On Moral Cowardice

Re: The appalling new detainee trial bill that will undoubtedly be signed into law:

President Bush is a moral coward, and has always been a moral coward, since at no point has he shown anything other than incomprehension of and contempt for the United States Constitution, particularly when it comes to his pet projects of torturing people and sham trials. I simply can’t conceive of a worse president than this one; and I can’t imagine a scenario in which, if placed in front of him, I didn’t express to him in no uncertain terms the depth of my contempt of him, his policies, and the low moral position he’s placed my country. I find it appalling that the only good thing I can say about the man is that I can’t imagine he won’t be the worst president of the 21st Century, so in that respect the worst part of the my political life will be over in two years and change.

Senators McCain, Warner and Graham are moral cowards for making a big show of having problems with Bush’s awful trial plan, and yet “compromising” with a deal that has no discernable practical difference from the president’s original trial plan. These men postured as bulwark for the Constitution, and I for one gave them my faith, which is not something I’ll be in a mad rush to do again. McCain in particular I hold out for special criticism, because he does have the moral standing to stop something like this in its tracks. Instead he traded that moral standing for a bit of political theater.

The Senate Democrats are moral cowards for not filibustering this bill as they ought to have, fearing Republican retribution at the polls and figuring that it’ll be tossed out by the courts anyway. I simply cannot understand the sort of rank and pervasive incompetence Democrats have to have in order to allow themselves to be politically flummoxed time and again by the least popular and least competent president in modern political history. The Democrats ought to have stepped on this bill’s head and killed it, not only because they could have, but because they should have. Someone should have stood up for the Constitution and for the moral standing of the United States and its practices. Someone should be up there calling Bush what he is: A tiny man so frightened of the terrorist boogyman that he’s willing to shred our moral standing to keep him away, and so dead-eyed hateful of what it means to be American that he can’t find a way to protect this country without urinating on what it is that makes us great. Merely pounding on a podium for C-SPAN is not sufficient to do this. This bill should have been stopped. It wasn’t.

I’m proud to be an American, but I’m tired of being ashamed of my government. I’m tired of having to count the seconds until this bilious waste of a president is shoved out the door in January of 2009. I’m tired of hoping that some members of the president’s political party might actually put principle over political expedience, particularly when it concerns the Constitution. And I’m tired of waiting for the opposing party to actually grow a goddamned spine and become an opposing party. I’m tired of wondering why the people we elect to lead us don’t seem to actually understand what it means to be American, and to be moral, and to do what it right for us. And I’m tired of having to look so hard for genuine leadership as opposed to the sham idiot version we have now. I feel like Diogenes, and I’m coming up short.

I’m tired of being led by moral cowards. I want better for myself, and for my country.

294 thoughts on “On Moral Cowardice

  1. I’m grumpy enough at the moment, incidentally, that I very nearly disabled the comment thread, because frankly, I don’t actually want to argue with anyone about this point. Honestly, if you don’t see moral cowardice all over this thing, on all sides, I suspect you may be a complete idiot, and I don’t really want to talk to you about it.

    However, I was less comfortable about not keeping the comment thread open than I was in the possibility that someone would want to argue the point. So it’s open. However, I won’t be participating in the thread. I’ve said what I feel like saying on the subject for now. But, please, converse amongst yourselves. I’ll be reading (and patrolling for trolls, so please be civil) but probably not kicking in comments. I trust you all will get along fine without me.

  2. I’m glad I’m not the only one with a throbbing forehead vein over this. In the summer of 2001, if someone would have told me that in a mere five years, substantial bulwarks of the American civilization would have been dismantled by a feckless, incurious, unpopular president and his gang of lick-spittles, I would have laughed at the absurdity. However, look what happened to Zimbabwe under Mugabe: when the very government is coopted and dismantled from within, the citizens find themselves in a kind of unbelieving stupor. The sad thing here is that more Americans could tell you about the finer points of the the latest episode of “Dancing with C-grade Celebrities Trying to Jump Start their Careers” than have given any notice to this.

    Well, Scalzi, I’m in the Detroit area, you’re in Ohio. When the whole thing collapses into the dustbin of history, do we try and organize a Republic of the Great Lakes? I’d trade Ontario for Texas any day of the week.

  3. John, I’d been watching this one for a few days, figuring that some sort of grand compromise was going to come down the pike from McCain et al, and sure enough it did. I’ll say that my reaction as a recent college grad was that I wanted to drink myself into a stupor so I could forget about the shredding that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights took today. I read the editorials page of the Indianapolis Star every morning, and it absolutely drives me crazy how many columns the paper pays for and runs that say, “If you don’t trust that the president is going to hunt down the terrorists, then you’re a Democrat who wants us all to die.” George Will, Jonah Goldberg, Kathryn Lopez, and more, so many people who years ago traded intellectual credibility for the “You’re either with us or against us” mentality that makes for great electoral politics, especially when you run on the side of fear.

    You should consider becoming a syndicated editorialist. Your ability to argue far outweighs 95% of people who are already paid for it, and more than likely moderately outweighs the other 5%.

  4. John, I’d been watching this one for a few days, figuring that some sort of grand compromise was going to come down the pike from McCain et al, and sure enough it did. I’ll say that my reaction as a recent college grad was that I wanted to drink myself into a stupor so I could forget about the shredding that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights took today. I read the editorials page of the Indianapolis Star every morning, and it absolutely drives me crazy how many columns the paper pays for and runs that say, “If you don’t trust that the president is going to hunt down the terrorists, then you’re a Democrat who wants us all to die.” George Will, Jonah Goldberg, Kathryn Lopez, and more, so many people who years ago traded intellectual credibility for the “You’re either with us or against us” mentality that makes for great electoral politics, especially when you run on the side of fear.

    You should consider becoming a syndicated editorialist. Your ability to argue far outweighs 95% of people who are already paid for it, and more than likely moderately outweighs the other 5%.

  5. Count me in. I’m in Akron (just south of Cleveland).
    I had this discussion with a few coworkers the other day. If, by some miracle, we can get a competent and decent body of government in 2008, it makes me ill to think about how hard it is going to be to fix everything that these past 6-8 years have broken. These are dark days and I can’t see a light at the end of this tunnel. I’m not afraid of terrorists destroying our buildings. I’m afraid of our leaders destroying our country.
    I don’t even know what we can do to stop it anymore. The whole thing is simple a game to them.

  6. Hi, I found my way here via a link to Schadenfreude Pie.

    I can’t say enough how much I appreciate what you’ve written here because it really echos what I feel–especially, “I’m proud to be an American, but I’m tired of being ashamed of my government.” One of the many transgressions of this administration–and a particularly nastily clever one–has been to link the notion of patriotism with blind allegiance. Well, I’m proud to be an American, too, and I hate what’s happening to my country, and how badly this administration has represented us to our neighbors, to the world, to ourselves.

    It makes me crazy, and I feel utterly helpless watching outrage after outrage pass by, treading water until the next election. I just wish there was a strong contender (from well, actually, either party–Democrat or Republican) ready to stand up for this country and against what’s been done to it.

    Whew. Sorry to be so wordy. Looking forward to reading more here.

  7. Hi, I found my way here via a link to Schadenfreude Pie.

    I can’t say enough how much I appreciate what you’ve written here because it really echos what I feel–especially, “I’m proud to be an American, but I’m tired of being ashamed of my government.” One of the many transgressions of this administration–and a particularly nastily clever one–has been to link the notion of patriotism with blind allegiance. Well, I’m proud to be an American, too, and I hate what’s happening to my country, and how badly this administration has represented us to our neighbors, to the world, to ourselves.

    It makes me crazy, and I feel utterly helpless watching outrage after outrage pass by, treading water until the next election. I just wish there was a strong contender (from well, actually, either party–Democrat or Republican) ready to stand up for this country and against what’s been done to it.

    Whew. Sorry to be so wordy. Looking forward to reading more here.

  8. I cannot comprehend how someone could disagree with you here.

    And I cannot comprehend how anyone can, with a straight face, make the argument that torture (“extraordinary means”) should be available for alleged terrorists, but we don’t need to worry about the government expanding that to the American citizenry. No, the government never expands its authority; it is always wise and reserved in the use of its powers.

    *sigh*

  9. “It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of one of those liberties which make the defense
    of our nation worthwhile.” – Earl Warren

    What he said.

  10. “It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of one of those liberties which make the defense
    of our nation worthwhile.” – Earl Warren

    What he said.

  11. I couldn’t have said how I feel better than you have, and since I rarely shut up that’s saying a lot. I voted against Bush–TWICE–and I am inconsolable over what he and his entire party have done to America.

    I often wonder what America would have been like had Al Gore won.

  12. Oh thank god. I was getting a weird impression that people were okay with this ‘compromise’ detainee bill, and it makes me sick. I just don’t understand how this administration is allowed to get away with pretty much anything they want time and time again.

  13. Oh thank god. I was getting a weird impression that people were okay with this ‘compromise’ detainee bill, and it makes me sick. I just don’t understand how this administration is allowed to get away with pretty much anything they want time and time again.

  14. My theory and I don’t think it’s a bad one, is that we no longer have two political parties. The fact that someone is a Democrat or a Republican doesn’t matter in any real sense as, for the most part, they are career politicians first and leaders of our cities, states and nation second. There are exceptions and I don’t think that most of them went into it with this result in mind, there are probably a few but probably not even a sizable majority intended this to happen. Unfortunately, it has happened and now we get things like McCain pissing away what remaining street cred he had left, probably in some deal for his ’08 run. Even more unfortunately, I’m not sure how you’d go about fixing this sort of problem.

  15. The administration gets away with whatever it wants because Congress won’t stop them. And Congress won’t stop them because in a contest between “I kept the President from torturing people” and “I voted to keep illegal immigrants from stealing your tax dollars through welfare” or “I voted to allow you to save 10% on your drugs by buying them from Canada”, guess which ad’s gonna get someone re-elected?

    In fact, in my town (a college town in a blue state), the political ad I’ve been hearing the most of is that drug ad. Nobody really knows about the torture bill — I didn’t know about it until today, for instance.

  16. The administration gets away with whatever it wants because Congress won’t stop them. And Congress won’t stop them because in a contest between “I kept the President from torturing people” and “I voted to keep illegal immigrants from stealing your tax dollars through welfare” or “I voted to allow you to save 10% on your drugs by buying them from Canada”, guess which ad’s gonna get someone re-elected?

    In fact, in my town (a college town in a blue state), the political ad I’ve been hearing the most of is that drug ad. Nobody really knows about the torture bill — I didn’t know about it until today, for instance.

  17. Agreed. And you can replace ‘American’ with ‘human’, and ‘Constitution’ with ‘morality’ and we are still good.

    I call myself a patriot and these term have meaning for me, yet I fear both are losing standing in the world and history. Yet your sentiment will endure when both the Constitution and the meaning of American fades.

  18. Yeah. Thanks for articulating this. When I hear things like, “But there are terrorists out to GET US! Any means of protection is justifiable” I often want to suggest mental health treatment for PTSD. That can be the only explanation for people following this line of crap. Some kind of mental thought process gone defunct due to extreme and irrational fear.

    I’ve sometimes mused about what I would do if I met the president. How I could be in the same room with him and even pretend to be gracious. I know I couldn’t pull it off. Then I’d probably wind up ‘detained’ myself.

  19. Yeah. Thanks for articulating this. When I hear things like, “But there are terrorists out to GET US! Any means of protection is justifiable” I often want to suggest mental health treatment for PTSD. That can be the only explanation for people following this line of crap. Some kind of mental thought process gone defunct due to extreme and irrational fear.

    I’ve sometimes mused about what I would do if I met the president. How I could be in the same room with him and even pretend to be gracious. I know I couldn’t pull it off. Then I’d probably wind up ‘detained’ myself.

  20. Great post, John, but I have two major points of disagreement.

    I wish I shared your conviction that this nightmare will be over January 2009, but my fear is that I’m living right now through the end of the American experiment in liberty and freedom, and the beginning of the American police state.

    The other point I don’t agree with: “I’m proud to be an American, but I’m tired of being ashamed of my government.” I’m heartsick, today, to be a citizen of a nation that permits secret trials and torture.

  21. Elizabeth Holtzman of the Chicago Sun says the torture bill’s real purpose is to legislate a presidential pardon (for Bush) for war crimes to be redeemed in the future….”Under cover of the controversy involving the military tribunals….hoping that no one will notice.”

  22. Elizabeth Holtzman of the Chicago Sun says the torture bill’s real purpose is to legislate a presidential pardon (for Bush) for war crimes to be redeemed in the future….”Under cover of the controversy involving the military tribunals….hoping that no one will notice.”

  23. “I’m proud to be an American, but I’m tired of being ashamed of my government.”

    Many years ago, I was in Barcelona, late at night, in an alley. A drug dealer, after some other assorted offers says to me, “You’re American right? You Americans like crack, right?” Which is really the funniest story I had from spending a couple months as a shiftless bum in Europe. I do not look forward to sitting around a dining table and hearing the new & improved version of that comment. I do not look forward to the sad droop that will come to my eyes and lips, or even the flush of honest embarassment. What will I be embarassed about? That so much of the rest of the country isn’t embarassed by G.W.Bush advocating torture. I’m pretty much numb to the idea that McCain, who was himself a victim of inhumane treatment would budge on the issue. It’s kind of a square-peg round-hole thing for me right now.

    Let me be clearer about my feelings. I’m not proud to be an American, it wasn’t my doing really (see also: Bill Hicks). I’m pleased with the way America was founded, and for a while it offered comfort to me about the human condition. I am ashamed of my president, and I’m ashamed of the people who support him in his reprehensible, callous, and base actions.

  24. “I’m proud to be an American, but I’m tired of being ashamed of my government.”

    Everytime I meet someone here (in Iceland) and have to admit that I’m an American, I feel like I need to follow it up with an apology. I don’t think that any nation is perfect, but I want to live in a society that is moving forward, not backwards.

  25. “I’m proud to be an American, but I’m tired of being ashamed of my government.”

    Everytime I meet someone here (in Iceland) and have to admit that I’m an American, I feel like I need to follow it up with an apology. I don’t think that any nation is perfect, but I want to live in a society that is moving forward, not backwards.

  26. Wow, as if I was not already nauseous from suspect marinade on last night’s tune steaks.

    The mighty consitution has been gang-raped and systematically totured and slowly dis-emboweled by the administration.

    I had faith in Mcain for a while and now he’s completely failed me. Man spent years in a bamboo cage undrgoing the very same thing he now has completely caved on. Nice going, John.

    These days…

  27. I live in Dubai – close enough to Iraq.

    And, well, you bought into all that overblown shit they when “Iraq finally voted”, didnt you – I remember you singing hosannas about the Great Iraqi Liberation. It takes something like a we-have-the-right-to-torture-people bill to remind you that this government never meant well – from the beginning.

    I read that the latest police station built by a US contractor for Iraqi recruits “has feces raining from the ceilings” thanks to plumbing leaking through. Bravo, what has freedom brought the Iraqi people! As if people in these regions aren’t dying enough thanks to their dictators and their domestic tyrants and their combustible social structures, you export war and violence to these countries.

    And American citizens buy it – you might have different levels of swallowing bullshit, but you still swallow; maybe you voted republican or maybe you didnt, but you still bought into your own ridiculous, overblown perception as liberators. If you really would like to liberate people from dictators, I suggest starting with Sudan, or Congo, or any of those places where they outclass Saddam in every kind of crime committed. And then, maybe, you could have looked at Iraq with some credibility.

    Your pose right now is pretty sad, all considering. You are a pompous ass who believes himself humane. Leave the world alone and spare us your tripe. And I suggest for a little humility, that you read riverbend: baghdadburning.blogspot.com

  28. I live in Dubai – close enough to Iraq.

    And, well, you bought into all that overblown shit they when “Iraq finally voted”, didnt you – I remember you singing hosannas about the Great Iraqi Liberation. It takes something like a we-have-the-right-to-torture-people bill to remind you that this government never meant well – from the beginning.

    I read that the latest police station built by a US contractor for Iraqi recruits “has feces raining from the ceilings” thanks to plumbing leaking through. Bravo, what has freedom brought the Iraqi people! As if people in these regions aren’t dying enough thanks to their dictators and their domestic tyrants and their combustible social structures, you export war and violence to these countries.

    And American citizens buy it – you might have different levels of swallowing bullshit, but you still swallow; maybe you voted republican or maybe you didnt, but you still bought into your own ridiculous, overblown perception as liberators. If you really would like to liberate people from dictators, I suggest starting with Sudan, or Congo, or any of those places where they outclass Saddam in every kind of crime committed. And then, maybe, you could have looked at Iraq with some credibility.

    Your pose right now is pretty sad, all considering. You are a pompous ass who believes himself humane. Leave the world alone and spare us your tripe. And I suggest for a little humility, that you read riverbend: baghdadburning.blogspot.com

  29. I’m proud to be an American, but I’m tired of being ashamed of my government.

    And your country can be proud of you and everybody like you who is willing to put words to their disgust with an administration that does not realise that every time it supresses the rights of a human being – whether he be friend or foe, innocent or guilty, accused of speeding or of wanting to blow up a city – it is doing the work of the terrorists for them, making the world a little less free.

    Please keep speaking out. Someone has to.

  30. My only disagreement with you is that McCain has pulled this stunt of moral posturing and selling out repeatedly over the last few years. His desire for the presidency has outweighed any moral compass he once had.

    According to Susie Madrak one of Reid’s staffer’s said they wouldn’t fillibuster because they didn’t have the votes to prevent cloture http://susiemadrak.com/2006/09/28/16/14/no-filibuster/

    To my mind it’s inexcuseable to have voted for torture regardless and for any Democrat to see that bill as business as usual is a sad statement about our government.

    Shameful, evil, incompetent governance with no opposition – one would have thought these events highly improbably had you written them in a novel. I’m ashamed and outraged.

  31. Thank you for writing this, John. For a short while there, I was afraid that you had stopped paying attention or had given up. You have the opportunity and the talent to make a difference with your voice, and I am grateful that you do.

    Sadly, I’m not sure I share your optimism about 2009. And I am weary and angry about this bizzare situation in which so many citizens don’t know or don’t care about what is being done in their name. But reading your post and the comments of others (thanks to all of you who have posted) have given me a little hope this morning.

  32. Thank you for writing this, John. For a short while there, I was afraid that you had stopped paying attention or had given up. You have the opportunity and the talent to make a difference with your voice, and I am grateful that you do.

    Sadly, I’m not sure I share your optimism about 2009. And I am weary and angry about this bizzare situation in which so many citizens don’t know or don’t care about what is being done in their name. But reading your post and the comments of others (thanks to all of you who have posted) have given me a little hope this morning.

  33. > the worst part of the my political life will be over in two years and change.

    But if Bush has no respect for the Constitution, which includes the 22nd amendment, why would the worst part of your political life end in two years?

  34. I’m not sure I see moral cowardice, apart from anything else that would imply W has morals to start with. What I see is naked opportunism, stupidity and nice dollop of malice on top. Moral cowardice would be knowing you ought to be doing the right thing and doing the wrong thing, this is not caring what right and wrong is.

  35. I’m not sure I see moral cowardice, apart from anything else that would imply W has morals to start with. What I see is naked opportunism, stupidity and nice dollop of malice on top. Moral cowardice would be knowing you ought to be doing the right thing and doing the wrong thing, this is not caring what right and wrong is.

  36. Absolutely, John, well expressed.
    Now, for all people commenting on this thread who live in the U. S. of A., I have a request: Please write to your senators and representatives right now. They all need to hear the views that are being expressed here. They need to know that they have constituants who do not agree with the actions the Washington crowd are taking.

  37. Vote this November for change and for oversight. Encourage those who agree with you to vote. Press them to urge others. Do not sit this one out. Do not say Diebold will just change your vote (they’re not that ubiquitous). Do not say “they’re all the same.” Do you really believe the strident right-winger in your office or family considers “Speaker Pelosi” the same as “Speaker Hastert”? Third parties, protest votes and write-ins are great. But not now. If you have to wait in line, wait. Take a good book; there should be something new out by then. Overwhelming, unified turnout is the only defense.

  38. Vote this November for change and for oversight. Encourage those who agree with you to vote. Press them to urge others. Do not sit this one out. Do not say Diebold will just change your vote (they’re not that ubiquitous). Do not say “they’re all the same.” Do you really believe the strident right-winger in your office or family considers “Speaker Pelosi” the same as “Speaker Hastert”? Third parties, protest votes and write-ins are great. But not now. If you have to wait in line, wait. Take a good book; there should be something new out by then. Overwhelming, unified turnout is the only defense.

  39. So you are tired of it, what are you going to personally do about it?

    Or is it only other peoples cowardice that you can see?

    You have it better today than at any other time in history, and you, personally, are rather comfortable, aren’t you? You are deathly afraid of losing what you have and you are more than willing to allow the status quo to continue on.

    But you do enjoy bitching about the good times, about pounding your chest over it being the best of times, of expressing yourself over other peoples moral cowardice.

    What are you going to personally do?

  40. Oh, and there’s also the part that absolves Bush, and anyone under his orders, or violating the standards of the Geneva conventions retroactivley.

    I’m with the weary chorus on this one. I don’t see much hope for democracy in America. I wish just ONE Democratic senator had the nerve to stand up to this and at least try a fillibuster. I don’t care if it would have invoked cloture, and overturned the concept of the fillibuster. Democrats could use that against Republicans if they retake congress.

  41. Oh, and there’s also the part that absolves Bush, and anyone under his orders, or violating the standards of the Geneva conventions retroactivley.

    I’m with the weary chorus on this one. I don’t see much hope for democracy in America. I wish just ONE Democratic senator had the nerve to stand up to this and at least try a fillibuster. I don’t care if it would have invoked cloture, and overturned the concept of the fillibuster. Democrats could use that against Republicans if they retake congress.

  42. Bill Marcy:

    “So you are tired of it, what are you going to personally do about it?”

    Vote, for a start.

    “You have it better today than at any other time in history, and you, personally, are rather comfortable, aren’t you? You are deathly afraid of losing what you have and you are more than willing to allow the status quo to continue on.”

    Bill, you haven’t the slightest goddamned clue what you’re talking about, and I wish you wouldn’t pretend that you know what I think about anything that I don’t specifically write about because you don’t, in fact, actually know me, and apparently your assumptions about me are appallingly wrong.

    If you can point to an example of my own moral cowardice, Bill, particularly on this issue, then I invite you to do so. If you can’t, then you can take your insinuations of my moral cowardice and shove them up your ass.

  43. I can’t imagine he won’t be the worst president of the 21st Century

    The thing that I think is the worst part of this bill is that it gives the President sole authority to decide what constitutes torture, or a breach of the Geneva Convenstions, or circumstances where habeas corpus can be ignored. Now, I dislike Our Only President a lot, but I think in practical terms, what’s going to come out of this is a few hundred people tortured (most of whom have already been tortured), and a few hundred people held for years without trial or charge, in secret prisons (most of whom are already so held). That is bad, and disgusting, and it disgraces us.

    But what if he isn’t the worst president of the 21st Century? There’s nothing to prevent the president elected in 2028 from being far worse than this fellow. Do you really want to bet that won’t happen? And this framework, which I can’t imagine being repealed once it’s passed, allows President Dada to pick people up off the street and lock them up forever. And to build secret prisons to do that. All just as legal as houses. All he has to do is ask himself if it is legal and necessary, and tell himself it is, and then go out and do it.

    I have friends who have been arrested on “terrorism-related charges”. Maybe other readers here have, as well. Protesting the war, causing trouble at the political conventions, doing stupid shit. All were either charged or let go, and the ones who were charged were acquitted. Because, you know, none of them are terrorists. And as bad as this administration is, in the end, they let people go out and oppose them. But under President Caligula, my friends could—again, legally—be locked up forever, possibly without anybody knowing where they are, without charge or trial or lawyer or nuthin’, because they mouthed off about the invasion of Terrorist Venezuela.

    The thing about our Constitution is that it, on the whole, doesn’t trust our presidents. I can’t think why the Congress does. Has our history since Washington been one of uninterrupted integrity in the Oval Office?

    Thanks,
    -V.

  44. I can’t imagine he won’t be the worst president of the 21st Century

    The thing that I think is the worst part of this bill is that it gives the President sole authority to decide what constitutes torture, or a breach of the Geneva Convenstions, or circumstances where habeas corpus can be ignored. Now, I dislike Our Only President a lot, but I think in practical terms, what’s going to come out of this is a few hundred people tortured (most of whom have already been tortured), and a few hundred people held for years without trial or charge, in secret prisons (most of whom are already so held). That is bad, and disgusting, and it disgraces us.

    But what if he isn’t the worst president of the 21st Century? There’s nothing to prevent the president elected in 2028 from being far worse than this fellow. Do you really want to bet that won’t happen? And this framework, which I can’t imagine being repealed once it’s passed, allows President Dada to pick people up off the street and lock them up forever. And to build secret prisons to do that. All just as legal as houses. All he has to do is ask himself if it is legal and necessary, and tell himself it is, and then go out and do it.

    I have friends who have been arrested on “terrorism-related charges”. Maybe other readers here have, as well. Protesting the war, causing trouble at the political conventions, doing stupid shit. All were either charged or let go, and the ones who were charged were acquitted. Because, you know, none of them are terrorists. And as bad as this administration is, in the end, they let people go out and oppose them. But under President Caligula, my friends could—again, legally—be locked up forever, possibly without anybody knowing where they are, without charge or trial or lawyer or nuthin’, because they mouthed off about the invasion of Terrorist Venezuela.

    The thing about our Constitution is that it, on the whole, doesn’t trust our presidents. I can’t think why the Congress does. Has our history since Washington been one of uninterrupted integrity in the Oval Office?

    Thanks,
    -V.

  45. Thanks John. I thought no one had noticed that this administration and this bill in particular had trumped the constitution. This bill has created a new secret court system under which a person can be held, tortured and sentenced for such “terrorist related crimes” as marketing cellular phones.

  46. BIll Marcy: I’ve heard a variation on this sentiment all my life, and it just doesn’t wash. There is only so much personal responsibility (and define that how you like) I can take for the actions of my government.

    If we are supposed to be ultimately responsible for ourselves because we are the government, and merely ask agents to act on our behalf, then our agents have failed us, again and again. And there doesn’t seem to be much we can say or do to convince those agents of change.

    I _refuse_ to take responsibility for the current mode of governmentality, and that refusal is a moral stand. I will criticize, bitch, rant and defend anyone who does the same, regardless of political affiliation. I will not accept responsibility for the actions of these agents because we have lost the ability to direct them in a reasonable manner.

    They no longer respond to due process or the law of the land. This much is clear.

    It is not our attitude that has to change. It is the structures under which governmental process and machinations work that have to change.

    Direct action is one thing. Personal responsibility is another. But it is naive to suggest that only personal, moral-driven direct action can change the current state of affairs.

    The wolves have been in the henhouse so long, we are starting to thank them for the eggs.

    [And John, I apologize for soap-boxing so early in the morning. Let it be said I concur with every one of your conclusions, above. I'm just grumpy from the news.]

  47. BIll Marcy: I’ve heard a variation on this sentiment all my life, and it just doesn’t wash. There is only so much personal responsibility (and define that how you like) I can take for the actions of my government.

    If we are supposed to be ultimately responsible for ourselves because we are the government, and merely ask agents to act on our behalf, then our agents have failed us, again and again. And there doesn’t seem to be much we can say or do to convince those agents of change.

    I _refuse_ to take responsibility for the current mode of governmentality, and that refusal is a moral stand. I will criticize, bitch, rant and defend anyone who does the same, regardless of political affiliation. I will not accept responsibility for the actions of these agents because we have lost the ability to direct them in a reasonable manner.

    They no longer respond to due process or the law of the land. This much is clear.

    It is not our attitude that has to change. It is the structures under which governmental process and machinations work that have to change.

    Direct action is one thing. Personal responsibility is another. But it is naive to suggest that only personal, moral-driven direct action can change the current state of affairs.

    The wolves have been in the henhouse so long, we are starting to thank them for the eggs.

    [And John, I apologize for soap-boxing so early in the morning. Let it be said I concur with every one of your conclusions, above. I'm just grumpy from the news.]

  48. No John, that doesn’t count as reasoned discourse, but thats OK, Strum und drang are what are to be expected.

    The economy has never been better, you have the freedom to say any silly thing that pops into your head and you are comfortable enough in your life to post about yourself and your family. So you have a deranged attitude, you are American and as such you can have that attitude, and the amazing thing is, you can find other people who will share and support that. Isn’t America great?

    But, to get down to brass tacks, besides your posing and bluster, what are you going to do about it? Are you willing to bet your ‘sacred honor and life’, just like your forefathers did to change an intolerable situation, or, are you willing to make posts on the internet and being somewhat snarky to people that hold a slightly un-canon view of the world from yourself? Yes, I know, attacking people via the internet is quite the sport, and sometimes it is even rather satisfying. But, again, what are you going to do?

    I have a suspicion, and nothing more than a suspicion, but i gather you aren’t willing to risk what you have to actually do *anything*, since you do have it rather good.

    The only thing I fear, is that when you do not have a Bush in the White House to rail against, what are you going to blame your supposed misery on?

    . Thanks John for the entertainment, good monkey.

  49. No John, that doesn’t count as reasoned discourse, but thats OK, Strum und drang are what are to be expected.

    The economy has never been better, you have the freedom to say any silly thing that pops into your head and you are comfortable enough in your life to post about yourself and your family. So you have a deranged attitude, you are American and as such you can have that attitude, and the amazing thing is, you can find other people who will share and support that. Isn’t America great?

    But, to get down to brass tacks, besides your posing and bluster, what are you going to do about it? Are you willing to bet your ‘sacred honor and life’, just like your forefathers did to change an intolerable situation, or, are you willing to make posts on the internet and being somewhat snarky to people that hold a slightly un-canon view of the world from yourself? Yes, I know, attacking people via the internet is quite the sport, and sometimes it is even rather satisfying. But, again, what are you going to do?

    I have a suspicion, and nothing more than a suspicion, but i gather you aren’t willing to risk what you have to actually do *anything*, since you do have it rather good.

    The only thing I fear, is that when you do not have a Bush in the White House to rail against, what are you going to blame your supposed misery on?

    . Thanks John for the entertainment, good monkey.

  50. Thank you.

    Your powerful expression of outrage and moral condemnation on a highly read blog does a lot to keep the focus where it should be, on the weakness of those who think eliminating human rights is the correct response, not where the administration would like it. It is heartening to see someone take a forthright and unequivocal stand on this, even if it is something which had thought didn’t need it. (I mean, being against torture ought to be like being against slavery. Oh, wait…) I hope those who inevitably will come and call you names will exhibit similar courage by saying in no uncertain terms that they are for torture and the abrogation of human rights.

    One place where I might disagree with you is that it’s not at all clear to me that the nightmare ends in January, 2009. But at least we can hope and work to elect an administration which supports human rights. Also, I’ve seen McCain do this sort of thing before so I wasn’t surprised when he did it again. I hope was that the Democrats would pick up the ball when McCain would inevitably drop it but that doesn’t really seem to have happened.

    Thanks again.

