Saturday, February 12, 2005

Decadence of the Left

Decadent Leftist decided to attack me in the comments section of this blog. After responding, I decided to check out his profile ... and discovered that he was a proud participant in the Transplanted Texan Fan Club, a blog dedicated (so near as I can tell) to ripping a good friend of mine. Small world! I said to myself. So I mosied on over to said blog, and discovered - to my immense surprise - a litany of ad hominem attacks that don't seem to bother with even the most basic level of intellectual engagement, preferring instead to mock people's weight, sex lives, and other such utterly irrelevent aspects of their opponents. (Well, okay, it's not quite that bad. I exagerate. But not much.) Really, this post is just to marvel at the fact that my friend pissed these losers off so much that they (by their own admission) spent a month trying to debunk what he was saying.

Which really, when you think about it, says a lot about the state of the left these days. On the one hand, you have people trying to come up with creative solutions to the problems that plague our world (you know, nuclear terrorism, the demographic crash and the resulting social security fallout.) On the other you have people whose response is usually along the lines of "What you say is wrong, because you're a racist/sexist/cultural bigot, and anyway, you're fat and can't get laid, so obviously you're stupid and your ideas have no merit, which is why I won't bother trying to debunk your ideas or even propose ideas of my own." Because, you know, smart people have always been attractive, charismatic sex kittens. I remember from my days as a physics major, I mean, wow, I was absolutely surrounded by gorgeous, witty people. One had only to bask in their radiant presence, and know everything they said was Right and True, because they were all Beautiful People. Proving theorems through the rigorous application of mathematical and empirical discipline was completely beside the point; all one had to do was show the prof a dazzling smile full of perfectly capped pearly whites, and he knew that what you said was right. Even if you said bricks can fly and triangles have two corners. After all, it's all relative, right?

I suppose after writing this I'm going to get lots of hateful, petty remarks in my comments section. C'mon, guys, prove me wrong! Grit your teeth, mutter "What an asshole," under your breath, and go back to your comforting echo chamber. Or, you can fill my comments with LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS AND MANY (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) EXCLAMATION MARKS just like you have plastered all over your spiteful blog, and call me fat and stupid and racist and, really, just prove my point for me.


Blogger Decadent Leftist said...

No one's ever written a "YOU BIG INTERNET MEANINES"* post for me before.

I should feel honored.

I would feel more honored if you actually responded to my valid points surrounding my post re: Gitmo.

Your response was an ad hominem attack on me. I wasn't insulting you, i was tyring to have discourse- that included using the same tone on you that you used on me.

You jumped the gun big time. Did i delve immediately into ridicule like you accuse me of doing? No. Did i make fun of you for proclaiming you are a liberaltarian and worshiping Ayn Rand?(and i should) No. Did I call you a sad sack or make up stories about you? No.

I dind't come here looking for a fight. I just wanted you to concede a point that you happened to be incorrect about. Mature adults can do that- they can admit defeat and wrongs they have held. They can use these mistakes to grow as an individual and evolve intellectually.

Your snarky misdirection attempt posted here is not a sign of a mature decision maker or a intellectually developed individual familiar with the intracties of discourse and debate.

A question and debate is not an attack. It says a lot about the state of the right (especially the excessively self-important "blogosphere")these days when a question and criticism about something that could very well be PATIENTLY WRONG** is taken as a personal attack.

If you want personal attacks (which are done for fun- its better than TV) my collegues can do exactly that. I won't. I want to discuss.

But hey- you want to use this as a bizzare oppurtunity to air your personal insecurities and hang-ups go ahead.

You still haven't answered my Gitmo question.

*Look- caps!!!eleven!!!

6:05 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

"Nice spelling by the way. I gues it speaks volumes about our culture when we've become too advanced to bother with even a cursory proof read."



Just, you know, when you make fun of a guy for spelling mistakes, it's usually best to avoid such mistakes oneself. Oh, and I didn't even point out the numerous grammatical errors.

Yup, I'm whupped all right. Boy-howdy, did you show me. Wiped the floor with me intellectually, won the debate hands down what with your 'intract' arguments and all ... why, I find I must admit defeat. Apparently, humorless troll that you are, you never noticed that the Camp XXX-Ray post was made in the way of a JOKE. In bad taste, yes, but then this is the internet, not the Disney channel. Grow up.

8:29 AM  
Blogger Decadent Leftist said...

I would apprecaite this debate even more if you bothered to even look over your post for spelling and grammatical erors. It bothers me. It makes you look bad.

Also, what a little wuss. Backing off from your ignorant post and how you;ve backed your self into an intellectal corner with your defense of torture.

