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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

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Most folks think intent makes a difference. The poor bloke in ice presumably died because some people decided to beat him very, very badly--but I doubt they wanted to kill him (the assholes who beat him to death probably also thought he was some sort of terrorist).

--kinda like, 'ooops!". i see. wow, now that is a more morally pure torture after all.
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The Al Qaeda killers, by contrast, aimed at the death of an innocent foreigner/Jew and chose a particularly heinous method (beheadings in the House of Saud aren't brought about with 6-8 inch knives). Race has nothing to do with it.

--now i'm convince, our torture is more morally pure.
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Steve, what do you mean by the "Mussolini lobby"? That anyone who disagrees with you is a fascist?

--you tell me what you mean by the 'pacifist left'. the mussolini lobby is exactly what it sounds like, dying for any excuse for war war war 24-7, killing muslims/arabs in revenge for 911, etc. go to the prowar blogs, you won't have much trouble finding it. and what's the big deal? anyone who disagrees with marc is 'unpatriotic' or 'hates america', no? how come when someone uses the same weapon you use back against y'all, suddenly feathers are ruffled?

BTW, since we're into great questions, what do you think of Desmond Tutu or Nelson Mandela? Are they America haters? If you say yes, then I guess I too am an America hater. So is Ms. Parks too I guess.

Luke

"--kinda like, 'ooops!. i see. wow, now that is a more morally pure torture after all."

What horseshit. Torture by defintion isn't morally pure--but its wrongness surely admits of degree. Given the choice between a brutal beating and a beheading, I'd take the former. So would you.

Are you trying to argue that intent _doesn't_ matter? If so, I suppose that a drunk driver who smashes into a pedestrian and causes an excruciating death is just as bad as, say, OJ Simpson.

Luke

Err, that should've read, "I'd take my chances with the former..."

miklos rosza

Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela are fine with me. That doesn't mean I have to agree with them on every single issue.

Neither do I necessarily agree with Rosa Parks on everything. Maybe she's anti-abortion and dislikes gays. Maybe she believes in prayer in schools. Maybe she's pro death penalty. I don't know.

"Mussolini lobby" still seems like sheer namecalling to me.

steve

Are you trying to argue that intent _doesn't_ matter? If so, I suppose that a drunk driver who smashes into a pedestrian and causes an excruciating death is just as bad as, say, OJ Simpson.

--i'd say i agree with the sign in front of the Berg's house and that arguing over which torturer is more morally pure misses the point. i think i would have desmond tutu, nelson mandela, and rosa parks on my side in this argument.
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Adam

Hey Mark I've had about enough of Steve moralizing, can you cut him off yet? or are you waiting for him to say something really stupid?

Luke Weiger

Steve: "--i'd say i agree with the sign in front of the Berg's house and that arguing over which torturer is more morally pure misses the point."

That may well be true. But it sounds disengenuous given that you began the thread by initiating such an argument. If your comment is sincere, I don't see how your sentiments differ from Marc's. He claimed that what the Al Qaeda assholes did was worse than any given act of torture by our pricks (such a claim shouldn't have been controversial), and then went on to say (if I'm reading him right) that this has no practical implications.

Hey Mark I've had about enough of Steve moralizing, can you cut him off yet? or are you waiting for him to say something really stupid?

--that's odd, all i've done is provide counterarguments to arguments raised. i haven't sworn at marc, called him nasty names, gone off on long irrelevant tangents, made ethnic slurs, etc. I'm not sure what you find so objectionable, outside of an opinion that you disagree with?

steve

Neither do I necessarily agree with Rosa Parks on everything. Maybe she's anti-abortion and dislikes gays. Maybe she believes in prayer in schools. Maybe she's pro death penalty. I don't know

--gosh, this is reaching. no maybes about it, rosa parks is a woman of the left, she's not anti-abortion, doesn't dislike or hate gays, no way she supports prayers in the public schools, no way would she be crazy enough to support the death penalty. I can tell you everything I've read of Ms. Parks' politics, that much is crystal clear.
my apologies to adam if the above is offensive to him.

