell the loudest if any of that "inconvenience" should come their way and look for any shred of evidence, no matter how tenuous, that the government didn't "do enough" to protect them.

It reminds me of pacifists ... (Below threshold)
Mark:

It reminds me of pacifists in a way; "I refuse to use violence because my conscience must be clean", but they'll damn well call the police to have someone else do violence for them.

The way people really act a... (Below threshold)
Leftism = Slave Morality:

The way people really act and think is a based on ends justifying means. What is really interesting is if 1) the means succeed to achieving the ends and 2) what the ends are.

On this whole "torture/gitmogulag/Bushilter" meme, I can only conclude that:

1) Those who really are seeking to improve human rights or the human condition are failing (and failing badly) by destroying the concept of what real tortue is...and when it is or isn't ethical. In other words, they are subverting their own ends (of improved human rights, justice, etc).

2) Others have ends which have nothing to do with justice, human rights, improving lives, etc. Their ends are Bush-bashing, political power and satisfaction of their own egos. Their ends are to hate, grab power and make themselves feel better at others expense.

So question for debate: Are most "anti-torture" folks 1) Stupid or 2) Dishonest. Discuss...

Grrrr....1. I ful... (Below threshold)
Mark A.:

Grrrr....

1. I fully support the "torture warrant." Great concept, and necessary, in my opinion.

2. Protecting the "greater good" has been the policy of this, and every society, for thousands of years. This policy has justified the sacrafice of a relatively few soldiers to protect their greater societies since the history of war. It has justified all quarantine policies. It justifies the mandatory innoculations imposed by school boards. It has justified emminent domain. It is used by liberals to justify progressive tax schemes. People are being asked to sacrifice for the good of others every day in this world, and it is frequently the tax-and-spend hypocrites demanding that sacrifice.

3. What torture? From all the FBI reports, and even the claims of prisoners, I have not heard of anything approaching what I would call torture. Maybe there's a little humiliation and discomfort, but nothing that even approaches a typical Jr. High hazing incident. I have taken jobs that impose far greater discomfort and sacrifice than anything the prisoners are exposed to (commercial fishing in the Bering Sea during college). Even many of my recreational pursuits create more discomfort than the prisoners endure (marathon running, mountain biking, cold water scuba diving). I really don't understand what the liberal wimps are whining about.

George Orwell said it well:... (Below threshold)

George Orwell said it well: "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

Congratulations on your luc... (Below threshold)

Congratulations on your lucid demonstration of Moral Relativism. There are no black and whites, only shades of gray...

All societies are based on ... (Below threshold)
Lazarus Long:

All societies are based on rules to protect pregnant women and young children. All else is surplusage, excrescence, adornment, luxury, or folly which can -- and must -- be dumped in emergency to preserve this prime function. As human survival is the only universal morality, no other basic is possible. Attempting to formulate a "perfect society" on any foundation other than "Women and children first!" is not only witless, it is automatically genocidal. Nevertheless, starry-eyed idealists (all of them male) have tried endlessly -- and no doubt will keep on trying.

" There are no black and wh... (Below threshold)
Stan:

" There are no black and whites, only shades of gray..."

Nope, black and white still exist. Moral relativism says there are no black and white (or gray).

I think this is part of our... (Below threshold)

I think this is part of our national character and deeply ingrained in our collective psyche - we want rules and laws that define us as a just, moral compassionate society, committed to principles of justice, fairness and equitable treatment for even the worst among us.

But we also want men (and in some circumstances women) who will go outside those laws and break those rules when necessary and who bear the burden of the guilt (sin) incurred by their extra-legal actions.

And yes, Jack Bauer is a perfect example - but also Shane, Dirty Harry, Bronson, and even Batman.
The torture question is just the latest manifestation of the struggle with vigilantism that's one of the eternal unresolved questions of the American Experiment.

The flip side of this is that for all the nobility we ascribe to the vigilante in popular culture, vigilantism in real life tends to be ugly and excessive, usually the action of a mob rather than the One Good Man Who Will Bear the Burden.

Some times the means cannot... (Below threshold)
monolithfoo:

Some times the means cannot justify the ends either. For instance if we had maintained only a diplomatic stance towards Iraq while the sanctions collapsed and Saddam killed millions more in torture rooms and , as he planned, rebuilt his wmd, and CONTINUED his ties with Terrorists that have attacked us and our allies. Great means, diplomacy, lousy ends, eventuously losing the war on Terrorism.

Congratulations on your ... (Below threshold)
mcg:

Congratulations on your lucid demonstration of Moral Relativism. There are no black and whites, only shades of gray...

On the contrary! Moral Relativism is not "shades of gray," because shades of gray imply an absolute black and white from which a mixture is obtained. Rather, it is, "what is black for you can be white for me."

The only problem with allow... (Below threshold)

The only problem with allowing such strictly limited torture is keeping it under control. Once you allow it for certain cases, it becomes easier to allow it for others, and onward we go until we are using torture like it's our job. I'm not saying I am against your proposal (in fact I agree with you); I am just wondering how you propose to keep it under control.