Seeing as how you earlier made comments to the effect of IM GLAD THOSE MUSLIM DUMMIES HAVE TO SEE BOOBIES and even admitted to me that you "didn't read the article closely" (also, brilliant sources- an online right wing newspaper and a forum for people who jerk off to pictures of guns and tanks- would it have killed you link to AP or Reuters?) and then went on with total seriousness regarding the glorious achievements of the West and how the savages of the Orient wallowed in the dirt (not sure on exact wording-but its there) i assumed you WERE being serious. Silly me.

Nice. It only took you about 4 posts to do the I WAS TROLLING ALL ALONG HAHAHAHAHA! tactic.

Personally, I don't think you are in any postion to have a website where you opine about politics and current events. You are far too immature, shrill, pig headed and ill-informed to do so.

Maybe once you grow up, you can try this again.


You still haven't given me a satisfactory answer regaring your support of torture. I suggest looking at and then parroting back anything by Alan Dershowitz(sp!!!)- he has justified it in the past and makes a better argument than the ususal "MUSLIM WUSSES" and "FRAT PRANK" that people with your idelogical bent usually subscribe to.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

I seem to recall it was you that first brought up the issue of typographical exactitude. I make no claim to linguistic perfection; I was simply suggesting that, in the future, you hold yourself to your the standards to which you attempt to hold others. Glass houses and all that. While I'm on the subject of grammar, the truly awful contortions of your sentences make it occasionally difficult to follow your meaning. "It only took you about 4 posts to do the I WAS TROLLING ALL ALONG HAHAHAHAHA! tactic," seems to imply that I was identifying myself as the troll. I'll assume that this misunderstanding is a result of your poor sentence structure, as otherwise you are dimmer than I thought.

As far as responding to the issue of torture, well. I honestly thought that I had ... but looking back, I seem to have forgotten to. Fair enough, so, let me lay it out: given the choice between terrorists successfully nuking, say, New York City, and forcing a few hundred of them to look at naked titties, well, I know which I prefer. You may believe that my position is ill-considered, simplistic, or evil, but that is my position. It's not something I devote a lot of thought to, because to be perfectly honest the fate of people who have openly espoused the destruction of everything I hold dear does not greatly concern me. However, I will also say that I am completely against real torture, you know, the kind that involves maiming people. Not only is it morally wrong to inflict physical pain, it is also (so far as gathering information goes) not particularly productive. However, there has been no mention (so far as I am aware) of the U.S. using actual torture, at Camp X-Ray or elsewhere. Therefore, it is a non-issue.

You take issue with my position that Western civilization might - just might - have something to offer the world. That maybe we've figured out a few things that might be worth spreading around, to the general benefit of humanity (and, naturally, ourselves.) So, let me ask you this: what, in the past, say, five hundred years, has Western civilization contributed to the enterprise of civilization as a whole? And what has Islamic civilization contributed? That our civilization has accomplished so much more might be an accident of history, but then again it might not.

This does not mean that I think Muslims are inherently inferior. It means I think their civilization is gravely ill; indeed, they were once far more civilized than my own ancestors, many of whom until relatively recently were little better than barbarians. I also believe that Islamic civilization can be cured, and that, say, two generations from now, Iraq could be the next Japan, Egypt the next South Korea, Lebanon the next Taiwan. Our kids might well be worrying about out-competing the Mid-East tiger economies, and avidly consuming the latest bizarre Iraqi animation. This makes me an idealist, I know, a believer in the fundamental desire of all humans, of any ethnic background, for a better tomorrow ... oddly, that's what the left used to be known for.

And, by the by, what's with "I don't think you are in any position to have a website where you opine about politics and current events?" It's a blog, dipstick. The very definition of blog is that anyone is in a position to comment. Having a degree in political science might help with credibility, but then, I'm not exactly here to influence U.S. foreign policy. I shouldn't have to explain this to you. If what I say offends you, then don't read it.

Oh, and as a final note, calling someone 'immature, shrill, pig headed and ill-informed' might work in the school-yard. It is hardly a closely reasoned debating tactic.

However, I will at this point put out a flag of truce. If you really are willing to debate, I'm game. I will refrain from making any more insults if you extend to me the same courtesy, and we can have a reasonable correspondence regarding the issues of the day. Or, you could not respond, and just go away. Or, you could respond in the same tone which you have tended towards, and confirm my suspicion that you are, in fact, a troll.

1:15 PM  
Blogger Decadent Leftist said...

Not to be rude (I accept your truce)
but this statement that you wrote:

"And what has Islamic civilization contributed?"

