Upchuck and Vomit

Earlier this evening, I blogged at Liberty Street about Alan Brinkley’s review of Jane Mayer’s new book, “The Dark Side.” At the very end of the post, having just heard about Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s death, I wrote the following:

Interestingly, just as I was about to wrap up this post, I read the news that Alexander Solzhenitsyn died today, at the age of 89. I expect that we will soon be treated to reams of laudatory praise for this towering human rights hero (which he was) coming from the mouths of people who are responsible for exactly the same horrors Solzhenitsyn experienced.

Well, guess what? It’s started.

36 Responses to “Upchuck and Vomit”

  1. Dan Collins says:

    Can you explain how it is people like that are responsible for “exactly the same horrors”? I’m not feeling it.

  2. Kathy says:

    When I wrote the post at Liberty Street, I was referring specifically to members of the Bush administration who are responsible for designing a torture regime based in large part on the Soviet model.

    The first response to Solzhenitsyn’s death that I saw at a conservative or right-wing blog was the one at Protein Wisdom. As you would probably agree, Protein Wisdom supports the Bush administration’s policies with regard to the detention, interrogation, and treatment of individuals arrested in the “war on terror” (although I’m sure you don’t agree that the U.S. has set up a regime of pain and terror that extends all over the world, but then that’s the point, isn’t it?).

    That being the case, I felt it was rank hypocrisy for a Protein Wisdom contributor to write about Solzhenitsyn’s greatness as a human rights figure and the horrors he suffered at the hands of the Soviet government. It is true that no one at Protein Wisdom (to my knowledge) is *responsible* for Bush’s torture regime in the direct sense that Dick Cheney, David Addington, John Yoo, et al., are. You are, however, responsible for accepting the administration’s lie that it isn’t happening, and/or that it is justified, and/or that the people being tortured are all terrorists who have vital intelligence which can be reliably extracted via torture, and/or that all of it is legal and constitutionally permitted under the Constitution’s supposed grant of blanket, absolute executive authority to the president to define the law as he wishes and break the law as he wishes.

    So it’s a bit much for anyone at Protein Wisdom to praise Solzhenitsyn for refusing to accept his government’s lies and for championing human rights and for having survived torture and exile and terrible mistreatment.

    I hope this answers your question. If not, feel free to ask again.

  3. Dan Collins says:

    That’s funny, because, as I’m sure you know, Solzhenitsyn felt that the US was too lax toward the Soviets, and savaged us for not having the will to win in Viet Nam, which he felt was responsible for the USSR hanging on.

    A comparison between the gulags and Guantanimo doesn’t hold much water, I’m afraid. Have you read the books? Are we deriving forced labor from the detainees? Are they, in your view, political prisoners?

    Your comparison is silly. The real collaborators have been people like Duranty.

  4. gcotharn says:

    Egad, Kathy. I say this with your interests in mind: rethink, retract, apologize. My blunt haughtiness, in this circumstance, is unavoidable, as there is no reasonable way to defend your assertions. Please reconsider.

  5. JoMomma says:

    Obama or die.

  6. mcgruder says:

    Kathy, I posted this at Protein Wisdom but I’d like to post it here too. Ithink you are rhetorically way over your skis on this.
    FWIW, I’m a big-time Bush detractor–you can check PW.

    Kathy, read Anne Applebaum’s “Gulag: A History.” Then, explain how the Bush administration use of Gitmo and Stalin-Kruschev’s use of concentration camps are analagous. No really, I’m not joking. Please compare the use of waterboarding precisely three times with the use of mass executions. Please compare the treatment of prisoners on the issue of forced labor. With respect to incarceration, please compare the nature of membership in Al Quaeda or the Taliban with membership in the Soviet’s ever-changing roster of out-groups.

    There are valid criticisms to be made of the Bush administration on this issue–and dozens of others–but you sank yous ship while it was in port.

  7. timb says:

    So, the learned folks at Protein Wisdom want to argue whether the the government they support tortures and detains people to a less DEGREE than the Russians? Funny how morality is fungible depending on who the President is.

    Most rational people would argue we should be different in KIND than Stalin and the gulags, but the Protein Wisdom are fine with a few broken eggs as long as we get an omelette. That they find moral peace in torturing only a few, because someone tortured a lot, must make defenders of Stalin’s defenders happy. After all, they could always argue Genghis Khan was worse.

    As for me, I’d just rather not torture, but I’m old-fashioned that way.

  8. daleyrocks says:

    “As you would probably agree, Protein Wisdom supports the Bush administration’s policies with regard to the detention, interrogation, and treatment of individuals arrested in the “war on terror” (although I’m sure you don’t agree that the U.S. has set up a regime of pain and terror that extends all over the world, but then that’s the point, isn’t it?).”

    Kathy – It’s been many, many years since I read the Gulag Archipelago, but I’m having trouble grasping your comparison between what the Russians did (as well as other totalitarian regimes sharing related ideologies such as Cuba, North Korea and China) and what the Bush Administration is doing. Exactly how many Americans is Bush stashing away forever beyond
    the reach of the law in forced labor in comparison to the above exemplary world citizens? Do leaders of the above countries inform leaders of their democratically elected legislative bodies, including the leaders of the opposition, of their activities? Do the above countries have a free press?

