Saturday, April 22, 2006

CIA leaks and the press; Iraqi compromise

I don't often do roundups and links. But lately, there have been so many important stories that I haven't had time to cover--and that others have covered so very thoroughly--that I thought I'd handle them this way rather than ignore them.

The story of CIA officer and political partisan Mary McCarthy leaking intensely sensitive information about the possible existence of secret CIA detention centers in central Europe is one of these stories. Recommended posts on the subject (some of which contain links to still other posts on the subject) are the following: Dr. Sanity opines on the story's relation to "truth," Alexandra at All Things Beautiful offers her take on White House efforts to stop such leaks and distortions, Richard Fernandez of Belmont Club gives his usual deep perspective on intelligence leaks and the press, Gerard Van der Leun at American Digest offers a compendium of quotes on the sad state of journalism today, Jeff Goldstein of Protein Wisdom sees a possibility for the press to redeem itself depending on how it covers this story, and Ace muses on the motivations of the CIA leaker in question.

It's all been said, and I hardly need to add a word. But I can't resist adding a few anyway.

For me, this story brings another "remembrance of things past." In particular, it calls to mind the fact that, ever since Nixon's pernicious Watergate efforts (the formation of the "plumbers" was at least partly a misguided and illegal effort to stop leaks such as the Pentagon Papers), the press has considered the possibility of overreaching and illegal activities by the executive branch to be more of a threat than any security considerations attendant in leaking secrets.

The current case is merely another example of this. And now the press has also become so arrogant that it apparently feels there is no requirement to make absolutely certain that the security leaks it publishes are the truth (see this and this for evidence of the lack of evidence that the detention centers constituting the subject matter of the leak even existed in the first place).

In this post of mine, I discussed the turning point that Vietnam and Watergate represented in this respect. The present-day tag-team phenomenon of CIA-leaking plus press publication of those leaks--with both players of the sport showing an almost casual disregard of the possible national security consequences--is an extension and expansion of a process that began then:

The left, and many liberals, seem to feel that the raising of security issues in these situations is almost always bogus--a sort of screen, used by a proto-totalitarian government to cover its own misuse of power.

A second important news story of the day is the promising compromise reached in Iraq. Here's the AP article on the subject:

Iraq's president designated Shiite politician Jawad al-Maliki to form a new government Saturday, starting a process aimed at healing ethnic and religious wounds and pulling the nation out of insurgency and sectarian strife.

That just might be the most positive AP lede about Iraq since the day of the purple fingers.

Furthermore:

Parliament elected President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, to a second term and gave the post of parliament speaker to Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni Arab. Al-Mashhadani's two deputies were to be Khalid al-Attiyah, a Shiite, and Aref Tayfour, a Kurd.

The tough-talking al-Maliki was nominated by the Shiites on Friday after outgoing Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari gave up his bid for another term. Al-Jaafari's attempt to stay in office was adamantly opposed by Sunnis and Kurds, causing a monthslong deadlock while the country's security crisis worsened in the wake of December's election.

U.S. and Iraqi officials hope that a national unity government representing Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds will be able to quell both the Sunni-led insurgency and bloody Shiite-Sunni violence that has raged during the political uncertainty. If it succeeds, it could enable the U.S. to begin withdrawing its 133,000 troops.


A consummation devoutly to be wished. We shall see whether or not it comes to pass.

Iraq the Model has a play-by-play account, Gateway Pundit has this roundup (and I agree that Sistani seems to be looking good), and Powerline comments on the length of time it took to get to this point.

57 Comments:

At 4:29 PM, April 22, 2006, Blogger camojack said...

I'm about due to post something new, but I am waiting for the inspiration to kick in regarding what to post about; I try to keep personal stuff to a minimum, and that's what's been happening lately in my life...

 
At 5:07 PM, April 22, 2006, Blogger snowonpine said...

Perhaps author John A. Stormer should update his "None Dare Call Treason" to take into account today's version of what he called the "conspiracy of shared values."

The quote, "Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason?
For if it prosper, none dare call it treason," seems to be pretty appropriate.

CIA and other government officials leak information damaging to the U.S. to friendly journalists who share their hatred of Bush, his politics and his policies. Neither party really cares how greviously they damage U.S. anti-terrorist activities because they see themselves as an elite of in the know people who are doing this for the good of the country, which if it only knew what they knew, would applaud them. Just ask their friends who reinforce their beliefs.

It is always easy to fool yourself into believing yourself to be much more selfless and enlightened than you are. Just, for instance, repeat 10 times "its for the children' and anything you do is OK. What a crock!

I would really like to see some real serious jail time here or, more appropriately, a trial for treason since the penalty is death.

 
At 5:09 PM, April 22, 2006, Blogger snowonpine said...

Sorry, the title, of course, should be "None Dare Call It Treason."

 
At 5:12 PM, April 22, 2006, Blogger David Thomson said...

“...and Ace muses on the motivations of the CIA leaker in question.”

Mary McCarthy is the typical left-wing yuppie who believes that her so-called benevolent motives and advanced credentials place her above the rest of us. The common folks should be glad that she and her friends actually run the government and not our elected officials.

 
At 7:49 PM, April 22, 2006, Blogger The probligo said...

"The current case is merely another example of this. And now the press has also become so arrogant that it apparently feels there is no requirement to make absolutely certain that the security leaks it publishes are the truth (see this and this for evidence of the lack of evidence that the detention centers constituting the subject matter of the leak even existed in the first place)."

Can I re-work that horrendous sentence for you? Try this...

"There is no evidence that detention centres exist. There is no evidence that detention centres do not exist. Therefore the press should shut up about all detention centres until such time as they can prove that they exist. In the meantime there is no proof that Gitmo or AbuGhraib exist either. To say they do exist is a breach of security."

Or to make it even more simple -

"I do not want to know, or have to accept, that my government would do anything like this in my name. Any evidence that suggests that they might should be suppressed so that it does not make me worried."

 
At 9:59 PM, April 22, 2006, Blogger Harry Mallory said...

Probligo, it must be obvious even to you, that since Abu Grabass wasnt a government sanctioned incident and the existence Gitmo as a detention center wasnt a secret, you cant use them as clubs to pound us over the head with.

Neither of them together or apart becomes evidence of secret gulags elsewhere. All you have, is hope. Hope that there are secret east Euro torture gulags. In the meantime, enjoy your fantasy.

 
At 10:33 PM, April 22, 2006, Blogger Harry Mallory said...

Id also have to ask why the EU Intel cheif cant seem to find any US torture camps if the "corporate" press knows they exsist due their having this private source within the CIA? Couldnt they just fly on over to EU headquarters and lead this guy straight up to the fenceline?

 
At 11:36 PM, April 22, 2006, Blogger Raw Data said...

The failure of the Right and Left is to recognize that several things can both be true simultaneously.
1. McCarthy has (allegedly) disclosed a secret of Americam misdeeds and thereby done yeoman service to the nation;
and
2. She may have violated her own oath and needs to be punished.
Yes it is an irony and one which doctrinaire Left and Right cannot grasp.

 
At 9:47 AM, April 23, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Problem is, in American government, there is a thing called "whistleblowers' privilege." When a government employee charges his/her superiors with criminal activity, that employee is protected from retaliation by any government agency UNLESS the charges are proven false in the courtroom.

That's why McCarthy could not be fired until her story fell apart.

 
At 11:49 AM, April 23, 2006, Blogger neo-neocon said...

Raw Data:

I think many people--at least on the Right--would have no trouble holding both of your postulated ideas in their head, if they believed them both to be true. But the right believes that the first proposition is false. Some believe the detention centers did not represent misdeeds. Others believe that revealing their existence, given the state of the war against Islamic jihadist terrorism, is doing America no service at all. Others are angry because the facts were revealed before they were even proven, and may indeed be false. Some believe various combinations of all three.

The Left? My guess is that some believe both of your propositions to be true, and that a person breaking an oath should be punished, no matter what service they are doing to the country by breaking that oath. But some probably believe that a person should not be punished for breaking an oath if it's done in the service of exposing America's misdeeds--and that almost everything America does is, by defition, a misdeed.

 
At 1:27 PM, April 23, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

In the byzantine politics of Iraq, once before the Sunnis were our enemies, people who we had to make a "deal" with. Now in an instant, it is now the Shiite and Jaffari, we're dumping on. For those that don't know how to do byzantine politics, they might get a little bit lost.