Shows that you need to hit your history books pronto. You are ignoring the fact without the stewardship and advances of Islamic civilization, there would be NO "Western"* civilzation today. Europeans would still be squatting in the dirt and hitting each other with axes.
And i won't bother entering into a debate here about what imperalism and colonalism did to what we now refer to as the "developing" world.

Re: Torture. If you check the definitions of torture agreed upon via custom or treaty at the international level, you will see that what is happening at Gitmo does consitute not only torture, but a gross violation of human and legal rights.

This is not a minority or extreme left position. Many people have expressed reservations about Gitmo. Allegations of torture-and according to the international defintion of torture agreed upon by both the international community (via the UN) and the American Senate(domestically)- mental abuse DOES constitue torture. There's no weasling out of this definition, since most members of the international community have signed onto the declaration and its definitions, thereby transforiming it from a treaty and custom into an international "norm".

For resverations from your own idelogical bent regarding this position, I invite you to check "The Economist" from the first week of November, 2004.

The offical mouthpiece of free market liberalism choose to endore Kerry over Bush due to the gross legal and human rights violations that are being committed there in the name of security and "freedom". According to the editors:
"Guantánamo Bay offers constant evidence of America's hypocrisy, evidence that is disturbing for those who sympathise with it, cause-affirming for those who hate it."

The use of torture SHOULD be an issue for you. It is incredibly disturbing that a liberal democracy that is supposed to espouse the ideals of freedom, liberty and security of the person is engaging in such activites. You should be VERY concerned.

Regarding the "forcing those who want to destory the US to look at naked titties" argument.
There is a good chance that some prisioners in Gitmo, Abu Graib and the other camps the US has around the world may be innocent of any wrongdoing against the United States and its forces. Combatiants should be rounded up and imprisioned, but they should be afforded legal protections as well in the off chance they may not have done anything wrong at all. Not a new principle, as most liberal deomocracies hold such principles in their constitutions and legal codes.
And don't say something about the brilliance of American intelligence who, like the Mounties, always get their man. Then you will make me laugh.

* I take issue with the arbitraty decision to separate the world into outmoded divisions like "THE WEST" &
"THE ORIENT". Not that there's anything wrong with using "the west" in such a context- i use it in such a context as well- but i refuse to believe that one "civilization" ends and another magically begins at the banks of the Bohsporus and the foothills of the Urals.

11:03 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Actually, I meant in the last 500 years, not just for us but for Islamic civilization as well. I am fully aware of enourmess contributions from Muslim scholars in fields such as astronomy, mathematics, and medicine, not to mention literary contributions such as the invention of the travel genre and some poetry which is, I hear, quite good (though I haven't read much myself, not being much for poetry.) But, that was all a long time ago. Over the past 500 years, Islamic civilization succumbed to the same decadence that seems to take every civilization, after a while. Not everywhere at the same time, and not all at once, and not to the same degree ... but the fact remains, they fell behind and turned in on themselves. A similar lassitude afflicted the Chinese, from which they have only lately started to emerge; the consequences were, for them, far worse than anything the Islamic world has ever experienced, at least in the 20th century. If they can claw themselves back from the abyss they had fallen into, then so can the Muslims ... especially if the U.S. removes some of the obstacles in their way.

Regarding innocents at Gitmo. A problem, yes; a similar problem afflicts the capital punishment debate. However, I imagine - or at least hope - that the majority that have been taken are, in fact, guilty of association with terrorists. Now, keeping things in perspective, they're not being slaughtered, and they're not really being tortured, at least not physically; they are, however, having their heads severely fucked with. Which can, I imagine, prove traumatic. I'd call this one a problem for the courts; if a detainee is innocent, he should be entitled to recompense, probably monetary, both for lost time and mental anguish. For those who, however, are in fact terrorists ... well, I have far less sympathy for them. I imagine there are those in there who have done far worse, or would were the shoe on the other foot. That would not excuse, of course, using the same tactics they do ... but there's a big difference between broadcasting the beheading of an election worker, a reporter, or the kitchen staff, and deliberately offending a man's sexual mores. Perspective is important in wartime.

I think the best article I've yet read on torture at X-Ray was published in Reason, a while back; basically it said that its use was a sign of desperation, and possibly weakness. I'm not sure he's right, but I'm not sure he's wrong, either.

6:42 AM  
Blogger Decadent Leftist said...

RE: Islamic culture. You avoid the impact that imperalism and colonalism has had on the entire world, espeically the "developing" one. But thats a debate for a different time.

"Now, keeping things in perspective, they're not being slaughtered"You dont know this for certain- no one does. Since the United States has committed itself to in camera tribunals and a veil of total secrecy regarding the treatment and ultimate fate of the detainees, we have no idea what really is going on. I'd like to think that the US isn't doing this, but i have my doubts. No transparency and total secrecy is a bad thing no matter where you are.