What torture? Maybe we shou... (Below threshold)
STan:

What torture? Maybe we should drop the Leftist Codewords(TM) and focus on what we are really talking about (the ethics of playing Rap music, temperature changes, lack of cable TV, etc).

First of all, the context (... (Below threshold)
kevino:

First of all, the context (from where I'm sitting):
1. The official policy of the US is that prisoners are to be treated humanely. I support that policy. A country is not a rock. A country is what it stands for when standing for something is hard.
2. Some prisoner abuse has taken place, but almost all of it is not torture as it doesn't cause extreme mental and physical pain. Prisoner abuse by US soldiers is expressly against their orders and is a criminal act. It is grossly unfair to imply that criminal acts by a few represent US policy or our soldiers. They are doing an fantastic job. (Similarly, it is grossly unfair to say that Jeffrey Dalmer represents Americans. The Left have lost their minds.)
3. We haven't reached a point at which "torture warrants" are needed. Whatever information you get cannot offset the image problems it creates. Even if you had bin Laden, he doesn't have any information that's worth it: he isn't in control of any critical assets, and those assets will change location and MO the moment he's captured. Also, the worldwide terrorist movement is already splitting up into smaller units. We can set a good example and still win this thing. If we don't win, it's because we're loosing heart: we don't have the staying power.
4. Are there any examples where torture would be used? Obviously, there is always a possible exception, but it would have to be an extremely serious immediate threat (e.g. a nuclear weapon actually being deployed) based on very good information. But the possibility of this happening is too small to be seen with the naked eye.

To me, this smacks of unbridled egotism. Those who say "the ends never justify the means" are saying that they prize the sanctity of their own consciences above all else, including the lives of innocents. "We're sorry, Mrs. Jones, about your little girl. But at least her death goes to show what fine, upstanding, moral people we police are. I hope that's some consolation."

Yes, but that's already happening today: it's the price that all of us pay to live in a free society.

Consider our judicial system. It is constructed based on the idea that it is better to let ten guilty men go free than to punish one innocent man. We could build a safer society without the expanded view of the fourth, fifth, and sixth amendments and without the very high "reasonable doubt" standard for guilt. We could make a few changes to the criminal justice system that would save many, many lives. We have chosen not to do that because we prefer to live in a free society, even if that is riskier.

"Give me liberty, or give me death." - Patrick Henry
"Those who would put safety over liberty deserve neither" - Franklin

This is really funny watchi... (Below threshold)
gordon:

This is really funny watching you guys trying to wrestle with your mind in trying to condone torture.
All the American ideals you grew up with you're now trying to flip and doing quite a successful job.

George Orwell is alive and well.

"This is really funny watch... (Below threshold)
STan:

"This is really funny watching you guys trying to wrestle with your mind"

You mean we are THINKING insteed of barfing up cliches, meaningless abstrations and crustly leftist talking points in order to (unsucessfully) score a few political points?

"in trying to condone torture."

What is torture? Rap music? Non-comfy chairs? Lack of cable TV? Temps above 100 degress for people who grew up in 100+ degree environments?

"All the American ideals you grew up with you're now trying to flip and doing quite a successful job"

I must have missed where terrorists having rights to comfy chairs, cable TV and air conditioning were "American Ideals." Did you learn this in public skool? Is this the same place where you learn "right to bear arms" is not a right, but terrorists having cable TV is a right?

"George Orwell is alive and well."

Indeed. But keep trying to convice us that 1+2=5.

"Alleged" terrorists Stan. ... (Below threshold)
gordon:

"Alleged" terrorists Stan. They haven't been convicted of anything, and that's also according to the senate judiciary committee last week.

And you act as if you're the first western country to deal with terrorism. The Brits tried their version of Gitmo in 1973 with the introduction of internment in N.Ireland. It led to such a spike in violence that it had to be ended after a year.

This is exactly what is happening here too. It only lends credence to your enemies arguments and swell their ranks, leading to more American soldier deaths.
Don't take my word for it look at the figures.

The upshot of you guys condoning all this stuff is more young soldiers coming home in bodybags. It's common sense, read your history books, stop thinking of everything as a right/left issue.

Gordon's right. We should h... (Below threshold)
ndh:

Gordon's right. We should have just shot these guys instead of capturing them alive. They sure as heck aren't going to give us any useful information if we used the Amnesty International interrogation method anyway ("Please, kind sir, would you do us the honor of sharing the plans of your fellow jihadists---*ahem*, my apologies, your alleged fellow jihadists?") And it's easier to take flak about civilian casualties when you don't have to deal with the false allegations of torture too.

(I mean, Gordon DID tell us... (Below threshold)
ndh:

(I mean, Gordon DID tell us to read our history books, right? How many German POW's did we just summarily executen instead of taking the trouble to imprison?)

