Ass & Splitting Hairs
doesn’t bother Krauthammer’s crowd
all realms of political thought, Charles Krauthammer
can be consistently relied upon to deliver the opinion which
is most stunning in its cold arrogance, but which, for all
its haughty majesty, never quite manages to make sense, unless
you are a member of Israel’s Likud. His latest in the all-around
terrible Weekly Standard sets a new bar for Charles,
though, as the arbiter of the new grand inquisition. Presumptuously
called “The Truth About Torture” (12/5), it is in fact a hapless
attempt to embolden, even glorify America’s recent predilection
for forced sexual humiliation.
first goes for the usual argument—these are terrorists and
they deserve no regard. “Anyone who blows up a car bomb in
a market deserves to spend the rest of his life roasting on
a spit over an open fire.” This is the most frequent and confident
argument in favor of torture. But it completely ignores the
possibility—nay, the reality—that many detainees have done
nothing, will do nothing, and may simply have been sold
to US forces by the Northern Alliance, or just looked too
angry at a checkpoint. That’s one of the problems with not
charging or trying your prisoners – you never know if they’re
of the torture-justifying columns I’ve read recently—and there’s
been a glut—I haven’t once seen this point addressed. It’s
as if the thought that there could be totally innocent men
under those black hoods at Gitmo is just too much for the
Republican mind to process. The very idea that these detainees
are not “enemy combatants” to the last man is somehow blasphemous,
no matter how true it obviously is. Why? Because there is
simply no way to justify torturing an innocent man—it
can’t be done. If we admit for a moment that even a significant
fraction of these torture subjects are totally innocent, the
whole thing collapses.
to worry; Krauthammer doesn’t bother to address the issue
either. Instead, he indulges in creative fantasy:
take the textbook case. Ethics 101: A terrorist has planted
a nuclear bomb in New York City. It will go off in one hour.
A million people will die. You capture the terrorist. He knows
where it is. He's not talking.
Charlie. That’s not a “textbook case;” it’s a movie trailer.
This is what some are calling the “ticking time-bomb scenario,”
in an effort to tap into America’s collective memory of action-thriller
clichés. The time-bomb cliché is well-imprinted by repeated
viewings of absurd movies and TV shows wherein suspiciously
elaborate contrivances of destruction are always attached
to digital clock readouts, so that the audience can feign
suspense, always knowing that their protagonist will cut the
right wire just at the timer reads 00:01. In real life, this
kind of shit doesn’t happen, which Krauthammer very nearly
acknowledges, while fantasizing more unlikely scenarios into
the (nuclear) scale is hypothetical, but in the age of the
car-and suicide-bomber, terrorists are often captured who
have just set a car bomb to go off or sent a suicide bomber
out to a coffee shop, and you only have minutes to find out
where the attack is to take place.
bunch of crap. Really? Often, you say? “Hey, Khalid, could
you do me a favor? Just pop down to Starbucks and explode
yourself, will you?” I have to wonder where Krauthammer
gets this kind of information. Oh wait, I know—he’s making
it up! He doesn’t even go through the usual motions of attributing
this information to “a senior pentagon official” or anything.
He just says it like it’s true, and many people don’t even
notice. The next thing they know, they’re telling their wives
that they “know” that terrorists are “often” captured mid-bombing,
and their would-be victims are saved through torture. And
thus another rhetorical turd befouls the public consciousness.
case we’re not convinced, Krauthammer asserts that we don’t
have to believe such a situation could actually occur; it
is enough that, if it did, torture could be the right thing
even if the example I gave were entirely hypothetical, the
conclusion--yes, in this case even torture is permissible--is
telling because it establishes the principle: Torture is not
because in an extremely improbable set of circumstances, it
would be okay to bring the pain, we need to codify the approval
of said pain. If it’s permissible even once, then it is permissible,
period, and some kind of legal torture slide rule needs to
be designed, so we can know when to hold ‘em, and when to
hold ‘em under water for distressing durations. Krauthammer
is trying to diddle a microscopic loophole into a gaping tunnel.
It’s like passing a law mandating that all cars that run out
of gas be authorized to stop—it’s going to happen, whether
or not it’s legal, and is as stupid as it is unnecessary.
