Saturday, September 30, 2006

Countering a dangerous meme about Foley

In case you haven't heard, Florida Representative Mark Foley resigned from the house, due to improper exchanges between himself and a teenaged boy who'd been a Congressional page.

I've seen some people make a very dangerous statement, and it's one that needs to be nipped in the bud. Because the boy's parents didn't want the matter to go any further, the meme says, it couldn't have been a big deal.

That's absolutely false. What 16 year old boy wants to be in the news under those circumstances? That his parents wanted the entire incident to go away just means that they felt pursuing the matter would do more harm than good.

Sure, one reason to feel that way is that it's a minor issue, one not worth pursuing. But it's also possible that it was a major issue, and they felt that pursuing a major issue like that would cause proportionately more harm.

In the meantime, the Republican leadership, who kept the entire matter hushed up, are now insisting that they were betrayed by Foley's dishonesty. Maybe they were...

But I hope they made sure that every single page knew about the possibilities of sexual harassment, and knew there was a safe person to talk to if anything inappropriate happened. If they didn't, I'm not all that impressed by their outrage today.

If you see smoke, you look and see if there's a fire. And if you walk away from the smoke, and it turns out there's a blazing fire, you've got to own the responsibility for not trying to take responsibility when you could.

Bill Frist - trustworthy?

Bill Frist has some thoughts....

Bill Frist had some other thoughts about other topics, as well.

Now, why do I tie these two sets of thoughts together?

Well, in both cases, he's making assertions without sufficient evidence to back them up.

In other words, he's talking out of his ass.

Whoops. That was my "out-loud" voice, wasn't it?

There's a difference, one that's crucially important. What is that difference?

The difference is, when interfering in a private medical decision, all of the information he needed was available on public web sites on the internet.

He could check the law, and see that the law was clear. He could have checked the decision making process, and seen that it was clear. He could have checked the court cases, and seen they were all decided in accordance with the law and with an eye towards doing what Terri would have wanted, if she was able to speak.

When it comes to claiming that the abominable law will allow helpful intelligence operations, he can't find that out. It's all stamped "secret".

I'm sure he has the personal assurance of President Bush that the law was necessary, and the programs were yielding good intelligence, but, you know, I'm not sure I can trust President Bush's word.

Do you remember, he said that he invaded Iraq based upon good, solid intelligence? Yeah, and then, do you remember George Tenet's "slam dunk" comment? Right before Tenet said that, George W. Bush correctly pointed out that it wasn't good, solid intelligence. So, George Bush lied about intelligence issues already, to avoid embarrassing himself.

You know you can't trust Bush; so why would Frist trust Bush about something like this?

More importantly, why should anyone trust Frist, when we know that he'll say things that make him look good without checking out publicly available facts?

Here's an interesting question. Does "light torture" work?

I mean, can you torture someone a little bit, and have that work?

What do you think? I mean, if someone hurts you, does that make you want to do what they want? What if they hurt you, just a bit, over and over again? Does that make you finally think "well, I might as well do what this person wants?" Or are you more likely to bristle at the bad treatment and refuse to give in, just out of stubbornness?

I don't know about anyone else, but light torture wouldn't work with me. I reckon it wouldn't work with anyone who was pretty tough and stubborn. It might even be slower than traditional interrogation methods.

If you want torture to work quickly and reliably, it has to be harsh. At least, that's what my common sense tells me. What about yours? How do you normally react when someone you hate finds they have the power to cause you annoyance? Do you decide to do what that person wants, to avoid the annoyance? Or does it make you more stubborn?

Then ask yourself: if Bush really wants to be able to use his "enhanced interrogation techniques", are they really only "torture light"? Or are they full fledged torture that he's convinced some folks is gentler than it looks?

Friday, September 29, 2006

What am I afraid of?

Here's the thing about this new "we can screw the detainees, and torture them" bill.

I'm not afraid George W. Bush wants to put his enemies into concentration camps. I don't think he wants to refuse to step down from the Presidency. I don't think he's going to do anything all that terrible with it, except unjustly imprison some people who our spies think might be terrorists, torture some of those people, go on wild goose chases, and maybe torture them some more for not telling the truth after they were tortured the first time. And then, if he gets a newsworthy crime, I think he'll put that person on trial, and make double-damn sure that he gets a good looking court victory that he can brag about, even if he has to cheat a bit with the evidence to make sure there's no chance of acquittal.

Now, I think that's bad enough. It's bad enough that innocent people could be put in prison, tortured, and that a trial could be tainted. It's bad enough that the rest of the world thinks that those things could happen in America, with the full protection of the law.

But I think, for the most part, that will be the limits. Grave offenses against freedom and justice, but just against a bunch of foreigners, so I guess that's not going to upset the kind of people Bush wants to vote for him.

But there's going to be another President after him. And how do we know that the next President is going to be honorable?

Here's what scares me the most.

We went to war.

We invaded another country.

We've killed tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers, soldiers who were defending their home from an invading army. Listen: you can call them "servants of an evil master" any time you want to, except when defending their home. Defending one's home is the soldier's sacred duty. So, we killed tens of thousands of men who were answering the highest calling a soldier can answer. And if it was necessary, if Iraq had been a terrible danger to us, I could deal with that, but we now know it wasn't.

We've killed tens of thousands of completely innocent civilians. The same damage done to us, on 9/11, repeated over and over, a over the course of years, rather than in a single day.

We've set people on fire with white phosphorus, we've ripped bodies apart with cluster bombs and shrapnel, shot them with bullets, collapsed them under buildings, and probably squashed them beneath the treads of a tank.

And all anyone has said is that it was legal.

All those people dead, but, hey, President Bush didn't break any laws.

So we already have the idea in a lot of people's heads that it's only bad if the law gets broken.

And right now, the law is going to say that a properly formed military commission can tag anyone and say that they're an unlawful enemy combatant. They don't have to prove that the person actually aided hostilities against the US; they can just make a determination, and that's it... no chance go to before a judge and insist that the government has no right to hold you, and, now, no guarantee that you won't end up tortured.

Don't say it can't happen, or that it won't happen; once it's legal, if it's ordered, the orders will be followed, and no one has any right to complain. All it takes is a President who desires it.

I don't think Bush desires that kind of thing. But we have no guarantees that the next President won't. Heck, we don't have any guarantees that Bush doesn't. All we really know is that he's the kind of man who will ask for the power to do these things, partially because he wants the power, and partially because it makes a dandy political stunt.

Bush insults your intelligence...

I know, I know, it's nothing new, but still...