Hey Stan, 2+2=5.Se... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Hey Stan, 2+2=5.

Semantics semantics. What we're talking about, Stan, is not the lack of comfy chairs. Try being chained to the floor of an empty room for 24-48 hours with no food or water, extreme temperatures, and extremely loud music pounding at you and tell me then if it is a day at the beach. Is it torture? Semantics. The question is where does our country draw the line? Apparently many of you believe that anything short of pulling out toenails with rusty pliers is acceptable.

How much can we do to these detainees and still issue report cards on other nations' adherence to human rights with any credibility?

Now, on the usefulness of such techniques, lets defer to the US Army Intelligence Interrogation Field Manual (FM 34-52):

Experience indicates that the use of force is not necessary to gain the cooperation of sources for interrogation. Therefore, the use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear.

Gordon:1) Alleged ... (Below threshold)
STan:

Gordon:

1) Alleged or not, they are not US citizens and have no nation-state willing to claim them. They have no right to trial under US law. Un-uniformed enemy combatants have very few "rights" under International Law. Your "legal argument" isn't valid (and I thought we were talking about ethics, not legality?)

2) Your second point is also bunk. The real world is situational and circumstancial, it is irrelevent what the British did in the 1970s. This particualr historical event might be an interesting example if you can provided evidence that "torture" (lack of comfy chairs, air conditioning & cable TV) is directly causing terrorists to "swell in ranks" and is directly causing "more American soldier deaths." (Again, I thought the debate was about ethics, not effectivness?)

But I suppose thinking about this rationally is "Right-wing."

mantis:Semantics, se... (Below threshold)
STan:

mantis:
Semantics, semantics. It's not a day at the beach, but it's not force either (so goes your link to some manual).

And it's still not a violation of "human rights" despite how many hyperlinks you post (so your sacred "hypocracy" argument isn't valid). Unless you count comfy chairs, minor hunger pangs and 70 degree environments as a "human right"?

I will come out and condone having un-uniformed enemy combatant non-citizen terrorists being "chained to the floor of an empty room for 24-48 hours with no food or water, extreme temperatures, and extremely loud music." I draw the line right about this location. I guess that makes me a nazi, huh?

So where do you draw the line? Do you want them in comfy chairs listenign to an IPOD at 70 degrees? Of course this only effective in the "nuanced land of 2+2=5."

Well, your straw man argume... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Well, your straw man arguments about comfy chairs and ipods and the words you put into my mouth about nazis are interesting and all, but irrelevant.

The sentence immediately prior to the quote I posted (you would know if you bothered to follow links and read):

The use of force, mental torture, threats, insults, or exposure to unpleasant and inhumane treatment of any kind is prohibited by law and is neither authorized nor. condoned by the US Government.

Now this:

I will come out and condone having un-uniformed enemy combatant non-citizen terrorists being "chained to the floor of an empty room for 24-48 hours with no food or water, extreme temperatures, and extremely loud music."

Do you condone that for un-uniformed, non-citizen detainees who were picked up erroneously and are subsequently set free? If you don't, then we agree. If you do...

I guess that makes me a nazi, huh?

No, just an asshole.

Try terrorists? OK, so was ... (Below threshold)
Peter:

Try terrorists? OK, so was there a CSI:Kabul that was out gathering evidence against these "alleged" (my left one!) terrorists?

That's what I thought. What nonsense.

I think the torture warrant... (Below threshold)
Regret:

I think the torture warrant idea is worthy of consideration, however I think it has at least one major flaw. Unless backed up with the threat of death, it seems to me that torture wouldn't be that effective. Would the warrants authorize the use of deadly force?

mantis:You are mis... (Below threshold)
Peter:

mantis:

You are misquoting Durbin's, er, FBI source: It clearly states...

"...Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold..."

18-24 hours is a lot different than 24-48 hours. Moreover, if a detainee was left with "no chair, food or water" how could he possibly have "defecated on themselves"? Usually when one has NOT had something to eat or drink for "24-48" as you say, those bodily functions become very difficult to achieve. (I asked my father-in-law who is doctor.) The detainee had to have eaten within 24 hours to poop himself, to put it bluntly. Moreover, do we know if the detainee had perhaps refused his meals and water?

Morever, Durbin has trouble keeping nouns in order ..."detainee...themselves". Is this ONE detainee or many? He speaks of one detainee but FBI agent uses a more collective noun "themselves". The FBI agent also has a subject-verb disagreement in the first sentence: "I entered interview rooms to find a detainee..." Was one detainee in the different rooms simeltaneously? Odd that was not corrected in the report. A small semnatical point for sure, I think. But interesting all the same.

Your precious sentence says... (Below threshold)
STan:

Your precious sentence says nothing about the application of this law to un-uniformed combantats captured on the battlefield. It says nothing about ethics or effectivenss either.

So what do you have next in order to dodge my question of where you draw the line ethically?