  51. The economy has never been better, you have the freedom to say any silly thing that pops into your head and you are comfortable enough in your life to post about yourself and your family.

    Really, Bill? When President Bush signs this abomination into law sometime today, that “freedom” you speak of may well cease to exist.

    Beware the knock on the door, Bill. They may be coming for you.

  52. “Honestly, if you don’t see moral cowardice all over this thing, on all sides, I suspect you may be a complete idiot, and I don’t really want to talk to you about it.”

    I’ve tried to respond on this thread five time. Each time, I’ve deleted a lengthy incoherent rant.

    Usually, I feel like I’ve got something to contribute to the conversation. I got nothing.

    Unless, “We’re fucked” is a worthwhile contribution?

    I’m really, really, REALLY depressed over this and I don’t have the first clue how to speak to anyone who isn’t.

  53. “Honestly, if you don’t see moral cowardice all over this thing, on all sides, I suspect you may be a complete idiot, and I don’t really want to talk to you about it.”

    I’ve tried to respond on this thread five time. Each time, I’ve deleted a lengthy incoherent rant.

    Usually, I feel like I’ve got something to contribute to the conversation. I got nothing.

    Unless, “We’re fucked” is a worthwhile contribution?

    I’m really, really, REALLY depressed over this and I don’t have the first clue how to speak to anyone who isn’t.

  54. Bill Marcy:

    “The economy has never been better, you have the freedom to say any silly thing that pops into your head and you are comfortable enough in your life to post about yourself and your family. So you have a deranged attitude, you are American and as such you can have that attitude, and the amazing thing is, you can find other people who will share and support that. Isn’t America great?”

    Nice to know, Bill, that you seem to have the opinion that as long as you have your toys it’s okay to throw our freedoms and our moral position out a window. That you seem to feel this is a superior position to my own is interesting, and also why I don’t feel the need to look to you for moral guidance, or worry that my moral stance doesn’t meet up to your standards. Clearly, your standards suck, so I’m delighted to disappoint you.

    As for trying to goad me into taking up arms (or whatever), nice try, but don’t be silly. If it comes to the point where I have to sacrifice my own life and liberty to make the point I want to make, I’ll deal with it then, and I hope that I will have the moral courage to do the right thing. We’re not at that point yet. As I said, my first line of action is voting; I’m not sure why you don’t seem to think that’s a worthy endeavor.

    Likewise, I’m not entirely sure why you have such contempt for me exercising my right to speech; belittling it as “posing and bluster” shows both that you misunderstand me and what it means to have the freedom to speak your mind.

    Back to your toys, Bill; you seem to be content with those.

  55. Bill Marcy:

    “The economy has never been better, you have the freedom to say any silly thing that pops into your head and you are comfortable enough in your life to post about yourself and your family. So you have a deranged attitude, you are American and as such you can have that attitude, and the amazing thing is, you can find other people who will share and support that. Isn’t America great?”

    Nice to know, Bill, that you seem to have the opinion that as long as you have your toys it’s okay to throw our freedoms and our moral position out a window. That you seem to feel this is a superior position to my own is interesting, and also why I don’t feel the need to look to you for moral guidance, or worry that my moral stance doesn’t meet up to your standards. Clearly, your standards suck, so I’m delighted to disappoint you.

    As for trying to goad me into taking up arms (or whatever), nice try, but don’t be silly. If it comes to the point where I have to sacrifice my own life and liberty to make the point I want to make, I’ll deal with it then, and I hope that I will have the moral courage to do the right thing. We’re not at that point yet. As I said, my first line of action is voting; I’m not sure why you don’t seem to think that’s a worthy endeavor.

    Likewise, I’m not entirely sure why you have such contempt for me exercising my right to speech; belittling it as “posing and bluster” shows both that you misunderstand me and what it means to have the freedom to speak your mind.

    Back to your toys, Bill; you seem to be content with those.

  56. I’m really, really, REALLY depressed over this and I don’t have the first clue how to speak to anyone who isn’t.

    Nathan, my heart is broken today. I haven’t felt this bad since my Mom died. But that’s neither here nor there.

    My fear is that there may be no reasoning with people like Bill. They don’t seem to understand that this bill gives our enemies permission to torture the brave men and women who protect this country. If that bit of enlightened self-interest can’t persuade them, then I don’t know what can.

    Of course I’m voting in November. But I don’t know what else to do.

  57. I’m really, really, REALLY depressed over this and I don’t have the first clue how to speak to anyone who isn’t.

    Nathan, my heart is broken today. I haven’t felt this bad since my Mom died. But that’s neither here nor there.

    My fear is that there may be no reasoning with people like Bill. They don’t seem to understand that this bill gives our enemies permission to torture the brave men and women who protect this country. If that bit of enlightened self-interest can’t persuade them, then I don’t know what can.

    Of course I’m voting in November. But I don’t know what else to do.

  58. BIll Marcy to Luther:

    “You are doing better than ever as a member of the growing burgher class. You can worship in any one of our fine Catholic establishments, which you can afford to support. What are you going to do other than posting silly broadsheets on the doors of churches?”

  59. Bill Marcy: You have it better today than at any other time in history…

    Say what?

    Where do you live?

    How do you have it better off now than ever before or any other time in history?

    Where is it better right now than any other time in history? I will agee to some advances in medicine and science. But politically, we as Amricans are more unsafe than ever abroad (Re; The recently release report on how the War in Iraq has given rise to global terrorism).

    Domestically, interest rates are up so even though house prices are dropping because no one can sell them houses are still too expensive for me to buy right now. Fewer and fewer people each day can afford to get basic medical care. One party wants to turn us into a police state like the rogue naitons it fights, and the other is too chicken-scratch to do anything about it.

    I personally would gladly take an alduterous president with an excellent foreign policy during a booming economy where folks are making better livings than a incurious buffoon only interested in feathering the nest for his friends and family. I was better off in a lot of ways ten years ago than I am now.

  60. Bill Marcy: You have it better today than at any other time in history…

    Say what?

    Where do you live?

    How do you have it better off now than ever before or any other time in history?

    Where is it better right now than any other time in history? I will agee to some advances in medicine and science. But politically, we as Amricans are more unsafe than ever abroad (Re; The recently release report on how the War in Iraq has given rise to global terrorism).

    Domestically, interest rates are up so even though house prices are dropping because no one can sell them houses are still too expensive for me to buy right now. Fewer and fewer people each day can afford to get basic medical care. One party wants to turn us into a police state like the rogue naitons it fights, and the other is too chicken-scratch to do anything about it.

    I personally would gladly take an alduterous president with an excellent foreign policy during a booming economy where folks are making better livings than a incurious buffoon only interested in feathering the nest for his friends and family. I was better off in a lot of ways ten years ago than I am now.

  61. Bill Marcy,

    WTF are you talking about. At one point you talk about us being better off than at any other time in history. Are you telling us we should bend over and be glad we’ve got a tube of KY?

    At another point you’re telling Scalzi that he’s your definition of a moral coward. Are you telling us he should be running down Pennsylvania Avenue with a shotgun?

    WTF are you talking about?

  62. John, this is superb. Your views are right.

    Bill Marcy nearly touched on a good point, then fell into a vat of insanity and went off on one… but I’ve a little question. What can you Americans do? What can the likes of me do in the UK? I hate Blair in the same way you hate Bush, and I’d love to help him out the door SOONER than he or the law has planned. I think we owe it to morality and the world to get these fucktards out of positions of power.

    People are dying.

    I don’t have the answer, however. I’m just interested in hearing other people’s thoughts. Hell, the most I ever do is agree over and over and over with Karen Traviss over on her blog when she highlights the government’s ineptitude and corruption.

    I guess we can’t resort to torture…

  63. John, this is superb. Your views are right.

    Bill Marcy nearly touched on a good point, then fell into a vat of insanity and went off on one… but I’ve a little question. What can you Americans do? What can the likes of me do in the UK? I hate Blair in the same way you hate Bush, and I’d love to help him out the door SOONER than he or the law has planned. I think we owe it to morality and the world to get these fucktards out of positions of power.

    People are dying.

    I don’t have the answer, however. I’m just interested in hearing other people’s thoughts. Hell, the most I ever do is agree over and over and over with Karen Traviss over on her blog when she highlights the government’s ineptitude and corruption.

    I guess we can’t resort to torture…

  64. Chris Billett:

    “Bill Marcy nearly touched on a good point, then fell into a vat of insanity and went off on one…”

    To be fair to Bill, I do think he’s absolutely correct that just whining and kvetching about the situation is not an appropriate response — one should be willing to back up one’s beliefs with actions. As I noted, it’s not time for armed rebellion, and indeed the goal would be to avoid that if at all possible. But certainly political action and protest would be a damn fine thing.

    As for what can Americans do: As I said, voting is a good start. Demanding that one’s representatives actually respect the Constitution is another. As for what you can do in the UK: Got me. What can you do?

  65. Things which the War on Terror is more important than, according to the Republicans: habeas corpus, the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment….

    Things which are more important than the War on Terror, according to the Republicans: getting rid of the estate tax, keeping gay Arabic translators out of the military.

    Yeah, we “must do anything to win”…except anything that might inconvenience the GOP base.

  66. Things which the War on Terror is more important than, according to the Republicans: habeas corpus, the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment….

    Things which are more important than the War on Terror, according to the Republicans: getting rid of the estate tax, keeping gay Arabic translators out of the military.

    Yeah, we “must do anything to win”…except anything that might inconvenience the GOP base.

  67. Vote. Donate money to organizations fighting against the Constitution’s dismantling. Write and call your congresspeople. There’s a lot good that can be done between the poles of do-nothing and armed rebellion.

  68. Selling freedom and morality for material well being is a false solution, and in the end, eventually cracks. It wasn’t until the end of WWII that the German people realized many of the ramifications of the Nazi regime, in part because all of Europe was plundered to keep the homeland fat and comfortable. Pinochet gutted Chile, which had had a long history of democratic rule, and hypnotized the nation with an explosion of middle class and upper class wealth, in part a result of sweetheart deals with a cooperative US regime.

    It’s foolish to maintain that open discourse and calls to voting action are somehow not enough in the face of eroding freedoms, and that unless one is ready to move straight to violence, his resolve is somehow inadequate.

    Under the Soviet thumb, the Hungarians and East Germans took relative economic prosperity in exchange for toeing the political line. The Poles took moral and to a certain degree political freedom, and their economy was diminished by Moscow as a consequence. In the end, it was the Polish fulmination that started to unravel that corrupt system.

  69. Selling freedom and morality for material well being is a false solution, and in the end, eventually cracks. It wasn’t until the end of WWII that the German people realized many of the ramifications of the Nazi regime, in part because all of Europe was plundered to keep the homeland fat and comfortable. Pinochet gutted Chile, which had had a long history of democratic rule, and hypnotized the nation with an explosion of middle class and upper class wealth, in part a result of sweetheart deals with a cooperative US regime.

    It’s foolish to maintain that open discourse and calls to voting action are somehow not enough in the face of eroding freedoms, and that unless one is ready to move straight to violence, his resolve is somehow inadequate.

    Under the Soviet thumb, the Hungarians and East Germans took relative economic prosperity in exchange for toeing the political line. The Poles took moral and to a certain degree political freedom, and their economy was diminished by Moscow as a consequence. In the end, it was the Polish fulmination that started to unravel that corrupt system.

  70. John, I started to comment immediately after reading your post but decided to read the comments first instead.

    First, thanks for writing what you did. I agree with your sentiments. I can’t understand where this country got off track but somewhere along the line we seem to have forgotten who we are. I grew up proud to be American; proud that we didn’t do the easy thing…instead we did the right thing. Somewhere along the way we started doing the easy thing, now we can’t seem to retrace our steps back up that steep slope to the moral high ground. I think the first steps down that slope started when we decided it was easier to back corrupt dictators in our “fight” against communism…we are still following those same tracks in our new “war”. How can you explain to the people of the world that Sadam was OK in the ‘80’s but not the ‘90’s? The cat didn’t change his spots, we just changed our sunglasses. Hell, over and over we back the opposition to the legally elected leaders around the world. Folks, democracy doesn’t mean America gets a veto…democracy means we get to learn to live with the governments that their populous elects.

    In my humble opinion, we started sliding down this slippery slope in the days of the Nixon administration. Isn’t it kind of funny how all of the current administration seemed to have begun their political careers there?
    As for Bush, I have the enviable position of sharing the Dixie Chicks’ concerns about my ex-Governor. The man I have had the privilege of voting against 4 times now. I have wondered to this day how his record as Governor was rewritten prior to 2000 and no one in the “Mainstream Media” could tell the rest of the country about it. Come on folks I’ve lived in Texas my whole life. We rank in the last 10% on every metric you wish to use for quality of life, environmental concerns, wages…oh, hell everything. And you thought a Texas Governor was going to make America better? Stronger? Get real…
    I am also not very trusting of this administration. My feeling is that this “War on Terrorism” is going to come in real handy when it comes to postponing the festivities of November 2008. So forgive me if I don’t hold out much optimism for getting’ quit of these people any time soon. But I’ll be doing my part this November to try to pack the houses of government with as many friendly eyes as I can being in Texas. And I’ll be spreading the word far and wide…

  71. John, I started to comment immediately after reading your post but decided to read the comments first instead.

    First, thanks for writing what you did. I agree with your sentiments. I can’t understand where this country got off track but somewhere along the line we seem to have forgotten who we are. I grew up proud to be American; proud that we didn’t do the easy thing…instead we did the right thing. Somewhere along the way we started doing the easy thing, now we can’t seem to retrace our steps back up that steep slope to the moral high ground. I think the first steps down that slope started when we decided it was easier to back corrupt dictators in our “fight” against communism…we are still following those same tracks in our new “war”. How can you explain to the people of the world that Sadam was OK in the ‘80’s but not the ‘90’s? The cat didn’t change his spots, we just changed our sunglasses. Hell, over and over we back the opposition to the legally elected leaders around the world. Folks, democracy doesn’t mean America gets a veto…democracy means we get to learn to live with the governments that their populous elects.

    In my humble opinion, we started sliding down this slippery slope in the days of the Nixon administration. Isn’t it kind of funny how all of the current administration seemed to have begun their political careers there?
    As for Bush, I have the enviable position of sharing the Dixie Chicks’ concerns about my ex-Governor. The man I have had the privilege of voting against 4 times now. I have wondered to this day how his record as Governor was rewritten prior to 2000 and no one in the “Mainstream Media” could tell the rest of the country about it. Come on folks I’ve lived in Texas my whole life. We rank in the last 10% on every metric you wish to use for quality of life, environmental concerns, wages…oh, hell everything. And you thought a Texas Governor was going to make America better? Stronger? Get real…
    I am also not very trusting of this administration. My feeling is that this “War on Terrorism” is going to come in real handy when it comes to postponing the festivities of November 2008. So forgive me if I don’t hold out much optimism for getting’ quit of these people any time soon. But I’ll be doing my part this November to try to pack the houses of government with as many friendly eyes as I can being in Texas. And I’ll be spreading the word far and wide…

  72. In Ohio, your Democratic challenger to pro-torture incumbent Republican swine Mike DeWine is…Sherrod Brown, who forever stained his hitherto decent record by voting for the detainee bill in the House this week.

    I don’t envy you. It would take all the strength I have to march into the polling place and vote for Brown.

    Make no mistake. I’d do it, and I hope you do too. Twelve Democratic senators and 34 reps voted for this disgrace, but if the Democrats controlled even one house of Congress, it would never have passed. It’s a fact of the American system that narrow legislative majorities lead to lopsided votes.

    So vote for the pathetic, self-dishonoring cur. It’s important.

  73. In Ohio, your Democratic challenger to pro-torture incumbent Republican swine Mike DeWine is…Sherrod Brown, who forever stained his hitherto decent record by voting for the detainee bill in the House this week.

    I don’t envy you. It would take all the strength I have to march into the polling place and vote for Brown.

    Make no mistake. I’d do it, and I hope you do too. Twelve Democratic senators and 34 reps voted for this disgrace, but if the Democrats controlled even one house of Congress, it would never have passed. It’s a fact of the American system that narrow legislative majorities lead to lopsided votes.

    So vote for the pathetic, self-dishonoring cur. It’s important.

  74. TNH:

    He’s here regularly. He and I get along fine in other comment threads but his politics and mine don’t mesh.

    PNH:

    I’ll be voting for Brown. I’ll also be giving him a piece of my mind about his vote.

  75. John:

    Excellent post. I told my wife last night that tonight was “one of the darkest days in American history.”

    In reponse to the question of what we can do, I’m going to bring up the one suggestion that you can’t stand: encourage our representatives to impeach the president.

    I was in your boat on impeachment until the last month (that is, impeachment does very little good, would take too long, and would leave us wit President Cheney).

    Of all things to change my mind, it was the excerpt from Bob Woodward’s new book, printed in the Houston Chronicle: “I will not withdraw even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me.”

    I say impeach ‘em all. If the GOP wants to use the boogeyman that this is a bad thing, my instant response would be this: “You impeached Bill Clinton over lying about oral sex. We think the death of 3,000 soldiers is just a little worse.”

    I’ve written my senators and told them that I believe that the only way to stop this president is to impeach him. That he’s done so much damage that even trying to neutralize him over the next two years is too dangerous. The man has “Gulf Of Tonkin II” written all over him.

  76. John:

    Excellent post. I told my wife last night that tonight was “one of the darkest days in American history.”

    In reponse to the question of what we can do, I’m going to bring up the one suggestion that you can’t stand: encourage our representatives to impeach the president.

    I was in your boat on impeachment until the last month (that is, impeachment does very little good, would take too long, and would leave us wit President Cheney).

    Of all things to change my mind, it was the excerpt from Bob Woodward’s new book, printed in the Houston Chronicle: “I will not withdraw even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me.”

    I say impeach ‘em all. If the GOP wants to use the boogeyman that this is a bad thing, my instant response would be this: “You impeached Bill Clinton over lying about oral sex. We think the death of 3,000 soldiers is just a little worse.”

    I’ve written my senators and told them that I believe that the only way to stop this president is to impeach him. That he’s done so much damage that even trying to neutralize him over the next two years is too dangerous. The man has “Gulf Of Tonkin II” written all over him.

  77. John I think you have captured the issue rather nicely, I will comment later.

    For a very cogent article on torture go to this link

    http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2006_09_01_digbysblog_archive.html#115898810938213828

    Search down to: Friday, September 22, 2006 – Unleashing The Beast

    The site doesn’t seem to support stand alone entries so you have to search down for this, but it is worth a thorough read.

    Vladimir Bukovsky’s experience with torture is a must read. I don’t always agree with Digby but this one is right on the money.

  78. John I think you have captured the issue rather nicely, I will comment later.

    For a very cogent article on torture go to this link

    http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2006_09_01_digbysblog_archive.html#115898810938213828

    Search down to: Friday, September 22, 2006 – Unleashing The Beast

    The site doesn’t seem to support stand alone entries so you have to search down for this, but it is worth a thorough read.

    Vladimir Bukovsky’s experience with torture is a must read. I don’t always agree with Digby but this one is right on the money.

  79. The economy is better than any time in history? I’m sure you have some sort of definition in which that might be true… but I don’t see it.

  80. The economy is better than any time in history? I’m sure you have some sort of definition in which that might be true… but I don’t see it.

  81. Concerning Macy’s we are better off comment. We are not, we just think we are. We have lots of stuff, tv’s, chipboard furniture, and plastic oh so much plastic. The metric I use is that in 1959 my dad an upper level civil service scientist bought a 5 bedroom, 3 story 150 year old Victorian house in very affluent suburb of Boston (Wellesley) for about his annual salary.

    Today it would take a 10 years of double income from this same scientist to buy the same house. That is the real erosion of our buying power. The rest is plastic crap.

    The Romans invented Bread and Circus, we Americans really refined it. We watch the game, Dancing With Celebutants, and Paris doing what ever it is that she does. We let the morons take control and we have only ourselves to blame. We have allowed the “those damn politicians” mentality to fester, we have not demanded more, more integrity, more intelligence, more accountability, more morality; the real kind not some pithy quote from an ancient text.

    When you set the bar so low, when you worship the almighty buck, when you can’t be bothered to participate in your local elections, then this is what you get. Democracy is a contact sport of minds and issues, if you outsource you opinions to talking heads whose interest is to get you to buy the new and improved unguent de jour, you are signing away your rights to play.

    John is doing more that bitching about it, he is a professional writer, with an audience and a feline festooned with piggy goodness, he gets people’s attention, in a number of ways. This is a good thing, the debate here is good, the people smart, and the positions espoused here help clarify thoughts into actions. These next two election cycles are for all the marbles folks, put your money where your mouth is, pull up your waders and buckle your seatbelt it going to be a bumpy ride.

  82. Somehow I don’t think TNH’s acronym “sshl” means what I imagine it means… but thinking it does makes me smile.

  83. Somehow I don’t think TNH’s acronym “sshl” means what I imagine it means… but thinking it does makes me smile.

  84. John, you wrote, “I simply can’t conceive of a worse president than this one;”

    This surprises me, because I sure as hell can, and I don’t have a writer’s imagination. I firmly believe things can ALWAYS be worse.

    tommyspoon, you wrote, “this bill gives our enemies permission to torture the brave men and women who protect this country.”

    What makes you think Bush and Company give a crap? While I consider this particular consequence to be one of the worst things that will come out of this bill, I simply do not believe that Bush cares one way or the other. He appears to have adopted the attitude that the end justifies the means, so those servicemen and women will just be more casualties to him. His actions have proven to me that his concerns over the well-being of our military are lip service, nothing more. Why change now, at this late date?

    Grr.

  85. John, you wrote, “I simply can’t conceive of a worse president than this one;”

    This surprises me, because I sure as hell can, and I don’t have a writer’s imagination. I firmly believe things can ALWAYS be worse.

    tommyspoon, you wrote, “this bill gives our enemies permission to torture the brave men and women who protect this country.”

    What makes you think Bush and Company give a crap? While I consider this particular consequence to be one of the worst things that will come out of this bill, I simply do not believe that Bush cares one way or the other. He appears to have adopted the attitude that the end justifies the means, so those servicemen and women will just be more casualties to him. His actions have proven to me that his concerns over the well-being of our military are lip service, nothing more. Why change now, at this late date?

    Grr.

  86. The problems with the “we have it so much better today” argument are:

    1. It relies on economics, a field in which any three experts, given a chance to study the data, can put together six mutually exclusive conclusion.

    2. (More seriously) It relies on a cowardly, lazy notion of what mankind (or America, depending on which “we” was being used here) can be. It’s great that women can now vote (here, at least), that the black plague isn’t something to fear (much), that slavery (at least the concept as it was defined 300 years ago) is essentially dead, etc. But humanity has an amazing ability to regress (the Dark Ages, anyone), and still has a long way to go. If we sit there and say, “hey, it’s okay that we countenance torture, because we’re much more civilized about it that the Inquisition was,” we’re not aiming high in our aspirations.

  87. Adam Lipkin,

    How sad that you make a good point. Saying that we no longer die in droves of amoebic dysentery and that we now view the all-too-common hate crimes that occur in our country as things to be prosecuted is not exactly a glowing recommendation of our civilization.

    Prozac, anyone?

  88. Adam Lipkin,

    How sad that you make a good point. Saying that we no longer die in droves of amoebic dysentery and that we now view the all-too-common hate crimes that occur in our country as things to be prosecuted is not exactly a glowing recommendation of our civilization.

    Prozac, anyone?

  89. I would like to comment on this as a small part of our larger “war on terror” I found an applicable quote.

    Why of course the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship … voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.
    Hermann Goering April 18, 1946 – Nuremberg trial Taken from “Nuremberg Diary” by G.M. Gilbert

    Sounds chillingly familiar. “Just pick 3 of the 10 rights in the Bill of Rights that you can live without and we will keep you safe from the big bad terrorist”

  90. I would like to comment on this as a small part of our larger “war on terror” I found an applicable quote.

    Why of course the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship … voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.
    Hermann Goering April 18, 1946 – Nuremberg trial Taken from “Nuremberg Diary” by G.M. Gilbert

    Sounds chillingly familiar. “Just pick 3 of the 10 rights in the Bill of Rights that you can live without and we will keep you safe from the big bad terrorist”

  91. Whatever happened to the idea of the loyal opposition? Just because I don’t like or approve of the current administration does NOT make me unpatriotic. I’ve served this country longer than Bush, so I think I’m qualified to question HIS patriotism!

  92. I commented over on my blog, and I don’t want to post it here because my post was very, very long. It’s at http://gwenspot.blogspot.com/2006/09/can-we-move-to-canada-now-in-which.html .
    How I’m feeling: there are no words. Despair, depression, anger, fear, disgust. Bewilderment. Like someone said above, if you’d told me that we’d fall this low in 2000, or 2004, I’d’ve laughed in your face. Paranoid, delusional, go move to Canada if you want but I’m staying right here. How was I to know that come 2006 we’d have thought police? How was I to know that a year in Guatanamo would turn to two, four, six…that Abu Ghraib wasn’t just an isolated incident…that Bush really wasn’t just incompetent but either mind-bogglingly stupid or actually evil? I don’t think I even really believed in evil, within or without. I understood Hitler being elected but I couldn’t understand him staying in power.
    Who am I kidding? I still don’t understand. I don’t understand why no one in power is doing anything. I don’t understand how McCain can live with himself. I don’t understand how people can still delude themselves that rational discourse is still possible, that calling for impeachment is overreaction, that this is at all about party politics anymore. It’s not Republican versus Democrat, with we independents picking one or the other depending on our beliefs. Bush said it himself, and I didn’t understand when he did: You’re either with us or you’re with the enemy.
    At the time I was just annoyed that he could turn such a tragedy into us versus them; obviously any good person was on the side of the United States, even if they didn’t agree with what the administration was doing. Obviously I was with “us” but against “our” policies.
    Now that “our” policies have metaphorically shredded, burned, jumped on the ashes of, and buried the Constitution (they’d have to do it literally before some people would be outraged, I think, judging by the fact that the literal flag is more important than the freedom to burn it that it represents…), I’m wondering, is it too late to change my answer?

  93. Somehow I don’t think TNH’s acronym “sshl” means what I imagine it means… but thinking it does makes me smile.

    I suspect that TNH is dis-emvoweling herself here.

    I’m in the same boat as John concerning reps — Melissa Bean, my rep, also voted for this travesty. For me, though, this is the last straw after a dismal series of shitty votes on her part. I will be voting for the third-party guy this time.

  94. Somehow I don’t think TNH’s acronym “sshl” means what I imagine it means… but thinking it does makes me smile.

    I suspect that TNH is dis-emvoweling herself here.

    I’m in the same boat as John concerning reps — Melissa Bean, my rep, also voted for this travesty. For me, though, this is the last straw after a dismal series of shitty votes on her part. I will be voting for the third-party guy this time.

  95. John, thanks for posting this. I really appeciate it.

    Anamika: Actually, the US is not standing in the way of ending the genocide in Darfur. Bush and Blair are actually some of the two most vocal advocates of sending UN troops into Sudan. It’s China and Russia that haven’t come to the table on that particular horror. I’m not going to argue with you about the invasion of Iraq, but sending troops into Sudan without Khartoum’s support would be a violation of international law (Article II of the UN Charter– the same article Bush threatened to violate in 2003 if the security council wouldn’t get behind resolution 1441 in regards to Iraq). Since 2003, the US has lost a lot of the political capital that permitted it to act unilaterally on the world stage. It can’t effectively circumvent the security council the way it did with Iraq.

    Just as it was the UN and not the US that proved instrumental in brokering an end to the Lebanon crisis, it’s going to need to be the UN and not the US that offers the African Union assistance in disarming the Janjaweed and ending the genocide in Darfur.

    So while I’m not going to argue that it was right for the US to strong-arm the international community where Iraq was concerned, they are no longer capable of doing so where Sudan is. The international community in general and Russia and China in specific are to blame for the inaction in Sudan. If Bush thought he could get away with thumbing his nose at the security council where Darfur was concerned, he’d have done so already.

    Also, please keep in mind that there were Americans protesting the invasion of Iraq well before it actually happened. We did not all “buy into our own… perception as liberators.” At the time of the Iraq invasion, Bush had been elected to office by 49% of the popular vote. I as an American can assure you that I never for a second thought that invading Iraq was a good idea, and I wasn’t even old enough to vote at the time. If you want to hate all Americans for the actions of a government we didn’t even elect, it’s no real skin off my nose, but your assessment of the situation is incorrect at best.

  96. John, thank you for this. Reading your entry has put a voice to the horror that I’ve had – such voices are few and far between, which baffles me.

    Also, reading people’s comments and support is somewhat reassuring as well, as reassured as one can be with these bills passing with seemingly no dialogue, debate, or resistance.

    Nothing this presidential regime/administration does surprises me anymore. My shock is now reserved for the Democratic party leadership and membership, who have absolutely no idea how to mobilize against the administration or communicate to the public without playing the game by the rules the neo-cons have laid out. They could change the terms of this debate. They refuse. It’s more important to win elections, elections that don’t mean anything anyway because they refuse to DO ANYTHING once they are in office. Theirs is the moral cowardice I’m most angry about.

  97. Just finishing up my letters to Tancredo, Allard, Salazar and McCain. My voice will be louder come November, and I hope, as others have commented, that we have a better turn-out than we have in years past.

    “Silence is Consent.”

  98. Just finishing up my letters to Tancredo, Allard, Salazar and McCain. My voice will be louder come November, and I hope, as others have commented, that we have a better turn-out than we have in years past.

    “Silence is Consent.”

  99. Jonathan Rauch has an article (behind a subscription wall, sorry) in this month’s Atlantic saying that, while Bush is certainly a bad President, the damage he’s done won’t take as long to fix as, say, Carter’s damage.

    I hope he’s now writing a follow-up with the title, “Holy Crap, Was I Ever Wrong.”

    Political organizing is boring, unsexy and (for the most part) frustrating as hell. It’s also what the assclowns in power have been doing since Goldwater’s day, which is why they’re beating the Dems like rented mules. I know I’m going to make phone calls and raise cash and pound the pavement this election cycle, and I hope everyone out there who’s feeling hopeless and afraid and pissed off like nobody’s business will do the same. Find that candidate or issue or party that speaks to you (and, I might add, with you), and get to work. The hours suck, the pay sucks, and the work itself sucks, but it’s much more satisfying than yelling at trolls.

    And I would argue, John, that a writer of your skill and passion (not to mention one who has trained debating mojo) should find a candidate or group or movement of some kind and say, “Hi. I like your candidates and your ideas. I’m your new position paper/speech writer. Let’s get cracking.” Not only because it’ll be pretty satisfying, but out of a moral obligation to use your talent to make for a better country.

    Of course, I’m only an amateur arguer, so what the hell.

  100. My instinct is to just stay out of this echo chamber, and let John’s opinion resonate over & over again so that everyone feels really good about themselves. I’m jumping in, though, because it bugs the #&!^ out of me when people just streamroll right over the facts. So many legitimate things to be pissed at Bush about, and yet people still need to invent new ones…

    First, the constitution has NOTHING to do with this. The constitution doesn’t apply to non-American detainees anymore than the Geneva Conventions apply to us as citizens. We may choose to grant non-citizens the same rights we have (1st, 4th, 5th ammendment), but we do that at our own discretion, not because the constitution compels us to.