Bush said this about the war in Iraq and terrorism: Some critics, whom he did not identify, "selectively quoted from this document to make the case that by fighting the terrorists, by fighting in Iraq, we are making our people less secure here at home," Bush said. "This argument buys into the enemy's propaganda that the terrorists attack us because we're provoking them. I would want to remind the American citizens that we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001."

Now, come on... does anyone need it spelled out?

Al Qaeda attacked us on 9/11. Iraq had nothing to do with al Qaeda. Attacking Iraq has made other people - not al Qaeda, other people - angry at us for killing tens of thousands of innocent people. So, now, in addition to fighting al Qaeda, we're also fighting all the Middle Eastern folks who are angry about us invading Iraq.

Can't Bush figure this out? Of course he can. Bush isn't stupid. He just thinks you are.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A thought about rape and anger

So, I had a minor revelation today that I'd like to share.

Guys hate to talk about rape. No, that's not the revelation; that's a fact.

See, women have to spend a significant portion of their time worrying about rape, or at least aware of it. And a lot of guys, when hearing about that, start getting uncomfortable, and insisting that not all guys are like that, and how they, themselves, aren't like that.

It's hard to handle, to hear all of the anger, and suspicion; it's easy to go into denial. It's also easy to get angry.

And suddenly, it hit me. Who is the target of that anger?

The women who are making guys uncomfortable. The women who are all-too-aware of the danger rape represents. The women who, in numbers too horrifying to think about, have been raped.

See, no one seems to want to believe it, but one in four - or maybe more - is, in fact, a pretty accurate statistic.

And that refusal to believe it, and that refusal to understand it, leads to anger. Anger at the victims. Anger at the people who've been hurt by rape.

Not anger at the rapists. Anger at the victims.

Hey - you, Mr. Skeptical - don't believe me.

Really, don't. Just think about it as a hypothetical. Just think about how abominably unfair it would be to get angry at the victims for making us guys feel bad, rather than at the rapists, who did the damage that has directly led to this situation.

Imagine if your daughter, or sister, or wife, or mother - yes, I know, cheap shot, but god damn it, it happens, sometimes before they were mothers, sometimes after - was the victim of rape, and some guy was yelling at her to stop talking like guys are evil pigs and rapists, because that guy didn't like it.

How would you feel? You might understand how the guy was feeling... but you'd also have some gut-level understanding of how this woman feels as well. And you wouldn't want her getting yelled at, just because she's willing to talk about what rape is like, and how it's affected her life. Right?

But it happens. Because guys don't want to believe it's as widespread as it is. Because they'd rather yell at victims than get angry at the rapists.

Again, don't believe me, if you can't accept what I'm saying. Just think about it. If I was right - if you later find out that I'm not too far off the mark - just think of what kind of bullshit it would be if the victims got yelled at, when it's the rapists who deserve your anger.

Loving freedom

Do you love freedom? Or do you just love yourself?

Hopefully, that's an easy question to answer, but let me explain things a bit, so you understand why I'm asking.

You see, if someone said he loves humanity, but drives while drunk, I'd figure one of two things was true: either he was lying about loving people, or was one of the biggest goddamn fools I'd ever seen.

If you love humanity, then you can't take reckless chances with people's lives.

I mean, it's impossible to do avoid taking any chances of hurting anyone; life is dangerous (and invariably fatal). But you won't be reckless about hurting other people, and if you are, you'll feel ashamed of your lapse, and do what you need to do to put things right.

So, do you love freedom? Are you willing to put things right when freedom is violated? If someone's freedom could be taken away recklessly, would you take a stand?

Or do you just love freedom for yourself? Is freedom just a good idea, and awfully nice, but you don't really care about it?

Those are the choices. They ain't very pretty, but I know what side I'm on. I love freedom.

No government on this planet has a right to grab a person, and hold them indefinitely, without ever having to show any cause to hold them. If any nation did that, it would be terrible, but when a nation founded upon the love of freedom, it's an abomination.

If any nation on this planet wants to grab someone, and deprive them of their freedom, that nation should be prepared to explain why, and that explanation had better not be an unsupported claim that "they are dangerous people, terrorists and unlawful combatants." Some minimal standard of evidence must be reached; some tiny bit of objective proof must exist.

If there's no evidence that can be presented to a proper court of law, it's no longer an "arrest", or "detention"; it's a kidnapping.

"But, but, but," a semi-honest Republican might bluster, "But these are battlefield captures!"

Then show it. Tell us the story of the capture, and tell us why you know that particular person was a combatant, and not some poor schmoe who was in a dangerous place at a bad time. It's easy when it's an enemy soldier; you've got that whole uniform thing going. But contrary to the insultingly pathetic justification given by the Bush administration, you can't tell if a person is a terrorist just by looking at them. You need evidence. Without evidence, you might be stealing a person's freedom without any reason.

And if you love freedom, that's unacceptable. A simple hearing, where the government has to show some kind of justification, some meaningful evidence, would weed out the worst of these mistakes. To refuse this hearing is to take reckless chances with other people's freedom.

George W. Bush has refused to hold such hearings, and has demanded the power to do away with them. He doesn't want to detain an innocent person... but he doesn't care if he does.

He's also claimed he loves freedom.

How can you trust anything he says?

A very small thing

There's one consolation about this detainee terror bill. One good thing, that I can hold up as a small gain.

See, you can't invoke your Fifth Amendment rights against self incrimination unless you're at risk of some criminal penalty. That's how they can force people to testify, after giving them immunity from prosecution.

One of the primary bars to learning the truth will be out of the way. Everyone who's been involved in this sick, sorry, sadistic mess will be able to be forced to testify. And that means there's a chance to wake people up to what's been going on.

And there'll still be the outcry, that we're not supposed to care what kind of nastiness is done to other human beings, because those other human beings are accused of terrorism. And who knows, it might be loud enough to win the battle.

You Republican supporters - you ain't afraid that we might dig up something horrible, are you? Scared that the truth might look bad? Support a full investigation... if you've got the courage to do what's right.

"Did adroit Democrats take away one of the GOP's best issues?"

No. They gave up the best issue anyone could ever have asked for.

"This is what the Republicans will do. They don't care if innocent people are captured. They don't care if innocent people are tortured. They don't care if innocent people are convicted of some of the most heinous crimes imaginable."

Maybe George W. Bush needs torture and unlawful imprisonment of innocent people to keep this country safe. But a real man wouldn't. A brave man, a strong leader, would reject such terrible tools.

Moral men don't torture, and brave men aren't even tempted. Ethical men want every captive to have a day in court to prove the capture was justified - or, to release the captive, with an apology for having made a mistake. And men who love freedom, and justice, demand fair trials.

