Saturday, January 31, 2009

More About Torture

Yesterday, I wrote a post about the morality of torture, and the feasibility of prosecuting former Bush officials who may have tortured Al-Qaeda detainees. Any questions regarding torture are inevitably difficult, and the answer depends in large part on one’s personal moral views. So liberals and conservatives disagree on this issue, and while there is a right answer (unless you believe that morality is relative), there is no easy one.

Liberals (who usually believe that torture is always wrong) are actually closer to the truth on this issue (in my opinion) than conservatives (who typically think torture can be justified). They are quite correct in pointing out that the ends do not justify the means, and that torture is an immoral means. So the Left has it right on this issue, at least regarding the big picture.

It’s the Left’s application of this principle that is a little disturbing. In the eyes of many liberals, torture is perhaps the worst crime imaginable. Keith Olbermann has called on Barack Obama to prosecute Bush for torture, comparing the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh-Mohammed with slavery, Jim Crow, and McCarthyism. And while many people laugh at Keith Olbermann, it’s worth remembering that he is taken quite seriously in liberal circles.

The liberal megablog the Huffington Post has eighteen pages of posts tagged with the word “torture.” It has fourteen pages for “abortion”. “Rush Limbaugh” gets thirteen pages, while “stimulus” gets just four pages. Even “US economy” (which has got to be the broadest possible category) gets only twenty-four pages, just six more than “torture.” Most of what the stuff HuffPo’s writers have to say about torture (it’s horrible, we’re losing face with the rest of the world, Bush should be impeached/prosecuted) isn’t that remarkable—but they can’t stop writing about it.

It’s easy to find more examples of the Left’s fixation with torture—it’s one of the most commonly discussed topics on any liberal forum or blog. And this obsession is a bit perplexing.

Part of it, of course, stems from the natural desire to score political points. Torture is not something most people like to think about, and it represents an easy way to make George W. Bush look bad. And allegations that the Bush Administration violated the Geneva Conventions are embarrassing to Republicans, if untrue (whatever happened in Guantanamo Bay, it wasn’t a violation of the Geneva Conventions—Al-Qaeda detainees do not fulfill the criteria for prisoners of war). So some of the Democrat obsession with torture arises from simple partisan politics.

But a part, I think, comes from something a bit deeper. Liberals don’t like the idea of torturing radical Muslim terrorists, but they hate the idea as much because of the treatment of radical Muslims as for the moral dimension of torture. It would be a stretch to say that liberals (some, of course, not all) root for the terrorists—but then, it would be equally difficult to say that those liberals root for the U.S.

This moral ambivalence doesn’t come from hatred of America, but rather from guilt. These liberals have an intensely Amerocentric view of the world, in which everything that happens—good or bad—stems directly from U.S. action. So these people think that, if terrorism exists, the U.S. must some how be responsible. So in this view of torture, torturing Khalid Sheikh-Mohammed was, in effect, punishing someone else for our mistakes.

It’s this attitude towards America that explains why liberals see mistreating Khalid Sheikh-Mohammed as something unimaginably evil, while somehow managing to find room for understanding towards Hamas. In this view—not only is the United States to blame for any torture it commits, but also for the necessity of any torture it commits.


At January 31, 2009 at 5:09 PM , Blogger Thru My Eyes said...

I wasn’t alive during WWII but my father and uncles served. As did most of the men in my family Their stories make it clear that captured enemy troops either complied with their American captors’ valid orders or they were subject to punishment or death. Thus, what’s changed are the rules of engagement that Americans observe. Today’s American troops are more (rather than less) concerned with their enemies welfare. My point is not that my father’s generation was unconcerned or callous, just that their rules of engagement were by necessity different than today’s.

What does one do when trying to gain info as to the whereabouts of a kidnapped person, who you know will be tortured and killed or learning the location of a nuclear bomb about to go off?

It is very easy for these politicians in Washington to say that torture is never appropriate. This has nothing to do with getting evidence, a conviction or suppressing political opposition, but of saving lives. Simple answers don’t come easy.

At January 31, 2009 at 5:12 PM , Blogger Thru My Eyes said...

Anyone that has served knows darn well that We are not fighting a typical war against a typical foe. (and when I say war I mean the war on terror, not the “police action” taking place in Iraq) They are fighting dirty. We should be able to use any and all resources to bring this to an end. This doesn’t mean use these resources against our own people and citizens. Some things have been taken too far, but we shouldn’t be giving prisoners the same rights as the rest of the country. Why, do ask. Because these are the people attacking your brothers, sisters, moms, dads, and kids. They don’t care who they kill. That is where we differ as human beings. No we are not out killing woman and children and if we “torture” those who attack our people than so be it. Even our “torture” is done in a civilized manner. I can think of about 20 different ways off the top of my head that could be much much worse. I think its time we sent a message once again telling the rest of the world who we really are. American’s need to stop being crybabies. At the same time we need to stop worrying about what is happening to everyone elses people and start worrying about American people.