    Kathy, your illustration is way over the top and wrong.

  9. daleyrocks says:

    Hey timmy, you just can’t quit him, can you?

  10. Kathy says:

    That’s funny, because, as I’m sure you know, Solzhenitsyn felt that the US was too lax toward the Soviets, and savaged us for not having the will to win in Viet Nam, which he felt was responsible for the USSR hanging on.

    No doubt, Dan, but that was back when the U.S. did not model its legal system on the Soviet model. I mean, if you think about it, your statement above makes no sense, because you are talking about 30 years ago when the Soviet Union was a human rights disaster and the United States was a champion of human rights. I’m talking about now. I’m talking about the last eight years. The Soviet Union is gone and the U.S. in many ways has taken its place.

    A comparison between the gulags and Guantanimo doesn’t hold much water, I’m afraid

    Dan, Guantanamo is just one piece of this administration’s program of torture and legal black holes. This is much bigger than Guantanamo. This is much bigger than Abu Ghraib. There is a vast network of secret prisons and interrogation sites in other parts of the world and no one knows where they are, who is imprisoned there, or what happens to them. It’s an empire of evil, and that is no exaggeration.

    You need to do some reading on this subject, and I mean that straightforwardly. I doubt you will, though, because you don’t want to be put in a position where you might find yourself starting to think that maybe these things are really happening. But if you have not done the reading, you don’t really have a basis from which to tell me that *I* don’t know what’s going on.

    Have you read the books? Are we deriving forced labor from the detainees? Are they, in your view, political prisoners?

    If you mean Solzhenitsyn’s books, I read “The Gulag Archipelago” when it first came out, and as a matter of fact I have a copy of the hardcover edition right next to me at my desk.

    You ask if we are deriving forced labor from the detainees. I don’t know; I don’t think so. Is forced labor worse, in your estimation, than being snatched off the street for no discernible reason and disappeared into a secret prison, or a series of secret prisons, where anything can be done to you, up to and including murder, and no one will ever know? Is forced labor worse than not being allowed to sleep for weeks on end? Or than being put in a tiny cell not even big enough to turn around in with no windows, no light, and no human contact for months? And months? And months? Is forced labor worse than fearing, or feeling certain, that you will never see your family again?That is *exactly* the kind of horrors that Solzhenitsyn and so many others suffered in the gulag archipelago, and now we are doing the same thing, and it’s deliberate. We are intentionally modeling our treatment of detainees on the Soviet model.

    At least in Guantanamo we know, more or less, the terrible things that are being done to prisoners. In the world of clandestine interrogation/detention centers that are completely cut off from, and outside of, all human law and forms of accountability, where human rights and the rule of law are foreign concepts with no meaning or reality, we have no way to know what goes on, or how many have been driven insane, or died, not to mention how many will never be charged with anything and indeed are completely innocent of any wrongdoing.

    And yes, they are political prisoners — not just in my view, but in fact. They are being held for political reasons with no evidence that they have done anything to deserve being arrested or detained.

    Gcotharn writes:

    Egad, Kathy. I say this with your interests in mind: rethink, retract, apologize. My blunt haughtiness, in this circumstance, is unavoidable, as there is no reasonable way to defend your assertions. Please reconsider.

    You are the one who needs to rethink. I have read literally hundreds of books and articles and documents about this subject, and I think I am probably slightly better informed than you are. If you have read anything at all that is more substantive or truthful than Fox News transcripts, I would be very surprised.

    You could not be more wrong in saying that there is no reasonable way to defend my assertions. You are supremely, completely, utterly, and consummately wrong. You turn away from any sources that might make you aware of the truth of what this administration has been doing for eight years, because it’s too painful and too threatening to your worldview to know, and then you have the chutzpah to tell ME, as if I were a kindergartner, that I must rethink, retract, and apologize? I have been thinking, deeply and almost constantly, about this subject, and informing myself about it, in one way or another, since September 12, 2001. What have YOU been doing?

    mcgruder:

    Kathy, read Anne Applebaum’s “Gulag: A History.” Then, explain how the Bush administration use of Gitmo and Stalin-Kruschev’s use of concentration camps are analagous. No really, I’m not joking.

    Please. I know the history of the (Soviet) gulag. Re your Gitmo reference, see my comments to Dan, above. Re Stalin-Kruschev use of concentration camps: Places like Guantanamo, and the unknown number of secret prisons created by the Bush administration are similar in many ways to Stalin’s concentration camps. The interrogation “techniques” that have been used for the past eight years on detainees who for the most part are not dangerous, not terrorists, and not guilty of anything except being in the wrong place at the wrong time are very similar to the interrogation tactics that were used by the Soviets and by the Nazis. And there’s a good reason for that: the Bush administration copied them! Literally. Deliberately. The same acts for which former Nazis were convicted in the Nuremberg trials are now being done by the U.S., and justified by administration lawyers whose job is literally to devise legal justifications for breaking the law.

