Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Something Someone Else Said

"...I freely concede that in an open and free society, with the dangers inherent in Jihadist terror, in an age of mass destruction, there will almost certainly come a time when we will have to endure serious human and physical damage. Unless we get much smarter or get really lucky, this will happen. It only takes a handful of people in a vast country with relatively open borders to do enormous damage, as we found out on 9/11. And they didn't even have WMDs. If Jihadists really want to murder us (and they do) and if weapons of mass destruction get into their hands (and what are the odds against that at some point in our lifetimes?) then we will have to endure what the British endured in the Blitz and the Germans endured in Dresden and the Japanese endured in Hiroshima.

And if we do not have the Constitution on the other side of it, the victory will be theirs'. Yes: that's what America means - freedom, not total security. Man up and face it, like the first Americans did. Believe in our system as powerfully as they believe in theirs'." -Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish

Freedom, not total security. This is why it's shameful that Americans are now debating how much torture we're willing to allow our government to commit in order to ensure our way of life, because for 226 years that way of life was defined by the lack of such heinous acts. We must not allow fear to twist us into the very monsters that want our deaths. America has always been, and can still be again, better than that.


Van Zan said...

History weighs in against torture as being an effective way of obtaining information. No surprise. It's chief application was the extraction of a confession, guilty or not. The memos so far released indicate that the usual methods worked in obtaining anything that was useful. Torture happened because it was administratively provided for by some dodgy lawyers and ineffective oversight. The premise for waterboarding: "we do this to our soldiers in training"... Yes. For certain units. On volunteers. Controlled. And not actually for genuine intelligence gathering.

What would you tell me if I tortured you...? Anything that would make me stop. If you thought "Brittany Spears breeds purple alpacas on a plantation in Uganda" was what I wanted to hear...then that's what you'd damn well tell me.

Could torturing someone obtain info that would prevent another Dresden in LA?
Is it possible?
Sure it is. Like poisoning all the rivers on the Pakistan-Afghan border might incidentally kill Osama bin Laden.
It's dead certain to lead to all the wrong outcomes, even as the target outcome may not happen.

The hard-line Right are riding a crippled elephant on this one, and it's going to roll over and crush them.

Van Zan said...

I just had déjà vu. Creepy.

I misspelled Britney Spears, didn't I? Must be her fault.

JBW said...

I agree with your sentiments, VZ. I'm curious though: what does the average Aussie think about my country's officially sanctioned use of torture?

I know you're probably not plugged into a vast social network of your fellow countrymen but I figure you can probably give this site's mostly American readers some valuable insight into the views of our foreign allies.

Van Zan said...

No-one thinks the US intelligence services are a benign organisation devoted to doing good deeds. No-one was surprised about the torture.
You've backed tyrants, financed death squads, destabilized governments, encouraged wars..etc. Sometimes you've thought better of it later. A lot of the time you just forgot about it.

The fact that there is any debate about whether torture was a good idea, or whether the public should have been privy to the memos ... is disconcerting.
Nonetheless that does not mean we think less of America. Just that you've got some fucked up politicians.

America has some deeply admired qualities. It's a cultural powerhouse and full of ingenuity. Full of extremes and contradictions.
Hell of a country and endlessly entertaining.

But we want our world too. We like who we are. We like that others are not all as we are.
And we don't like being told what to do.