He claimed that what the Al Qaeda assholes did was worse than any given act of torture by our pricks (such a claim shouldn't have been controversial),

--what is most relevant is a more important fact, namely that most Iraqis would not agree with that, that despite the fact they would agree the murder of Mr. Berg was horrific.

rosedog

If this horse isn't already beaten to a pulp, one more comment...

Indeed, at first consideration, the terrible beheading of Nick Berg seems so much worse, so barbaric, so sadistic, vengeful, brutal. Yet, for me anyway, when viewed through the lens of Marc’s fine Dorfman quote, suddenly both instances of torture are revealed to be, at the most fundamental level, equal:

“… It presupposes, it requires, it craves the abrogation of our capacity to imagine someone else's suffering, to dehumanise him or her so much that their pain is not our pain. It demands this of the torturer, placing the victim outside and beyond any form of compassion or empathy, but also demands of everyone else the same distancing, the same numbness, those who know and close their eyes, those who do not want to know and close their eyes, those who close their eyes and ears and hearts.”

steve

Quick, start preparing the deportation papers for Rosedog I guess.

Michael J. Totten

The beheading of Nick Berg had a genocidal impulse. What happened in Abu Ghraib did not.

Nick Berg was killed for being a Jew, an American, an "infidel." Al Qaeda has promised every one of us the same fate if they can manage to pull it off.

"The beheading of Nick Berg had a genocidal impulse. What happened in Abu Ghraib did not.

Nick Berg was killed for being a Jew, an American, an 'infidel.'"

True and morally relevant. However, all parties demonstrated contempt for their victims.

Nathan

"i'd say i don't see much difference between joe ryan and the folks who cut off Berg's head."

Neither do I. However, I do see a difference beteween the American response to Abu Ghraib and the general Arab response to various atrocities committed in the name of Islam. Joe Ryan and his accomplices will be punnished, and their behavior is rightly abhorred in our society. By contrast, not one Arab government or major religious leader has, to my knowledge, publically condemned the murder of Nicholas Berg. Nor do they generally show any distaste for the calculated murder of civilians elsewhere in the world, whether in Bail or Tel-Aviv.

Palestinians cheered in the streets on 9/11. If Americans had likewise cheered the abuses at Abu Ghraib, we could talk about moral equivalency. But we did not.

Our society one that, despite its glaring flaws, values justice and the sanctity of life. By contrast, the radical Wahhabism that holds such sway in the Arab world is a malignant death cult that glorifies crimes against humanity. That seems like a pretty big difference to me.

Marc Cooper

Well.. I finally watched the beheading video and lo and behold my reaction to it was NOT the same as I had to the prison pictures. That's because the two cases are not equal. What is so difficult about holding two thoughts in a single head at the same time? It isn;t possible to understand that both cases reveal a depravity but that one is fundamentally worse than the other?
I think Nathan raises an excellent point.. one I can verify with my own experience. It took much of Chile exactly three decades (!) to come out of denial about the massive systematic torture appplied for 17 years by the Pinochet dictatorship. There are complex and myriad reasons why that sort of denial had such a strong hold and this is not the space to lay out the details. But having lived through that experience, I find the response by American society to be quite re-assuring-- even with the quotient of denial, obfuscation and justification that can be found. Vast portions of the population hold democratic principles dear and they experience outrage and shame over what they now see. The media, with its many flaws, has been covering the story non stop for 3 weeks (something that came only with a 25 YEAR lag in Chile). The institutions of government are conducting several investigations, which I also assume will come up short (But in Chile the first prosecution came 15 or 20 years after the fact). So.. Rosedoggie... yes.. torture is, alas, torture. But to not see the surrounding context is to be quite partial.

steve

I think Nathan raises an excellent point.

--actually what he does is use the beheading to push another myth about the palestinians' reaction to 911. in fact palestinians were quite visibly expressing shock and sympathy about 911. nathan's myths about palestinian cheering of 911 is little different from myths about leftists in the US cheering 911.

steve

Nick Berg was killed for being a Jew, an American, an "infidel." Al Qaeda has promised every one of us the same fate if they can manage to pull it off.

--and somehow this little adventure in Iraq has done anything to lessen the influence of AQ? wow.