The "straw man" bit would be cute if this was 8th grade debate, but you damn well I was just being colorful and this has no bearing on the heart of my argument. Perception is not reality.

I might be an asshole, but at least I am not drinking the cool-aid.

Wait a tic...Also,... (Below threshold)
Peter:

Wait a tic...

Also, was the FBI agent there for the entire 18-24 hours of this detainee's alleged "torture"? He sounds like he came in and out for whatever reason. How does he know the detainee wasn't fed.

Again he speaks in the singular and then the plural about this detainee or detainee referring to them in 2nd sentence as "they". Is this to say they ALL were defecating and urinating on themselves? Or just this one guy? It's certainly very, very unclear!

Wait a tic...Also,... (Below threshold)
Peter:

Wait a tic...

Also, was the FBI agent there for the entire 18-24 hours of this detainee's alleged "torture"? He sounds like he came in and out for whatever reason. How does he know the detainee wasn't fed.

Again he speaks in the singular and then the plural about this detainee or detainee referring to them in 2nd sentence as "they". Is this to say they ALL were defecating and urinating on themselves? Or just this one guy? It's certainly very, very unclear!

Correction: The singular an... (Below threshold)
Peter:

Correction: The singular and plural note I made was incorrect. I see now that the agent was referring to the plural "occasions". Apologies.

mantis:How exactly... (Below threshold)
Peter:

mantis:

How exactly is "force" being used when detainees are on the ground in the fetal position? The FBI agent idicates no use of force whatsoever in his report. Interrogation tactics, sure—loud music, messing with the thermostat—all hardly the stuff of the Nazis, Pol Pot or Stalin.

Peter, first it wasn't a qu... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Peter, first it wasn't a quote, second, "18-24 hours or more.

Stan, I was not aware that your "where do you draw the line, comfy chairs", bit was an actual question, and not just "color". I'm not prepared to list what techniques are acceptable and what aren't, but I do think if we are going to champion ourselves as the "beacon of freedom and democracy" with a commitment to human rights we ought to practice what we preach.

You still haven't answered my question about detainees who aren't terrorists and end up being released.

mantis:'Or more' c... (Below threshold)
Peter:

mantis:

'Or more' could mean any length of time, not necessarily 24-48 as you kept on writing. To use a higher number is simply being arbitaray in the presentation of information.

Call it semantics if you will, but as I pointed out it makes a difference in a detainee's ability to perform bodily functions.

My primary reason for oppos... (Below threshold)
ThomasD:

My primary reason for opposing the use of torture is not concern for the vermin to found at Gitmo, it is concern for those tasked with their confinement. I do not want our government in the position of compelling anyone to perform acts of torture on another. Real torture is simply too denigrating and dehumanizing for the torturor. Sure we could call for volunteers to perform the tasks but it is not realistic to expect that no- one involved in the entire process will have objections.

Nice, but why stop there? Y... (Below threshold)
melior:

Nice, but why stop there? You've clearly convinced yourself that anytime your morals are inconvenient to your sense of vengeance they can be abandoned. Just add a cute name, breathe enough of your own exhaust, come up with a masturbatory 3rd grade reading list philosophical justification and the sky's the limit!

Assassination warrants, abortion warrants, crucifixion warrants, child molestation warrants, gay bashing warrants, rape warrants, lynching warrants, witch burning warrants, human shield warrants, terrorism warrants...

Welcome to Wizbang's Amerikuh!

ThomasD: Good point. Not ma... (Below threshold)
F15C:

ThomasD: Good point. Not many would want the job - until the need arises. If there were grounds and the warrant issued, finding someone to do what is necessary would not be difficult. It is not that I'm disagreeing with you, but the passion to save innocent lives from evil behavior can instill strength of body, mind, and spirit.

melior: You forgot one - the "laugh-at-melior-tripping-over-his-last-two-brain-cells warrant". "masturbatory 3rd grade reading list philosophical justification"?!?! BwaaaaaHaHaHaHa... snort. Stop it, you're killin' me.

mantis writes: No... (Below threshold)
s9:

mantis writes: Now, on the usefulness of such techniques, lets defer to the US Army Intelligence Interrogation Field Manual (FM 34-52)...

...which would be an effective argument, *if* anybody here— e.g. Jay Tea and others, who are currently advancing the notion of legitimizing torture in interrogation operations— accepted such documents as authoritative sources of relevant information for the topic under discussion.

They don't. So you might as well be quoting from Alice In Wonderland. Come to think of it, Alice In Wonderland might be a better choice.

"'The time has come,' th... (Below threshold)
mantis:

"'The time has come,' the Walrus said,
'To talk of many things:
Of shoes and ships and sealing wax,
Of cabbages and kings,
And why the sea is boiling hot,
And whether pigs have wings.'

'But wait a bit,' the Oysters cried,
'Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!'
'No hurry!' said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that."

"what I am trying to say is... (Below threshold)
frameone:

"what I am trying to say is that there are times when dearly-held moral scruples must be weighed against the price that honoring them will cost."

