posted by Jonathan Potts at
I'm truly puzzled by something...How can there be outrage about the president (any president, not just the current one) being immune from breaking the geneva convention rules on torture, yet no similar anger about a president being out of the law's reach when he orders bombs dropped on a civilian population. Aside from the Sept.11 events, which I still can't understand, one of the most revolting things I've seen on TV was the opening bombing of Baghdad during the first stages of "Shock and Awe." How can the torture of one person or a group of persons be worse than the deliberate killing of innocent people sleeping in their beds? To tell the truth, I'd rather the U.S. rough up a few (hundred or thousand) suspects over time, than outright blow thousands of people off the face of the earth in an instant. everyone knows that hitler systematically killed millions. And that he bombed the daylights out of London. But U.S. planes firebombed Dresden and killed civilians, according to some estimates, by the tens of thousands (slaughterhouse five readers know this story). but American planes also fire bombed toyko and killed as nearly as many people there as the atom bomb obliterated in hiroshima. maybe there's a subtle difference in there...but i'd prefer torture to burning to death in my bed...and hearing and seeing my family do the same. yeah, i'm against torture of even one person. but i'm against the indiscriminate mass killing of civilians even more so. if we're not questioning civiliain wartime deaths, why is torture so alarming?
Because it's harder to get kids to sign up to be canon fodder if you can't give them some kind of blanket promise that if captured, they will not be tortured.Besides, no *innocent* civilian is ever killed in war. They are "evil Huns" or "dirty Japs" in an old fashioned declared war, or "collateral damage" if we're there to help "liberate" them.
Regarding WWII: It's pretty easy for us now, by modern rules of warfare, to condemn the Allied bombing campaigns in Europe and Japan. But let's not forget that there was much more widespread consensus at the time than there is now that we really were fighting for the survival of our civilization. The Nazis weren't just a bunch of angry young men with box-cutters and pilot's licenses; nor were the Japanese. I understand that we killed the innocent as well as the guilty, something that we roundly condemn today, but the Allies believed they had to end the war as quickly as possible. (German physicists weren't sitting around debating the finer points of string theory during WWII. I doubt the Nazis would be wringing their hands today over dropping an atom bomb as we do.)As for Iraq, I suspect most of the people angry over our treatment of detainees were no fans of the war. The civilian death toll has been steep, but I'm guessing that the civilian casualties during the initial invasion pale in comparison to the other campaigns you cite. The difference, of course, is that this is a war we had no business fighting.
J.P., you say:"German physicists weren't sitting around debating the finer points of string theory during WWII. I doubt the Nazis would be wringing their hands today over dropping an atom bomb as we do."Granted. No beef with that point...except that I don't than that the insurgents who behead people on videotape are worrying about the geneva convention either. if your point is that the other side did it in WWII, what's the difference now? should we not condemn christian fanatics who might one day crash jet planes into mecca during the Hajj? do you think that isamlic extremist will be wrining their hands over the world trade centers 60 years from now?i'm not advocating this war or torture. but war isn't football. there are no rules in war anymore. it's not like the civil war where people would sit on hillsides and watch battles. today, both sides in a war kill the spectators. it's all one big drive by.
my spelling really sucked in that last post. i guess i ought to use that preview option more often.
> my spelling really sucked in that > last post.Well, no offense, but your logic wasn't great, either.No, Islamic fanatics are not wringing their hands about the Geneva Conventions. What's your point? If we believe that certain values are important because we're a democracy or we're civilized or we're ethical, then we need to defend those values and uphold them. Not just because the other side holds those values, or because we hope they will reciprocate, but because /we/ hold those values. This is not something that can be objectively calculated and held to statistical analysis, true, but most human values can't be.Second, yes, innocent civilians get killed during wars. Innocent civilians always get killed during wars. That's why it has historically been in the best interest of everyone not to /start/ wars. (The Bush administration, in its seeming stiff-cock eagerness to get into every possible conflict, is ignorant of history, but it's ignorant of many things.)Are you saying, though, that we should never fight wars, because innocent people get hurt? If we believe in such a thing as a just cause, then we have to fight some wars.Before World War II, Germany had conquered and enslaved much of Europe, was threatening to invade England and other nations, and was closing down Atlantic shipping lanes. Japan had similarly occupied much of Southeast Asia, and was closing the Pacific. Did hundreds of thousands of innocents die? Yes. But shouldn't we shed a few tears, maybe, for the innocents in Nanking, Warsaw, Manila, Prague, etc., etc.?And to be really cold hearted, the people of Germany and Japan were eager to support their governments' dreams of conquest and "liebensraum" as long as the battles were going in their favor. The intensive bombing of Dresden, Tokyo and other cities finally broke the will of the people, and they turned on their leaders. That's the only reason that those governments finally surrendered.It was a hell of a hard lesson that they learned, to be sure, but you shouldn't support warlords if you're not willing to pay the price if they fall.My biggest fear is that Americans may learn similar lessons, some day soon, in payment for their support of Bush and his rubber-stamp Congress. I am not looking forward to it, and I pray it doesn't happen.One of the big, big, MONSTER problems about the Iraq war is that it's painfully clear that Saddam Hussein was a threat only to himself. If this war wasn't a just cause --- as Jonathan points out --- what does that make us?I'm afraid I don't like the answer very much.