    Your use of forced labor as the gold standard for judging the heinousness of a country’s human rights policies is absurd and, imo, disingenuous as well. If you can find one aspect of the Soviet gulag that does not precisely match up with the American torture regime, then by gum, you are going to cling to that one aspect to insist that a global network of secret prisons, torture every bit as horrible as anything Stalin did, and the trashing of the rule of law is really not so bad.

    Please compare the use of waterboarding precisely three times with the use of mass executions.

    Setting aside the fact that we don’t know the extent to which waterboarding was used in this administration, your comparison is either breathtakingly dishonest, or simply and sincerely uninformed. You are taking one highly publicized, controversial, widely reported torture technique, making that one technique the totality of what the Bush/Cheney torture regime involves, and then comparing it to one of the most shocking, barbaric atrocities committed by Stalin and by Hitler.

    Here is some of what you’ve left out:

    Prolonged sensory deprivation techniques that can literally break a person’s mind apart.

    Prolonged sleep deprivation, which was heavily used by the Soviets, by the Nazis, and by many other horrendous regimes — and which can, by the way, be lethal. That is a scientific fact.

    Delivering electric shocks to sensitive parts of the body, like the testicles.

    Savage beatings.

    Being forced to hold excruciatingly painful “stress positions” for hours at a time, which in some cases means 18 hours, or 24 hours.

    Being shackled, taken to small isolation rooms, and hung by the wrists or by the feet from chains attached to the ceiling. And then beaten by several soldiers at a time, while hanging by your wrists or feet.

    Being herded like cattle into holding pens surrounded by razor sharp concertina wire.

    Being kicked, kneed, and punched until you collapse in pain.

    Having a group of American soldiers ram their combat boots into your back and stomach, while you cry out loud to God for mercy.

    Being threatened with rape, or with attack by dogs.

    Being told that your wife is in another part of the prison and is being raped.

    This is very much a partial list.

    But all of this pales in comparison with forced labor. Right?

  11. tas says:

    The fact that this conversation can go on concurrent with a national conversation about whether or not we should torture people — with the qualification that we are doing some torturing — astounds me. These double standards are why I can’t discuss these issues anymore without screaming.

    When did basic logic and reasoning fall victim to pointless, hair splitting arguments? Is this just an internet thing or has the right been doing this for a while?

  12. Kathy says:

    t’s been many, many years since I read the Gulag Archipelago, but I’m having trouble grasping your comparison between what the Russians did (as well as other totalitarian regimes sharing related ideologies such as Cuba, North Korea and China) and what the Bush Administration is doing.

    But do you actually *know* what the Bush administration is doing, and has been doing, for all these years? That’s the crucial question. It’s difficult to respond to statements like this because I don’t know what you think it is that you know about what the Bush administration is doing.

    Exactly how many Americans is Bush stashing away forever beyond
    the reach of the law in forced labor in comparison to the above exemplary world citizens?

    In forced labor? I don’t think that forced labor is a significant part of the Bush administration’s torture regime. And for the most part Bush is not torturing or disappearing Americans. Really, it’s mostly only non-Americans. But I’m going to pretend that you think torturing and disappearing human beings is inherently barbaric, even when it’s being done to those Others who are Not Americans. And having indulged myself in this fantasy, I will rephrase your question: Exactly how many individuals from foreign countries is Bush stashing away forever beyond the reach of the law? The answer, from Jane Mayer’s new book, “The Dark Side,” is that nobody knows for sure (it’s the nature of those secret prisons, y’know), but probably thousands. Let me say that again. Probably thousands. But the vast majority are not Americans. So never mind.

    Do leaders of the above countries inform leaders of their democratically elected legislative bodies, including the leaders of the opposition, of their activities?

    No, and neither do the leaders of the United States. It would be nice, though, if Bush would at least inform Congress that he’s torturing thousands of people.

    Do the above countries have a free press?

    I would think not. The United States, on the other hand, has a bought press. Which I suppose *is* better.

  13. BRD says:

    Kathy,

    I think the one point at which the analogy breaks down is the point you’ve illustrated here with your comments. And that is the ‘permissibility’ of criticism. When people were being sent to the Gulags for anti-Soviet humor, etc., they were being sent their for pretty visible ideological reasons. I have yet to encounter a single person who felt that they couldn’t lambaste Bush, curse Rumsfeld, and generally bellow about neocons at great length, for fear that they would be disappeared.

    I would submit, humbly, that your while your concern with treatment of detainees at Gitmo may be exceedingly well founded, choosing to compare the United States (a country in which you – presumably voluntarily – continue to live and continue to support with your tax revenue) to a country that, for a start, killed 1.76 million in its prison camps, may not be a truly effective comparison. I would further submit, that if your interest is in actually accomplishing some measure of change, picking inflammatory analogies that you are pretty certain that a number people will dismiss out of hand is not an effective strategy. I grant that there are large number of people on both sides of this particular debate who do argue in good faith. I would not wish to alienate those who argue in good faith by presuming to choose a rather abusive analogy.

    Regards,

    BRD

    PS, I did want to thank you for responding to the other comments here. I hope that a productive discussion might develop here.