We really have to compare how the military deals with leaks as opposed to the civilian administration. The military is so effective, and is one of the most trusted institutions in america by polls, because the military will absolutly rail road you into the ground and out of the service, if you do Anything that could possibly embarass the higher echelons. Abu Ghraib, that Army Captain that shot a gun next to a prisoner's ears to get info, etc, and etc, and etc. Anything you do that gets to the media and embarasses the military, means you get crucified. It doesn't even have to be your fault, it just has to happen, and then you're gone, no matter whether what you did was right or wrong, because the President doesn't "interefere" with internal military matters. And neither does Rumsfield when you think about it, which is unfortunate, because a lot of good could have been done if Rumsfield came on the side of the grass roots army being persecuted by the brass.

The leaks keep happening in the civilian administration because there is no discipline and no punishment. And that's why Congress's approval polls are below 30%. It really doesn't matter what the Right believes who or what should or should not be punished, because we all know it's not going to happen. Because it is not going to happen, why should Raw Data's number 1 be justified?

 
At 2:00 PM, April 23, 2006, Blogger still realizing said...

Part of the problem is we don't know the complete truth of the story. McCarthy might not know the truth.

It would be easy, inside the Inspector Generals office where McCarthy was working, to create an extremely intense ethical dilemma. Just let McCarthy see "Evidence" of truly hellacious war crimes being covered up. What better place to cover up war crimes than the IG office? Let's say you include fake "Evidence" of horrible rapes and tortures being against innocent subjects being ignored and swept under the rug. A moral patriot might well shut the project down with a partial leak. In other words, if McCarthy believed the truth was even worse than what she leaked, she might feel justified...

Of course, this is pure speculation. But it illustrates the problems of evaluating things with partial information.

 
At 3:10 PM, April 23, 2006, Blogger Harry Mallory said...

Neo-neocon:
"Some believe the detention centers did not represent misdeeds. Others believe that revealing their existence, given the state of the war against Islamic jihadist terrorism, is doing America no service at all."

Then, there are those of us, pretty much like myself, that may not necessarily have a problem with having secret detention centers, but arent fully convinced the suckers exist.

Can somebody even nail it down to a country?

 
At 3:23 PM, April 23, 2006, Blogger snowonpine said...

I want to correct the notion that government whistleblowers are effectively protected by law when they blow the whistle.

There is indeed an agency charged with protecting government whistleblowers, the Merit Systems Protection Board, and additional protections are supposed to be available from the DOJ's Office of Special Counsel and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. However, these protections, to judge by news accounts over the years, are more apparent than real.

Whistleblowers who report financial hanky panky can often actually make millions of dollars as their share of the total amount of federal money spent on fraudulent contracts they've blown the whistle on.

But whistleblowers who report on what they believe are other kinds of misbehavior, risk firing, loss of pension benefits and the prospect of many years of very expensive litigation to vindicate their position.

Of course, while the leaker conveniently thinks of himself as a patriot, others may well see him as a traitor.

 
At 3:29 PM, April 23, 2006, Blogger Harry Mallory said...

OK, lets say Im working at the NSA, and I catch somebody like, oh, Probligo, talking on the phone to a bunch of Quakers somewhere. Lets say I wanted to rendition this Probligo guy off somewhere to get a decent beating.

From what country would I expect to receive a post card from?

 
At 5:24 PM, April 23, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think the leakers have a "casual disregard" for national security. I think they have an active hostility to the very concept of national security, because they dislike the concept of nationhood - at least for the U.S. These leaks represent a blatant attempt to undermine the foundations of our country, so the blessed utopia of the UN or some other dreamlike entity can take over.

 
At 9:38 PM, April 23, 2006, Anonymous Regis said...

So...

When McCarthy, who donated money to Kerry, leaks information, she does it because of her liberal bias.

When Porter Goss, who less than two years ago was a Republican Congressman, fires her, he doesn't do it because of conservative bias.

When McCarthy leaks information on US intelligence activities, she's hurting America's security.

When the Office of the Vice President of the United States leaks information on US intelligence activities, he's being patriotic.

Oh, I get it. In both cases, the action was the same, yet the judgement was different. What else was different? The political affiliation of the actor!

Obviously, this will require a rather interesting reorientation of our judicial system. Why bother trying to ascertain things like facts in order to determine whether a crime was committed and, if so, who committed it? Obviously, lawyers will be tasked instead in determining a suspect's loyalty to the Party's ideology.

This will cut down on that whole, trying to use facts to determine objective reality thing we do now.

 
At 11:43 PM, April 23, 2006, Blogger snowonpine said...

About these "secret detention centers."--

Combatants who are not part of a national military and are not in uniform forfeit many of the Geneva Convention protections available to uniformed members of a regular national military. Civilian terrorists fit the bill and even more so because their terrorist actions overwhelmingly occur outside the territory of the U.S. and because they are generally not U.S. citizens. Most of them have been captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan or Iraq. So legally, I see no problem with holding and interrogating such civilian terrorists in supposed "secret detention centers," if such exist.

The hard part is the moral issue. For me, this doesn't present the kind of agonizing or insoluable problem it apparently does for many commentators.

These Islamic terrorists want to destroy or enslave me and my family, destroy my country, my religion, my way of life and I'm supposed to cut them some slack? They would love to decapitate me in the name of Allah and I'm supposed to feel sorry for them? I don't think so. They would give me zero protection, zero mercy if I were in their power because as an Infidel I am not entitled to mercy or legal protections, only a fellow Muslim is.

I'm certainly not going to let them escape questiooning or punishment by manipulating the democratic process they want to destroy.

The argument that, if we do not give Islamic terrorists all or many of the legal rights our citizens have, if we treat them harshly, we then become no better than them is really a non- argument. Because, the result if we do extend to them many of the legal and procedural protections we have, is that we facilitate and hasten their progress toward their goal of destroying us and our democracy. This is not an academic exercise in a tranquil classroom whose correct answer has no practical consequences. We give them the protections we have and we win the Pyrrhic victory of seeing ourselves destroyed over principal. Our children will curse us, and rightly so, if we show mercy to Islamic terrorists and as a result they win and our children become dhimmis.

Under Islam as it was practiced in the Ottoman Empire, non-Muslims, "dhimmis" had no legal standing in Muslim courts, could own no weapons, had to wear special identifying clothes and colors and could be brutalized pretty much at the whim of any Muslim. Dhimmis also had to report to Muslim officials once a year, to be beaten and slapped as a sign of their submission, as they paid their Jizya or "protection" tax so that, as Christians or Jews,Buddhists or Zoroastrians, they could continue to survive within Muslim society. I see no reason for dhimmis to be treated any differently if this eras' crop of Islamic fanatics wins.

Keeping it real--survival with the occasional qualm of conscience beats destruction any day.

 
At 7:16 AM, April 24, 2006, Anonymous Spanky said...

Snowpine, I am fascinated by this. Could you please elaborate on how not torturing terrorist suspects could lead to the global imposition of Shari'a?

 
At 1:59 PM, April 24, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regis,
Talk about having trouble with objective reality. Let's see if I can explain without using any patisan language.

McCarthy, who is a CIA employee and sworn to protect classified information, violates that oath and the law in revealing classifed information.

Porter Goss, who is her boss, fires her it. Seems pretty simple to me.
While partisan affiliation my be relevant in determining McCarthy's motivation, I don't see what it has to do with Porter Goss's. It was his responsibility to fire her regardless of his politics.

As far as leaks from the VP's office, If the president authorizes the release of information then it is not a crime. The president has the legal authority to de-classify information.

So you see Regis, in the first instance the law was broken in the second it was not. It's all really easy to understand once you take your partisan glasses off.

 
At 2:43 PM, April 24, 2006, Blogger snowonpine said...

Spanky--

Did I mention torture?

 
At 3:18 PM, April 24, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

It's the opposite question that fake liberal con artists don't answer. How does torture make us worse than our enemies?

 
At 3:26 PM, April 24, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

So...

When McCarthy, who donated money to Kerry, leaks information, she does it because of her liberal bias.

When Porter Goss, who less than two years ago was a Republican Congressman, fires her, he doesn't do it because of conservative bias.


So, if Cynthia hits a police man, it is because the police touched her inappropriately.

