This Is Not America

I am ashamed of my country today. Earlier this week, both houses of the U.S. Congress passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, an act that future generations will surely list alongside the Alien and Sedition Acts as one of the most heinous and unconstitutional laws ever enacted by a democratically elected government. Both in letter and spirit, this law is the antithesis to the principles upon which America was founded, and it will be remembered for a very long time as a dark blot on the history of a country that has had more than enough of those in recent years already.

After the Supreme Court’s decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld striking down the kangaroo courts George W. Bush sought to create to try the detainees at Guantanamo Bay – courts where defendants could be convicted on the basis of hearsay, of secret evidence which the defendant was not allowed to view, and of statements obtained through torture – there was a brief moment of hope when it seemed as if our legal system might be returning to sanity. But now, in a decision of astonishing capitulation to the will of our deluded president who thinks himself a king, Congress has reauthorized many – not all, but many – of the very same provisions.

First, this bill does disturbingly little to prohibit torture of prisoners. It explicitly forbids prisoners tried before military commissions from invoking the Geneva Conventions as a source of rights, despite the fact that the Geneva Conventions were ratified by the Senate and are part of the law of the land in America. On the other hand, it explicitly permits statements obtained by “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” to be admitted as evidence if the presiding judge finds that “the interests of justice would best be served” by doing so. Although the bill bans some torture methods, such as rape, it leaves the door wide open to many others, and attempts to narrow the scope of the Geneva Conventions by not expressly criminalizing “outrages upon personal dignity, particularly humiliating and degrading treatment”, which they forbid.

Possibly worse is the frighteningly broad latitude the bill grants a power-mad administration in determining who will be tried before these tribunals. This bill grants George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld the power to hand-pick the members of a commission, to empower that commission to judge according to literally any standard they please, and on that basis, to decide that any person anywhere in the world is an “enemy combatant” and sentence them to indefinite and arbitrary detention at the will of the executive, subject to no appeal or oversight. I invite any person who still supports the Bush administration to explain how this differs in any relevant way from the absolute powers claimed by history’s most infamous dictators.

It is not clear whether even American citizens are exempt from the unbelievably broad and dictatorial powers this bill gives to the executive branch. Although the bill says that “any alien unlawful enemy combatant” is subject to military tribunal and so would seem on its face not to apply to U.S. citizens, it contains no language shielding citizens from being declared enemy combatants by the aforementioned military commissions. And once such a determination was made, does anyone believe for a moment that the Bush administration, which has already claimed and exercised the power to subject American citizens to extrajudicial imprisonment, would hesitate before making those people disappear?

Most horrifyingly, this bill claims to revoke the right of habeas corpus – a bedrock principle of the Western legal system since the Magna Carta, the principle that a person who is imprisoned has the right to challenge the basis of their imprisonment before a neutral magistrate. Section 7 of the bill states, “No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.” Not even King George III, against whom Americans rebelled to establish our independence, had the power to hold someone without granting them the right of habeas corpus.

The suspension of habeas corpus for detainees is illegal. Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution holds, “The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” The U.S. is neither in rebellion, nor have we been invaded. Congress has no right whatsoever to pass the bill they have just passed. America’s founding fathers held habeas corpus as vital to a free society, and its loss to signify the first step toward tyranny. It is chilling to see how vividly their warnings are now coming true.

It does not shock me that the Republican party supported this bill – it has long been clear that the Republicans care for nothing except their own power, and that there are no lengths to which their blind allegiance to George W. Bush will not compel them to go. There is more than a passing similarity to the blind confidence of faith; but one would have to delve very far indeed into the dark depths of religious fanaticism to find a faith so blindly zealous and so arrogantly self-assured as that which the Republicans place in George W. Bush to determine, by himself and without any fixed standard, who is or is not a terrorist. Like good witch-hunters and inquisitors throughout history, they view accusation as the equivalent of proof, and denial of guilt as proof of guilt.

What does shock me is the cowardly and submissive way in which the Democratic party gave in to this. Although the majority of Senate Democrats voted against the bill, the Democratic leadership failed to make any effective attempt to mount a filibuster, the only action that realistically could have stopped it. Even worse, twelve Senate Democrats voted for the bill, including the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Jay Rockefeller, who complained that Bush has refused to inform Congress about the details of the interrogation program, then voted to legalize that program anyway. I still believe that the Democratic party is the only realistic force that can oppose George W. Bush, and their potential victory in the upcoming elections would be a crucial first step toward restoring this country to sanity; but their craven willingness to give in to such loathsome and anti-American laws as this convinces me that many of them need to be thrown out of office just as badly as do the Republicans. What America truly needs is a slate of honest and principled candidates who will not just give voice to progressive ideals, but will stand up and fight for them. At the moment, there are precious few of those from either party in Washington, D.C.

We could have done so much better than this. We could have established open and fair tribunals that would operate in the full sight of the world, so that all of humanity could see that we had nothing to hide and that we were better than the people who seek to destroy us. We could have made the trials of terror suspects a model of justice that would have rung out through history as an example of how the United States of America treated its enemies. Not only would such a procedure pay heed to America’s most important ideals, it would have been one of our most effective weapons in the war of ideas we are fighting against Islamic fundamentalists. It would have given us an indisputable claim to hold the moral high ground against the deranged fanatics who think nothing of mass murder, torture and terrorism waged against innocents in the service of their evil cause.

This is not a far-fetched or infeasible idea. As Senator Hillary Clinton pointed out, George Washington himself endorsed this reasoning, ordering that prisoners taken during a crucial battle of the Revolutionary War be treated humanely, even while British armies were treating American prisoners with cruelty:

Treat them with humanity, and Let them have no reason to Complain of our Copying the brutal example of the British army in their Treatment of our unfortunate brethren.

The United States is now in a far stronger position than when we were a ragtag band of militias fighting against a world superpower for independence. There is no reason why we cannot meet and even improve on President Washington’s standard when it comes to the treatment of prisoners.

But we have thrown that shining opportunity away. In its place, we have erected a network of secret shadow prisons all around the world; institutionalized torture and human degradation on a sickening scale; and made the Guanantamo prison a worldwide rallying symbol of injustice, a black hole where hundreds of people have been held helpless and incommunicado for years, in a legal void of indefinite detention, without being tried or charged with any crime. We have done more to tarnish our image than Osama bin Laden’s network of jihadists ever could have.

What is a patriot to do? I am disappointed in my country, and outraged by the ignorance of the people who are presently in charge of it. And yet, because I love my country, and because I love the principles upon which it was founded, I will not now, in its darkest hour, abandon it to the fanatics who want to destroy everything it stands for. Though the harm done to innocents around the world, and the vast damage done to our international image, cannot be undone, it is not too late to reverse course and set America back on the path it was always originally intended to follow. I can only hope that the upcoming elections give us that chance.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Alex Weaver

    So what do we do about this?

  • CalUWxBill

    H.R.6166
    Military Commissions Act of 2006 (Engrossed as Agreed to or Passed by House)

    SEC. 7. HABEAS CORPUS MATTERS.

    (a) In General- Section 2241 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by striking both the subsection (e) added by section 1005(e)(1) of Public Law 109-148 (119 Stat. 2742) and the subsection (e) added by added by section 1405(e)(1) of Public Law 109-163 (119 Stat. 3477) and inserting the following new subsection (e):

    `(e)(1) No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.

    `(2) Except as provided in paragraphs (2) and (3) of section 1005(e) of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (10 U.S.C. 801 note), no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any other action against the United States or its agents relating to any aspect of the detention, transfer, treatment, trial, or conditions of confinement of an alien who is or was detained by the United States and has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.’.

    (b) Effective Date- The amendment made by subsection (a) shall take effect on the date of the enactment of this Act, and shall apply to all cases, without exception, pending on or after the date of the enactment of this Act which relate to any aspect of the detention, transfer, treatment, trial, or conditions of detention of an alien detained by the United States since September 11, 2001.

    Heck, we are even protecting our own potentially criminal actions.

  • Christopher

    1. From what I read of this bill, it only denies these privillages (yes, privillages) to foreigners. The average citizen is not likely to be affected by this bill.

    2. I see nothing wrong with torturing those animals if it yields information that we can use against them. These religious nutjobs happily use it against their enemies, so I have no problems using it with them. Turn about is fair play.

    3. Technically, we are being invaded (although this invasion is more subtle than what we are accustomed to) and we should react accordingly. These fanatics have no respect for our legal system, so I see no reason why our legal system should respect any “right” of habeus corpus that they may/may not have.

    Note: I’m NOT an apologist for this administration (I’d support this measure no matter who pushed it through) and, in fact, have many disagreements with his policies: his “guest worker” programs, his so-called faith-based initiatives, his various subidies to U.S. corporations, and many more. As the old proverb says, “even a stopped clock is right twice a day.” I think this is one of those times…

  • Alex Weaver

    Adam, you wanna take this one? I’m already under the weather, and about to become violently ill.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    So what do we do about this?

