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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Democrats Love Sausage, Too [or at least they did...]

One of my favorite quotes is from Otto von Bismarck:

God has Special Providence for drunks, fools, and the United States of America.

Words to live by, and we Americans surely do.

Uncle Otto is also known for

There are two things you will never wish to watch: the making of sausage and the making of legislation.

Now, it was well-known by key members of congress, including leading Democrats---not to mention the papers---that certain members of al-Qaeda were captured and then subjected to "harsh" interrogation, including waterboarding. Putatively, as a result, these monsters gave up the goods, and innocent lives were saved from their nefarious plans.

Sausage was made.

Nobody felt very good about it, but everybody---everybody---knew what was what.

Tapes of the process were made. Since no good could come of them being revealed to the world except to show how horrible sausage-making is, and how awful the United States of America must be to make it, somebody at the CIA had the tapes destroyed.

The fellow's name seems to be Jose A. Rodriguez, Jr., who was in charge of such things. Perhaps they'll throw him in jail, if they can find something to charge him with. He is presently unavailable for comment.

Now some of us are looking for someone to blame for doing what was necessary to save innocent lives, but Mr. Rodriguez took it upon himself to make sure that couldn't happen. Did he break some law? I have no idea.

But make no mistake, we all wanted the sausage. And if now they pass some legislation against making it, I don't want to watch that either.



James F. Elliott said...

Putatively, as a result, these monsters gave up the goods, and innocent lives were saved from their nefarious plans.

It is also known that Abu Zabudayah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed also gave up dozens of false plots in an effort to stop this torture, wasting thousands of dollars and hundreds of man hours preventing non-existent dangers.

The tapes were destroyed in late November 2005; earlier that month, U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema ordered those tapes' production in the Moussaoui case. The revelation of their destruction gives ample grounds for the appeals court to declare a mistrial, thus wasting millions of dollars and thousands of man hours and casting the conviction of a known al Qaeda member and U.S. citizen in doubt -- possibly irrevocably so.

Jose Rodriguez, Jr., is merely the latest shiny keys to be dangled before us. 24 hours ago, the whole process was "legally approved" by the CIA general counsel. But now, a day later, it's some upper (but not highest) echelon manager taking the fall.

Nonsense. To forward your analogy, it does no good to make sausage when the very meat is rancid. It was only sixty years ago that the United States prosecuted these same "harsh" methods -- including the aforementioned waterboarding -- as crimes against humanity in the wake of World War II. These techniques are already against the laws of the United States. They are torture, and it has been, up until six years ago, the policy of the government to uphold the law of the land and not engage in them.

Pardon the pun, but this kind of excuse-making is the height of tomfoolery. Your analogy trivializes actions that are among the most abhorrent a government can engage in. You disgust me.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Please don't comment when you've been drinking, James.

James F. Elliott said...

Your "I have no substantive rebuttal, so I'll just make something up" insults used to be better, Tom.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Sorry. I left "you disgust me" up, but it's beyond the bounds of any decent public behavior. Since you usually don't behave like a savage, alcohol was the only charitable explanation.

As for the details of the issue, they are litigated elsewhere on the internet, and better. From what I understand, 35 seconds of waterboarding saved a number of innocent lives. The moral dilemma here troubles me, but not a lot.

My focus was on the fact that we as a people, Democrat and Republican alike, were not very troubled either at the outset, and that's what I wrote.

James F. Elliott said...

By that logic, our counterinsurgency strategy should be to drive around Iraq randomly shooting brown people. Every time we actually hit an al Qaeda member, we know the strategy is completely valid!

Nevermind that A) torture is not limited to waterboarding; B) the two people on the tapes are not the only two people waterboarded; C) we have only the asserted but unverified word of torturers and their enablers that the torture produced actionable intelligence but DO know that it also produced bad intelligence; D) that literally dozens of intelligence and interrogation professionals call waterboarding torture AND state it doesn't work; E) that the "actionable" intelligence that led to the arrests of Padilla and Moussaoui came after an interrogator used classic methods to gain Zubaydah's trust; and F) that waterboarding has historically been prosecuted by the U.S. as torture.

You're condoning and excusing torture, Tom. Think about that for a solid minute.

Tom Van Dyke said...

The "torture doesn't work" argument is irresistible to those who cannot handle moral dilemmas and whose main purpose is to demonize their opponents.

I accept your moral condemnation on those grounds, as there is no "other side" to your flawless argument.

However, the original post was not to rehearse these well-worn arguments, but to point out that both sides of the partisan divide accepted the existence of a moral dilemma, but were cool with waterboarding these al-Qaeders if it saved innocent lives.

As for randomly shooting brown people, really, James. Your ire should be reserved for al-Qaeda itself, which purposely and unapologetically does such things.

James F. Elliott said...

The "torture doesn't work" argument is irresistible to those who cannot handle moral dilemmas and whose main purpose is to demonize their opponents.

In other words, as a friend put it, "Don't justify morality with practicality." Congratulations, Tom. You're a utilitarian. And you're still trivializing torture.

The flaw in your argument is in conflating Democrats with either liberals or "the left." Your ship of fools runs aground there.

Don't deflect the point I was making, Tom -- that you're logic was completely flawed -- with some empty accusation that I don't have contempt for al Qaeda. You know better than that.

Tom Van Dyke said...

In other words, as a friend put it, "Don't justify morality with practicality."

Um, that's what you did, mate. Torture doesn't work, so anyone who uses it is disgusting. Ipso facto.

But what's your real point then, that 35 seconds of waterboarding is morally impermissible even to save innocent human lives?

Your disgust or contempt at al-Qaeda's murder and butchery of innocent lives? Sure, Afghanistan was the "good" war, but al-Qaeda's all over the world. What will you do besides open your mouth in protest?

Until you're willing to lift a finger against them in a morally complicated situation, even theoretically, where the enemy doesn't observe Geneva or Marquess de Queensbury, it's all dust in the wind, my friend.

The Nazis and Commies were cake in comparison. They played by the rules at least, mostly.

Until then, you disgust me. You'd let my children die for your moral vanity. I wouldn't let yours die.

I'll put your, Zabudayah's, or George W. Bush's balls in a blender if it saves innocent human lives. Howzat, James? I can say it, I'm not running for anything.

You would not condemn me for saving your children's lives. Of this I am sure, no matter whose balls I put in a blender to save them.

At long last, sir, I suspect you have decency, as a human being, no better or worse than any other good parent or father on this earth. For this I cannot bring myself to condemn you either.

But if you'd let your children---or mine---die for your moral reservations, you will have to find praise for your conception of morality elsewhere.