George W. Bush has just rejected all of these, and I despise that he has done so. But I despise his enablers that much more.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Godwin's law and politics

Did you ever hear of Godwin's Law? It's an observation about Usenet, a discussion forum that predates the web, but I think it applies to all online forums. The law says that, as the length of a Usenet discussion increased, the probability that there'd be a comparison to Hitler or the Nazis approached 1 (which is certainty).

Now, some people include something like "and whoever makes the comparison has lost the argument". This represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the point of the law.

You see, on Usenet, if a discussion continues a long time, people care about it, and usually, if they care about it, there will be an argument somewhere. And if people argue long enough, the argument takes on a life of its own, and reality kind of fades out. People stubbornly refuse to back down from untenable positions, and refuse to grant an inch of slack to their opponents. Sooner or later, either someone will make a grossly unfair comparison of a person to Hitler, or a position to one held by the Nazi Party, OR, someone will take a stance that is comparable to one of Hitler or the Nazi Party.

People get blinded by the argument; the argument becomes everything to them.

You don't believe me? I was personally involved in a discussion in which there was a huge, heated discussion about whether a person in a hotel lobby would be arrested for loitering, because that person had a large, orange "Star Wars" blaster in his hands. It seemed extremely important at the time. Most of these people were ordinary, everyday folks who would have scoffed at the idea that they'd be involved in such silliness... but there they were.

That's the kind of thing that happens when winning the argument seems more important than anything else. It's not just about winning the argument, it's also about seeing that horrible, evil, inhuman monster that you're debating lose.

Does anyone else notice any similarities between this and the current political climate?

Now, I'm going to make something clear here: I'm not making a Hitler/Nazi comparison. I'm just saying I know how discussions end up having those comparisons, once the fight has become a convenient substitute for reality.

For example, there are people who think President Bush plans to become a dictator of the United States. This is ridiculous; just look at the man over the past few weeks, and you know he's going to be pretty damn eager to leave come 2008. And there is a lot of nastiness that's not fair that's being directed at Bush... people who call him the "Chimperor", people who mock him because he's not a polished public speaker, and people who don't understand that, if he was as stupid as they claim, he couldn't have gotten an MBA from Harvard Business School.

But on the other side, you have people who are so wrapped up in winning, and in seeing the Democrats lose, that they're not even really looking at what they're supporting.

Look, there are a lot of honorable conservative commentators... people who would look at the current detainee bill, and say it was a terrible bill under any other circumstances. They're people who would have told you, five years ago, that they'd never support crap like this. And yet, there they are... because they don't want to lose.

And so, some of the people who should be sounding the alarm, who should be saying that this is a terrible bill, are blinded by this.

Look: who wants an innocent person held? No one. It's bad for freedom, it's bad for justice, and it's bad for America. So, why not grant habeus corpus rights, where the US either has to show there's a reasonable cause to hold someone, or let them go? It will clog the courts? Then we need more judges, more law clerks, and/or better processing of the court cases. The US can afford to expend the resources necessary for justice!

Who wants America to use torture? Come on; Nixon and Ford didn't need to use torture; Carter didn't need to use torture; Reagan and Bush I didn't need to use torture, and they all faced the threat of total nuclear annihilation. We don't need to use torture to handle a bunch of terrorist punks. We just have a President who doesn't have the courage or faith to trust that righteousness can win the day.

And who wants to expose people to unfair trials? No one. These people are accused of terrible crimes, and it would be an absolute travesty of justice to convict an innocent person of such terrible crimes. Yet the rules under consideration run a terrible risk of convicting the innocent.

This is a terrible bill, by the standards of both liberal and conservative thought. But the conservatives aren't speaking out... because they're blinded by the battle.

So, a lot of people think the bill is no big deal.

The people who are supposed to provide moral leadership have decided that they'd rather let themselves be blinded by the fight, and argue about something as stupid as - but infinitely more serious than - an orange Star Wars blaster.

We have to open their eyes.

Talk to your Senators, quickly. The House has already decided the love of the fight was more important than justice.

Quoted from Balkinization:

Perhaps most alarmingly, the new version contains a much broader definition of "unlawful enemy combatant." The "compromise" bill from last week defined "unlawful enemy combatant" as "an individual engaged in hostilities against the United States who is not a law enemy combatant." The new bill would expand the definition to cover:

(i) a person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant (including a person who is part of the Taliban, al Qaeda, or associated forces); or (ii) a person who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense.


Two problems here. In (i), what has to be purposeful? The support, or the support of hostilities? It's ambiguous, and when it's ambiguous, you can't trust the Bush administration. For them, ambiguous intelligence was enough to go to war; you surely can't trust them to interpret "purposeful support" to mean "purposeful support of hostilities." If you write a check, and sign it, and it takes three days to clear (so you could have changed your mind and cancelled the check), your support was surely purposeful. The language needs to be cleared up so that it is clear that if you support hostilities with knowledge aforethought, that you are guilty of a crime.

Second, it says the President or Secretary of Defense can have any appointed tribunal make a determination that you're an unlawful enemy combatant. Note the lack of restrictions on how that determination can be made. It doesn't require the tribunal to find that you were an enemy combatant "because...".

It is completely unacceptable, and supporting this bill is unconscionable... for a Democrat or a Republican. Forget whether the intent is good or bad; even if it's got good intent, the bill is so poorly written and so badly cobbled together that it just isn't workable. It must be defeated.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Jesus and torture

There are some battles that I try to stay out of. For example, I'm a Wiccan, and, as such, what goes on with Christians and Christianity isn't really my business any more. At the same time, I was raised Catholic, and I love Christianity, and despise what has been done to it. If I had a chance to do some service to bring Christianity back to what it could be, and should be, I'd do it. But honestly, it's really not my business, and how many Christians are going to listen to a Witch tell them what Jesus wants?

But recently, there's been a reason I feel I have to join the battle, at least from the sidelines. You see, there are prominent religious figures who are supporting Bush's policies regarding detainees, and there are too many people who are trying to pretend that torture is not entirely against Christian beliefs.

Now, the best way to fight against such lies is with the truth, and in this case, we can use the Gospel truth, literally. Let's look at the view of Christianity we can obtain by looking at the Gospels.
When Jesus preached, he went over certain ideas repeatedly, and these are the ones I'm going to highlight.

First, Jesus taught that your faith was personal. It dealt with you. Keep your faith between you and God, because that's where it belongs. Don't pray in public; don't give alms in public; don't make a show of your religion.

It's pretty darn crazy, then, that the Republicans try to boost their Jesus cred by demanding public prayer, displays of the Ten Commandments, and so forth, eh? Unfortunately, they've been babbling about this for decades now, so some folks haven't even bothered to read the Bible and find out what Jesus had to say about this... specifically, that God sees nothing good in people who do these things, because these people are seeking the rewards of man, and not doing what's right because it's right (nor even because it's what God wants, and what God will reward them for doing).

