Posts Tagged ‘Jane Mayer’

A Truth Commission

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

http://bestimpressionsinc.net/87218-namenda-cost.html While not rejecting the idea of prosecutions for clear cases in which the law was broken, there seems to be a growing consensus about the necessity of a truth commission. It has become more and more clear that the fault lies within our system as much as it does in particular individuals. Jeffrey Record reviewing Jane Mayer’s The Dark Side [pdf] for the Army War College journal, Parameters quotes Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis whose insight points towards both why we need a truth commissin of a type – and why prosecution is not the most effective option (h/t Tom Ricks):

nexium generic cost [T]he greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.

etilaam buy care This goes to the argument that Bush administration apologists keep making – that these officials were acting in good faith, were panicked, and though they may have broken some rules, they did so to protect American lives. But this is precisely what Brandeis saw was the most serious danger to liberty. 

http://nectarkendallyards.com/?author=4 Tom Ricks gives his opinion of what we need – basing his argument on military strategy – rather than the protection of our way of life:

his comment is here Just because you have an embarrassing problem, you shouldn’t try to hide it, because dealing with it may prepare you for an even bigger challenge down the road. So let’s get the torture and interrogation situation straightened out before the next big terrorist attack. My preference, as I’ve stated before, is for a truth and reconciliation commission that offers an amnesty period during which people would be invited to step forward. Anyone not ‘fessing up during that time would face the possibility of prosecution. Again, I think this effort should target those who departed from American history and made torture national policy.

Maureen Dowd has also come around – and she too is looking at the perverse effect on our system of checks and balances that not following up on this matter is having:

I used to agree with President Obama, that it was better to keep moving and focus on our myriad problems than wallow in the darkness of the past. But now I want a full accounting. I want to know every awful act committed in the name of self-defense and patriotism. Even if it only makes one ambitious congresswoman pay more attention in some future briefing about some future secret technique that is “uniquely” designed to protect us, it will be worth it.

The Significance of Jack Bauer

Monday, March 16th, 2009

[digg-reddit-me]Dahlia Lithwick in Newsweek:

The most influential legal thinker in the development of modern American interrogation policy is not a behavioral psychologist, international lawyer or counterinsurgency expert…the prime mover of American interrogation doctrine is none other than the star of Fox television’s “24,” Jack Bauer.

Though Lithwick’s statement may sound like an exaggeration, the most common defense of America’s torture policy has been to invoke the character of Jack Bauer on 24. John Yoo, Diane Beaver, Michael Chertoff, Tom Tancredo, and most famously Antonin Scalia have all invoked the TV show 24 in describing and defending national security law under George W. Bush. U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, saw the show’s influence as so pernicious that he he flew to visit the show’s producers to ask them to stop representing torture in such a positive light as it was undermining national security:

[Brigadier General] Finnegan told the producers that “24,” by suggesting that the U.S. government perpetrates myriad forms of torture, hurts the country’s image internationally. Finnegan, who is a lawyer, has for a number of years taught a course on the laws of war to West Point seniors—cadets who would soon be commanders in the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. He always tries, he said, to get his students to sort out not just what is legal but what is right. However, it had become increasingly hard to convince some cadets that America had to respect the rule of law and human rights, even when terrorists did not. One reason for the growing resistance, he suggested, was misperceptions spread by “24,” which was exceptionally popular with his students. As he told me, “The kids see it, and say, ‘If torture is wrong, what about “24”?’ ” He continued, “The disturbing thing is that although torture may cause Jack Bauer some angst, it is always the patriotic thing to do.”

It sounds as if the gullible students in Finnegan’s class have taken their lead from Justice Scalia who, in defending the extraordinary measures of the Bush administration, asked: 

Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles…He saved hundreds of thousands of lives…Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?

Lieutenant Colonel Diane Beaver, whose legal memoranda aided the justification torture, claimed that Jack Bauer “gave people lots of ideas” about how to interrogate prisoners.