Screw nuance. I'm so tired of all this beating around the Bush. Why can't you just come out and fucking say it. Just fucking say it. You support torture. You're so fucking afraid of losing your own life that you support torture. You support torturing other people because your too chickenshit to die to protect the ideals of this country either in Iraq orhere at home. It's screw the Consititution, screw the Bill of Rights, screw every principle that actually does separate us from the terrorists because you surrender to your fear on a daily basis. Just fucking say it, You support torture.

Why don't YOU just say it, ... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Why don't YOU just say it, frame? You are so obsessed and fixated on keeping your hands lily-white clean, you don't give a good goddamn who has to pay the price. In fact, you're delighted that someone else is far more likely to pay that butcher's bill than you ever will be. You want to hold everyone to an impossibly high, perhaps suicidal, level of absolute conduct just so you can pat yourself on the back and hold your head up high and boast of being the voice of reason, the voice of conscience, the voice of humanity to the brutal savages and nazis that are running amok.

One thing I have noticed, though, is remarkably consistent: you have never -- never -- tried to put forth an alternative. You exist solely to criticize, to whine and complain and insult in rapidly-escalating rhetoric and hyperbole until you are quite possibly frothing with rage. The notion of putting forth your own ideas seems to have woefully beyond your capabilities.

You remind me of a puppy a friend of mine had once. That puppy would run around and piss on everything in sight, no matter what my friend would do.

At least that puppy had the excuses of youth and instinct, two things that don't apply to you.

I come here every day -- every single day -- and put forth my own ideas, opinions, and thoughts. And you come here every day, it seems, just to whine and scream and complain. Have YOU no creative instinct? Have YOU no capacity for original thought? Or did you get rid of them to make room for more Moral Outrage and Perpetual Indignity?

I've given you ample opportunity to prove me wrong, frame, but you haven't once taken those chances. I even asked "if we close down Guantanamo, then what?," hoping you or someone else would spell out exactly what you'd like to see happen then. Zero takers. In fact, you fixated on a single point, tangential to the whole thrust of the piece, with a single-minded zeal that sidetracked that whole discussion for the seeming purpose of avoiding having to give an original idea. Magnificent effort, but for what?

I would try doing things your way for a while, but I'm already lazy enough as is. And I don't think I could sleep too well knowing just how many other people would be paying the price for upholding my precious absolutist moral view. As long as it isn't YOU that's left to pick up the pieces, it all seems fine and dandy to you...

J.

Hey frame, I've been there... (Below threshold)
mesablue:

Hey frame, I've been there, have you?

On both sides.

I was captured and I've captured others.

I have wounds and and scars from my capture.

I brought coffee and food to those we were "torturing".

I've had enemies begging to be "captured" because they knew that we would treat them better than their daily living conditions.

As far as I know, we have yet to saw a person's head off with a dull knife for an example of what can happen to you if you are unlucky enough to get caught by the wrong people.

Mantis, you and framepne can pollute this place as long as you feel the need to, you just prove that those that sacrfice to protect your right to do so, do it for everyone -- without bias.


Semper Fidelis.

Jay,Thanks, just t... (Below threshold)
mesablue:

Jay,

Thanks, just thanks.

Jay -- My alternat... (Below threshold)
frameone:

Jay --

My alternatives are in everyone of my comments and it can pretty much by summed up in the phrase: the rule of law. Illegal wars and torture are this administration's legacy. What are you asking me for? An alternative to what we never should have done in the first place?What my alternative to the lying and the torture? Stop the lying and the torture.
And just what exactly do you mean by asking, "After GITMO, then what?" How about follow the rule of law? Hell, we don't even need to close GITMO. We could just, you know, start following the rule of law. The first place to start in all of this mess is for someone who can actually do something stand up and say enough is enough. But that can't happen when men of ill will in power see so many Jay Tea's out there goading them on to do worse.

For anything to change some people here are going to have to do little more of their own creative thinking and ask themselves when loyalty to a president ends and loyalty to the principles of this country begins. Sadly, at present, the two are way out whack.

The idea that anyone here would use 9-11 as a justification for torture sickens me. The fact that you rationalize this based on something you saw on a TV show is too sad and surreal for words. You put your creative thinking cap on and the best you could up with is Batman and Robin and torture? WTF

I hear you saying that you would rather torture how ever many people "need" to be tortured before you would allow one more American citizen to die in a terrorist attack on our soil. I have heard the President himself justify his war in Iraq on the basis that it is better to fight the enemy there than on our soil. How in the hell is that supposed to make the average Afghani or Iraqi feel about our presence in their countries? Tough shit, better you, than us? They get to live in war and death so we don't have to? As if torture and illegal war would ever, could ever stop the next attack from occurring. You do no better to guarantee another attack than waging illegal wars and torturing people.

These are not policies. These are the symptoms of a sickness, a sickness born of fear, a fear that was in you long before 9-11. A fear that finally found a focus and a rallying cry to stoke the fear in others so that you don't feel so alone.