But it's not just personal in the sense of wanting to keep it private, between you and God. Jesus also thinks that your first concern should be your own spirituality. Don't walk around with a log sticking out of your eye, and then say "hey, bro, you're not seeing too clearly, because there's a speck in your eye! Lemme take care of that for you!" Worry about yourself, first, and worry about the big stuff, especially, before you start thinking about tiny little things about other folks.

There's actually an interesting bit about this, as well. There's a lot of Christians who insist that gay folks are sinners under God's law. Now, most of these Christians believe in the Redemption... that is, they believe that we are all sinners under the Law, but by accepting Jesus' sacrifice, we are redeemed in God's eyes.

They're fond of judging gay folks according to the law, declaring them to be sinners who are condemned. But Jesus quite clearly said "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

It seems to me that it's pretty damn clear: Judge by the Law, and you will be judged by the Law. Whether a gay person is saved or not is between the gay person and God, and if I were a Christian, and believed we all fell short of the Law, I would not be going around asking to be judged by it!

It's absolutely vital for Christians to recognize these things; you must recognize that Christianity's teachings are about how you should live your own life, because there's another idea that has suffered from terrible abuse in the past (and is being abused now, and surely will be abused in the future). Jesus spoke of two worlds, one of which was more important than the other. This life is temporary, and you shouldn't be as concerned about the things of this life, because the things of the next life are that much more important.

Jesus constantly spoke of building up one's treasure in the next life, by doing good works in this one, but there are a great many people who ignore that. They've decided that, since the second life is that much more important, all that matters is spreading salvation, not doing good works. But how can you spread salvation if you've misunderstood the message so badly that you don't recognize how vital it is to care about others in the here-and-now?

Even if you believe that we are saved by the grace of God and by faith, if you had any faith in the message at all, you couldn't ignore the constant exhortions to perform good works! When Jesus talked of those who would be judged as righteous on the Day of Judgment, he didn't talk about those who believed or those who preached salvation; he spoke of those who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, and visited the sick and imprisoned... and he spoke of condemnation for those who refused to do those things.

If you don't think of Christianity as a personal thing, it's all-too-easy to ignore the importance of taking action in this life to do what's right and good. After all, if the next life is so all-fired important, you should instead be preparing people for the next life. But that's the exact opposite of what Jesus said!

He said you should build treasure in that life, and not over-value things in this one... that way, when you had to choose between doing what's right, and doing what's to your benefit in this life, you'd choose to do what's right.

That's why Jesus also warned his followers to be careful about money. You can't serve both God and money, because the Godly decision, the righteous decision, is often a bad financial move. If you refuse to cheat people, just because you can, you won't make as big a profit... but you'll be right with God. If you help the poor when you can, it'll cost time, and money... but it'll reap you bigger rewards where it really counts.

This should really tell you something about the Republicans who both worship wealth, and claim to be the big-time Jesus lovers. How much could they love the man if they don't even listen to one of his most common themes?

There were two other things Jesus preached... love, and faith. He told his followers to love one another as Jesus had loved them... in short, to be so filled with love that you would be willing to suffer and die, if that's what it took to do what was right; after all, Jesus certainly loved humanity enough to face suffering and death for them.

And faith... even faith the size of a mustard seed could move mountains. Surely any faith at all is enough to say that we can win a war against a bunch of punk terrorists without needing to torture anyone, especially when we're the most powerful nation on earth!

To say we need have so little love for terror-suspects that we can torture them is to demonstrate a complete lack of faith in the power of righteousness... and yet people continue to insist that Jesus wouldn't care if his followers stood mutely by while torture took place. Jesus who came to bring justice to the world, and to teach us love, and to show us that love and faith were stronger even than death... and they presume to think he would countenance torture.

It's ludicrous; it flies in the face of everything Jesus spoke about. While it's none of my business who claims what is the Official and True Word of God, it offends me to see people try to pretend that torture of detainees is not a moral issue. It is a moral issue, and it simply boggles the mind to think that a person can claim Jesus would not tell his followers to do what's right, to show love (especially for those detainees whose guilt has not been established!) and to completely forswear torture.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Grief and politics

The Washington Post decided to help the GOP with midterm elections today, by printing this story . It speaks about how Bush feels badly about the soldiers who have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It's nice if he does get upset when he sees how much grief his orders have caused, but I have to admit, being able to be sad when confronted with someone in mourning doesn't really impress me. What impresses me is the ability to look at the results of your actions, and recognize when you've made a mistake, and learn the lessons of that mistake.

President Bush had intelligence before him that said

1) Iraq might not actually have biological or chemical programs, or a nuclear program
2) Saddam Hussein was not working with al Qaeda, and
3) Invading Iraq might create fertile conditions for a civil war.

Because he ignored that intelligence, because he didn't bother to dig into that intelligence, he launched the war.

And here we are today, with thousands of our best dead in a war that's costing hundreds of billions of dollars.

I'm glad he has agreed to meet some military families, to talk to the people who mourn their losses, and I'm sure it chokes him up. It should. He bought this war; he had the final decision to make, and his decision was to attack. He should feel bad, and he should shoulder a lot of grief.

But if he was a good man, and a strong leader, he wouldn't just shoulder the grief; he would learn from it. And there's no sign that he has done so.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Time to stop being cowardly

This is a message to all Democratic members of the Congress, and I hope it's heard by all of their constituents.

This is it. This is your last test. You've failed a whole bunch of them, acting like a pack of whipped dogs, and think you've still got some heart in you because you manage to yip a little bit when the lash falls too hard.

This is it.

There is a bill that will make turn the United States into a nation that has ceased to care about justice. Oh, it will still go through the motions for its citizens, and it might even go through the motions for its non-citizens... but there will be no heart left in it.

It's the "compromise" bill hammered out by the Republicans over prisoner trials and torture.

Yes, that's right, I said torture. They won't be able to break any bones, or cut people open in serious ways, some of the most egregious methods of torture will be forbidden, but the door will be open to allow torture.

And just because it's not cutting people's fingers off, doesn't mean it's not torture. You can beat a man with a rubber hose, and not cause serious injury... but it's still torture.

What makes this bill so terrible?

First, it says that no detainee can demand that the US show cause to hold him (or her), or release him.

If we have cause to hold these people, for god's sakes, keep them behind bars. But if they've been picked up by mistake, and if we can't justify holding them, for God's sake, release them.