  14. Kathy says:

    When people were being sent to the Gulags for anti-Soviet humor, etc., they were being sent their for pretty visible ideological reasons. I have yet to encounter a single person who felt that they couldn’t lambaste Bush, curse Rumsfeld, and generally bellow about neocons at great length, for fear that they would be disappeared.

    BRD, the people caught up in the web of secret prisons and places like Guantanamo and Bagram and Abu Ghraib (formerly), are not American (for the most part). I’m not sure why you and some other commenters I’ve seen (at Protein Wisdom as well as here) keep getting confused about this point. I think I’ve been pretty clear about the point I’m arguing, quite aside from the question of whether you agree or not. The topic of how free most Americans feel to lambast the Bush administration as well as the related subject of whether that freedom is endangered — for Americans dissenting against Bush’s policies — is a separate discussion. I don’t want to muddy the waters by starting up with that here.

    So again, I don’t know how I can really respond to your point above, because it’s a response to an argument I was not making.

    I would submit, humbly, that your while your concern with treatment of detainees at Gitmo may be exceedingly well founded, …

    I feel like laughing. Again, and yet again. My concern is not just with the treatment of detainees at Gitmo. I have said that repeatedly. Can you point to anywhere in what I’ve written that is confusing you as to the focus of my arguments? Because I don’t know how I can make it any clearer.

    choosing to compare the United States (a country in which you – presumably voluntarily – continue to live and continue to support with your tax revenue) to a country that, for a start, killed 1.76 million in its prison camps, may not be a truly effective comparison.

    Should I wait to voice my outrage until the United States has killed and/or tortured as many people as Stalin did? The point that you’re missing here is that this administration that has been in power for the past eight years has been spending that time very deliberately and consciously creating a system in which non-Americans suspected of terrorist activity (whether there is reason for that suspicion or not) can be swept up into a network of prisons, detention and interrogation centers — some of them known by name, like Guantanamo, but many more that are hidden, clandestine, and nameless to all but those who run them. Part of this system is a program of torture (the government likes to call it “enhanced interrogation techniques,” but that is a euphemism for torture) that has been devised with an attention to detail and to legal cover that is unprecedented in the history of this country. When prior to this point in American history did the vice-president sit down with a small group of high-ranking senior administration officials and draw up a list of specific physical and psychological torments that can be used on foreign detainees?

    The fact that the system I have just described (and described before) is not on the scale of the gulag created by Stalin and his successors, or that it does not include every last element of the Soviet gulag, or that it does not — yet — target U.S. citizens in a systematic fashion, does not lessen the heinousness of what this small group of unelected self-appointed autocrats have done. And although I have no problem whatsoever recognizing and condemning the horrendous human rights failings of the former Soviet Union, I feel quite strongly that until the people in this country who continue to deny, trivialize, and turn a blind eye to the ways in which the current administration has *used* the old Soviet model to create a contemporary, American reign of terror, and the truly terrible things that have been done and are still being done in our name rethink their position, it’s hypocritical to praise Solzhenitsyn’s stand for human rights while failing to stand up for those same human rights from our own government.

    You are quite right that I continue to live in this country, which is my country, and pay taxes that support the horrors being committed in my name. That is *all the more* reason why I cannot and will not keep silent and pretend to go along with the program — literally. Nothing, in my view, could be more antithetical to the meaning of being American than to view my living here and helping to pay for my government’s activities as implying some kind of obligation to keep my mouth shut.

    And if it makes you feel any better, given the realities of my financial situation for the past decade, the amount of money the government receives from me in the form of taxes is quite minimal.

  15. Dan Collins says:

    I see. So . . . let me get this straight . . . the US that abandoned Viet Nam and had Nixon resign under threat of impeachment had moral authority, and this one doesn’t?

    You’re a nut, you are.

  16. Dan Collins says:

    Two other things, BTW. Demonstrate to me where the Bush administration has requested administration of the harsher techniques you point out . . . let’s say electrical shock to the testicles. Can you? Do you take it as an article of faith that this in fact has happened, or does this simply fall for you within the ambit of things that evil neocons probably do?

    Also, you seem to leave out of this equation the fact that if it weren’t for the eeeeevil Bush administration, in all likelihood Saddam or one of his charming sons would be committing torture on a much wider scale, absolutely unto the death with nobody the wiser until someone came along to overturn the regime and the mass graves could be dug up to begin the forensic analysis. I bet if I were to search your site just a little bit, I’d find where you stated it would be better if Saddam were still in power.

  17. Kathy says:

    Demonstrate to me where the Bush administration has requested administration of the harsher techniques you point out . . . let’s say electrical shock to the testicles.

    The Bush administration has not made its list of authorized torture techniques public, as you well know.

    However, there is abundant documentation by human rights organizations, interviews of U.S. officials who objected to torture being a tool of U.S. policy, testimony taken from former detainees who experienced such treatment or witnessed others being subjected to it.

