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A recent column by a prominent advocate of the U.S. torture program is the latest example of how its proponents refuse to address even the most basic facts concerning it.

For more on pruning back executive power see Pruning Shears.

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Last week Andy McCarthy prompted the latest change in my understanding in how the right thinks about torture.  Initially I believed they were unwilling to accept their leaders were engaging in it, and that if it turned out they were they would recoil as sharply as the rest of us.  That changed when I read a Los Angeles Times piece by Jonah Goldberg that basically stipulated we tortured but was fine with it anyway.  It may have been this one, where he writes:

the meatier part of the argument is in the more nuanced area of "coercive measures," "stress positions" and what one unnamed official once described to the Wall Street Journal as "a little bit of smacky-face." [Since elaborated as "wrapp[ing] a collar around [a detainee's] neck and smash[ing] him over and over against a wall."]...The way [Andrew] Sullivan and those who agree with him see it, torture is torture is torture -- and torture is always wrong, even when defined as intimidation and "smacky-face." "Not in my name" is their rallying cry, often with the sort of self-righteousness that suggests that those who disagree must admire cruelty.

Reading that, it became clear that Bush's supporters were willing to uncritically accept the administration's positions.  Techniques were given cute euphemisms (see also) and those who objected to it on principle were dismissed as moral divas.  Moreover, their reflexive support meant ignoring torture's history.  Engaging in practices with a gruesome past or lifting terminology from the Gestapo was never examined.

Now that we have some results they won't even look at it from the most cold, calculating realpolitik perspective:  Does it actually work?  From a policy and intelligence standpoint is it a sound, sustainable program?  Shouldn't it give them pause that Abu Zubaydah gave up actionable intelligence under humane interrogation and worthless God-make-it-stop nonsense when waterboarded?  Shouldn't the extravagant lie that torturing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed helped prevent an attack factor into their thinking?

From the very beginning there has been a resolute, adamant insistence on ignoring facts.  It has felt impossible to advance any kind of argument - to ask about investigations or prosecutions, to figure out how best to handle the cases of those we have tortured, to address our stance towards the rest of the world - when torture apologists appear entirely invested in the wholesale denial of reality.  McCarthy's contribution to the genre came as he referred to David Petraeus' admission we have violated the Geneva Conventions:

With due respect to Gen. Petraeus, this is just vapid. To begin with, he doesn't identify any provision of the Geneva Conventions that we have actually violated — he just repeats the standard talking-point of his current commander-in-chief that we took "steps that have violated the Geneva Conventions" during those bad old Bush days. What steps is he talking about? How about naming one?

Gladly:  Common Article 3.  The administration wanted to use tactics employed by the Soviet KGB - that the US characterized as torture - against detainees at Guantánamo.  It engaged in transparently dishonest word games to violate the article's prohibition against "cruel treatment and torture."  The Supreme Court ruled that the prisoners were entitled to Geneva protections and that the administration had violated their rights under it.  In a further show of bad faith Bush tried to get Congress to rewrite the Geneva Conventions to accommodate the violations and later issued (pdf) an executive order attempting to do the same.

I was able to find all those links within minutes.  This was not a strenuous exercise.  For torture apologists to defiantly demand proof that is so easily available can only mean that they are willfully ignorant of what has been going on.  Their refusal to even acknowledge new developments makes it nearly impossible to engage their arguments or to give them the benefit of the doubt.  It's as though their mental state is fixed at September 12th: in the sense of shock and grief, along with a feeling of blind vengeance and a desire to lash out first and think about it later.  There was no initial gathering of wits when that first wave passed, no desire to look at the history of torture in order to see whose company it would put us in or if it had been generally helpful, no willingness to look at the results to see if it could be justified on even a practical level, no admission that rulings have unambiguously repudiated it - nothing.  They are where they have been from the very beginning:  In favor of torture come hell or high water, obstinately defending it in the face of the vast accumulated evidence against it.  And that, Mr. Goldberg, is indeed the outlook of one who admires cruelty.

