[lit-ideas] Re: The torture graph

  • From: Robert Paul <robert.paul@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 06 Apr 2006 21:21:27 -0700

Lawrence wrote:

In the old days we used to fight our enemies and not our own troops.

Who is 'fighting our own troops'? This is an odd way of describing a concern for the activities of our government.

This focus upon holding our own forces to a higher standard than our enemies seems all wrong to me.

It seems exactly right to me. I don't want to be like the NKVD, the Gestapo, the French in Algiers. Embrace these practices if you will. Count me out.

If we were playing baseball and had to get 100 runs while our opponents only had to get 2, we would recognize the inequity and squawk.

This is not playing baseball, nor is this analogous to anything that has been discussed here.'How can we fight with one hand tied behind our back?' is always a familiar complaint on the part of those of limited imagination.

But we have forgotten how to fight, a fact well-known and well-publicized by our Islamist enemies. No guts, no willingness to fight, too timid by far, Osama says. And true to his assessment we anguish over the fact that we are human, that a small percentage (as occurs in every fighting force) is going to misbehave.

Nonsense, Lawrence. Is OBL now your authority on whether the US can 'fight'? (Nobody's talking about 'fighting.' We've been talking about the use of torture.) Granted that there are sociopaths and sadists and just plain nuts in an large military force. Nobody's denying that. But how can you now attribute some (unspecified) wrongdoing to 'a small percentage' (who are disturbed in various ways) while claiming that the sort of thing people have here been calling into question should be our _policy_? This is a strange conflation.

We say never mind about the enemy, what about those of us who misbehave? We say never mind about the people trying to blow us up, what about the use of excessive force in trying to find out whom our enemy is.

It is the deliberate acts we're concerned with, not the pathology of large groups. If you don't already know 'who the enemy is' is it all right to go on fishing expeditions to see if some 21st century Winston Smith might be an enemy? 'Excessive force' is legal jargon: the police, while doing something they're otherwise authorized to do use excessive force. Abner Louima was not the victim of 'excessive force' but of something far worse.

In the meantime, the enemy continues to blow up innocent people. They especially like to do that, and we say nothing in the way of criticism, but that’s okay I guess, they are saying nothing even louder in Europe!

I'll pass over this rhetoric in silence.

Robert Paul
The Reed Institute
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