Saturday, November 15, 2003
Yoinked From NorbiznessI'm pretty proud of my caption for the contest over at Norbizness, so I'm stealing it—Norbizzy be damned. It's a picture of Paul Wolfowitz, and my entry's below:
Morpheus: "What? Trinity, this isn't the right guy. I said Neo, not neocon."
Ha! Ha! Yeah... I don't really know what that means. Probably that I'm never getting laid again. If you want to see something that's actually funny, click over to Norbizness for a photographic pictorial of Paul Bremer and the Fun Times White House Gang.
Which probably means Norbizness is never getting laid again, either.
posted by kriston at 3:11 PM........
Restoring Dignity to Adult-oriented NewsNYT twat David Brooks argues that the best un-Dean would be the candidate whose pitch is to soften the tone in DC and end the across-all-boards hostilities between liberals and conservatives. That Brooks—what a fucking Nazi! I think that maybe
OK, I don't really think that David Brooks is a twat. (As twattish as his suggestion that the burden of building bridges should fall on an under-polling, non-nominated Democrat rather than on the [quasi-]elected president.) The fact is that minus the judicial nominations/filibuster issue where both sides are clearly playing partisan ball (though the Republicans started it), I have a hard time coming up with concrete examples of liberal tricksiness. But with the Bush administration, well, how much time have you got?
For example, part of Bush's program to bring bipartisanship back to the White House is by giving the professional media the finger on a more-or-less daily basis. Dana Milbank writes a frustratingly funny WaPo number about Bush's exclusive interview with the UK's The Sun, a tabloid only differtiable from our own National Inquirer by the notorious "Page 3" spread of nude women it runs daily:
But the Sun is so much more than breasts. It is also reporting this week on a woman who is "made of two women" and "is NOT the biological mother of two of the children she conceived and had naturally." Other news items highlighted on the Sun's Web site: "Man begins 12-day sausage, bean and chip bath to promote Brit food," "German saboteurs plotted to bomb Palace with peas in WW2, files reveal," and "Sobbing islanders say sorry to the ancestor of minister eaten by natives."Were I an editor at the National Inquirer I'd be furious—it's a finer publication by any measure. (Who hasn't followed the Bat-Boy with awe and affection, as he grew up before the public eye? And man-oh-man can you believe that huge whale of woman married that wisp of a man! Oh that's so funny!) But I'm as red-blooded as any other American, and I realize that to get the President's attention the NI needs to get some tits, stat. Being partisan isn't enough, or the Moonies at the Washington Times would have W's cell-phone number. You need tits.
OR—you need to be owned by Rupert Murdoch, as The Sun is. Because if Rupert Murdoch asked for it, George W. Bush would give an exclusive interview—a mark of sincere and rare prestige—to TV Guide. (Of course, Bush'd give Murdoch a handjob if he asked for it.) Then it sort of is a partisan issue, just like when Bush boxed out the major media from the White House in favor of small outlets with tiny circulations so that people wouldn't be reading the mealy-mouthed answers Bush would've had for the tough questions Bush would've been receiving from a real newspaper. And that's bigger bullshit than the verb tenses in that last sentence—Bush is in fact working the refs.
Since I'm handing out free advice today—and to bring it all home—David Brooks needs to get a clue if he believes that liberal/conservative fighting is all a lot of hurt feelings and miscommunications. There are irresponsible liberals past and present, but the escalation of the war on language has been a Republican Party program point-of-honor since the Reagan administration. It's how they work, and it's how they win, and it's cornered the left into fighting back.
Lurid sexuality, however, has up until now been the province of the Democrats. Will they leave us nothing?
posted by kriston at 2:52 PM........
