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February 28, 2005


What goes around comes around.

Somewhere, somehow, Goldberg and his ilk missed the larger lesson:

We lead by example, whether we intend to or not. If we are hypocrites about brutality, we send a message that brutality is proper to rest of the world, and that our words are hollow. We show them no respect so we can expect none in return. We will receive no mercy as we have shown them none. Off with our heads comes to seem like a brutal version of tit for tat.

More importantly, Goldberg types miss the fact that this works both ways. Setting a positive example is the best leadership of all. Ghandhi, Mandela, and Martin Luther King overcame torture and changed the world by showing it that their brilliant goodness could triumph over torture and oppression. They never fired a shot.

Only people who see our foes as non-human can miss these points. They fail to see that their actions have ripple effects that pass to their victims' loved ones and run down through the generations creating a culture of hate that feels suicide and murder is a just response to our actions. Goldberg and his ilk miss the basic truth that it's the long-term consequences of their actions that will be their judgment.

What goes around comes around. We choose whether what we send around will be it good or bad, and we recieve the natural consequences of whichever choice we make.

While your post puts the focus on the propaganda value of maintaining secrecy about US torture I want to add that this administration's inclination to torture itself has roots we should better understand.
I believe it is based upon a fundamentally sadistic view of human relations. I have power - you don't and I'll prove it to you by making you feel pain. Watching your pain will enhance my sense of power.
Almost every major policy put forth openly or otherwise by this administration involves a sadistic treatment of others. For example, Social Security "reform" will certainly create poverty for many older citizens - grinding poverty late in life when vulnerability and indignities make people feel helpless. These indignities the Bushes, Cheneys, Roves and Delays will never know but will enjoy watching. The numerous politically-timed terrorist alerts of recent years served a similar purpose - they frightened people and made them helpless in the face of the massive propaganda steaming behind.
Making anyone other than yourself feel miserable is the cornerstone of a sadistic organization. Since Bush and company are all about separating the world into "us" and "them" it fits neatly that torture would be experienced by "us" as a good thing to do to "others" and that "we" should keep quiet about that sense of goodness and the pleasure we take in watching "others" suffer.

Another result of the torture mess is a decline in military recruiting. People who might otherwise want to sign up have seen how "the bad apple" policy works.

The mechanism requires that the liberals continue to pretend everything is normal. Russ Finegold still has to sonambulitically natter on about process and deference owed to the executive that runs torture farms, the California legislature needs to pursue petty local agendas while the last barrier to voting rights gets turned over to Diebold, Bill Richardson and a host of others have to imagine that attacking their own party will lead them to the White House, Hollywood liberals and other funders need to keep giving to weak candidates instead of using their last opportunity to buy media, and the rhetoric of the opposition needs to remain localized and weak - because we all know that a nuanced position on abortion rights is far more compelling as a moral issue than refusing to tolerate torturers.


I think you're right about their view of power. I also think this view has been exacerbated, of late, as the Right Wing discovers they can no longer maintain hegemony through soft power alone. There was a time when they exercized US hegemony through the UN. Then the newly independent nations became too large a block to ignore, so the US exercized hegemony through the institutions of globalization, where the US gets a dominant vote. But now, the rules of globalization are about to bankrupt the US. So they're stuck either giving up on their hold of hegemony and trying to replace it with some organization from which everyone benefits (with things like the Kyoto treaty), or they're going to have to exercize power through the one advantage they've got left, brute power.

It's time for the left to start talking about how much this costs the US (in dollars and bodies) and counterproposing the more beneficial global agreements.

Nice comment, jsmckay. This looks like an excellent blog to regularly visit.

When Bush proclaims that 911 changed everything, I guess he was right. The rightous right dropped their moral values like a overheated poptart after 911. The same mob that howled about Clinton's blowjob are now quietly approving casual torture. Of course they must approve soto voice because torture negates pretty much every value they believe in except raw survival. And the funny thing is that we don't need to torture people to ensure our survival. The chances of you or your children being killed or injured by a terrorist in the War on Terror is about the same as being hit by lightening unless, of course, the president sends you to the most dangerous part of the world with a big bulls-eye coat.

