America Lost

I’m with Glenn Greenwald:

(1) The fact that we are not really bothered any more by taking helpless detainees in our custody and (a) threatening to blow their brains out, torture them with drills, rape their mothers, and murder their children; (b) choking them until they pass out; (c) pouring water down their throats to drown them; (d) hanging them by their arms until their shoulders are dislocated; (e) blowing smoke in their face until they vomit; (f) putting them in diapers, dousing them with cold water, and leaving them on a concrete floor to induce hypothermia; and (g) beating them with the butt of a rifle — all things that we have always condemend as “torture” and which our laws explicitly criminalize as felonies (“torture means. . . the threat of imminent death; or the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering . . .”) — reveals better than all the words in the world could how degraded, barbaric and depraved a society becomes when it lifts the taboo on torturing captives.

This is your government in action, Americans. This is some of what it does with your tax dollars. “It’s bullshit. It’s disgraceful. You wonder which side they’re on.” That’s what Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said not of the men and women in the secret police responsible for these crimes, but of the Attorney General’s move to investigate them. Amazing. That so many Americans are so ready to rally around the most vile, most obviously illegitimate arm of the American state is evidence for the proposition that patriotism is a tool for rendering a people ready to torture and kill at the state’s behest, or to tolerate it. I am disgusted that people who pretend to care about liberty are not disgusted.

Rep. King said that we (who exactly? The American people, the CIA?) must “do whatever we have to do,” must pursue a “scorched earth policy” on behalf of the secret police and their unchecked discretion to torture those in its custody. Do we have to wait for the scorched earth before calling this thing for the terrorists?

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42 thoughts on “America Lost

  1. “[The Constitution] is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other. “-Benjamin Franklin

  2. The torture described is revolting. But if people weren't so patriotic, perhaps they wouldn't feel so much shame about their country's actions. Patriotism doesn't necessary lead to tolerance of evil. We don't feel particularly guilty about about government-perpetrated evil in Turkmenistan, because we don't feel complicit in it. Misdirected patriotism can lead to terrible things, but perhaps it also provides an incentive for citizens to ensure that a country doesn't smear its good name with horrific actions.

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  4. Yes, torture is revolting to me too, but not as revolting as seeing innocent people leap from tall buildings rather than burn to death, as we saw on 9-11.Everything about war is revolting, but does that mean that we shoudn't defend ourselves, that we should just let anyone do anything to us they want?Geneva Convention rules are fine when they're reciprocal, but ridiculous when they're one-sided. However our use of torture would affect our own relations with one another, how do you think atomic bombs going off in our cities would affect them?I'll tell you one effect of it. Attorney General Holder would be indicted for treason.And he may be, even without any atomic holocausts. For if the Democrats are going to persecute the Republicans, don't you think the Republicans will do the same thing when they get the chance? Do you really want every election to be a referendum on which party's leaders go to jail, or the firing squad?How long do you think a democratic republic could survive that?As for torure, I'm only interested on one thing.Does it work?If it does, I'm all for it.If it does, I'm all for it.And,

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  6. The comments in support of torture are sick. We are witnessing the slow creep of conservatives toward fascism, and it's scary.

  7. What I find remarkably unremarked is this: even if you think the acts themselves justifiable for national security they were illegal, and to legitimize them is therefore to legitimize the arrogation by military men of powers rightly belonging to those we elect. Is this not how republics are destroyed? This is part of the history of Caesar, Napoleon… that German I won't mention because his name gets so overused in politics … Pinochet, Franco… many more. If this is allowed, we can only cross our fingers that the other elements required for our destruction don't arise.Remember Franklin: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. ” And, “[We have created] a republic, madam — if you can keep it.”

  8. Me too – whatever works! Which is why I'm in favor of torturing any evildoer's wife or baby in his presence; studies show this is much more efficacious than torturing the evildoer himself. Don't let it be said that Americans aren't a pragmatic people.

  9. S'all good, the FBI is now in charge. Problem solved. Seriously, I wonder if Tyler is right. Will exposing the torture that has taken place actually create popular support in some weird screwed up way? I guess we will see.

