torturous

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[Note: This post may appear somewhat disjointed, as I am responding to a series of comments made about this previous post without reproducing the comments themselves (at the request of the commenter). As this blog is a research and writing project, I refuse to spend time on an exchange of this nature without making that work accessible.]

Fox News is certainly no "Anti Christ," but has earned the "faux" nickname due to their persistent conservative bias. Fox is far more biased than any other network...so much so that it's difficult to keep up with the sheer volume of their spin-jobs and misrepresentations, which (by coincidence?) always favor GOP talking points. (See the FAIR study "The Most Biased Name in News" or my two pieces discussing other studies of Fox's media misinformation campaigns here and here.)

Even in the face of Bushism, I have never called conservatives "inherently evil" and would not do so. My use of Bushevik to describe the Bush dead-enders is meant to denote their authoritarian leanings, reliance on propaganda, and disdain for dissent.

I will note yet again that Obama does not advocate socialism. The conservative Human Events asked some actual socialists about Obama, and here are some of their responses:

Greg Pason, National Secretary of the Socialist Party USA: "Barack Obama's programs are not socialist."

F.N. Brill, National Secretary of the World Socialist Party (US): "Obama is as much a socialist as the Pope is an atheist."

David Schaich, Socialist Party Campaign Clearinghouse Coordinator: "The idea that Barack Obama is socialist, or quasi-socialist, or semi-socialist, or socialist-light, or anything of the sort, is far-right nonsense."

On the issue of torture, I have three objections--pragmatic, legal, and moral. The first merely points out that--aside from making some people feel good about taking "action"--torture is not effective for its alleged purpose of obtaining information. Some of the torture methods used are so horrific that the victims will say anything to make it stop (e.g., waterboarding, which isn't "swallowing a little too much water," but rather drowning someone as completely as possible without actually killing him). The US Army Intelligence and Interrogation Handbook recognizes the non-Hollywood reality of torture:

Use of torture and other illegal methods is a poor technique that yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say what he thinks the interrogator wants to hear. Revelation of use of torture by US personnel will being discredit upon the US and its armed forces while undermining domestic and international support for the war effort. It also may place US and allied personnel in enemy hands at a greater risk of abuse by their captors. (p. 9-10)

An article in today's Washington Post observes that, because of torture, at least one Gitmo detainee will not face trial:

The top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a "life-threatening condition."

"We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani," said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. "His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.

Legally, Bush's torture is also on shaky ground. In commenting on 18 USC 2340 (the US definition of torture), the DOJ mentioned its national and international legal context:

Torture is abhorrent both to American law and values and to international norms. This universal repudiation of torture is reflected in our criminal law, for example, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2340-2340A; international agreements, exemplified by the United Nations Convention Against Torture (the "CAT") ; customary international law ; centuries of Anglo-American law ; and the longstanding policy of the United States...

(Amnesty International, Human Rights First, and Human Rights Watch have additional information.)

My moral objection to torture is a simple rule of thumb: I wouldn't want someone who is accused of terrorism (and, once again, we are talking about alleged crimes, not proven ones) to be treated any worse than I would want my mother (substitute the loved one of your choice) treated were she to be similarly accused. (This applies equally well to such concepts as being innocent until proven guilty, the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, habeas corpus, and the right to a jury trial--which are the foundations of our justice system.)

In the aftermath of World War II, we tried a Japanese officer for the offense of waterboarding--and he received a 15-year sentence. How far we have fallen that we no longer recognize torture for what it is--a barbaric practice that should never permitted, let alone commanded. Torture isn't something "we gotta do in order to protect our freedom"--it's something we must never do, in order to protect our humanity.

As far as your attempt to equate torture with abortion, you might have a point if the government were forcing abortions upon unwilling women; absent that, the parallel is nonexistent. Also, your scare quotes around the word rights in the phrase reproductive rights suggest to me that you may believe it to be simply a euphemism for abortion. Some people may use it as such, but I do not; the area of reproductive rights covers a broad constellation of privacy rights that manifest themselves in the area of reproduction, going back to the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut decision, (FindLaw and Wikipedia) which eliminated state prohibition of contraceptives. Wikipedia has a decent summary of reproductive rights here,

Reproductive rights may include some or all of the following rights: the right to legal or safe abortion, the right to control one's reproductive functions, the right to access quality reproductive healthcare, and the right to education and access in order to make reproductive choices free from coercion, discrimination, and violence. Reproductive rights may also be understood to include education about contraception and sexually transmitted infections, and freedom from coerced sterilization and contraception, protection from gender-based practices such as female genital cutting (FGC) and male genital mutilation (MGM).

and the UN Population Fund defines reproductive rights this way:

• Reproductive health as a component of overall health, throughout the life cycle, for both men and women
• Reproductive decision-making, including voluntary choice in marriage, family formation and determination of the number, timing and spacing of one's children and the right to have access to the information and means needed to exercise voluntary choice
• Equality and equity for men and women, to enable individuals to make free and informed choices in all spheres of life, free from discrimination based on gender
• Sexual and reproductive security, including freedom from sexual violence and coercion, and the right to privacy.

You are free, of course, to decry any of these individual rights--but we part company over the propriety of government's intrusion into private matters and use of force to compel women to limit their choices to those that others find acceptable.

Where do I find the time to write my "rantings"? I don't waste time watching Fox, for starters.

Less snarkily, I believe in the importance of education, both formal and self-directed; the Socratic recognition of how much I don't know continually motivates me to learn more. Being a passive consumer of and believer in the status quo mythology is an intellectually stunting prospect, analogous to those who prefer to remain in Plato's Cave.

If you feel my writings on Bush are "tiresome," imagine my relief at not being faced with the continuation of his miserable failures for another term. There are many more subjects about which I would rather write, as will gradually become evident as the wreckage of his legacy is cleared away.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on January 14, 2009 1:36 PM.

Obama backtracked from previous support for same-sex marriage was the previous entry in this blog.

effects of the Prop H8 map is the next entry in this blog.

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