If I hit Cynthia, it is because I committed assault and I'm going to prison.


Oh, I get it. In both cases, the action was the same, yet the judgement was different.

Firing someone and leaking aren't the same action. Did you somehow skip like formal education or something? Or was it formal logic?

See you're confusing your idea of "bias" with "action", the presence of A bias doesn't mean it is the same action.

The people on the left don't really care about international law, because the Geneva Conventions have been around for a long time, and instead of trying to enforce the Geneva Conventions, these people are sabotaging its effectiveness by making nations and people not use it.

 
At 3:27 PM, April 24, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Oh sorry, spank defines torture as "anything involving things that would harm terroists either tactically, operationally, or strategically" that is conducted WHILE they are in US custody. Just so you know.

 
At 4:33 PM, April 24, 2006, Anonymous Spanky said...

Snow,

It looks like I misread your post. You don't mention torture - I jumped to that conclusion based on your argument that the Geneva Conventions and other "legal and procedural protections" may have to be waived in order to save us from Islamocommurobotofascist domination.

Yammer,

Actually, I think that US law (including the Geneva Conventions) and the United Nations human rights charter give pretty good definitions; I usually rely on those. I like that you just made up an argument and attributed it to me, but...no thanks.

I'll never quite understand the Right's obsession with the other little trick you used: "X is worse than Y, and this precludes all criticism of Y."

Actually, it doesn't seem to be a trick; you honestly seem to believe in it. Not quite sure why...

Let's imagine that, on the scale of Bad Things, the really mild extreme might be something like: returning your library books late, but still within the grace period. Now, let's imagine that on the really bad end of the spectrum, is being Hitler. Or Stalin. Or Hitler and Stalin's lovechild, Hitlin.

Now, obviously, being Hitlin is much, much worse than returning your library books late but still within the grace period. But this fact does not preclude many a librarian from lamenting late library books.

What's wrong with these librarians? Do they love Hitler and Stalin? Do they want to murder millions of people? Or could it be a matter of...

...of, well, the situation. Contingency. The logical extension of this is that, so long as the extreme of evil has existed or exists, then any time someone complains about anything at all, you can always say "well, the most extremely evil thing ever was worse. So shut up."

Huh? I don't get it. Of course our enemies are worse than the US; they're full of evil badiness. What you don't seem to get are a few of the following:

A) Criticising the US for using torture doesn't mean you love terrorists. It means you don't like torture.

B) Two different things can both be bad, to differing degrees.

C) Complaining about al Qaeda won't do much good. They won't hear you and they wouldn't care if they did. Complaining about your government in a democracy does do good - they DO hear you and they DO care what their electorate thinks.

D) People already agree that al Qaeda torture is bad. Case closed. People seem to disagree over whether American torture is bad. Case...unclosed.

E) When people are critical of their country for doing what they perceive to be a bad thing, they're usually not doing it because they hate their country. They're usually doing it because they like their country, and they don't want it to do bad things.

Hypothetical example: Your mother is a filthy tramp. You tell her "you're a filthy tramp who should learn to keep her legs together." You're not doing this because you hate your mother; you're doing this because you love your mother and want her to behave better.

Yammer, you should try that next time your parents scold you for staying up all night playing D&D. You can tell them that Hitler was worse, and therefore their scolding is objectively pro-Hitler. Ask them why they hate Jews so much.

Seriously, why haven't any of you thought of this as a legal defense? Go around, looting and raping and murdering as you please, and when they catch you and put you on trial, all you have to do is say "look, I did bad things. But nobody's perfect, and you're just demanding unreal perfection from me. And Hitler was worse!"

And the jury will all nod their heads in agreement, and they'll find you not guilty, because who wants to go on record as disagreeing with the assertion that Hitler is bad?

America is, like every other human endeavor, flawed. But I love it, which is why I don't leave it. Only in America could I have the right to say "I don't think America should torture" and do you have the right to say "he shouldn't have the right to say that!"

No, seriously. That whole shining city on a hill thing. The whole point of America is that we are always seeking an ever more perfect union. The work is never done. We've come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. If the president were to say "in order to defeat al Qaeda, I have ordered the troops to start eating babies alive," I would be anti-baby eating. Even if the President said that baby-eating were necessary for the security of the country, I'd still be anti-baby-eating. Would our enemies still be worse? Well, the baby-eating is pushing it.

But torture? I oppose torture. I don't think we should do it. I don't think it should be our policy, I don't think it should be legal, I don't think it should be condoned, I don't think it should be allowed. I don't think it is necessary to protect our country, and it probably makes us less safe. But even if the President were to say "we must torture, we MUST!" I would still be against it.

I wouldn't be against it because I hate America, because I don't. I love America. I do. It's a great place. People don't criticize their country because they hate it. That's assinine. People criticize their country because they love it and they want it to do better. Parents don't punish their kids for screwing up and misbehaving because they hate them, but because they want them to learn and do better. I don't want my elected leaders, in my name and in the name of my country, to do evil things.

Is torture evil? Yes, always. Always, always, always. Sometimes someone might feel it's necessary to achieve good - they might feel it's worth the cost. Fine, let them do it - and let them pay the cost. But no matter how much someone thinks it is necessary, no matter how much good comes out of it, it is always and will always be evil. I don't want my country condoning torture any more than I want it condoning baby-eating.

But, I imagine that if Bush were to go on national television and start eating live babies, claiming that it was necessary to protect America but he couldn't say why (and anyone who snitches is a dirty leaker), there are some people who would suddenly find baby-eating unobjectionable. And if people were to protest the baby-eating, they'd be right out there, claiming the importance of baby-eating and calling anti-baby-eaters as terrorist lovers.

Go figure, you weirdos

 
At 7:53 PM, April 24, 2006, Blogger Justin Olbrantz (Quantam) said...

Holy crap, Spankmaster. You get an F in Philosophy 101 (critical thinking) for making the least subtle straw man argument ever.

The principle behind the use of torture is to forcibly extract information from a knowledgeable prisoner. The basic justification is that if the information is absolutely required (in the case of terrorists, the information will save human lives) in a time period it would be impossible/impractical to obtain through more savory methods, torture becomes acceptable.

The only even remotely possible way you could consider baby eating analogous to that (as you indeed have) is if somebody is blackmailing you to eat a baby, with threats that very bad things will happen otherwise. This can be safely ruled out in the case of terrorism, as the goal of terrorism is generally to kill as many as possible, not just one baby.

So, yeah. You'll need to retake the course next semester.

 
At 8:29 PM, April 24, 2006, Anonymous Dr. Spankenstein said...

Ouch Justin, I just got served.

Or not. The point of the baby-eating analogy is meant to be over the top - is there something so awful that the government could do that you would criticize it for the action? Would such criticism mean that you hated the country, or that action?

You can argue that torture is a useful intelligence-gathering technique, and I can disagree, and we'll be nowhere, so we'll set that aside for now.

Your argument is that torture, which is awful, is justifiable because the benefits (intelligence) outweigh the costs (breaking the law and abrogating what America is supposed to stand for).

So let's simplify this: if the benefits of X outweigh the costs of X, then X should be performed.

But what if we have in custody a terrorist who has planted a nuclear bomb? Oh no, the ticking bomb scenario! We have ten minutes to find the location of the bomb. Should we torture him? If we believe that the costs of torture are outweighed by the benefits (saving the lives of millions of people), then according to you we should probably torture.

But what if he's a tough nut to crack? What if 6, 7, 8 minutes have gone by? What if we have his infant son in custody? Is it morally acceptable to torture his baby in front of him to get him to confess? Is it morally acceptable to torture babies if it produces actionable intelligence?

If the government tortured babies, would you object?

If you objected, would you be doing so because you hated America and wanted the terrorists to win? Or because you didn't think America should torture babies?

People, remember, this is a hypothetical extreme. So far as I know and believe, the US government tortures babies. But there has to be a point at which the government's actions become objectionable enough to you that you'd speak out against them. I object to torture, so I'd argue against it. This is not, as Yammer and others want to believe, arguing that America is worse than the terrorists. This is arguing that America shouldn't torture. I would think the distinction would be simple, but apparently it's not.

 
At 9:18 PM, April 24, 2006, Blogger Justin Olbrantz (Quantam) said...