After all- what country set up the School of the Americas and had (has) CIA trained death squads in Latin America? Sure wouldn't like to be a Catholic nun when those guys come to the village...
(That's as close as I'll get to the "Nick Berg" argument. Its weak, overly emotional and cheap- sort of like calling someone a Nazi. And I certainly hope by "broadcasting a beheading" you are not referring to Al-Jazeera which has NEVER shown such a video. If you are refering to a TERRORIST GROUP broadcasting it over the internet (and the American site picking it up) then you are in the right. Of course, i could say there's a big difference between a country that defends itself from forgien invaders by striking at collaborators and troops and an army that drops bombs from high in the sky and fires missles from thousands of miles away, killing children in their beds- but that would be a ridiculious argument. [See?])

And you don't seem to understand this point: by the United States' own standards and international committments, norms and standards what is being done at Gitmo (Mental abuse at the very least. After Abu Graib it would not be a strech to think that there is actual phyisical abuse taking place) does consititue torutre. Focusing only on the mental abuse angle, let's look at it in a domestic situation. If a confession from a suspect in police custody was obtained under similar cirumstances, it would be thrown out of court immediately.

The thing is though that torture consitutes a jus cogens (compelling law) in international law. Which (according to international lawyers) represents a "peremptory principle of international law that cannot be overriden by specific treaties between countries; that is: norms that admit of no derogation; they are binding on all states at all times". Crimes such as genocide, slavery, systemic rape and TORTURE consitute violations of this- the offensives are so serious, they cannot be ignored EVER.
There are specific definitions. Capital punishment included as one of them- for the time being- it is still regarded as a domestic affair . So the torture debate is no where analogous to the capital punishment one.

As for the "ITS WARTIME, THE RULES HAVE CHANGED" argument. That doesn't hold water at all. International norms, laws and treaties mostly spring up from war and violence. The concepts of prosecuting genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes are reactions to the horrors of war. The great legal thinkers of the past looked at what had been done by their enemies and countrymen and developed a series of norms and treaties to act as brakes on the violent impulses of states.
Don't say we need to consider prespective in wartime- we have already learned from it in the past.

8:34 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

You're right that I don't know for certain that the prisoners aren't being slaughtered. I have no proof of that, just my faith in the essential decency of American people, soldiers and civilians alike. I freely admit I could be wrong about that, and if in the future it turns out that the detainees are, in fact, being lined up and summarily executed, I'll be as angry and disgusted as anyone.

As far as transparency goes, I'm with you completely. In fact, my position on transparency is essentially David Brin's (google 'Transparent Society', or just go straight to his website ... it's very thought-provoking.) Secrecy is almost always corrosive but, more to the point, total openness makes it just as difficult for hostile elements to successfully carry out their attacks, as it does for the government to hide its less-than-savoury activities.

You're right, by the way, that I should have said 'webcasting' when referring to the beheadings, as that was in fact what I was referring to. Sloppy terminology on my part.

You seem quite knowledgeable about legal matters ... more so than me, obviously (I make no pretense to expertise in these matters, and am willing to admit that my positions may be ill-informed on occasion.) So, here's a question: if 'mental abuse' constitutes torture, then where is the line drawn between interrogation and torure? Police are known for playing head games with suspects, and are often (though of course not always) completely within their legal rights when they do so.

Now, let's concede that you're right, and that sexual provocation can be considered torture. (Note that I'm talking Gitmo, here; I won't argue with you about Abu Graib because, frankly, I agree with you on that one.) From a practical standpoint, what can be done? Unless the U.S. ultimately loses the war (both undesirable and, I think, unlikely) senior administration officials won't be brought to account. This is especially so as the U.S. does not recognize the ICC. The only possible redress I could see would be what I've already suggested, namely, suits filed against the Federal government by former detainees claiming wrongful imprisonment, which would have to be resolved on a case-by-case basis.

Sadly, so far as I know (and please correct me if I'm wrong) there aren't any treaties which specifically address non-state hostiles. Geneva, I believe, is meant for dealing with POWs from national armies, along with non-combatant civilians; the general thrust of it is that civilians won't be shot at or otherwise abused, and captured soldiers will be treated as civilized beings and not as animals. But there are no provisions for hostiles who have neither rank nor serial number, and can lie with impunity about their name. Any way you slice it, such individuals are entirely outside the law. BUT, there's no reason that the U.S. can't try and obey the spirit of Geneva, at least until such a time as an international treaty for handling terrorists is signed. Until that time, though, everything at Camp X-Ray exists in a legal grey area, which means that - as distasteful as it might be - the U.S. is basically free to push the boundaries of what's acceptable. In my view - and I admit I could be wrong - what they're doing at Gitmo (or at least what I'm so far aware of) hasn't yet crossed the line into torture; but, it is so close to that line that reasonable people can disagree as to whether they've crossed it.