Originally posted to danps on Sat Jun 13, 2009 at 02:14 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  So why not torture criminals? (3+ / 0-)

    If it would save the lives of kidnap victims? Or if it would return stolen property? Or if it would interdict a ton of cocaine from hitting the streets?

    Then it gets interesting, Why wasn't Ken Lay tortured to make him take a deal? Why wasn't Rush tortured to make him reveal his drug suppliers or for that matter why not torture Rush whenever he fails a drug test? Why not torture elected officials suspected of malfeasance? It would save time if they confessed.

    The underlying assumption of torture fans is that a Pavlovian response will lead to truth. If a person learns that not talking or concealing information results in increasing pain, then he will try to avoid pain and tell the truth. It is negative reinforcement.

    However, as I remember the original experiment which involved teaching to ring a bell, there was no negative reinforcement, only positive reinforcement for a correct response. An incorrect response drew no reaction from the experimenter.

    Really it seems a college education would be a good thing for many of these people because it appears Jonah missed Psych 101 during his salad days or else was taught by someone in his life to overvalue negative reinforcement. (I wonder how he does with pets?)  

  •  They won't address facts (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    truong son traveler, costello7

    because it's not about facts. Public support of torture is about feeling powerful or angry.

  •  Professor Cole said about Goldberg (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Simplify, truong son traveler

    "Goldberg is just a dime-a-dozen pundit. Cranky rich people hire sharp-tongued and relatively uninformed young people all the time and put them on the mass media to badmouth the poor, spread bigotry, exalt mindless militarism, promote anti-intellectualism, and ensure that rightwing views come to predominate."

    I couldn't say it better but please note that the guy doesn't pay his gamblingdebts either.
    Goldberg has learned the trade of deceit from his mom, Lucianne Goldberg, who did such nasty little things as working undercover for Richard Nixon's campaign, pretending to be a reporter for the North American News Alliance covering George McGovern's Presidential campaign, while actually feeding information back to Nixon's offices. Later, when she conspired with Linda Tripp to abuse the confidence of a personal friend she decided to get junior involved.

    With his mother, Jonah Goldberg listened to the then-secret Lewinsky tapes, and with this inside knowledge he made himself a popular source among Washington reporters. He sold a few freelance stories, got himself invited on the news talk shows, and in the whirlwind of his Monicagate fame he was offered a post at the National Review, where he is now "editor at large."
    Source http://www.nndb.com...

    It looks to me that growing up in this snake pit had Jonah Goldberg turning into a sadist who justifies torture with the common welfare not quite unlike a certain doctor at the Buchenwald concentration camp who defended his actions as medical research, e.g. he advocatedto install a torturer and murderer like Pinochet in Iraq "whose abuses would help to create a civil society." What a sick puppy!

    •  Goldberg Is An Apologist For Neo-Nazis (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ceebs, greeseyparrot, costello7

      His "liberal fascism" is all about claiming Hitler is not a "Fascist," so that when people like Goldberg start spewing chapter and verse from Mein Kampf, they hope nobody will have the nerve to call them a neo-Nazi apologist. Then an honest to god Nazi goes on a shooting spree and they tie themselves in knots.

      Short Guide To Nazi Propaganda Talking Points

      Things The Nazi Were Against:
      Trade unions
      Communists
      "Liberals"
      "The liberal press"
      "Socialism"
      "Socialists"
      "Democrats"
      "Social Democrats"
      Homosexuals
      Pacifists
      Atheists/secularists
      Religious tolerance
      Mixed marriages
      Redistribution of wealth/class warfare
      Contraception
      Sex education
      Immigrants
      Multiculturalism
      Bilingual anything
      Universal education
      Art that does not glorify the state
      Darwin and teaching evolution
      Elementary teachers who don't teach nationalism
      University professors
      People who don't support the troops
      ...and of course Jews

      Things The Nazi Were For:
      Pre-emptive war
      Censorship
      College students ratting out professors for lack of loyalty
      Torture
      Abstinence
      Marriage
      High birth rate
      State control of the media, arts, and science
      Personality cults
      Making nationalism part of the curriculum
      Worship of an idealized version of the past
      Rebellion against "weak" authority
      Blaming minorities and immigrants for everything
      Invoking destiny and being judged by history
      Claiming to do "God's will."