    The constitution DID have to do with the Supreme Court’s June ruling, because the constitution does not grant the President (who is a citizen) power to hold military tribunals of this kind. And since the constitution explicitly denies the President any powers not specified in its text, the only legal way to proceed was to get Congress to pass a law.

    Which is precisely what he did.

    At the time, there were Whatever commenters speculating that Bush would ignore the Supreme Court and proceed with the trials anyway. John came to his defense at that point, correctly predicting that he has enough respect for the law to abide by the Supreme Court ruling, and work with a friendly, Republican congress to pass the required law. After all, to have done otherwise would have been “incomprehension of and contempt for the United States Constitution.”

    Argue, if you want, that we should be doing more to maintain the moral high ground we once enjoyed in the world, and I’ll agree with you. But spare me all this talk of constitutional violations when none actually exist.

    Second, it’s competely disingenuous to suggest that this bill advocates or promotes torture. The bill puts specific definitions around the language in the Geneva convention, and leaves interpretation of anything else to the President. Before this bill, interpretation of ALL activities were left to the President. The bill adds restrictions, it does not remove them.

    (Also, I’d just like to add that it takes some impressively large balls to suggest that you know what constitutes torture, and John McCain does not.)

    Argue, if you want, that our self-imposed “clarifications” of the Geneva Convention are still too vague and as such, put our troops at risk in future conflicts, and I’ll agree with you. But all of this “Bush promotes torture” crap is just election year, political doublespeak.

    Finally, this notion that we aren’t better off today than in any time in our history is astounding to me.

    The life-improving services we have at our disposal today were the things of science fiction just a generation ago. The low-income housing of today is of higher quality than the average home of 50 years ago, not to mention what most of the world lives in today. The medical coverage we provide, even to people without health insurance, is more accessible and of higher quality than what most of the world has today as well. The poor in this country would generally be considered middle class in most of the world. For these and a thousand other reasons, we remain the only country in the world with a consistent record of net immigration going back decades.

    Argue, if you want, that we should never be satisfied and always strive to seek out and improve the flaws in our system, and I’ll agree with you. But don’t jump all over people who point out our strengths alongside our weaknesses, just because it helps to make your case against the President.

    Apologies for the rambling, but I get the feeling I’m as bothered by this now as John was when he wrote the original post…

  101. My instinct is to just stay out of this echo chamber, and let John’s opinion resonate over & over again so that everyone feels really good about themselves. I’m jumping in, though, because it bugs the #&!^ out of me when people just streamroll right over the facts. So many legitimate things to be pissed at Bush about, and yet people still need to invent new ones…

    First, the constitution has NOTHING to do with this. The constitution doesn’t apply to non-American detainees anymore than the Geneva Conventions apply to us as citizens. We may choose to grant non-citizens the same rights we have (1st, 4th, 5th ammendment), but we do that at our own discretion, not because the constitution compels us to.

    The constitution DID have to do with the Supreme Court’s June ruling, because the constitution does not grant the President (who is a citizen) power to hold military tribunals of this kind. And since the constitution explicitly denies the President any powers not specified in its text, the only legal way to proceed was to get Congress to pass a law.

    Which is precisely what he did.

    At the time, there were Whatever commenters speculating that Bush would ignore the Supreme Court and proceed with the trials anyway. John came to his defense at that point, correctly predicting that he has enough respect for the law to abide by the Supreme Court ruling, and work with a friendly, Republican congress to pass the required law. After all, to have done otherwise would have been “incomprehension of and contempt for the United States Constitution.”

    Argue, if you want, that we should be doing more to maintain the moral high ground we once enjoyed in the world, and I’ll agree with you. But spare me all this talk of constitutional violations when none actually exist.

    Second, it’s competely disingenuous to suggest that this bill advocates or promotes torture. The bill puts specific definitions around the language in the Geneva convention, and leaves interpretation of anything else to the President. Before this bill, interpretation of ALL activities were left to the President. The bill adds restrictions, it does not remove them.

    (Also, I’d just like to add that it takes some impressively large balls to suggest that you know what constitutes torture, and John McCain does not.)

    Argue, if you want, that our self-imposed “clarifications” of the Geneva Convention are still too vague and as such, put our troops at risk in future conflicts, and I’ll agree with you. But all of this “Bush promotes torture” crap is just election year, political doublespeak.

    Finally, this notion that we aren’t better off today than in any time in our history is astounding to me.

    The life-improving services we have at our disposal today were the things of science fiction just a generation ago. The low-income housing of today is of higher quality than the average home of 50 years ago, not to mention what most of the world lives in today. The medical coverage we provide, even to people without health insurance, is more accessible and of higher quality than what most of the world has today as well. The poor in this country would generally be considered middle class in most of the world. For these and a thousand other reasons, we remain the only country in the world with a consistent record of net immigration going back decades.

    Argue, if you want, that we should never be satisfied and always strive to seek out and improve the flaws in our system, and I’ll agree with you. But don’t jump all over people who point out our strengths alongside our weaknesses, just because it helps to make your case against the President.

    Apologies for the rambling, but I get the feeling I’m as bothered by this now as John was when he wrote the original post…

  102. Brian Greenberg:

    “But spare me all this talk of constitutional violations when none actually exist.”

    BURIED IN THE complex Senate compromise on detainee treatment is a real shocker, reaching far beyond the legal struggles about foreign terrorist suspects in the Guantanamo Bay fortress. The compromise legislation, which is racing toward the White House, authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights.

    Brian, do try to know what you’re talking about before you pontificate.

  103. A minor disagreement: the Senate Democrats could not filibuster because they could not muster enough ‘no’ votes to sustain one. It’s not that the people opposed to it didn’t have the courage to filibuster; it’s that there weren’t enough Senators opposed to it to have a filibuster, full stop.

    That’s depressing in its own way, but it means that the Senators-in-opposition may not be the moral cowards you imply they are.

  104. A minor disagreement: the Senate Democrats could not filibuster because they could not muster enough ‘no’ votes to sustain one. It’s not that the people opposed to it didn’t have the courage to filibuster; it’s that there weren’t enough Senators opposed to it to have a filibuster, full stop.

    That’s depressing in its own way, but it means that the Senators-in-opposition may not be the moral cowards you imply they are.

  105. Aphrael, I suspect that if the Senate Democrats made it a priority to filibuster the bill, there would have been a sufficient number.

  106. Aphrael, I suspect that if the Senate Democrats made it a priority to filibuster the bill, there would have been a sufficient number.

  107. Let me tell you all a quick story that may be germane to the issue of a lack of discernable parties and politicians being careerists first, upright citizens second.

    My best friend’s mom (Christine Cegelis) ran for Congress in 2004 and was beat by Henry Hyde in Illinois. Not a big shock as he was an incumbent with a long track record, disgusting in various ways as it might be. She did so because she was tired of watching Bush and Co. destroy aspects of our democracy.

    So, she lost in 2004, but kept running full-time for the 2006 election after Hyde decided to retire. She spent the better part of two years spending time in her Congressional District actually talking to regular people like you and I, getting to know the issues, debating, participating in the great democratic experiment of our country. She was scrappy, determined, and honorable, even if you did not agree with any, all, or some of her positions. She was a former IT professional who wanted to make the country better.

    She worked her ass off, recruited volunteers and found paid staff to run a campaign, and was dealing with all the insanity that is a modern campaign. In response, a few months before the April primaries, the Democratic National Convention pulls out any support for Christine and decides to put all of its money and weight behind Tammy Duckworth, a woman from out of the district!! Because she was a disabled veteran, the DNC apparently decided that Duckworth could capitalize on that and get some moderate Republican votes that Christine (perhaps) would not have gotten.

    Now you might argue that was some sort of shrewd political move by the DNC. To me, it seemed like a slap in the face to a woman who really does love her country, and who quit a well paying job to do something about the political situation in this country. I wanted to vomit when I found this out. I almost disavowed any association with the Democratic party, except, what is the viable alternative?

    So, to John, I feel the same way as you do on a number of issues. What we need to do now is channel our anger into local involvement in politics. If we can get invested enough in local politics, and attack the machine built by the DNC and RNC, we can, as Bono from U2 has said, wrestle our country back from these stupid, pathetic, and spineless politicians (admittedly I have embellished his quote).

  108. I agree with Scalzi – I am not a fan of declaring US citizens as “enemy combatants.” Unfortunately, Lincoln suspended habeas corpus in 1861, so there is a precident. Although, you will note Padilla is in a civilian jail now, chiefly because Bush didn’t want to re-argue the case before the Supreme Court.

    Greenburg’s point is also well-taken. You may not like the law (not sure I do), but it was passed by Congress in persuance to a Supreme Court decision. There is a long precidence to military tribunals, especially for trying people who engage in warfare without following the rules of war. Don’t forget that the alternative is we declare the Gitmo detainees POWS and hold them until the war is over – an effective life sentence.

    Maybe it’s because I served in the military, but I have some faith that the officers assigned to these tribunals will do their best to rule fairly.

  109. I agree with Scalzi – I am not a fan of declaring US citizens as “enemy combatants.” Unfortunately, Lincoln suspended habeas corpus in 1861, so there is a precident. Although, you will note Padilla is in a civilian jail now, chiefly because Bush didn’t want to re-argue the case before the Supreme Court.

    Greenburg’s point is also well-taken. You may not like the law (not sure I do), but it was passed by Congress in persuance to a Supreme Court decision. There is a long precidence to military tribunals, especially for trying people who engage in warfare without following the rules of war. Don’t forget that the alternative is we declare the Gitmo detainees POWS and hold them until the war is over – an effective life sentence.

    Maybe it’s because I served in the military, but I have some faith that the officers assigned to these tribunals will do their best to rule fairly.

  110. Just a few points:

    1. For the people who are concerned that this gives our enemies permission to torture our soldiers: Have you noticed that they are already doing that? Including all of those video taped beheadings; dragging bodies through the streets; kidnappings; and dancing on our injured GI’s. Do you think that they will stop doing those things if we pass a law that says we won’t do those things? Are you suggesting that they are currently doing those things because we are too?

    2. To suggest that we have somehow lowered ourselves to “their” level or somehow debased ourselves is hyperbolye at best. You will not see us broadcasting public beheadings; or condoning honor killings, or conscripting suicide bombers, or shooting politicians etc as a result of this bill.

    3. For those who are concerned that this shreds the constitution: You will be happy to know that the bill specifically states that it only applies to non-citizens and so therefore has zero impact on our constitution. We are a nation “by contract” and only parties to the contract are subject to the terms.

    4. For those who are concerned about the Geneva Conventions: We haven’t fought an enemy who was a signer since WWII and we have never fought an enemy who abided by the rules. Ever. Just ask McCain.

    5. And for those of you who think that the idiot savant George Bush has done this all by himself: You should note that the bill went through the full legislative process and was passed by large bi-partisan margins. It was not filibustered because more than a majority of the elected representatives thought that it was a good idea.

    6. You may not like his politics but Bush is a very competent politician who has accomplished more than enough to be considered one of our most significant presidents. To suggest otherwise is simply sour grapes.

    7. I find it interesting that people who profess no faith in God or any other higher power can be so dogmatic about “morality”. Morality is simply a recognition that some things are right and others are wrong based on some accepted standard. On what do you base your morality? Who sets the rules for you? How do you “know” that something is wrong?

    8. Moral Cowardice is a serious charge and one I don’t think you can support if you are honest. Bush may be a lot of things but he is not a coward. As a politician he has taken principled stands and stuck with them in the face of overwhelming hostility. Nor can you dispute that he has a set of personal moral principles that he operates by consistantly. Moral cowardice would suggest that he is intentionally doing something that he knows is wrong because he is afraid of the consequences of doing the right thing. Bush clearly thinks that he is doing the right thing in this instance and is willing to stake his political capital on it.

    What you are really saying then is that you don’t like the decisions that he has made, but you can’t make the case for the universality of your position so you have to employ an ad hominem to express your frustration that things didn’t go your way.

  111. Just another adding, “amen”. The thugs running things now are worse than moral cowards. Not only are they self-aggrandizing arrogant power whores, they are also trashing the very nation they swore to protect. Between the destruction of our legal system, the economic damage and the trashing of our international reputation (not to mention a country or two that now produce more people that violently hate us), I have difficulty imagining how someone could have done more damage in 6 years than they have.

  112. Just another adding, “amen”. The thugs running things now are worse than moral cowards. Not only are they self-aggrandizing arrogant power whores, they are also trashing the very nation they swore to protect. Between the destruction of our legal system, the economic damage and the trashing of our international reputation (not to mention a country or two that now produce more people that violently hate us), I have difficulty imagining how someone could have done more damage in 6 years than they have.

  113. Paul,

    Point 3: Please read Scalzi’s 2:07 p.m. comment. This does in fact apply to American citizens in some cases.

    Point 6: “Significant” does not equal “great” or even “good.”

    Point 7: Please read something about morality and the human condition other than the religious text of your choice before making the assumption that non-religious people have no credibility in defining “morality.” A standard Google search on “atheist morality” will provide you a place to start.

  114. Paul:

    “I find it interesting that people who profess no faith in God or any other higher power can be so dogmatic about ‘morality.'”

    I find it interesting that people who take orders from an imaginary creature who lives in the sky find it interesting that people who don’t have a moral sense.

    “Bush may be a lot of things but he is not a coward.”

    Bullshit. The man is as morally cowardly as they come, both as a Christian, as he so often claims to be (because he certainly doesn’t live up to Christ’s dictums when he authorizes torture) or as a citizen of the United States, whose founding document he goes out of his way to subvert primarily because he can’t be bothered to do things in a manner consistent with the Constitution. You may find his insistence on pissing all over the Constitution admirable; I will choose to disagree.

    “What you are really saying then is that you don’t like the decisions that he has made, but you can’t make the case for the universality of your position so you have to employ an ad hominem to express your frustration that things didn’t go your way.”

    If you believe that you don’t have very good reading comprehension, Paul. Go back and try again. I don’t like the decisions he’s made, and among the reasons I don’t like them is that they are a betrayal of that which our nation of laws is founded upon, and of the moral system Bush mouths so piously for his own political gain. He’s a moral coward, all right, and I have all the concrete reasons I need to believe that.

    Chris Gerrib:

    “You may not like the law (not sure I do), but it was passed by Congress in persuance to a Supreme Court decision.”

    I certainly agree this gives Bush better legal cover than he had before, although I suspect it is still largely unconstitutional; I additionally suspect it will be in front of the courts in relatively short order.

  115. Paul:

    “I find it interesting that people who profess no faith in God or any other higher power can be so dogmatic about ‘morality.'”

    I find it interesting that people who take orders from an imaginary creature who lives in the sky find it interesting that people who don’t have a moral sense.

    “Bush may be a lot of things but he is not a coward.”

    Bullshit. The man is as morally cowardly as they come, both as a Christian, as he so often claims to be (because he certainly doesn’t live up to Christ’s dictums when he authorizes torture) or as a citizen of the United States, whose founding document he goes out of his way to subvert primarily because he can’t be bothered to do things in a manner consistent with the Constitution. You may find his insistence on pissing all over the Constitution admirable; I will choose to disagree.

    “What you are really saying then is that you don’t like the decisions that he has made, but you can’t make the case for the universality of your position so you have to employ an ad hominem to express your frustration that things didn’t go your way.”

    If you believe that you don’t have very good reading comprehension, Paul. Go back and try again. I don’t like the decisions he’s made, and among the reasons I don’t like them is that they are a betrayal of that which our nation of laws is founded upon, and of the moral system Bush mouths so piously for his own political gain. He’s a moral coward, all right, and I have all the concrete reasons I need to believe that.

    Chris Gerrib:

    “You may not like the law (not sure I do), but it was passed by Congress in persuance to a Supreme Court decision.”

    I certainly agree this gives Bush better legal cover than he had before, although I suspect it is still largely unconstitutional; I additionally suspect it will be in front of the courts in relatively short order.

  116. *As a Canadian* I was dumbfounded as hell that Bush got re-elected. I won’t comment on our government being weak and giving in to him so much, but we do have our own problems.

    Things have been going steadily down the crapper for the US government for years. Yet funnily enough, now that the US citizens are standing up more *and louder* against their own government, I’ve never been so happy to have them as my neighbors. Recognition is the first step. Voicing it is the second. I can’t wait for the third when true action comes about.

    *linked to you by lotus-faery*

  117. Paul, just a few points:

    1. My moral standards do not depend on who we are fighting. This is not about the terrorists. It is about us, our country, and what we stand for.

    2. See #1. I am not going to lower the bar just because our enemies have done so.

    3. You are an ignorant tool. As John has already pointed out above, this bill “authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights.”

    4. See #1 and #2.

    5. Bi-partisan? Only if the words have no meaning. An actual “full legislative process?” Whatever.

    6. To suggest that Bush is competent is simply more evidence that you have your head sandwiched between your butt cheeks.

    7. If you are so ignorant of the ethical and philisophical underpinnings of secular morality that you would start torturing and killing people if you didn’t believe in God, then by all means, please continue to believe in God. On the other hand, it doesn’t exactly seem to be detering you now.

    8. We are saying exactly what we are saying. You can take your attempts to reframe our words and go hang yourself.

  118. Paul, just a few points:

    1. My moral standards do not depend on who we are fighting. This is not about the terrorists. It is about us, our country, and what we stand for.

    2. See #1. I am not going to lower the bar just because our enemies have done so.

    3. You are an ignorant tool. As John has already pointed out above, this bill “authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights.”

    4. See #1 and #2.

    5. Bi-partisan? Only if the words have no meaning. An actual “full legislative process?” Whatever.

    6. To suggest that Bush is competent is simply more evidence that you have your head sandwiched between your butt cheeks.

    7. If you are so ignorant of the ethical and philisophical underpinnings of secular morality that you would start torturing and killing people if you didn’t believe in God, then by all means, please continue to believe in God. On the other hand, it doesn’t exactly seem to be detering you now.

    8. We are saying exactly what we are saying. You can take your attempts to reframe our words and go hang yourself.

  119. To add to Adam Ziegler’s thoughts:

    “Paul, just a few points:

    1. My moral standards do not depend on who we are fighting. This is not about the terrorists. It is about us, our country, and what we stand for.”

    You know, like what McCain said. Again – McCain is an oppurtunistic assclown, and Paul, to the extent you agree with him, I’ll be fighting your ideas tooth and nail for the rest of my life.

  120. H.R.6166
    Military Commissions Act of 2006 (Engrossed as Agreed to or Passed by House)

    Sec. 948c. Persons subject to military commissions

    `Any alien unlawful enemy combatant is subject to trial by military commission under this chapter.

    Period.

  121. John – the only copy of the bill that I can find online, specifically applies ONLY to “unlawful alien combatants.”

    It defines “alien” as “not a US citizen” and uses the same language as the Geneva Convention regarding what constitutes an “unlawful combatant.” (No uniform, not member of army / militia, etc.)

    The habeaus corpus provision doesn’t cover US citizens because 1) the bill doesn’t apply to US citizens and 2) the text of the bill modifies habeas corpus for “alien detained by the United States.”

    Obviously, this online version may not be the most updated one that just passed, and yes, I suspect that it will be challenged in court.

  122. CoolBlue: The section you quoted says nothing about whether or not non-alien unlawful enemy combatants are subject to trial by military commision under this chapter.

    However, if one looks at section 948d, subsection c:
    “(c) Determination of Unlawful Enemy Combatant Status Dispositive- A finding, whether before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense that a person is an unlawful enemy combatant is dispositive for purposes of jurisdiction for trial by military commission under this chapter.”

    I read this as saying that the president is able to decide whether or not the military commision under this chapter has jurisdiction or not.

    This is consistent with the news reports.

  123. CoolBlue: The section you quoted says nothing about whether or not non-alien unlawful enemy combatants are subject to trial by military commision under this chapter.

    However, if one looks at section 948d, subsection c:
    “(c) Determination of Unlawful Enemy Combatant Status Dispositive- A finding, whether before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense that a person is an unlawful enemy combatant is dispositive for purposes of jurisdiction for trial by military commission under this chapter.”

    I read this as saying that the president is able to decide whether or not the military commision under this chapter has jurisdiction or not.

    This is consistent with the news reports.

  124. >Don’t forget that the alternative is we declare the Gitmo detainees POWS and hold them until the war is over – an effective life sentence.

    Except which life sentence would you rather have, the one under the Geneva Conventions, or the one where you get held indefinitely under who-knows-what conditions and can’t complain about those conditions later when you (eventually) get to go in court? At least for the former, you get out when the police operation ends; for the latter, as long as they want. Habeas corpus? Who cares?

    >For those who are concerned that this shreds the constitution: You will be happy to know that the bill specifically states that it only applies to non-citizens and so therefore has zero impact on our constitution. We are a nation “by contract” and only parties to the contract are subject to the terms.

    Perhaps I have been transported to a parallel universe, where the founders of our country didn’t recognize inherent, natural, God-given rights above and beyond the government, where the Constitution simply lists rights of citizens instead of powers of government (and limits on those powers), where instead of “Congress shall make no law”-type amendments we have “Citizens have the right to”, where the eighth amendment doesn’t say “excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted” but rather “the government shall not require excessive bail, nor impose excessive fines, nor inflict cruel and unusual punishment on United States citizens”, where the ninth and tenth amendments don’t exist.
    Or, maybe, the Constitution really is meant to be binding on the government, telling it what it can and cannot do, and reserving all other powers and rights “to the states respectively, or to the people” without any mention of citizenship.
    Not to mention that this bill can apply to legal United States citizens in the United States because rather than actually defining “unlawful enemy combatant”, the bill says what can be done to alien unlawful enemy combatants and also what can be done to unlawful enemy combatants of any stripe, treating them as two separate groups, with the criteria as follows:
    “A finding, whether before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense that a person is an unlawful enemy combatant is dispositive for purposes of jurisdiction for trial by military commission under this chapter.”
    So: who finds the evidence against a person, who arrests them, who holds them indefinitely without habeas corpus, who decides whether or not they can do whatever the president decides short of rape, biological experiments, torture, and cruel and inhuman treatment (defined by the president and the president alone, so those options are still on the table anyway, especially considering Bush’s interesting definitions of torture), who does those things to them, who tries them (eventually), who convicts and sentences? Why, the executive branch, of course. All by itself. The judicial branch doesn’t even get involved, which is kinda funny considering that it’s the one that interprets treaty law (and the Geneva Conventions) and the Constitution, and that it’s the branch whose business justice is.
    The government is the only signatory of that contract; only government officials are sworn to uphold that contract; and only the government is bound by it. The people are bound under government, not any explicit contract. “And when in the course of human events it becomes necessary”–or am I thinking of “resistance to tyrants is obedience to God”? Well, the idea is the same.
    And for now, we might be able to work within the system. But what can you do? when there’s no one principled to vote for, when the most you can say about certain senators and representatives is that, hey, we might be torturing people, but at least we’re not doing it on video tape! We might execute people, but at least the executions are by invitation only! We’re not quite at the level of the terrorists yet! (Emphasis on the “yet”; the Geneva Conventions are, like the Constitution, “just a gddmn piece of paper” in the eyes of our current executive branch.)

  125. Chris Gerrib:

    The link you give doesn’t work (I think THOMAS assigns temporary URLs or something), but I’ll look into the full text.

    Leaving out US citizens for the moment, as I understand it legal residents of the US (who are, so far as I know, generally protected by the US Constitution) could be classified as alien illegal combatants, so there are still certainly constitutional issues there.

    On review: A couple comments up JC notes an interesting point, which I suspect was what being referred to in the piece I linked.

  126. Chris Gerrib:

    The link you give doesn’t work (I think THOMAS assigns temporary URLs or something), but I’ll look into the full text.

    Leaving out US citizens for the moment, as I understand it legal residents of the US (who are, so far as I know, generally protected by the US Constitution) could be classified as alien illegal combatants, so there are still certainly constitutional issues there.

    On review: A couple comments up JC notes an interesting point, which I suspect was what being referred to in the piece I linked.

  127. JC

    Which part of “Persons subject to military commissions” do you not understand?

    Note: Section 948d (from which you quote) is titled Jurisdiction of military commissions

    subsection c, which you quote, details how persons who are subject to military commisions may be designated for a military commission.

    I would also point out that under subsection c, no individual determines the fate of a detainee’s status. This is left to a tribunal.

    Additionally, notice that this bill is solely about how a Military Commission is to be conducted and the sentences it can mete.

    I would further point out that the bill mandates Congressional oversight in the form of an annual report (section 498e)

  128. JC

    Which part of “Persons subject to military commissions” do you not understand?

    Note: Section 948d (from which you quote) is titled Jurisdiction of military commissions

    subsection c, which you quote, details how persons who are subject to military commisions may be designated for a military commission.

    I would also point out that under subsection c, no individual determines the fate of a detainee’s status. This is left to a tribunal.

    Additionally, notice that this bill is solely about how a Military Commission is to be conducted and the sentences it can mete.

    I would further point out that the bill mandates Congressional oversight in the form of an annual report (section 498e)

  129. John; I agree with and support your charge of moral cowardice on the part of el Presidente. He gets more and more like a dimwitted banana republic leader every day. And the Democrats need to get a spine and some brains. I’m out in California and we had the two Demcratic insiders running for governor gut each other and their election funds in a nasty primary while the Guvernator listened to Maria Shriver and took all of the best Democartic policies as his own. Looks like he will be re-elected big time. I am hoping Maria is planning to turn him into a rightist Democrat over time.
    Fight the good fight. And yes I am buying your books, new, in hardcover.

  130. Sorry I’m late to this rumble. Did I miss anything?

    John Scalzi, ditto brother, ditto.

    And to Bill M; one, I am part of the government; two, I believe there are still Constitutional remedies to this insanity; three, I’m already relearning things I once knew well just in case two doesn’t work out. That’s are far as I’m willing say, except, gee, I think speaking out on a fairly popular blog, taking political action and encouraging others to take political action is doing something worth while.

    I just can’t believe we are arguing barbarism. Considering the back channel talk and recent “leaks” many still in uniform can’t believe it either.

    As for the Democratic Leadership not attempting a filibuster because they wouldn’t have had the votes is cowardice as well. You don’t just fight when you know you can win, you fight what needs fighting.

  131. Sorry I’m late to this rumble. Did I miss anything?

    John Scalzi, ditto brother, ditto.

    And to Bill M; one, I am part of the government; two, I believe there are still Constitutional remedies to this insanity; three, I’m already relearning things I once knew well just in case two doesn’t work out. That’s are far as I’m willing say, except, gee, I think speaking out on a fairly popular blog, taking political action and encouraging others to take political action is doing something worth while.

    I just can’t believe we are arguing barbarism. Considering the back channel talk and recent “leaks” many still in uniform can’t believe it either.

    As for the Democratic Leadership not attempting a filibuster because they wouldn’t have had the votes is cowardice as well. You don’t just fight when you know you can win, you fight what needs fighting.

  132. Bill Marcy, you’re trying to dismiss this subject because it makes you uncomfortable. Both of the rhetorical maneuvers you pulled in your comments are meaningless in terms of the actual informational content of the discussion. Both are commonly used to devalue arguments without engaging with them. These maneuvers are: 1. Declaring that some argument or statement is worthless unless its author is going to immediately, personally take direct action on the issue. (A variant of this ploy is to declare that the author is unqualified to speak on the subject because he or she hasn’t suffered as much as the members of some arbitrarily chosen group that has been affected by issue under discussion.)Trouble is, neither of those arbitrarily imposed qualifications has any necessary connection with or relation to the validity of the author’s statements. Going out and taking action on a statement doesn’t make that statement true. Not immediately acting on it doesn’t make the statement false.In normal discourse, the presence or absence of direct personal action, subsequently undertaken, is not normally used as a test of the speaker’s authority, or the validity of the speaker’s statements. Can you give a reason why it should be especially pertinent here?2. Pointing out that the speaker is living a comfortable and privileged life relative to the vast majority of humans throughout history, or people alive now. Like the previously identified rhetorical maneuver, this has no necessary relevance to the validity of the statements it pretends to address. Also, it applies to you just as much as it applies to John Scalzi.

  133. CoolBlue said:

    “Note: Section 948d (from which you quote) is titled Jurisdiction of military commissions

    subsection c, which you quote, details how persons who are subject to military commisions may be designated for a military commission.

    I would also point out that under subsection c, no individual determines the fate of a detainee’s status. This is left to a tribunal.

    Additionally, notice that this bill is solely about how a Military Commission is to be conducted and the sentences it can mete.

    I would further point out that the bill mandates Congressional oversight in the form of an annual report (section 498e)”

    CoolBlue, let me rejoinder in the same sarcastic spirit you answered JC.

    Clearly you are able to interpret legislation far better than others here, so please, share your wisdom and answer some questions.

    What is meant by tribunal in this bill? Two people? Eight? Officers appointed by the President? His friends and neighbors in the Reserve?

    If the President is the Commander in Chief of the military, what stops him from abusing his power and influencing or outright directing how the tribunal will rule?

    Other than the report to Congress, what sort of judicial checks and balances are operating on this function of the executive branch of government once this is passed?

    I ask these questions because it seems as if you are stating that you know how this bill will be interpreted. I have read many opinions that this legislation will be ruled unconstitutional for a number of reasons. Also, analysis by legal professors suggests the President can in fact direct people living in America to be picked up and detained, “tortured”, and tried in secret. You might then understand that I am afraid myself or one of my neighbors will end up on the end of an amazing waterboarding trick.

  134. CoolBlue said:

    “Note: Section 948d (from which you quote) is titled Jurisdiction of military commissions

    subsection c, which you quote, details how persons who are subject to military commisions may be designated for a military commission.

    I would also point out that under subsection c, no individual determines the fate of a detainee’s status. This is left to a tribunal.

    Additionally, notice that this bill is solely about how a Military Commission is to be conducted and the sentences it can mete.

    I would further point out that the bill mandates Congressional oversight in the form of an annual report (section 498e)”

    CoolBlue, let me rejoinder in the same sarcastic spirit you answered JC.

    Clearly you are able to interpret legislation far better than others here, so please, share your wisdom and answer some questions.

    What is meant by tribunal in this bill? Two people? Eight? Officers appointed by the President? His friends and neighbors in the Reserve?

    If the President is the Commander in Chief of the military, what stops him from abusing his power and influencing or outright directing how the tribunal will rule?

    Other than the report to Congress, what sort of judicial checks and balances are operating on this function of the executive branch of government once this is passed?

    I ask these questions because it seems as if you are stating that you know how this bill will be interpreted. I have read many opinions that this legislation will be ruled unconstitutional for a number of reasons. Also, analysis by legal professors suggests the President can in fact direct people living in America to be picked up and detained, “tortured”, and tried in secret. You might then understand that I am afraid myself or one of my neighbors will end up on the end of an amazing waterboarding trick.

  135. Paul, I find it interesting that every veteran I know disagrees with you.

    We are not a nation “by contract”. We’re bound by our laws. It’s not all right for us to torture non-citizens.

    This new law doesn’t limit torture to non-citizens.

