Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Weapon of Choice, Part 2

Phil's post on the torture situation has been updated with a link to this really very, very good piece of writing on the reasons why conservatives (among whose ranks I count myself) should be just as pissed off as everyone else - if not more so - at the way in which things seem to be going.

Here's a snippet:

If the prisoner torture should piss off anyone, it should piss off Iraq hawks the most. Although my views of the war are well-known, I know that there were many good-faith supporters of the war who believed strongly in the cause and who believe strongly in democracy promotion. But there is nothing – and I mean nothing – that undermines our efforts and our mission more than the torture of Muslims, especially when that torture is coldly calculated to exploit Arabs’ religious views. The whole thing has a level of sophistication far beyond what nineteen-year old reservists from West Virginia could devise. And to those we most need to persaude, it vindicates bin Laden’s claims that we are hostile to Islam.

You can’t defeat an insurgency – whether in Iraq or in the war on terror, which is essentially a global insurgency [I highlight this because it is the exact framework through which I believe, and have believed for some time now, we must view the "War on Terror" - Anthony] – by military force alone. That’s because an insurgency isn’t finite. Its numbers and resources expand and contract with public opinion. (This is the main reason why the whole "so-we-don't-fight-them-at-home" line doesn't make much sense, logically speaking. Our efforts have increased the ranks of those that hate us.) We can raze every city in the Sunni Triangle (and we’re well on our way), but we will never defeat an elastic insurgency if we can’t win the hearts and minds of the local population. If you care about the success of this mission, both in Iraq and more globally, logic demands outrage.


But all of the legalistic jargon pales in comparison to the more important point – it’s just wrong. Horribly wrong. The things we are doing to people violate the tenets of every major world religion. If you are religious, and you support this administration, I think you need to ask yourself some tough questions about whether what we’re seeing is consistent with your religious views. If anything, I would expect activist Christians to follow the path of their ancestors when they were the moral vanguard in the fight against slavery and for civil rights. I would expect them to be louder than anyone.

But no one seems to care. We’re torturing and murdering prisoners and no one seems to care. It is becoming more and more clear that this torture was directed from on high, and no one seems to care. It’s time to get madder about this, especially if you’re a conservative. The torture undermines the war, threatens your foreign policy visions, jeopardizes our soldiers, exposes them to danger and death, undermines the rule of law, and violates the core tenets of your religion.

It’s time stand up for your values or shut up about ours.

Just read it. Read it all. Right now. I wish I'd written it.

I'd like to just revisit the last line of Phil's original post:

...the damage done by this constant flow of leaks makes me think that maybe we'd be best served, in the long run, by simply coming clean about what we're doing.

I think everyone seeking to formulate an opinion on this matter would be guilty of dereliction of duty by not reading the treatment of torture in Alan Dershowitz's Why Terrorism Works. I'm not saying that I endorse everything in it - or even most of what is in it. However, it's an intriguing and provocative argument that shows some indirect similarities to James Gow's worldview (though I suspect that on the matter of torture their views would differ). Dershowitz argues that it is simply not practical in the real world to claim that torture should never take place. However, he takes the stance that the best thing, both in terms of practical effectiveness and in terms of not undermining our liberal democracy, is to have an open debate, thoroughly thrashed out in the public arena and to look into the idea of torture taking place under very exceptional circumstances with official judicial oversight - "torture warrants".

Regardless of whether you believe that an absolute prohibition on torture is a ghastly example of misty eyed idealism and a failure to connect with reality or not, it seems to me impossible to make a decent case that the situation in which we find ourselves is not offering us the worst of both worlds. The torture is happening - we probably don't know the half of it - and it is happening with nods and winks and sniggers. I see nothing in the status quo that is suggestive of either "moral clarity" or a leadership cadre that exemplifies "character". There's some bad shit going down and everyone should be concerned, regardless of party political loyalties.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Semper Fi!

Bill Adams

4:07 AM  

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