2006-01-23

Bush didn't invent torture

While the Bush administration has certainly been brazen about its policy of torturing its prisoners--defending the practice and denying it almost in the same breath--it hardly invented torture, as many liberals seem to think. Unchecked spying on U.S. citizens has also shocked liberals--a time-honored practice that dates at least to LBJ, and maybe to Truman.

13 comments:

Nadir said...

Very good points, Tom.

Your brother will no doubt use this article to defend his belief that because George isn't the first to commit these acts, he doesn't deserve the criticism.

Torture and war are part of the American Way, like apple pie. The national anthem is a battle hymn.

Paul Hue said...

Nadir: How can you perceive me as promoting Bush as undeserving of criticism? I have clearly expressed myself as opposed 100% to torture. To the contrary, I advocate a policy of lienency to most (but not all) abject monsters when it comes to revolution. The quest for 100% justice leads to unending war, due to zealous adherence by the old guard. I perceive the US Civil War and the current Iraq war as revolutions: the toppling of an established government (based in my opionion on backwardsness and oppression) and its replacement with a new government (based on constitutional, representative democracy).

Under the "old" rules, many people behaved abhorrently, though in concordance with those rules. If Bush's toppling of the "old guard" in Iraq includes horrible punishment for fast violations of the new rules, the old guard will cling mightilly. If instead the revolution includes massive forebearance for old guardians to agree to the new government (in tandem with feirce fighting), I think we have our best chance for the quickest peace. This view of mine includes comfortable (even desierous) accomidations for captured guardians; those on the battlefield should prefer capture to continued fighting. Capture must not be something that the enemy fears! I even favor quick release of captured troops... with stories and memories of disirable treatment.

I have very clearly stated my belief that progress is more important than retribution and punishment. In times of revolution, I would rather that the killer of one of my children go free in conjunction with a safety guarantee for my other children. I do not apply this view to the normal conduct of government, just the during the tumultuous and dangerous times of shifting from what I consider an unjust government to a government that I consider to be much more just.

I have read articles about Rwanda, and how former victims and monsters now live beside each other, in peace. The victims are generally just glad that the killing has stopped, and are not eager to resume the violence that mass justice would inspire. The former monsters generally are ashamed of themselves, and they face punishment now only for fresh crimes. I think that this is an acceptable price for peace, and I think that this is one of the areas where Bush has erred. However, I think that he has not erred as much as you and Tom do.

Nadir said...

How can you see the war in Iraq as a revolution? You're nuts.

Bush's cronies are the ones who put Saddam in power in the first place, so they are toppling their own 'old guard' and presumably replacing it with more agreeable 'old guard' politicians. There is no revolution there. It is a neo-colonial war of aggression. Plain and simple.

I wish you would stop comparing the war in Iraq to the US Civil War. The political situations are not remotely similar. You're grasping at straws that aren't there.

Paul Hue said...

Nadir: I don't understand the point about former US presidents having supported Hussein in the first place. Does this obligate current presidents to perpetuate previous policies? England, France, and the US all initially supported the German government that elected Hitler, and the US federal government for about 100 years support the sothern US states that maintained slavery. These governments also facilitated their eventual foes in various ways. This in no way undermined the extent to which these governments eventually opposed their previous partners.

The American Revolution was fought by people like Ben Franklin who had for many years been fierce royalists.

If you believe the current US war puprpose as an attempt to seize control of the Iraqi government and merely replace an old puppet who fell from favor with a new puppet, then you do not view this as a revolution, and the US Civil War will hold fewer relevent analogies than they do for me. Among the analogies that would still hold are a US electorate that is very divided. Perhaps in your case Vietnam is a better source for you (also a divided electorate). But for those of us who believe that the current president is attempting to replace a dictatorship with a democracy (which would be a revolution), I think that the US Civil War holds a treasuretrove of similarities. I side with the Civil War historians who view the US civil war as a revolution, and consider the Union forces to be the true rebels, and the confederates to be the counter-revolutionaries, attempting to preserve an institution.

Tom Philpott said...

You could call it a revolution, I suppose--but you would have to call it a non-popular one. Meaning ... fascist?

Paul Hue said...

On what basis are you calling the change "non-popular"?

How can it be "fascist" if the new government is a constitutional democracy with guarantees of free expression?