    A very important question indeed. My recommendation, if you happen to be an American citizen, is to find out which Democratic candidates are running for House and Senate where you live, and volunteering to support them in whatever way you can. (The Democrats are fielding challengers to almost every contested seat this election; here’s a handy tool if you don’t know which district you live in.) There are a wide variety of things anyone can do to help out a candidate – donating money is important, of course, but even more important is donating time. Help with canvassing, with phone-banking, or in whatever other way your candidate needs. I intend to do as much of this as I can before the election, and I strongly encourage my readers to do likewise.

  • MarkR

    1. From what I read of this bill, it only denies these privillages (yes, privillages) to foreigners. The average citizen is not likely to be affected by this bill.

    Habeus Corpus is certainly not a privilege. It is a very fundamental right, going back to 1215 and the Magna Carta. Your kind of thinking is part of why we’re in this mess now.

    2. I see nothing wrong with torturing those animals if it yields information that we can use against them. These religious nutjobs happily use it against their enemies, so I have no problems using it with them. Turn about is fair play.

    And that is to your shame. Even Sun Tzu in The Art of War says to treat prisoners humanely. Aren’t we supposed to be the “good guys” here? Torturing them makes us no better than them. There is NO EXCUSE for torture, and you should be ashamed for thinking otherwise.

    3. Technically, we are being invaded (although this invasion is more subtle than what we are accustomed to) and we should react accordingly. These fanatics have no respect for our legal system, so I see no reason why our legal system should respect any “right” of habeus corpus that they may/may not have.

    Uh. . .no. We’re “fighting them over there so that we don’t have to fight them here,” remember? I don’t see any battles between the Army and terrorist groups in the United States. That’s what counts as an invasion. You’re using this to justify your reasoning, which is entirely based on fear.

    Note: I’m NOT an apologist for this administration (I’d support this measure no matter who pushed it through) and, in fact, have many disagreements with his policies: his “guest worker” programs, his so-called faith-based initiatives, his various subidies to U.S. corporations, and many more. As the old proverb says, “even a stopped clock is right twice a day.” I think this is one of those times…

    “Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.” Benjamin Franklin said it more than 200 years ago, and it applies today. And sadly, you and your ilk fit that bill.

  • http://atheistethicist.blogspot.com Alonzo Fyfe

    You express the opinion that our leadership needs to change, and shock at the fact that the Democrats caved in without a fight against these laws.

    There is a reason for this.

    It is because the American people themselves – your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers – embrace this Republican ideology. The Republicans pursued this strategy for a reason – because they knew that the American people themselves would embrace and re-elect those politicans who supported this bill, and would throw out (or keep out) of office those who would oppose it.

    The Republican party (Karl Rove) has read what is in the heart of the American voters and responded accordingly.

    Your claim about what should happen to the politicians is a pipe dream unless the American people themselves renew their dedication to defend the principles of justice, rather than lend their voice and their vote to its destruction.

    Alonzo Fyfe
    The Atheist Ethicist

  • andrea

    What a pity anyone takes the stand Christopher has. Torture has *never* been proven to be worthwile in getting information. Habeas Corpus is a bedrock principal of the US and of human rights. We are not being invaded and we are not at “war” since the Congress never signed any documents to that effect (which would have put the Geneva Convention into place, not being a war let the adminstration ignore them as long as they could). and we have yet to find out what extra little statements that Bush is going to add to the bottom of this bill as he has with most others. I wouldn’t be suprised if the rule is amended to cover anyone who is deemed an “enemy combattant”. Bush et al have also written themselves a guarantee of no prosecution if they commit war crimes.
    This whole pitiful situation makes me glad that the 2nd amendment *hasn’t* been revoked yet. Sinclair Lewis and Ben Franklin were so right. And I hate it.

  • http://worthlesswell.blogspot.com/ Unbeliever

    So if some guy knows where a nuclear bomb is in New York City, you wouldn’t torture him to find out its location and save millions of your fellow citizens?

    Do the detaninees in Guanantamo fall under the Geneva Convention since they are not part of an army? What crime have they committed that we could try them for? Would you recommend just releasing them?

    Do you consider “outrages upon personal dignity, particularly humiliating and degrading treatment” to be torture? Should we make sure that we don’t hurt the terrorist’s feelings?

    What is the Democratic plan to fight the war on terror? Or is this just a law enforcement issue?

  • Christopher

    Response to MarkR:

    “Habeus Corpus is certainly not a privilege. It is a very fundamental right, going back to 1215 and the Magna Carta. Your kind of thinking is part of why we’re in this mess now.”

    I really hate to break it to you, but “rights” don’t really exist. What we in Western society call “rights” are actually esteemed privillages that some one else in the distant past won as a prize of conflict. “Rights” are supposed to be permanent, but anyone who knows anything about politics will tell you that nothing is absolute. Privillages, on the other hand, must be constantly maintained.

    Besides, I see no reason to give this privillage to those who would use it against us…

    “And that is to your shame. Even Sun Tzu in The Art of War says to treat prisoners humanely. Aren’t we supposed to be the “good guys” here? Torturing them makes us no better than them. There is NO EXCUSE for torture, and you should be ashamed for thinking otherwise.”

    I know what Sun Tzu says, but he never dealt with an enemy that was fanatical enough to hijack his own nations infrastructure and use them as suicide weapons. His style of warfare is ineffective against a terrorist threat.

    And don’t give me this “good guys, bad guys” nonsense. Anyone who takes an objective view of warfare will realize that all sides will do whatever it takes to be victorious, no matter how cruel the methods used. There are no “good guys” or “bad guys,” just the victorious and the vanquished (and the victorious will write themselves up in history as the “good guys” after the war anyways…).

    “Uh. . .no. We’re “fighting them over there so that we don’t have to fight them here,” remember? I don’t see any battles between the Army and terrorist groups in the United States. That’s what counts as an invasion. You’re using this to justify your reasoning, which is entirely based on fear.”

    And yet they continue to infiltrate our porous borders (something I blame on all administrations of govt.)…

    I admit, it’s not an invasion in the conventional sense. However, a bunch of terrorist sleeper cells with home-made explosives and assault weapons can be just as harmful to a community (see the Warsaw Ghetto riot as an example).

    Is it fearful? Damn right it is! Contrary to popular belief, fear is a healthy thing in its proper proportions. Only the dead are without it…

    ‘”Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.”‘ “Benjamin Franklin said it more than 200 years ago, and it applies today. And sadly, you and your ilk fit that bill.”

    But the average citizen isn’t losing any “rights!” This bill is aimed at foreigners, which don’t have any protection under the U.S. Constitution anyway. And don’t give me this “Geneova Convention” or “U.N. Declaration of Human Rights” garbage: I consider these documents to be the bastard children of last world war. We are a sovereign nation, not a puppet of these multi-national orgs.

  • chronomitch

    Perhaps you guys can help me answer a question.

    When, if ever, is it appropriate to take up arms and resort to violence?

    I do not wish to say that I am even considering it at the current moment, but I have a feeling that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. Everytime something bad occurs, I think to myself that it can’t get any worse, but it always does.

  • http://atheistethicist.blogspot.com Alonzo Fyfe

    Unbeliever

    If I was even reasonably certain that torturing a person would provide reliable information on the location of a nuclear weapon, I would torture him.

    However, I would not want it to be legal to do so. I would torture him and take my lumps with the law.

    Just as, for example, if I knew that a vending machine was hooked up to detonate a nuclear bomb in a distant city, and I saw a child using the machine, and the only way I could prevent him from setting off the bomb would be to shoot him, I would shoot the child.

    But I would not want the shooting of children to be legal on the off chance that somebody might need some day to shoot a child to prevent a nuclear bomb from going off.

    —–

    The recommendation to release or to contain somebody at Guantanamo has to be based on some reason to believe that they are a threat.

    We have no right to imprison everybody who might do us harm, because then we would have to imprison everybody. For all I know, you might come to where I work in the near future and kill me for disagreeing with you.

    According to your line of reasoning, I would be justified in killing you and calling it ‘self-defense – based on the mere possibility that you might cause me harm.

    —-

    “Hurting the terrorist’s feelings” is not on the list of ‘outrages upon personal dignity.’

    If you wish to object to this provision, then please talk about something that is actually on the list.

    —-

    I also have to know what you mean by just a law enforcement issue. The Oklahoma City bombing was ‘just a law enforcement issue’. The Columbine School massacre was ‘just a law enforcement issue’. The Wall Street Bombing of 1920 was ‘just a law enforcement issue’. The assassination of Presidents Kennedy and McKinley were “just law enforcement issues.’ The first World Trade Center Bombing was ‘just a law enforcement issue.’

    It appears to me that law enforcement agencies are set up to handle some pretty important issues.

