Thursday, February 21, 2008

Jonah Goldberg strikes out

The Spokesman-Review publishes a wide range of opinions, including this one found republished in the 21st of February 2008 edition where Jonah Goldberg the author of "Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the politics of meaning," puts out why we can allow waterboarding under extraordinary and presumably rare circumstances. Not having checked out Goldberg's book, but it looks like a revisionist history. And only people who engage in politically "correcting" history in order for it to meet their particular standards and to further demonize what they deem an opposition (in addition make themselves seem more "moral" while they are about it) should surely realize the contradictions of their favored positions.

Hundreds of years ago, torture was a routine fixture in a church trying to root out: Heretics, witches and monsters such as presumed werewolves. Torture became part of the American landscape during the Salem witch trials. But, by the time of World War 2, where the Japanese military used torture on prisoners of war, esp. American prisoners of war, we set up the Geneva Conventions to put an end to what was ultimately regarded as a horrid practice. Which would certainly argue that supposedly "grandstanding" Congressional Dems were simply requiring the GW administration to follow the Geneva Conventions regarding treatment of prisoners. Because we are presumably a country that follows the rule of law. That unlike terrorists, we are not a criminal class of people. Remarkable that Goldberg who associates a torturer, Mussolini, to people adamantly opposed to it, can actually find torture in the form of waterboarding essential to fighting the latest "heretic, witch or monster." And then vehemently denies that we should of course resort to it. Uh, speaking of a guy who operates under an increasingly befuddled mindset. Either torture guarantees a prevention of terrorist attack and therefore should be a standard tool of the trade, or we as a people need to make up our minds as to what sort of persona we truly desire when we wake up in the morning and look at ourselves in the mirror.

So to help make up our minds on whether torture is a usable tool, first of all, I get the sense that because torture doesn't really provide useful information the torture victim merely tells his torturers what they want to hear: In the Maleus Maleficarum where the authors divulged graphic torture and those who broke under the act, namely women who proceeded to divulge names... Women who may have actually been innocent and could purely have been no more than friends and neighbors of the torture victim. How do we know that the terrorists divulged only the names of fellow terrorists? We already know that torture did not come close to preventing all terrorist attacks as Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Great Britain, Turkey, Spain, etc. can attest. Nor did it prevent terrorist cells from forming as Canada, Great Britain, Spain, Germany, etc. can attest. And there were times when we also grabbed up the innocent and tortured them along with those we thought guilty.

Because the guy's name is Ahmed Abbas, we immediately presume that he is an Al Qaeda guy. What if he isn't? But torture can make even this guy claim connections to that international terrorist group where none existed before. To come up with fanciful stories to relieve the pain about "plans of attack, vague and unverified" to shock a nation still reeling years later from 9/11/2001 that our malls, sports arenas, banks, etc. will in fact be struck anytime with a horrible terrorist attack. Certainly, Ahmed Abbas would be politically useful to a guy by the name of Bush, he's protecting us from a fellow we don't know was ever a terrorist. Then there is the act of revenge. Torture is an act of anger, hatred. We put a face on something we detest, project all that we think is wrong about it, and to make the ugliness that we feel go away, we torture. But where does the act really provide the "actionable intelligence" except in very rare circumstances to really round up the bad guys and make them go away permanently. To date, that hasn't happened.

Goldberg shows us a politically correct view that torture can be understandable under certain extraordinary circumstances. Waterboarding only one of the more extreme forms of it. But in fact, waterboarding is only one form of torture and we have plenty of stories of other forms of torture being used routinely from Gitmo to Abu Ghraib. Because those various forms of torture came to light and became quite the national embarrassment, that the U.S. Military now swears and affirms that they closed the book on such practices. What about extraordinary rendition, where we ship terrorist suspects to various countries that routinely torture... Aren't our hands just as dirty as if we had done it ourselves? Obviously, Jonah Goldberg leaves a lot out as he tries to show the world how much better he is to the Democrats in Congress telling the Bush administration that yes we are a nation that is founded on laws but also grounded on a common moral purpose. Now who is the "liberal fascist?"
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