The most horrible part of casual torture, torture done regularly by people as their day jobs, is the ineffectiveness of it. The human beings we tortured in Abu Ghraib were mostly innocent or common criminals. We tortured them just for fun, I guess.

As a FYI to my conservative friends who have abandoned their moral values, I want to shout "You can't out-terrorize a suicide bomber, you dumb-ass."

Troy:Moral values? They never had any.

Do you really think that they are moralizing when they talk about homosexuality and abortion? Not even close. What they're trying to do is limit the moral debate to those issues, so we don't talk about labour practices, foreign policy, the environment, whatever in terms of morality. Torture? It doesn't involve sex, it's simply business and business is business.

Is violation of human rights ever acceptable? Obviously the torture at Abu Ghraib we saw pictures of was just cruelty for its own sake. But if someone is planning to bomb your town, or kidnapped your daughter, how much slack to you give the police to go Dirty Harry on them? I am honestly asking, I don't know where I stand on this. I think if for every 100 people they take in and starve, beat up, terrify (is that torture yet?) they get useful information out of 95 of them I am fine with it. Out of 80 of them? I don't know. 50? Pretty sure I can't stomach that.

That said, if you are scared to let the public know what you're doing then there is probably something wrong with it. As the comedy bit goes (what movie was this?) -- "I had no idea I was doing anything wrong!" "But you were being paid in an alley." "ok, ok, I had a hunch." Or as my former professional mentor used to say -- at the end of the day, you've got to be able to look yourself in the mirror.

This is a false question - like partial birth abortion. We don't need to yet consider how far we'd be willing to go in an emergency, because we know that the regime has chosen torture as a normal and preferred method of interrogation and punishment. The regime is expert at posing a marginal question as a diversion. The AG has written memos claiming Geneva is "quaint", the CIA needs a 737 to haul victims, and Gitmo and Iraq and Afghani US prisons are known to have had widespread torture. So the subtle questions do nothing but create smoke around a blatant and unbearable criminal enterprise.

I really enjoy those occasions when Goldberg imagines he's speaking to a larger audience and shows himself wrestling with both sides of his own opinion. Sorta like the woman in The Blues Brothers who informs the boys they book both kinds of music: Country and Western.

So we travel our little chicken circuit, lapping both the honkers and the tonkers, and Jonah's conscience nags him enough to respond to the argument that torture equates with what the media showed us. His world is bound in the nuttiest of nutshells.

I'd give him credit for the chutzpah required to speak of "the [necessary] evils of fighting a war" after his public depantsing by Professor Cole, but that ability is now required for an operator's permit, as is the ability to treat actual events as though they were only hypothetical. Instead, turn the argument around: what were we censoring in WWII? Not the unpleasant reality of occasional misdeeds, but the unpleasant reality of actual combat. And if that's now coming across our teevee screens at night I must be watching the wrong channel.

If the solution is making the actual transmission of "disturbing" news a crime (in this age of the internets!), then let's start with its legal basis and actually declare war before we invade someone, after a real national debate and not a politically-maneuvered pre-election authorization. Then we can stop using "war" as a metaphor of convenience, and start the call up of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders™. And Jonah can have a new argument with his conscience.

Why am I unsurprised that a pear-shaped, prematurely-balding little 30-nothing moron who is willing to support a war and then say that it wouldn't be a good idea for him to serve when he's called on his "chickenhawk" status because his wife and child need his income - gets upset when people point out to him that many other pear-shaped, prematurely-balding guys in their mid-30s with a wife and several kids are currently serving in the Reserves and National Guard in Iraq and he isn't.

Jonah Goldberg: the Gold Standard of far right hypocrisy.

In case you'd like to personal let him know what you think of him, his personal e-mail is "JonahNRO@aol.com" - let's crash his e-mail!!

Tom Cleaver
That's Another Fine Mess

Kleaver writes "Why am I unsurprised that a pear-shaped, prematurely-balding little 30-nothing moron..."

This coming from a 60 something, bitter, cynical ne'er do well with a fabricated military history. If you believe a single word that comes out of this asshole's manpleaser hole you are a bigger idiot than he is.

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