10:40 AM  
Blogger Decadent Leftist said...

RE: Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of Prisoners of War

Article 4:
A. Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:

1. Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.

2. Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions:

(a) That of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;

(b) That of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;

(c) That of carrying arms openly;

(d) That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

6. Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units, provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war.

Additionally, since Al Quaeda has a hierarchal military based command structure, they can indeed be considered a military force. Geneva should apply to them as well.

Regarding interrogation, there is a difference between police interrogation and what is happening at Gitmo. You touch upon its yourself when you say "within their rights". The operative word is rights. The police are (ideally) supposed to respect the criminal rights of the individual- rights which the accused is informed of before the interrogation begins. Attorneys are allowed to be present, confessions and interrogations are now usually videotaped and subject to legal review. A host of criminal and social justice agencies also stand by (along with police review agencies) to ensure that there is no misconduct.

I'm sure if police officers were to throw fake blood on a person in their custody in the hopes of gaining a confession or information would be seriously repremanded. The same principles would likely apply to a police officer who acted in a unbecoming sexual manner. In fact, it may fall into the category of "entrapment"-regarding cocering someone via threats-but i am not sure.

12:47 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Al Qaeda has a signficantly flatter hierarchy than conventional militaries, but I won't dispute that they do have a hierarchy, of sorts. Where the definition falls apart is on points b) and d), and in many instances (suicide bombers come to mind) c). Targeting civilians seems to be doctrine for the terrorists, which clearly falls outside the recognized rules of war.

My understanding of Geneva, or any other set of war rules (every culture has them, in one way or another) is that the basic deal is, "We'll respect your troops and civilians if you do the same for ours," thus keeping the inevitable horror of conflict under some semblance of control. When fighting an enemy that that does not recognize the same rules, it is all too common for both sides to chuck the rules out altogether.

In this respect, I would argue that the U.S. has excercised considerable restraint. They have gone out of their way to avoid either killing civilians or destroying civilian infrastructure, at least so long as there was any way to avoid it. In the conflict as a whole, both in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has, I think, tried to stay as close as possible to the spirit of Geneva.

In the end, rules of warfare are contingent on two things: first, a shared history of conflict (required to give the rules time to develop), and second, what is technologically practical at the time (generally, the advance of technology has been accompanied by increasingly 'moral' rules of war: for instance, precision bombing eliminates the need for carpet bombing.)

The existence of rules also implies some level of parity between the two sides; the same overall level of technology, at the very least. If there is a steep technological differential, it is all too common, historically, for the side on the wrong end of that differential to resort to tactics that the other (usually victorious) side regards as barbaric. I think this is what we're seeing now: the U.S. military is so advanced that defeating it on the battlefield is essentially no longer an option. Thus, in desperation, the terrorists - in Iraq and elsewhere - resort to civilian intimidation, assassination, suicide bombing, and the webcasted beheading of abducted foreigners. In the end these tactics will prove as effective as they always have (not very.)

Not that this excuses Gitmo, especially as some there are almost certainly - from a statistical standpoint if nothing else - innocent. Two wrongs don't make a right, after all. But mistakes will always occur in war. I think there are bigger issues to worry about than whether some terrorists have been exposed to fake menstrual blood. Gitmo is not Auschwitz; it is not even the Japanese internment. It is the savvy use by interrogators of a cultural bias, turning Muslim men's neurotic sexism against them.

Let me use an example from the prison system. Take a perp who's extremely racist. Would it constitute torture to put him in a cell with a black man, and assign a black officer to his case? Simply by being in proximity with people of color, he'd likely be exposed to a certain level of agitation which, if he's especially bigoted, amounts to mental anguish. I mean, he's got to share a toilet with a nigger! Touch things the darky has touched! The horror!

I'm fully behind the right of people everywhere to believe dumb things (like all women are evil, or all blacks are evil, or that the earth is flat, or that a blastocyte has a soul, or that God personally designed every last creature on the planet and that said planet is only 7000 years old....) Believing stupid things is a time-honoured tradition everywhere in the world. However, if someone chooses to believe the patently ridiculous, there is no rule that says you can't use that mistaken belief against them.

1:55 PM  
Blogger Decadent Leftist said...

Rules of war here to the concept of armed resistance to an occupying force. Civilian attacks are not covered under such rules as well, but that in no way abrogates the treaty.