Dear DTRC:My spelling still sucks. And like you I don't think I like the answer to what America's involvement in Iraq says about our leaders (remember, most of them voted to go, even if not as much of a majority if the voters felt the same way). By the way, your knowledge of history is extremely faulty. World War II started when Hitler's blitzkrieg started grinding up most of Europe, not with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Most historians will pin the exact as Sept. 1, 1939, the day the Nazis invaded Germany. Check W.H. Auden's poem that bears that date for a view from America of that day, which was a full two years before the American entry into the war (you do know that I'm talking about Dec. 7, right?) How very American to think that two years of brutal killing in Europe and Asia didn't count as part of the war because the U.S. wasn't officially a part of it. As for the war ending in Europe and Japan, consider this...Germany kept fighting for three months after the Dresden bombing. As the Soviets approached Berlin from the east and the U.S. and British closed in from the west, Hitler killed himself rather than be captured. About 10 days later, the Germans surrendered, not exactly a speedy response. If AH decides to stay alive, who knows when V-E Day might have occurred. And while the atomic bombings certainly influenced Hirohito's decision to call it quits, the official reason he cited in an address to his military was the Soviet invasion of Japanese held territory. He didn't even mention the "bombs." So much for listening to the people's voice.As for the bombings breaking the will of the people and the leaders listening, there really are no records of mass uprisings against Hitler or the Japanese government or military — even when the citizens of Germany and Japan knew the end was near. Actually, most military people will tell you that bombing really doesn't break the will of the people or their governments. You may mention Dresden and Hiroshima to prove your point. And I can counter with the London blitz and the Battle of Stalingrad of how the Nazis failed to destory the determination of the people. And take a look at Lebanon...even after the Israelis relentless bombing of Beirut, Hezzbollah is stronger and more popular than ever. Aside from any Serb massacres of civilians in 826 or Attila the Hun wiping out the general populace of Mongolia, non-combatants usually weren't targeted for mass destruction in recent history. Think of our revolution and civil wars. Battles were fought in fields. The armies struggled to gain control or ports, forts or strategic land. But civilians were unscathed. Yes, Sherman burned Atlanta and shelled the city too. But you won't find too much of that type of tactic by "the good guys" until World War I. When the Kaiser's generals refused repeated pleas to stop the bombings of cities and U-Boat sinkings of non-military ships, the Allies retaliated in kind. And all hell broke loose on civilians during WWII and nearly every subsequent conflict. Of all which means that the "good" side seems to be willing to take the higher ground until the "bad" side plays so dirty that there's no other option than to do the same. After that war, everything really was fair in war. Who knows, maybe it should be. Anyway, back to my original point...why the uproar about torture but none about the killing of civilian men, women and children in Iraq?
damn...what i meant to say is that World War II started on Sept. 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland. Damn, I skipped the preview section again.not that it's funny, but it sounds like a mel brooks plot to have hitler be so overwhelmed with his success that he invades his own country.
> By the way, your knowledge of history > is extremely faulty. World War II> started when Hitler's blitzkrieg > started grinding up most of Europe, not> with the bombing of Pearl Harbor.Who the heck mentioned Pearl Harbor? I talked about Nanking, Manila, London, Prague ... bombing or invasions by the Axis powers of all of those cities (except Manila) came before Pearl Harbor. I never mentioned Hiroshima, either!As for the rest of your points: You have a remarkable ability to answer the arguments you wish were made, rather than the actual issues raised.Good grief. And you accuse /me/ of faulty logic?