    The people who have caused the greatest harm and the greatest destruction are those who decided that they needed dictatorial powers so that they could deal with problems their own way without having to hassle with things like ‘courts’ and ‘legislators’.

    History tells us that, when it comes to threats against the well-being of the people, unchecked government power is far more dangerous than terrorism.

    Indeed, abusive governments have traditionally killed, maimed, and otherwise harmed far more innocent people than terrorists, and the year 2006 is no exception.

  • Alex Weaver

    I second chronomitch, and I’m not going to bother responding to Christopher, except to say that in about 10 years, I suspect he’ll be writing a poem that starts with “First they came for the spuriously accused terrorism suspects, but I was not a terrorism suspect, and I didn’t speak up…” If any person’s rights aren’t guaranteed, no person’s rights are guaranteed. Rights do objectively exist, for reasons that both Adam and I have detailed here and elsewhere, and the failure of our arguments to sink through your skull and begin to reform your sociopathic worldview says more about you than it does about our arguments.

  • jake3988

    1) We’re america, we SHOULD be better than that. I thought is was customary for christians to ‘love their enemies’… apparently you want to be able to torture them. Another example of christians never practicing what they preach.

    2) Who the hell said Democrats caved? Democrats are the minority party. Even if 100% of them voted no, the bill still passes.

    3) I KNOW torture is wrong. You all should know torture is wrong. America was built on freedoms, and the Geneva conventions was written to secure this from happening.

    The fact that we’re torturing others will completely destroy our image, increase hate against us, and make me ashamed of this country. We should treat others BETTER than we expect them to treat us back.

  • andrea

    Do you really think torture could get the information from someone who planted a nuke in a city? Really? What would prevent them from sending you to a dozen different sites that were wrong just to run out the clock?

    Some of the detainees in Gitmo are in fact part of armies. Remember the Taliban, the lawful rulers we helped install until they annoyed us by not allowing us to do what we wanted? and most of the folks in Gitmo may not have done anything to harm us. Kinda hard to tell when no charges have ever been brought, or evidence presented to anyone. If we have real trials we’ll all know. And everythign they possibly knew is so old by now it’s pointless. Yes, they will be a danger released. Will we keep them forever? With no crime, how can we possibly try and excute them.

    Yes, I do consider “outrages upon personal dignity, particularly humiliating and degrading treatment” to be torture. Rape can easily be considered “not torture” under these words. Why, they aren’t being “permanently harmed” are they? Regardless, the administration says it doesn’t understand what these words above even mean so how can they be trusted not to think that waterboarding, or shocks to the genitalia isn’t simple “degrading” and is okay? Do you want these things done to you? No, then it’s torture. Do you want habeas corpus applied to you? Then it’s a right.

    and btw, you don’t think the “average” citizen is losing rights. Funny how Neimoller felt the same way.

  • Christopher

    Response to jake3988:

    “1) We’re america, we SHOULD be better than that. I thought is was customary for christians to ‘love their enemies’… apparently you want to be able to torture them. Another example of christians never practicing what they preach.”

    We are not obligated to act in any way whatsoever. If their is something we can do to advance our interests, we should do it (no matter how barbaric it is percieved to be).

    Loving one’s enemies is impossible, so there is no reason to even attepmt such a feat.

    “2) Who the hell said Democrats caved? Democrats are the minority party. Even if 100% of them voted no, the bill still passes.”

    Democrat, Republican… I don’t see a lot of differences here. All that matters to a minority party is gaining popularity, which often means supporting measures they wouldn’t if they were in power.

    Even if a democrat were in power right now, I don’t think he would behave any differently.

    “3) I KNOW torture is wrong. You all should know torture is wrong. America was built on freedoms, and the Geneva conventions was written to secure this from happening.”

    “Right” and “wrong” are such quaint concepts, we need to do what’s best for ourselves in spite of how it’s percieved. After all, if we are victorious, we can simply blot out those parts of history that future generations may see as unpleasent anyway.

    “The fact that we’re torturing others will completely destroy our image, increase hate against us, and make me ashamed of this country. We should treat others BETTER than we expect them to treat us back.”

    Wake up! We don’t have an image anymore: to the rest of the world, we are the big dog in the yard and they will do anything to take that position from us. This won’t change, even if we have an image that’s squeaky clean (in fact, such a clean image would be a sign of weakness).

    I see no reason why we shouldn’t treat others in exactly the same way those others would treat us…

    Response to Alex Weaver:

    “I second chronomitch, and I’m not going to bother responding to Christopher, except to say that in about 10 years, I suspect he’ll be writing a poem that starts with ‘”First they came for the spuriously accused terrorism suspects, but I was not a terrorism suspect, and I didn’t speak up…”‘

    Show’s what you know: I hate writing poetry!

    But seriously, comparing our present situation to the holocaust is quite a stretch. The terrorists are a legitamate threat to our national security and continued well being; the Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, etc… were not threats but rather incovinient persons for Germany at that time.

    “If any person’s rights aren’t guaranteed, no person’s rights are guaranteed. Rights do objectively exist, for reasons that both Adam and I have detailed here and elsewhere, and the failure of our arguments to sink through your skull and begin to reform your sociopathic worldview says more about you than it does about our arguments.”

    Yes, I your read ideas of utilitarianism and I find them impractical (although quite beautiful on paper…). I would rather like a world without pain, suffering, or lack but I acknowlegde that human nature forbids any such world from materializing (then again, perhaps pain, suffering, and lack are the things that motivate us to improve ourselves; making us stronger…).

    But is that any reason to resort to ad hominem? I can easily turn the idea on you: “The failure of my ideas of amoralism to sink through your thick skull and reform your idealistic worldview says more about you than my argument.”

    Think carefully before you type…

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    A response to Unbeliever:

    So if some guy knows where a nuclear bomb is in New York City, you wouldn’t torture him to find out its location and save millions of your fellow citizens?

    Alonzo’s answer sums it up excellently, I think. In the extremely unlikely scenario that there was an urgent need to torture a terrorist to force him to reveal some vital secret, I would expect the person who did it to accept responsibility afterward and submit their actions to the judgment of a competent tribunal. In such a case, the necessity of the action would serve as a defense. The only reason torture would need to be legalized generally would be if our government intended to use it frequently or commonly, absent any such pressing need.

    What is the Democratic plan to fight the war on terror? Or is this just a law enforcement issue?

    It is mainly a law enforcement issue, yes. It’s not as if al-Qaeda controls a country; that was true at one point, but after we toppled the Taliban (and I supported that war, though not the dangerously incompetent way this administration is now waging it), it ceased to be true. al-Qaeda is a distributed, transnational organization with cells in many countries, and we will never defeat them except through the cooperation of the law-enforcement agencies of those countries. If you want to know what the Democratic plan is, I suggest you begin on their site and see what the party platform says.

    Do the detaninees in Guanantamo fall under the Geneva Convention since they are not part of an army?

    Yes, indisputably. The category of “enemy combatant” which the Bush administration has created by fiat is a legal fiction; the Geneva Conventions recognize no such thing. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross: “Every person in enemy hands must have some status under international law: he is either a prisoner of war and, as such, covered by the Third Convention, a civilian covered by the Fourth Convention, [or] a member of the medical personnel of the armed forces who is covered by the First Convention. There is no intermediate status; nobody in enemy hands can fall outside the law.”

    And more: “…it is incorrect to assert that only POWs are protected by the Geneva Conventions–all persons apprehended in the context of an international armed conflict, including the types of prisoners the U.S. has labeled as “unlawful combatants,” receive some level of protection under the Geneva Conventions.”

    “While nonprivileged combatants are not entitled to the extensive trial rights of POWs under the Third Geneva Convention, they are entitled to a ‘fair and regular trial’ and the trial protections provided by the Fourth Geneva Convention. It is a fundamental provisions of the Geneva Conventions that all detainees are entitled to ‘all the judicial guarantees recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.’”

    (source)

    What crime have they committed that we could try them for?

    If we have evidence that any of the Guantanamo prisoners have committed war crimes or engaged in acts of terrorism, then by all means, let’s put them on trial. If they have done neither of those things, on the other hand, then what exactly are we holding them for? If they were prisoners of war, we could hold them until the Afghanistan conflict ends with no legal problem, but the Bush administration has explicitly claimed that they are not prisoners of war.

    Would you recommend just releasing them?

    The current administration seems to feel that way. That’s why hundreds of Guantanamo detainees have already been released, in most cases after being imprisoned for years, without being charged with any crime. If we’re going to charge them with something, then let’s do it, and if we’re not going to charge them with anything, there can be no justification for imprisoning them and they should be released.

  • Void

    “We are not obligated to act in any way whatsoever. If their is something we can do to advance our interests, we should do it (no matter how barbaric it is percieved to be).”