    If you think the known instances of U.S. military personnel being tortured are comparable to the extent of our own torture, you don’t know jack anyway.

    Do you have a surname, by the way?

  136. Paul, I find it interesting that every veteran I know disagrees with you.

    We are not a nation “by contract”. We’re bound by our laws. It’s not all right for us to torture non-citizens.

    This new law doesn’t limit torture to non-citizens.

    If you think the known instances of U.S. military personnel being tortured are comparable to the extent of our own torture, you don’t know jack anyway.

    Do you have a surname, by the way?

  137. Todd – in an attempt to de-escalate the sarcasm, please allow me to answer your questions based on the version of the bill I read.

    Tribunal will consist of at least 5 military officers and a military judge (non-voting). None of the officers can be involved in the case other then as tribunal members.

    >what stops the President from abusing his power?

    The same thing that in the end always does – the individuals on the tribunal need to live with themselves.

    The bill has an appeals process up to the D. C. District Court of Appeals.

    The President can in fact direct people to be picked up, “tortured” and tried. As long as they are not US citizens.

  138. I don’t know what they were thinking… according to this memo from the Attorney General, we cannot hold citizens forever, even when they plotted against us.
    But you can declare them “Unlawful Enemy Combatants”, sir.
    So?
    Just thinking, sir., that if someone is an “Unlawful Enemy Combatant”, he doesn’t really deserve the honor of being a citizen.
    Certainly not… Ungrateful traitors!
    Maybe something could be done about that: maybe our people in Congress could pass a law that automatically strips the citizenship from anybody who has been declared an unlawful enemy combatant. Then they no are citizens and you can do with them as they deserve.
    Sounds good, but will it pass?
    We may have to compromise a bit, maybe you could declare that this is a measure that will be applied only in the most serious of circumstances.
    And we are the ones to decides if a case is serious or not… Ok: start working on a draft.
    Very good sir.

  139. Short explanation of said opinion: CoolBlue is technically correct, but deceptive.

    Military commissions only apply to aliens. However, the law would seem to say that citizens can be defined as “enemy combatants” if they have “supported hostilities against the United States.” Not just those who have “engaged in hostilities” but those who have supported them.

    That’s important, because Hamdi was decided with a pretty tight definition of enemy combatant. The new law greatly broadens that definition.

  140. Short explanation of said opinion: CoolBlue is technically correct, but deceptive.

    Military commissions only apply to aliens. However, the law would seem to say that citizens can be defined as “enemy combatants” if they have “supported hostilities against the United States.” Not just those who have “engaged in hostilities” but those who have supported them.

    That’s important, because Hamdi was decided with a pretty tight definition of enemy combatant. The new law greatly broadens that definition.

  141. Here’s how Stephen Colbert, political comedian extraordinaire, reports it in the Word of the Day segment (the bracketed phrases are text on the screen):

    [Text here removed for copyright reasons -- JS]

    Should I laugh, or cry?

  142. A couple of legal notes:

    The bill strips habeas from aliens only. We’ve got two kinds of habeas – what the constitution provides, and what Congress has added onto it. To the best of my knowledge, the constitutional part has two elements: it applies only to detentions by the executive branch, and the detainee must be under the jurisdiction of some court. The court previously (Rasul) said that Gitmo counts for this second part, and so the aliens at Gitmo had habeas, even under the current habeas statutes. To my mind, stripping habeas from those at Gitmo, even though they are aliens (the Framers knew how to distinguish between People and Citizens, and this is not one of those places) is unconstitutional because we’re lacking a rebellion or an invasion – which is basically what Arlen Specter’s complaint was.

    The section allowing the designation of “enemy combatant” includes anyone who “purposely and materially” aids terrorism, with no mention of alienage. It could have been worse – the White House didn’t want “purposely and” to be in there – leaving the possibility that some little old lady who unwittingly sends a check to a charity/terrorist front group could be labelled an enemy combatant.

  143. A couple of legal notes:

    The bill strips habeas from aliens only. We’ve got two kinds of habeas – what the constitution provides, and what Congress has added onto it. To the best of my knowledge, the constitutional part has two elements: it applies only to detentions by the executive branch, and the detainee must be under the jurisdiction of some court. The court previously (Rasul) said that Gitmo counts for this second part, and so the aliens at Gitmo had habeas, even under the current habeas statutes. To my mind, stripping habeas from those at Gitmo, even though they are aliens (the Framers knew how to distinguish between People and Citizens, and this is not one of those places) is unconstitutional because we’re lacking a rebellion or an invasion – which is basically what Arlen Specter’s complaint was.

    The section allowing the designation of “enemy combatant” includes anyone who “purposely and materially” aids terrorism, with no mention of alienage. It could have been worse – the White House didn’t want “purposely and” to be in there – leaving the possibility that some little old lady who unwittingly sends a check to a charity/terrorist front group could be labelled an enemy combatant.

  144. Gwen:

    Hate to do this, but I’m going to have to redact your entry because posting that whole bit is a copyright violation. If you want to repost a couple of the best quotes, that’s fine.

    Jon Marcus:

    Thanks for that link. It’s interesting and does again bring up the issue of what this ruling means for citizens as well as for non-citizen residents who otherwise had enjoyed Constitutional protections.

  145. Teresa Nielsen Hayden

    This new law doesn’t limit torture to non-citizens.

    This bill doesn’t allow torture at all.

    The bill specifically invokes the McCain Detainee Treatment Act of 2005. Why was that bill OK up until this moment?

    Jon Marcus

    I give quite a bit more weight to Balkin’s opinions than yours.

    I give more weight to the actual text than anyone commenting about the text. And in this case the text seems pretty clear. Not twiky at all.

  146. Teresa Nielsen Hayden

    This new law doesn’t limit torture to non-citizens.

    This bill doesn’t allow torture at all.

    The bill specifically invokes the McCain Detainee Treatment Act of 2005. Why was that bill OK up until this moment?

    Jon Marcus

    I give quite a bit more weight to Balkin’s opinions than yours.

    I give more weight to the actual text than anyone commenting about the text. And in this case the text seems pretty clear. Not twiky at all.

  147. Thanks to everyone above for the informative, fact-based discussion about what the law says and doesn’t say. It’s a nice departure from the tone of John’s original post and the ~70 comments that followed it.

    As to the constitution: I have not read the bill in its entirety, but from what I’m reading here, it seems its authors (as is likely the case with most bill’s authors) have made an honest effort to comply with the constitution, lest it be thrown out in court. At the very least, I don’t believe a three line quote from those constitutional scholars at the LA Times is the standard for unconstitutionality.

    And, for the record, I hope to God this law gets tested in the courts. And if section 948 is unconstitutional, I hope the law gets shot down like Dick Cheney’s buddy on a quail hunting trip. And I hope Congress rewrites the law to rectify the problem, and the process repeats itself.

    Because, you see, this is precisely how our democratic nation of laws is supposed to work.

    And if/when it does happen, I will do my best to ignore the newspaper headlines that declare “Supreme Court Deals Major Defeat to George Bush,” and bloggers who claim “Bush authorized torture again today by…”

    It’s all just smoke that clouds real, informative debate like the one we’re having above.

  148. Coolblue:

    “I give more weight to the actual text than anyone commenting about the text. And in this case the text seems pretty clear. Not twiky at all.”

    Oddly enough, CoolBlue, the Constitutional expert Jon notes says that the text pretty clearly does apply to citizens, so here’s the problem: If you think it’s clear, and he thinks it’s clear, and yet both of you think it clearly says two different things, a) how clear is it really, and b) whose interpretation of its clarity should be given greater creedence, yours or the Constitutional scholar?

    Brian Greenberg:

    “I don’t believe a three line quote from those constitutional scholars at the LA Times is the standard for unconstitutionality.”

    Well, see, Brian, the quote came from a law professor at Yale who happens to specialize in Constitutional issues, who just happened to be writing a piece for the LA Times. Which you would have known had you bothered to follow the link, which clearly you did not.

    Your problem, Brian, is that you seem to think a certaintly that you know what’s going on trumps actually finding out what is going on. Do the legwork before you make the smirky comments. Otherwise your complaints about my tone are both hypocritical and hollow.

  149. Coolblue:

    “I give more weight to the actual text than anyone commenting about the text. And in this case the text seems pretty clear. Not twiky at all.”

    Oddly enough, CoolBlue, the Constitutional expert Jon notes says that the text pretty clearly does apply to citizens, so here’s the problem: If you think it’s clear, and he thinks it’s clear, and yet both of you think it clearly says two different things, a) how clear is it really, and b) whose interpretation of its clarity should be given greater creedence, yours or the Constitutional scholar?

    Brian Greenberg:

    “I don’t believe a three line quote from those constitutional scholars at the LA Times is the standard for unconstitutionality.”

    Well, see, Brian, the quote came from a law professor at Yale who happens to specialize in Constitutional issues, who just happened to be writing a piece for the LA Times. Which you would have known had you bothered to follow the link, which clearly you did not.

    Your problem, Brian, is that you seem to think a certaintly that you know what’s going on trumps actually finding out what is going on. Do the legwork before you make the smirky comments. Otherwise your complaints about my tone are both hypocritical and hollow.

  150. Because, you see, this is precisely how our democratic nation of laws is supposed to work.

    Brian, that’s not precisely true. Checks and balances are there to make sure that the Constitution doesn’t get violated, in much the same way that a guard rail is there to prevent a car from going into a ravine.

    But how it’s “supposed to work,” is that our leaders shouldn’t attempt to pass laws that violate the Constitution to begin with (or, keeping with my admittedly-forced analogy, a driver shouldn’t veer off the road).

    The Supreme Court shooting down the law is what happens when something already failed to work. It’s a defense against things getting even worse.

  151. I hesitate to post, because this is about politics, and over the past several years politics in general have become so polarized, so vitriolic, so downright _nasty_ that it makes me queasy. People who disagree don’t seem to listen to each other, just insult one another. They don’t talk _to_ one another, they talk _at_ one another- nastily. So I hestitated. But I finally decided to comment, because I have met Mr. Scalzi and I have quite a bit of respect for his intellect and writing. My politics doesn’t tend to match his. I do not think this bill is a good idea. I do not condone it. I do understand the reasoning that led to it. It is my understanding, based on the readng I have done, that this bill only applies to non-US citizens. If this is true, then while I still don’t care for it; I can live with it. If on the other hand it does apply to US citizens it is an abomination that will be struck down by the Supreme Court post-haste (I trust).
    I do not understand the (seemingly) unthinking, unreasoning hatred of President Bush that many commentors have displayed. I do not say this to be offensive or insulting; and if I come across that way I apologize in advance; it just seems like that is their position from what I can gather. I have disagreed with, and continue to disagree with, many of his administrations decisions, but looked at dispassionately, how can any rational person declare him to be evil? (The term “Chimpy McBushitler” comes to mind). I think he has decent intentions but does not implement them well at all. One person up-thread declared he was not competent as a President, and I wondered how do we define competency? I tend to think of it as getting the job done- finishing what you started out to do in the most efficient, timeliest way possible. Looked at with that metric, hasn’t Bush accomplished many of his political goals, whether you agree with them or not? I have never met the President, but I do not think him evil and I do not think he thinks that he is acting from moral cowardice. Based on his actions, I judge him as a man stuck with a war he is not sure how to prosecute and determined to do the best job he can. I may not like a lot of his decisions, but to declare him a moral coward because of those decisions is something I am not prepared to do at this point. There is no proof that I can see, that he is acting out of a sense of malice or evil. Absent that, how can I, or we, declare him a coward? I have rambled, and I apologize for it. The whole situation is deeply troublesome.
    A final thought- from one perspective (he knows that this is contrary to the Constitution, the laws and traditions of the USA and did it anyway ala the ends justifys the means) then yes, I can see a charge of moral cowardice. From another perspective ( this doesn’t apply to US citizens, only terrorists, and even then we will treat them better than they treat us and I need to protect the people of my country the best I can, the best I know how) then I am not so sure. Again, my apologies for the length of this post and if I offended anyone. It was not my intent.

    -Matt

  152. I hesitate to post, because this is about politics, and over the past several years politics in general have become so polarized, so vitriolic, so downright _nasty_ that it makes me queasy. People who disagree don’t seem to listen to each other, just insult one another. They don’t talk _to_ one another, they talk _at_ one another- nastily. So I hestitated. But I finally decided to comment, because I have met Mr. Scalzi and I have quite a bit of respect for his intellect and writing. My politics doesn’t tend to match his. I do not think this bill is a good idea. I do not condone it. I do understand the reasoning that led to it. It is my understanding, based on the readng I have done, that this bill only applies to non-US citizens. If this is true, then while I still don’t care for it; I can live with it. If on the other hand it does apply to US citizens it is an abomination that will be struck down by the Supreme Court post-haste (I trust).
    I do not understand the (seemingly) unthinking, unreasoning hatred of President Bush that many commentors have displayed. I do not say this to be offensive or insulting; and if I come across that way I apologize in advance; it just seems like that is their position from what I can gather. I have disagreed with, and continue to disagree with, many of his administrations decisions, but looked at dispassionately, how can any rational person declare him to be evil? (The term “Chimpy McBushitler” comes to mind). I think he has decent intentions but does not implement them well at all. One person up-thread declared he was not competent as a President, and I wondered how do we define competency? I tend to think of it as getting the job done- finishing what you started out to do in the most efficient, timeliest way possible. Looked at with that metric, hasn’t Bush accomplished many of his political goals, whether you agree with them or not? I have never met the President, but I do not think him evil and I do not think he thinks that he is acting from moral cowardice. Based on his actions, I judge him as a man stuck with a war he is not sure how to prosecute and determined to do the best job he can. I may not like a lot of his decisions, but to declare him a moral coward because of those decisions is something I am not prepared to do at this point. There is no proof that I can see, that he is acting out of a sense of malice or evil. Absent that, how can I, or we, declare him a coward? I have rambled, and I apologize for it. The whole situation is deeply troublesome.
    A final thought- from one perspective (he knows that this is contrary to the Constitution, the laws and traditions of the USA and did it anyway ala the ends justifys the means) then yes, I can see a charge of moral cowardice. From another perspective ( this doesn’t apply to US citizens, only terrorists, and even then we will treat them better than they treat us and I need to protect the people of my country the best I can, the best I know how) then I am not so sure. Again, my apologies for the length of this post and if I offended anyone. It was not my intent.

    -Matt

  153. What can we in the UK do? I dunno. How about voting? We’ve been doing that for a good few centuries now and have almost got the hang of it. We’ve even got independent electoral commissions rather than leaving it to a candidate’s brother do decide whose votes count.

    Yeah, I know that’s a bit low, but, like I said, we’ve been a democracy a long time now. It works.

    By the way, we’re prosecuting soldiers for torture (haven’t convicted them yet)

    What can you do (pacem Bill Marcy)? What you’re doing, exercising your right as a citizen to express your outrage when a government does something as outrageous as this. Vote. Always a good idea. Do it whenever and wherever you can. You might not vote for the winner, but there’s plenty who want to remove that avenue from you.

    As for taking up arms . . ? I thought that was unconstitutional.

    As for those who think that ‘their’ torture justifies ‘ours’, go look at the Nuremburg trials. Ends DO NOT justify means. OUR civilisation means that you do not do some things, no matter what the cause. Maybe that’s a risk, but my father and all his seven brothers went off to war to prove, with their lives if needs be, that ends do not justify means and that those without power should be protected from the arbitrary oppression of those with power. Hey, a few million Americans fought that war too (a little late, but you can’t have everything) and I personally will be damned if I will allow anyone to tell me that the principles they fought for were wrong.

    I lived in London when the IRA was bombing it. I wouldn’t allow them to divert me from living my life the way I wanted to, and if that meant I died in an explosion, so be it. Yes, I’m prepared to die for my principles. I wouldn’t like it, and I certainly don’t want to, but in the final analysis . . . yes. I’m guessing, but I think you would too, John.

    Hell of a waste, of course, and I don’t suppose it will come to that. But what Bill doesn’t seem to grasp is that we are all only what we are, and can do only what we can do, and this is really not a day or topic for cheap point scoring.

    Torture is wrong. The trouble is, it is fun. It is fun the way rape is fun, and for the same reasons. So, all those of you who support the use of torture and are proud to proclaim yourself a torturer, ask yourself whether you’d be so keen to call yourself a rapist.

    Of course, anyone who says ‘yes’ is simply beyond the reach of human discourse.

  154. CoolBlue, “This bill doesn’t allow torture at all.”

    From your own blog, “HR 6166 also clearly defines what is and is not torture…”

    So, now since we have a law that defines torture as non-torture, you’re argument is that the bill doesn’t allow torture because we’ve redrawn the line? Where’s your moral center? Or are you being disingenuous? Water boarding, cold room, 40-hour standing position, etc have all been defined as torture up until this point.

    As for the “deadly killers” there’s this Canadian Citizen named Maher Arar that we “extraordinarily rendered” to Syria, after a trip to Afghanistan. Yeah, he’s a killer all right. Except that after his treatement, he made not smile so kindly toward us.

    As for the “McCain Detainee Treatment Act” being okay, who said so? Especially after the signing statement. Maybe you missed that discussion.

  155. CoolBlue, “This bill doesn’t allow torture at all.”

    From your own blog, “HR 6166 also clearly defines what is and is not torture…”

    So, now since we have a law that defines torture as non-torture, you’re argument is that the bill doesn’t allow torture because we’ve redrawn the line? Where’s your moral center? Or are you being disingenuous? Water boarding, cold room, 40-hour standing position, etc have all been defined as torture up until this point.

    As for the “deadly killers” there’s this Canadian Citizen named Maher Arar that we “extraordinarily rendered” to Syria, after a trip to Afghanistan. Yeah, he’s a killer all right. Except that after his treatement, he made not smile so kindly toward us.

    As for the “McCain Detainee Treatment Act” being okay, who said so? Especially after the signing statement. Maybe you missed that discussion.

  156. You can watch the Stephen Colbert video at http://www.comedycentral.com/motherload/index.jhtml?ml_video=75819 (from Comedy Central). Best quotes…I think my favorite would have to be “because basic human rights are something we all need to compromise on”.
    CoolBlue: It doesn’t allow torture. But it allows any non-grave violations of the Geneva Conventions, where “grave” means rape, biological experimentation, torture, or cruel and inhuman treatment. And it allows the executive branch–who are also the ones in charge of detainees’ treatment, trial, arrest, et cetera–to define “torture” as it sees fit. Which means it’s in the hands of someone who claimed that our troops never torture and who defined torture in such a way that waterboarding wasn’t.
    Here’s a good working definition of torture: subject our president and other select members of the administration to the procedure in question, and give them the option to stop the procedure at any time by admitting that it is in fact torture. If they break under it and say that it is torture, then either they lied to get it to stop (torture) or they changed their minds (so they agree that it is torture).
    I was reading a half-justification for torture (torture is horrible-bad, except in the cases where a MILLION people are going to DIE if you don’t torture the person, and in a few others, so we should make it absolutely legal and routine instead of keeping the system of no-way-you’re-going-to-make-that-charge-stick if the torture was justified), and what amazed me was that the person thought that because somebody who we knew to be way up in al-Qaeda confessed after two minutes of waterboarding, that’s acceptable torture. Isn’t torture-for-confession the kind we all agree, no matter which side we’re on, is the worst?

  157. I don’t care who the bill applies to, US citizens or not. It’s abominable either way. The U.S. Senate should be deeply ashamed of what it has done.

  158. I don’t care who the bill applies to, US citizens or not. It’s abominable either way. The U.S. Senate should be deeply ashamed of what it has done.

  159. >One person up-thread declared he was not competent as a President, and I wondered how do we define competency? I tend to think of it as getting the job done- finishing what you started out to do in the most efficient, timeliest way possible. Looked at with that metric, hasn’t Bush accomplished many of his political goals, whether you agree with them or not?

    But the political goal of his that should be number one, period, and that I happen to agree with, is keeping his word. In particular, the first oath he made in his capacity as president-elect:
    “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
    How well is he accomplishing that goal?
    At first I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. I don’t like the label of “evil”. But after warrantless wiretapping, Plame (and his promise to take down anyone involved), how many years without bin Laden captured, our army underequipped and underfunded and without enough people, a war that I still don’t really understand, Jose Padilla, Guatanamo, Abu Ghraib, his little appendages to bills he signs that say it’s a nice idea but the executive branch will do whatever it darn well pleases, his personal hotline to God, no-bid contracts, nepotism, the redefinitions of terrorism, torture, war, citizen, the Geneva Conventions, and the Constitution–either he’s unwilling or unable to do his duties as president and keep his word. At the *very least* he is incompetent as president. At worst–I’m seriously wondering if we’re going to declare it impossible for any Arabs to get citizenship (instead of just making it impossible for all intents and purposes), and whether the next step will be to round up all non-citizen Arabs and put them in camps. How many Americans would protest?

  160. It is actually sort of fascinating to watch the world’s most powerful nation tear itself apart from the inside out. Too bad that the cost of this fascinating piece of reality entertainment is being paid in real human lives and dignity.

    Hey, pass that pie over here.

  161. It is actually sort of fascinating to watch the world’s most powerful nation tear itself apart from the inside out. Too bad that the cost of this fascinating piece of reality entertainment is being paid in real human lives and dignity.

    Hey, pass that pie over here.

  162. Just how horrible is it?

    Horrible enough to make me think that electing Hillary Clinton would almost be payback enough. Gah! I *never* thought I’d consider that.

  163. Bill Marcy:
    You blind, empty-headed idiot. You think that a good economy – it’s nowhere near as good as you pretend, though corporations are making lots of money – makes up for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people?

    You think being able to post rants on the internet makes up for knowing that your home has agreed to grave injustices?

    Are you one of those fools who think that “morality” means fining stations for showing an accidental (covered) boob flash, but doesn’t mean protecting the innocent?

  164. Bill Marcy:
    You blind, empty-headed idiot. You think that a good economy – it’s nowhere near as good as you pretend, though corporations are making lots of money – makes up for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people?

    You think being able to post rants on the internet makes up for knowing that your home has agreed to grave injustices?

    Are you one of those fools who think that “morality” means fining stations for showing an accidental (covered) boob flash, but doesn’t mean protecting the innocent?

  165. Chris G. said:

    “Todd – in an attempt to de-escalate the sarcasm, please allow me to answer your questions based on the version of the bill I read.

    Tribunal will consist of at least 5 military officers and a military judge (non-voting). None of the officers can be involved in the case other then as tribunal members.

    >what stops the President from abusing his power?

    The same thing that in the end always does – the individuals on the tribunal need to live with themselves.

    The bill has an appeals process up to the D. C. District Court of Appeals.

    The President can in fact direct people to be picked up, “tortured” and tried. As long as they are not US citizens.”

    I appreciate the clarifications Chris.

    You point to the main problem I have with the idea that this will be OK because more than one person will be on the tribunal – individuals and small groups have shown, over and over, a nasty tendency to let ends justify means, even if it means ignoring their own moral codes. So, while normally a military man would never torture the enemy, they make an exception for a “terrorist”. Didn’t Abu Ghraib teach us anything about the need for constant oversight of those people who exercise almost absolute power over another human being?

    And as posted by others, there is disagreement as to just who the President can order detained and tortured. In my mind, whether it’s a citizen or non-citizen or some other artificially constrained category, no human being should be subjected to the kind of treatment the CIA has undertaken.

  166. I will refrain from commenting on anything CB, BG, or BM (ha! BM) has to say because they have time and again merely shown themselves to be shills for their apparent political affiliations and facts be damned. The only thing I would note is that I believe the Constitution does apply to everyone, because that is what this nation has, until recently, aspired to represent. The Constitution’s truths are held to be self evident and the “human rights” it represents are “inalienable.” I would never suppose to think that these neo cons and their representatives in government do not believe in human rights, I just believe that their personal definition of who gets to be classified as human is much narrower than most everyone elses.

    That said, John, thank you! I’m very happy to know of your blog and appreciate your insights. Don’t ever stop, and don’t get disappeared by this crooked and ignorant government.

  167. I will refrain from commenting on anything CB, BG, or BM (ha! BM) has to say because they have time and again merely shown themselves to be shills for their apparent political affiliations and facts be damned. The only thing I would note is that I believe the Constitution does apply to everyone, because that is what this nation has, until recently, aspired to represent. The Constitution’s truths are held to be self evident and the “human rights” it represents are “inalienable.” I would never suppose to think that these neo cons and their representatives in government do not believe in human rights, I just believe that their personal definition of who gets to be classified as human is much narrower than most everyone elses.

    That said, John, thank you! I’m very happy to know of your blog and appreciate your insights. Don’t ever stop, and don’t get disappeared by this crooked and ignorant government.

  168. It is easy to blame Bush but isn’t this just another consequence of a long-running abuse by successive US presidents of both parties?

    The extradition of bin Laden to face trail in The Hague was scuppered in 97 by Bill Clinton ordering airstrikes on Kabul.

    The US ignores The Hague because of the 1986 verdict on the Contra arming.

    The Contra affair was just the latest in a line of US arming terrorists to fight ‘communism’ (more usually democracy rather than communism) tht goes back through presidents to Kennedy and earlier.

    The Moral strength is to face up to the failings of your politicians for a lifetime and longer, not merely Bush jr.

  169. It’s a great economy if you’re a CEO, have a defense contract are inheriting a shitpot, or have vast stockholdings. Corporations are making record profits by laying people off in droves, raiding pension funds, cutting wages, wage growth, new hires, innovation, etc…

    I hear the economy in Iraq is great if you can tap US aid to enrich yourself. Not quite as good as things were for con artists during the CPA days, but still bustling for the sharp grifter.

  170. It’s a great economy if you’re a CEO, have a defense contract are inheriting a shitpot, or have vast stockholdings. Corporations are making record profits by laying people off in droves, raiding pension funds, cutting wages, wage growth, new hires, innovation, etc…

    I hear the economy in Iraq is great if you can tap US aid to enrich yourself. Not quite as good as things were for con artists during the CPA days, but still bustling for the sharp grifter.

  171. It is easy to blame Bush but isn’t this just another consequence of a long-running abuse by successive US presidents of both parties?

    No. Bin Ladin was a self identified antagonist. He needed, and still needs to be taken in death on the battlefield, or captured, whichever is the quickest.

    Clinton was not the one who created secret torture fights, or who was in charge when El-Masri and Marar, and god knows how many other innocents were shipped off to hellholes and tortured. Stop trying to make this an “equal time” nonsense argument.

    As for the Democrats who voted for torture, they’re time is coming. I have yet to see a significant number of republicans stand up against this nonsense

    Republicans are the pro-torture party. If you don’t like it, change them. But don’t make out like they’re the exact same as the Democrats, or that Republican voters are not majority pro-torture. It does not fly.

  172. To para[hrase the at-times great Bill Maher, being a suicide bomber doesn’t make one a coward. And neither does being complicit in crimes against the peoples of the Earth. These people aren’t ‘moral cowards’, whatever that means, they’re criminals under our constitution and under international law.

    We need to be talking about justice, these people deserve to go to jail, rather than being outraged at cowardice.

  173. To para[hrase the at-times great Bill Maher, being a suicide bomber doesn’t make one a coward. And neither does being complicit in crimes against the peoples of the Earth. These people aren’t ‘moral cowards’, whatever that means, they’re criminals under our constitution and under international law.

    We need to be talking about justice, these people deserve to go to jail, rather than being outraged at cowardice.

  174. CoolBlue

    You say you’re more interested in the text, but then ignore my comments regarding the text. Let me try again. The text defines an enemy combatant as a person who materially supports hostilities against the United States. There’s no limitation to aliens.

    Enemy combatants who are US citizens would not be subject to the military commisions in this bill. But in general, and specifically in light of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, allowing the president to designate citizens as enemy combatants is a bad thing.

    Not sure if you consider that twiky, but there it is.

    Brian Greenberg

    I don’t know that the senators who voted for this honestly consider it constitutional. Specter came out and said he didn’t, but that didn’t stop him from voting for it. There’s moral cowardice for you! And McCain paused when asked if it was consitutional, and said something like “Um, I think so.” (Sorry, can’t find the exact quote now.)

    This is how democracy is supposed to work? Yes, in the same way guard rails are supposed to stop a car that’s spun out of control. You hope and pray things hold, and it’s certainly not a good or praiseworthy thing.

  175. Since the majority of the commenters here have reached a consensus that the bill as passed is a travesty, I would like to ask “What would your bill look like?” The way I see it, a law defining the way detainees taken in this war needed to be created for the following reasons:

    – There was disagreement among the American electorate – to whom both the Legislative and Executive branches both ultimately answer – as to how this aspect of the war was/is being conducted.

    – The President had thus far been operating with a similar interpretation of his executive powers over the particulars of waging war as the last several Presidents, applying them to the authorization to use force that was passed after September 11.

    – Congress had not taken any action on its own, collective initiative, to attempt to restrict the President’s power in this area.

    – In July, the Supreme Court ruled that the system the President had ordered (military tribunals conducted at Guantanamo) was unconstitutional because it hadn’t been authorized by Congress and ruled that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, with its vague “outrages against personal dignity” clause, applied to the detainees.

    This ruling forced the President to go to Congress and say, in essence, “Here is how I want to set up the trial mechanism… [details]… and, while we’re at it, I’m concerned that the application of Common Article 3 could result in disingenuous lawsuits by detainees whose consciences were not shocked at all by being yelled at, made to squat for hours, kept awake, or kept cold, but who will pretend that this is the case because their training specifically tells them to make accusations of torture at the first opportunity. These accusations could expose members of our military and intelligence services who were doing their utmost to defend this nation to criminal and civil liability, expose the methods by which we gain intelligence from detainees, and cripple a program that provides information vital to the prosecution of this war. So what we need to do is to supply a more concrete definition for what is allowed (loud music and noise, sleep deprivation?) and what is not (sexual assault, mock executions, waterboarding).”

    I would like to admit right here that I have not read the particulars of the bill, so I’m only relying on the sadly limited information I can gather from news articles (“Detainee Bill Passes By Wide Margin! Dissenting Democrats Say Bill Is “A Boot To The Gonads Of The Constitution”, Republicans Say Bill “Will Keep Us Super-Double-Safe.”) What I would like to know, though, is this: if this bill is so terrible, why was a better alternative not passed in its place? If the intelligent people in this comment thread could come up with something that they feel would better ensure America’s civil liberties and moral standings, was there no one in Washington who could do the same? Is the whole city just a sucking maw of arrant stupidity?

    Now that I have thrown down the gauntlet to everyone else, let me outline how I think a system for the interrogation and trial of detainees needs to be structured:

    – The US needs to be able to detain and interrogate enemy combatants in this war. These detainees will come from a variety of sources, which add complexity right off the bat. Possible sources include a) actual captured enemy fighters taken prisoner on the field of battle while carrying arms and using force against American citizens, troops, or our allies; b) individuals outside the US identified by our intelligence services as terrorists through various secret means; c) individuals identified by allies, e.g. the Pakistanis who arrested and handed over lots of Arabs they grabbed coming out of Afghanistan, according to Musharraf; d) individuals identified from interrogations of detainees; e) individuals inside the US identified as bad actors but who enjoy the legal protections of being a legal US resident, e.g. the 9/11 hijackers, here on student visas.