Who will pay the price for this fear, this sickness? All of us, everyone. And it will be a higher price than the price we are afraid to pay now, the price of our "dearly held moral scruples" as you so glibly put it. One day we we will wake up and think that we've won, that we are finally free and we will realize that we've lost everything. That it no longer means anything to be an American because we decided it was okay to torture.
We'll wake up and realize that we've decided the only standard for whether we've gone to far is whether or not we've cut off somebodies head. Then one day someone will come along and say that there are times when some people need to be beheaded and you'll have nothing to say. You may even cheer them on.

My first alternative is to come here and keep reminding you and your readers that your brand of fear will not win.

Oh and BTW, I'm gald this is our new standard of treatment, well at least we didn't do this:

'As far as I know, we have yet to saw a person's head off with a dull knife for an example of what can happen to you if you are unlucky enough to get caught by the wrong people.'

Jay -- My alternat... (Below threshold)
frameone:

Jay --

My alternatives are in everyone of my comments and it can pretty much by summed up in the phrase: the rule of law. Illegal wars and torture are this administration's legacy. What are you asking me for? An alternative to what we never should have done in the first place?What my alternative to the lying and the torture? Stop the lying and the torture.
And just what exactly do you mean by asking, "After GITMO, then what?" How about follow the rule of law? Hell, we don't even need to close GITMO. We could just, you know, start following the rule of law. The first place to start in all of this mess is for someone who can actually do something stand up and say enough is enough. But that can't happen when men of ill will in power see so many Jay Tea's out there goading them on to do worse.

For anything to change some people here are going to have to do little more of their own creative thinking and ask themselves when loyalty to a president ends and loyalty to the principles of this country begins. Sadly, at present, the two are way out whack.

The idea that anyone here would use 9-11 as a justification for torture sickens me. The fact that you rationalize this based on something you saw on a TV show is too sad and surreal for words. You put your creative thinking cap on and the best you could up with is Batman and Robin and torture? WTF

I hear you saying that you would rather torture how ever many people "need" to be tortured before you would allow one more American citizen to die in a terrorist attack on our soil. I have heard the President himself justify his war in Iraq on the basis that it is better to fight the enemy there than on our soil. How in the hell is that supposed to make the average Afghani or Iraqi feel about our presence in their countries? Tough shit, better you, than us? They get to live in war and death so we don't have to? As if torture and illegal war would ever, could ever stop the next attack from occurring. You do no better to guarantee another attack than waging illegal wars and torturing people.

These are not policies. These are the symptoms of a sickness, a sickness born of fear, a fear that was in you long before 9-11. A fear that finally found a focus and a rallying cry to stoke the fear in others so that you don't feel so alone.

Who will pay the price for this fear, this sickness? All of us, everyone. And it will be a higher price than the price we are afraid to pay now, the price of our "dearly held moral scruples" as you so glibly put it. One day we we will wake up and think that we've won, that we are finally free and we will realize that we've lost everything. That it no longer means anything to be an American because we decided it was okay to torture.
We'll wake up and realize that we've decided the only standard for whether we've gone to far is whether or not we've cut off somebodies head. Then one day someone will come along and say that there are times when some people need to be beheaded and you'll have nothing to say. You may even cheer them on.

My first alternative is to come here and keep reminding you and your readers that your brand of fear will not win.

oh and sorry for the double... (Below threshold)
frameoneq:

oh and sorry for the double post.

Let's do a little analysis ... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Let's do a little analysis on frame's little temper tantrum.

Suggestions for improving the current situation as we find ourselves: 1, "follow the rule of law."
Citations of actual laws: 0.
Specific examples of actions: 0
Usable ideas: 0 (barring the invention of a time machine and going back to change what has already occurred)
Ratio of actual substance to more bombast: too low to measure.

I asked a simple question: OK, suppose you get your wish and we close down Guantanamo -- then what? What do you want to do with the detainees after that? According to international accords, they are to be given military hearings to determine if they are legitimate prisoners of war or illegal combatants. In either case, they can be detained until the end of hostilities. Those hearings have been held since day one. And no sovereign government has come forward to claim them as combatants. So, what do we do with them? I put forth what I saw as possibilities; you put forth more empty rhetoric.

In frame's world, it seems, when one finds that one is in a hole, the single most important thing is to find out just who dug it and yell at them. One can only hope that at some future point, after the hole-digger has been identified and every single misdeed they have ever committed has been dragged out and used to beat them over the head thoroughly, that someone will eventually start thinking of ways to get out of the hole.

Frame on a leaking lifeboat in shark-infested waters: "Okay, who the hell got on board this rubber raft with stiletto heels? Who was the genius? Come on, who here is the careless, selfish moron who's going to get us all killed? Nobody is going to do ANYTHING until we find out who punched all those holes in the bottom. Then we put them on trial, grant them their appeal if they're convicted, and eventually find a way to transport them to a prison where they will be treated humanely for the rest of their sentence, because that's what..." (glub glub glub... chomp)

My solution? "Someone's shoes are putting holes in the bottom! Everyone take off your shoes while I find the patch kit! We'll figure out whose shoes did it AFTER we stop taking on water!"