On The Road AgainConsidering the guerilla targetting of police officer corps or civilian Iraqis who assist the American occupation, does anyone really want a cherry spot on the Iraqi Governing Council? It looks as if those chairs will actually mean something next June, when the American-led coalition hands over sovereignty of Iraq to the Iraqis. A timed transfer of authority is a radical departure from the previous plan, which involved elections, constitutions, and other principal democratic institutions. The power transfer doesn't mean the immediate withdrawal of American troops—but judging from the acceleration of the transfer of authority, you have to assume that most of the boys'll be home by August. Just by the spring, 30,000 troops are supposed to be heading home, shrinking our military presence there by a quarter. The NYT predicts that Iraqis won't be celebrating with a bon voyage! when American forces leave. (Gotta stop and damn those liberals, because if it weren't for their enormous sway over the way Bush waged this war, the President wouldn't have to withdraw troops and hand over authority prematurely while we still have no answers to the who, how, and why questions regarding the insurgency. )
Remember the reverse-domino theory, about how the democratic flower of Iraq would unfurl and enfold all of the Middle East, nation by nation? Maybe in that reasoning whatever we end up doing in Iraq is a worthwhile gamble, because many ME nations can't get much worse as far as we're concerned, and so long as you put aside our abject goals in the war on terror or our alliance with Israel there's nothing left with which to indict the neocons. Of course if Rumsfeld tipped the domino the wrong way, and our actions perhaps provoked terrorist actions in near-democratic-yet-on-the-brink-of-Islamicist nations like Turkey, well, that would be extremely bad. And if you do factor in the war on terror... well, we're not fighting that anymore.
I'm curious to see if even Tom Freidman thinks this is a good idea.
posted by kriston at 10:31 AM........
Friday, November 14, 2003
The Coolest Since Cliff Claven, No LongerTo those of you out there who showed up for the CD release party at your local mail center, or were sorely disappointed when Ben Gibbard didn't personally deliver your package, put your minds at ease. The federal government issued a cease and desist letter to The Postal Service—the band, not the eponymous branch of the federal government. The USPS has effectively forsaken any chance of anyone ever again saying that the postal service was cool. I'm thinking they wanted the name change issued before the hipsters all started declaring that the postal service was over.
Pitchfork has it right: "I mean, if the federal government sends any band a cease-and-desist letter this year, it should be Staind!" While you're mulling over your own Ashcroftian blacklists, G.p's working on a new name for the soon-to-be-ex-Postal Service. Top on my list right now is The Postal Cervix, but leave your suggestions.
The postal service went postal on The Postal Service—ha! ha! ah... eh.
posted by kriston at 11:02 AM........
Thursday, November 13, 2003
Are We Done Yet...?Only just this once— but you gotta feel bad for the Capitol Hill kids who have to endure the 30+ hour Republican filibuster marathon. I haven't really been paying attention (is it over? I heard that the Dems were going to stick it out until tomorrow morning to one-up the Repubs or something) but TNR has the first-hand account, if you're interested.
You may now resume disliking Capitol Hillites, who occupy a great location with a few nice joints that they clutter and distill, by always, always wearing suits.
posted by kriston at 6:40 PM........
Britney Spears Supports the TerroristsCourtesy of Gawker, it would appear that Britney Spears has apparently OD'ed:
12:03 (CNN) NY - Britney Spears, the pop music diva, was rushed to New York Cornell Medical Centre early this morning with symptons of an apparent drug overdose, sources said. Ms. Spears, 22 years old, has been in New York the last week promoting the release of her latest CD, "In The Zone", and was said to be recovering after receiving medical attention. There is no timetable for her release, say those close to the situation.Hope you're not 12, 'cause your mom just totally raided your room for Britney Spears paraphernalia.
In other news that's equally not-nerdy, Paris Hilton's "released" not one but two lurid sex tapes. Where's that MTV reality show?
On VH1, maybe?
posted by kriston at 2:02 PM........
Demo MemoPat Roberts (R-KA), in a WaPo editorial, desparate to stoke the fires of the non-issue of all non-issues—the Democratic minority memo that suggested an investigation into executive "stove-piping" of pre-war intelligence:
The threshold question for the committee should be whether our intelligence agencies produced reasonable and accurate analysis, not how that intelligence was used by policymakers.I'm comforted by the fact that the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence does not know what fucking vetting means.