    – All of these people need to be held until it can be determined who and what they are and what should be done with them. All of them need to be interrogated in some way to help reach this determination.

    – For detainees who are strongly suspected of being bad actors or who show conspicuous resistance to standard, police-style interrogations, there have to be some more effective methods that can be used. These methods must be balanced between our commitments to human rights, the civil liberties of those who may be legal resident aliens/living in the US, and the need to gather time-sensitive information.

    For example, say someone with a wealth of knowledge about current enemy operations, a Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, is located living in the US. How do we proceed? If he were outside the US, he can be captured with no civil liberties question involved. Inside the US, however, a level of review is needed. A court, similar to FISA, that is always “on call” and can be shown secret evidence. This court would issue an arrest warrant. It can be structured in whatever way it is deemd best to avoid abuse – panelists nominated by both parties, serving only for a limited term, Congressional oversight from the intelligence committees, etc.

    In this example, the KSM clone is arrested and charge with some immigration-related crime – supplying a false name on his visa, which we can prove he did. Here comes the scary part: He is stripped of his resident alien status and moved into a secure detention facility, from whence he cannot challenge his detention – he is ours until we decide we’re done with him. That is a terrible power for one human being (or a group) to have over another – equivalent to Lincoln’s suspension of habeus corpus during the Civil War or FDR’s having dissidents committed to St. Elizabeth’s in WWII. But how else can we proceed? If this man sits in a regular jail cell somewhere subject only to intermittent interrogations that he can simply remain silent during, and then is deported back to his native land, he effectively goes free, we lose any chance at acquiring the information he knows, and any plots he has knowledge of continue unabated.

    We have no choice but to detain him in secret. Our society is open and easy for hostile elements to penetrate, but we do not wish to change the nature of our society. The types of attacks we could be subject to in this day and age by a well-organized and inventive cadre of enemies could cripple our economy and society through fear. Therefore, we must have a more robust system for removing threats.

    The KSM clone understands now that he is in a world of trouble – imprisoned in a system which has captured some of his fellows and from which, from his perspective, escape is a very uncertain hope. Although some have managed to win release through claims of mistaken identity or escaped from the sometimes less-than-watchful eyes of local security services after being repatriated to their homelands, he does not think he will ever breathe free air again. He steels himself to resist interrogation for as long as he can, knowing that some plots will come to fruition if he can remain silent.

    At this point, or example becomes a race against time: does the KSM clone talk before the attack commences? This all depends on how he is interrogated. I am not advocating torture, by which I mean the infliction of pain until the detainee begins babbling incoherently about whatever he thinks his torturer wishes to hear. The Gulag Archipelago demonstrated, in gut-wrenching detail, that physical abuse will produce a confession suitable for a show trial. That is both a moral outrage and not at all the object of this system.

    I have no direct knowledge of how interrogation works, but I do know that, by reputation at least, sleep deprivation is irresistible – eventually everyone becomes too tired and foggy to focus. If a detainee were kept awake by “bad cop” hostile interrogators – who might push him around and make all manner of theatrical threats against him, his comrades, and his family – until he was obviously exhausted, a different, friendlier interrogator could enter and build a relationship in the “good cop” fashion by offering food, cigarettes, etc. Repeat this until the detainee latches onto the “good cop” as the only friend he has and confides in him.

    This approach is, I feel, the most effective in terms of both results and time commitment. The problem is that it takes time. If our KSM clone holds out long enough, the attack happens despite his capture and interrogation (intelligence successes rather than failures). However, we have done what we have determined to be the most we are willing to do, interrogation-wise. This is cold comfort for the victims of the attacks and their relatives, but I’m willing to make a moral stand here. Now we move on to the problem of what to do with detainees after their interrogations are over.

    We have an obligation to our prisoners under the Geneva Conventions and other treaties to which we are signatories. I am not a lawyer, but I have been told by some who are that our obligations to detainees from category a) above are very basic – we could in fact summarily execute them all and be perfectly in line with the Conventions. However, this sort of action just would not fly. Again, we need a court that can be shown secret evidence. Some of this evidence would have to be kept from the accused, but not necessarily from his defense team, were they appointed by the court and/or sworn to secrecy. In this way, we could give detainees a fair trial under a system patterned after, say, military tribunals while still preserving secret intelligence.

    That’s all I can think of for now, and I realize I’ve written a lot. Your replies are appreciated.

  176. Since the majority of the commenters here have reached a consensus that the bill as passed is a travesty, I would like to ask “What would your bill look like?” The way I see it, a law defining the way detainees taken in this war needed to be created for the following reasons:

    – There was disagreement among the American electorate – to whom both the Legislative and Executive branches both ultimately answer – as to how this aspect of the war was/is being conducted.

    – The President had thus far been operating with a similar interpretation of his executive powers over the particulars of waging war as the last several Presidents, applying them to the authorization to use force that was passed after September 11.

    – Congress had not taken any action on its own, collective initiative, to attempt to restrict the President’s power in this area.

    – In July, the Supreme Court ruled that the system the President had ordered (military tribunals conducted at Guantanamo) was unconstitutional because it hadn’t been authorized by Congress and ruled that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, with its vague “outrages against personal dignity” clause, applied to the detainees.

    This ruling forced the President to go to Congress and say, in essence, “Here is how I want to set up the trial mechanism… [details]… and, while we’re at it, I’m concerned that the application of Common Article 3 could result in disingenuous lawsuits by detainees whose consciences were not shocked at all by being yelled at, made to squat for hours, kept awake, or kept cold, but who will pretend that this is the case because their training specifically tells them to make accusations of torture at the first opportunity. These accusations could expose members of our military and intelligence services who were doing their utmost to defend this nation to criminal and civil liability, expose the methods by which we gain intelligence from detainees, and cripple a program that provides information vital to the prosecution of this war. So what we need to do is to supply a more concrete definition for what is allowed (loud music and noise, sleep deprivation?) and what is not (sexual assault, mock executions, waterboarding).”

    I would like to admit right here that I have not read the particulars of the bill, so I’m only relying on the sadly limited information I can gather from news articles (“Detainee Bill Passes By Wide Margin! Dissenting Democrats Say Bill Is “A Boot To The Gonads Of The Constitution”, Republicans Say Bill “Will Keep Us Super-Double-Safe.”) What I would like to know, though, is this: if this bill is so terrible, why was a better alternative not passed in its place? If the intelligent people in this comment thread could come up with something that they feel would better ensure America’s civil liberties and moral standings, was there no one in Washington who could do the same? Is the whole city just a sucking maw of arrant stupidity?

    Now that I have thrown down the gauntlet to everyone else, let me outline how I think a system for the interrogation and trial of detainees needs to be structured:

    – The US needs to be able to detain and interrogate enemy combatants in this war. These detainees will come from a variety of sources, which add complexity right off the bat. Possible sources include a) actual captured enemy fighters taken prisoner on the field of battle while carrying arms and using force against American citizens, troops, or our allies; b) individuals outside the US identified by our intelligence services as terrorists through various secret means; c) individuals identified by allies, e.g. the Pakistanis who arrested and handed over lots of Arabs they grabbed coming out of Afghanistan, according to Musharraf; d) individuals identified from interrogations of detainees; e) individuals inside the US identified as bad actors but who enjoy the legal protections of being a legal US resident, e.g. the 9/11 hijackers, here on student visas.

    – All of these people need to be held until it can be determined who and what they are and what should be done with them. All of them need to be interrogated in some way to help reach this determination.

    – For detainees who are strongly suspected of being bad actors or who show conspicuous resistance to standard, police-style interrogations, there have to be some more effective methods that can be used. These methods must be balanced between our commitments to human rights, the civil liberties of those who may be legal resident aliens/living in the US, and the need to gather time-sensitive information.

    For example, say someone with a wealth of knowledge about current enemy operations, a Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, is located living in the US. How do we proceed? If he were outside the US, he can be captured with no civil liberties question involved. Inside the US, however, a level of review is needed. A court, similar to FISA, that is always “on call” and can be shown secret evidence. This court would issue an arrest warrant. It can be structured in whatever way it is deemd best to avoid abuse – panelists nominated by both parties, serving only for a limited term, Congressional oversight from the intelligence committees, etc.

    In this example, the KSM clone is arrested and charge with some immigration-related crime – supplying a false name on his visa, which we can prove he did. Here comes the scary part: He is stripped of his resident alien status and moved into a secure detention facility, from whence he cannot challenge his detention – he is ours until we decide we’re done with him. That is a terrible power for one human being (or a group) to have over another – equivalent to Lincoln’s suspension of habeus corpus during the Civil War or FDR’s having dissidents committed to St. Elizabeth’s in WWII. But how else can we proceed? If this man sits in a regular jail cell somewhere subject only to intermittent interrogations that he can simply remain silent during, and then is deported back to his native land, he effectively goes free, we lose any chance at acquiring the information he knows, and any plots he has knowledge of continue unabated.

    We have no choice but to detain him in secret. Our society is open and easy for hostile elements to penetrate, but we do not wish to change the nature of our society. The types of attacks we could be subject to in this day and age by a well-organized and inventive cadre of enemies could cripple our economy and society through fear. Therefore, we must have a more robust system for removing threats.

    The KSM clone understands now that he is in a world of trouble – imprisoned in a system which has captured some of his fellows and from which, from his perspective, escape is a very uncertain hope. Although some have managed to win release through claims of mistaken identity or escaped from the sometimes less-than-watchful eyes of local security services after being repatriated to their homelands, he does not think he will ever breathe free air again. He steels himself to resist interrogation for as long as he can, knowing that some plots will come to fruition if he can remain silent.

    At this point, or example becomes a race against time: does the KSM clone talk before the attack commences? This all depends on how he is interrogated. I am not advocating torture, by which I mean the infliction of pain until the detainee begins babbling incoherently about whatever he thinks his torturer wishes to hear. The Gulag Archipelago demonstrated, in gut-wrenching detail, that physical abuse will produce a confession suitable for a show trial. That is both a moral outrage and not at all the object of this system.

    I have no direct knowledge of how interrogation works, but I do know that, by reputation at least, sleep deprivation is irresistible – eventually everyone becomes too tired and foggy to focus. If a detainee were kept awake by “bad cop” hostile interrogators – who might push him around and make all manner of theatrical threats against him, his comrades, and his family – until he was obviously exhausted, a different, friendlier interrogator could enter and build a relationship in the “good cop” fashion by offering food, cigarettes, etc. Repeat this until the detainee latches onto the “good cop” as the only friend he has and confides in him.

    This approach is, I feel, the most effective in terms of both results and time commitment. The problem is that it takes time. If our KSM clone holds out long enough, the attack happens despite his capture and interrogation (intelligence successes rather than failures). However, we have done what we have determined to be the most we are willing to do, interrogation-wise. This is cold comfort for the victims of the attacks and their relatives, but I’m willing to make a moral stand here. Now we move on to the problem of what to do with detainees after their interrogations are over.

    We have an obligation to our prisoners under the Geneva Conventions and other treaties to which we are signatories. I am not a lawyer, but I have been told by some who are that our obligations to detainees from category a) above are very basic – we could in fact summarily execute them all and be perfectly in line with the Conventions. However, this sort of action just would not fly. Again, we need a court that can be shown secret evidence. Some of this evidence would have to be kept from the accused, but not necessarily from his defense team, were they appointed by the court and/or sworn to secrecy. In this way, we could give detainees a fair trial under a system patterned after, say, military tribunals while still preserving secret intelligence.

    That’s all I can think of for now, and I realize I’ve written a lot. Your replies are appreciated.

  177. “Clinton was not the one who created secret torture fights”

    Actually, I think the rendition system was designed by the CIA during his administration.

    Michael Scheurer, the ex-CIA guy, said in an interview either that he designed it himself, or was involved in it, and if I recall correctly implied that it went back to before the Bush administration.

    What I don’t know, of course, is the extent it was used in the Clinton terms, if at all.

  178. Kevin writes:

    For detainees who are strongly suspected of being bad actors or who show conspicuous resistance to standard, police-style interrogations, there have to be some more effective methods that can be used. These methods must be balanced between our commitments to human rights, the civil liberties of those who may be legal resident aliens/living in the US, and the need to gather time-sensitive information.

    This is wrong on so many levels. Where to start?

    First off, being “strongly suspected” of something isn’t grounds for having your rights taken away. Subjecting people to “alternative methods” based on mere suspicion means we will end up torturing innocent people. It will happen. Heck, it already has.

    “Conspicuous resistance?” Like, maybe they are innocent, and don’t have anything to confess? Guess we better torture ‘em extra hard, just to be sure.

    You admit later on that you “have no direct knowledge of how interrogation works”, yet you claim that “there have to be some more effective methods” and that “.. sleep deprivation is irresistible.” Maybe you should try reading up on how careful, competent interrogation works. This here Intertron is a fabulous thing.

    Your argument seems to be: “I don’t know squat about X, so surely Y must be true.”

    Here’s news: torture doesn’t work, even if you choose to call it something else. Just ask someone who’s been subjected to it. You think we are going to get good intel from someone who is “too tired and foggy to focus?” It’s not the military and intelligence services who are asking for this.

    “These methods must be balanced between our commitments to human rights, the civil liberties…”

    Human rights and civil liberties aren’t the sort of thing one “balances” in the sense that you mean it here. This sort of euphemistic moral flabbiness leads to a dark and dreary dead end for our species. Simply pointing out that a privileged few get to do the “balancing” shows the error here.

    You go on and on, making an argument from ignorance: I don’t know enough to know that this is wrong, so it must be right!

    I think that existing laws are adequate, and you present a solution to a sham problem; a problem invented for political reasons. This administration, out of ineptitude, arrogance and moral sloth, simply isn’t willing to follow due process, and now they are trying to cover their asses for the crimes they have committed in our names.

  179. Kevin writes:

    For detainees who are strongly suspected of being bad actors or who show conspicuous resistance to standard, police-style interrogations, there have to be some more effective methods that can be used. These methods must be balanced between our commitments to human rights, the civil liberties of those who may be legal resident aliens/living in the US, and the need to gather time-sensitive information.

    This is wrong on so many levels. Where to start?

    First off, being “strongly suspected” of something isn’t grounds for having your rights taken away. Subjecting people to “alternative methods” based on mere suspicion means we will end up torturing innocent people. It will happen. Heck, it already has.

    “Conspicuous resistance?” Like, maybe they are innocent, and don’t have anything to confess? Guess we better torture ‘em extra hard, just to be sure.

    You admit later on that you “have no direct knowledge of how interrogation works”, yet you claim that “there have to be some more effective methods” and that “.. sleep deprivation is irresistible.” Maybe you should try reading up on how careful, competent interrogation works. This here Intertron is a fabulous thing.

    Your argument seems to be: “I don’t know squat about X, so surely Y must be true.”

    Here’s news: torture doesn’t work, even if you choose to call it something else. Just ask someone who’s been subjected to it. You think we are going to get good intel from someone who is “too tired and foggy to focus?” It’s not the military and intelligence services who are asking for this.

    “These methods must be balanced between our commitments to human rights, the civil liberties…”

    Human rights and civil liberties aren’t the sort of thing one “balances” in the sense that you mean it here. This sort of euphemistic moral flabbiness leads to a dark and dreary dead end for our species. Simply pointing out that a privileged few get to do the “balancing” shows the error here.

    You go on and on, making an argument from ignorance: I don’t know enough to know that this is wrong, so it must be right!

    I think that existing laws are adequate, and you present a solution to a sham problem; a problem invented for political reasons. This administration, out of ineptitude, arrogance and moral sloth, simply isn’t willing to follow due process, and now they are trying to cover their asses for the crimes they have committed in our names.

  180. >I have no direct knowledge of how interrogation works,

    Not to be snarky or anything, but that seems to be common among those advocating harsher interrogation methods. ;-)
    A military interrogator explained his profession and techniques on a thread online during the Abu Ghraib scandal (which he hated, as it made him feel ashamed of his uniform and made “interrogation” synonymous with “torture” in the eyes of the world, when they specifically had very detailed classes teaching new MIs how exactly to avoid crossing the line, and how to interrogate so that it was completely unnecessary). Relevant quotes from Terry in the Electrolite thread:
    In the past 11 years I’ve seen a lot of people who have, shall we say odd, ideas about what makes for useful interrogation methods.
    I’ve also spent no small part of those 11 years (where have they gone?) teaching interrogation.
    In the past two-years I’ve also seen a lot of that being tossed away.
    My personal philosophy (backed by years of experience, and tradition) is that torture (and my definitions of torture are far broader than most, but then I suppose I am more aware of it, intimate with it; if you will, than most) does’t work. I also think the torturer is affected more than the tortured.
    In support of the latter contention I offer the photos in the reports on the prison in Iraq. Those guys are said to be smiling, as they display people being mocked and shamed. I suspect that, had they been asked before they left about such things, they’d have been apalled. Now…
    To make a basic interrogator takes almost four months (it used to be less, but they have added a bunch of secondary things to the instruction). When I went through the course it was nine weeks, five of those spent, “in the booth,” trying (and usually failing) to perform a successful interrogation.
    Teaching it helped, but I don’t think I was really up to speed for about a year after I left the school.
    Think about that. Four hours a day, for five weeks, in the booth, and another four-six hours of classes and dissection. Then there are the study halls, and the conversations with instructors.
    I doubt the contractors get that much training. The CIA, well they have different problems, and interrogation isn’t high on the list of thigs they do (they tend to call on the Army, and use guys who’ve been to the Strategic Debriefing course). They are more prone to the, “field expedient” method of, “quick and dirty,” information extraction. They tend to operate on the, “ticking bomb,” idea.
    Which leads to bad information on the scale we’re looking at.
    One of the more troubling things is the report that one of the people who got this ball of wax going was from Gitmo. What I’ve heard from there (and from Afghanistan) worries me. Lots of stuff which is borderline (or past) is being done there, and lots of people who are not specifically trained in interrogation (counter-intelligence agents, in particular) are being tasked to the job.
    They think the borderline stuff works better (because it’s faster, and time is not my friend) and is takes less effort.
    They are wrong (IMO) and it is a slow cancer, becuase they are getting various forms of positive reinforcement.
    As for the contractors… the most worrisome thing I’ve seen is the comments that they contracts they have exempt them from the Army/DoD’s jurisdiction, as well as the local law. The only recourse the U.S. has (it is, actually, an obligation) is to take advantage of being th detaining power, and legally responsible for the health and welfare of the prisoners/people, in our control, and charge them with breaking the Geneva Conventions, which are (insofar as we’ve signed them) the law of the land.
    If we wanted to do it right, we’d turn them over to the Hague, but I ain’t holding my breath.

    Whimsey, before the meat of it, there are pretty much four standard responses to people finding out I’m an interrogator:
    Disbelief (usually in the interrogative assertive, “No, really…?)
    “So what kinds of torture do you use?”
    “That sounds really interesting.”
    And the scary one: [eyes wide, breathless] “Reallly…?!?” [with undertones of sexual tension.] That one used to unsettle me, now it gets filed under, “it takes all kinds.”
    This is why I have railed against Gitmo, and the (specious) unlawful combatants category. It sets people up for this.
    …I know there are people in my line of work who step out of bounds. For years I’ve tried to teach those bounds, and now I see the nation telling us to forget those bounds. It goes with the profiling, the deep-sixing of people like Padilla, the detentions at Gitmo, the use of non-military interrogators (some of who are former members of the Army… they disgust me… somehow they manage to sully my uniform, while no longer wearing it).
    I am saddened, saddened that so much has gone so wrong, that the principles of Hans Scharff have been cast aside, after some 50 years of trying to inculcate them, but we (interrogation) have no institutional memory… our sole repository of the rights and wrongs, the tricks of gentle coercion, and knowing where to draw the lines lives only in the people who are in service.
    And I am angry. Angry in a way I hope none of you can understand. I can’t describe it. It is part white hot rage, and cold fury. Dispassionate wrath and frenzied hate.
    I want to disgrace all of the people who were involved, and I don’t think it would be safe to let me in the same room with them.
    I also feel incapable of expressing my shame, incoherent in my attempts to distance myself. I know I didn’t put out, but who will believe the protestations of the painted lady?

    The main trick of interrogation is to get the subject talking. The prime difference between military and police interrogation is intent. The cop is asking questions to which he thinks he has the answer. He also has the club of punishment to wave at the subject.
    I don’t have those. In a classic war, the guy across the table is going to be here until he is exchanged, or the war ends. Gives me very little leverage.
    So we use a bit of head game. Take advantage of the shock of capture, the silence he’s been kept in, the segregation he’s undergone, and the sense of loss, shame, helplessness, and fear that go with it.
    We look for clues, his attitude, his rank, the condition of his gear; his uniform, how much ammo he had (and how much it was, relative to the rest of the dead and the captured) how many people were killed and wounded in the fight, his pocket trash (which includes things like letters and photos).
    We then make nice, offer him a cup of coffee, a cigarette. Engage in chit-chat. Feel him out. Ride the clues.
    Is he an officer? Did his unit get stomped? is he acting proud anyway? Then maybe I belittle him, tell him a trained chimp could’ve done better, get him angry enough to blurt out information.
    Maybe his unit was stomped, but he seems at a loss… ashamed. Then I tell him no one could’ve stopped it, build him up. Get him to tell me why I’m right.
    The trick (and it’s the only trick we really need) is to get them talking and, to not make them think we want anything other than a truthful answer. Once they start to talk, I will get everything he knows, or at least everything my commander wants.
    I may offer him things… like the chance to write a letter home the instant we get done talking. This is half a lie. He gets to write home when I let him out… well no. He gets to write a given number of letters a month, and I might, were I inclined to be cruel see to it that he had to wait three weeks to do so, but easier to promise him things he’s entitled to, because most people are not trained in what their rights are, as a POW.
    Once he starts to talk I’ll use what I already know (order of battle information, previously fond information, weather/road conditions) to verify the things he says. That’s called, “using control questions,” and it’s one of the hardest things to teach a new interrogator.
    He says he’s in an armored unit, and the patch on his sleeve matches that… OK. Half a control. He says they have tanks, I ask what kind. He says T-72s. I know (or check) that unit has that type of tank. That’s a better control question.
    I ask how many and he says his platoon has five… DING alarm bells go off, because the Order of Battle for his army has four tanks in a platoon. I ask how long they’ve had four tanks. He says one week. I ask why they have four tanks, and he says the Company Commander attached himself to the unit. It all makes a certain amount of sense, so I write up the change in the OB, and go on.
    Later I ask him questions about the Company Commander and when they match what he said before, I consider that to be a repeat question. I’ll ask any number of questions, to which I have an expectation of answer, based on what I’ve been told, by the subject. Consistency (and I’m taking notes) is a sign of honest recall by the prisoner. He may be wrong, but it is as he remembers it, and that’s what matters.
    If he tries to tell lies, I’m going to spot the discrepancies, esp. if I’m doing a complete OB interrogation. The lowliest of privates takes about two and-a-half hours to give up everything a full OB takes. An officer can take a couple of days, and when one gets to COL and above, it becomes a serious project.
    Before I go into the booth I get a briefing from the OB NCO (which was the job I did in the box). He is responsible for keeping track of the battlefield, as best it is known at the time.
    What booth time I got in Iraq was to get some fast controls in, when the interrogators (we used two, with an MP for guard) weren’t sure about the guys story. It was easier for me to go in and ask the questions, than it was to try and brief them enough (they hadn’t been keeping up with events as well as I, but then I spent about four hours a day tracking things, so…) to get the answers.
    There are other types of interrogations, ones which are faster, because rather than try to get everything he knows, we are only interested in certain types of information.
    We also had a larger repetoire of inducements to talk. Because we had so many who were no more than farmers, who got swept up my nervous MPs we could tell them that, barring some evidence they were just farmers, the MPs would take them to Talil, or Basra. Talil was the nearest and that was something like 100 miles away.
    I recall one interrogation where the source wasn’t talking. Which is a pain, because we were pretty sure he was nothing more than a tomato farmer, and if he continued to stonewall, the MPs were going to take him to Talil, and he’s be there for a couple of days, and then left to make his own way home.
    The lead interrogator drew a stick figure of a man, and of a woman, in the dust on the table. They were holding hands. He then said, if you don’t talk to us… and rubbed out the connected hands.
    The man started to cry, and then to talk. We sent him home four hours later.
    On the down side… there were guys who liked to make the sources cry, who worked at it.
    And we did keep them isolated, until after we’d talked to them, which was a problem when we had a lot of them, because (as I said last April, in Making Light) we didn’t have enough shade.
    Done right, it’s effective, and doesn’t need torture, because if the subject is willing to talk to me, about anything… I can eventually get him to start talking about the army, and then I can get everything. In for a penny, in for a pound. The only defense is to answer nothing but the big four.
    Name
    Rank
    Date of birth
    Service Number.
    If you talk about anything else… you’ll talk about everything else.
    And that’s why the situation at Abu Ghraib bothers me. These were not that time sensitive, these guys didn’t need to go off the reservation. If they had as many prisoners as they say they did (and this is just in April, when the fighting in Falluja was the primary thing on the agenda) they could afford to take the extra hour or so it might have taken to get a guy talking.
    And before April… they had all the time in the world, because the more prisoners one has to work with, the easier it is to get them to talk. You can play on fears. I come to talk to A: Ten minutes later I come to talk to B:, along about the time I get to G, he will be afraid, because A-F have not been seen since. He’s probably been told we will torture, and then kill, him. He’s convinced himself this is happening. When all I want to do is ask questions, he tells all he knows, because in his mind he’s saving his life.
    On the flip side, if I start to hit him, he resists, because that is what he’s been trained to do, avoid giving up information in exchange for pain.
    And we know this doesn’t work. If you think torture is useful in breaking people, and thus garnering information, talk to John McCain, or anyone else who had a room at the Hanoi Hilton.
    I guess that’ll do for now.

    So, I head into the trenches here, as I have wandered, to and fro in the world for the past ten years, talking about it, telling people (even the ones who make the scary responses) what it really is.
    Sometimes, if I like them, and trust them, and don’t think they’ll run away, I do a small demonstration.
    That last is usually an eye-opener, because the exchanges aren’t conversational. A lot of the relationship is expressed in tone of voice. There is an almost callous dispassion to the collection of information. To many little boxes have to be checked and the questions are what we call, “Single subject, requiring a narrative response.”

    Dave: re terrorists/those trained to resist interrogation. They are a tough problem. I can say that non-torture is effective, but transient.
    Here’s the rub. There is no good way to tag team the questioning. The trick is to get the guy to break.
    Everyone will break. Where the trained resistance comes in is 1: knowing the shelf life of the information one has, and holding out that long.
    2: Understanding that because one broke yesterday, doesn’t mean one has to stay broken today. What I’ve heard from Gitmo, and Bagrham is that the actual terrorists are doing that. take four-five hours and get him to break. talkto him for four-five hours. Start all over again tomorrow. What got him yesterday, won’t get him today. To make it worse, there is no way to completely seperate them, and he will tell everyone he can what broke him, and it won’t work on anyone else.
    Why do people talk?: Because they need to feel good about themselves. Watch NYPD Blue. The interrogations they do are actually pretty good (I started watching it as a homework assignment, while I was at Ft. Huachuca). They use a much more limited repetoire of approaches (the techniques of psychological manipulation to get a source to break) and they have a much more adversarial relationship with the subject than is healthy for a miltary interrogator, but the things they show work.
    Remember the maxim, “No one is a villian in their own eyes.” It gives the interrogator leverage, the trick is to find what the subject needs to prove to other people to redeem himself.
    Cops tend to play on guilt, “Come clean, get it off your chest and find forgivness.”
    I don’t get that, usually. But I have a slew of oher things I can play on. Love of comrades, or family (and the flip side, some people feel they’ve been betrayed, they want to get even). Fear (being a prisoner is very unsettling, one hears rumors, imagines all sorts of horrors, and until they are confirmed, or dispelled, the anxiety is a powerful motivator. One can play on that, finding out one is not going to be tortured can lead to gratitude, and a desire to please).
    As for why they keep talking. We say we own them, once they start talking. There are two ways to do this. One is to not let them know they’ve given anything up. Great, if one has the time to set it up.
    Anecdote, from Scharff. He was asked to find out what a stream of white tracers meant. He spent a week talking to a pilot. Nothing relevant. He took him for a walk, they talked.
    He took him for another walk, and pointed at an anthill, made comparisons to industry, and observed that the Americans must be having supply problems, because they had a shortage of red tracers, and were using only white ones.
    The kid, full of pride said “Hell no, we got all the tracers we need, but some of us put in a dozen or so near the end of the belt so we know when we’re out of ammo.”
    Never knew he’d given it up.
    The other way is that they feel guilty about betraying their side, they are afraid that it will come out that they gave aid and comfort to the enemy. They decide to keep talking so the captor will remain happy with them, and not tell anyone they talked.
    —-
    So: that is how interrogation, without torture, works in the real world. And in the ticking-time-bomb scenarios in the real world, interrogators have the choice to illegally use torture to get the information, and if they believe that it’s that important, they will. They’ll do so knowing that there is a trial ahead for them, that they’ll have to get the jury or judge to believe that it was absolutely necessary, or else they’re going to jail–which makes them think a little harder about it. That is moral courage: making a choice based on your principles and being able to face the consequences.
    This bill wants to take all that away, to make it easy, routine. Who would go through all that trouble to play complicated mind games if you could get information more quickly through torture? Why would the military screen out the sadists and anyone too eager to mistreat prisoners if mistreating prisoners was part of the job description? Who would bother making what is a very complicated moral choice when the government has sanctioned whatever choice you make (or only the choice to torture)?
    If you don’t like my “apply it to the people supporting it” test of torture methods, try the “frat house” test. If members of a fraternity could get arrested for hazing (hazing is a crime, right? if not, expelled at any responsible university for sure) if they used those methods for that duration of time on willing pledges, it’s torture. Isolation, time distortion, leaving the lights on all night long, keeping prisoners in total darkness, dropping or raising the temperature to dangerous levels, deliberately leaving on loud, obnoxious music all the time, forced exercises beyond the prisoners’ physical endurance? Yeah, guess what, that’s *torture*, plain and simple, no matter how the president ends up defining it. (And remember, rape and biological experiments are the *only things* off the table, assuming the president doesn’t redefine those as well; he has carte blanche to mess up the dictionary and rationality anyway he wants. Like Colbert said: “For his part, the president conceded to the senators that he will not change the Geneva Conventions’ language on torture, as long as he personally gets to decide what torture is.” That’s justice?)
    And no one’s worried about the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus? Or indefinite detention performed by the executive branch, based on the executive branch deciding that someone charged by the executive branch is an unlawful enemy combatant on executive-branch-gathered evidence? (The military is under the jurisdiction of the executive branch. He’s our Commander-in-Chief.) Even people in the military–who have volunteered to have their lives belong to the executive branch (after country and Constitution)–have due process of some sort.

  181. Perhaps because Andrew Jackson killed thousands of Native Americans with his cultural bigotry I get a great deal of pleasure in turning his words to fit this arguement. “one man with the courage to stand up is a majority”. A lot of good points have been made here -stand up – PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t forget to vote your opinion in every election you are able to do so in – from school board to Presidential – if you don’t stand up who will?