    And guess what our interests are christopher? The preservation of liberty, justice and political equality. Except for nihilstic sociopaths like yourself. Everyone in the US and the civilized world wants liberty,justice and political equality preserved. There is no way in the universe we can do this if we preform actions contrary to liberty, justice and political equality. So, barbarous acts such as torture, attacking civillians and denying people fundamental rights, are not in our best interests. We are in fact obligated to act in certain ways. Mainly to avoid unpleasant consequences such as jail, death, or nuclear holocaust.

    “Loving one’s enemies is impossible, so there is no reason to even attepmt such a feat.”

    It is entirely possible, a parent will love their son despite any animosity between them as a result of conflicts about chores etc. And there is ample reason to attempt to love your enemy, not the least of which is the hope that they will eventually stop being your enemy, which might result in less injury to your person.

    “Democrat, Republican… I don’t see a lot of differences here. All that matters to a minority party is gaining popularity, which often means supporting measures they wouldn’t if they were in power.”

    There is a reason for them not to adopt unscrupulous means, mainly the threat of public exposure. Which of course will reduce their popularity, making the actions counter-productive.

    “Even if a democrat were in power right now, I don’t think he would behave any differently.”

    Sure they would, they have different special interest groups and campaign sponsors to appease.

    “”Right” and “wrong” are such quaint concepts, we need to do what’s best for ourselves in spite of how it’s percieved. After all, if we are victorious, we can simply blot out those parts of history that future generations may see as unpleasent anyway.”

    No, you can’t, no matter how crushing a victory, the means in which that victory was acquired will always be documented, both by the attacked nation and the attacking nation. No nation in the world has the power to completely censor any content, thanks to forensics and the internet. Your impractical, Orwellian measures aside, People in the army aren’t as sociopathic as yourself, and therefore, orders to commit barbarous acts will eventually lead to lower morale, and therefore less victories.

    “Wake up! We don’t have an image anymore: to the rest of the world, we are the big dog in the yard and they will do anything to take that position from us. This won’t change, even if we have an image that’s squeaky clean (in fact, such a clean image would be a sign of weakness).”

    The fact that you think acting in a morally sound and honourable manner is a sign of weakness is laughable. I’m thinking the fact that the US has enough artillery to blow up the world would be enough to deter any nation from waging war on it.

    “But seriously, comparing our present situation to the holocaust is quite a stretch. The terrorists are a legitamate threat to our national security and continued well being; the Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, etc… were not threats but rather incovinient persons for Germany at that time.”

    But what about arabs? Without a trial to determine whether a person is guilty or not, the legitimacy of the threat will be unknown. I’m worried that the government will profile arabs and muslims as anti-arabism and anti-islam sentiments seem to be common among the sociopathic right-wing autocrats such as yourself.

    “Yes, I your read ideas of utilitarianism and I find them impractical (although quite beautiful on paper…). I would rather like a world without pain, suffering, or lack but I acknowlegde that human nature forbids any such world from materializing (then again, perhaps pain, suffering, and lack are the things that motivate us to improve ourselves; making us stronger…).”

    Human nature does no such thing, Society has been demonstrated to raise at least 90% of people to have a concience.

    I suggest you stop living in an orwellian universe and maybe you may get a grip on reality.

  • MissCherryPi

    “There’s a reason why we sign these treaties: to protect my son in the military. That’s why we have these treaties, so when Americans are captured they are not tortured. That’s the reason in case anybody forgets it.” -Joe Biden

  • MarkR

    Christopher, you need to shut your mouth before you lose more ground. You obviously have no idea what you’re talking about, and you’re trying to convince people who DO know what we’re talking about.

    If you don’t understand the gravity of what transpired with the passage of this bill, I feel sorry for you. Like someone above said, in 10 years you’ll be bitching about the loss of your rights. Which are rights, by the way. I don’t know where the hell you got the idea that “rights” are won, but then, I don’t generally people with mediocre spelling skills much credit anyway.

  • Alex Weaver

    While I’ll admit that Christopher’s arguments seem calculated to produce an emotional reaction (suspiciously so, in fact…) I think it would be best if we focus on the issues, namely his cavalier disregard for basic principles of civilized behavior and his tendency to advance Mobian arguments in favor of a worldview which is unconscionable, myopic, and self-defeating in that it would cause all involved, including him, to suffer enormously if it were widely adopted.

    Now then:

    “Sociopathic” was not intended as an ad hominem attack, but rather a succinct and specific summary of what I find objectionable about your position; namely that it displays characteristics typical of a clinical sociopath; that is, a person “whose behavior is antisocial and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.” (Dictionary.com). I note as supporting evidence your explicit rejection of morality, detailed here and in other posts; your disregard for human rights and the well-being of others, and specifically the fact the your examples of objections to Bush regime policy all seem to be examples of policies that are much closer to affecting you personally than you think this is (which is what I was referencing with the Niemoller comparison); and your apparent inability to grasp the fact that “might-makes-right” is not only unethical, it is simply unworkable, both in one’s personal life and in international relations, except in the extremely short term (and not always then), because while the U.S. is the most powerful country in the world, it is absurd to think that the U.S. could win a war against the entire rest of the human race at once–yet such a war is a likely outcome of the general geopolitical philosophy you advocate.

    As for the law–you seem to be taking for granted that these people actually are guilty of something and a genuine threat to the United States, when we have only the Bush administration’s *snicker* unblemished word that this is so. As people have repeatedly noticed, many of them have been held for years without ever being charged with a crime. Do you really have no objection to the indefinite impresonment and torture of innocent (until proven guilty, they are) people because the lying, cheating, self-serving Bush administration claims they’re a threat? Note also that torture is a notoriously unreliable method of extracting information, and is likely to produce misinformation that, if acted upon, will be more damaging than known ignorance. Also, you claim that it is of no concern to us because it’s aimed at foreigners, but as Adam has pointed out, nothing in the law’s wording prevents it being applied to American citizens. The definition of “enemy combatant” is nebulous and has apparently been employed in an arbitrary and self-serving fashion in the past. The Bush administration and its supporters have repeatedly claimed that their critics are supportive of or helping the terrorists. Am I to believe you really don’t see cause for concern here?!?!

  • Archi Medez

    A few points:

    Ebonmuse agrees above with Alonzo (and Sam Harris) that torture is morally justified in some extreme circumstances, but should not be permitted by a general law. I agree that torture should be permitted (morally) in only those extreme circumstances*, but, if it is morally justified, I see no reason why we cannot add a special law, for precisely such circumstances. (I say this as an in-principle point. I am not sure about the details of this Military Commissions Act, and I have no legal expertise).

    *Briefly, the basic criteria would be (a) a high-level of certainty that the suspect has the desired information, (b) obtaining that desired information would help save innocent lives, (c) that the torture used is the mildest form necessary to obtain the best quality of information in the shortest period of time, (d) that other non-torture options would not obtain the desired information.

    A reasonable question to ask then is ‘How often are we dealing with a circumstance that falls into this special category?’ We are dealing with some suspects who may have information about terrorist attacks on civilians, be those civilians American or non-American, Muslim or non-Muslim. (Many of these investigations involve international cooperation). The information could pertain to a plot that is not to be carried out for several months or even a few years.

    Someone above has said that we should follow a policy of banning torture to ensure that torture isn’t done to our (American or coalition) soldiers. I don’t think that’s realistic. In any case, we should maintain a general ban on torture because that reflects our values in regards to treating human beings generally, not because we expect reciprocity from the other side in their treatment of our soldiers in this war. [see Ebonmuses' George Washington quote]

    Ebonmuse wrote [re a more fair and transparent treatment of detainees]:

    “Not only would such a procedure pay heed to America’s most important ideals, it would have been one of our most effective weapons in the war of ideas we are fighting against Islamic fundamentalists. It would have given us an indisputable claim to hold the moral high ground against the deranged fanatics who think nothing of mass murder, torture and terrorism waged against innocents in the service of their evil cause.”

    I agree. America needs to regain that moral high ground internationally. As for fighting the war of ideas, of course we are not literally trying to convince the terrorists but rather those large minorities to small majorities in the Islamic world that provide the social/political support to the terrorists. I don’t think we can convince them directly either, but we can do so indirectly. We can give a stronger case to those (genuine moderates) who are opposed to the terrorists or who are in the middle ambivalent position, and they will have a social influence on the hard-line terrorist supporters.

    It is also the group which is opposed to the terrorists which will be a most useful ally in attempting to establish more moderate and modern versions of Islam, which include the right to (1) criticize or (2) leave Islam without penalty. These two features are most necessary for reform in Islam. (Obviously, as an atheist I’d like to see them abandon Islam altogether, but realistically I don’t expect that to happen in large numbers over the next 2 or 3 decades). Reform in Islam is key in this struggle against the terrorist jihadists and those pushing for sharia law through political means. That is to say, this war will not end until the ideological engine of the jihadists and the political Islamists is shut down.

