Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Mark's latest response ...

Continues to be underwhelming:
My mistake. I took the Coalition's latest farrago of insults and torture justification to mean "since our troops have committed torture in the past, that means it's okay now." Evidently, I was mistaken. When they declared I would call Professor Bainbridge a torture apologist for noting that our troops have tortured in the past, I assumed they were saying something. It turns out they were saying nothing--nothing at all. Because, of course, I've always been aware that our troops tortured people in the past, just as the good Professor notes. These things used to be called "war crimes". As far as I could see, Professor Bainbridge did not say "prisoner abuse by our troops in the past was good". So I don't see why he would be taken by the Coalition as an ally in the campaign for Greater Fog, nor by me as somehow justifying what he documents as a fact of history. But they did seem to think that I would think he was somehow justifying torture. In reality, it has only been they who have tried so hard to justify it that I foolishly assumed they were doing so here. Apparently, they were not trying to justify torture. Instead they were simply forming a schoolgirl pack of jeerers and sneering at me for not knowing history, even though I know it perfectly well, in this case. My apologies for mistaking an adolescent jeer for a substantive attempt to make the case for torture. It was entirely my fault. I thought they were saying something. They were, to be clear, saying nothing at all. Simply making fun of fantasy named "Mark Shea".

Which once again demonstrates that he completely misses the point.

Here again, was Victor in the post:

Shea constantly insists that the moral world didn't change on September 11 (true) and that the military already regulated interrogation techniques and "torture" was illegal then under US law (true) and so therefore the only reason to want to have new rules post-September-11 would be to gain the right to torture (false ... but that's not really my point). Shea will claim, in support of this position about the how the desire to torture is being pushed by Bush, that the US was able to win World War Two and the Cold War without "torture" ... in that specific context and as a rebuttal argument, not a prima-facie argument (that we be "we tortured during World War 2, therefore we should now"), what sort of practices the US actually did engage in during World War II become relevant (to me at least) for that purpose.

In other words, he was noting the disconnect between the rhetoric and claims that you enlisted and what actually happened regarding history. When people have brought this up in the past, you have usually argued that the only reason that anyone would want to note this was to justify contemporary torture, which does not flow logically in any case. In this particular instance, my understanding was that Victor was pointing out the disconnect between Mark's rhetoric and what actually happened. In other words, if saying X ("the US tortured during WW2") is proof we are Torture Apologists™ worthy of every kind of slander, why isn't Professor Bainbridge, who says the same X?

He also continues to conflate torture and prisoner abuse while arguing that we advocate both, one of which strikes me as a category mistake. Of course, if Mark really wanted to know what we think on this subject, he could refrain from using his charism of telepathy and instead read our answers to Dave Armstrong. But that would be asking him to actually understand our positions, which is probably too much to hope for.


Anonymous said...

Mark's mistatement of Victor's views here borders on the comical, but let me mount the following, limited defense:

While it's clear that some American solders did torture and abuse enemy POWs during WWII, it's not at all clear that these acts served any military purpose or that they played any significant role in our winning the war. So they don't serve to disprove Mark's claim that we didn't need torture to win WWII or the Cold War, nor do they catch him out in any inconsistency.


Christopher said...

The CIA did resort to some very controversial and morally objectionable tactics during the Cold War -- see Prisoner Abuse: Patterns from the Past (NSA Archives)

What I found interesting when reading up on this is that it was none other than Richard Cheney -- whom Mark accuses as "wanting more Abu Ghraibs" -- who when head of the DoD approved removal of "offensive and objectionable materials" in Latin American training manuals which would endanger human rights:

DOD, Improper Material in Spanish-Language Intelligence Manuals, SECRET, 10 March 1992

This "report of investigation" was sent to then Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney in March 1992, nine months after the Defense Department began an internal investigation into how seven counterintelligence and interrogation manuals used for years by the Southern Command throughout Latin America had come to contain "objectionable" and prohibited material. Army investigators traced the origins of the instructions on use of beatings, false imprisonment, executions and truth serums back to "Project X"-a program run by the Army Foreign Intelligence unit in the 1960s. The report to Cheney found that the "offensive and objectionable material in the manuals" contradicted the Southern Command's priority of teaching respect for human rights, and therefore "undermines U.S. credibility, and could result in significant embarrassment." Cheney concurred with the recommendations for "corrective action" and recall and destruction of as many of the offending manuals as possible.

torquemada05 said...