Here's Josh Marshall's Hill column on Roberts after he said the executive was "ill-served" by the CIA:
[The National Intelligence Estimate] was only put together when the policy was being sold, not when it was being put together. So the administration could not have been misled or ill-served by it because it was never used to formulate policy. The administration only used it to sell the policy to a skeptical Congress.And it would be utterly ridiculous for our legislative branch to not investigate these well-known charges. It's only partisan hackery, as Roberts accuses, if the Democrats had no intention of getting to the bottom of the complete breakdown in intelligence. I'd say that characterizes Roberts's position succinctly.
We're all being "ill-served" by the Republican committee majority in this case.
posted by kriston at 12:52 PM........
Whatever Happened to Crazy?The "I Told You So Without, You Know, Really Telling You So" award for the day goes to Kevin Drum. Regarding this intriguing but substantively hollow WaPo report on speculation that Saddam Hussein is coordinating the guerilla war in Iraq—and has been all along, showing a mark of military genius—Calpundit says:
It's genuinely interesting, that is, because I've always had a sneaking suspicion that this was exactly what was going on. Everything I've read about Saddam Hussein indicates that he's frequently out of touch with reality, especially in military matters, but it's quite possible that this time somebody finally pounded some sense into him: there was no way he could win against the U.S. military.New patterns seem to suggest that there's organization to the Iraqi resistance, but I think that "sneaking suspicions" in this case only amount to recognizing that patterns may be emerging. In any case I don't remember reading Kevin Drum's gradual realizations.
Of course, I don't know any better than he does, but the WaPo article leads me to believe that no one knows that much more about it. Here they quote a Miami police officer who's serving in the Sunni triangle:
"He released criminals out onto the streets," said [Lt. Col. Oscar] Mirabile, a Miami police official and former homicide detective who commands the 1st Brigade, 124th Infantry Regiment of the Florida National Guard, which has been operating in Ramadi since May. "Why would anybody do that? Saddam knew he couldn't win a war head to head against coalition forces. He was setting the stage for what you're looking at right now."Attributing motive to the doings of a noted madman is dubious, though his analysis sounds fair—but here we invoke the Chris Rock Crazy Conjecture: "Whatever happened to just plain crazy?"
Here's the nut of the article, in my opinion:
As one top U.S. officer here noted, Wednesday's suicide bombing of the Italian military police headquarters in an area that had been largely quiet appears to be part of a continuing effort "to spread violence to all parts of the country."That sounds consistent with the much-aligned state of intelligence on the ground. If Saddam really is orchestrating things, it might seem to make it easier, maybe, because we're really good at lopping off the top of the hierarchal pyramid. I hope that in lieu of firm evidence the burning question at the Pentago remains: What if what we're seeing is what we're getting?
If Saddam is still in charge, are the Iraqi resistance further rehabilitated—from terrorist, to guerilla, to soldier?
posted by kriston at 12:26 PM........
Escalation in the SouthThe battle for the anyone-but-Confederate candidate saw some heat yesterday, with John Edwards retaining retired general Hugh "Clark Aint All That" Shelton as a "foreign-policy advisor." Clark was none too pleased about it, and his people wrote Edwards's people a letter suggesting that Shelton's criticism of Wesley Clark ("integrity and character issues") isn't credible if he's working for one of Clark's opponents. He's got it all wrong—Shelton's criticism of Clark, not to mention those patriotic stars on his shoulders, is precisely why he's working for Edwards.
I like Edwards, and I like Clark, but I don't like the fact that the Dems have all these generals on hand but none of them can get along. (Note: Shelton hasn't endorsed Edwards or any other candidate at this point.) It would be nice if we could tout a cross-candidate ex-military apparat in '04. I don't really care about who stole who's girlfriend at Westpoint, but I and (I imagine) moderate voters would like to hear why these guys aren't saddling up with Bush, repeated ad infinitum and in explicit detail.