    Here is the result of a google search on the keywords “detainees in U.S. custody electric shocks.”

    http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=detainees%20in%20U.S.%20custody%20electric%20shocks&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

    The most interesting thing about this exchange we’re having now, to me, is that obviously you could have done this same google search for yourself. Your request that I “demonstrate” evidence or proof for you that detainees in U.S. custody have been tortured with electric shocks is not about a genuine desire on your part to have the information — it can’t be, plainly, since if you wanted the information you could easily obtain it for yourself.

    This is not the ordinary “You look it up for yourself” point I’m making. It’s a larger point I’m making. I don’t know what your motivation is for demanding this evidence, but I get the sense that it has more to do with it being just another way of telling me you don’t believe and you’re not going to believe it. These links certainly will not change your mind. Nothing would, except for the one thing that we both know will never happen, which ensures you will never *have* to believe it: That is, of course, Dick Cheney, David Addington, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Pres. Bush, et al. actually saying that they authorized torture and handing over the minutes of the meetings for publication in the New York Times.

    But as I said, you are safe because that will never happen.

    Also, you seem to leave out of this equation the fact that if it weren’t for the eeeeevil Bush administration, in all likelihood Saddam or one of his charming sons would be committing torture on a much wider scale, absolutely unto the death with nobody the wiser until someone came along to overturn the regime and the mass graves could be dug up to begin the forensic analysis.

    Is this a serious moral argument on your part? Even you can’t be this far gone, Dan. The U.S. tortures more humanely than Saddam Hussein? Torture under Bush is humanitarian and compassionate because Saddam would have tortured worse? How about interrogation in U.S. custody actually complying with U.S. and international law? Now that would *really* have been a refreshing change from life under Saddam.

    I bet if I were to search your site just a little bit, I’d find where you stated it would be better if Saddam were still in power.

    Go ahead and search. Let me know if you find it.

  18. Kathy says:

    By the way, the Bush/Cheney torture program is on quite a wide scale in its own right. It’s a global program (as I’ve written), which *has* resulted in deaths (exactly how many of course it’s impossible to know given the fact that the Bush gulag’s privacy is guarded just as conscientiously as the Soviet gulag was). But we know that detainees died in U.S. custody at Abu Ghraib and at Bagram, for example. We also know that the individuals who have been disappeared into these black hole sites vanish from the outside world and there’s no way for anyone outside the system to know where a given individual has been taken or what happens to that individual once within that clandestine system. It would be the easiest thing in the world for detainees in U.S. custody in those places to never be seen again and die with nobody the wiser, as you say.

  19. As the guest author of the PW post in question, let me explain to you the point of Soviet interrogation. It was to obliterate the victim’s personal will, by getting him to confess to crimes that he and his interrogator knew were false. The populace was thus kept in a state of constant abject terror, and thereby easily controlled. If Bush/Cheney were 1/1000th as bad as that, American lefties would be bones in a Virginia forest, instead of loudly proclaiming their courageous dissent on every media outlet in the country.

  20. Dan Collins says:

    My argument isn’t that the US tortures more humanely. But let us agree that torture is an evil. Let us say that the US military intervention has reduced very drastically the practice of torture in Iraq. Can we agree on this? Then, on an absolute scale, is the incidence of torture greater or lesser as a result of US intervention, in your view?

    What exactly is it that was authorized in the minutes of those meetings? Do you care to say, or do you simply not know?

    Bush’s gulag privacy is as absolute as the Soviets? Absurd. Hamdan successfully sued in the Supreme Court. That would not have been an option for a Soviet citizen, much less enemy combatant. And when you state that these people are political prisoners, you once again tread on that interesting territory regarding stateless actors. We know how Soviet troops treated Afghan irregulars. We know how the Russians have continued to treat Chechen fighters. If you would rather treat this as a police action, as presumably you would, assuming you think that such terror organizations as al Qaeda need to be stopped, then you have to ask yourself what police under these circumstances might do to those whom they catch in what they interpret to be the act of aiding and abetting.

    As for deaths, I am completely fine with letting military tribunals and civil courts, depending on the situation, determine what ought to happen to those who were in positions of responsibility when someone was maliciously or through negligence injured while in custody. I hope that they are tried. But how many people who were maligned in the press for years after Haditha, only to be cleared? Did the fact of their adjudicated innocence receive anything like the amount of publicity that the “massacre” did? I imagine that if the historical record proves that the evildoers whom you mention did not apply torture on a global scale (by which I suppose you really mean, or feel you can be meant to mean if it’s convenient to you, that by rendition they have invited torture as part of interrogation in a variety of locations around the globe, rather than so treating large numbers of people), you will be just as anxious to revise your conclusions. You won’t.

    Years of UN neglect and lack of oversight permitted Saddam to circumvent sanctions and stockpile tons of armaments that were then used to loose hell against, among others, the inhabitants of Iraq. The UN claimed the moral responsibility to deal with the situation, and did not. And we know how respectful of human rights the Blue Helmets are, don’t we? So, where is your solution?

    You haven’t got one. Violence ought to be the monopoly of the global community? Is that it? Be careful what you wish for.