So let's simplify this: if the benefits of X outweigh the costs of X, then X should be performed.

Ding, ding. You've just haphazardly stumbled across enlightenment.

Yes, that's exactly the formula you're looking for. If the advantage of doing something outweighs the cost, you don't hesitate to do it (unless you're just too lazy to expend whatever effort it would take to achieve it). This is the universal standard of common sense.

Now, note that I'm speaking from a purely naturalistic, atheistic perspective; if you are religious (in other words, you believe in some divine mandate(s)), then there may be some things you hold sacred above and beyond simple reason. But for everyone else, the cost/benefit analysis is the perfection of reason.

Oh, and I try to avoid debating any particular topic these days, and just restrain myself to matters of simple logic 101, as in your case.

 
At 9:46 PM, April 24, 2006, Anonymous Spank said...

Har har har, Justin. Dur, I'm so dumb, what does Enlightenment mean?

Jackass.


Anyway, why are you evading the question?

If the government tortured babies, would you object?

The point of the entire argument - as I've said twice now, wait, no, three times - is to find a point at which you, too, would criticize the government.

Yammer would like us to believe that criticizing the government for its actions is the equivalent of hating America and wanting its enemies to succeed. If I could demonstrate a point at which even Yammer would object, which even you would object, then, well, I make my case, I guess.

 
At 9:49 PM, April 24, 2006, Anonymous Spank said...

Oh, hey Justin! You and Yammer are about the same age, and it looks like you have a lot of the same interests. You know each other? Let me introduce you to each other:

Yammer, meet Justin. Justin, meet Yammer. Maybe your mommies can set up a playdate for you to play World of Warcraft with each other in your basement!

See how annoying the condescending shit is?

Don't do it. Even I stopped. Except with Sally. She gets what she has a comin'!

 
At 9:57 PM, April 24, 2006, Blogger Justin Olbrantz (Quantam) said...

Yammer, meet Justin. Justin, meet Yammer. Maybe your mommies can set up a playdate for you to play World of Warcraft with each other in your basement!

See how annoying the condescending shit is?

Don't do it. Even I stopped. Except with Sally. She gets what she has a comin'!


Actually your stand-alone remarks are doing more damage to your own credibility than to me, so it's a decent cost/benefit ratio for me if you continue; maybe not so good for you. I personally prefer to save my venom-laced sarcasm for people who have committed some grave logical fallacy or factual error, but whatever turns you on.

 
At 10:02 PM, April 24, 2006, Anonymous Spankles said...

No, Justin, what you don't get is: all of the snark, including the names and all the blah blah blah, should be an indication of how un-seriously I take you.

But you still refuse to address the question:

If the government tortured babies, would you object? Is there a cost/benefit ration that would make the torture of babies acceptable to you?

 
At 10:10 PM, April 24, 2006, Anonymous grackle said...

When people are critical of their country for doing what they perceive to be a bad thing, they're usually not doing it because they hate their country. They're usually doing it because they like their country, and they don't want it to do bad things.

It’s the obvious & almost always applied double standard that’s troublesome. The US is far from perfect but in much criticism of foreign policy I see(in various media) context always seems lacking, mitigating factors ignored, realistic comparisons not made. There’s a set of unvoiced negative assumptions that underlies most anti-war criticism I encounter & a disturbing, possibly subconscious strain of hatred & contempt of America in some of it. Some call it The Template, some refer to it as The Memes.

The barely concealed joy when the evil Amerika is perceived as having suffered a setback, the thugs like bin Laden that are given cult hero status, the pimping of terrorism by equating terrorism with justifiable defensive actions, the ignoring of gains on the political & military fronts, assuming anything the enemy says is true & that anything the administration says is a lie, getting a Pulitzer for writing untrue, unverified, anonymously-sourced stories about phantom prisons, a fairytale evidently designed to ferret out a leaker in the CIA, conflating declassification of information by the President with a hurtful & illegal CIA leaker, all of it gets a bit sickening after awhile, especially because there is the certain knowledge that the enemy is watching & heeding.

Spanky, when people are critical of anti-warriors for aiding the enemy, they're usually not doing it because they hate anti-warriors. They're usually doing it because they like anti-warriors, and they don't want anti-warriors to aid the enemy.

 
At 10:21 PM, April 24, 2006, Anonymous Spanky the Barbarian said...

Aww, Grackle, you like me!

But Grackle, even though you heart me, I can't help but point out that you don't dislike real people; you dislike fake people.

Your fake people have given bin Laden cult hero status and think America is evil. They feel joy when America suffers. They "pimp" terrorism. And so forth.

But, being fake people, these people don't exist. Oh, sure - check out Indymedia, they're real enough. But we're not talking about them, are we? We're talking about, well, pretty much anyone who has ever had a bad word for the Bush administration, aren't we? Because, time and time again, I'm told that because I don't like torture, I suffer from derangement, and I'm a traitor, and so on and so forth.

I'm apt to say that there are a lot of people who hate America, and those people are the ones who would like to conflate criticism of Bush with treason, and wish to change what America fundamentally means because America - with its whole freedoms-and-goodness thing gets in the way of their vision for the country and the war. The people who justify torture and call for nuclear war with Iran and the censorship of the administration's critics - those are the people who really hate America, and want it so badly to be something else.

 
At 10:24 PM, April 24, 2006, Anonymous Dr. Spanky said...

Grackle - honestly, if you can find Americans - and I don't mean crazy Indymedia types or crazy LGF types, because they really are the fringe - who have made bin Laden a cult hero, I'd really, really like to see them.

But, I don't believe they exist. I think that you made them up.

But, by all means, please offer proof. Or else I might have to send you back to....Philosophy 101.

 
At 10:26 PM, April 24, 2006, Blogger Justin Olbrantz (Quantam) said...

No, Justin, what you don't get is: all of the snark, including the names and all the blah blah blah, should be an indication of how un-seriously I take you.

Ah, so you don't take me seriously, I don't take you serious, and I don't think Ymarsakar does, either. It's good to know we're all enjoying ourselves!

The definitive answer to your question, since you seem to care so much about my opinion (despite not taking me seriously): I would weigh the torture of babies just as I would any other cost/benefit variable, and yes, I could definitely imagine scenarios where torturing babies would be acceptable (perhaps not desirable...).

Was that really worth the effort, now?

 
At 10:30 PM, April 24, 2006, Anonymous Spanky Doesn't Torture Babies said...

Well, I guess. Now I have you on record as pro-baby torturing. That's pretty good, I guess.

But, no. What I'm really hoping for is to find a point at which even you, pro-baby torturer, would find government action objectionable. But I don't think I'll get it out of you. I think you're sick. So you'd probably say "ok" to anything.

I guess I just have standards. Like, "no baby torture." Or, generally, "no torture." Those are good standards for me to have. I think the costs of baby torture are, most likely in every case, higher than any potential benefits.

Hmm....would you eat the eyes out of a screaming baby if it meant finding a ticking time bomb?

I bet you would, sicko.

 
At 11:24 PM, April 24, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

A lot of people on the Left says they are for the Geneva Conventions, but any real serious indepth analysis would show that their projected actions would basically harm the Geneva Conventions as a valid treaty. For example, most Leftists are not advocating that those not in uniform caught on the battlefield be shot once captured. They're advocating people who are not POWs should be treated as Pows. Bush does the same thing, but he was always a multilateralist, and never claimed he was good at communication or diplomacy. The left do claim they are, however.

One of the reasons people came up with the Conventions was to solidify and codify the rules of war, that nations would abide by. If you treat my uniformed soldiers well, I'll do the same for you. Quid pro quo. If you send people in civilian garb to blow up my cities, I'll catch them and then I'll execute them, so don't do it again. The Conventions wasn't even started in the 20th century. So it has been updated and enforced many times over.

The Geneva Conventions doesn't cover how to deal with terroists when terroists are all the forces you face. Because this is an unprecedented warfare. The Geneva Conventions is a European thing. It wasn't a Japanese thing nor a Middle Eastern thing. So the mentality it had to deal with was a European one. Germans treated Americans well, compared to the torture of the Japanese in WWII. Then there was Vietnam POW camps. There's not much you can do if your enemy doesn't care about the people you capture from them. Since the enemy doesn't care about the punishment, since they don't care about any prisoners we have, the least we can do is to not give them Geneva Conventions protections, that they don't abide by and have never signed.