  •  that recurring nightmare (4+ / 0-)

    the one where you're trying to run, but your feet are stuck in glue, or quicksand...

    I think that's the feeling you describe, danps.  It's like that with these idiots on every issue. Yesterday I had a guy tell me with total authority that global warming is a hoax, and that the arctic ice caps are shrinking because of giant volcanoes under the arctic ocean.
    You can easily guess how this he answered my questions about the antarctic melt.
    He blamed environmentalists.
    They're all getting rich off this hoax.
    I told him I'm getting into environmentalism and making a killing.

    It's the only satisfying way to engage, imo. Let them dig a really big hole, then bury them with one of their own dearly held principles (making scads of money, in this case).
    There is no educating people whose entire worldview is based on a fiction. Especially when everyone knows it's a fiction.

    The Republican Party will never die until there is a new political home for racists.

    by kamarvt on Sat Jun 13, 2009 at 05:42:53 AM PDT

  •  According to this months Harper's (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greeseyparrot, costello7, allenjo

    Magazine (see page 49, sorry, registration is needed for the entire article) the torture has not stopped.

    No matter what those who loudly claim that Obama has put an end to it say . . . .

    no wonder he wants us to move on to other things, no sense rehashing the past (and present!!)

    •  The ACLU has not been granted access to (4+ / 0-)

      the prisoners on Guatnamano, waiting since Jan. 31 for Obama administration to grant - along with 3 other human rights groups who also requested access.

      If there is no torture......why not prove it?

      In an open government as we had expected from Obama, why not?

      In a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don't have to waste time voting.

      by allenjo on Sat Jun 13, 2009 at 08:52:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Torture Defenders (4+ / 0-)

    I recently has the following letter printed in my local newspaper:

    I’m amazed at the torture defenders; you know the ones that defend the indefensible. "This is nothing but a partisan witch hunt," they claim. They’re wrong, this about the soul of our nation. Their rationale reminded me of a West Wing episode where Toby Ziegler repeats a family friends story of his experience in a Nazi Concentration camp during WWII:
    "A friend of my dad's was at one of the camps. He used to come over to the house, and he and
    my dad used to shoot some pinochle. He said he once saw a guy at the camp kneeling and praying. He said, "What are you doing?" The guy said he was thanking God. And my dad's friend said, "What could you possibly be thanking God for?" He said, "I'm thanking God for not making me like them" referring to his Nazi captors.
    Torture, including waterboarding is in violation of the Geneva Convention, and a violation of US code. If it obtained actionable intelligence, or whether Speaker Pelosi was informed during CIA briefings is irrelevant. It is against the law! All involved from the highest level in the government to lowliest CIA private contractor should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
    Torture is terrorism and why we should prosecute is simple; it’s because we’re not terrorists, we’re not like them!    

    "Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it." - Mark Twain

    by phastphil40 on Sat Jun 13, 2009 at 08:58:58 PM PDT

  •  Implausible deniability (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Simplify, truong son traveler

    What you are trying to get at here is important: what do supporters really think about torture (as opposed to what they say about it).

    I suspect:

    1. They honestly know it is wrong.
    1. They honestly think it is necessary. Very bad things would happen without it.
    1. The well known dehumanizing of the enemy talk, with a constant subtle social reinforcement of it, and a subtle awareness of where and with who and to what level of bluntness it can and cannot be engaged in, is important to propping up the system.
    1. For "know its wrong, think its necessary", implausible deniability is also an important part of propping it up.

    The denial doesn't have to be all that credible, it just has to be able to be made.

  •  Your Article Has Been Added (0+ / 0-)

    Your article has been added to Framed: Prosecuting Officials for Crimes in Dkosopedia.

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