Did you notice that little change in capitalization? See, all these Republican leaders claim to believe in God, but God believes in justice, and would never approve of people being held without cause. Hell, Bush says his favorite philosopher was Jesus; read the Gospels and tell me if Jesus would approve of imprisoning someone without cause.

Look: whenever you try to imprison the guilty, sure, you'll make mistakes. You'll look at all the evidence, and think an innocent person is guilty, and that's not okay, it's a terrible injustice... but at least you have cause. That's why it's only a mistake. To hold a person when the evidence doesn't justify it is blatant injustice.

If this bill passes, it's a way of saying we don't care if a blatant injustice occurs. We'll trust President Bush to decide who needs to be held and who can be released. He'll undoubtedly use "good, solid intelligence", the kind he used when he invaded Iraq, claiming there were large stockpiles of WMDs.

Is there anyone who can think that's a good idea these days? Come on! Intel gathering is an inherently fuzzy process, and can't help but make mistakes. That's why we need to allow prisoners to challenge their detentions, and release them if it turns out the spies made a mistake. It's not like we haven't seen them make dozens already!

Back to the horrors of this bill. Second: the bill allows torture. It'll have to be careful torture, it'll have to require an absence of serious physical injury, and it'll have to be described in a way that doesn't sound too damaging to the psyche. But let me assure you, if you can't imagine a way to put a person through horrible suffering under those guidelines, professional interrogators can.

If it was done to you, you'd call it torture. If it was done to a friend or a family member, you'd demand vengeance. And that means it's torture, and it's something that a nation that cares about justice must refuse to engage in.

Finally: it would allow us to hold mock trials. Oh, not every single trial would be a mockery, but some would be certain to be.

Crucial evidence regarding a person's guilt could be held back from the defense. The prosecution would have to do no more than say "we have evidence that tends to prove the defendent did X, Y, and Z."

How can a defendent question such a vague statement? How can a defendent point out that the witness is a known liar, who hates the defendent? How can the defendent find out that the witness wasn't even present at the event? How can the defendent point out that, while a certain piece of evidence looks bad, other, stronger evidence shows the truth, that the defendent is really and truly innocent?

Without letting defendents have full access to the evidence to be presented against them, we can't be sure that the verdict is based upon the truth, because we'll know that we might have prevented the defendent from establishing the truth.

This bill is beyond bad; it is a gross travesty of justice, and it's long past time the Democrats stood up, and remembered they care about justice... even if the Republican leadership has decided that they don't.

Standing up and opposing this bill might lose the election. Tough shit. This isn't about elections, this is about right and wrong. If you'll allow a gross injustice to occur to maintain your precious elected office, then you're no longer worthy of serving in that office.

And don't tell me that your opponent this November is worse. You see, Democrats know better. They know this bill is an abomination, a travesty of American values. A Democrat who would allow this bill to become law is worse than a Republican, who at least can whine about party loyalty.

It's time to stop being cowards; it's time to stop being a pack of whipped dogs.

It's time to show some courage, and turn from cowardly canines to a pack of wolves, ready to attack, to fight, to protect the very moral fabric of our nation.

Many a voter thinks there's no difference between you and the Republicans. They think you have no values, that you're lost, and adrift.

If you don't do everything in your power to stop this bill, they'll be completely correct.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Holy crap

Did you ever read something, and ask "why the hell didn't I think of that?"


Instead, Americans are told — often by the same people who had once predicted imminent attacks — that the absence of international terrorist strikes in the United States is owed to the protective measures so hastily and expensively put in place after 9/11. But there is a problem with this argument. True, there have been no terrorist incidents in the United States in the last five years. But nor were there any in the five years before the 9/11 attacks, at a time when the United States was doing much less to protect itself.


Read the rest; it's good stuff.

Non-starter for anyone ethical

So, there's a "compromise" between the top Republicans who are running scared of losing exclusive control of the Congress, and the President.

There's a PDF here, and it includes several reasons that this should be considered unacceptable.

The one that is absolute for me is 948r, section c.

Basically, it says we can use statements obtained through torture if the judge decides they're reliable, as long as this bill hadn't been passed when they were obtained.

Here's the thing. If the police beat a confession out of a suspect, you don't allow that confession to stand, in any court, for any reason, under any circumstances. Why? Because it rewards torture. You do not reward torture. Ever. Not if you're an ethical nation. You don't let some government goon to think "I did good by torturing that prisoner!"

It's a way of saying "Yeah, it sucks if you have vital information that you can't use because you got it through torture. I bet that makes you wish you'd never engaged in torture doesn't it? I bet you wish you'd found an ethical and moral method to get that information."

There's more; there are all kinds of injustices that could get by if this were enacted. For example, the government is allowed to tell the defense "we have classified information saying that your client attended an al Qaeda training camp and agreed to make war upon the United States. We won't tell you who told us that; it's classified. We won't tell you how we interrogated the person who told us that; that's classified. We won't tell you how it's been corroborated, if it has been. But we're going to introduce this as evidence into the trial."

How can a person defend against that charge? Maybe it was made by an enemy. Maybe it was given under duress. Maybe it was a single person who wouldn't have any way of knowing these facts.

No one deserves to be punished for being a terrorist unless that person is actually a terrorist. This bill would put innocent people at risk of being convicted unjustly.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Skip if you hate interblog battles

This pisses me off.

Normally, I stay out of blogger wars. It's none of my business. I don't know Ann Althouse (and at this moment in my life, I'm quite happy that this is the case) and I don't know Jessica of Feministing.

I think this, however, tells me everything I need to know:

I wanted to elevate a discussion from the comments section of a post from Wednesday, you know the one with the photo of the Daou-wrangled bloggers posing in front of Bill Clinton? The first commenter, Goesh, picks up on my prompt -- "Let's just array these bloggers... randomly" -- and wisecracks: "Who is the Intern directly in front of him with the black hair?"

Eventually, Jessica from a blog called Feministing, shows up and says: "The, um, 'intern' is me. It's so nice to see women being judged by more than their looks. Oh, wait..."

Snarky but somewhat conciliatory, I say: "Well, Jessica, you do appear to be 'posing.' Maybe it's just an accident."


Althouse admits that she was trying to get snarky comments by posting that picture and making the comment she did, calling it a "prompt".

And then, refuses to back down.

And then, and this is the part that really gets to me, later on tries to paint it in a grand, moralistic manner:

Jessica: I'm not judging you by your looks. (Don't flatter yourself.) I'm judging you by your apparent behavior. It's not about the smiling, but the three-quarter pose and related posturing, the sort of thing people razz Katherine Harris about. I really don't know why people who care about feminism don't have any edge against Clinton for the harm he did to the cause of taking sexual harrassment seriously, and posing in front of him like that irks me, as a feminist. So don't assume you're the one representing feminist values here. Whatever you call your blog....