  • Christopher

    Response to Alex Weaver:

    “While I’ll admit that Christopher’s arguments seem calculated to produce an emotional reaction (suspiciously so, in fact…)”

    Perceptive: they are meant to elict emotions because the arguments that bring forth a reaction are the ones that people remember. The reader might be initially disgusted by some of the ideas presented, but this emotional response ensures that the idea stays in memory: giving the reader plenty of time to think about what was said.

    Eventually, the reader will confront situations that bring these ideas back to their mind; allowing them a chance to practice them. What happens from there is up to the reader.

    ‘”Sociopathic”‘ was not intended as an ad hominem attack, but rather a succinct and specific summary of what I find objectionable about your position; namely that it displays characteristics typical of a clinical sociopath; that is, a person “whose behavior is antisocial and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.” (Dictionary.com).”

    I admit that I have no moral responsibility for anything I do (because I don’t believe morality to be anything other than an arbitrary set of rules for limiting humanity’s options), I not antisocial: I can (and do) interact with others in a normal and friendly manner; I’m not hostile or threatening (if I was, we wouldn’t be having this nice little chat, would we?); and I don’t oppose the social order (to the contrary: I back the social order that in turn backs my own interests).

    My philosophy is more oriented towards Machiavellian/Neitzschean- style individualism, but I am not a sociopath.

    “I note as supporting evidence your explicit rejection of morality, detailed here and in other posts; your disregard for human rights and the well-being of others,”

    These things are not real, thus I see no reason to support them. Sure, there are all sorts of people that claim to support these things, but nearly all of them have some kind of alterior motive for it (I used to work for such people, they’re not worth trusting).

    “and specifically the fact the your examples of objections to Bush regime policy all seem to be examples of policies that are much closer to affecting you personally than you think this is (which is what I was referencing with the Niemoller comparison);”

    I read the law and find no reason to fear it (not yet, anyway). It’s clearly targeted at foreigners, although I can see how (in theory) some one may alter it for use against citizens. However, I doubt that even the voting public is dumb enough to allow that.

    “and your apparent inability to grasp the fact that “might-makes-right” is not only unethical, it is simply unworkable, both in one’s personal life and in international relations, except in the extremely short term (and not always then), because while the U.S. is the most powerful country in the world, it is absurd to think that the U.S. could win a war against the entire rest of the human race at once–yet such a war is a likely outcome of the general geopolitical philosophy you advocate.”

    Come on now, do you think that open conflict is the only way problems can be solved with my philosphy? While I do believe that power is the final arbiter of any argument, war isn’t the only way to project it: intimidation, deception, bribery, and under-the-table pacts are also useful tools for gaining leverage in the long run.

    While I do recommend that we use open conflict against anti-Western jihadists (with whom the previously mentioned tools are ineffective), I think these tactics might be more effective with keeping non-aggressor states and “allies” in check.

    “As for the law–you seem to be taking for granted that these people actually are guilty of something and a genuine threat to the United States, when we have only the Bush administration’s *snicker* unblemished word that this is so.”

    As I said before, I’m no apologist for the current administration. But I think they’re on an effective path here; far be it from me to stop a govt. from preforming efficiently.

    “As people have repeatedly noticed, many of them have been held for years without ever being charged with a crime. Do you really have no objection to the indefinite impresonment and torture of innocent (until proven guilty, they are) people because the lying, cheating, self-serving Bush administration claims they’re a threat?”

    They’re foreigners, we don’t have to follow any protocols in dealing with them. If those were U.S. citizens (MY people), I would be concerned about what this could entail for me. But since that’s not the case, I don’t waste my time worrying about them.

    Does this worldview show preference to one people group over another? Yes. But it works.

    “Note also that torture is a notoriously unreliable method of extracting information, and is likely to produce misinformation that, if acted upon, will be more damaging than known ignorance.”

    First of all, I heard that argument before. But it’s always out of the mouths of “human rights” groups (read: people with an agenda to push, and I know how to push agendas). Now if some one skilled in the arts of interregation were to point out the benefits/drawbacks of torture, I’d be more inclined to listen.

    Secondly, if torture is as ineffective as you claim, why do interregators still use it? I could understand it’s failures if the intent is just to gain pleasure from pain, but that doesn’t explain why skilled interrogators continue to utalize it as a valid means of information extraction.

    “The definition of “enemy combatant” is nebulous and has apparently been employed in an arbitrary and self-serving fashion in the past. The Bush administration and its supporters have repeatedly claimed that their critics are supportive of or helping the terrorists.”

    And he happens to be right: denying our intelligence people the tools to extract information from an enemy is helping the enemy. Although the critics don’t see it that way, they do unintentionally assist the ones who would happily kill them given a chance.

    “Am I to believe you really don’t see cause for concern here?!?!”

    No, I do see a cause for future concern. But, for now, this is the best path to follow. Perhaps a future amendment to the law explicitly exempting U.S. citizens would calm you down?

  • andrea

    People still use torture to humiliate, degrade, kill and to get false confessions so they have an excuse for continuing their actions. Why do you never think you hear any “professionals” saying how “good” torture is? Very likely because they know it isn’t true either. What’s the difference between countries that condemn the use of torture and those that support it? Totalitarian governments, for one.

    As for the “voting public” not being stupid enough to allow the use of the torture bill to be used against “them”. What makes you think they have the choice? Bush has written signing statements on the majority of his bills that give him special powers and rights.

  • Christopher

    Response to Andrea:

    “People still use torture to humiliate, degrade, kill and to get false confessions so they have an excuse for continuing their actions. Why do you never think you hear any “professionals” saying how “good” torture is?”

    Onw word: politics. If a proffessional interogater came forward and revealed that torture has its benfits, every “human rights” org. would immediatley paint him up as some kind of monster. Since the common public is easily swayed by groups who claim the “greater good,” his arguments would fall on deaf ears regardless of their basis in fact.

    “As for the “voting public” not being stupid enough to allow the use of the torture bill to be used against “them”. What makes you think they have the choice? Bush has written signing statements on the majority of his bills that give him special powers and rights.”

    Bush, just like any other politician in a republican (the system, not the political party) state, he has to yeid to the will of the masses if he wants to retain power(or, in this case, pass it to his potential successor). If the voting public ever realizes that U.S. citizens are being abducted and tortured, it will only be a matter of time before they wonder when they may be next.

    That threat hanging over their heads will be a big incentive for them to uproot the current administration ASAP. Even men as powerful as the president have limitations, you know…

  • Christopher

    Spelling: “Onw”= one. Sorry for the typo…

  • MissCherryPi

    “Two experienced officers have told ABC that there is little to be gained by these techniques that could not be more effectively gained by a methodical, careful, psychologically based interrogation. According to a classified report prepared by the CIA Inspector General John Helgerwon and issued in 2004, the techniques “appeared to constitute cruel, and degrading treatment under the (Geneva) convention,” the New York Times reported on Nov. 9, 2005.

    It is “bad interrogation. I mean you can get anyone to confess to anything if the torture’s bad enough,” said former CIA officer Bob Baer.

    Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer and a deputy director of the State Department’s office of counterterrorism, recently wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “What real CIA field officers know firsthand is that it is better to build a relationship of trust … than to extract quick confessions through tactics such as those used by the Nazis and the Soviets.”

    http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/Investigation/story?id=1322866&page=1

    “Or listen to Army Col. Stuart Herrington, a military intelligence specialist who conducted interrogations in Vietnam, Panama and Iraq during Desert Storm, and who was sent by the Pentagon in 2003 — long before Abu Ghraib — to assess interrogations in Iraq. Aside from its immorality and its illegality, says Herrington, torture is simply “not a good way to get information.” In his experience, nine out of 10 people can be persuaded to talk with no “stress methods” at all, let alone cruel and unusual ones. Asked whether that would be true of religiously motivated fanatics, he says that the “batting average” might be lower: “perhaps six out of ten.” And if you beat up the remaining four? “They’ll just tell you anything to get you to stop.”

    Worse, you’ll have the other side effects of torture. It “endangers our soldiers on the battlefield by encouraging reciprocity.” It does “damage to our country’s image” and undermines our credibility in Iraq. That, in the long run, outweighs any theoretical benefit. Herrington’s confidential Pentagon report, which he won’t discuss but which was leaked to The Post a month ago, goes farther. In that document, he warned that members of an elite military and CIA task force were abusing detainees in Iraq, that their activities could be “making gratuitous enemies” and that prisoner abuse “is counterproductive to the Coalition’s efforts to win the cooperation of the Iraqi citizenry.” Far from rescuing Americans, in other words, the use of “special methods” might help explain why the war is going so badly.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A2302-2005Jan11.html

    “It has always been recognized that . . . interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile.” This was the conclusion of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798 and is shared by the U.S. Army Field Manual. The manual also warns that “[r]evelations of use of torture by US personnel will bring discredit upon the US and its armed forces while undermining . . . support for the war effort” and placing American prisoners “at a greater risk of abuse.” This is especially true in the current conflict, as a recent Army War College report explained that torture is always “a major strategic blunder . . . [especially] in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency warfare [where] the moral component of the fight is strategically decisive.”