  21. tas says:

    If Bush/Cheney were 1/1000th as bad as that…

    That’s just the excuse for everything, isn’t it? Bush et al. aren’t as bad as [fill in the blank], therefore — the next “logical” conclusion that people like you jump to — they are clean as a whistle. Any comparisons to the contrary must be harshly dealt with. Meanwhile, people like me would still be surprised that such proclaimed freedom loving people as yourselves could honor Alexander Solzhenitsyn for his human rights victories while praising Bush for his human rights abuses in the same breath… I would be surprised, that is, if this wasn’t the umpteenth time I’ve seen such displays of cognitive dissonance.

    Then, as if this rerun cartoon of wingnut talking points wasn’t enough, Vietnam is brought up like it has anything to do with discussion. The Vietnam War — seemingly the ultimate rightwing masturbatory talking point. Can’t win a debate against someone on the left you’ve targeted? Just bring up Vietnam, pin the loss personally on liberals (without studying the actual history of the war; and without having any knowledge of the temperament of the Vietnamese people who, BTW, were able to fend off Chingiz Khan, the Chinese, the Japanese, and France before we picked a fight with them), and whammo! You feel better already, right?

    I’ve always wondered if the mission statement of Protein Wisdom is to make the internet more retarded. Either way, they have.

  22. Dan Collins says:

    tas, you don’t respond at all to what we’ve said. AS was very much against the US permitting itself to be defeated in Viet Nam, as I’ve pointed out above. You all believe that was a high point in US political history. He was not a pacifist. He believed in human rights in the sense that everyone was responsible for them everywhere, although he was a chauvinist regarding Russia, or what used to be known as a patriot, if you prefer.

    Let me once again turn your argument around. Those who didn’t want to intervene in Iraq are selfish pigs who were happy to let the practice of torture and the farce of judicial review and the complete absence of habeas corpus continue to obtain there. And now you are going to lecture us about being torture enablers? If you go back to look at the archives at PW, you will find that we have always argued that human rights was one of the principal reasons that we backed the war in Iraq. We still have boots on the ground in Bosnia, you know. Quagmire.

    You mischaracterize what we’ve said. We haven’t praised Bush for human rights abuses. What we have said is that the good outweighs the bad, though you will never deign to recognize it. Padilla, Hamdan: I have no problem with these decisions. In extraordinary times, one will expect to find the several branches of government at loggerheads, and indeed, this is one of the conditions that best defines the US as a non-totalitarian entity. I have yet to see a plausible solution for the treatment of stateless actors forwarded by the left, because it is much easier to criticize and whine about disenfranchisement than to come up with a strategy. Bush’s mandate was to protect the American people under a new set of circumstances. Lincoln famously suspended habeas corpus under the conditions of a unique threat to the Republic, and was similarly savaged for having abused the Constitution. And yet, and in large part because Lincoln’s War resulted in the, at least theoretical, freedom of blacks from slavery, we tend to overlook the Constitutional issues, which were not always on his side.

    There are differences, or course, between the Soviet system’s gulags and Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo. For one thing, one was likely to be denounced by an an associate, hustled off by secret police in the middle of the night, and then forced to sign a confession that outlined his political crime. By contrast, most of these people were rounded up on the field of battle with AK47s. They were not Afghani regulars.

    As far as Viet Nam goes, I’m simply pointing out that you seem to believe that we’ve no right to speak about AS because we disagree with his core principles. But then when I bring up something that he was very passionate about that is incongruent with your own beliefs, you dismiss it out of hand as a red herring. It is typical, I’m afraid. You seem to forget yourselves that he was a warrior by training and inclination. And what’s maddest about this whole thing is that in the process you appear accidentally to grant McCain absolute moral authority to speak to the issue of torture, by virtue of the “Chickenhawk” precedent.

  23. timb says:

    Dan,

    your encyclopedic knowledge of how detainees were captured is similar to your other scholarship on the subject, i.e. lacking in information, utilizing incorrect analysis, and arriving at a silly conclusion. The US government’s own reports estimate that 86% of the detainees were turned over for money/bounty from Northern Alliance or Pakistani groups. Very few of these folks were “captured on the battlefield with AK-47’s.” That is just a line of bull you learned from Rumsfeld, back when you and he were relevant (2004?).

    You’d have to go a long way to convince Mohammed Arar, snatched from an airplane and tortured for years at the request of our government, that there is a huge difference between Stalin and John Yoo. After all, you, Yoo, Rummy, and your little band of true believers think that one Mohammed Arar is a tragedy, but 800 is a statistic.

    Oh, and if my I may be a bit parenthetical, quit bringing up Vietnam. it was 40 years ago and, while its evident self-involved boomer have never stopped fighting the hippies, the rest of us don’t care.

  24. Kathy says:

    My argument isn’t that the US tortures more humanely. But let us agree that torture is an evil. Let us say that the US military intervention has reduced very drastically the practice of torture in Iraq. Can we agree on this?

    Actually, no.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5368360.stm

    Then, on an absolute scale, is the incidence of torture greater or lesser as a result of US intervention, in your view?

    One answer would be greater. Or you might say it’s been a wash. A third way of approaching this question would be to say that the U.S. didn’t invade Iraq so that Iraqis could continue to be tortured, but not as much. At least, I don’t remember Bush saying that before the war.