  182. Perhaps because Andrew Jackson killed thousands of Native Americans with his cultural bigotry I get a great deal of pleasure in turning his words to fit this arguement. “one man with the courage to stand up is a majority”. A lot of good points have been made here -stand up – PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t forget to vote your opinion in every election you are able to do so in – from school board to Presidential – if you don’t stand up who will?

  183. I think you a the moral cowards.
    You and the bunch of US Americans Netizens that think the can safely influence the world behind their computer screeens.
    You should be out on the streets.
    But you are too far from the streets.
    The only people on the streets of the USA are the disenfranchised.
    You have for over 50 years built your homes on the basis of isolation and distance form the streets (on streets, there lives “niggers”).
    You have comitted yourselves to nothing but consumerism.
    Now reality is eating you up alive. Through 9/11 and Iraq.
    “May you live in interesting times.”

  184. Kevin:

    What I would like to know, though, is this: if this bill is so terrible, why was a better alternative not passed in its place? If the intelligent people in this comment thread could come up with something that they feel would better ensure America’s civil liberties and moral standings, was there no one in Washington who could do the same? Is the whole city just a sucking maw of arrant stupidity?

    You really don’t know?

    President Bush didn’t want a better bill; neither did the Republican caucus.

    First, they can pretend (to themselves, or to us – try to decide which is worse because both are pretty horrible) that it does nothing but give grief to the terrorists. It doesn’t; it also harms any innocent people caught up in the net.

    Second, it sounds nice and tough.

    Third, it includes provisions that the Democrats had to fight against, which means they can claim the Democrats ware weak on national security.

    Why wasn’t a better bill created? Here’s a better question; why did any bill have to be pushed through in the last week that Congress was in session before the elections? These people have been in limbo for five years; what’s another month or two *if the interest is in good legislation*?

    It’s not stupidity. It’s something a lot worse.

  185. Kevin:

    What I would like to know, though, is this: if this bill is so terrible, why was a better alternative not passed in its place? If the intelligent people in this comment thread could come up with something that they feel would better ensure America’s civil liberties and moral standings, was there no one in Washington who could do the same? Is the whole city just a sucking maw of arrant stupidity?

    You really don’t know?

    President Bush didn’t want a better bill; neither did the Republican caucus.

    First, they can pretend (to themselves, or to us – try to decide which is worse because both are pretty horrible) that it does nothing but give grief to the terrorists. It doesn’t; it also harms any innocent people caught up in the net.

    Second, it sounds nice and tough.

    Third, it includes provisions that the Democrats had to fight against, which means they can claim the Democrats ware weak on national security.

    Why wasn’t a better bill created? Here’s a better question; why did any bill have to be pushed through in the last week that Congress was in session before the elections? These people have been in limbo for five years; what’s another month or two *if the interest is in good legislation*?

    It’s not stupidity. It’s something a lot worse.

  186. I’m saddened but not surprised by the success of this vile piece of legislation; and that is probably the saddest thing, that I have come to expect the US government to do evil and short-sighted things.

    My sympathies to all you Americans; I sincerely hope that you will be able to stop and reverse the degeneration of your country before it is too late.

  187. Scalzi, you rock. Keep up the good work, and fight the good fight.

    Why don’t you write an SF book set in a dystopian future? I know it’s been done, and over done, many times. I have a feeling you’d do it well, and in a fascinating way.

  188. Scalzi, you rock. Keep up the good work, and fight the good fight.

    Why don’t you write an SF book set in a dystopian future? I know it’s been done, and over done, many times. I have a feeling you’d do it well, and in a fascinating way.

  189. Thankyou Mr Scalzi.

    I actually believe that this a realistic time in history to fight out of control governments. I can see a future (not too far away) where writers like JS, researchers like PJ from groklaw, lawyers, polititions and concerned people all get together using the Internet to stop Bush.

    Imagine a couple of million eyes all looking for solutions and errors. We could save the planet by stopping political FUD in the same way Groklaw has outed dodgy law suits.

    shaun

  190. I am very torn on this.

    On one hand, I never understood the whole “I’m proud of being X”; on the other hand, the individual Americans I have met are the best people I’ve known and I like them enourmously. I love America, but for reasons that have nothing to do with its supposed moral higher ground.

    On the other hand, when I read comments to the effect that it’s ok to torture me cos I’m not a US citizen, and the great and mighty Constitution is therefore (phew!) safe from this bill, I am seized by a little disgust.

    But then, I realize that most people who know about this bill are appalled in the US, because most of them are good people.

    Then I find out to my dicomfort and horror that some of them didn’t know about it until today, when I have been following this monstrosity from abroad for months.

    Then I remind myself of what I heard often about totalitarian countries: it’s not fair to judge people who form their opinions in a climate where the only information they have available to them is biased.

    Then I remind myself that this democracy destroying monster was re-elected, and my faith in the democratic process itself falters and/or I have to revise my opinion of Americans in general.

    Then I remind myself of a) the point about by living with no ready access to unbiased information and b) the fact that he probably wasn’t really elected this time around either.

    What I’m chiefly wondering about now is, given that he stole a national election twice, what makes people so confident that there is chance to defeat him in the polls in the future?

  191. I am very torn on this.

    On one hand, I never understood the whole “I’m proud of being X”; on the other hand, the individual Americans I have met are the best people I’ve known and I like them enourmously. I love America, but for reasons that have nothing to do with its supposed moral higher ground.

    On the other hand, when I read comments to the effect that it’s ok to torture me cos I’m not a US citizen, and the great and mighty Constitution is therefore (phew!) safe from this bill, I am seized by a little disgust.

    But then, I realize that most people who know about this bill are appalled in the US, because most of them are good people.

    Then I find out to my dicomfort and horror that some of them didn’t know about it until today, when I have been following this monstrosity from abroad for months.

    Then I remind myself of what I heard often about totalitarian countries: it’s not fair to judge people who form their opinions in a climate where the only information they have available to them is biased.

    Then I remind myself that this democracy destroying monster was re-elected, and my faith in the democratic process itself falters and/or I have to revise my opinion of Americans in general.

    Then I remind myself of a) the point about by living with no ready access to unbiased information and b) the fact that he probably wasn’t really elected this time around either.

    What I’m chiefly wondering about now is, given that he stole a national election twice, what makes people so confident that there is chance to defeat him in the polls in the future?

  192. It is easy to blame Bush but isn’t this just another consequence of a long-running abuse by successive US presidents of both parties?

    No. Not that presidents of both parties haven’t done some bad things, but there are huge differences in degree, and kind, and intent. To take what I regard as the two worst offenders, there’s a major difference between Nixon or Reagan breaking the rules, and G.W. Bush sincerely, honestly believing that the rules do not apply to him. Nixon and Reagan thought they could–and in some cases needed to–get away with breaking the rules of our democratic society. Neither of them “joked” in public that “it would be easier if this were a dictatorship–and I were the dictator.” Neither of them asserted a right to hold people without charges, without access to attorneys, with no guarantee of ever either facing charges or being released. Neither of them claimed a right to declare American citizens on American soil “unlawful combatants.” Neither of them had an attorney general who described the Geneva Conventions as “quaint”; neither of them claimed that the phrase “outrage to human dignity” was unclear. They didn’t claim that American military officers or CIA operatives who had to interrogate people needed to be protected against the legal consequences of violating the Geneva Conventions.

    G.W. Bush is not like them. He is not following on from what they did.

    The extradition of bin Laden to face trail in The Hague was scuppered in 97 by Bill Clinton ordering airstrikes on Kabul.

    False. Completely false. Sudan at one point made a weaselly offer to extradite bin Laden, not to the US, but to some other Arab country. Saudi Arabia was the country both parties could agree on, but Saudi Arabia would not agree. Eventually Sudan expelled bin Laden, and he went to Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, the Taliban never offered to extradite bin Laden, until they kind of, sort of, with lots of unacceptable conditions attached, offered after 9/11.

    The US ignores The Hague because of the 1986 verdict on the Contra arming.

    Yes. Note that that was in the middle of the Reagan administration, concerning Reagan’s policies and activities, and doesn’t support your “both parties” claim.

    The Contra affair was just the latest in a line of US arming terrorists to fight ‘communism’ (more usually democracy rather than communism) tht goes back through presidents to Kennedy and earlier.

    In Vietnam and Korea, we were supporting real governments (however unlovely) against other real governments. In El Salvadore, we were supporting the existing (yes, rather evil) government against, yes, the forces of democracy. In Panama and in Haiti, when American forces went in, it was to support the democratically elected government against the military dictatorships that threw them out or kept them out.

    In Angola, if you think either side was “the forces of democracy,” you need to study up a bit more.

    The Moral strength is to face up to the failings of your politicians for a lifetime and longer, not merely Bush jr.

    Johnson, Nixon, and to a lesser extent Reagan, all paid politically for their offenses. Truman, too, if you want to say he did wrong going into Korea. The others, Democrat and Republican, simply don’t have offenses or mistakes on the same scale. None of them launched the assault on the Bill of Rights, Constitutional restraints, and the separation of powers that G.W. Bush has.

    And, you know, he’s the one power now. About half of the others (more than half if we count Truman) are already deceased. Saying that we can’t criticize the guy who’s a problem now until we’ve adequately (in your mind) dealt with a bunch of guys either dead or retired is interesting, and convenient for G.W. if we fell for it, but not very persuasive.

  193. It is easy to blame Bush but isn’t this just another consequence of a long-running abuse by successive US presidents of both parties?

    No. Not that presidents of both parties haven’t done some bad things, but there are huge differences in degree, and kind, and intent. To take what I regard as the two worst offenders, there’s a major difference between Nixon or Reagan breaking the rules, and G.W. Bush sincerely, honestly believing that the rules do not apply to him. Nixon and Reagan thought they could–and in some cases needed to–get away with breaking the rules of our democratic society. Neither of them “joked” in public that “it would be easier if this were a dictatorship–and I were the dictator.” Neither of them asserted a right to hold people without charges, without access to attorneys, with no guarantee of ever either facing charges or being released. Neither of them claimed a right to declare American citizens on American soil “unlawful combatants.” Neither of them had an attorney general who described the Geneva Conventions as “quaint”; neither of them claimed that the phrase “outrage to human dignity” was unclear. They didn’t claim that American military officers or CIA operatives who had to interrogate people needed to be protected against the legal consequences of violating the Geneva Conventions.

    G.W. Bush is not like them. He is not following on from what they did.

    The extradition of bin Laden to face trail in The Hague was scuppered in 97 by Bill Clinton ordering airstrikes on Kabul.

    False. Completely false. Sudan at one point made a weaselly offer to extradite bin Laden, not to the US, but to some other Arab country. Saudi Arabia was the country both parties could agree on, but Saudi Arabia would not agree. Eventually Sudan expelled bin Laden, and he went to Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, the Taliban never offered to extradite bin Laden, until they kind of, sort of, with lots of unacceptable conditions attached, offered after 9/11.

    The US ignores The Hague because of the 1986 verdict on the Contra arming.

    Yes. Note that that was in the middle of the Reagan administration, concerning Reagan’s policies and activities, and doesn’t support your “both parties” claim.

    The Contra affair was just the latest in a line of US arming terrorists to fight ‘communism’ (more usually democracy rather than communism) tht goes back through presidents to Kennedy and earlier.

    In Vietnam and Korea, we were supporting real governments (however unlovely) against other real governments. In El Salvadore, we were supporting the existing (yes, rather evil) government against, yes, the forces of democracy. In Panama and in Haiti, when American forces went in, it was to support the democratically elected government against the military dictatorships that threw them out or kept them out.

    In Angola, if you think either side was “the forces of democracy,” you need to study up a bit more.

    The Moral strength is to face up to the failings of your politicians for a lifetime and longer, not merely Bush jr.

    Johnson, Nixon, and to a lesser extent Reagan, all paid politically for their offenses. Truman, too, if you want to say he did wrong going into Korea. The others, Democrat and Republican, simply don’t have offenses or mistakes on the same scale. None of them launched the assault on the Bill of Rights, Constitutional restraints, and the separation of powers that G.W. Bush has.

    And, you know, he’s the one power now. About half of the others (more than half if we count Truman) are already deceased. Saying that we can’t criticize the guy who’s a problem now until we’ve adequately (in your mind) dealt with a bunch of guys either dead or retired is interesting, and convenient for G.W. if we fell for it, but not very persuasive.

  194. Gwen,

    I understand that you’re not trying to be snarky, but I really wasn’t looking for a copy/paste from another thread from someone who claims to be an interrogator (I’m not saying he’s not or that his information isn’t accurate, it’s just the whole “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog” thing). It told me nothing I didn’t already know from other sources. I have read plenty about interrogations in all sorts of contexts from various spy/thriller novels, non-fiction about actual interrogations of terrorists and criminals, various postings like the one you quoted, etc. I wrote the line you quoted because I wanted to make clear that I am not an interrogator so people wouldn’t think I was trying to ague from a position of authority and personal experience – to paraphrase a semi-current fark.com cliché “I’m an interrogator in a secret prison, so a lot of these replies are really making me laugh….”

    Everything I have read tells me that the only way to extract even semi-reliable information is to build rapport with the subject so that the information is offered voluntarily. I tried to outline a scenario that would allow interrogators to speed this rapport-building process up by using confusion, sleep deprivation, and an angry guy/friendly guy approach. I came up with this in the amount of time it took me to type it all out last night. I I can come up with a system that (to me) seems to provide a decent and civil –liberties protecting way of detaining suspected terrorists, interrogating them, and trying them over my dinner, why hasn’t anyone else?

    If you feel that the sleep deprivation/time distortion course I outlined is torture, that’s fine. We can have a reasoned debate about it, and if more people agree with you than with me, I’ll happily cede the point as long as you and the other people who support your view acknowledge that the decision to take that interrogation tactic out of the playbook means that a detainee could remain silent long enough that the information in his head is no longer current, and that innocent people could die because of that. That’s the trade-off we are making here: how rough we’re willing to get in order to gather timely intelligence. I drew the line at sleep deprivation and time confusion/dilation, you drew it at only rapport building.

    However, I think you offered yourself a cheap and easy out:

    And in the ticking-time-bomb scenarios in the real world, interrogators have the choice to illegally use torture to get the information, and if they believe that it’s that important, they will. They’ll do so knowing that there is a trial ahead for them, that they’ll have to get the jury or judge to believe that it was absolutely necessary, or else they’re going to jail–which makes them think a little harder about it. That is moral courage: making a choice based on your principles and being able to face the consequences.

    You want to legally say that only rapport-building is ok, but you want to leave it on the shoulders of an interrogator/interrogation unit to decide when the ticking bomb is so urgent that they need to torture the guy anyway and risk trial later. That is a hell of a decision to place on someone else, and the reaction I think you would get, if that was your policy, is the one that I have seen described in some newspapers as to why the secret interrogations stopped: “If you’re telling me don’t torture unless you really, really need to, and if you do you’ll go on trial, lose your career and your honor, possibly go to jail, and become infamous for the rest of your life, and by the way we won’t actually define what techniques are torture and aren’t because we’re going to go with an ‘I know it when I see it’ definition, but we need that information so get to work, then eff you, pal, I’m not going into that booth!”

    What I am looking for is a stand similar to what I took – I outlined what I would authorize, and that would be the only techniques authorized. Anything beyond that would get an interrogator court-martialed. I also said I was willing to accept the responsibility for an attack that, in hindsight, could have been prevented if the detainee had talked earlier, which might have happened if other things had been allowed. I am not getting a sense of a similar stand on your part. If I have misread you, I apologize. I am eager to see what other people would suggest needs to be modified in my proposal.

    As to your final paragraph, I am very worried about the suspension of habeus corpus. I outlined a scenario where it was necessary to arrest a US resident, and I outlined a mechanism that I felt would protect civil liberties by subjecting any proposed arrest to judicial review, and any detention would be subject to a trial. If it is desirable to hardcode a time limit to when the trial must take place, then by all means set one for after the detainee’s operational knowledge is no longer current, say one month. At that point, the case is brought before the panel that can review secret evidence, arguments are made by the defense and prosecution, and a decision to extend the detention or go to trial or release the detainee is made. This process can involve judges and legislative oversight so that we break up the one-branch-of-government monopoly. If this scenario is unacceptable to you, please outline something different. That is what has frustrated me most about this issue – plenty of people are climbing up on their soapboxes to label things torture, unconstitutional, undemocratic, evil, and wrong, but no one has outlined a satisfactory alternative.

  195. jj:
    >The only people on the streets of the USA are the disenfranchised.

    Some of the people on the *Nets* are disenfranchised. Not all people posting here are United States citizens, and not all United States citizens have the vote.
    I’m more useful to the world discussing this on a medium-high profile blog and disseminating information to people who *can* vote than I am on the streets (doing what?).
    I suspect that any random person who can vote on this thread is rather more likely to do so than any random person on the street that I talk to. The only people on the street are disenfranchised.

  196. jj:
    >The only people on the streets of the USA are the disenfranchised.

    Some of the people on the *Nets* are disenfranchised. Not all people posting here are United States citizens, and not all United States citizens have the vote.
    I’m more useful to the world discussing this on a medium-high profile blog and disseminating information to people who *can* vote than I am on the streets (doing what?).
    I suspect that any random person who can vote on this thread is rather more likely to do so than any random person on the street that I talk to. The only people on the street are disenfranchised.

  197. “You want to legally say that only rapport-building is ok, but you want to leave it on the shoulders of an interrogator/interrogation unit to decide when the ticking bomb is so urgent that they need to torture the guy anyway and risk trial later. That is a hell of a decision to place on someone else, and the reaction I think you would get, if that was your policy,”

    It’s not *my* policy. It’s the policy we *had* until this administration decided to redefine torture.
    It’s like this: We accept killing in self-defense. What we *don’t* do is “authorize” individuals to kill in self-defense. People who kill in self-defense still have to go to court. There are legal consequences. We don’t just leave it up to the person to tell us “oh, I killed him in self-defense”; we don’t even assume that they killed in self-defense and then only bring charges if a witness says that they didn’t. We bring them to court, with a judge and a jury and two attorneys or teams of attorneys and official rules of evidence and everything. So that one person, in the heat of the moment, gets to decide, but then then twelve to twenty-three people, after the fact, get to determine if that person made the right decision.
    What legitimizing torture means, is that an interrogator who is faced with a Jack Bauer Power Hour Scenario–a.k.a. ticking time bomb–has to put their honor and freedom and uniform on the line when they make that decision. Considering that they’re violating someone else’s human rights, I think it’s reasonable to expect the interrogator to be *that* certain of the necessity.
    Any interrogator who believed that they would have to torture someone in order to save millions of lives should darn well be prepared to justify it to a jury of peers, in my opinion. But when it’s legitimate, and it’s easier to use “aggressive interrogatory methods” than going to all those mind games, won’t that become the default? Especially when people will wonder why you *didn’t* use those methods and failed to extract the information/confession/whatever?
    It comes down to this: there’s a difference between doing something that you’ve thought about and decided was for the greater good and that you were willing to suffer the legal consequences for, and doing something without thinking about it, just because everyone else is doing it.

    “What I am looking for is a stand similar to what I took – I outlined what I would authorize, and that would be the only techniques authorized. Anything beyond that would get an interrogator court-martialed. I also said I was willing to accept the responsibility for an attack that, in hindsight, could have been prevented if the detainee had talked earlier, which might have happened if other things had been allowed. I am not getting a sense of a similar stand on your part. If I have misread you, I apologize. I am eager to see what other people would suggest needs to be modified in my proposal.”

    Well, like you said, “I drew the line at sleep deprivation and time confusion/dilation, you drew it at only rapport building.”
    That’s my line.
    But I’m willing to compromise–because basic human rights is something we all should compromise on more often–and use either of the two tests I’ve already listed in the thread.
    For your reading pleasure:
    “Here’s a good working definition of torture: subject our president and other select members of the administration to the procedure in question, and give them the option to stop the procedure at any time by admitting that it is in fact torture. If they break under it and say that it is torture, then either they lied to get it to stop (torture) or they changed their minds (so they agree that it is torture).”
    “If you don’t like my ‘apply it to the people supporting it’ test of torture methods, try the ‘frat house’ test. If members of a fraternity could get arrested for hazing (hazing is a crime, right? if not, expelled at any responsible university for sure) if they used those methods for that duration of time on willing pledges, it’s torture.”

    Highly coercive techniques which cause physical harm (including physical fatigue) and which can elicit false confessions or false information: torture. Including sleep deprivation and time dilation; if we can’t even do it to convicted rapists and murderers, we sure as heck shouldn’t be doing it to people who were only *arrested*.
    I simply don’t think that “outrage against human dignity” is unclear or vague.

  198. I don’t envy you. It would take all the strength I have to march into the polling place and vote for Brown.

    Make no mistake. I’d do it, and I hope you do too. Twelve Democratic senators and 34 reps voted for this disgrace, but if the Democrats controlled even one house of Congress, it would never have passed. It’s a fact of the American system that narrow legislative majorities lead to lopsided votes.

    So vote for the pathetic, self-dishonoring cur. It’s important.

    There are several problems with voting for the lesser of two evils. First, it tends to produce a slow slide into ever-dencreasing good. Evil has a lot of strategic advantages over good, after all, and if you want to win, being as evil as possible while being slightly better than one’s opponent works pretty well.

    More importantly, it ignores the reality that any society requires a certain degree of good governance – not in the moral or ethical sense, but in the qualitative sense. If you vote for candidates who don’t deliver that good governance, the system eventually falls apart. If you accept candidates who don’t deliver that good governance, even if they were fairly elected by a majority of the populace, the system eventually falls apart.

    Part of the reason why our system has degraded as far as it has is that people are content to swallow the soothing lies they’re told – for example, the idea that compromising essential principles in order to gain dominance with one party or the other is appropriate, or that the system isn’t dominated by career politicians who’ll do whatever it takes to retain power and say whatever it takes to be elected.

    It does us no good if the Democrats gain a majority but compromise fundamental principles in the process. They won’t become Republicans, not that being Republican actually means that one is utterly corrupt and degraded, and they will not become identical to the worst politicians. They will, however, have crossed over that line.

    Forget the two-party system. Forget for one moment the idea of political affiliations. Forget the idea that a meaningless label and arbitrary distinction should decide your vote. Vote for honest, intelligent, decent people, and withhold your vote from dishonest, unintelligent, corrupt people. Even if one candidate is better than the other, even if that candidate is on “your side”, refuse to vote for him.

    It’s not about who’s more corrupt, it’s about who’s corrupt. Quite frankly, if you support voting for candidates because of their party affiliation even if they’ve voted to dismantle the last remnants of America’s idealism, I consider you to be corrupt and part of the problem we’re facing.

  199. I don’t envy you. It would take all the strength I have to march into the polling place and vote for Brown.

    Make no mistake. I’d do it, and I hope you do too. Twelve Democratic senators and 34 reps voted for this disgrace, but if the Democrats controlled even one house of Congress, it would never have passed. It’s a fact of the American system that narrow legislative majorities lead to lopsided votes.

    So vote for the pathetic, self-dishonoring cur. It’s important.

    There are several problems with voting for the lesser of two evils. First, it tends to produce a slow slide into ever-dencreasing good. Evil has a lot of strategic advantages over good, after all, and if you want to win, being as evil as possible while being slightly better than one’s opponent works pretty well.

    More importantly, it ignores the reality that any society requires a certain degree of good governance – not in the moral or ethical sense, but in the qualitative sense. If you vote for candidates who don’t deliver that good governance, the system eventually falls apart. If you accept candidates who don’t deliver that good governance, even if they were fairly elected by a majority of the populace, the system eventually falls apart.

    Part of the reason why our system has degraded as far as it has is that people are content to swallow the soothing lies they’re told – for example, the idea that compromising essential principles in order to gain dominance with one party or the other is appropriate, or that the system isn’t dominated by career politicians who’ll do whatever it takes to retain power and say whatever it takes to be elected.

    It does us no good if the Democrats gain a majority but compromise fundamental principles in the process. They won’t become Republicans, not that being Republican actually means that one is utterly corrupt and degraded, and they will not become identical to the worst politicians. They will, however, have crossed over that line.

    Forget the two-party system. Forget for one moment the idea of political affiliations. Forget the idea that a meaningless label and arbitrary distinction should decide your vote. Vote for honest, intelligent, decent people, and withhold your vote from dishonest, unintelligent, corrupt people. Even if one candidate is better than the other, even if that candidate is on “your side”, refuse to vote for him.

    It’s not about who’s more corrupt, it’s about who’s corrupt. Quite frankly, if you support voting for candidates because of their party affiliation even if they’ve voted to dismantle the last remnants of America’s idealism, I consider you to be corrupt and part of the problem we’re facing.

  200. JJ said:

    ‘I think you a the moral cowards.
    You and the bunch of US Americans Netizens that think the can safely influence the world behind their computer screeens.
    You should be out on the streets.
    But you are too far from the streets.
    The only people on the streets of the USA are the disenfranchised.
    You have for over 50 years built your homes on the basis of isolation and distance form the streets (on streets, there lives “niggers”).
    You have comitted yourselves to nothing but consumerism.
    Now reality is eating you up alive. Through 9/11 and Iraq.
    “May you live in interesting times.”‘

    JJ, clearly you are angry. You probably have good reasons for that. However, lashing out with claims you know nothing about will not help change the situation. Unfortunately, many of us in the US are just as disenfranchised from the political process as any one on our streets that you can imagine. Some of us have been homeless, some of us will be homeless, and some of us, like me, work full-time with the homeless. I wish you would channel your anger in more productive channels.

  201. Kevin, I appreciate your reasoned attempts to make sense of events that lie at the edge of normal human experience. I have reactions.

    You said:

    “I’ll happily cede the point as long as you and the other people who support your view acknowledge that the decision to take that interrogation tactic out of the playbook means that a detainee could remain silent long enough that the information in his head is no longer current, and that innocent people could die because of that.”

    Kevin, I think you should cede your point right now. You assume that sleep deprivation and other torture will produce timely information that will prevent terrorist attacks, and say you have read up on interrogation techniques and the effects of torture. I have read up on these subjects too; my understanding is that sleep deprivation and other tortures produce whatever the interrogator indicates to his prisoner that he wants to hear. This is most often false information. So, I’m not going to cede this point to you. I think your framework will most often result in: 1) False information like “There are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq”, which will in turn result in policy decisions where thousands of innocents die (ironic, isn’t it?), and 2) Torture of innocent human beings.

    You also said:

    “I also said I was willing to accept the responsibility for an attack that, in hindsight, could have been prevented if the detainee had talked earlier, which might have happened if other things had been allowed. I am not getting a sense of a similar stand on your part.”

    Kevin, why would you assume responsibility for an attack you did not perform? The responsibility lies purely on the heads of those who performed it. Your stance is part of a “victim blaming” ideology. Research that concept. You may find some ideas that awaken you.

    Perhaps others, including myself, will not take a similar stand because it is flawed. It suggests that we be scared that violence towards another human being is the only certain way to protect ourselves from possible terrorism. Unfortunately, I think many of the terrorists have been arguing that this is exactly the attitude Americans have; therefore, they need to exterminate us before we are violent towards them and their family and friends. In this way, the violence perpetuates and escalates, and we become the monsters that extremist terrorists have said we are.

    What I believe actually would (and does) happen as a consequence of your stance is this: the torturer becomes a perpetrator and victim of violence, along with the person being tortured. This has real effects in both their lives. I can speak to this in real life because I am a social worker who counsels people who have experienced trauma and torture (though not in the sense of this argument), and I have colleagues that actually do counsel survivors of military and terrorist associated torture.

  202. I will start with this, I am a Canadian, and therefore have no real right to comment on the American government, or system of government. Understanding that, as a bystander – who lives close enough that under the wrong circumstances could get hit with the splash of whatever GWB is doing – I wept the day that GWB was re-elected after his first term in service. Now that we are starting to see shades of Orwell’s ‘1984’ in his governing policies, I am grateful and indeed proud of anyone who has the courage to make any kind of stand against this kind of terrifying (if I may use that word slightly ironically) leader.
    Again, as a Canadian (and we certainly have our own faults and problems within our system)I must say 2 things.
    1) John you are my hero. Without people like you to stand up and say something, start some intelligent debate and point out the detrimental, change would not happen.
    2) you are all invited to move to Canada if things continue in this manner (we’re really very friendly!)
    Good luck, and fight the good fight! (if there’s anything we can do from the North, let us know!)

  203. I will start with this, I am a Canadian, and therefore have no real right to comment on the American government, or system of government. Understanding that, as a bystander – who lives close enough that under the wrong circumstances could get hit with the splash of whatever GWB is doing – I wept the day that GWB was re-elected after his first term in service. Now that we are starting to see shades of Orwell’s ‘1984’ in his governing policies, I am grateful and indeed proud of anyone who has the courage to make any kind of stand against this kind of terrifying (if I may use that word slightly ironically) leader.
    Again, as a Canadian (and we certainly have our own faults and problems within our system)I must say 2 things.
    1) John you are my hero. Without people like you to stand up and say something, start some intelligent debate and point out the detrimental, change would not happen.
    2) you are all invited to move to Canada if things continue in this manner (we’re really very friendly!)
    Good luck, and fight the good fight! (if there’s anything we can do from the North, let us know!)

  204. Gwen,

    Thanks for your reply. I can get behind your “subject it to ourselves” test. If I were in chrage of the program, I would be willing to to undergo the same treatment so I would know what it does to a person mentally.

    I understand that this technique and others that are used by police on suspects, such as falsely claiming that physical evidence has been found or that an accomplice has already confessed, can lead to false confessions. I don’t think that should be used to continue detention, but if it used to generate more investigative leads because a suspect has slipped up and given out information that was previously unknown or only suspected, it could be a great help to an ongoing investigation.

  205. Serendipity. Pandora has just played me Steve Earle singing ‘Come Back, Woody Guthrie’.

    Keep the faith. You’re not bad people, just some of you are frightened by a few who want to keep you frightened so they can go on enriching themselves. It doesn’t have to last for ever.

    Far be it from me to tell you who you should vote for – only that you should vote any and every opportunity you get – but you might care to think long and hard before voting for anyone who is rich enough to employ a tax consultant.

    Just a thought.

  206. Serendipity. Pandora has just played me Steve Earle singing ‘Come Back, Woody Guthrie’.

    Keep the faith. You’re not bad people, just some of you are frightened by a few who want to keep you frightened so they can go on enriching themselves. It doesn’t have to last for ever.

    Far be it from me to tell you who you should vote for – only that you should vote any and every opportunity you get – but you might care to think long and hard before voting for anyone who is rich enough to employ a tax consultant.

    Just a thought.

  207. Todd Stull,

    Thanks for the kind words. Let me try to respond to your points in order. First, I would like to reiterate that sleep deprivation and isolation was the harshest technique I am willing to use – no beatings, no stress positions, no waterboarding. The point of the sleep deprivation, combined with the verbally confrontational interrogations on one hand and the nicer, rapport-building sessions on the other, is to cause the detainee to slip up and admit to something, hopefully something that we already know or can confirm from another source. It could be all rapport-building from then on out, going over the information in more detail and building the bond between detainee and interrogator. This would, in theory, reduce the problem of bad information and false confessions.