Still, I have to say that pitting general against general is the single patently strategic move that Edwards has made so far. He's a good candidate, and I much admired his Gore-like insistence on writing out detailed policy proposals for his website, but the reason he hasn't caught fire so far is because he hasn't really done anything. This move says to me that he understands his position in the race: Edwards has neither the grassroots nor the establishment in his corner to run outright. He's not as the un-Dean, but he'd like to be the un-Clark, who is the only viable candidate for the un-Dean mantle. At the same time, Edwards's gamble depends upon Clark not self-destructing so that there's something of a race in the South and the West to which Dean's not privy—a race in which Edwards can build some momentum, a race in which he can box out the other guys who are lusting after the same regions. It kind of sounds like a BCS thing to me, where you root for your rival to win a big game because of the fact that you beat them, and their stronger standings make you stronger, and I'm real off the point by now.
Edwards did retain Shelton—that part is fact.
posted by kriston at 9:19 AM........
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
Like Chickenhawks With Their Heads Cut OffThat the Bush administration is acknowledging that the mission is nowhere near accomplished is good news. Fred Kaplan from Slate on the week's changes in tone and in action:
Whatever the U.S. armed forces do next—and it's a safe bet the change in policy will go well beyond semantics—should not come as much of a surprise. The muddling-through of the past couple of months could not have been sustained much longer, on any grounds. Attacks by insurgents have risen from a half-dozen a day to 35; American fatalities have multiplied from an average of one a day to four; meanwhile, Iraqi hearts and minds are more drifting away from than lurching toward the "coalition" cause. Something had to give. We're not pulling out, so it's logical that we're pushing in deeper.Good. We shouldn't leave Iraq, and we should do something to help our troops who are deep in the middle of it. With only rumors to go on it's hard to say if any of Bush's actions—up to and including removing Bremer from command—represent the dawning realization that their lack of a post-war plan has led to a post-war war. There are political points to be scored here, and I love me a good round of "I-told-you-so's," but most importantly the administration is pulling its head from out of the sand, or its ass, or wherever else it's been that's compelled it to see the escalating crisis and conclude that the media's just been reporting it wrong.
After a day like today, you have to remind yourself that at one point very recently our president said of the terrorists/guerillas, "Bring 'em on."
Let's hope that this turning point marks the one that we need.
posted by kriston at 5:33 PM........
I Say Make Breakfast TacosAstute words from Matthew Yglesias:
As Fareed Zakaria pointed out over the weekend, the administration is quite enthusiastic about the part of democracy-building that involves toppling dictators, but seems to have almost no interest in the part where you actually build the democracy. They say you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs, but all the broken eggs in the world won't give you breakfast unless you do some cooking.Democracy done up Rolando-style gets my vote.
Fareed Zakaria's notes are aight too.
posted by kriston at 5:18 PM........
UnbreakableAll the hemming and hawing over Clark's dishevelled campaign team vs. Dean's Mean Machine has been nothing but inside baseball—until AFSCME and SEIU announced their joint endorsement of Howard Dean. That's the two biggest prongs of the AFL-CIO—the twin pincers of labor—who only weeks ago were seriously shopping Clark, and even more recently seemed promised to Gephardt's purse. Daily Kos has the notes on how Clark let the nominations slip through his fingers by prematurely announcing his decision to abandon Iowa.
So today came the first real ramifications of Clark's uncoordinated campaign. And maybe the first real evidence of it, too: The funny thing about the blogosphere is that reports of dissatisfied DraftClark-web geeks get the same airtime as actual reports of strategic mishaps. But there's no mistaking this—Clark absolutely did not need to announce that he wasn't courting Iowa, no matter if other primaries caught his fancy.
Note that it was a good thing Clark didn't chase Iowa: He didn't have the time or resources to make a show of it, and a poor campaigning effort might have led to a disastrous defeat to Dennis Kucinich, of all candidates, at the hands of Iowa's notoriously leftist primary voters. Also note that I was no more aware of Clark's spurning of the unions at the time than, well, Clark was. The difference between his handlers and me is that it is his handlers' job to know exactly how to tip-toe across the campaign terrain, and it's my job to waste a bunch of time being a big nerd (presumably for your entertainment).