The Clerk asks: "Who the heck mentioned Pearl Harbor? I talked about Nanking, Manila, London, Prague ... bombing or invasions by the Axis powers of all of those cities (except Manila) came before Pearl Harbor. I never mentioned Hiroshima, either!"Yet he posted earlier: "Before World War II, Germany had conquered and enslaved much of Europe, was threatening to invade England and other nations, and was closing down Atlantic shipping lanes. Japan had similarly occupied much of Southeast Asia, and was closing the Pacific."I'll say it again...the things you mention were part of World War II. They didn't happen before the war. Maybe I should just ask this question: When do you think WWII started? Maybe I shouldn't assume that you meant America's entry into the war as the start of the worldwide battle. (Note: BEFORE Sept. 1, 1939,Hitler had taken over Czechoslovkia, annexed Austria and occupied the Rhineland. That's hardly "much" of Europe. However, the Euro-centric view of the world doesn't consider Japan's invasion of China in 1937 and the deliberate killing of hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians to be the start of a global conflict.)Just wondering...how do you enslave and conquer most of Europe (or Asia) before a war starts? And after conquering most of Europe (or Asia), what other countries are left, aside from Russia and Britain? I don't think the Hitler or the Japanese were thinking of taking over America. Another point to consider...among the reasons Hitler never invaded England are that he didn't think the Germans could mount a successful seaborne attack and that he felt that he could later enlist the British in an attack the U.S.S.R. Der Fuhrer set out for Russia because of his hatred of communism and because the invasion was land-based. Clerk also correctly points out that he didn't mention Hiroshima. However, you did say that: "The intensive bombing of Dresden, Tokyo and other cities finally broke the will of the people, and they turned on their leaders."Once again, maybe I should ask ...which cities do you mean? Serioulsy, was I wrong to assume that you meant Hiroshima or Nagasaki when you wrote "other cities"? If that was incorrect tell me which cities you meant. Honestly, I'd consider Hiroshima and Nagasaki to be backbreakers. (Oh, don't bother to point out that you never mentioned Nagasaki. I already know that.)Do you play hockey? Because I love the way you skate on thin ice. And once again, the people of Germany never publicly turned on Hitler. There were no uprisings in the streets or acts of civil disobedience...even in the darkest days. The only real attempt on Hitler's life was a military plot carried out by army officers fed up with his execution of the war. Same with the Japanese. They were staying the course to the bitter end. And, clerk, my main point still is...how is torture worse than bombing innocent civilians in their homes, at their jobs or anywhere else? Give the choice of standing naked in a cold room for two days with electrodes attached to my ...well whatever... or having a missle splatter my home and family...and i'll take the torture...after all, i might actually survive. maybe if we didn't drop the bombs we wouldn't have to torture either. As for the planned killing of civilians in wartime, it really is a modern concept. And please don't tell me that the bombing of cities isn't the deliberate targeting of civilians. Just ask the people of Beirut what they think about that.As for answering the arguments I wished I had made, thank your faulty sense of history for that. All I asked was was does the condoning of torture cause more outrage than the deliberate killing of civilians?
Some days I regret learning how to read.No, I don't mean America's entry into the war, or even the Lend-Lease Act. I don't have a U.S.-centric view of world history.But I don't feel like arguing 1930s geopolitics any more, because I have work to do here at Barney's Machine Shop. So let's get to the point: "(H)ow is torture worse than bombing innocent civilians in their homes, at their jobs or anywhere else?"My argument --- which you still haven't responded to --- is that sometimes there is such a thing as a just war. Wars --- even just ones --- inevitably result in civilian casualties.Are saying that, therefore, there is never such a thing as a just war, because "innocent civilians" die? Or are saying that we should be /allowed/ to torture people, because it's no worse than war?I don't know how you can justify either position --- humanistically, ethically, morally or practically.You're right about the thin ice, but I'm not the one who's on it.