    Found here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bennet-kelley/understanding-the-bushmc_b_30221.html

    Confirmed here:
    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0IBR/is_2_36/ai_n16689900

    and here:
    http://www.fcnl.org/pdfs/civ_liberties/field_manual.pdf

    Chris said:
    “denying our intelligence people the tools to extract information from an enemy is helping the enemy”

    But what about when we get false information because of torture?

    “ABC News was told that at least three CIA officers declined to be trained in the techniques before a cadre of 14 were selected to use them on a dozen top al Qaeda suspects in order to obtain critical information. In at least one instance, ABC News was told that the techniques led to questionable information aimed at pleasing the interrogators and that this information had a significant impact on U.S. actions in Iraq.

    According to CIA sources, Ibn al Shaykh al Libbi, after two weeks of enhanced interrogation, made statements that were designed to tell the interrogators what they wanted to hear.Sources say Al Libbi had been subjected to each of the progressively harsher techniques in turn and finally broke after being water boarded and then left to stand naked in his cold cell overnight where he was doused with cold water at regular intervals.

    His statements became part of the basis for the Bush administration claims that Iraq trained al Qaeda members to use biochemical weapons. Sources tell ABC that it was later established that al Libbi had no knowledge of such training or weapons and fabricated the statements because he was terrified of further harsh treatment. ”

    ABC News ibd.

    What if the torture is actually a reason al Queda can recruit more people? The National Intelligence Estimate lists “Entrenched grievances, such as corruption, injustice, and fear of Western domination, leading to anger, humiliation, and a sense of powerlessness” as one of the main reasons for the insurgency. Surely torture at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo had nothing to do with this!

    But, hey, the CIA and Army Field Manual could be totally wrong. You say you “know how to push agendas” so push the torture agenda. Tell me what it has done for the war on terror. Explain to me how it’s captured Osoma bin Laden. Use small words and visual aids to convey how torture has lost the war for us in Afghanistan and allowed the Taliban to regain control. Tell me what torturing people has done to keep me safe. (Silly me, I thought it was police work in Scotland Yard that stopped the most recent plot!) And before you are done, show me how torture has led to the capture and conviction of any one person involved in the planning of the events of September 11, 2001. Because right now, I’m not buying any of it. I must be stupid.

  • Jeff T.

    I disagree with the support of torture, in any situation. The honorable approach to dealing with an enemy would be to slay him outright. It is a sad situation that we have allowed ourselves to complicate the horror of war with torture amongst other things—such as the Iraqi quagmire.

    On the issue of republicans and democrats, I find them 2 sides of the same coin. Does anyone remember Badnarik being refused the right to participate in the 2004 Presidential debates? I think our democracy is as much an illusion as religion—as this bill demonstrates so clearly.

    —back to studying ‘The God Delusion’—

  • chronomitch

    “Bush, just like any other politician in a republican (the system, not the political party) state, he has to yeid to the will of the masses if he wants to retain power(or, in this case, pass it to his potential successor). If the voting public ever realizes that U.S. citizens are being abducted and tortured, it will only be a matter of time before they wonder when they may be next.

    That threat hanging over their heads will be a big incentive for them to uproot the current administration ASAP. Even men as powerful as the president have limitations, you know… ”

    The US public doesn’t even know what’s going on anymore due to the conservative media. And when the information does reach us, the media twists it or leaves out important facts. Often times, though, the media outright lies to make Bush and his cronies look good even despite everything they have done so far. And any one who says otherwise, even if their opinion is based in genuine facts, is labeled a liberal and terror-helper (or “weak on terror” depending on who’s talking).

    It used to be that Fox News was the only “conservative” tv media outlet, but in the past few years, I’ve noticed that the other major news networks either avoid the issues at hand completely (conveniently dodging any inconvenient facts that might hinder the conservative view) or follow Fox’s cues. No wonder so many Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11.

    So, yes Christopher, I agree that the President does have to answer to the people, but how can the people do anything when they don’t even know the reality of the present situation?

  • BigJim

    Our basic human rights do not accrue to us through the accident of our births as American citizens. Nor do we gain them merely because we have legally ‘earned’ our citizenship or because we happen to reside within the borders of the United States. Our rights belong to us because we are “all created equal” and are all “endowed with certain inalienable rights.” We have embraced these basic human rights in our laws and in our commonly accepted norms of social behavior.

    This new law is infused with the word ‘alien’ to selectively apply basic human rights based on citizenship. That might be a valid application in some other, less enlightened, country. But in my country we believe basic human rights extend to every human being, including our enemies – not just to American citizens.

    If you believe all human beings are born with ‘certain inalienable rights,’ act like it. Talk like it. Walk like it. And learn to spell ‘privilege’ correctly….

  • Christopher

    Response to chromatic:

    “The US public doesn’t even know what’s going on anymore due to the conservative media. And when the information does reach us, the media twists it or leaves out important facts.”

    That was always the case in media! Ever since the days of the town crier, the elite of a society ensured that only selected “facts” ever made it to the ears of the common public. And the information the public does recieve is usually slanted towards one section of society or another.

    But we live in a competitive media market now: with so many information channels competing for an audience, it’s difficult for any one faction of society to ever gain complete control of what citizens see and hear (not impossible, but certainly difficult).

    “Often times, though, the media outright lies to make Bush and his cronies look good even despite everything they have done so far. And any one who says otherwise, even if their opinion is based in genuine facts, is labeled a liberal and terror-helper (or “weak on terror” depending on who’s talking). It used to be that Fox News was the only “conservative” tv media outlet, but in the past few years, I’ve noticed that the other major news networks either avoid the issues at hand completely (conveniently dodging any inconvenient facts that might hinder the conservative view) or follow Fox’s cues.”

    If you recall just two years ago, most of the major news outlets couldn’t get enough dirt on Bush: they threw out every unconfirmed accusation they could get their hands on at him. None of them stuck (one even got a “certain” famous anchorman fired). After the aforementioned fiasco, they became more docile to the current administration.

    I believe that this sudden onset of silence was caused by panic after the aformentioned incident and that, once they find a new equalibrium, the various media outlets will reassert themselves as risk-taking competitors.

    “No wonder so many Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11.”

    I do not recall any stories from FOX news aired in the last two or three years that stated or implied a connection between Iraq and 9/11 specifically, but I understand you sentiments. The average persons tend to project his fears onto an external force (i.e. fear of terror with Iraq) and comes to conclusions in his own mind about the external force’s role in his fears.

    While Sadaam’s Iraq was a building threat (one which, I’m happy to say, has been removed from its status), he probably didn’t have any direct role in the 9/11 incident. But I do know that he happily funded various anti-Western terrorist orgs. and defied our foreign policy time and again: that alone (in my opinion) was reason enough to show him who’s boss.

    “So, yes Christopher, I agree that the President does have to answer to the people, but how can the people do anything when they don’t even know the reality of the present situation?”

    While the average person does tend to be on the stupid side, they would notice something as blatant as unwarranted arrests of citizens. No amount of PR or pulling strings in the media would be able to hide the fact that dissenters (particularly high profile ones) were disappearing under strange circumstances. It wouldn’t take long for even the most thick-headed of fools to figure out that something is amiss.

  • MissCherryPi

    “I do not recall any stories from FOX news aired in the last two or three years that stated or implied a connection between Iraq and 9/11 specifically”

    Try the past few months, and it’s not just Fox.

    On the September 8 edition of MSNBC’s Hardball, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund falsely suggested that “the British, the French, the German, and the American intelligence agencies all agree[d]” that Saddam Hussein was involved in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

    http://mediamatters.org/items/200609130005

    On the May 20 edition of Fox News’ The Journal Editorial Report, Wall Street Journal editorial board member Robert Pollock falsely claimed that former undersecretary of defense for policy Douglas J. Feith “was more right than the CIA” about “Saddam’s links to Al Qaeda.”

    http://mediamatters.org/items/200605250002

    “…Iraq was a building threat…”

    In what way? Weapons of Mass Destruction? There weren’t any!

    Over the past 18 months, the media have repeatedly dismissed the need to follow up on new evidence that President Bush knowingly misled the nation in making the case to go to war in Iraq. Media figures have defended this lack of coverage by claiming that the public is already aware that Bush made false claims about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and his purported arsenal of WMDs. But a recent Harris poll found that the share of Americans who believe Saddam actually did possess WMDs at the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq has increased substantially since February 2005, from 36 percent to 50 percent.

    http://mediamatters.org/items/200607260005

  • Shawn Smith

    <offtopic>

    Spelling: “Onw”= one. Sorry for the typo …

    LOL! That’s a howler coming from Christopher, especially after these gems:

    … a proffessional (sic) interogator (sic) came forward …

    … has its benfits, (sic) …

    … would immediatley (sic) paint him …

    … has to yeid (sic) to the will …

    Well, Christopher, at least you’re getting better. And yes, we can understand what you’re writing. It’s just that misspelling so many words makes it look like you are either too careless or too uneducated to really take seriously.