So Dean's off and running, and the union nods will be a humongous credit boost toward the institutional support that he needs now to cap the primaries. I don't see what the other candidates can do that Dean isn't already doing really well, and the other Dems haven't made the unelectable meme stick (no matter how true it is). If Dean has a weakness—other than the fact that Rove is dying to bring the full $170-million bearing of his anti-liberal war chest crashing down on Dean's skull—I haven't seen it. Until the general election, Dean looks unbreakable.
I think today marks a real turning point. Gephardt now has no business staying in the election.
posted by kriston at 5:12 PM........
O 69!I... I think I'm slowly recovering from the tour-de-force shock that locals casually refer to as Drag Queen Bingo. I don't know what I was expecting walking in—men dressed like women, drolly calling out numbers for Bath and Body-style prizes, I think—but at some point in the evening I realized I was in over my head. It might've been when either GiGi Couture or Xavier Onassis Bloomingdale ("the oldest white woman living in captivity"), I can't remember which, was modeling a la Vanna White the prize of the round—a 10-inch black dildo ("complete with balls!")—while the DJ blared the theme from The Price is Right. Maybe it all hit me when several large-screen TVs, the kind usually installed in bars for college football purposes, simultaneously broadcast an athletic all-male activity of a different sort, to the, ahem, raucous and very engaged editorializing of the Queens. ("Suck it! Suck it! Suck it, bitch, suck it!") All I know is that the look on the face of the poor straight guy who was pulled on stage and—in an absolutely Amazonian (is that accurate?) ritual to determine which way the round's winning Bingo diagonal should "lean"—was depantsed... you don't forget that expression. The horror, the horror....
To the terrified construction worker I sat next to last night: Yeah, you better hope no one develops those pictures. The places you stuffed those dollars—for shame!
posted by kriston at 2:51 PM........
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
Poorman Owns YouThe Poorman, extra-special guest blogger today at National Review's The Corner.
That's seriously some potent hilarity. If, you know, you are in possession of the right kinds of extremely nerdy online habits.
I'm betting if you're here, you are.
posted by kriston at 6:03 PM........
Reading Fred Barnes's article on the rise of abortion opposition as a central tenent of American conservatism, seeing that picture of Bush and his all-white, all-male company draft sexual health policy for the nation without the input of medicine, scholarship, or women... It made me think of this very simple piece by Barbara Kruger, from 1989. Choice politics always leads me to this piece. It seems to me quaint, here, or whenever I see her work in a gallery or in a textbook. It's a piece that needs the proper context: It should be pure information, propaganda, on shirts, fliers, signs, scrawled on walls, captured in slogans, reported in newspapers. Anyway, that's how I take it, and Mattie, post away so I don't have to look at that photo anymore.
UPDATE: Amy Sullivan at Political Aims:
But let's take them at their word. Let's assume that only the ten sponsors were invited up on stage and that no women sponsored the legislation. How exactly is that a good thing for Republicans? "Hey, we wrote a bill that intimately affects women and their bodies and we didn't have any support from any actual women for it..."Oh, I think she has it exactly right: The bill and ensuing photo isn't explicitly good for the Republican Party because it wasn't done with the Republican Party in mind. Were the voters or the base or independents ostensibly involved in the drafting of the bill, women would have been on hand and might even have been sponsors of the bill. Might've even been in the photo! But this bill is the product of an obsessive male dominance over the uterus so far as I can tell. The issue is choice: Who gets it, who's giving it, who's taking it away.
What's Amy's deal on this? She's an important writer/weblogger, and she's a woman, so her opinion matters a dozen times more than mine. And yet she posts about the controversial D&X bill under the title, "Noted Without Comment." She asks, "Whose voices aren't being heard?" and doesn't register her own. I've read her American Prospect piece on D&X, about how a ban will not significantly affect abortions in America—though she doesn't necessarily say how good or bad this is. I won't surmise on her silence but it does feel like she's hugging the fence.
That might be the ol' male patriarch in me though, insisting that she have an opinion on the subject.
posted by kriston at 5:35 PM........