I await your response, chum.

J.

(And yes, that last word was a deliberate pun.)

You'll have to ask the BUsh... (Below threshold)
frameone:

You'll have to ask the BUsh administration that. It's their fucking war. But I say you can't stick someone in jail for the rest of their live no matter what you think they did without a fair trial based on evidence. That's the law of our land and the law of the Geneva Conventions as well. But while reasonable people are trying to figure out how to go about doing this, you run around arguing that we should torture them. For what purpose or point?

You have no cogent argument for why these prisoners are beyond the protection of the law. You have no cogent argument for why the Bush administration should be able to behave beyond the law. You write from emotion as often as I do. Not a single one of your recent posts in favor of torture offers a single fact that would suggest torture "saves lives." All you've got are hypotehticals culled from TV shows, spy novels and your own vague longing for power in the midst of your own personal fears.


Argh. The first half of tha... (Below threshold)
frameone:

Argh. The first half of that comment got cut off.

Essentially, you're disonhest Jay Tea and you know it. I have never argued for the closing of GITMO only for the US to start acting like the rule of law is in effect there. Determining someone's status under the Geneva conventions is not the end of due process for these prisoners. You know that I have posted all over this blog specific passages from the Geneve Conventions that grant the basic protections of due process and humane treatment to anyone in the custody of an occupying power no matter whether they are a sabateur, spy or mercenary or whatever else they might have been fucking doing. You have never once deigned to respond to any of these arguments. Instead you keep posting more excuses for why we should be allowed to torture people.

You are being dishonest to suggest that I haven't offered specific citations of charters and treaties to which the US is a signatory and which we now appear to be in violation because of our invasion of Iraq and treatment of prisoners.

You are being deliberately obtuse to suggest that following the Geneva Conventions is not a usable idea, as if the time to apply it has come and gone so oh well we can't go back and undue that. No crying over spilt milk. Who the fuck is suggesting we go back in time? I'm arguing we need to once again start behaving like a country that believes in the rule of law NOW. But no, when I say that I'm being anti-American and uncreative and overly critical. Listen, I'm arguing for the rule of law and you;re arguing for toture. I wish you;d just come out and admit that that's where we stand. Or do you not have the courage of your convictions?

Here's a suggestion for you... (Below threshold)
frameone:

Here's a suggestion for you Jay Tea.

Let's just agree to agree that you support torture and I don't. Once we've got that established we can begin to discuss whcih position is more effective in fighting the war on terror. You say torture will save lives. How do you know that? Can you point to facts and statistics? Cuz I can point to the American judicial system as a pretty system that manages to put people in jail and stop crimes without recourse to torture. You want to go up against that track record with your own facts about the use value of torture?

No, frame, it's not "Bush's... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

No, frame, it's not "Bush's war." It's OUR war. It's the nation's war. And one more time I'll ask you: what SHOULD we do? What is YOUR solution for getting out of this situation? Or are you content to just pull a Pilate and wash your hands of all responsibility? "Oh, it's terrible, it's horrible, it's just awful, I just can't bring myself to do anything about it but point fingers and hold myself above it all."

You say I can't say why these detainees are not covered by the law. You're asking me to prove a negative. I challenge YOU to cite the law that covers them -- every law I've found so far specifically excludes them on the basis of their own conduct.

We are fighting a war that would be utterly incomprehensible to the crafters of the Geneva accords. They never crafted policies that apply, because it literally never occurred to them that it would ever be needed. To them, it would have been like passing laws outlawing the drowning of fish.

You keep tossing around the term "illegal," yet never come up with the specific laws violated. Nor do you ever suggest new laws to deal with these unprecedented circumstances.

Come on, get specific. Do you want them given criminal trials? On what charges? Where's the court's jurisdiction? Our laws do NOT apply to foreigners in foreign lands -- that's what the term "sovereignty" means.

These are NOT criminals, these are NOT enemy soldiers, these are NOT mercenaries in the traditional term. They are unaligned, un-uniformed free-lance combatants who follow absolutely no recognized rules of warfare or civilization. There is literally no law, no treaty that covers their behavior.

J.

I have a counterproposal, f... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

I have a counterproposal, frame: why don't we just agree that you see everything in crystal-clear black and white, and you want to make sure that everything done is done by your impeccably-high moral standards, regardless of the consequences and how many innocent people suffer and die just so you can brag about how clean your hands are -- because we both know that you won't be the one to pay that price. That you are so obsessed with your purity that you don't give a damn about anything -- or anyone -- else.

But I have to wonder -- why do you care so much about this? By your own words, this isn't your war, it's Bush's. You've already washed your hands, so why don't you just walk away from it? You wouldn't want to sully yourself with actually DEALING with it, after all.