To do so, is a mockery. And it is a mockery Bush and the Left does all too often.

Most Americans and all Jacksonians don't agree with Bush on this. They don't believe terroists should be treated as POWs in GitMo or anywhere else.

I'm on diplomatic terms with Spank. Which means that I reveal as little as possible while trying to get him to reveal all his national character secrets. So in this respect, Justin is right, I don't treat the "debate subject" seriously, because my arguments to Spank is never my true thoughts or beliefs, but modifications designed to reveal as little as possible while acquiring the most. This is just to clear up any possible conclusion that my "probes" are in fact "my arguments". They really aren't. I do this quite often, as people can tell. The more outrageously people present their arguments to me, the more I seek to shrink my counter-statements..

Some things, such as the Geneva Conventions, deserve their own honesty, of course.

I'm personally against inflicting pain for pain's sake. That's just a waste of time. There's more people you can behead or brain spike in the time it takes for you to put 2 hot pokers in a person's eyes. Come on. Civilized people don't torture people for the fun of it. It's just and natural to feel the desire to, especially against murdering jihadist rapists like the ones in Iran and the Taliban, of course. There is also a fine line, or not so fine, between pain for pain's sake and Geneva Conventions for appearances sake.

A lot of the most effective interrogation tactics aren't listed under torture. Simply because a lot of those tactics are designed to elicit information by breaking down a person's resistances, not done for entertainment. Most Americans really don't have anything against putting someone in a sensory deprivation tank to get information out of them, if they are the murdering jihadists everyone thinks they are. Civilized nations have civilized conduct for wars. When barbarians start making war and scaring everyone, there's a price that both sides pay.

If the law is the Geneva Conventions, the GCs don't cover terroists, so we're free to do anything to the terroists by the GC standards. It doesn't mean I would advocate it, but it just means that legally it is a non-issue.

The nuclear bomb scenario is best compared to the one used in 24, where Jack Bauer threatens to send the daughter of the terroist into the biologically contaminated building and have her be infected by the terroist's bio weapon. A lot of interrogation methods use fear, not actual pain, because fear is more powerful a motivator than simple pain. Pain is useful in getting someone's physical defenses and stamina down, get his brain depleted of a sense of strength and vitality, before going with the psychological fear conditioning.

There's really nothing wrong with scaring terroists, most Americans can feel assured of that.

Anyway, why are you evading the question?

Cause it's a good idea?

I don't put a lot of energy in talking about who hates America or not. It's just not cost effective enough.

My friend, Phileosophos, plays World of Warcraft but I don't spend money like a geiser personally. Besides, he got addicted, and I'm personally against addiction.

See how annoying the condescending shit is?

Not really, it is just amusing. I mean sure, if you were a 16 year old, it might be annoying, but times have changed.

We're talking about, well, pretty much anyone who has ever had a bad word for the Bush administration, aren't we?

A lot of people tend to think people like me don't criticize the Bush administration. Perhaps that is due to the fact that they don't do it right.

LGF isn't in the fringe either. You should see LGF's comments before 9/11.

To those who are interested, Bush would be wiser to stick terroists in GitMo like he is doing. Except when he is finished with the hardcore terroists and have drained them of info, Bush should send them back to Iraq and then line them up to be shot by a firing squad in front of Iraqis and video tapped by world wide media. Terroists have 6 months to provide worthwhile information which may stay their execution for a bit, or they will automatically be shipped. That should clear out the jails and improve information acquisition by at least an order of a magnitude.

A lot of the high value targets like Omar and such, can probably be kept indefinitely. If you have one problem, terroists, that can be hard to solve. If you have two problems, terroists and insurgents, then sometimes you can get the problems to solve themselves. That probably doesn't work for Justin's homework of course, but it does for geo-political situations.

The terroists in Iraq can be shot. The insurgents can be shown the price of resistance. This avoids the little issue of "you shot my tribal chief, now i'm gonna git you", which probably sounds like the hillbillies but still.

In the field of carrots and sticks, I like to use carrots too. I just like to use sticks even more, compared to other people.

 
At 11:29 PM, April 24, 2006, Blogger Justin Olbrantz (Quantam) said...

But, no. What I'm really hoping for is to find a point at which even you, pro-baby torturer, would find government action objectionable. But I don't think I'll get it out of you. I think you're sick. So you'd probably say "ok" to anything.

I guess I just have standards. Like, "no baby torture." Or, generally, "no torture." Those are good standards for me to have. I think the costs of baby torture are, most likely in every case, higher than any potential benefits.


*evil, sadistic grin*

So, now I'll throw an equally grotesque hypothetical at you; you obviously won't have any trouble answering right away, as you're so big on speedy trials and all. Suppose there's a moderate-sized thermonuclear device in New York City (population: 8 million). You have in your possession one of the terrorists who knows where the bomb is planted, as well as his baby. You have enough time to locate the bomb (if you find out where it is very, very quickly), but not enough time to go chasing after leads that may or may not prove helpful in finding the bomb. You have to make the call.

What say you, arbiter of morality: would you make use of torture of the baby to save 8 million people? What about torture of the terrorist himself? Could you ever speak on morality again, knowing you'd just sacrificed 8 million innocents to save 1 (or 0, if we're talking about torturing the terrorist)?

If you'd still say torture is always, always, always wrong, I'd say you're waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more sick than I'll ever be.

 
At 1:46 AM, April 25, 2006, Anonymous grackle said...

Yes, I do like you, Spanky! Why not? Many of my friends believe much as you do.

For what it’s worth, Spanky, I don’t like the idea of torture, either. But I don’t conflate an incompetent General & some idiotic underlings, all who are punished or in the process of being punished, with an indictment of the administration, the military, the Iraq War – or all three – which is what most of the anti-warriors did & what you seem to be doing by implication.

But, I don't believe they exist. I think that you made them up.

A good example of thinly concealed bin Laden reverence comes from the Chicago University academic, Robert A. Pape, who the day after the London bombings described 9/11 as “spectacular” in an op ed for the New York Times. A lot of adjectives could be used to describe 9/11 – gruesome, horrendous, ghastly – but instead Pape chooses a starry-eyed, admiring “spectacular.” It’s subtle but it’s there.

I’ve commented before about Aaron Brown’s little slip about Saddam right after Saddam was captured. The written word cannot convey Brown’s almost puppy-dog reverence when he observed about Saddam, in his first court appearance, “He doesn’t look so subdued now, does he.” One could clearly see that Brown had regretted all the ‘capture’ footage CNN had had to run of a scruffy, submissive Saddam jerked from his hole & was relieved that Saddam was at last able to be shown as clean, neatly dressed & defiant.

Daily Kos posts the assertion that bin Laden “runs” US foreign policy, has another post taking Bush to task for not giving more significance to bin Laden in Bush’s public pronouncements.

There are the hundreds of times I’ve heard or read of the vaunted North Vietnamese military capacity during the Vietnamese War(they weren’t that good).

It’s difficult to give more concrete examples, the realization comes after reading literally thousands of articles, dozens of books, viewing many hours of television commentary, reading & commenting on blogs, seeing & hearing it many times without totally realizing it until an offhand remark by a talking head ignites an epiphany.

Proponents like Pape & Brown dare not be open in their admiration, it’s always indirect, subtle & very creepy.

 
At 7:47 AM, April 25, 2006, Anonymous Spanky said...

Grackle,

In case you didn't know, Pape is a respected scholar in the counterterrorism community. You know, actual people who actually know and do things about this issue don't treat him as if he were a bin Laden-loving jihadi. Maybe you should take heed.

But this is it? This is the sum total of your proof that there are people who have formed a cult of hero worship? One man used an adjective you didn't find strong enough; one man thought that Saddam looked defiant in court; one man thinks that Bush should mention, more often, the reason why we're at war in the first place. And that's it?

That's a pretty lousy cult, Grackle.

Oh, that's because it's not.

Pape's research interest is suicide terrorism; namely, why people do it. There's a large body of literature dealing with the concepts of "propaganda by deed" and "spectacular" terrorism. The word does not mean "good", it means "sensational, elaborate, unusually lavish." Was 9/11 not, then, a spectacular act of terrorism?