The days of summarily executing partisians ended in the Second World War- a time before these treaties were developed. Certainly there were other international norms and customs that states followed

Nazi war criminals were not usually shot on site or massacred en masse by Allied troops. Additionally, Afhganistan and Iraq are also signatories to the Geneva convention regarding the treatment of prisioners (although there is a debate regarding how transition after a governmental change applies). So it would not be a strech to say that there is a "history" between the states regarding how to govern conflicts.

Gitmo is also troubling since it is a US military base. Most people would agree that the suspects there have a tangible connection to the United States, as they are in the custody of American governmental representitives (Military and CIA).
By having this connection to the United States, certian legal provisions and rights (ie THE BILL OF RIGHTS) SHOULD apply to the detainees (this precendent was set in the 1980s when the US was kidnapping and detaining Central American drug lords on American military bases, and grossly violated their habeus corpus rights)

This includes the right to council , the right to know what you are being charged with, habeus corpus and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment (fake blood being tossed on anyone by a represenative of the state would likely be consistitued in such as manner). Gitmo in part violates international norms and American domestic law. It is indefensible on any level.

Sinking into pure asshole realist mode for a second, if the US wished to interrogate(torture) prisioners, then they should be "outsourcing" it to allied states which usually flaunt and ignore international law, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, etc. Or at the very least on a boat with no national registry in international waters. They should not be behaving in such a hypocritical manner and pretending they are a baston of freedom and democracy, while less than 90 miles from US waters men are being tortured by representivies of the American government.

Regarding your "racist and stupid belief" arguement. I'm afraid it doesn't hold water here. Culutral defenses do not work in courts when an indivudal has been exposed to certain culture for a long time. The racism example is not analogous to what is happening to Gitmo because most detainees have been uprooted from a different culture(the differences which you point out many times in your writings) in a violent and sudden manner and are now being thrust into a new one with different standards and mores.
The Canadian legal system (and many western legal systems) recognize that if a person is newly uprooted from a differnt culture and commits what we consider a crime (but they consider normal or acceptable) it may be used as an excuse for their actions and factored into the sentecing(or dismissal of the charge). For example, the Canadian Criminal justice system and some American jurisdictions recognize "Battered Woman's Syndrome" as a valid defense and excuse for a woman's actions when she kills her spouse or partner. The actions may seem premediated to some, but the Canadian courts have decided that the woman's schemea and way of realting to the world (culture?) has been transformed by the cycle of abuse and violence. Whena woman kills her husband in his sleep, she may not be acting like the "typical" battered woman (he wasn't hitting you! why'd you do it?) should be to the casual observer and may seem cold blooded, to that wife her actions were preemptive and acceptable in order to head off future violence. She was reacting to the situation she knew best- and it is not one that can easily be ignored.

The racist in American or Canadian society is in fact part of our culture. He would be aware of notions (albeit dimly)of civil rights and equality and (in Canada) multiculturalism. He would be operating from the same set of cognitive principles and reasoning that a typical Canadian would be, just a warped & perverted sense of them. It would be the fault of his own ignorance and bias if he was offended by something a typical Canadian would not be.

HOWEVER- a typical poorly educated Central Asian or Middle Eastern male WOULD take offense to female nudity, no because they are uptight, prudish or sexist, but because they are from a different culture and have not had the time to not only adjust to Western standards, values and typified reactions (you yourself say it would be a good thing to be interrogated by a stripper) but also because they have not been exposed to such things in their own country.

Their beliefs are not stupid or foolish, but perfectly rational amoung their fellow countrymen (and women) and within their expected norms and values.

8:59 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

Just because the belief that women come behind livestock in terms of fundamental worth is pervasive in arab society, doesn't mean that it isn't sexist. I seem to recall reading (in numerous places) that, not too long ago, our own culture regarded women as being inferior to men (though in their defence, still above animals.) So common was this belief that many women shared it. Does that mean it wasn't sexist for our ancestors to believe it?

I actually hadn't known Iraq was a Geneva signatory. The events related in Bravo Two Zero, if even remotely accurate, would seem to indicate that the Ba'ath party didn't take the treaty too seriously. Obviously that's beside the point; just because one's enemy behaves in a bestial fashion is no excuse to return the favor. Indeed, I'd say it's best not to, so as to further distinguish oneself from the enemy by maintaing the moral high ground throughout. However, I was under the impression that the U.S. went to great lengths to observe Geneva when engaging Iraqi regulars ... to the point where conditions in POW camps were better than those in Iraqi barracks, and many soldiers surrendered just so they could get a decent meal and a clean blanket (that was in the first Gulf War; I'm not sure if similar events happened in GWII, though it wouldn't surprise me.)