Take a look at the picture
. Do you see a woman flashing her tits, or even showing a bit of cleavage? I see people standing in a group, shorter people in front, taller in back, trying to get close enough together to make a good group shot.

Ah... but that Jessica has breasts is clear through her knit top!

So, now she can be objectified, and mocked. Why? Because she doesn't hate Bill Clinton as much as Althouse does.

If you ever feel that feminists engage in a lot of pointless battles over objectification, well, one of the reasons is that it's used so often, in so many nasty ways.

I mean, I grant you, holding a random woman up to mockery is not ever going to make the top ten list of nasty crimes anywhere. But this is nasty, petty, and most of all, entirely and completely pointless. That upsets me, and I admit it, it upsets me out of proportion to the nastiness of the "crime". I don't like nastiness under any circumstances, but when you're trying to accomplish something important, I can deal with it. When it's just an attempt to hurt someone else, it infuriates me.

What makes it even worse is that Althouse then tries to insist she's acting on behalf of feminism, when she just admitted that she did the equivalent of saying "Let's laugh at the girl with the tits, because I don't like the way she looks."

Oh, and for the record, since Althouse mentions it... I've never looked at Katherine Harris, nor gave a damn what she did with her body. I cared that, when an election was in doubt, and democracy was at stake, she was not concerned with getting a full, fair, and to-the-vote accurate count for the people of the state of Florida.

Some of us, apparently, care more about what women do, than trying to be snarky about their appearance. Maybe Althouse can learn a lesson from ths.

Talk like a pirate day

Ahoy, me mateys! It be international talk like a pirate day, and I'm channelin' the spirit of one of the greats.

I've been in the crows nest, takin' a peek at these lefty publications, and I think ye've got it all wrong, jumping on me hearty, Georgie W.

Aye, he started a war, one that cost ye more riches than any pirate is ever goin' ta see, but can you blame a man, havin' all those fancy ships, and airplanes, and tanks? Why, I'd have invaded somewhere meself, and since everyone already was hatin' those a-rab fellows, 'r at least didn't give a piss off the poop deck if they got blown ta pieces, Iraq was as good as anything. And sure, he didn't get the plunder his own self, but his first mate got to give a bunch to his own mates, and that makes it all to the good.

And aye, he set an' did nothing, as lots of people drowned, but he's a President, not a seaman. The Coasties, they did a lot of rescuin', and let me tell ya, even a pirate can respect the Coasties for ripping people from the stormy seas' icy grasp. Ye can't expect a man to care about a lot of drownin' people if he doesn't know the sea. Of course he played on vacation and ignored the water risin'; even a lubber deserves his leave!

And aargh, but this torture crap is wearin' mighty thin. Of course the man wants to torture! We pirates do that all the time, when it gets us what we wants.

A'course, we pirates are murderin' sea scum, according to men of honor and all. But do ye really want a man a' honor guardin' yer backs?

Nah, me hearty, you let me mate Georgie W do all the torturin' he wants. That's what a pirate would do.


(It should be noted that I have no idea if, historically speaking, pirates engaged in torture. Nevertheless, when possessed by a spirit of a pirate, who sailed teh seven seas to attack and pillage helpless merchant ships, you can't be entirely sure that the spirit is going to tell you the truth. I've known many a sailor who was willing to embellish a story, especially if it might get them another tankard of ale or bottle of rum. I reckon pirates are no different.)

There's an interesting story here , but the part that I'd like to quote from is on the second page, here.

A Canadian citizen, kept in a dungeon for ten months in Syria. What did the Canadian authorities have to say about this event?

Cavalluzzo said the Canadian agents apparently operated without proper training. "The best one can say is that it was sheer incompetence. They did not appreciate the fact that the branding of someone as a 'target' or 'suspect' or 'Islamic extremist' to Americans in 2002 could lead to disastrous consequences."

After Arar was detained in New York, Canadian authorities apparently were unaware the Americans were preparing to send him to Syria, according to the commission finding.

The RCMP contact, Inspector Michel Cabana, "was under the impression that Mr. Arar would only be detained for a short time," O'Connor's report said. "In his view, Mr. Arar was being held in a country with many of the same values as Canada."



Sheer incompetence is a good way to look at it... the story says that Mr. Arar was detained despite having no legitimate ties to terrorism, past a few chats with people who were suspected Muslim extremists... but the Muslim community in Canada is small. In a small community, you expect to see people reaching out to make connections. Was Mr. Arar not supposed to say "hey, nice weather we've been having?" to someone in the Muslim community on the off chance that he'd be talking to an extremist?

At the same time, I wonder if they're being a little harsh.

I mean, who the hell would suspect that America - even after the devastating attacks on September 11th, 2001 - would ever send an innocent man to be tortured, and to be locked in a "coffin sized dungeon" for ten months?

I wouldn't have believed it was possible at all. If I'd been convinced it was possible, I'd have desperately wanted to believe that someone, somewhere along the line, would refuse to do something so terrible without really good, strong evidence that it was justified.

I guess I was naive.

Monday, September 18, 2006

An interesting footnote to a tiny bit of nastiness is here... a follow-up to the story of the penis pump that was claimed - or so it was thought - to be a "bomb".

Did you know that some foreign speakers have a hard time getting the difference between p and b? Same lip motion, just a difference in how it's expressed.

Makes "pump" sound a lot like "bumb" which sounds a lot like "bomb".

Why, why, why did this take longer than an hour to straighten out? Put the guy in a private room, ask "what is this?", "what did you say it was?" and make him write it down. Then let him board the flippin' plane.

And yes, I know, blah blah, must take security threats seriously, blah blah, don't joke with screeners and security, blah, blah, and blah. I remain of the opinion that with a little bit of thinking, this could have been avoided.

For any rightwingers who want to claim I'm "angry" or "furious" or somesuch over this, no... I'm annoyed that a non-threat got a significant of time and energy when it didn't have to. That's time and energy not spent taking care of real issues. Good security isn't just "catching the threats". It's also avoiding the non-threats.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Some numbers...

Just out of curiosity, I did some searches for the strength of the insurgency in Iraq.

You see, there's a lot of people who want to get really, really tough, and think that people like me don't take the threat seriously enough. I don't realize how dangerous the "islamo-fascists" are. (Please remember how much I despise the use of the word "Islam" in the description of the terrorists. What matters is that they are terrorists, not that they're Muslims.)

The number of people who are willing to do terrible things to us helps determine what course of action is proper... military, or law enforcement-style action. It also helps us measure the threat.