One thing that most of these defenders of torture do not mention – and that many opponents of torture fail to bring up – is that torture doesn’t seem to work. This is in many respects a secondary question – as the morality of torture and the “by any means necessary” approach of Jack Bauer as well as the Bush administration is debated. But Matthew Alexander, a pseodonym for a military interrogator who led the team that found Abu al-Zarqawi in Iraq, has been a vocal defender of the view that torture is an inefficient and counterproductive interrogation tool. The FBI has long maintained that their methods are proven and get reliable information from subjects – as opposed to the new torture techniques that do not. Neither the Nazis nor the Communists interrogated their high-value detainees – not because of their respect for human rights, but because they saw what was most effective. The greatest Nazi interrogator was a Hanns-Joachim Schraff who never even raised his voice, let alone tortured his subjects. He was one of the few top Nazis not tried for war crimes. Matthew Alexander – the man who got the intelligence that led to Zarqawi’s death – was one of the few adherents to Schraff’s view of interrogation in Iraq. His interrogation tools, rather than fear, violence, torture, religious persecution, and intimidation were “respect, rapport, hope, cunning, and deception.” 

Ann Applebaum points to the obvious question:

Given the overwhelmingly negative evidence, the really interesting question is not whether torture works but why so many people in our society want to believe that it works.

It may be unfair to blame 24 for this belief in the efficacy of torture. There is something deeper at work here than the propaganda of a television show. But 24 puts forth a persuasive cultural argument in which the extreme circumstances that occur every hour on the show justify extreme actions (such as threatening to harm an infant, mock executions of children; regular torture) are then used to justify American policies.

Al Qaeda v. Barack Obama

Monday, October 20th, 2008

aziderm cream price in india supervise [digg-reddit-me]Interviewer: If McCain is elected, then how will the world react?

specify permethrin cream uk Bernard Henri-Levy: …The world will react badly. McCain may not be a bad guy, but he will mean – his victory will mean – the revenge, freezing, frightened, shy, rear-guard America. Rear guard. Not vanguard. Not victorious. Not optimist America.

That’s from a new interview with the American conservative movement’s favorite French leftist.

That’s also what former United Nations official Shashi Tharoor said several months ago. Obama represents the confident America, attracting other nations to it’s causes, standing for diversity and freedom and democracy – a country tolerant enough and open-minded enough to elect a black man whose middle name is Hussein president. Obama represents a country that could inspire people like Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan who Colin Powell referred to in his endorsement yesterday and Ali Soufan whose story I first learned from Lawrence Wright and now am reading about in Jane Mayer’s The Dark Side.

Barack Obama is – in the words of Andrew Sullivan:

…the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology… [He] proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can.

Perhaps that is why former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke suggests that Al Qaeda may attempt – through the release of a well-timed video or possibly an attack – to affect the election:

Opinion polls, which, as noted above, al Qaeda reads closely, suggest that an attack would help McCain. Polls in Europe and the Middle East also suggest an overwhelming popular support there for Barack Obama. Al Qaeda would not like it if there were a popular American president again.

And of course, Obama’s focus on limiting our involvement in the Middle East as much as possible would help counter Al Qaeda’s plan to defeat America by drawing into multiple conflicts in the Middle East. (Of course, even as this strategy has clearly hurt the United States, this strategy hasn’t been working out too well for Al Qaeda either.) Further, Obama has promised to focus on the central front in the war on terrorism – the Afghan-Pakistan border – rather than the sideshow in Iraq that Bin Laden has been begging us to focus on while he reconstitutes Al Qaeda.

As most citizens of the world see Obama as the clear choice for America, they see the main reason to oppose him to be as being racism – an idea fueled by many Americans at recent McCain-Palin rallies who speak of “Obama’s bloodlines” and use the words Muslim and Arab as epithets. This is an unfair characterization of many McCain supporters – but it is the clear international perception.

The overall point is – the world sees this election as a referendum on Barack Obama, a referendum on whether America will move confidently in the world and re-brand itself in the face of the disaster of the past eight years. John McCain – as good of a man as he may or may not be – cannot be this – which is part of what Powell meant when he said we needed a “transformational” leader. Neoconservatism has been tried and failed (and John McCain clearly self-identifies as a neoconservative); muscular liberalism and bipartisan realism need to be tried.

A victory by John McCain will make Al Qaeda’s job easier. A victory by Obama will make it harder – it will defy the worst stereotypes of America that Al Qaeda draws upon. It will be a victory for the American ideal.

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