I'm glad you mentioned the possibility of having the torture done by third parties such as Egypt. It wouldn't greatly surprise me to learn that such measures are occasinally employed. However, I imagine that if (or when) they are, the interrogation tactics employed by the foreign agencies qualify as torture in a far less ambiguous sense. Were I a detainee, with the choice between a cell in Cuba and a dungeon in Pakistan, I'd choose the former in a second. Maybe actual detainees would disagree; it's impossible to know without actually asking one. Most sane humans, however, would choose violation of their social mores over agonizing pain ... but then, religious fanatics are not always noted for sanity.

I'm not sure about providing the detainees with legal counsel, at least not until the war is over. So far as I know Geneva specifies only that POWs receive medical attention, food, shelter, and other basics of survival. Also, of course, that they not be tortured. It says nothing about legal counsel, or for that matter any access to the relevant government's judicial system. The whole point of taking POWs is that, by holding them, they are prevented from fighting against your forces while the war goes on. They are not formally charged with a crime (unless, of course, they have committed a war crime), as it is not considered criminal to fight for one's country. There is no set date for their release, except for that time when peace is negotiated; letting them go while hostilities continue would rather defeat the purpose of taking them prisoner in the first place.

This is where things get hairy, of course. How can one negotiate peace with Al Qaeda? They have no government, no embassies, no ambassadors. No territory, for that matter. Given the de-centralized nature of the network, many elements could continue hostilities even if the leadership declared the jihad to be over, and no one would be any the wiser until the attack was carried out.

The problem comes down to this: terrorists are neither soldiers nor criminals, though they possess characteristics - the worst characteristics - of both. The logical corollary is that legal systems designed to deal with one or the other are wholly un-suited to dealing with terrorists. Indeed, we don't have those legal systems yet, which is why the governments of the world are muddling through as best they can, guided not by law (as there is no applicable law), but by fallible human instinct ... making mistakes here and there, as is inevitable, but at least trying to contain this new threat. Using sexual provocation may well be one of those mistakes; ultimately, that's for the historians to decide (I have a feeling those historians will be far harsher on the terrorists than on the U.S., and not just because the winners write the history books.) But, I have to confess that I do find it somewhat rich for people who deny the very concept of 'human rights' to claim that theirs are being violated (I also think it's funny.)

Note that I'm not arguing that no legal infrastructure is needed. It is, desperately, if for no other reason than to give actions against terrorists a measure of legitimacy. I imagine it will be in place within a decade or two, evolving as it goes, based on what works and what doesn't. In the meantime, however, we can't allow that to paralyze us. Not unless we want a great number of people to end up dead.

I don't have any suggestions, myself, for how to handle the situation any differently. What the Americans are doing right now seems to be working, though, given that there hasn't been an attack on U.S. soil since 9/11; the terrorists are killing far more of their co-religionists than they are infidels. Maybe this is because Al Qaeda is setting us up for a thermonuclear sucker-punch. Or, maybe it's because every single attempt at a strike has been averted because those involved were rounded up due to intelligence gathered, in part, from messing with Guantanamo detainees' minds to the point where a few of them screamed, "I can't take it any more! Your immodest Western women are driving me insane! I'll tell you whatever you want ... just stop making me horny!"

Personally, I think it's neither. I think Bush's offensive in Afghanistan has deprived the terrorists of a home base, while the war in Iraq has sapped their strength through the flypaper effect. Iraq has the added bonus that the Iraqi people are being offered, on the one hand, true self-direction by the Americans, and on the other, death and tyranny by the 'insurgents' (many of whom aren't even Iraqi.) The terrorists are losing the battle for hearts and minds over there, and that deprives them of new recruits even as the U.S. kills off those they've already recruited.

So, I think the Iraq campaign is far more important than the interrogation of detainees in Cuba. But, I'm not in the CIA; I don't know (and neither, I'm geussing, do you.) Quite honestly, if even one major attack has been averted by grossing them out, then I'm all for it.

11:23 AM  
Blogger Decadent Leftist said...

Re the livestock argument. Yes it was sexist and foolish. But it's even more foolish to judge the actions of the past by the actions and beliefs of 21st century humans. Our culture- our perception of the world and how we realte to it- has changed overtime so such views are no longer held in esteem. These values did not emerge organically overnight though- it took centuries of struggle and intellectual debate to change how people think. As for the torture is stopping terrorist attacks- well- it would be like me saying my lucky rock prevents tigers from attacking me as i walk down Bloor Street in the middle of winter. Do you see the fallacy in this line of reasoning? Also, i'd like to point out that under the watch of the CIA and their spook buddies, the 9/11 attacks happened in the first place. So they really shouldn't be patting themselves on the back too hard.