In a country that is occupied by a foreign military, a military responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people, the estimated strength of the insurgency is about 20,000, with up to 200,000 sympathizers.

Less than one tenth of one percent - one in a thousand! - are willing to fight us. And you can be sure a much smaller number would feel that way if we hadn't invaded. Less than one percent sympathize with those fighters. It is estimated that 97% of Iraq's population are Muslims.

That means that, for every sympathizer, there are 97 Muslims who aren't sympathizers, and for every fighter, there are 970 who don't fight.

So, figure it out; should we be trying to make the entire nation suffer the horrors of war? Or should we be worried only about the small number of bad guys, and let the remaining 99+% of the country live out their lives in peace?

The lessons

I read a post here, at Feministe, and it inspired the start of this. It was talking about people who tried to own some part of the tragedy of the attacks on September 11th.

I understand trying to make it touch you, because it seems that the tragedy would be that much worse if it could be so huge and not touch your life.

But then the essay I was writing changed. You'll see what I mean, and understand why, I suppose:


Three thousand people dead.

I understand why people want to make it part of themselves. It staggers the mind.

Three thousand. Probably ten people were having birthdays that day, their families were going to have cake and ice cream and they would be embarrassed by people singing the Happy Birthday song, but under that embarrassment would be an understanding of the affection behind it. And still more would have been attending birthday parties, and affectionately embarrassing their friends, lovers, or family members.

There was probably someone, at least one, who felt that he, or she, had found The One. That night, after dinner, and some wine, the answer to "do you have to go home?" would have been "no", and they would have made love most of the night... even when they weren't having sex.

There were people who had dreamed huge dreams, dreams they knew would never come true, but only because the dreams were too big, too impossible... not because they'd have their lives brutally ripped away that very day.

And there were people whose biggest dreams might have been something smaller, and less earthshaking, like seeing the Boston Red Sox finally winning the World Series... a life doesn't have to be filled with big, impossible, or earthshaking dreams, to be valuable and wonderful.

There were people fighting with loved ones, who, in a few days, would have realized that nothing is more important than that love... certainly not a petty squabble. There would have been a reconciliation, but the chance was stolen. On the other side, there were people whose last words to their loved ones were "I love you", and it was sincere, and understood.

There were people who had had a chance to do what they'd always wanted, and those who were still finding what they wanted, and those who were just about to take the first steps towards their desires.

And if it had been a natural disaster, or some tragic accident, it could be easier to deal with, but it wasn't. It was done by men who were perfectly willing to cause that much suffering. They just didn't care.

What's worse, the people in the towers, end even the people in the Pentagon, didn't know what was going on, or why these terrible things were happening, and they'd never know. The last minutes of their lives would not only have been filled with fear and pain, but with an unanswered questions: How could anyone be willing to do this? And why?

I want justice for that. Some people want more; they want revenge. Some want to find everyone who was involved and kill those people in the most torturous manner possible, and I understand that. I don't like it, but trust me, I understand it. And if I knew the people who were involved who are still walking free had any conception of how much suffering they caused, and the crushing weight of guilt hasn't broken them, I'd be tempted to let the revenge-seekers have their way.

But I wouldn't give in to that temptation, not if it was under my control. I am filled with fury, and rage, at what they've done, but I will not let them make me hate. I would insist on justice, and not let their evil actions corrupt me in the slightest.

The terrorists' actions can fill me with fury, but they can't make me forswear justice; they can't blind me to the suffering of others; they will not make me hate.

Which brings us to Iraq.

More than ten times as many people have died in Iraq as a result of our invasion. People have died on their birthdays; on the days they planned to connsumate their love; with big, impossible dreams in their head, and smaller, less eartshaking ones. People with relationships to mend, and solid relationship to celebrate; people living their dreams, learning their dreams, or chasing their dreams.

If it had been some natural disaster, or some tragic accident, it would be easier to deal with, but it wasn't. It was done on the orders of men who didn't care about the suffering they would cause.

We were told that Saddam presented a threat... yet we knew that his military defeat would be swift and certain.

We were told he had stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons, and a nuclear program, when the people making the claim knew that there were serious questions about the intelligence.

We were told that we had to go after Iraq after 9/11, by people who knew that Saddam had no ties to, nor any working relationship with, al Qaida.

In the past few days, I've seen some folks on rightwing blogs saying that we liberals don't understand, that we haven't learned the lessons, and similar things.

Well, the attacks hammered home how every person is precious, how no one deserves to have their life cut brutally short by people who simply don't care about what happens to them. It drove home what a terrible thing it must be to be facing certain death, not knowing how or why such terrible things were happening.

And the attacks demonstrated that hatred was now a powerful and deadly weapon.

Tens of thousands if innocent people dead, but they happened in dribs and drabs, over months instead of all in a single day and so few people mourned... least of all, those who talked most loudly about "the lessons of September 11th".

How could I not despise such a war? How could I not oppose such a war with my entire heart, mind, and spirit? The terrorists showed me hatred; I rejected it. And thus, I can not support such a needless, worthless war.

Because I remember September 11th.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Wow... but not what some folks will think.

I've seen a post recently about a woman in a persistent vegetative state who was found to have higher levels of consciousness than previously believed.

Today, I saw this. Pretty fascinating stuff... but the article incorrectly mentions another particularly famous case, the case of Terri Schiavo.

The article claims that Michael Schiavo petitioned the court to remove his wife's feeding tube, and her birth-family disagreed with the diagnosis. See, that's not what happened.

Everyone agreed she was in a PVS as of the first court trial. There was some disagreement about her wishes. So, Michael invoked the courts, asking the court to look at all available evidence, and render a determination of what Terri would have wanted.

The original trial court's ruling seems to suggest that the court ordered the removal of the feeding tube. What the court actually ruled was that there was clear and convincing evidence, based upon her medical condition (all, or so close as to make no difference, of her cerebral cortex was physically absent. Gone. Not "presumed damaged beyond repair", but dead, and broken down and absorbed by the body), and a recounting of conversations she'd had, as an adult, while talking about end of life, that she would not consent to continued tube feedings. If she knew that she would be in this situation, she'd have said "no, don't do that."

There's one other important point. The judge decided the recounting of the conversations that led to his decision were clear and convincing because the witnesses were believable, forthcoming, did not change their stories, and freely admitted to information that weakened their case. They came across as people who were trustworthy, and trying to do what's right.

The witnesses for the Schindlers were counted as untrustworthy. They'd changed their stories, and gave self-serving answers for why. More importantly, the judge notes that not even the transcript of their testimony would show you what they looked and sounded like.