Clerk says: "My argument --- which you still haven't responded to --- is that sometimes there is such a thing as a just war. "I say: Sure there are just wars. I just don't think that the deliberate bombing or killing of civilians is justified. Ever. It shouldn't be a tactic. At least not for those who claim to be operating on a higher moral ground. So again...if you can justify collateral damage (civilian deaths, that is, even when they far outnumber the combatant deaths), then why is torture outrageous? If, as you claim, you can break the will of a people through merciless bombing and bring a war to a quicker end...why not use torture to break the will of a terrorist and thwart another Sept.11? you might say that because the tortured person wasn't really a terrorist. sure, that's inevitable in a war..just or otherwise...the wrong person is targeted...just like those civilians who die when the bombs fall on their homes. but isn't it really an issue of "breaking the will" and bringing the conflict to a close? At least that's what I think you said about bombing cities. Or does this make it simpler...can you justify a president signing off on a campaign to relentlessly bomb a city (you pick the target) and killing thousands of civilians but not justify attaching electrodes to someone's testicles? And for the sake of an argument, let's say the war is a just one.and think about this...most experts will tell you that torture doesn't work. and the same is true of the bombing of cities as far as breaking the will of the people. so why bother in either case? and for the record, I don't support torturing people, but I don't support the deliberate killing of civilians either.
I think few people today do justify the /deliberate/ targeting of civilians, but it is just about impossible to fight a war without some "collateral damage", a euphamism that I agree is distasteful.Incidentally, according to the Oppenheimer biography I'm reading, Secretary of War Henry Stimson was appalled that no one protested the fire bombing of Tokyo and other Japanese cities--even though he supported the bombings.
so again...what's the big deal about torture? honestly, i don't agree with it...but torture isn't necessarily intended to kill.
Clerk, my sympathies for trying to "debate" Sean. Nailing jello to the wall is more productive.I wonder what "blanket promise" the WSJ's Danny Pearl had before they sawed through his neck? Where is the YouTube video for that?Mountain, met Mole-hill. Cafferty just loves these over the top polemics. It is a big leap to torture from just making someone uncomfortable with sleep deprivation, and loud pop music.This is meaningless CYA legislation. What would be keeping the Dems from passing another law overturning this "pardon" law? Of course, there is nothing stopping Bush from making a Dec 31st (or anytime) real legal blanket presidential pardon. A long standing trandtion now by both the right and left.
Yeah, it's real tough understanding Clerk meant when he wrote that Germany took over most of Europe before WWII started. Or that he wasn't referring to Hiroshima or Nagasaki in the bombings of cities that broke the back of the Axis powers. Or that the Germans and Japanese turned on their leaders. What history books did your generation grow up with?
The part about the president giving himself retroactive immunity is laughable from one standpoint--even with anti-American opinion inflamed around the world, it's hard to conceive of any government making a serious effort to charge a U.S. president with war crimes. Henry Kissinger appears to be able to travel the globe with impunity, and no one has arrested him.I'm not sure anyone is arguing that if we follow the Geneva Convention, then al Quada will too. But al Quada isn't going to be the only enemy we are ever going to face; we might actually have to fight a bona fide nation again sometime, which might be more susceptible to international pressure. (And whose citizens might be susceptible to moral persuasion.) Hell, the Somalis who captured a downed Black Hawk helicopter pilot in 1993 treated him much like a POW. (And no, I'm not forgetting that other Somalis dragged a soldier's corpse through a street.)But as Clerk noted, there are some values that are worth standing up for, even if no one else does. I thought we were supposed to be fighting a war for the hearts and minds of the Islamic world. Giving legal sanction to torture doesn't seem a good way to do it, nor a good way to ensure the cooperation of European allies who we clearly need to help us track down terrorists.
Amos, if we really wanted to torture prisoners, we could make 'em read Sean's posts.
or they could read clerk's version of WWII history. i watched saving private ryan a couple nights ago. there's a scene early on when some of tom hanks' men want to kill a captured german. hanks almost gives in to their wishes, but relents when a new guy in the squad points out that it's against the "rules" of war to kill a prisoner. so hanks lets him go. later in the movie, the same german show up again, killing some of hank's remaing soldiers and the guy who initially pushed for saving the german's life in the earlier scene, kills him after capturing him again. yeah, he broke the rules.sure it's a movie. but i really thought the point of war to wipe out the other side. as for the U.S. fighting another nation, i don't see america battling france or britain. maybe korea or china, but those nations don't own stellar records for the treatment of prisoners or civilians during wars. my point is this, just war or otherwise, do the rules count or should there even be rules? if the bombing of cities and towns and the resulting killing of civilians as collateral damage are accepted as an unfortunate part of the game, then why not torture? seriously, what is the point of bombing a city?
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