I don't know what Kos meant when he said that bin Laden "runs" US foreign policy. US security policy since 9/11 has, of course, been a reaction to what bin Laden did. Do you deny this? Maybe Kos was not speaking literally - maybe he wasn't saying that bin Laden actually worked with US policy makers to formulate policy. But...even if that was what Kos was saying...how is that an indication of cult worship?

Brown? Brown's mistake was commenting on Saddam's (not bin Laden, remember?) demeanor? And observing something you don't think he should have observed?

Talk about ideological rigidity. Grackle, you're like a string pulled too taught, ready to snap at any moment, at the slightest breaze, at the slightest hint of ideological impurity or the slightest hint of criticism of America.

This is your cult? This is rediculous. Three people, one of whom wasn't even talking about bin Laden? One of whom is a scholar respected in the counterterrorism community? I'm sorry - arguing that there is a cult of hero worship on the Left is, basically, slander. Or libel. Which is the one in print? If you're going to accuse a lot of people of something really awful, it helps to have more than three examples, one of which does not even pertain to the issue. Because I could, after all, accuse the Right of having a Hitler hero-worship cult. Or one of baby-eating. Or whatever I wanted! That's the beauty of "making shit up," which is what you're doing.

You're a quivering mass of tension, aren't you? If someone were to post on here that, at one point, slavery was legal in the US, you'd explode with rage! How dare they insult America! They're anti-American! They're anti-warrior! They hate freedom! They want America destroyed! Oh, wait...slavery was legal in America? And all you were doing was factually reporting that? Well....you still hate America!

Chill. Relax. Or, as the kids say, chillax. Oh those kids.

 
At 8:33 AM, April 25, 2006, Anonymous Spanky said...

Grackle, here's Bush today:

"At the core of my decision-making when it comes to protecting America is the lessons learned from September the 11th, 2001. My job is to use the resources of the United States to prevent such an attack from happening again."

Sounds like Osama bin Laden is a pretty influential figure in US policy making, no?

Maybe Kos was, I don't know, referring to this?

 
At 2:19 PM, April 25, 2006, Anonymous grackle said...

In case you didn't know, Pape is a respected scholar in the counterterrorism community.

I don’t think Pape is too popular with counterterrorism experts. He is very popular with the anti-warriors, none of whom I’ve read seem very knowledgeable about counterterrorism. I think there may be a lot of anti-warrior “scholars” who are wrong about foreign policy & terrorism. For instance, Pape wrote the op ed in the Times alleging that the terrorism would stop if the US & other Western nations would leave the Middle East because the terrorism was always committed by individuals whose countries were occupied or had Western troops present or who were friendly toward the West. Just looking to get the Evil Satan Interlopers out of their countries, don’t you know, never mind that the West’s presence is at the invitation of the legitimate governments of those countries. Stating the obvious(the terrorists want the West out of the Middle East) & calling it science isn’t very scholarly. The op ed was all done up with charts & stats & probably looked very credible to someone who knew nothing about research methods. Pape ignored all non-suicidal terrorism, a major flaw in his neat little study. Just before the op ed was published home-grown British terrorists bombed London & blew his cockeyed theory completely away, unless he’s claiming that the British need to leave their own country! We haven’t heard much about his theory since then. Pape, the “scholar,” isn’t interested in science, he’s only interested in using specious science to justify his politics. Pape & others elevate bin Laden(even to a cult hero status) by treating him in their writings as a legitimate leader who has the right to insist that the West get out of ‘his’ territory.

Was 9/11 not, then, a spectacular act of terrorism?

No, it wasn’t. The adjective, “spectacular,” has positive connotations, as in: sensational in appearance or thrilling in effect; "a dramatic sunset"; "a dramatic pause"; "a spectacular display of northern lights"; "it was a spectacular play"; "his striking good looks always created a sensation."

I find it sickening that one would use “spectacular” to describe 9/11, unless of course, one consciously or subconsciously approves of 9/11. A catastrophe should never be labeled “spectacular’’ unless one enjoyed the catastrophe. Then the word as used by Pape makes perfect sense. It’s in the same vein as the BBC refusal to use the word, “terrorism.” Yes indeed, the BBC(& probably Pape) knows that choice of words is very important. Of course, many Moslems around the world did find 9/11 satisfyingly “spectacular.” We all saw them dancing & shooting their guns in the air upon receiving the news of the ghastly deed.

I don't know what Kos meant when he said that bin Laden "runs" US foreign policy.

It’s simple, Kos meant that bin Laden “runs” US foreign policy. It wasn’t a figure of speech. I don’t deny that bin Laden has affected US foreign policy but if bin Laden really ran US foreign policy the US wouldn’t be in Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s just an example of hyperbole about bin Laden from the left, exaggerating his importance & power & denigrating the administration in comparison. Cult hero status observed en situ.

With Brown it wasn’t his words but the reverent & admiring tone he attached to his words. And the funny little expression on his face after he realized how he sounded – one of those oops looks.

Talk about ideological rigidity. Grackle, you're like a string pulled too taught, ready to snap at any moment, at the slightest breeze, at the slightest hint of ideological impurity or the slightest hint of criticism of America.

The statement above is simply untrue. I well know that the US is far from perfect & believe constructive, non-partisan criticism is always beneficial.

 
At 2:42 PM, April 25, 2006, Anonymous Spanky the Literate said...

Grackle,

I take it you haven't read Pape's work; you just read about him in blogs, right?

Pape set out to analyze suicide terrorism as a tactical subset of terrorism. He found that terrorist groups use suicide terrorism against democracies in order to drive them from what they perceive to be their homelands.

Examples: al Qaeda against the US in Saudi Arabia, Hamas against Israel, the Tamil Tigers against the government of Sri Lanka, the Chechens against the Russians, etc.

Pape never, ever said that withdrawal would stop terrorism, or that the presence of troops "causes" terrorism. Pape simply looked at the groups, their targets, and their goals, and concluded that the goal of the groups was to eject what they perceive to be a foreign occupier from their homeland.

When figuring out why a particular terrorist group chooses a particular behavior, you have to factor in a number of issues: the group's ideology, its composition, its goals, its supporters and its oponents, to name a few. In this case, suicide terrorism appears to be a tactic that groups use against democracies because it is more useful against democracies than non-democracies. I imagine that people generally find suicide terrorism so horrific and repulsive that they will pressure their governments into withdrawing from a particular territory, so long as that territory is not strategically vital.

(We left Saudi Arabia, the Israelis are still in the West Bank but not Gaza, the Russians are still in Chechnya, etc.)

I suppose you could read his work and come to your own conclusions or, better yet, do your own analysis of the data set. But I don't think you've done that at all. Pape's focus on suicide terrorism wasn't a flaw in his study, it was the point of the study.

 
At 2:48 PM, April 25, 2006, Anonymous Spanky the Verbose said...

Grackle,

The use of the word "spectacular" is to imply spectacle, or "an even that is memorable for the appearance it creates."

I'm sorry you're not familiar with this useful term. The use of the term "spectacular terrorism" does not imply "good terrorism." Nor does it imply "spectacle" in the sense that the Situationalists used it, to mean "an image that substitutes for reality."

Spectacular means "impressive, sensational, dramatic, lavish, or elaborate."

Spectacular only has positive connotations insofar as these words have positive connotations. Something dramatic can be good, while something elaborate can be bad.

 
At 2:54 PM, April 25, 2006, Anonymous Spanky the Skeptical said...

Grackle,

Are you familiar with the concept of metaphor?

Do you really, honestly believe that Kos meant "bin Laden directs and formulates US policy"?

Or is it possible that he meant "US policy is a response to bin Laden's actions, and so bin Laden plays an oversized role in our policy makers' decision making process"?

You think that Kos loves bin Laden because he wants Bush to talk about bin Laden more? You mean, Kos wants Bush to talk about Terrorist Threat Number One, the head of al Qaeda, the FBI's most wanted fugitive, the reason why we're at war in the first place? Maybe Bush doesn't like to talk about bin Laden because it's embarassing; we set out to destroy him and yet, years later, he's still at large. Maybe by calling on Bush to talk about bin Laden, Kos is castigating Bush for his silence on what used to be one of his major talking points until it became inconvenient to talk about Terrorist Threat Number One.

Or, Kos could love bin Laden. Let's pretend that your two examples really are terrorist-lovers; we can't count Brown because he was talking about Saddam. This is your cult? Two people?