Listen, everyone can be conned... especially people who think they're "pretty good" at spotting liars. But if a seasoned judge tells you that, due to behavior and the type of testimony given, he thinks a person is lying, I give that a lot of weight. Judges see a lot of liars, and good judges have to determine who's hiding something big, and who's just hedging the truth a tiny bit (and who is telling the truth as best as possible, but mis-remembering or mis-stating details).

If Judge Greer thought the witnesses were trying to snow him, and can point to differences between testimony and the deposition, and, in addition, feels that the people are lying, I'm pretty convinced.

I should note that Judge Greer is an evangelical Christian, who went against the teachings of many evangelicals. This is another thing that convinces me.

In addition, Jay Wolfson later reviewed the case, and he, too, determined that the law had been followed, and the best possible attempt was made to find out about Terri's wishes. He later mentioned desperately wishing he'd seen some sign that she was still conscious, but did not, and couldn't stop questioning himself.

I say that it's nearly impossible that Terri would have been helped, by anything. You know what? I'd love to be proven wrong. I'd love for the next person with an absent cerebral cortex would be cured. But it wouldn't change the facts of the Schiavo case, and those facts are this:

After making the best determination that we, as a society can make, we determined that Terri would have refused tube feedings, based upon her own words. As such, we, as a society, were obligated to follow her wishes.

You don't force medical treatment on anyone without that person's consent. Oh, sure, there are exceptions... but none that applied to Terri Schiavo's situation.

I despise the way the Congress played politics with this issue. I don't fault them for caring, and talking, but I do fault them for not learning the facts of the case. But there are two men who earned my utter contempt with regards to that case.

The first is Jeb Bush. Remember I mentioned Jay Wolfson's report? The one that said the law, and medical ethics, all came down in favor of granting Terri's request? That report was written on the orders of Jeb Bush. Apparently, he ignored it.

Search for the report; it's on the web. See if you think Solomon himself could have done what Jay Wolfson did. He got the families talking, and almost agreeing, on a course of action that would have determined Terri's future treatment.

But Jeb Bush couldn't be bothered by an intelligent presentation of the facts, nor by compassion and wisdom... he had pro-life special interest groups to court!

The other person who earns my special contempt is George W. Bush. The Congress, well, they can be stupid. They might not talk to governors about state issues; after all, they're the Congress. Hey, maybe the President wouldn't speak to some mere governor about an issue of state law... but any man who won't talk to his own brother to learn the facts of the case before making a big show about claiming to be acting out of "compassion" isn't someone I can trust.

A few quotes

Here , there are a few quotes from President Bush.


"I am often asked why we are in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was not responsible for the 9/11 attacks," Mr Bush said. "The answer is that the regime of Saddam Hussein was a clear threat. My administration, the Congress, and the United Nations saw the threat - and after 9/11, Saddam's regime posed a risk that the world could not afford to take.

"The world is safer because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power."


The world is now safer, got it? The world is safer, a threat is gone.


Whatever mistakes have been made in Iraq, the worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out, the terrorists would leave us alone. They will not leave us alone. They will follow us," Mr Bush said.

"If we yield Iraq to men like bin Laden, our enemies will be emboldened ... they will gain a new safe haven ... and they will use Iraq's resources to fuel their extremist movement."


Wait a minute... it sounds like there's a new threat. One that's every bit as dangerous as Saddam Hussein.

How can the world be safer if, instead of a few weeks to depose a tyrant, it's taken years of continued high levels of troops and hundreds of billions of dollars to avert a completely different threat?

How can the world be safer, as a result of the invasion, if one threat's been replaced by a new one? Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with al Qaida... but if we leave now, it might strengthen al Qaida.

The world as a whole might, in fact, be safer. I don't think it is, but even if it was, Bush has just admitted that the actual threat to the United States has become higher, and requires continual military action to fight it.

A terrible thought...

What is torture?

When you think of torture, you think of someone causing suffering to force a prisoner to talk, right? And Bush claims the US does not torture. And some of the interrogation methods used don't sound too bad, when read in a comfortable chair in your living room.

But here's a question for you. A prisoner in US custody might be forced to stand for a long time, hoping to soften him or her up. How is that enforced? Do they sternly say "don't sit down!"

I doubt it. I imagine they do whatever they need to do to force the prisoner to remain standing. But if they beat the prisoner, it's not to make the prisoner talk; heavens no! It's just to enforce obedience. Prison discipline, you know. Guards have to maintain discipline or it'll put them in danger.

It'd be awfully interesting to find out the answers to these questions. Bush could have the military essentially beating "confessions" out of prisoners, and still be able to claim that it's not torture, because the suffering is not directly intended to make the prisoner talk. (The scare quotes around "confession" there are because torture will get a prisoner to say whatever it takes to get torture to stop. It could be a legitimate confession. It could also be a false confession.)

Oh, did I hear some rightwinger claim that I hope Bush is torturing prisoners? That I'm celebrating prisoner mistreatment? I've seen rightwingers use that tactic before, so, for the record, no. I want the answers to the questions, so I'll know the truth. This country needs to know the truth, and deserves to know the truth.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Secret prisons...

So, today we found out that President Bush had ordered the CIA to hold prisoners in secret prisons. He assures us that they were not tortured, and reminds us that torture is illegal. Here's a question.

What would he hold people in secret prisons, rather than at Guantanamo Bay, unless he was hiding something?

I can't prove that anyone was tortured in CIA secret prisons. However, we know that the CIA engaged in torture in Iraq. Why would we believe that they were hesitant to torture people in the secret prison sites? After all, torturing people in Iraq was much more dangerous (it was a war crime) in Iraq.

Of course, if the prisoners say that they were tortured, we'll be told that they were lying. And, of course, anyone who says differently would be revealing secret information, and would be putting the United States at risk. Remember how angry people were when the Abu Ghraib photographs came out?

So, if they were tortured, who would ever tell us?

But let's ignore the question of torture for the moment. There's another question: why was this done right now? A possible answer is provided here.

The president wants to get the authority to run military tribunals with as few restrictions as possible. By transferring people who are extremely dangerous into Guantanamo, he's hoping it will force Congress to write legislation to his liking.

But that's not all he's trying to do. He knows it full well that the Democrats won't stand for unfair trials. Even our worst enemies deserve a fair trial. I don't care what anybody says about how dangerous they are; first we must prove that they are that dangerous. Only then can we punish them.

I can't imagine a greater injustice than declaring an innocent person to be a member of one of the worst terrorist groups on the plant. Before we put people in prison, or execute them, we must be sure that they are guilty. And the only way we can do that is with a fair trial.

But I'm sure that you can hear the outcry already: "The Democrats are soft on terror."

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