At January 31, 2009 at 8:38 PM , Blogger Beth said...

The liberal (and John McCain's) views I think stem from some crazy notion that if we treat them really nice, they'll return the favor. That is naive and as I already pointed out, crazy.

At February 2, 2009 at 6:20 AM , Blogger Myself said...

Beth said...
"The liberal (and John McCain's) views I think stem from some crazy notion that if we treat them really nice, they'll return the favor. That is naive and as I already pointed out, crazy."

Right Beth, we have heard your excuses for not supporting the Republican party over and over again.. I personally am sick and tired of hearing that it's all John McCain's fault. And you putting him in the same category as the liberals.
Maybe if you and folks like you had gotten off you ass and supported the party instead of your constant complaining, and bitching, and whining about RINOS and your 3rd party nonsense then this IDIOT we have in the White House wouldn't have been elected! Did you ever think of that? Did you ever think at all?
You and your Soaopbox gang seem to know all about crying after the fact.
I'm tired of hearing you complain about John McCain. You are like a One Trick Pony! All you ever do or say no matter what the subject is, "That it's the RINO'S" fault. Well maybe it's YOUR fault and people like you.
How much more warnings did you people need to have about the outcome of the election and that Obama would win if the Republican ticket was not supported? And NOW you complain!
YES!!!, I'm tired of hearing you complain about RHINO'S. Get a new line, this line of BS is getting boring. Has this blog become a place for you to use as an outlet for you and your 2 buddies to dry each others tears or to play the blame game that YOU are guilty of!!!
If you are such a Republican Hater then go and support your 3rd party and SHUT THE HELL UP ALREADY WE HEARD ENOUGH OF YOUR CRAP!!
I’m sick of hearing IT AND I'm SICK OF you .

At February 2, 2009 at 11:59 AM , Blogger Name: Soapboxgod said...

Well well. It seems my name has come up and as well Beth has once again touched a nerve with yet another Republican party hack.

"Get in line you declare! Support the party! Ask no questions!"

We are not subservient to a party. We are subservient to an ideal.

Your criticisms would be far better directed, not with Beth or I or anyone taking party members to task but rather, with the actual party members whose adherence to liberal ideology makes it virtually impossible for us to counter it with an ideology which is vastly different.

One should hope that A) you're never given the choice between having to choose between the Communist party and the Nazi party (dear God you've got to support "the party" so whatever would you do) or perhaps B) you'll one day "get it".

Apparently, in your mind, dissent is not to be tolerated within the ranks. We are not to judge, question, or speak of the party's adherence (or lack thereof) of their own platform.

I should say, you and the "concensus" of Global Warming alarmists have much in common.

At February 2, 2009 at 12:20 PM , Blogger Name: Soapboxgod said...

Is it really any wonder you have no compunction about the saturation of moderism within the Republican party? I mean your profile after all does state you're from New York. Certainly you can attest to it (and parts there about) as a bastion of moderate Republicanism.

Well at least it was until a flurry of them got ousted as voters went for the real deal in both 2006 and 2008.

At February 2, 2009 at 2:13 PM , Blogger BB-Idaho said...

It should be noted that "..some crazy notion that if we treat them really nice, they'll return the favor." bears not only on the lib/con divide concerning the issue, but the logical extrapolation "If we treat them really bad, they will hate us and we will create more of them". It is this latter concept which has gained ground in military strategic thinking. Thus, whatever the CIA & Co. think and do, the US military will adhere to the Geneva Conventions, not only taking the moral high ground, but assisting their own cause in assymetrical warfare. Such is the pragmatic view, independent of political perceptions. It is not a new concept: the Persions surrendered to Alexander the Great in large numbers when they learned he did not follow the mores of his times and slaughter his prisoners.

At February 2, 2009 at 9:54 PM , Blogger Beth said...

Well BB we aren't slaughtering prisioners either, but I don't see the terrorists surrendering because of that.

At February 3, 2009 at 7:13 AM , Blogger BB-Idaho said...

Beth is correct, terrorists are not surrendering. However, we note a rather abrupt change in the conduct and results of the counterinsurgency operation in Iraq: General Petreaus implemented his ideas, outlined in US Army 3-24
(see partial quote, previous post).
The rationale is that 'bombing them into the stone age' creates
more faster than they can be bombed. Human nature, brothers, fathers, children neighbors killed.
Makes them angrier still. We have seen this with the early Israelis,
Algeria, VN, etc. Since terrorists exist and thrive
with the assistance of the indiginous population, the new
COIN OPS concentrates on providing
safety and infrastructure for this
population (the latest variation on 'hearts & minds' theory.) With no urban place to hide and operate from, insurgents are turned in, leave, quit or attempt to operate
in more open areas where they can be dealt with more easily. Such is the professional military view, which is not ideological in the sense of either revenge or 'feel good', but rather the pragmatic goal of winning as efficiently, quickly and easily as possible.
I would suggest this has worked
visibly in the Iraq conflict. We know what '24' and VP Cheney think.
Here is what the pros think...

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