Jumping ShipOi! Bad news for Kerry, courtesy of Josh Marshall. What's irritating to me about Kerry (and Gephardt, and Lieberman too, come to think of it) is that these "it's my turn" Democrats will never bow out. It sounds like Kerry's campaign is floundering—not that that's the end of the world, necessarily—but even if it were very clearly burning to ashes they'd stick it through. C'mon, take your "also ran" consolation prize and have a seat. We'll never get the benefit of a debate with <4 candidates. Kerry can stick this news out—he still may have a shot as the establishment Dem. Were it Lieberman in the headlines today, I'd hope he'd take stock and consider dropping out, and I'd probably be disappointed....
Not feeling so cheerful about the primary season as I was before. I sure wish that we could lose the chaff candidates and have a meaningful primary run.
posted by kriston at 4:10 PM........
Not Loving NovemberMarc at Metajournalism wins the G.p Distinguished Service Medal for this post. Only three sentences after writing this:
So, for the past five days I've been in the hospital. Roughly speaking, my intestines tried to fight their way out of my body through my ass. It didn't work.he's back to hounding George W. Bush. Get well soon, son, 'cause we need more troops like you in the field.
Bush's pandering to the House of Saud is arguably enough to make you forget your own troubles, even when they involve your guts trying to escape.
posted by kriston at 3:51 PM........
Tea LeavesThe 'sphere is alight today with prognostications. Are the unDean Democrats doomed? Is Dean unelectable? We've got Atrios, John Judis, Josh Marshall, and Kevin Drum weighing in and it's hard to make heads or tails of it.
I do know this: The good that would come of a Bush victory in 2004 is that Bush would have to lie in the bed he made. I was talking with Matthew Yglesias the other night (after suffering through The Matrix: Revolutions) and we're on the same page about what happens if Bush wins, domestically and economically. Bush will have to raise taxes, or reinstitute taxes for the wealthy, leading to ignominious defeats for Republican Congressional seats at the hands of the (reorganized) Democrats. The problems with the economy are fundamentally solvable, only the medicine is bitter, especially when your party is the party of the wealthy one to ten percent whose tax cuts would be revoked. Perhaps there's some chance that Bush would try to ride the sputtering economy out, and maybe when disaster is upon us he eliminates Social Security—people like Grover Norquist are hoping for this scenario. Same result, though: Ignominious defeats, and—Yglesias says positively—the Democrats inherit the White House with an enormous coffer to play around with. (Personally, I'd restore SS and sack the wealthy....)
And so 2008 begins a golden age for the Democrats, who will finally not be inheriting an Oval Office deep in the red. Sounds good, eh? It is, minus that whole woman's right to choose thing, which would erode steadily through '08, and on the off-chance that a SC Justice knocked off, disappear altogether. Gays wouldn't fare any better, either. MY thinks a North Korean-led nuclear war will usher global devastation, but I prefer a slow-burn scenario: An Iran-Iraq war that turns the Middle East into a bloody drain, sucking the world into its maw of destabilization. (And Iran can do the nuclear thing, too.)
So, again, anyone but Bush.
Though nuclear war always makes for a satisfying chorus of "I-told-you-so's."
posted by kriston at 3:36 PM........
AmisOh yeah, almost forgot - read Sue and Not U's quotable account of Martin Amis's recent visit on his book tour, complete with Christopher Hitchens sighting. You Austinites ought to catch Amis when he comes by. Though the novel he's pushing, Yellow Dog , isn't garnering great reviews, the passages Amis read were amusing.
Give his memoirs a try, they're great.
posted by kriston at 2:52 PM........
"He calls it Reason, but he uses it / To be beastlier than any beast."Following up on the dialogue between Seth and me (and Mattie in comments), just a bit more on torture and I'm done. In talking about torture I realize how grossly unclear it is as to what's meant by the term. The Catherine Wheel comes to mind, and I'll go out on a limb here and say that the Catherine Wheel has no place in US investigations. But "coercion" falls in there somewhere too, and as Bowden discussed in his review of state-sponsored coercion/torture, this can include creating a highly uncomfortable environment (like solitary confinement), removing indicators of time (which makes people extremely cranky), interrupting sleep, and other psychological or physical impediments. Torture (a la the Catherine Wheel) is an extreme point on a range of investigative procedures, so it doesn't do any good to say you're simply against torture—you have to posit your legal or moral limit somewhere on that range.