It’s obvious that, should this time-bomb scenario manifest
itself outside the Clancy-esque screenplay Krauthammer appears
to be writing, no legal loophole would be necessary.
as if torture tactics have never been employed by US authorities
before this whole “War on Terror” thing started, after all.
No law would get between enforcement’s foot and a guy’s throat
if he knew where “the time bomb” was, or whatever fantastic
plot device the neocons can invoke. The legal exemption for
torture in such situations is not needed, because the laws
against it would simply go unheeded. “Torture never,” which
has always been the law around here, always really meant “torture
sometimes.” The problem with changing the rule to “torture
sometimes” is that the result will wind up as “torture a lot,
like way too much.” Making something illegal doesn’t make
it stop happening; it only serves to make it less likely.
having established the end-of-Face Off scenario, avers
that “the argument is not whether torture is ever permissible,
but when--i.e., under what obviously stringent circumstances:
how big, how imminent, how preventable the ticking time bomb.”
about another argument: that such an elastic justification
can be stretched to suit almost any circumstance? After all,
the whole point of torturing someone, aside from the cathartic
release, of course, is that you don’t know what they know.
By definition, this could be anything. That dude across from
you on the bus may not seem like much, but for all you know,
he’s got a grenade up his ass with the president’s name on
it. How can you be sure he doesn’t know something, possess
some terrible datum that could prevent the deaths of millions?
Well, only one way to be sure…
open the door to torture, once you say it’s okay in this or
that circumstance, it’s not too far to travel philosophically
before you’re torturing everybody, just to be on the safe
side. Hey, you never know!
the argument that “torture works,” let’s consider just how
well it works. Nothing could possibly do more to elicit hatred
from people, any people, than torture. In fact, it can be
argued that government-sponsored torture is what brought us
to this state in the first place. Sayyid Qutb, considered
the philosophical father of Islamic terrorists, was radicalized
by torture, as was his disciple Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin
Laden’s main man. A good case can be made that, without their
torture by West-friendly Egypt, this whole blowing-up-civilians
thing never would have gotten off the ground in the first
place. I don’t believe in karma, but people give what they
get. And if they are smeared in animal fat and locked in cages
with attack dogs (Qutb), that’s likely to taint their worldview
as the New York Times recently reported (and Newsweek
before them), Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, the man whose accounts
of Saddam-Osama connections were relied on to justify the
Iraq invasion, was subjected to torture in Egypt, where he
had been “renditioned” by the CIA, and produced these Iraq-al
Qaeda stories under duress. A Defense Intelligence Agency
document, which predates the Bush administration’s embrace
of al-Libi’s stories by months, determines them to be fabrications.
torture, no terrorists. No torture, no mistaken war. Call
me crazy, but maybe we should consider: no torture?
simultaneously admonishes the administration for so wantonly
flaunting the very laws he seeks to mitigate. He says there
is too much torture, but somehow he thinks that easing
restrictions against it will help. The fallacy is all
too easily illustrated by his further abject speculations:
posit that during the interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,
perhaps early on, we got intelligence about an imminent
al Qaeda attack. And we had a very good reason to believe
he knew about it. And if we knew what he knew, we could
we had information about a cell that he had helped found or
direct, and that cell was planning some major attack and we
needed information about the identity and location of its
the thing about this: Mohammed was tortured, despite
all laws, domestic and international, against it. Krauthammer’s
argument is that we need a new provision, so that we can do
what we already did. Was it wrong to torture him? I’d
say not; the guy is the apparent “mastermind” behind 9/11,
and at the very least was actively working to kill innocent
people. But my point remains: despite the lack of any legitimate
legal justification for torture, we still did it. Do
we really need to get more permissive?
it doesn’t matter that torture is illegal; it will
happen, when deemed necessary. All that passing Krauthammer’s
proposed exemptions would do is erode the standard by which
it is authorized, which is not looking too good as it is.
Torture ain't no thang in Krauthammer's
crowd. But why do the Feds want a legal exemption when they've
been doing it all this time anyway?
War vets & Iraqi civilians get a special gift: Radioactive
metal in their lungs!
A concerned Christmas defender
seeks help from James Dobson's Alliance Defense Fund.
& the Clinton Monkey
Thompson saw the President for what we all are.
O Lord, please kill Pat Robertson.
St. Nick answers questions
both naughty & nice.