    In any case, it’s a false proposition, because overall torture and the absence of law and the threat of terrorism has increased as a result of Bush’s actions — all of them, not just the one issue of invading Iraq.

    What exactly is it that was authorized in the minutes of those meetings?

    http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/LawPolitics/story?id=4583256&page=1

    Nobody knows exactly what was authorized in the meetings. All we know is that the meetings took place and that a list of specific torture techniques was authorized, backed up by attorney memos saying it was legal.

    Bush’s gulag privacy is as absolute as the Soviets? Absurd. Hamdan successfully sued in the Supreme Court. That would not have been an option for a Soviet citizen, much less enemy combatant.

    Hamdan is Guantanamo, Dan. None of the people who have been disappeared into the secret prison network sue in the Supreme Court or any court. I should start keeping a list of how many times I’ve said that Bush’s gulag refers to the entirety, not just Guantanamo.

    More later. Right now I have to go pick up the keys and sign the lease for my new apartment.

  25. pmm says:

    Kathy’s list of additional crimes of the administration had some serious padding and question begging. For example:

    Being herded like cattle into holding pens surrounded by razor sharp concertina wire.

    When detaining individuals or moving large groups of detainees, how should they be moved? Into what sort of enclosure?

    On another topic (‘threatened with rape”) I think there’s a distinct moral difference between being threatened with bad things as opposed to having the bad things happen.

    She also has three variations of ‘beatings’ in her list–beating while chained, beaten in general, and beaten with combat boots while praying. While it’s repetitious, it’s probably true that detainees get beaten while in US custody. Is that a new development, either policy-wise or culturally since the advent of the GWOT? Is that assumed mistreatment of detainees a bug or a feature?

    There are probably beatings taking place in pretty much every penal system in existence. Are all of those penal systems different only in degree with the USSR’s gulag system? Some thug in a CO uniform beating an inmate does not invalidate the concept of a state-run penal system.

    Finally, is the burden of proof on us or them? Do I have to prove a negative–do I have to prove that we don’t torture? Given that the concept of torture apparently includes ‘herding’, I’m curious how we can wage a war that will meet Kathy’s almost absurdly rigorous standards.

    P.S. The fact that Kathy strongly disagrees with the PW commenters yet still manages to comment without a bunch of insults is impressive and rare.

  26. timb says:

    Yeah, and a little more gracious than the PW types. Ask “Pan”.

  27. gcotharn says:

    Kathy,

    Solzy was a Russian patriot. The large-scale horrors inflicted upon his nation and his people were far more painful, to him, than whatever local tortures were inflicted upon his person.

    If your allegation were very narrow, e.g. the Bush Administration has allowed torture which is morally equivalent to the localized ways in which the Soviets tortured, then you could argue reasoned supposition about techniques likely vs. not likely employed vs. not employed, and about the morality vs. immorality of same. You’ve obviously done much research in this area. Your argument would be interesting, and in fact has already been interesting.

    However, your invocation of Solzy is bit vaguer, and (unconsciously?) prompts your readers to reflect on the totality of the horror Solzy experienced as a Russian patriot and as a humanitarian, which totality of horror far exceeds the horror from the localized tortures which were inflicted upon him. Solzy was more about his nation’s pain and his people’s pain than his own personal, localized pain. When you invoke Solzy with any degree of written vagueness, readers properly consider the larger wounds which Solzy’s larger life was dedicated to exposing and opposing, and which were by far the most horrific tortures he endured.

    Therefore, even if we grant every one of your allegations about Bush and Cheney and torture – even of thousands of people: scale nevertheless comes into play. Solzy himself would have never agreed that Bush and Cheney were the moral equivalent of Stalin and Krushchev.

  28. gcotharn says:

    Kathy,

    When I speak of being a bit too vague, I am speaking of these words:

    …from the mouths of people who are responsible for exactly the same horrors Solzhenitsyn experienced.

    and of my assertion that the horrors Solzy was most about were the large-scale horrors inflicted upon his nation and his people.

  29. Kathy says:

    pmm,

    Thank you for complimenting my civility. I appreciate it when that is noticed; it isn’t always.

    When detaining individuals or moving large groups of detainees, how should they be moved? … (’threatened with rape”) I think there’s a distinct moral difference between being threatened with bad things as opposed to having the bad things happen. … it’s probably true that detainees get beaten while in US custody. Is that a new development, … There are probably beatings taking place in pretty much every penal system in existence. …

    I think it’s pretty much a part of human nature that we humans can find a way to excuse, trivialize, or explain away really just about anything that we don’t want to deal with. Rape, for example, has been committed against detainees in U.S. custody, so we can label that very immoral and mere rape threats distinctly less immoral, but it will always be true that in any system designed to intimidate, terrorize, coerce, or abuse, gradations of difference will exist in the atrociousness or in the implementation of any one given tactic or technique or act.

    Everything is relative. I would argue, that the larger system or program or policy of which these individual acts are a part is more important. I can’t convince you of that, however, if you don’t want to believe it.