What we have now is (to wit) a left-right range, with the US stance mostly established by the Constitution and court precedent. September 11th and the ensuing war on terrorism basically through that comfortable spot into question, and the nominal resolution was the PATRIOT Act. The PATRIOT Act is a terrible resolution, and I don't need to explain why, but I do think we need something: some kind of on-the-books policy about how we treat captured or suspected terrorists that defines exactly what we do with them. Frankly, this requires a debate about torture and everything else in that range—because apparently our actual-but-not-on-the-books policy is on the extreme end.
I looked up a short Wolf Blitzer interview with Alan Dershowitz (proponent of the notorious "torture warrants") and Ken Roth (executive director of Human Rights Watch) and I think that they might represent two poles in the debate about the American position on torture/coercion. Dershowitz says that "having laws on the books and breaking them systemically... creates disdain." Worse than that, when the laws on the books in question are the PATRIOT Act, accountability and transparency are eliminated. What we need are clear laws on the books—either to illustrate in what situation coercive practices will be allowed, or to fully bind US law to the Geneva Convention protocols and eliminate extranational renditions and what-not.
Since there's a big need to rewrite our security laws (and axe the Patriot Act) we should consider the "ticking time bomb," a few of which have indeed gone off in the United States over the last decade. Dershowitz:
[W]e should never under any circumstances allow low-level people to administer torture. If torture is going to be administered as a last resort in the ticking-bomb case, to save enormous numbers of lives, it ought to be done openly, with accountability, with approval by the president of the United States or by a Supreme Court justice.Dershowitz then sends off to crazy world by supporting actual torture, rather than grey-area coercion. Roth's rebuttal is that Israel basically went with that philosophy and ended up torturing willy-nilly until their supreme court struck that power; that's a case to consider. Roth's other argument though, is a dinosaur:
We have to understand the United States sets a model for the rest of the world. And if the United States is going to authorize torture in any sense, you can imagine that there are many more unsavory regimes out there that are just dying for the chance to say, "Well, the U.S. is doing it, we're going to start doing it as well."A nice sentiment, but the USA clearly does not set a model for the rest of the world. Terrorist/assymetrical warfare works exactly because rogue nations or terrorist groups don't give a shit. I sure wish we were the shining city on a hill, but as it turns out the world and its discontents aren't so far away after all. I don't think it's wise to raise our chin high in the air and pretend that uncleanliness isn't real, abroad or at home. Other nations have had to deal; the reason I initially praised extranational renditions is because 1) some of our allies have more experience in the kinds of interrogation techniques that work on religiously inspired zealots, and 2) the coercion I hesitantly endorse isn't legal here. (Obviously we're all wrong sending anyone to Syria.)
As to Mattie's comment that "the odds are probably better that we will be killed in a car wreck tomorrow than killed by terrorists ever," well, good. Personal safety isn't so much the concern as striking a balance between liberty and security that limits government abuse, protects citizens' rights, and does what needs to be done to prevent terrorist acts of mass murder. If the balance is right, and that threat is minimal, then the applications of coercion ought to be minimal as well—as well as the abuse of goverment authority. And if terrorism is always going to be a looming possibility, it's all the more reason to get it right.
I think Seth summarizes aptly:
My basic opinion is that if you're an "enemy combatant," you are detained on the terms you enter into battle with. That is, if you're a soldier and you fight other soldiers, you are treated like a soldier if captured. If you violate the rules (e.g., act against civilians), all bets are off. That said, torture is still wrong. "Coercion," perhaps not.So let's make sure that the rules are the prudent ones, that we do whatever it takes to stop terrorism, and that we know what we mean by "whatever it takes." This is the warfare that will affect the war against terror, not the tanks in Iraq.
Title courtesy of Goerthe, from the prologue.
posted by kriston at 2:08 PM........