As for the military being the only way to deal with terrorism: listen. The Europeans have had terrorism pestering their societies for decades longer than the Americans (Red Brigades, IRA, ETA, Baader-Minehoff Gang, Rote Armee Fakton, Irgun in Israel etc). How do they deal with it? Domestically and in the courts. They don't declair "WAR ON TERROR" and say "either you with us or with the terrorists"
Historically, when europeans tried do combat terrorism via military action (Blacks & Tans and the Imperial Army in Ireland, The French Army and special forces brigades in Algeria) things didn't really end that well...for the "dominant" power. And yes, said groups also targeted civilians and "hated all that we stand for". But the courts worked, and damaged these groups severely.

Bin Laden and Al Quaeda have other aims besides the "destruction of the Great Satan America". OBL also objected to the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia, American foreign policy etc, etc.

"So far as I know Geneva specifies only that POWs receive medical attention, food, shelter, and other basics of survival. Also, of course, that they not be tortured. It says nothing about legal counsel, or for that matter any access to the relevant government's judicial system"Not going to respond, just cutting and pasting. I would have though you would have read it by now.

Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War
In force 21 October 1950


Relgious issues. Articles 34-38

Article 60
The Detaining Power shall grant all prisoners of war a monthly advance of pay, the amount of which shall be fixed by conversion, into the currency of the said Power

Article 78

Prisoners of war shall have the right to make known to the military authorities in whose power they are, their requests regarding the conditions of captivity to which they are subjected.

Article 80

Prisoners' representatives shall further the physical, spiritual and intellectual well-being of prisoners of war.

In particular, where the prisoners decide to organize amongst themselves a system of mutual assistance, this organization will be within the province of the prisoners' representative, in addition to the special duties entrusted to him by other provisions of the present Convention.

I. General provisions

Article 82

A prisoner of war shall be subject to the laws, regulations and orders in force in the armed forces of the Detaining proceedings or punishments contrary to the provisions of this Chapter shall be allowed.
Article 97

Prisoners of war shall not in any case be transferred to penitentiary establishments (prisons, penitentiaries, convict prisons, etc.) to undergo disciplinary punishment therein.
Article 99

No prisoner of war may be tried or sentenced for an act which is not forbidden by the law of the Detaining Power or by international law, in force at the time the said act was committed.

No moral or physical coercion may be exerted on a prisoner of war in order to induce him to admit himself guilty of the act of which he is accused.

No prisoner of war may be convicted without having had an opportunity to present his defence and the assistance of a qualified advocate or counsel.
All of Article 105

Read it so you get a better understanding of how bad Gitmo truly is

12:51 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Hmm. I do have a tendency to shoot my mouth off without properly reviewing the facts (which is why I have no problem admitting mistakes.) But...

So far as the CIA allowing 9/11 to happen. No arguments here; shoddy work on their part, in large part due to an unwillingness to act in a 'politically incorrect' fashion.

Most of the terrorism the Europeans have dealt with was of the domestic variety, usually separatist movements. Many of those groups (the Basques, for instance) are still active, so I'd be careful about holding the Europeans up as an example. However, using the courts makes perfect sense for domestic terrorism: the terrorists are, after all, citizens, subject to the laws of the land. Not so much, though, when the terrorists are for the most part foreign nationals.

The analogy between Algeria and Iraq doesn't hold water. The French were fighting to hold on to a piece of colonial territory. The Americans are not; neither are they colonizing Iraq, except insofar as South Korea or Japan qualify as colonies.

Now, back to Geneva. I will read it (promise!) but I have to get back to work soon. However, a few brief points:

No prisoner of war may be tried or sentenced for an act which is not forbidden by the law of the Detaining Power or by international law, in force at the time the said act was committed.Sure. Haven't heard of any show trials at all, actually.

No moral or physical coercion may be exerted on a prisoner of war in order to induce him to admit himself guilty of the act of which he is accused.My understanding (possibly incorrect, I admit) is that no one is trying to get them to admit to being terrorists. They know they're terrorists; there's no interest at all in parading them in front of TV cameras after having signed phony confessions. That would be morally wrong, militarily useless, and counterproductive. The interrogators are looking for information.

To clarify my previous post: I doubt very much Camp X-Ray is a fertile source of intelligence. I imagine the offensives have been much more important in preventing terrorist attacks on American soil than any interrogations of prisoners; if Al Qaeda is as cunning as we are led to believe, they'd change plans as soon as someone who knows something was caught. That the interrogations may have led to intelligence which may have stopped an attack, I raised as a possibility, nothing more.

1:14 PM  

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