  10. Michael Drake wrote,”Me too – whatever works, I say! Which is why I'm in favor of torturing any evildoer's wife or baby in his presence; studies show this is much more efficacious than torturing the evildoer himself. “If that really worked, and was the only thing that would, and would prevent the atomization of an American city, wouldn't you do it?I would.And shut up, you little brat, or I'll give it to you some more!Skylights wrote,”We are witnessing the slow creep of conservatives toward fascism, and it's scary.”You're right. War is fascism. But so is fascism, and so is no war against it. Micheal,You mentioned Pinochet and Franco in the same breath with Napoleon and Caesar. Both Franco and Pinochet saved their nations from Communism, and are heroes to me.Granted that military men must be held accountable to the law, but not to politics.You quoted Franklin:””Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. “The problem is that we've already given up a great deal of essential Liberty for security, or safety. And that was not the doing of the Right. So don't blame us for having to act within the limitations that the Left has imposed upon us.Richard,You wrote,”Right-libertarians have no interest in liberty in itself, Will; just liberty for themselves.”To the contrary, we recognize that liberty for ourselves necessitates it for everyone. But that doesn't change the fact that war is not and c annot be Liberty, Civilization, Civil Rights, and merely police action. It is the cessation of all those good things, hopefully, only temporary, but possibly, permanent. That is a real and great danger. But so is not defending yourself. If you don't defend yourself, there is no chance for all those good things. The only chance for it is by fighting for it, in the best way you can.

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  12. Where does Greenwald (and by extension) Wilkinson get the “any more”? So far as I know, Americans are exactly the same as they have always been. Is there a serious claim being made that GWOT prisoners are treated worse than Nazi or Japanese prisoners? Or Confederate prisoners? Because I don't believe that.

  13. dg lesvic: In allowing that your own self-interest necessitates liberty you haven't given liberty itself any specific regard. Neither have you given liberty itself any specific regard in supporting man's inhumanity to man (even in response to a prior inhumanity).

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  15. I thought Richard was being pretty clear, but it might be difficult to interpret if you don't know what the word “liberty” means.

  16. mirabeau,I'm not going to ask you what you think liberty means, nor what you think Richard meant, for we both know that you're as full of hot air as he is.

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  18. Thanks mirabeau. Best to leave him to reflexively gainsay somebody else's comments, I think. I think he genuinely is unable to follow; whether from self-denial or stupidity I'm not sure

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  20. Then you will be interested to go to http://www.foavc.org and learn the facts about an Article V Convention. All 50 states have submitted 750 applications for an Article V Convention. The texts of the applications can be read at the site. Congress is obligated to call a convention and as the site discusses in FAQ 9.1 even went to court to declare it had the right to veto the Constitution in order to do so.

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  22. Repulsive as government sponsored torture is, it is trivial in scale compared to the torture and death due to preventable and curable disease among the uninsured. There libertarians tend to ally just as vilely with conservatives in opposing universal health insurance.If you want to oppose both, progressivism is the best route.

  23. Mike,How about the “torture and death due to the preventable” Road to Serfdom that “progressives” like Obama and yourself are whipping us along.

  24. Will, do you know what the US government is doing this very day? Blowing men, women, and children to bits and not just causing them pain, but ending their consciousness.Why not complain about that? Sorry, but I'm less concerned about a few hundred detainees than the other tragedies that happen in war.

  25. Well, whaddyaknow, it looks like the one man here who doesn't understand Liberty is the only one willing or able to defend it, and that you greater minds and truer believers here are as as immobilized by the one attack upon it as the other.

  26. Sometimes you have to do things to survive.Our system works when enough of the people running government have enough of the Judeo-Christian morals that are part of our founding philosophy so as to make sure we are making progress and that we are safe.Life is filled with gray areas. The trick is to be able to decide what is right or wrong in any situation based on ones morals. Again, our system has worked so well precisely because the the country has had enough people with similar morals.Consistent morals have been a key part of our success.(BTW, while I am no expert on Greenwald, I haven't agreed with much of what I have read.)