If you're going to make a claim that "a cult of hero worship" exists for a murderous terrorist among America's liberals, you need a lot more proof than two really bad examples and a gut feeling.

Only the president gets to make decisions with his gut.

 
At 9:28 AM, April 26, 2006, Anonymous grackle said...

On July 9th the New York Times published an article written by him, "Al Qaeda’s Smart Bombs," in which he came to the conclusion, using statistics having to with the national makeup of suicide terrorists & their victims, that the U.S. is causing suicidal terrorism because the U.S. has extensive military presence in the Muslim countries from which suicidal terrorists are drawn. My, my, such brilliant analysis. The article, replete with statistical charts, presents the viewpoint that since the recruited suicide terrorists are inflamed by America’s presence in their homelands the U.S. needs only to withdraw from, say, Saudi Arabia, then suicidal terrorism committed by angry Saudi nationals would stop.

Pape carefully excludes terrorists that are not suicidal from his study. One explanation for this: If he included non-suicidal terrorists in his data, the ones who kill & slink away, his tidy little theory would fall apart. As the author must know, much terrorism is not suicidal & when those perpetrators can be examined a variety of nationals are observed – witness the multi-national makeup of terrorism currently in Iraq.

… the figures show that Al Qaeda is today less a product of Islamic fundamentalism than of a simple strategic goal: to compel the United States and its Western allies to withdraw combat forces from the Arabian Peninsula and other Muslim countries

The above quote makes me smile. One wonders if the author has ever heard of Bernard Lewis or even Victor Davis Hanson. Pape clearly wants us to believe that Islamic terrorism has nothing to do with Islamic extremism or with the fundamentally religious nature of jihad & that Islamic extremists like bin Laden wish only for our combat forces to leave the Middle East. Oh yes, all we naughty imperialists have to do is ship the boys home & all will be peaceful. Of course bin Laden has a "strategic goal" in line with his strategic plans; he is not stupid, after all! And this is one of the author’s insights? Apparently other, less benign motivations behind bin Laden’s terrorism, of his hatred of Western social values, of his pathological fear of the social changes Western culture will bring to the Middle East, of his blatant desire to marginalize the West culturally, economically & politically, of his obvious craving for power in Saudi Arabia, the rest of the Middle East & eventually the world, is not going to be visited by this particular academic. In fact the article’s "figures" are proof only of method, not of motivation & the author should have stuck to strict methodological analysis instead of descending into a dubious political conclusion. One supposes Pape would have used similar "figures" to prove Hitler only wanted the Sudetenland.

Pape breathlessly speculates in the article about a document found by the Norwegian intelligence service on a radical Islamic website that outlines a plan for forcing the United States and its allies to abandon Iraq. This section of the article was slightly sickening to me because of Pape’s near-gushing about the Al Qaeda strategy this(most likely fake) document purports to illustrate. Throughout the article there is a veiled admiration for the terrorists but here it pops to the surface with an actual pimping of terrorism when he refers to 9/11 as "spectacular." I’m also astounded that the author apparently believed that before this document turned up that Al Qaeda had, to quote the article, no "coherent strategy." Where has this guy been? On Mars? Pape makes much of the document’s scheme to "attack America’s European allies" & declares that such a strategy "was the product of deliberate choice," which is stating the obvious to say the least. Did he, before he so conveniently stumbled across this document, think terrorist acts against U.S. allies were by accident, or at random? He goes on:

As the top chart shows, what is common among the attacks is not their location but the identity of the victims killed. Since 2002, the group has killed citizens from 18 of the 20 countries that Osama bin Laden has cited as supporting the American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Readers, what victims would bin Laden be likely to select for killing other than citizens from countries that support American military actions in the Middle East? Did the author think, before plucking this spurious document off the internet, that Al Qaeda would be seeking to murder America’s enemies? Is this another brilliant insight?

In the article Pape claims that Al Qaeda recruitment follows a very neat sequence, to wit: If American troops are stationed in a Muslim country, then suicide terrorists have come by and large from those countries. I wouldn’t argue with that at all, his data proves it. But there is no "clear implication," as stated in the article, that Al Qaeda would collapse without "heavy American combat presence." Far from it. Significant presence of American troops in an Islamic country always means that country is an American ally or soon to be, as happened in Iraq, after democratic elections were held. Pape’s theory is an example of what my old Logic professor used to scornfully label as "circular reasoning."

The sad truth is that Al Qaeda has its pick of recruits from a variety of countries, even Western democracies. Remember John Walker, the American Taliban terrorist captured in Afghanistan? There are probably people, Islamic & otherwise, in almost every country in the world that have enough despair & hatred in their hearts to blow up the innocent along with their pathetic, distraught selves. And some of these no doubt seek out Al Qaeda. The fact that Al Qaeda has invariably chosen recruits for suicide from those countries that are allied with the countries that Al Qaeda is trying to destroy implies only that Al Qaeda has been clever, far more clever than the author of this rather fragile tissue of implication.

In order to better illustrate why Pape’s "clear implication,"(to quote the article) even when limiting the data to suicidal terrorists, is as muddy as the Mississippi let us allow our imaginations to run rampant & fantasize we are Al Qaeda leaders planning a suicide bombing. We have many recruits we can use to pull off the atrocity we are planning, recruits from every country in the Middle East & many elsewhere who are eager to enter jihad in service to us. Some of these countries are allied with the wicked Americans & some are not. But who would give us the most bang for our buck? Readers, can you see where I am headed? Of course they have used nationals from Middle Eastern countries that are allied with the U.S.; what better way to create doubt about those alliances in the minds of naïve U.S. citizens, journalists & politicians? And political science professors, I might add.

The article was published on July 9th, 2 days after the 7/7 London bombings, so Pape had to twist & turn(probably just before publication) to try to fit this new development into his theory because it was clear early on that the London bombers were not smuggled in from an enraged Saudi Arabian populace or some other Middle Eastern country but were from Great Britain itself. One can imagine his chagrin; what do you do when events blow a hole into a carefully contrived(albeit flawed) theory? Why, you simply assert that the facts pose no contradiction. Cognitive dissonance is sometimes a wonderful thing to behold:

No matter who took the bombs onto those buses and subways in London, the attacks are clearly of a piece with Al Qaeda's post-9/11 strategy.

Perhaps the next step in Al Qaeda’s plans is to do as they have done in London & as far as possible use those raised and/or nurtured by the very countries in which the terrorism is committed, thereby gaining the psychological devastation of an attack from within. We can be sure there are more than enough confused & overwrought dupes to go around. Will Pape then gather data to prove that Great Britain should withdraw from Great Britain? Pape finishes with this:

The bottom line, then, is that the terrorists have not been fundamentally weakened but have changed course and achieved significant success. The London attacks will only encourage Osama bin Laden and other Qaeda leaders in the belief that they will succeed in their ultimate aim: causing America and its allies to withdraw forces from the Muslim world.

This last paragraph in Pape’s article might contain a halfway good point, though I might put it a little differently: Long term, the danger is very real that bin Laden & his ilk could succeed in marginalizing the Western world, which is what withdrawal & capitulation would ultimately mean. This is especially so if major allies of America cave in when faced with atrocity by Islamic terrorists.

To reiterate: Why were the suicide bombers(until the London bombings) always made up of nationals? Why not use a suicide bomber from Yemen to bomb Egypt? Pape never becomes suspicious of al Qaeda’s absolute perfection in picking the bombers(which his figures prove), of always using bombers from the country that is bombed. Pape says it’s because Western military presence inflames potential bombers, which is probably true, & goes on to conclude that stopping the bombers is a simple matter of withdrawing troops from those countries. But such perfection in picking suicide bombers only proves that al Qaeda wants to avoid the appearance of perfidy performed by outsiders – that there’s no propaganda benefit from using outsiders, even though al Qaeda has its pick of eager-to-die recruits from all over the world.

 
At 10:01 AM, April 26, 2006, Anonymous Spanky said...

Oh Christ, Grackle. Forget it. I don't know if you have a reading comprehension problem or if you're just willfully misreading Pape's article, or if we're reading two different articles. Not once in the one I read did Pape suggest that withdrawal would stop terrorism.

Pape's arguement is that suicide terrorism, as a tactic, has nothing to do with Islamic fundamentalism. He did this by looking at every example of suicide terrorism going back to 1980 and looking for trends.