Except, as noted by Victor and others in the comments, Mark tends to hold a very idealized view of past conflicts based on his standard for contemporary ones. So that's a useful bubble that needs to be popped, if for no other reason than that it is factually untrue.

Steve Golay said...

Did I just read that Mark S. said something about the administration now discounting the importance of OBL in "the war against terror" - couldn't tell if he was fogging up the point or not. (I'm not, these days, reading more then 2 or 3 lines of his; depending on others to summarize.)

But this from the WSJ I found interesting; think it shows that the administration continues to take OBL's role seriously.

Mark may not understand that we in the midst of a wide-ranging way with many fronts and ebbs and flows. It is foremost a war aginst Islam. And we are battling this conflict, in the words of the enemy, as Christian Crusaders. Their tagging up as such lites upon a certain truth. Mark's relunctane to see this conflict as a war against Islam with multiple theatres is what fogs up his thoughts. Maybe someday he will let the Colition resuce him before he stumbles over a rock onto a hard place.

Dear Lord,

We pray for our brother Mark. Shod his feet with bravery, a sword to strike the enemy BEFORE they cross the border and slay our sons and daughters. Put a bugle of alarm to his lips to alert his small band. Your enemy, the Jihadist, is even now in our midst - who will raise the banner and place the cross upon our shoulder? Maybe, Lord, we did not hear the alarm because we were too busy setting tea and cakes for the prisoners. It certainly was not he take YOU set before them!

Stretch our your hand, dear Lord, and guide our stumbling brother through the fog. But, yes Lord, it is true, always you choose the hands of others to lift up the fallen and guide the lost.

We are yours, O'Lord. We stretch out our hand to Brother Mark in compassion and hard-won understanding. We know too well the temptation to sit down at our own table, and not the one you set. From those little dhimmi foxes saves us O'Lord.

We are your servants. This day, this blogging moment, we offer up (for Brother Mark) the community, better yet, the Coalition of Our Hands to lift and guide. We sound the bugle. Let Brother Mark hearj the call to war. With that smart--- pen of his you could even make him captain.


Anonymous said...

AnonymousIV sez...

Merry Christmas, y'all.

Victor said...

Josiah wrote:

While it's clear that some American solders did torture and abuse enemy POWs during WWII, it's not at all clear that these acts served any military purpose or that they played any significant role in our winning the war.

Well, it undoubtedly played a lesser role than the A-bomb, D-Day or Stalingrad. And, human beings being human beings, I've no doubt that some acts of abuse were merely, in the Catechism's words, "to satisfy hatred."

But as long as intelligence matters, the fact that every military force and police force in history has used interrogation-backed-by-force to some degree or another speaks to its effectiveness in getting information from people in your custody who know stuff they don't want to tell you. If force or the threat of force were really not effective, the practice could never have taken root (this doesn't speak to the moral issues of course; I'm making a different point Josiah and I hope you realize that, even though Mark won't).

In addition, the practice of reciprocity (retaliation against POWs for abuses aginst one's own -- "MAD on a small-scale" one might call it) played no small role in assuring that even as odious a regime as Nazi Germany generally abided by the then-existing Geneva Conventions in treating uniformed POWs (the Japanese were another matter, on a number of fronts).

Further, given the cultural standards, political rules and technology at the time, practices that we consider torture or which fit the definitions under a literalistic fundamentalist reading of certain church documents could not have damaged the war effort as Abu Ghraib or Gitmo have today. Such actions were generally approved (maybe "accepted" or "not-disapproved" would be better) and were not front-page news with pix and ACLU legal teams. So there'd be no war-related reason not to -- all the consequences are positive.

I mean, to deny that torture works requires turning the most basic of human psychology on its head. To paraphrase Ray Milland in DIAL M FOR MURDER "a donkey with a carrot in front of him and a stick behind him always goes forward." Human psychology is a bit more complex than that obviously and warfare generally doesn't operate on a crudely self-serving cost-benefit analysis. But it's too untuitive for me to accept a quote from Chesterton about selling your soul to the devil as dispositive.

Another point: well-organized guerrilla groups have planned around the assumption that torture does work and sought only to delay its working. For example, the French Resistance required its operatives to check in periodically and, if captured, hold out under Nazi interrogation only for long enough (I've variously read one day and two days) for his colleagues to note his absence and make their escape. If he held out that long, he could spill everything, no questions asked; it was his colleagues' responsibility to note his not-checking-in and get away. This rule already presupposes that torture will work *eventually* and so a "hold out forever" rule is not practicable, regardless of what case histories might be.