Patrick Lasswell

steve,

Al Queda lost the bulk of their central control with the invasion of Afghanistan. This is not my description of events, it is theirs.

The invasion of Iraq took that lack of central control, and provided the dispersed elements of Al Queda and other terrorist groups with a logical local goal. For the last month in Fallujah, Najaf, Karbala, and elsewhere during the most active portions of the insurgency so far, USMC and Army snipers have been killing insurgents. These are armed men, frequently from different countries, wandering around as belligerents. The snipers have been killing 35-40 of them a day, confirmed good kills, every day since the insurgency went active on April 1.

Between the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the 2001 destruction of the same, the US apprehended maybe two dozen terrorists who went to long trails where they suborned their lawyers into becoming fellow terrorists. Since April 1, our troops have killed more than a thousand, many of whom were Al Queda connected.

That's how we've reduced the influence of Al Queda, by killing their members and anyone stupid enough to follow them. If you do not believe that this reduces their influence, please tell the class what you think would.

Marc, thanks again for the reading last week at Powell's.

rosedog

Marc you make several important points about context---which, as you suggest, changes the meaning of an act (while in other ways, it doesn't). Yet that brings up what seemed to me was your most essential point: "What is so difficult about holding two thoughts in a single head at the same time?"

One can, on one hand, abhor the beheading of Nick Berg more than the abuses at Abu Ghraib because of the difference in context and intent, be cheered by our fine method of due process (however flawed we know it often to be), and yet find both forms of brutality equally repugnant. And hold those two seemingly discrepant thoughts in our heads.

Understanding this isn't an either/or proposition is, to me, the precise opposite of partisanship.

Brainster

"My friend, Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman (author of “Death and the Maiden” ) refers back to Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and argues in The Guardian that torture is never justified..."

What's your feeling on that issue, Marc? I suspect that most of us would say that it's generally not justified, but may be okay in very dire circumstances, that maybe society should never approve of it, but should look away when it's needed. Suppose that the FBI had known before 9-11 Massaoui was involved in a mass murder plot that was going down in a few days. Would it have been acceptable to torture him? I suspect some of us (myself included) would have volunteered to do the job. Indeed, I think there are three basic requirements to justify it: 1. Matter of life and death; 2. Absolute conviction that the torturee is involved and has useful information; and 3. Limited time forecloses the use of other options.

steve

These are armed men, frequently from different countries, wandering around as belligerents. The snipers have been killing 35-40 of them a day, confirmed good kills, every day since the insurgency went active on April 1.

--nonsense, not one independent account of what is going on in the battle over iraq has claimed that 'foreign fighters' account for more than a handful of the combatants being killed in Iraq. your version of what is going on is virtual fantasy. no less than General Dempsey has said as much, i'm sorry if he's too left wing a source. maybe he hates america, so he has told the media only a handful of the combatants are foreign.
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Since April 1, our troops have killed more than a thousand, many of whom were Al Queda connected.


--if we believe Dan Senor, ok. in the real world though it's very unlikely, based on general dempsey's account, that what you say bears even the remotest relation to reality.
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If you do not believe that this reduces their influence, please tell the class what you think would.

--i'd say a good start would be getting rid of global poverty, and if you think general dempsey is left wing, wait till you see what sources i come up with to back up this idea.

Michael J. Totten

Steve: "i'd say a good start would be getting rid of global poverty"

Al Qaeda isn't Marxist. Or leftist. Certainly not liberal.

Osama bin Laden is richer than all of us on this thread put together. Mohammed Atta had more formal education than I have.

Saudi Arabia is the nerve center for extremist Islam, and it's also a very wealthy country. Morrocco has a lot less money AND a lot fewer terrorists. You're barking up the wrong tree here.

I'd say you were guilty of the cause-correlation fallacy, but there isn't even a correlation of poverty and terrorism in the first place. You're projecting your own ideology onto the terrorists. Not wise.

Marc Cooper

Hi Brainster.. in this case never means never. Having lived through the Chilean experience (where torture was routine) I'm not willing to make ANY exceptions, sorry. It's too slippery a slope.

Marc Cooper

Hi Patrick.. thanks for stopping by as well. I've made ur blog a regular read!

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