    </offtopic>

  • andrea

    Fox hasn’t attached 9/11 to Iraq? are you kidding? Pesky reporters, video tape and audio tape catching all of those instances.

    Adn politics would stop professionals from saying just how good torture is? Sure. With the lathered up neocons out there, words like those would comes as a blessing.

  • Christopher

    Response to Shawn Smith:

    I apologize for any spelling errors that I made in my posts. I’ve become so accustomed to having a spellcheck program that I sometimes forget to edit my work. But I’m not careless and am certainly not an uneducated man; I have a BA in communications for the University of Texas in Arlington. As chance would have it, a number of my instructors had similair spelling difficulties when they typed assignments (these difficulties disappeared when they wrote on the blackboards, though).

    Response to MissCherryPi:

    I read those liks that you posted and find that most of them debate the issue of whether or not Sadaam had any role in 9/11. Both sides of the issue were represented (although I did detect a slight bias in favor of the pro-Sadaam/9/11 connection side).

    But these were editorial pieces, not hard news stories. Had they made such a stand in a hard news piece, they would be taking a position that is difficult to back up and they would likely succumb to a scandal. Editorial pieces, however, can explore theoretical possibilities without picking one side over another (of course, there usually is some bias in favor of certain views…).

    While I don’t think Sadaam had a direct role in the 9/11 attacks (he might have, but the waters of modern politics are too murky right now to see the truth), he definitely was up to something. Why else would he defy the oil embargo placed on him (by bribing various members of the oil-for-food deal) and kick out U.N. Weapons Inspectors on a consistent basis? And why did he still keep his nuclear program open (granted, the documents recovered show that it was horribly under-funded and under-staffed) and maintain a handful of mobile chemical weapons labs? Hell, even Sadaam’s commanding generals believed they had chemical weapons at their disposal (until Sadaam told them otherwise)!

    While in hindsight it may be clear that he wasn’t building weapons of mass destruction, at the time it sure looked like he was plotting against us and weapons research did look like a logical conclusion. But what is the truth?

    In my opinion, this is how the war with Sadamm unfolded…

    I doubt that Bush lied to get us to go to war, but rather he was fooled by Sadaam’s bluff (it seems as though he was just posturing to intimidate us into leaving the region, so he could continue his research without U.S. interference). Unfortunately for Sadaam, his bluff seems to have backfired and sparked a war that ended his reign.

    But a search of the country only turned up under-funded facilities and about 500 older (pre-Gulf War) chemical weapons scattered in various ammunition dumps (likely put on the shelf and forgotten over time). Bush was then put in the odd position of explaning where the non-existent WMDs were, so he insisted that they would turn up eventually. Of course, no new weapons were ever found, so he shifted attention away from them to other Iraqi issues (forming a stable “democracy,” wiping out the terrorist holdouts, etc…).

    Here is where he failed: he should have simply propped up a U.S. puppet regime (using the surviving elements of the Bathist party, keeping them on a very tight leash of course) and pulled our boys out. He could have declared victory and removed a political weapon that the opposition holds over him now. The strong partisan sentiments sparked by the continuing conflict could have been evaded had he erected another govt. to take the heat, but it’s too late for that now.

    And the war continues still, the politicians take advantage of the mud-slinging opportunities offered by this circumstance, and various “experts” from both sides continue to chant the lines of their respective parties; in short, this war devolved into a political mess that will mark all public figures involved in it.

    Like I said, this is just my opinion. Furthermore, I’m interpreting the events from a Machivellian/Nietzschean point of view; so there are some biases associated with these philosophies that may have colored my take on the facts. I just thought I get that out of the way right here and now…

  • andrea

    VP Cheney said that there was a connection. That eliminates any debate of if there was any official attempts at connection.

  • Shawn Smith

    <offtopic>

    Christopher,

    Thank you for your response. And there’s really nothing to apologize for. I just think it’s funny sometimes, which is probably not the impression you’re aiming for.

    If you are really used to having a spell check program available, I have found the Google Toolbar provides a reasonable interface. The link to get to it is on the left side, fourth from the bottom. I can’t provide a direct link because it depends on the browser and primary language you use.

    </offtopic>

  • Christopher

    Show me that story.

  • EnigmaOfSteel

    I admit that I have no moral responsibility for anything I do (because I don’t believe morality to be anything other than an arbitrary set of rules for limiting humanity’s options …)

    In the recent threads on moral relativism, I recall Christopher made a similar claim – namely that he is an amoral actor, who will essentially do whatever he wants if it furthers his agenda, unbound by morality. Do the people responding to him here not see the implications? Consider that he could just as easily be lying to you as telling the truth, if he determined it would further his agenda.

    Christopher stated in the moral relativism thread that he operates with unwitting dupes and pawns. This is understandable, given that it could be difficult to get assistance once a person realized a handshake could become a club to the head – if Christopher determined it suited his purposes. The problem I see for Christopher is that in this forum he unmasked himself. Knowing that he would unabashedly lie and cheat if he believed it suited the situation, I see little point in spending much time engaging him. Even if he claimed to revise a position based on a response – it could be a complete lie.

  • http://nes-ramblings.blogspot.com/ Nes

    I’m just going to engage in a bit of speculation, since I can hardly claim to be an expert in this area…

    Why else would he … kick out U.N. Weapons Inspectors on a consistent basis? And why did he still keep his nuclear program open (granted, the documents recovered show that it was horribly under-funded and under-staffed) and maintain a handful of mobile chemical weapons labs? Hell, even Sadaam’s commanding generals believed they had chemical weapons at their disposal (until Sadaam told them otherwise)!

    The oil for food thing might not fit with this, I don’t know enough about it; but the rest, I think, could easily be explained by taking Christopher’s own world view. Saddam did not want to appear weak. He wanted to fool (not neccessarily the U.S., though that could have been a factor as well) his neighbors into thinking he not only still had some big guns, but he was developing even bigger ones, so they better not mess with him. (As an aside, haven’t those ‘mobile weapons labs’ been debunked? Or are these different ones? Or weren’t they really debunked in the first place?)

  • Padishah

    The problem I see for Christopher is that in this forum he unmasked himself. Knowing that he would unabashedly lie and cheat if he believed it suited the situation, I see little point in spending much time engaging him. Even if he claimed to revise a position based on a response – it could be a complete lie.

    So? He has nothing to gain or lose based on his posting on an internet forum. Whilst I believe that some of his comments may be rather exaggerated/created for the thrill of shick factor (eg. his decription of stabbing a mugger) he has nothing directly to gain (or lose) from lying – its not as if anything here is fact-checkable after all, and does anyone seriously care what a few people on a forum think of them? So the only motivation to post is intellectual interest.

  • Padishah

    ‘Shick’ = shock btw….

  • EnigmaOfSteel

    Padishah wrote: “So? He has nothing to gain or lose based on his posting on an internet forum. Whilst I believe that some of his comments may be rather exaggerated/created for the thrill of shick factor (eg. his decription of stabbing a mugger) he has nothing directly to gain (or lose) from lying – its not as if anything here is fact-checkable after all, and does anyone seriously care what a few people on a forum think of them? So the only motivation to post is intellectual interest.”

    You or I do not know what Christopher might believe he has to gain or loose by posting to the forum. Understand that whatever actions you might prescribe due to morality do not apply. All I know is his stated policy of acting any way he feels, if he believes it furthers his interests. That could include lying, or for that matter anything else, up to allowing for theft, rape or murder – as he has already admitted. Regarding the forum, maybe he is interested in yanking peoples chains – there is no morality to prevent this. I see no reason to waste much time in engagement.

    I think that is the point that is being somewhat missed here, because people have been writing to Christopher explaining why he should do this or that based on moral principles, when he has stated numerous times that in his view morality is so amorphous it doesn’t exist. It’s not my intention to put down the people who have responded to Christopher, because it is understandable one might be inclined to respond within a moral framework, given some of the disturbing things he has written. It’s just that there is not much point in making a moral argument to someone who’s contention is that morality does not exist.

    Regarding your other points Padishah – it’s not true that people do not care what others on the forum think of them. I care about what people on the forum think about me, because I am interested in having my posts taken seriously, and responded to in a decent fashion. Likewise there are also people in this forum who’s opinions I consider with more weight, due to what they have shown me regarding their character. I want to learn from these people. I also disagree with your contention that things here are not fact checkable. One need only look through the threads to find examples where claims were refuted after a fact check.

  • Padishah

    I meant that personal experiences and actions were not fact ckeckable – matters of public record obviously are.

    I care about what people on the forum think about me, because I am interested in having my posts taken seriously, and responded to in a decent fashion.