  27. >”Yes, torture is revolting to me too, but not as revolting as seeing innocent people leap from tall buildings rather than burn to death, as we saw on 9-11.”<So..two wrongs make a right? You're looking for a justification for torture. Does using the events of 9/11 to justify this make you sleep better at night? We reduce ourselves to their level and you approve because of 9/11? >”Geneva Convention rules are fine when they're reciprocal, but ridiculous when they're one-sided.”< Nonsense. We set those rules. We are bound to them regardless of what others do. We are the ones that set the moral tone. Ignoring that renders us as complete hypocrits. Geneva is what differentiates us from our enemies. If they ignore those rules, that doesn't alter our position. You can't claim moral authority and then undermine that authority at the same time and expect to carry any weight on the subject. >”I'll tell you one effect of it. Attorney General Holder would be indicted for treason.”<More nonsense. You don't get indicted for treason by enforcing the law under the constitution. Your emotionalism is overriding your ability to think. >”For if the Democrats are going to persecute the Republicans, don't you think the Republicans will do the same thing when they get the chance?”<The word is prosecute. Not persecute. And I could care less if Democrats are prosecuted for crimes in violation of the law. You're assuming a partisan position. This isn't about party loyalty. It's about loyalty to the constitution. Something you claim to care about. We are a nation of laws. Don't expect any sympathy for Republicans who broke the law and think you can hide behind the concept of “national security” to justify your actions. >”Do you really want every election to be a referendum on which party's leaders go to jail, or the firing squad?”<There's an easy remedy to that. Obey the law. >”How long do you think a democratic republic could survive that?”<If you're a conservative, I doubt that you're interested in democracy. Conservatism opposes democracy in every way possible. >”As for torure, I'm only interested on one thing.Does it work?”<Lets try it out on you. I'm sure with a little waterboarding we could get you to confess to sinking the Titanic, causing the San Francisco earthquake, and having sex with your grandmother. If it's the truth that you want, the answer would be no. It doesn't work. We could get you to say anything we want to hear. That doesn't make any of it true. Perhaps you should talk to a few of our people that have undergone these methods and get their views on the subject. I have. In fact I have a family member that has undergone this. Have you?

  28. >”Both Franco and Pinochet saved their nations from Communism, and are heroes to me.”<So you approve of fascist dictators. They're hero's to you? Why am I not surprised?

  29. >”The problem is that we've already given up a great deal of essential Liberty for security, or safety. And that was not the doing of the Right”<You must have been asleep for the past 8 years. You have lost a great deal of your essential liberty for security and safety under Bush and Cheney. Are you suggesting that they are not of the right? That they are leftists?? Are you on meds or something? You lost your 4th amendment rights under Bush for the reasons of security and safety. Your Habeus Corpus right was removed under Bush for reasons of security and safety. Your 6th Amendment right to a speedy trial is gone. We hold suspected terrorists indefinately without formal charges. The 8th Amendment no longer applies. If you are named an enemy combatent or a terrorist by the president, you can and will be tortured. In fact all your constitutional rights can be challenged by administration lawyers like the previous administrations John Yoo, and the law perverted to serve the ends of an administration that doesn't like being bound by the rule of law. And you are saying that this comes from the left? What planet did you just zoom in from?

  30. >”Is there a serious claim being made that GWOT prisoners are treated worse than Nazi or Japanese prisoners? Or Confederate prisoners? Because I don't believe that.”<Of course you don't. But I'll bet you believe in some supreme deity that listens to your prayers. We never tortured Nazi's or Japanese or Confederate prisoners. This is new territory for us. Courtesy of the right wing authoritarian mentality. We have the visable evidence that this took place. The bottom line here is that you don't want to think that your ideology would do something this disgraceful and so you try to justify it in any way possible to enable you to have a clear conscience. So..you live in denial and resort to euphamisms to call it something else as if that changes anything. It's like the criminal saying, I didn't rob a bank. I was simply applying “enhanced appropriation of funds”. And it worked! Look at all the good stuff I got!

  31. >”The trick is to be able to decide what is right or wrong in any situation based on ones morals”<The bigger trick is to ask yourself if you can demonstrate how your morals are true.>”Consistent morals have been a key part of our success.Obviously our views on morality change as we progress toward a more just society. A “more perfect union”. There was at one time a moral justification for slavery in this country. The majority of the population accepted that as justifiable. Even when it was abolished it took an act of congress to end segregaton and discrimination on racial grounds. You speak of morals as if they are objectively seen by all. I hear so much from the right about their “principles” which they would never compromise. Torture is distinctly anti-American. Washington would not permit it in the revolution. If the right wing claims to be consistant with their principles, and their principles are all about America and apple pie and the 4th of July…then how do they accept and promote torture which is completely anti-American and immoral? When they do, they compromise those very principles that they claim are never compromised. That makes them hypocrites of the first magnitude. Just exactly how do you demonstrate your principles and your morality as being true? What methodology are you using and can you demonstrate the accuracy of that methodology?

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