Tom Philpott said...

Well, rather than flowers, the liberators have been greeted with hails of bullets. Last time I checked, the US didn't even control the roads to Bagdad--two plus years after the fatuous "mission accomplished" declaration. The occupation hasn't been so well received. The revolution was not so popular. The "democratically elected" government is widely viewed as a puppet. As recently as a year ago, the US was closing down papers that railed against the occupation. The old torture prison was closed--and then revived as a torture prison. The way the Bushies have fought to preserve their right to torture, the way they let the decision makers walk while punishing buck privates, it's fair enough to wonder if they merely purged cameras, and not torture, from Abu Graihb. They've never even made a gesture to stop torture at Guantanamo, where they're holding (from what I can tell) a bunch of cab drivers, or the place where the odious practice of "renditiuon" takes place. I fear that your discourse is too simplistic to describe what's happening in Iraq.

republican brother said...

Here's a tupid question. Who was tortured by American Soliders? I keep hearing torture this and torture that. I have yet heard of one example of a detainee being beaten or electro shocked or starved etc. Is putting panties on someone's head truly the new standard of "torture". If that is the case, All the fraternitys better stop before they go to jail. This is insane.

Tom Philpott said...

Ah, the famous Rush defense. Several people have been beaten to death under US custody over the past few years--which is also, I suppose, true of fraternities. Perhaps frats, with their torture rituals, are not the best standard for our prisons. The other point about frats is that people enter them willingly--no doubt reflecting sadomasochistic/homoerotic tendencies in macho culture. The cab drivers they've got over in Guantanamo were pulled out of their houses under cover of night.

Paul Hue said...

Repo Bro: I agree with Tom that our troops have actually tortured POWs. And I believe that this has been an enrormous mistake. Bush's embrace of torture has embarrassed me as a Bush supporter. However, I also agree that the torturing by US troops has been a small fraction of what the Baathists used to do. The committed haters of Bush and the US (like Tom, Nadir, Stalin-loving Baathists, and medieval islamic fanatics) will recognize no distinction here. However, I believe that a distinction will (and maybe already has) grown amoung a substantial proportion of Iraqis.

Paul Hue said...

Tom: I agree with you that lots of innocents have been swept up as POWs. However, surely the nets have also captured a good many nazis (al qaidist) and fascists (baathists). I further agree with you that harsh treatment of such a population (mixture of good and bad) creates a defeat for the forces of democracy. I strongly oppose Bush in this matter.

Paul Hue said...

Tom: I agree with you that the Bushies were nuts to celebrate their defeat of Iraqis Baathist army. Though any of you peaceniks insisted that stage of the war would be very difficult, and fraught with very high US casualties (including strikes from banned weapons!), I had high confidence that in any case the true test would come after the Iraqi army fell. I also thought that even a war victory requires of the victors a somber face, in recogniztion of the terrible price paid, even for the enemy, which always includes civilian causulties, as well as enemy troops forced into service.

Bush's performance on the aircraft carrier befitted a Super Bowl victory, not a victory involving destruction of a nation's wealth, and life loss of its population. Bush should have taken a lesson there from Abe Lincoln. My shame at that spectacle included a reminder that Bush was a Vietnam war draft dodger who used his prestige to not only dodge the draft, but to parlay the opportunity into a chance to advance himself as a super cool jet pilot. Here again is a case where the guy I voted for embarrassed me. As a christian, he should regret killing even the most evil of his supposed brothers, and especially the innocent in even the most justified wars.

Paul Hue said...

Tom: As our mutual intimate, lifelong friend Vassar has told us about his workplaces in Iraq, the terrorists who control various areas there do so like the street gangs in the US. Just as the street gangs do not have popular support in the neighborhoods that they control, neither do the various terrorists, wheter nazis (qaida, shia) or fascist (baathist).

It only takes a few guys with machine guns to form a gang, and destroy the underpinnings of an area, rendering gang membership (or at least cooperation) a requirement for getting yourself and your family to the next day. It also only takes a few destructive people a few minutes work each day to render progress and prosperity an impossibility. Imagine the number of people and the hours it would take to build a house, and then consider the corresponding number of people and their efforts that it would take to stop the builders from succeeding.

Thus I cannot accept your observations about destroyers succeeding in various areas as evidence that the builders are unpopular.