    So you only care about activity on the forum insofar as it effects the forum itself. Again, that is merely intellectual interest.

    Regarding the forum, maybe he is interested in yanking peoples chains – there is no morality to prevent this.

    Plenty of non-nihilists do this for fun anyway, and see nothing wrong with it.

    Essentially, your post amounts to a gigantic ‘why bother’, failing to understand that there are plenty of non-moral arguments that can be made in such a discussion too. I myself am a nihilist but do not consider discussion of politics/philosophy/sociology to be pointless, nor of morality as a logical system.

  • andrea

    Christopher, ifyou are asking for a link to an article with Cheney making claims that Iraq had links with 9/11, do you really think I can’t find any?

    http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/06/15/bush.alqaeda/

    http://www.truthout.org/docs_03/093003C.shtml

    and on and on.

  • Christpher

    Response to EnigmaOfSteel:

    What you say does have some merit to it: I do have certain intests in these forums, but (as Padishah observed) they are all intellectual in nature. You see, there aren’t too many people in my life that I can openly discuss my philosophies with (it would ruin my existing relationships with them), so I decided to pit my philosophies against others while remaining anonymous. So I took up a number of different psuedonyms and argued my points on various forums.

    So far, this is one of the more promsing ones: highly-structured arguments, wide representation of philosophical schools, almost no personal attacks, and no reason for me to lie about what I believe or what I do (BTW: that “stabbed mugger” incident is real). This is a near-perfect intellectual sparring ground for me to test my theories against.

    That said, I wish to this time to thank the people of this forum for giving me a run for my money: the data I gathered was quite useful. I hope that future debates held will be of similair qulity.

    To all of your continued good fortune: may all of you prosper so that I may prosper!

  • Christopher

    Response to andrea:

    These articles only claim that Al-queda and Sadaam were associates before the 9/11 atacks occured (a notion I find quite believable), not that Sadaam had any direct involvment in the attacks. Read an article for context before using it to substantiate a claim.

  • andrea

    Sorry, Chris, but you’re wrong on this. just read “In September, after Cheney asserted that Iraq had been “the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11,” Bush acknowledged there was no evidence that Saddam’s government was connected to those attacks.”

    “Especially on 9/11″. what do you think this means if not being complicit with the attacks? Bush may have backed away from it but was all behind it until that article.

    And this, “But on Sept. 8, 2002, Cheney, again on “Meet the Press,” said that Atta “did apparently travel to Prague. . . . We have reporting that places him in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer a few months before the attacks on the World Trade Center.”
    They are both an attempt to forge bonds that didn’t exist. You may disagree but I think you are being disingenuous.

  • Christopher

    I read that quote as well, and I find a measure of truth in it: Al-Queda likely did have pre-9/11 affiliations with the Sadaam regime. Since the Iraqi regime didn’t do anything to inhibit this organization from commiting this act, they do merit some of the blame for the attack (but the lion’s share remains with Al-Queda itself).

    But this doesn’t show any DIRECT involvment in the attack by Sadaam’s regime. That’s the key here: there is no evidence that Sadaam’s govt. contributed resources or intelligence specifically allocated for this operation. Cheny may have overstated the significance of the connection to make a point (a tactic often used in PR campaigns), but he didn’t make the crucial error of telling an outright untruth.

    Cheny didn’t “forge a bond” so much as somewhat exaggerate the existing one. For that, Bush was correct in refuting him. But I didn’t see anything in these aricles that equals an incorrect assertion. Cheny was just doing what any PR representative would have done in that position: embellish the truth a little.

  • http://www.dogsonacid.com KlokWyze

    “The suspension of habeas corpus for detainees is illegal. Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution holds, “The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” The U.S. is neither in rebellion, nor have we been invaded.”

    They will just call the migration of illegal aliens they allow to come into our country “the invasion force”. Boom. We are being invaded. I guess the KBR “detention centers” are being built for them right…..? lol!!!

    “Even worse, twelve Senate Democrats voted for the bill, including the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Jay Rockefeller, who complained that Bush has refused to inform Congress about the details of the interrogation program, then voted to legalize that program anyway.”

    Rockefeller…. hmmmm…. let me see… a family of bankers AND politicians. No possibility of corruption there eh? Any bi-partisan “democracy” fails ESPECIALLY when both parties simply do the same shit ONCE THEY ARE IN OFFICE.

    Please raise you hands if you really think any of these politicians have any credibility.

    Are election results really reliable?

    Diebold. No investigation.

    9/11. No investigation.

    Do you guys really think our judicial system has any credibility? Apparently US tax law overrides supreme court decisions, but no Americans care. Apparently Bush & co is above laws set forth by the Geneva convention, but no Americans care. US governments invades other countries based on lies, renigs, but guess what. No Americans care.

    This article is old fucking news.

    The reigns going to the dems will only slow the further destruction of America down, not stop it.

  • Christopher

    Response to KolkWyze:

    You are correct about one thing: both parties behave the same way once in office. Corruption is the norm and not the exception as democratic idealists would have you believe.

    The best way to cope? Just sit back and enjoy the ride – even manipulate the system to your advantage when you can – because in the end, it’s all going to unravel anyway. The only question remaining now is who will take charge when this over-grown, republican beast govt. of ours collapses under its own weight?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    9/11. No investigation.

    Er, actually there was an investigation, and it released a fairly large and comprehensive book. Does this ring any bells?

  • EnigmaOfSteel

    Response to Padishah’s last post:

    I meant that personal experiences and actions were not fact ckeckable – matters of public record obviously are.

    Whatever it is you are trying to say about facts, it’s not detrimental to my argument. The pertinent fact is that Christopher either has deliberately lied to the forum, or would deliberately lie to the forum, if he believed it furthered his interests. This goes to whether or not someone would want to spend time engaging him and is a valid consideration.

    So you only care about activity on the forum insofar as it effects the forum itself. Again, that is merely intellectual interest.

    Interesting that you somehow know what activity I “only care about” on the forum. And what is “merely intellectual interest”? Is that a special kind of intellectual interest? Because last I knew, a person who would deliberately mislead and provide false information, could indeed have a negative impact on discussions involving intellectual interest.

    Essentially, your post amounts to a gigantic ‘why bother’, failing to understand that there are plenty of non-moral arguments that can be made in such a discussion too. I myself am a nihilist but do not consider discussion of politics/philosophy/sociology to be pointless, nor of morality as a logical system.

    “Gigantic”? Hardly. Although perhaps gigantic would be an apt word, as in gigantic problem, if a person with the following view moved into the house next door: “If no one I cared about was raped, murdered, robbed, etc… I would be completely indifferent towards the act.”

    Regardless, the lack of understanding seems to be on your part Padishah, as evidenced by your statement regarding non-moral arguments. Obviously a non-moral argument could fall victim to a person who, given his stated position, would mislead or provide false information, simply because he happened to think it was in his interest.

  • Padishah

    …or would deliberately lie to the forum, if he believed it furthered his interests. This goes to whether or not someone would want to spend time engaging him and is a valid consideration.

    Here I think we come to the heart of the matter. I (and many others, including Christopher) would, all other things being equal, happily lie if there was something to be gained by it. So then, if you are worried by this (you shouldnt be, see below) then ask yourself the question: what does one have to gain? Certianly nothing financially, and it is unlikely to say the least that the way a person is percieved by a group of strangers on a forum will impact other socal relationships. This is what I meant by intellectual interest: the only reason one might do so would be to see how others react to an adopted position. I myself have in the past taken positions purely out of interest and argued them through to their logical conclusions, (though I don’t generally claim them to be my sincere beliefs, I don’t see the point).

    At any rate, I dont think people lying should be a problem here. The fact that someone has some motivation to take a particular position, or even that they might not actually believe it themselves, does not itself invalidate any particular logical argument they might make with respect to it.

    Interesting that you somehow know what activity I “only care about” on the forum

    By ‘you’ I really meant ‘one’ thining in a reasonable and detached manner.

    perhaps gigantic would be an apt word, as in gigantic problem, if a person with the following view moved into the house next door: “If no one I cared about was raped, murdered, robbed, etc… I would be completely indifferent towards the act.”

    I’m not sure exactly why you think this would be a ‘problem’, even if the group of people this person cared about was very small, there are plenty of good reasons why he is unlikely to start robbing and murdering people at random. You’d likely be far better off living in an affluent area surrounded by such people than in a crime-ridden ghetto; given that the majority of criminals are not unempathic psychopaths yet harm others anyway.

    Obviously a non-moral argument could fall victim to a person who, given his stated position, would mislead or provide false information, simply because he happened to think it was in his interest.

    If we are talking about logical argument, can you explain to me what sort of false information would significantly effect the debate? Given that on serious debate forums anecdotal evidence is generally disregarded unless backed with a source, and indeed here the vast majority of primary information cited can be had from other independant weblinks.


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