    When we’re talking about such systems in other countries, such as the former Soviet Union, for instance, we look at the system as a whole. We don’t tease out individual acts and say, well this is very different morally from this, or from that. Rape threats are less terrible than actual rape. Actual rape maybe is less immoral than Russian roulette, in which a gun is put to a person’s head and the trigger pulled with the victim not knowing whether one of the chambers is loaded or not, because there, even if the gun is not loaded, the person is being threatened with death, which is morally different from being threatened with rape. On the other hand, one could say that there is a distinct moral difference between threatening someone with a bullet through the brain via Russian roulette, and actually putting a bullet through that someone’s brain. If the gun is not loaded, and the prisoner does not die, that’s not in the same moral category as if the gun IS loaded, and the person DOES die. Even though the prisoner, obviously, does not know which it is, the other person, who is holding the gun to the prisoner’s head, knows whether the gun is loaded or not, so if he holds a gun to a prisoner’s head knowing it’s not loaded, that’s not as immoral as holding a gun to a prisoner’s head knowing the gun IS loaded and the prisoner will die.

    On the other hand, there may be some acts that even you cannot condone or explain away. For example, you did not mention electric shocks to the genitals. It may be you didn’t mention these because you can’t find a way to trivialize the seriousness of such an act. But in that case, you have your other self-protective mechanism to fall back on; i.e., the “burden of proof” argument — as if thousands upon thousands of pages of proof in the form of government documents, survivor and eyewitness testimony, medical evidence, etc., were not already out there, to be examined by anyone at any time. But of course, one has to *want* to examine that evidence and be willing to believe what the evidence tells one.

  30. tas says:

    tas, you don’t respond at all to what we’ve said.

    Actually, I think I responded just fine. It’s not like you’ll listen to me anyways — you’d much rather insert words into my mouth to set me up as a strawman for your arguments. For example:

    You all believe [losing the Vietnam War] was a high point in US political history.

    When did I ever say that? When did anyone ever say that they wanted to see the US defeated in war?

    By and large, I don’t see much point of continuing this conversation since I know the likes of you — one of the wretched Goldstein’s ilk — will take it to the depths of inanity just to look like you have a point; ignoring all facts along the way that don’t fit into your view of things. I pointed out your reference to Vietnam simply for the fact that it had absolutely nothing to do with the discussion in the first place, it’s just a point that righties like to pound their chest over whenever possible like claiming that liberals lost the Vietnam War is something to be proud of. Wingnut name droppings of the conflict is comparable to Walter Sobchak constantly bringing up the topic in The Big Lebowski even when it had nothing to do with the conversation at hand — both situations are hilarious and pathetic.

    The larger point of this discussion was that righties like yourself view AS in a hero’s light because of his championship of freedom and human rights. At the same time, you support the Bush administration’s destruction of those qualities. Vietnam has nothing to do with that.

  31. daleyrocks says:

    Thank you for responding. I’m glad you’ve read hundreds of books and articles, but much of your argument still seems to rest on the fact that you don’t know all of what GWB is doing, but it must be bad. You gloss over the fact that Russia and the other totalitarian regimes I mentioned was inflicting horrors largely on its own citizens. GWB is detaining virtually all noncitizens pursuant to two congressionally authorizations to use military force. Legitimate differences exist of course over whether detainees are treated in accordance with approved international standards, but I don’t think an issue of constitutional authority exists.

    Rephtasing the points of others and appealing to your own authority without addressing the substance of why your analogy is flawed is a cheap way to end debate IMHO.

  32. Kathy says:

    I’m glad you’ve read hundreds of books and articles, but much of your argument still seems to rest on the fact that you don’t know all of what GWB is doing, but it must be bad.

    No, that’s not an accurate paraphrase of what I’ve written here.

    As to your other point, I don’t believe that inflicting horrors on other countries’ citizens puts the U.S. in a morally superior position to countries that inflict horrors on their own citizens (which obviously this country has done, too, at various points in our history). Especially given the fact that one of the major premises behind Bush’s foreign policy is to show the world what a wonderful country we are, and how much we value democracy and freedom.

  33. timb says:

    off topic, Johnny Allen, if you want to come and play why don’t you stop hiding behind Jeff’s skirt? Or, is posting an opinion somewhere else too hard for you?

  34. Cinna says:

    timb: Funny how morality is fungible depending on who the President is.

    “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” -The Princess Bride, 1987

    Fungible does not mean malleable or changeable. It means “exchangeable” or “interchangeable” in the sense that “one is like the next”.

    Oil is a fungible. Grains are fungibles. If we have a bucket of water and we each drop a cup in it, we cannot determine which cup belonged to whom. Our cups of water are fungible.

    By dressing up your nickel sentence with a two-bit word, you say the exact opposite of what you appear to want to say.

  35. timb says:

    Fair point, Cinna. Did you know, your betrayal of Sulla resulted in your death? It seems “Cinnas” were always more interested in power than principle. One might think you chose your nom de guerre well, since you throw aside meaning in order to pick at nits. One might think that.

    I don’t. I assume you are an expert in language who helpfully corrects posts five days later and is a fan of Rob Reiner.

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