Go back your your little fairyland, where all the streets are paved with gold and the rivers are chocolate and nobody ever even stubs their toe because they're all so good and peaceful and loving and stuffed with the milk of human kindness and all things wonderful. The rest of us will continue to live in the real world -- we can't all afford to strap on the blinders and stick our fingers in our ears and pretend it doesn't exist.

J.

Regarding frameone's ideali... (Below threshold)
F15C:

Regarding frameone's idealized world-view, a while ago, the Chicago Tribune reported that “recent information from Guantanamo has derailed plans for attacks during the Athens Olympics next month and possibly forestalled at least a dozen attacks elsewhere”. I think we could all agree then that if frameone were in charge of managing the detainees the world would still be grieving the deaths, dimemberment, and maimings of many innocents in just the thirteen situations cited above. And probably more.

As we all know there have most likely been other acts of deliberate, cooly planned, terroristic slaughtering of innocents prevented by information obtained from the detainees. But the killing of high-profile innocents would at the Olympics would have been a great victory for those who choose to deliberately and with dedicated purpose kill and maim innocent people of all nations and religions - don't you agree frameone?

Though imperfect, the system we have is operating under the rule of law. The issue is the interpretation of the rule of law. Whose interpretation do we choose? That of the International Red Cross or that of our elected and appointed leaders? I choose the latter for constitutional reasons. The IRC did not state that torture was being used at gitmo, they stated that in their opinion that what was happening at gitmo was "tantamount to torture". Strangely, they did not mention the lives saved by those actions that while "tantamount to", were not torture. We know why they didn't - and still don't. Its political with them and their ilk. Its not life and death that matters, but only who wins the political skirmish.

The following is a quote from an analysis of the Geneva Conventions and the gitmo detainees. (I can't find the citation or link but will post when I do). "The laws of war essentially propose a contract to combatants: if you observe these rules of civilzed warfare, then you will be treated in a civilzed manner. The conditional nature of legitimate combatant status is reflected in the text of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. A common article two of those conventions states that parties to the treaty are under no legal obligation to apply their terms to non-parties who do not themselves abide by the law of armed conflict."

Do we bestow the same status on Al Qaeda and Taliban as we would Iraq's former Republican Guard? No. Absolutely not. Members of the RG who followed the rules of the GC are and have been accorded all rights due. Al Qaeda and the Taliban are a different matter - by their own choosing. They are not stupid. Most of their leadership are highly educated. With dedicated purpose and malice aforethought they chose, and continue to chose, their courses of action knowing full well that it places them outside the current international laws and accepted rules of combat. Though clearly they are trained to do everything possible (honor has no meaning to them) to take advantage of international and national legal systems under which they may be detained. Some would observe that next to blowing up children, it is one of their most effective tactics. I see that training as a strategic method of enabling them blow up more children and so in effect is even more powerful from their perspective. They can do whatever they want, get caught, flaunt the rule of law to leverage an ignorant portion of the populace, gain a pulpit from which to preach about how awful the systems that captured them are, and in so doing demonstrate clearly to their followers and potential followers just how right they are about us.

All laws and rules of war do not recognize, and in fact are in place to prevent, exactly the kinds of far beyond the pale behavior exhibited by Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Let me remind you of what we are at war with in the purest sense. This is Al Qaeda's own statement as to exactly what they intend to do to Americans:

""We have the right to kill 4 million Americans -- 2 million of them children -- and to exile twice as many and wound and cripple hundreds of thousands. Furthermore, it is our right to fight them with chemical and biological weapons, so as to afflict them with the fatal maladies that have afflicted the Muslims because of the [Americans'] chemical and biological weapons."

Islamic terrorist group "Al Qaeda"
June 12, 2002

http://www.memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sd&ID=SP38802 "

Frameone, you explain to us just how the Geneva convention, or any law of any land can *stop* Al Qaeda from achieving the killing and maiming of millions of Americans. Two million of them children.

No vague generalities, no idealistic feel-good fluff. Real concrete actions. You tell us and the rest of America *exactly*, in a step-by-step process how you would *prevent* - not prosecute after the fact - but prevent Al Qaeda from doing what they have clearly stated they are dedicated beyond the point of suicidal acts to achieve. Explain that to us. The burden of proof is on you.

The current system has prevented many deaths and dismemberments at the hands of terrorists. Show us precisely why under your system most if not all of those deaths and dismemberments would be fact right now and the blood of those killed not still be stains on the world. Explain as though you are talking to the Olympians, the attendees, or any that would have been destroyed in the other twelve acts. They, and we, are waiting for your answer.

A clarification to a piece ... (Below threshold)
F15C:

A clarification to a piece of my last post: The International Red Cross performs a lot of great work. I did not intend to, but did paint the entire organization with a broad brush as to being completely driven by politics. Though I believe their are politically driven elements to the IRC, I do not believe that is true of the entire organization. I apologize for the mis-statement.




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