    We should not, I think, conflate the faulty intelligence on WMDs in Iraq with this scenario. As far as I know, the Iraq case was built on years of assessments of a very elusive target based on old data that turned out to be wrong. Coupled with Saddam Husayn’s continued rope-a-dope with the UN weapons inspectors and generally acting very guilty, it doesn’t surprise me that when Curveball (the source that fabricated the mobile biological weapons labs according to German press) came forward with his story, intelligence services fell for it. In our scenariothe information that a detainee would give up (names, locations, phone numbers, money transfers) would be much easier to verify.

    As to taking responsibility for an attack, forgive me for writing imprecisely. I would not accept responsibility for the attack itself – as you point out, that lies solely on the attackers. I do not subscribe to any school of “blame the victim” thought. What I meant to say is that, were I in charge of a program structured the way that I wanted it to be structured and an attack took place that, with hindsight, could have been prevented if only detainee X had divulged crucial information earlier, I would accept the blame for this failure, i.e. I would defend my program, the men and women who staff it, and accept whatever censure my superiors imposed for its failure.

    I also do not subscribe to the escalating cycle of violence theory. Militant Islamic terrorists/Wahhabists/Salafists/whatever we wish to label them as adhere to a creed that calls for the expansion of Sharia and their version of Islam by force – if we were to forswear violence against them it would only make them pause long enough to come up with a list of demands to force upon us next. As Heinlein said in Starship Troopers, “[v]iolence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst.” If person A can co-exist with person B and B’s culture/outlook but person B cannot co-exist with person A’s and wants to convert A by force or destroy A, then A isn’t left with much choice. We do not wish to become monsters, that is certain, but isn’t that also why we should have a debate and decide how we will proceed as a society in this instance?

  208. Todd Stull,

    Thanks for the kind words. Let me try to respond to your points in order. First, I would like to reiterate that sleep deprivation and isolation was the harshest technique I am willing to use – no beatings, no stress positions, no waterboarding. The point of the sleep deprivation, combined with the verbally confrontational interrogations on one hand and the nicer, rapport-building sessions on the other, is to cause the detainee to slip up and admit to something, hopefully something that we already know or can confirm from another source. It could be all rapport-building from then on out, going over the information in more detail and building the bond between detainee and interrogator. This would, in theory, reduce the problem of bad information and false confessions.

    We should not, I think, conflate the faulty intelligence on WMDs in Iraq with this scenario. As far as I know, the Iraq case was built on years of assessments of a very elusive target based on old data that turned out to be wrong. Coupled with Saddam Husayn’s continued rope-a-dope with the UN weapons inspectors and generally acting very guilty, it doesn’t surprise me that when Curveball (the source that fabricated the mobile biological weapons labs according to German press) came forward with his story, intelligence services fell for it. In our scenariothe information that a detainee would give up (names, locations, phone numbers, money transfers) would be much easier to verify.

    As to taking responsibility for an attack, forgive me for writing imprecisely. I would not accept responsibility for the attack itself – as you point out, that lies solely on the attackers. I do not subscribe to any school of “blame the victim” thought. What I meant to say is that, were I in charge of a program structured the way that I wanted it to be structured and an attack took place that, with hindsight, could have been prevented if only detainee X had divulged crucial information earlier, I would accept the blame for this failure, i.e. I would defend my program, the men and women who staff it, and accept whatever censure my superiors imposed for its failure.

    I also do not subscribe to the escalating cycle of violence theory. Militant Islamic terrorists/Wahhabists/Salafists/whatever we wish to label them as adhere to a creed that calls for the expansion of Sharia and their version of Islam by force – if we were to forswear violence against them it would only make them pause long enough to come up with a list of demands to force upon us next. As Heinlein said in Starship Troopers, “[v]iolence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst.” If person A can co-exist with person B and B’s culture/outlook but person B cannot co-exist with person A’s and wants to convert A by force or destroy A, then A isn’t left with much choice. We do not wish to become monsters, that is certain, but isn’t that also why we should have a debate and decide how we will proceed as a society in this instance?

  209. Anna K.

    Thank you for your kind attention, and, yes, there is something you can do for us. Years ago, Mark Mbutu requested that we send our fondue sets to Namibia. Since we are generous Americans, we did so. Haven’t had melty cheese or chocolate goodness since.

    So please, send fondue sets (include long forks)
    And, we have plenty of those little Sterno cans.

  210. John?

    “I find it interesting that people who take orders from an imaginary creature who lives in the sky find it interesting that people who don’t have a moral sense.”

    This made me splutter my mouthful of pseudo-rioja all over my monitor. You owe me a quarter of an inch of cheap wine and a clean up tissue! I accept paypal. Haha.

    Seriously, on the action front, I just don’t know. It’s bloody hard, and I need help. Seriously. These things take so much research and thought, or you just end up taking the wrong action. It’s a real danger. For example, I’m trying to get into ethical buying, and it has taken a couple of months of research, fact checking and plain old shopping (the stores are scattered, the websites are often poor). I’m finally getting there and feel like I’ve achieved something.

    For politics, it’s even riskier. How do you know when someone’s lying? (hmm – they open their mouth?!? Heh… my inner cynic says so…) I was discussing this with a friend this week, and saying that I subscribe to Time, study it, discard many opinions in the articles but absorb the facts (that I trust, as I think it’s a well moderated magazine both internally and externally, no matter what it’s stance). I counter it with more radical mags like New Internationalist. I check those facts much more strenuously.

    And I still don’t think I’m even slightly closer to knowing what to do.

    Then I remember I have my work and love life to play with, and I go cross-eyed! Hell, I’m only young!

    Anyway, that said I really enjoy it when this kind of discussion comes up here. I don’t agree with all that you say at all times (Pluto and Bush, though, you have my support on!) but that was a fantastic summary of the situation.

  211. John?

    “I find it interesting that people who take orders from an imaginary creature who lives in the sky find it interesting that people who don’t have a moral sense.”

    This made me splutter my mouthful of pseudo-rioja all over my monitor. You owe me a quarter of an inch of cheap wine and a clean up tissue! I accept paypal. Haha.

    Seriously, on the action front, I just don’t know. It’s bloody hard, and I need help. Seriously. These things take so much research and thought, or you just end up taking the wrong action. It’s a real danger. For example, I’m trying to get into ethical buying, and it has taken a couple of months of research, fact checking and plain old shopping (the stores are scattered, the websites are often poor). I’m finally getting there and feel like I’ve achieved something.

    For politics, it’s even riskier. How do you know when someone’s lying? (hmm – they open their mouth?!? Heh… my inner cynic says so…) I was discussing this with a friend this week, and saying that I subscribe to Time, study it, discard many opinions in the articles but absorb the facts (that I trust, as I think it’s a well moderated magazine both internally and externally, no matter what it’s stance). I counter it with more radical mags like New Internationalist. I check those facts much more strenuously.

    And I still don’t think I’m even slightly closer to knowing what to do.

    Then I remember I have my work and love life to play with, and I go cross-eyed! Hell, I’m only young!

    Anyway, that said I really enjoy it when this kind of discussion comes up here. I don’t agree with all that you say at all times (Pluto and Bush, though, you have my support on!) but that was a fantastic summary of the situation.

  212. Yeah, the Heinlein quote is great, especially when you consider that the most *effective* use of violence in setteling opinions has been genocide of one heavily armed majority against a minority that’s usually been intentionally disarmed, maligned, and is at a distinct technological disadvantage. “Carthage est delenda” anyone? Exterminated cultures can’t disagree, can they?

    If anyone thinks the Wahabi types haven’t learned this lesson, they’re fooling themsleves. They *can’t* exterminate us. But they know we can do it to them, and both the west and the Middle East has a long history of genocidal conflicts.

    And the invasion of Iraq was planend *LONG* before the WMD boondoggle.

  213. Josh,

    Not coming down on you, but I wish people would make the distinction between planning for a conflict and committing to it.

    Our military has plans for an unimaginable number of conflict situations, many of them inprobable. (What do we do if Belize invades Florida?)

    It would be irresponsible if such plans didn’t exist.

    Committing to a conflict (whether openly or in some dastardly behind-the-curtain manner) is an entirely different thing.

  214. Nathan,
    We would happily send you our fondue sets, but sadly they have all been sent to Namibia as well, but if you just can’t get by without the melty cheese and chocolate goodness try a double boiler with chopsticks. Nearly as much fun, and much more chance of having to kiss the person in line behind you, as dropping things is easier with chopsticks than long forks ;)

  215. Nathan,
    We would happily send you our fondue sets, but sadly they have all been sent to Namibia as well, but if you just can’t get by without the melty cheese and chocolate goodness try a double boiler with chopsticks. Nearly as much fun, and much more chance of having to kiss the person in line behind you, as dropping things is easier with chopsticks than long forks ;)

  216. A query from a non-american.

    I see from some of the posts above that the issue of whether or not this Bill applies to US-citizens or not is somehow relevant. Isn’t that a mildly awful question to ask? If you’re authorising torture on people who have not been found guilty of ANYTHING, does it matter where they come from?

  217. A query from a non-american.

    I see from some of the posts above that the issue of whether or not this Bill applies to US-citizens or not is somehow relevant. Isn’t that a mildly awful question to ask? If you’re authorising torture on people who have not been found guilty of ANYTHING, does it matter where they come from?

  218. “I also do not subscribe to the escalating cycle of violence theory. Militant Islamic terrorists/Wahhabists/Salafists/whatever we wish to label them as adhere to a creed that calls for the expansion of Sharia and their version of Islam by force – if we were to forswear violence against them it would only make them pause long enough to come up with a list of demands to force upon us next. As Heinlein said in Starship Troopers, “[v]iolence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst.” If person A can co-exist with person B and B’s culture/outlook but person B cannot co-exist with person A’s and wants to convert A by force or destroy A, then A isn’t left with much choice. We do not wish to become monsters, that is certain, but isn’t that also why we should have a debate and decide how we will proceed as a society in this instance.”

    Woohoo! You *attack* that straw man! Go Kevin!

    Of course Todd’s argument was actually against pre-emptively attacking people on the premise that they may someday attack us, because then another country would be justified in attacking us on the grounds that we may someday preemptively attack them. (E.g., the report that showed that the Iraqi Police Operation significantly increased global terrorism.)

    Martyn: I can top that. How ’bout that I’m-proud-to-be-an-American song coming on the radio last night? “Where at least I know I’m free, at least until I’m declared an enemy combatant and dropped down a dark hole without the right of habeas corpus” is a little long…

    These are the phrases to remember:
    *”Principiis obsta and Finem respice — ‘Resist the beginnings’ and ‘Consider the end.’”
    *”He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good…
    He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
    He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
    …For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
    …For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
    For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
    …For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
    …A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”
    *Or anything from this statement by the current president on torture.
    *Or any of the Constitution, particularly the bill of rights, which define the protections “people” have from the government, “enemy combatants” or not, citizens or not.
    *Or “they hate us because we love freedom”. Or “you’re either with us or you’re with the enemy.” Terrorism or torture? Terrorism from the government or terrorism from individuals? Are those our only options?

  219. Gwen,

    It is not a strawman. It is the ideology behind Al-Qa’ida, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, Jemaa Islamiyya, and a host of like-minded organizations, and it is outlined repeatedly by them in statements published online to rally support to their cause. They feel that Islam is the destiny of humanity and that we are weak and decadent and we will crumble if they strike us hard enough because we lack the will, as a culture, to persevere. If Todd feels I’m misrepresenting his argument, he is perfectly capable of saying so himelf. You are free to believe that I am oversimplifying with the person A, person B scenario, but that is basically what the situation boils down to.

    The NIE is a bland by-product of writing by committee, and is filled with vague statements that can cut both ways. For example, the conflict in Iraq has become a clarion call for jihadist recruitment, but if it is perceived that the jihad in Iraq is losing/is defeated, recruitment will suffer. Wow! It is truly wonderful how you can slant an editorial piece however you want if you are willing to selectively quote from a document that is purposely written to cover as many bases as possible. The key findings released to the public are going to be the most trite and meaningless; everything else will remain classified.

    If you and I are going to delve into the question of who’s pre-empitvely attacking whom and who’s defending themselves from a pre-emptive attack by launching a pre-emptive coutnerstrike, we’re going to be here a long time — Usama bin Ladin’s complaints have, over time, expanded from “infidels occupying the land of the two holy places” (i.e. American troops in Saudi Arabia following Desert Shield/Desert Storm) to the loss of Al-Andalus to the Reconquista and, of course, the Crusades. For ideological purposes, Al-Qa’ida views the entire West as part of Dar al-Harb, and America is just as responsible for the Crusades as we are for propping up Arab strongmen who oppress their people (which I feel is a legitimate complaint), and despite any positive actions on our part, such as bombing a Christian nation (Serbia) to stop ethnic cleansing in a Muslim one (Bosnia). You can ignore the stated ideology and goals of our self-declared enemies if you wish, but I will thank you not to tell me I am creating a strawman when I state them.

  220. Gwen,

    It is not a strawman. It is the ideology behind Al-Qa’ida, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, Jemaa Islamiyya, and a host of like-minded organizations, and it is outlined repeatedly by them in statements published online to rally support to their cause. They feel that Islam is the destiny of humanity and that we are weak and decadent and we will crumble if they strike us hard enough because we lack the will, as a culture, to persevere. If Todd feels I’m misrepresenting his argument, he is perfectly capable of saying so himelf. You are free to believe that I am oversimplifying with the person A, person B scenario, but that is basically what the situation boils down to.

    The NIE is a bland by-product of writing by committee, and is filled with vague statements that can cut both ways. For example, the conflict in Iraq has become a clarion call for jihadist recruitment, but if it is perceived that the jihad in Iraq is losing/is defeated, recruitment will suffer. Wow! It is truly wonderful how you can slant an editorial piece however you want if you are willing to selectively quote from a document that is purposely written to cover as many bases as possible. The key findings released to the public are going to be the most trite and meaningless; everything else will remain classified.

    If you and I are going to delve into the question of who’s pre-empitvely attacking whom and who’s defending themselves from a pre-emptive attack by launching a pre-emptive coutnerstrike, we’re going to be here a long time — Usama bin Ladin’s complaints have, over time, expanded from “infidels occupying the land of the two holy places” (i.e. American troops in Saudi Arabia following Desert Shield/Desert Storm) to the loss of Al-Andalus to the Reconquista and, of course, the Crusades. For ideological purposes, Al-Qa’ida views the entire West as part of Dar al-Harb, and America is just as responsible for the Crusades as we are for propping up Arab strongmen who oppress their people (which I feel is a legitimate complaint), and despite any positive actions on our part, such as bombing a Christian nation (Serbia) to stop ethnic cleansing in a Muslim one (Bosnia). You can ignore the stated ideology and goals of our self-declared enemies if you wish, but I will thank you not to tell me I am creating a strawman when I state them.

  221. In the late 70’s in Australia, a third political party was formed with a catchcry of “Keep the Bastards Honest”. The main idea seems to have been to create a kind of watchdog party, which would hold enough seats to prevent government doing what it liked through overwhelming majority.

    Perhaps it’s time for the USA to have a third major party? One with a platform of bringing honesty and accountability back into your Congress. To use an analogy presented earlier, they would act a speed bump reducing the number of cars needing the guard rail of judicial testing.

    The major problem I see with this idea (speaking as an Australian who has limited knowledge of the American political system) is that American politicians appear to be less concerned with voting along party lines than Australian politicians (who are usually severely chastised if they dare to cross the floor).

    As a side note, the third political party in Australia is called the Australian Democrats – Americans, make of that what you will…

  222. Kevin: I’m saying you’re making a strawman if you’re responding to Todd’s arguments, which is what I thought that you were doing.
    Here’s what he said:
    “Perhaps others, including myself, will not take a similar stand because it is flawed. It suggests that we be scared that violence towards another human being is the only certain way to protect ourselves from possible terrorism. Unfortunately, I think many of the terrorists have been arguing that this is exactly the attitude Americans have; therefore, they need to exterminate us before we are violent towards them and their family and friends. In this way, the violence perpetuates and escalates, and we become the monsters that extremist terrorists have said we are.”
    And *you* responded by saying that we shouldn’t forswear violence against those who have proven themselves willing and able and trying to harm us. Slightly different, no?
    “They feel that Islam is the destiny of humanity and that we are weak and decadent and we will crumble if they strike us hard enough because we lack the will, as a culture, to persevere.”
    We *do* lack the will, as a culture, to persevere. The Constitution, the Geneva Conventions (as a treaty we signed, highest law in the land except for the Constitution), the idea of basic human rights to habeas corpus and freedom from torture and fair and speedy trials and all the rest; if our elected officials feel that we fight the terrorists better by giving in on all of this, our basic principles, what’s left?
    (And no, that last sentence wasn’t at your position, Kevin. At least you *have* a clear definition of what you consider torture, not subject to arbitrary revisions, and it’s certainly far more exclusive than what the Justice Department seems to want. (Comparable to organ failure? Seriously? The psychological trauma has to last for months or years before it’s considered inhuman and degrading treatment [because we all know that the torturers will considerately wait a few months between treatments to determine if the person is having long-lasting mental problems]? Waterboarding is all right, even though two minutes extorted a confession from a top person in a terrorist organization? Hello?) I still disagree with you that it’s humane (depends on duration I suppose), and I’m not sure in which situations it would be more effective to have one person from the same side being mean to the alleged terrorist while another on the same side plays good cop, than to simply do the buddy-buddy style of interrogation that’s worked well enough for years. In what cases would you need it enough to do it, and you would need it to be legal to do it?
    A third party would be great. Maybe we should all start writing in votes to “Opponent of Torture” or “Supporter of Separation of Powers”? Or a Separation of Powers Party, or an Anti-Torture one?

  223. Gwen:

    Basing a political party on a single issue isn’t likely to get them enough support to have any sort of political clout. Any party looking to become a significant alternative needs a broader base. Perhaps a National Integrity Party or Constitutional Values Party?

    To continue using the Australian Democrats as an example, the man generally regarded as the Founder of the party was a Minister (=Congressman) in the Australian Liberal Party until he quit them to join this new group. Perhaps there are one or more Congressmembers (or even Senators) who are disenchanted enough with current party politics to become leaders of a new party?

  224. Gwen:

    Basing a political party on a single issue isn’t likely to get them enough support to have any sort of political clout. Any party looking to become a significant alternative needs a broader base. Perhaps a National Integrity Party or Constitutional Values Party?

    To continue using the Australian Democrats as an example, the man generally regarded as the Founder of the party was a Minister (=Congressman) in the Australian Liberal Party until he quit them to join this new group. Perhaps there are one or more Congressmembers (or even Senators) who are disenchanted enough with current party politics to become leaders of a new party?

  225. John:
    Well, see, Brian, the quote came from a law professor at Yale who happens to specialize in Constitutional issues, who just happened to be writing a piece for the LA Times. Which you would have known had you bothered to follow the link, which clearly you did not.

    Sorry, John – time to send that crystal ball to the shop. I most certainly did follow the link. While I wrote “the LA Times [is not] the standard for unconstitutionality,” I could just as easily have written “a constitutional law professor at Yale is not the standard for unconstitutionality.” Both are true, and the first was meant to imply the second. Furthermore, I suspect you knew that, but were happier to pick apart my language than to discuss my content.

    Your problem, Brian, is that you seem to think a certaintly that you know what’s going on trumps actually finding out what is going on. Do the legwork before you make the smirky comments. Otherwise your complaints about my tone are both hypocritical and hollow.

    While I appreciate your assessment of “my problem,” you’ll forgive me if I don’t view raising factual questions as “knowing what’s going on.” All I’ve done is interrupt a 70-comment thread about Bush’s “incomprehension of and contempt for the United States Constitution” (your words), and suggested that a) the U.S. Constitution protects American citizens, not foreign detainees, b) the bill under discussion limits presidential powers, rather than expands them, and c) we live better today than any previous generation of Americans has ever lived.

    In my humble opinion, the subsequent ~100 comments made for much more interesting reading: about what the bill actually says, about what it means to define torture, and about what the implications of trying to define it are. You have said many times that your commenters here at The Whatever are a awesome bunch of folks, capable of bringing great insight to a topic. I feel I’ve directed that brainpower much more effectively than your initial anti-Bush rant. Hence my comment about your tone. If you disagree, fine. Such is your (and my) right.

    darren:

    The Constitution’s truths are held to be self evident and the “human rights” it represents are “inalienable.” I would never suppose to think that these neo cons and their representatives in government do not believe in human rights, I just believe that their personal definition of who gets to be classified as human is much narrower than most everyone elses.

    Darren – the document about inalienable human rights and self-evident truths is the Declaration of Independence, not the U.S. Constitution. The former was an impassioned letter of protest to the government, citing God and the rights he granted to all mankind. The latter is the law of the land. It doesn’t mention God, and it doesn’t discuss mankind, self-evident truths or inalienable rights. It says, “We, the people of the United States of America [will govern ourselves in the following way].” Other countries are free to govern themselves (or, in the many cases where the people don’t rule themselves, their citizens) any way they like, a freedom of which many countries have availed themselves.

  226. Not coming down on you, but I wish people would make the distinction between planning for a conflict and committing to it.

    Nathan, you’re right, the commitment to Invade Iraq on a flimsy excuse was an integral part of the Bush foreign policy plan since *before* 9/11. The plan to invade Iraq was a sensible thing to have lying around in case we needed it, and the *lack* of a plan for the occupation was intentional as well.

  227. Not coming down on you, but I wish people would make the distinction between planning for a conflict and committing to it.

    Nathan, you’re right, the commitment to Invade Iraq on a flimsy excuse was an integral part of the Bush foreign policy plan since *before* 9/11. The plan to invade Iraq was a sensible thing to have lying around in case we needed it, and the *lack* of a plan for the occupation was intentional as well.

  228. Bush makes me afraid for the future world my children will live in. Bush makes me fear that there are countless children watching him lead, and thinking that leadership means bullying, and fear mongering. Bush makes me fear that these children will grow up thinking that the greatest value held by Americans is lying and violence. Bush makes me fear for Christian children seeing him as a role model, and who grow up thinking that “Christian values” include hatred for people who are different, torture as a solution, and contempt for anyone who does not think like you.

  229. Phil B., the US has a two-party system and not a multi-party system such as most parliamentary democracies have, because the US is not a parliamentary democracy; it’s a democratic republic. Third parties don’t have the power to affect policy by forming alliances and tipping the presidency from one party to another party. There’s some possibility of tipping control of the House or the Senate, based on which party an independent or third-party senator or representive decides to caucus with–that’s why control of the Senate briefly changed hands when Jim Jeffords decided to stop accepting the abuse he was getting from the Republican party, and caucused with the Democrats. In practice, though, most pols find it more useful and productive to be on the inside of whatever party they’re caucusing with anyway, rather than the outside.

    This doesn’t mean that the kind of negotiating amongst different factions and viewpoints that happens in parliamentary systems doesn’t happen here. It does; our parties are coalitions. In a parliamentary system, the Christian Right that currently has such power in the Republican party would be a separate party, and form a coalition with them. That’s really what they’ve done here; it just looks different because of the different structure of the government.

    And before you point out that this has allowed an extremist faction too much power–look at Israel, where a small, extreme, hardline religious faction also distorts the system.

    What we need is not for progressives to go haring off on what is in our system a destructively self-defeating course (c.f. Green Party), but for progressives to do inside the Democratic party what the Christian right did within the Republican party. And that means not starting with the Big Prize of the presidency, but doing what the Christian Right did: starting with the school committees and boards of selectmen and grubby, unromantic grassroots party work.

    Fortunately, the grassroots work seems to have started. One example near and dear to my heart is the current Democratic candidate for governor of Massachusetts: Deval Patrick ran almost no ads on tv until quite late in the primary campaign. Instead he did the grubby, boring grassroots work, surprised the party leadership at the state Democratic convention with the strength of his support among the party workers, and pretty much clobbered his two opponents on primary day. And so far, he seems to be doing very well against his Republican opponent, too.

    This is what we need to do more of, not pretending we’ve got a parliamentary system and that what works in parliamentary systems should work here.

  230. Phil B., the US has a two-party system and not a multi-party system such as most parliamentary democracies have, because the US is not a parliamentary democracy; it’s a democratic republic. Third parties don’t have the power to affect policy by forming alliances and tipping the presidency from one party to another party. There’s some possibility of tipping control of the House or the Senate, based on which party an independent or third-party senator or representive decides to caucus with–that’s why control of the Senate briefly changed hands when Jim Jeffords decided to stop accepting the abuse he was getting from the Republican party, and caucused with the Democrats. In practice, though, most pols find it more useful and productive to be on the inside of whatever party they’re caucusing with anyway, rather than the outside.

    This doesn’t mean that the kind of negotiating amongst different factions and viewpoints that happens in parliamentary systems doesn’t happen here. It does; our parties are coalitions. In a parliamentary system, the Christian Right that currently has such power in the Republican party would be a separate party, and form a coalition with them. That’s really what they’ve done here; it just looks different because of the different structure of the government.

    And before you point out that this has allowed an extremist faction too much power–look at Israel, where a small, extreme, hardline religious faction also distorts the system.

    What we need is not for progressives to go haring off on what is in our system a destructively self-defeating course (c.f. Green Party), but for progressives to do inside the Democratic party what the Christian right did within the Republican party. And that means not starting with the Big Prize of the presidency, but doing what the Christian Right did: starting with the school committees and boards of selectmen and grubby, unromantic grassroots party work.

    Fortunately, the grassroots work seems to have started. One example near and dear to my heart is the current Democratic candidate for governor of Massachusetts: Deval Patrick ran almost no ads on tv until quite late in the primary campaign. Instead he did the grubby, boring grassroots work, surprised the party leadership at the state Democratic convention with the strength of his support among the party workers, and pretty much clobbered his two opponents on primary day. And so far, he seems to be doing very well against his Republican opponent, too.

    This is what we need to do more of, not pretending we’ve got a parliamentary system and that what works in parliamentary systems should work here.

  231. Gwen,

    My intention was to reply to Todd’s point about positive feedback loops of violence by saying that I do not subscribe to that theory and offering a theory which I thought better fit the situation at hand; if this was unclear, I apologize.

    I agree with you completely on the need to preserve the legal and procedural aspects that are unique to our culture – habeus corpus, trial by a jury of peers, no cruel and unusual punishment – and that is why I feel strongly about the need to define the terms we use in this debate and codify a standard of behavior that we will use in the future. The mechanism our government should be using for the process is something like what brought about the Miranda rights decision: executive branch is doing something that someone thinks is wrong/unfair/suboptimal, it is challenged in the courts, the courts rule on it, the executive revises its actions, usually with the aid of the legislature drafting a law that outlines how the new, improved procedure will work.

    The debate you and I are having about which interrogations techniques are most effective and which techniques we choose to use or exclude based on moral principles is precisely the debate that I feel needs to take place. Personally, I would be ok with this debate taking place among my elected representatives behind closed doors with substantive (i.e. non-policy prescriptive) input from the executive agencies involved and a review by the courts. This would allow important details to remain hidden from our enemies while incorporating the views of the electorate.

    As to your final question: “In what cases would you need it enough to do it, and you would need it to be legal to do it?”, I am going to assume you meant “and would you need it to be legal?” and say that yes, I think it is important that there be a written standard of what is allowable and what is not. That way nobody can say “I thought it was ok” or “Nobody told us what was off-limits” or “We were told the gloves were coming off.” For which cases anything beyond rapport-building would be used, I would say that there has to be some operational latitude given to the individuals whose job this is. They need to be able to go to their bosses and say “Looking at [this stack of evidence and intelligence reporting], I think that we need to capture [bad guy X] and have our best interrogators give him the full confusion/sleep deprivation treatment, because he has time-sensitive information that we need” and their bosses need to have the authority to say “Get it done.” The vast majority of the people involved in efforts like these are decent people who are working hard to ensure our safety and would never abuse the powers given to them. The reviews and checks that are built into the process are what we would rely on to prevent unscrupulous use.

  232. Josh

    “…and the *lack* of a plan for the occupation was intentional as well.”

    Far be it from me to defend the current administration, but can you cite anything to back up that statement? I have no evidence one way or the other, but I’d ascribe the lack of plans for the occupation to the incompetence that others upthread claim doesn’t exist.

    I remember sitting on the couch with my GF when the news first announced the invasion had begun and she turned to me and said, “How much money would you be willing to bet on them having a General Marshall in their back pocket. I wouldn’t put up a nickel”.

  233. Josh

    “…and the *lack* of a plan for the occupation was intentional as well.”

    Far be it from me to defend the current administration, but can you cite anything to back up that statement? I have no evidence one way or the other, but I’d ascribe the lack of plans for the occupation to the incompetence that others upthread claim doesn’t exist.

    I remember sitting on the couch with my GF when the news first announced the invasion had begun and she turned to me and said, “How much money would you be willing to bet on them having a General Marshall in their back pocket. I wouldn’t put up a nickel”.

  234. Brian Greenberg:

    “Sorry, John – time to send that crystal ball to the shop. I most certainly did follow the link. While I wrote ‘the LA Times [is not] the standard for unconstitutionality,’ I could just as easily have written ‘a constitutional law professor at Yale is not the standard for unconstitutionality.’ Both are true, and the first was meant to imply the second. Furthermore, I suspect you knew that, but were happier to pick apart my language than to discuss my content.”

    You know what, Brian, I’m calling bullshit on you. Writing “I don’t believe a three line quote from those constitutional scholars at the LA Times is the standard for unconstitutionality.” is not the same as writing “a constitutional law professor at Yale is not the standard for unconsitutionality.” The first statement is about the three-line excerpt, not the full article on which it is based, and the language of “those constitutional scholars at the LA Times” is both very clearly sarcastic and does not in the least suggest that you followed the link to discover that a constitutional scholar — a real one — did indeed write that piece, rather than the Los Angeles Times editorial board, which is I suspect what you had intended to suggest.

    Your subsequent revision and elision of what you originally wrote in your followup is either dishonest or goes to reinforce that what you wrote was so unclear that others (and specifically, me) could not reasonably be expected to understand what you meant to say. At worst, you’re a revisionist with your words, and at best, you’re just sloppy with them.

    Brian, I am many things, but I am not a mind reader. When you post a snarky comment specifying a three-line excerpt, I’m going to assume you are speaking about the three line excerpt, and not the full article. When said snarky comment rather strongly implies that you don’t know the provenance of the article (because, among other things, you choose to focus on an excerpt of the article, not the article itself, suggesting you did not go through to read the full article), then I am going to assume that you don’t know the bona fides of the writer of the article. If you want me to assume that you in fact read the article in question and knew who the author was, then you should write in a manner suggesting that you do. Your words are what I go by.

    In short, Brian, your language is your content, and I know you’re smart enough to know that. If you don’t want me to pick apart your words, write words I can’t pick apart. I know you can. Why you don’t is another matter entirely.

    Having disposed of that particular issue, I’m curious as to how a law professor at one of the most highly regarded law schools in the world, who is also an expert in the Constitution of the United States, does not actually meet your standard of being a legitimate expert on whether this bill is unconstitutional. You made the blanket statement that no constitutional violations exist in this bill — not a statement of opinion on your part, you offer it as fact. I provide you with an expert on constitutional law who says that the law could strip citizens of their Constitutional rights, and your response appears to be to suggest that, well, this guy doesn’t know that much about that there Constitution… or at least as not as much as you, who so confidently states as a fact that there’s no Constitutional problem with this legislation, nope, not at all.

    As an instructional matter, let’s review Professor Ackerman’s bona fides on the law:

    Bruce Ackerman is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale, and the author of fifteen books that have had a broad influence in political philosophy, constitutional law, and public policy. His major works include Social Justice in the Liberal State and his multivolume constitutional history, We the People. His most recent books are The Failure of the Founding Fathers (2005) and Before the Next Attack (2006). His book, The Stakeholder Society (with Anne Alstott), served as a basis for Tony Blair’s recent introduction of child investment accounts in the United Kingdom. Professor Ackerman is a member of the American Law Institute and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a Commander of the French Order of Merit, and the recipient of the American Philosophical Society’s Henry Phillips Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Jurisprudence. He received his B.A. from Harvard University and his LL.B from Yale Law School.

    I would certainly agree that this one professor’s opinion does not settle that matter of the legislation’s constitutionality — that will need to be decided by the courts. However, I do suggest that if you don’t think his read on the constitutionality of this particular legislation is not relevant or resonably casts doubt on your assertion that there are no constitutional issues with the legislation, then either your standards on who is qualified to speak on the constitutionality of the legislation is possibly a little high, or alternately is so skewed as not to be useful.

    And of course, Professor Ackerman is not the only one with questions about this legislation’s constitutionality. Someone else here has noted Jack Balkin’s issues with it, Balkin being the Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale. Hell, Arlen Specter, as I understand it, believes that it’s probably unconstitutional as well (although, of course, it didn’t stop him from voting for it, the coward).

    Brian, if I write on Intelligent Design and someone comes along and suggests there’s nothing wrong with Intelligent Design, my response will be to point them to an expert on evolutionary biology and suggest that maybe they try to learn a little more about the subject on which they speak. This time, I’m writing on a matter of constitutional importance, and you’ve come along and said there’s no constitutional issue. So my response was to point you to an expert on the constitution and to suggest that you try to learn a little more about the subject on which you assume to speak so authoritatively.

    Your response is to try to minimze the validity of the expert and criticize me for focusing on the words you wrote rather than what you meant for the words to say. This is, interestingly, not at all unlike the response I might get from the IDer (and have gotten, indeed, on this very site). And my response to it is the same, which is to suggest that overall, I’ll go with the expert on the subject, and with the words in front of me.

  235. Brian: the thing is, the text of the Constitution barely mentions citizenship at all (Fourteenth Amendment, provisions for citizenship and protection from abrogation of rights for citizens from the state government; qualifications for presidency and Congress positions; the voting amendments).
    The first amendment prohibits Congress from making certain laws, including ones abridging “the right of the people peacably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances”. Specifically “the people”, not “the citizens”. Amendment II protects “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms”, not “the right of the citizens”. III applies to “any house”; IV protects “the right of the people to be secure” and is doubly specific by saying that it “shall not be violated”, making the governmental officials the agent of the (non-)action. Amendment V says “No person shall”, not “No citizen shall”, and again the agent of all the depriving and holding is the government.
    Amendment VI starts off with “In all criminal prosecutions” (all, including the ones against people adjudged to be enemy combatants), and protects the right of “the accused” (not “the accused citizen”) to a speedy and public trial by jury of the district of the crime, to have an attorney, confront opposing witnesses and compel defense witnesses. VII, neither plaintiff nor defendant is even mentioned, therefore no citizenship requirement for either. The same in VIII, letting the agent be the government again (”
    Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel
    and unusual punishments inflicted”). Number IX says that “the people”–not “the citizens”–retain other rights other than the ones listed. Amendment X–and this is the last one I’ll look at–says that the leftover powers belong to the states and “the people”, not “the citizens.”
    So…no, you don’t have to not be a citizen to be legally tortured under this bill anyway, since it (apart from habeas corpus, I think) applies to everyone the military commission decides is an enemy combatant, which is to say, someone who knowingly and materially aids an enemy of the United States or its allies. (That’s right, you don’t need to be an enemy of the United States! you don’t need to be a combatant! You don’t need to be a citizen, or a soldier, or in the United States, or even against the United States to be able to be picked up and dropped in a hole for the rest of your life. Government-sponsored terrorism, like democracy, is available to *everyone* equally, regardless of nationality, class, ethnicity, gender, sex, age, sexual orientation or marital status!)
    And no, you don’t need to be a citizen to be protected from torture by the Constitution. (Otherwise we’d just–voila!–strip citizenship rights from everyone charged with a crime, and we’d have it covered.)
    –Correct me if I’m wrong, anybody, but isn’t it the Supreme Court whose job it is to interpret the Constitution and international treaties like the Geneva Conventions? Not the “but ‘outrage against human dignity’ is so *vague*” president?

  236. Brian: the thing is, the text of the Constitution barely mentions citizenship at all (Fourteenth Amendment, provisions for citizenship and protection from abrogation of rights for citizens from the state government; qualifications for presidency and Congress positions; the voting amendments).
    The first amendment prohibits Congress from making certain laws, including ones abridging “the right of the people peacably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances”. Specifically “the people”, not “the citizens”. Amendment II protects “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms”, not “the right of the citizens”. III applies to “any house”; IV protects “the right of the people to be secure” and is doubly specific by saying that it “shall not be violated”, making the governmental officials the agent of the (non-)action. Amendment V says “No person shall”, not “No citizen shall”, and again the agent of all the depriving and holding is the government.
    Amendment VI starts off with “In all criminal prosecutions” (all, including the ones against people adjudged to be enemy combatants), and protects the right of “the accused” (not “the accused citizen”) to a speedy and public trial by jury of the district of the crime, to have an attorney, confront opposing witnesses and compel defense witnesses. VII, neither plaintiff nor defendant is even mentioned, therefore no citizenship requirement for either. The same in VIII, letting the agent be the government again (”
    Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel
    and unusual punishments inflicted”). Number IX says that “the people”–not “the citizens”–retain other rights other than the ones listed. Amendment X–and this is the last one I’ll look at–says that the leftover powers belong to the states and “the people”, not “the citizens.”
    So…no, you don’t have to not be a citizen to be legally tortured under this bill anyway, since it (apart from habeas corpus, I think) applies to everyone the military commission decides is an enemy combatant, which is to say, someone who knowingly and materially aids an enemy of the United States or its allies. (That’s right, you don’t need to be an enemy of the United States! you don’t need to be a combatant! You don’t need to be a citizen, or a soldier, or in the United States, or even against the United States to be able to be picked up and dropped in a hole for the rest of your life. Government-sponsored terrorism, like democracy, is available to *everyone* equally, regardless of nationality, class, ethnicity, gender, sex, age, sexual orientation or marital status!)
    And no, you don’t need to be a citizen to be protected from torture by the Constitution. (Otherwise we’d just–voila!–strip citizenship rights from everyone charged with a crime, and we’d have it covered.)
    –Correct me if I’m wrong, anybody, but isn’t it the Supreme Court whose job it is to interpret the Constitution and international treaties like the Geneva Conventions? Not the “but ‘outrage against human dignity’ is so *vague*” president?

  237. Kevin, I wish you were in office because I think you could do a better job than some of the nutjobs elected. I am being serious, no sarcasm intended. Even though I think some of our politics might clash, you at least want to reason your way through this issues.

    Some more reactions to the dialog between you and Gwen and myself:

    1) I think you did set up a straw man argument; however, I think it was useful to the extent that it points to the logical leaps that I think a lot of Americans make. You said:

    “If person A can co-exist with person B and B’s culture/outlook but person B cannot co-exist with person A’s and wants to convert A by force or destroy A, then A isn’t left with much choice. We do not wish to become monsters, that is certain, but isn’t that also why we should have a debate and decide how we will proceed as a society in this instance?”

    Kevin, in your example, I would not agree that A is without choices but to be destroyed or defend themselves by force. B may want to destroy A, but lack the means. I believe this is precisely the case with those who have been detained and are subject to torture; they have been disarmed, and therefore lack the means.

    It is completely different if you have a CIA agent and an Al Qaeda member in a gun battle in the hills of Afghanistan. Then the gloves come off, assuming that the Al Qaeda member initiated the violence. I am all for the agent killing the extremist if the agent’s life is in peril and he is defending himself.

    But in the case of a detained extremist, while he may still want to destroy our culture, his means are not available. At this point, if we use violence we have become the monster that extremists and non-extremists in Islam label us because we have many other options available. For instance, we could detain the person in a special federal jail, sort of like Gitmo, except we would actually charge the detainee with a crime, and make available the evidence against them. If national security is a concern, we could make this court closed in some way to the media and public, but still have oversight from a neutral third party. The fact that we can contemplate these options is, I believe, a direct function of the moral underpinnings that helped structure the Constitution and our justice system. This may in fact be one of the main distinctions between us, and the extremists.

    But when we delude ourselves into thinking that violence towards another human being is justifiable when there is no clear and present danger to our life, then we dehumanize ourselves and the victim.

    One of the rally cries of the extremists is that we dehumanize followers of Islam. When we give them evidence of such, the extremists attract more followers, and those that who may not want to destroy us will at the very least undermine our other peaceful efforts.

    Don’t get me wrong. I would say there is a special place in Hell for all the terrorists who have harmed innocents (except I don’t believe in Hell). I think we should defend ourselves violently against their actual bombs and guns. But when we have them disarmed and alone, that’s when we show the restraint that some of the extremists do not have.

  238. Regarding Lincoln having suspended Habeas Corpus being a precedent: His suspension was within the boundaries set by that same constitution:
    “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”

    I’d say a civil war does fit the nomer “rebellion”…

    So where’s the precedent?…

    However AFAICT the US is neither facing Rebellion (at least at this time, it might change if things keep going on like this) nor Invasion…

    Just my 2 cents (Though these are Eurocents, so they’re worth just a bit more…)

    (PS: I just realized: as a European posting this, I might be in danger of arrest next time I visit the USA for training at my employer’s HQ…)

  239. Regarding Lincoln having suspended Habeas Corpus being a precedent: His suspension was within the boundaries set by that same constitution:
    “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”

    I’d say a civil war does fit the nomer “rebellion”…

    So where’s the precedent?…

    However AFAICT the US is neither facing Rebellion (at least at this time, it might change if things keep going on like this) nor Invasion…

    Just my 2 cents (Though these are Eurocents, so they’re worth just a bit more…)

    (PS: I just realized: as a European posting this, I might be in danger of arrest next time I visit the USA for training at my employer’s HQ…)

  240. So, I have a question. For those people who believe our laws, Constitution, etc, don’t apply to non-citizens, does that mean that a foreign visitor who commits a crime, or has a crime commited against, doesn’t qualify for legal representation or protection? Aren’t we always pissed when one of our citizens gets arrested, in say, Turkey or Mylasia and they are tried and sentenced according to the rules of that country, not ours?

  241. So, I have a question. For those people who believe our laws, Constitution, etc, don’t apply to non-citizens, does that mean that a foreign visitor who commits a crime, or has a crime commited against, doesn’t qualify for legal representation or protection? Aren’t we always pissed when one of our citizens gets arrested, in say, Turkey or Mylasia and they are tried and sentenced according to the rules of that country, not ours?

  242. Foreign citizens who are arrested on U.S. soil or extradited to the U.S. have all the legal protections afforded a U.S. citizen. This is fact, not opinion and not a subject to debate.

    That “detainees” are puposely NOT being handled by the Justice Dept. is the Bush administration’s lame excuse to have a way around the constitution. I can’t speak intelligently about whether or not the US military code of justice is being trampled as well, but I suspect it is.
    (Second paragraph IS my opinion, so feel free to call me dirty names.)

  243. John:
    In short, Brian, your language is your content, and I know you’re smart enough to know that. If you don’t want me to pick apart your words, write words I can’t pick apart. I know you can. Why you don’t is another matter entirely.

    OK, this is just getting silly. The three line excerpt (which was actually six lines long – I’m amazed no one’s called me on that) was an excerpt of Ackerman’s words, and seeing as how his piece appeared in the LA Times (as opposed to a staff writer writing about his comments), I made the leap that in addition to his job at Yale, he was also a regular contributor to the LA Times. Hence my words “those constitutional scholars at the LA Times.”

    If this was excessively unclear, I humbly apologize. I did write it after a quick check of the thread before heading home from work on a Friday afternoon, so it didn’t get a full and proper proofread. That said, I feel no need to prove to you that I read an article you claim I didn’t read. We’ll just have to agree to disagree on that.

    I’m curious as to how a law professor at one of the most highly regarded law schools in the world, who is also an expert in the Constitution of the United States, does not actually meet your standard of being a legitimate expert on whether this bill is unconstitutional. You made the blanket statement that no constitutional violations exist in this bill — not a statement of opinion on your part, you offer it as fact.

    It’s not my standard, John, it’s the legal standard in our system of government. A law isn’t unconstitutional until a federal court declares it such, after hearing proper argument on both sides of the issue. I’m not belittling Ackerman’s credentials here, merely pointing out that his opinion is not the last word.

    As to my statement of fact, rather than opinion, I think we’ve now passed through the looking glass of grammar vs. intent. Do I really need to begin every sentence with “I believe” in order to classify it as my opinion? Should I crawl through your original post and cite experts who don’t believe Bush has contempt for the constitution? Or find highly credentialed professors that feel McCain isn’t a moral coward? After all, you offered those statements as fact, rather than your opinion, right? Come on, now…

  244. John:
    In short, Brian, your language is your content, and I know you’re smart enough to know that. If you don’t want me to pick apart your words, write words I can’t pick apart. I know you can. Why you don’t is another matter entirely.

    OK, this is just getting silly. The three line excerpt (which was actually six lines long – I’m amazed no one’s called me on that) was an excerpt of Ackerman’s words, and seeing as how his piece appeared in the LA Times (as opposed to a staff writer writing about his comments), I made the leap that in addition to his job at Yale, he was also a regular contributor to the LA Times. Hence my words “those constitutional scholars at the LA Times.”

    If this was excessively unclear, I humbly apologize. I did write it after a quick check of the thread before heading home from work on a Friday afternoon, so it didn’t get a full and proper proofread. That said, I feel no need to prove to you that I read an article you claim I didn’t read. We’ll just have to agree to disagree on that.

    I’m curious as to how a law professor at one of the most highly regarded law schools in the world, who is also an expert in the Constitution of the United States, does not actually meet your standard of being a legitimate expert on whether this bill is unconstitutional. You made the blanket statement that no constitutional violations exist in this bill — not a statement of opinion on your part, you offer it as fact.

    It’s not my standard, John, it’s the legal standard in our system of government. A law isn’t unconstitutional until a federal court declares it such, after hearing proper argument on both sides of the issue. I’m not belittling Ackerman’s credentials here, merely pointing out that his opinion is not the last word.

    As to my statement of fact, rather than opinion, I think we’ve now passed through the looking glass of grammar vs. intent. Do I really need to begin every sentence with “I believe” in order to classify it as my opinion? Should I crawl through your original post and cite experts who don’t believe Bush has contempt for the constitution? Or find highly credentialed professors that feel McCain isn’t a moral coward? After all, you offered those statements as fact, rather than your opinion, right? Come on, now…

  245. Steve Buchheit:
    So, I have a question. For those people who believe our laws, Constitution, etc, don’t apply to non-citizens, does that mean that a foreign visitor who commits a crime, or has a crime commited against, doesn’t qualify for legal representation or protection? Aren’t we always pissed when one of our citizens gets arrested, in say, Turkey or Mylasia and they are tried and sentenced according to the rules of that country, not ours?

    My understanding is that a foreigner who commits a crime in the United States either has the rights of a U.S. citizen conferred upon him/her by us, or is deported back to his/her country of origin for trial. And when a U.S. citizen is arrested abroad, we expect the same thing, and often ask for extradition, rather than prosecution under the local laws for precisely this reason.

    Nathan:
    Foreign citizens who are arrested on U.S. soil or extradited to the U.S. have all the legal protections afforded a U.S. citizen. This is fact, not opinion and not a subject to debate.

    Why would a foreign citizen be extradited to the U.S. (as opposed to their home country)? Also, if this is an actual law (as opposed to a well-reinforced custom), then why would it matter if the Justice Department were handling them? That would suggest that either the military is not subject to the law, or that the law makes exceptions for crimes that fall under military jurisdiction. CoolBlue (and others) have argued that the requirement of military jurisdiction is what makes this detainee law inapplicable to citizens. If & when this law is tested, it sounds like this will be the lynchpin on which the constitutionality rests, no?

    Gwen:
    You’ve done an excellent analysis of the ammendments, but didn’t read through the constitution itself. The body of the document refers to Citizens constantly, and is even fairly specific about it, as in Article 4, Section 2, Clause 1: “The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.” Does that suggest that the laws apply to the citizens, but the ammendments apply to everyone? Clearly, we are missing something here…

  246. Brian Greenburg,

    You want to argue on details yet you wave your hands, “come on, now” when called on a matter of detail.

    You apparently cannot distinguish between a statement that must be opinion because it cannot be proven factual (“President Bush is a moral coward”) vs. a statement which is presented as fact and could indeed, be proven factual. (“the constitution has NOTHING to do with this”)

    “I feel I’ve directed that brainpower much more effectively than your initial anti-Bush rant.”

    Your condescending tone and self-aggrandizing comments are laughable.

  247. Brian Greenburg,

    You want to argue on details yet you wave your hands, “come on, now” when called on a matter of detail.

    You apparently cannot distinguish between a statement that must be opinion because it cannot be proven factual (“President Bush is a moral coward”) vs. a statement which is presented as fact and could indeed, be proven factual. (“the constitution has NOTHING to do with this”)

    “I feel I’ve directed that brainpower much more effectively than your initial anti-Bush rant.”

    Your condescending tone and self-aggrandizing comments are laughable.

  248. Brian

    “Why would a foreign citizen be extradited to the U.S. (as opposed to their home country)?”

    Because if you’re an Albainian who kills someone in Ypsilanti, Michigan and flees to Wawa, Ontario, we’d rather try you in Michigan than Albania. You weren’t in Albania when you broke the law.

    If you’re an Albanian who conspires with 30 other Albanians and a one-armed Turk to kill the speaker of the House, you’ve conspired to commit a crime on U.S. soil. Once again, the U.S. would seek to extradite you to stand trial on U.S. soil.

    Seems fairly simple to me.

  249. Brian Greenberg:

    “OK, this is just getting silly.”

    It is indeed getting silly, Brian, but most of that silliness is coming out of your new and inventive ways of retrofitting what you wrote to mean something other than what you wrote. This goes back to my issue that if you wish to be understood, you should seek clarity in your writing at the outset. It would saved me a lot of time dealing with your imprecision, and would have saved you a lot of time amending your words to mean what apparently you meant them to mean from the beginning.

    “That said, I feel no need to prove to you that I read an article you claim I didn’t read.”

    Well, I don’t think you haven’t read it now, at the very least.

    “Do I really need to begin every sentence with ‘I believe’ in order to classify it as my opinion?”

    No. But in the case of “spare me all this talk of constitutional violations when none actually exist,” it sure would have helped. Because, you know what, that sure reads like an assertion of fact to me. Among other things, if you were merely stating an opinion, why would you ask people to spare you all this talk? This assumes that your opinion is generally known among (at the very least) the readers of the Whatever, and that your opinion is privileged enough that others should be required to change their behavior, given their knowledge of it.

    This construction isn’t the least bit logical — I think you know full well most people here no prior knowledge of your opinions, and that even if they did, your own personal opinion should not dissuade those with countering opinions to spare you the details. Assuming that you are attempting to be logical, your statement that there are no constitutional violations (and therefore you should be spared talk of the same) is predicated on the notion that you are presenting a fact rather than an opinion. Because only a fact would have sufficient weight to shut people up, because as a fact it is irrefutable.

    Also, simply as a language quibble, “actually” means “In fact; in reality,” so your language certainly implies you wished to assert a fact here (actually can be used “to express wonder, surprise, or incredulity,” but that use doesn’t make much sense in this construction).

    Once again, Brian, clarity is key, and your writing here lacks clarity. Don’t blame others if your imprecision causes them to misintepret what you are saying. I know you think it’s unfair and wrong you’re held to a high rhetorical standard here, but what can I say? You seem to feel you deserve to be taken seriously, and I take you seriously enough to want precision from you.

    “A law isn’t unconstitutional until a federal court declares it such — ”

    Are you saying this as fact, Brian, or as an opinion?

    Either way, I’m not sure I agree 100% with your police work here. I think laws that are unconstitutional are unconstitutional from the moment they are codified. If you have a law that is determined to be unconstitutional, previous results stemming from that law are nullified, because, see, the law has always been unconstitutional, it merely takes a court of law to recognize it as such and act on it. If the law was only unconstitutional after a judicial determination, then previous results would stand, because before then, the law was constitutional (by your understanding). And that doesn’t seem to make much sense, or have much relation to what actually happens.

    Thereby, it’s entirely possible that this henious, jackass piece of legislation is even now unconstitutional, and it will simply be a matter of time for the courts to verify that aspect of it. You can disagree with that, of course, but I’m going to have to ask you to verify your theory that laws are only unconstitutional after a court ruling, because that’s a formulation that doesn’t track to me, and I’d want to see the text that says this is indeed so.

    Unless, of course, you’re merely presenting an opinion. In which case, I think your opinion on the matter is a bit silly.

  250. Brian Greenberg:

    “OK, this is just getting silly.”

    It is indeed getting silly, Brian, but most of that silliness is coming out of your new and inventive ways of retrofitting what you wrote to mean something other than what you wrote. This goes back to my issue that if you wish to be understood, you should seek clarity in your writing at the outset. It would saved me a lot of time dealing with your imprecision, and would have saved you a lot of time amending your words to mean what apparently you meant them to mean from the beginning.

    “That said, I feel no need to prove to you that I read an article you claim I didn’t read.”

    Well, I don’t think you haven’t read it now, at the very least.

    “Do I really need to begin every sentence with ‘I believe’ in order to classify it as my opinion?”

    No. But in the case of “spare me all this talk of constitutional violations when none actually exist,” it sure would have helped. Because, you know what, that sure reads like an assertion of fact to me. Among other things, if you were merely stating an opinion, why would you ask people to spare you all this talk? This assumes that your opinion is generally known among (at the very least) the readers of the Whatever, and that your opinion is privileged enough that others should be required to change their behavior, given their knowledge of it.

    This construction isn’t the least bit logical — I think you know full well most people here no prior knowledge of your opinions, and that even if they did, your own personal opinion should not dissuade those with countering opinions to spare you the details. Assuming that you are attempting to be logical, your statement that there are no constitutional violations (and therefore you should be spared talk of the same) is predicated on the notion that you are presenting a fact rather than an opinion. Because only a fact would have sufficient weight to shut people up, because as a fact it is irrefutable.

    Also, simply as a language quibble, “actually” means “In fact; in reality,” so your language certainly implies you wished to assert a fact here (actually can be used “to express wonder, surprise, or incredulity,” but that use doesn’t make much sense in this construction).

    Once again, Brian, clarity is key, and your writing here lacks clarity. Don’t blame others if your imprecision causes them to misintepret what you are saying. I know you think it’s unfair and wrong you’re held to a high rhetorical standard here, but what can I say? You seem to feel you deserve to be taken seriously, and I take you seriously enough to want precision from you.

    “A law isn’t unconstitutional until a federal court declares it such — ”

    Are you saying this as fact, Brian, or as an opinion?

    Either way, I’m not sure I agree 100% with your police work here. I think laws that are unconstitutional are unconstitutional from the moment they are codified. If you have a law that is determined to be unconstitutional, previous results stemming from that law are nullified, because, see, the law has always been unconstitutional, it merely takes a court of law to recognize it as such and act on it. If the law was only unconstitutional after a judicial determination, then previous results would stand, because before then, the law was constitutional (by your understanding). And that doesn’t seem to make much sense, or have much relation to what actually happens.

    Thereby, it’s entirely possible that this henious, jackass piece of legislation is even now unconstitutional, and it will simply be a matter of time for the courts to verify that aspect of it. You can disagree with that, of course, but I’m going to have to ask you to verify your theory that laws are only unconstitutional after a court ruling, because that’s a formulation that doesn’t track to me, and I’d want to see the text that says this is indeed so.

    Unless, of course, you’re merely presenting an opinion. In which case, I think your opinion on the matter is a bit silly.

  251. John:
    Thereby, it’s entirely possible that this henious, jackass piece of legislation is even now unconstitutional, and it will simply be a matter of time for the courts to verify that aspect of it. You can disagree with that, of course, but I’m going to have to ask you to verify your theory that laws are only unconstitutional after a court ruling, because that’s a formulation that doesn’t track to me, and I’d want to see the text that says this is indeed so.

    Of course, it will have to be brought before the court first before it is ruled upon.

    I strongly suspect several parts of the PATRIOT act are unconstitutional as well, but as none of those articles have been tried before the court, they’re still in place.

    And the problem with legislation like this is that it is actually *designed* to prevent it from being tried before a court as much as is possible beforehand.

    (I mean, if you do not have a right to writ of Habeas Corpus, and no right to a fair trial by peers, how are you going to challenge this legislation after you have been ‘lawfully’ designated as a unlawful enemy combatant, and why would you risk doing so before you are labeled such?)

  252. John:
    Thereby, it’s entirely possible that this henious, jackass piece of legislation is even now unconstitutional, and it will simply be a matter of time for the courts to verify that aspect of it. You can disagree with that, of course, but I’m going to have to ask you to verify your theory that laws are only unconstitutional after a court ruling, because that’s a formulation that doesn’t track to me, and I’d want to see the text that says this is indeed so.

    Of course, it will have to be brought before the court first before it is ruled upon.

    I strongly suspect several parts of the PATRIOT act are unconstitutional as well, but as none of those articles have been tried before the court, they’re still in place.

    And the problem with legislation like this is that it is actually *designed* to prevent it from being tried before a court as much as is possible beforehand.

    (I mean, if you do not have a right to writ of Habeas Corpus, and no right to a fair trial by peers, how are you going to challenge this legislation after you have been ‘lawfully’ designated as a unlawful enemy combatant, and why would you risk doing so before you are labeled such?)

  253. “Gwen:
    You’ve done an excellent analysis of the ammendments, but didn’t read through the constitution itself. The body of the document refers to Citizens constantly, and is even fairly specific about it, as in Article 4, Section 2, Clause 1: “The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.” Does that suggest that the laws apply to the citizens, but the ammendments apply to everyone? Clearly, we are missing something here…”

    The amendments are part of the Constitution. They have equal weight with the rest of the Constitution. That is their purpose.

    It’s like saying that because the first article doesn’t talk about the judicial branch, the fact that the third article *does* is irrelevant to the debate. I would say that the fact that other parts of the Constitution specifically refer to “citizens” and not to “people” supports my point rather than refutes it: obviously the writers were careful enough to make that distinction earlier in the document, so if they don’t make that distinction later it’s reasonable to expect that they don’t exist.

    Besides which, as I said, some of the amendments I cited *prohibit* the government from doing certain things. It doesn’t matter whether the government imposes excessive bail on a citizen or a non-citizen, deprives a citizen or a non-citizen defendant of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, &c., because the government is forbidden to do so regardless of whom it is doing it to.

    Otherwise it would be a lot simpler for Congress to give chancellorship to the president: just say that all people charged as enemy combatants are non-citizens. Screw them.

    Kevin: for the record, I agree with Todd. It would be nice to have someone in Congress who believed in the right of habeas corpus, separation of powers, *the Constitution*, whose only acceptable what-I-would-still-consider-torture is sleep deprivation.
    “As to your final question: “In what cases would you need it enough to do it, and you would need it to be legal to do it?”, I am going to assume you meant “and would you need it to be legal?” and say that yes, I think it is important that there be a written standard of what is allowable and what is not.”
    What I meant by that question (sorry it wasn’t clear) was, could you describe a situation in which sleep deprivation would be both necessary and sufficient to extract needed information, and that it was at the same time not needed enough that you (as an interrogator) would do it anyway even if it were illegal? (In other words, if it were illegal you still wouldn’t use it, but if it were legal you would, and it would fill needs that positive reinforcement/rapport-building wouldn’t–what would an example situation look like?)
    And I’m curious about how you would allow sleep deprivation (in general, not just in the example): for what duration? Or would it be indefinite, and only stop when the person gave you the information you were looking for? And if it’s pretty long-lasting or indefinite, how would you keep an increasingly noise/light-tolerant detainee awake?

    As you can probably guess, I’d be O.K. with it if it were for a very short duration and (for greater effect) maybe the interrogator told the detainee it’d be indefinite. But longer? I’m against coercive methods that rely on causing physical harm to the body. Eventually you could get someone to confess to *suicide* using sleep deprivation, and really any technique that you can use to get a false confession out of someone (within reason, since obviously you can get a false confession out of *someone* using any technique, you know what I mean I think) is, to me, torture. Which is “a technique that neither works, nor is morally right, nor is constitutional or acceptable under the Geneva Conventions, and that tends to be counterproductive because it gets made-up information from the innocent and turns the guilty (who has generally been trained to resist giving up information when in pain) away from the interrogator, also causing false information from those with true information because the pain or exhaustion clouds their minds and so they are far less likely to access the correct information”.

    (This is in general, not just at you:) I’m skeptical of the ticking time-bomb situation for the reason I’m skeptical of most hypothetical situations: I can’t really see it happening, logically, and I certainly don’t consider it probable enough to compromise on torture. You have someone whom you’re *absolutely sure* has the information about the location of a bomb that you are *absolutely sure* exists, but you don’t know the location?
    A response from that Terry guy I quoted earlier (he’s a regular on Making Light, I think, and so I went to his web page to make sure it was indeed the same MI): that situation is never going to happen.
    Or a response from someone else when asked “What would you do in that situation?”: I’d use a Vulcan mind meld! What’s the matter, doesn’t that sound realistic?
    Or yet another response way back when on a forum I used to go to: Gee, I don’t know what I’d do. Maybe I’d take a drill to his kneecaps. I don’t know what I’d do if an alien told me I had to kill a busload of doe-eyed little children with an icepick or the alien would wipe out half the world’s population, either.

    Don’t you all miss the days when comparing the United States to Nazi Germany would *lower* the level of accuracy?

  254. You people are not looking at the silver lining here. If the President has the unilateral power to declare an “unlawful enemy combatant” to include not only those who fight the United States but also those who have “purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States,” then if you couple that with the leaked NIE, whoever becomes President after Bush can lock him up and throw away the key. The Iraq War has been shown to have done plenty to “purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States,” so s’all good.

  255. You people are not looking at the silver lining here. If the President has the unilateral power to declare an “unlawful enemy combatant” to include not only those who fight the United States but also those who have “purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States,” then if you couple that with the leaked NIE, whoever becomes President after Bush can lock him up and throw away the key. The Iraq War has been shown to have done plenty to “purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States,” so s’all good.

  256. Nathan – Sorry about the delay.

    Credible sources that claim that Rumsfeld threatened to fire anyone who talked about it. Brig. Gen. Mark Scheid among them.

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