One trend that he found was that suicide terrorism was mostly commited by non-Muslims and by secular nationalist groups.

Do you understand that this does not imply that al Qaeda is not a fundamentalist jihadi group? Do you understand that when Pape says "suicide terrorism does not have anything to do with Islamic fundamentalism," that he is not saying "al Qaeda has nothing to do with Islamic fundamentalism?"

I realize that it's hard, sometimes, to understand that different words mean different things, but it's true. Pape simply did not say what you are slandering him with.

I'm just really at a loss for words here, Grackle. Do you understand the difference between the cause of an action and the goal of a group?

Pape says: al Qaeda is using suicide terrorism against democracies to compel them to leave Iraq. Their goal is to eject the US from the region.

You read: America causes terrorism.

What? I mean, just...what?

Imagine that you are yelling, and I want you to stop yelling, so I punch you in the face. Did your yelling cause me to punch you in the face? No. Was my goal to get you to stop yelling? Yes.

So if Pape were to say, "Spanky punched Grackle to get him to stop yelling," this would be fundamentally different from saying "Grackle's yelling caused Spanky to punch him."

Maybe this is the core of the problem: Pape has offered an explanation for why al Qaeda is using suicide terrorism that is different from the standard line of "they are Islamofascists who hate freedom and are a death cult and are nihilists and believe in evil Islam and blah blah blah."

You know what, all that's true. But it doesn't explain why they do certain things - explaning things by saying that the actor is evil offers no explanation at all. To say that "X did something evil because X possesses the characteristic of evil" is nothing but a tautology. In attempting to actually understand al Qaeda, it's worthless.

So Pape offers an explanation based on data analysis rather than truisms, so he's immediately suspect. And everything else follows from that, doesn't it? When you begin by approaching Pape with the assumption that Pape loves Osama bin Laden, it becomes a lot easier to misread perfidy into your fantasy version of his article. The reality, though, is different.

 
At 10:31 AM, April 26, 2006, Anonymous grackle said...

Here’s the complete article. Let the readers judge for themselves:

WHILE we don't yet know who organized the terrorist attacks in London on Thursday, it seems likely that they were the latest in a series of bombings, most of them suicide attacks, over the past several years by Al Qaeda and its supporters. Although many Americans had hoped that Al Qaeda has been badly weakened by American counterterrorism efforts since Sept. 11, 2001, the facts indicate otherwise. Since 2002, Al Qaeda has been involved in at least 17 bombings that killed more than 700 people -- more attacks and victims than in all the years before 9/11 combined.

To make sense of this campaign, I compiled data on the 71 terrorists who killed themselves between 1995 and 2004 in carrying out attacks sponsored by Osama bin Laden's network. I was able to collect the names, nationalities and detailed demographic information on 67 of these bombers, data that provides insight into the underlying causes of Al Qaeda's suicide terrorism and how the group's strategy has evolved since 2001.

Most important, the figures show that Al Qaeda is today less a product of Islamic fundamentalism than of a simple strategic goal: to compel the United States and its Western allies to withdraw combat forces from the Arabian Peninsula and other Muslim countries.

As the chart at the upper right shows, the overwhelming majority of attackers are citizens of Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries in which the United States has stationed combat troops since 1990. Of the other suicide terrorists, most came from America's closest allies in the Muslim world -- Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia and Morocco -- rather than from those the State Department considers ''state sponsors of terrorism'' like Iran, Libya, Sudan and Iraq. Afghanistan produced Qaeda suicide terrorists only after the American-led invasion of the country in 2001. The clear implication is that if Al Qaeda was no longer able to draw recruits from the Muslim countries where there is a heavy American combat presence, it might well collapse.

As the large chart at the center of the page shows, what is common among the attacks is not their location but the identity of the victims killed. Since 2002, the group has killed citizens from 18 of the 20 countries that Osama bin Laden has cited as supporting the American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

There is good evidence that this shift in Al Qaeda's scheme was the product of deliberate choice. In December 2003, the Norwegian intelligence service found a lengthy Qaeda planning document on a radical Islamic Web site that described a coherent strategy for compelling the United States and its allies to leave Iraq. It made clear that more spectacular attacks against the United States like those of 9/11 would be insufficient, and that it would be more effective to attack America's European allies, thus coercing them to withdraw their forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and increasing the economic and military burdens that the United States would have to bear.

In particular, the document weighed the advantages of attacking Britain, Poland and Spain, and concluded that Spain in particular, because of the high level of domestic opposition to the Iraq war, was the most vulnerable.

''It is necessary to make utmost use of the upcoming general election in Spain in March next year,'' the document stated. ''We think that the Spanish government could not tolerate more than two, maximum three, blows, after which it will have to withdraw as a result of popular pressure. If its troops still remain in Iraq after these blows, then the victory of the Socialist Party is almost secured, and the withdrawal of the Spanish forces will be on its electoral program.''

That prediction, of course, proved murderously prescient. Yet it was only one step in the plan: ''Lastly, we emphasize that a withdrawal of the Spanish or Italian forces from Iraq would put huge pressure on the British presence, a pressure that Tony Blair might not be able to withstand, and hence the domino tiles would fall quickly.''

No matter who took the bombs onto those buses and subways in London, the attacks are clearly of a piece with Al Qaeda's post-9/11 strategy. And while we don't know if the claim of responsibility from a group calling itself the Secret Organization of Al Qaeda in Europe was legitimate, an understanding of Al Qaeda's strategic logic may help explain why that message included a threat of further attacks against Italy and Denmark, both of which contributed troops in Iraq.

The bottom line, then, is that the terrorists have not been fundamentally weakened but have changed course and achieved significant success. The London attacks will only encourage Osama bin Laden and other Qaeda leaders in the belief that they will succeed in their ultimate aim: causing America and its allies to withdraw forces from the Muslim world.

 
At 10:36 AM, April 26, 2006, Anonymous grackle said...

Why do Republicans let the world's most dangerous terrorist dictate our actions in Iraq? Why do they base our actions on his words rather than the facts on the ground? If bin Laden put out yet another tape and said he wanted us to stay in Iraq forever, would that mean we could leave? Pretty please? After all, apparently the only compass for our foreign policy is to be the "north" to bin Laden's "south." Funny how bin Laden is a mass murderer, a liar, a propagandist, a monster (all true) yet the administration refuses to recognize him as the sadistic manipulator that he is.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/3/20/93219/3253

Spanky, does the above look metaphorical to you?

I take it you haven't read Pape's work; you just read about him in blogs, right?

Actually, no, I’ve never even seen Pape mentioned in a blog. I haven’t read his ‘works,’ either, which probably encompasses several books & a boatload of articles. What I read was the NYT op ed article.

 
At 11:21 AM, April 26, 2006, Anonymous Spanky the Very Large said...

Grackle, I can only recommend that you actually try reading his original paper, or if you have the time, his book. I'm sorry to tell you, but you're just so incredibly wrong about Pape, I don't know what else to say.

On to Kos...

Disclaimer: I've never read Kos. I think I saw him on the Colbert Report for about two seconds, but that's pretty much the extent of it.

Let's see...Osama bin Laden releases statements in which he says he wants the US to leave Iraq. Bush cites this as evidence for why we need to stay. Kos is right to attack this. While obviously our policies are a reaction to what bin Laden does, we should never do something simply because bin Laden wants or doesn't want us to do it.

Case in point: bin Laden releases a statement right before the November 2004 election in which he says that we have our security "in our own hands."

Conservatives assume this means that bin Laden is threatening them: if you vote for Bush, we will attack you.

Conservatives respond with: well, if bin Laden doesn't want us voting for Bush, then certainly it is a good idea to vote for Bush!

Even Bush himself has commented on this.

But this is lunacy. If bin Laden came out and said "don't ever leave Iraq, I want you to stay forever, please?" the appropriate response should be "we'll do what we want based on our calculations of our interests," not "bin Laden wants us to stay! Obviously we should leave!"

And, if you want to get technical, yes, it is metaphorical, unless you really believe that US foreign policy is literally in the form of a giant compass.

But Grackle, you're still doing a really, really bad job of defending your thesis that a cult exists among the Left that worships bin Laden as a hero.

So far, you have one misread op-ed in the Times, and you have a paragraph from Kos in which he argues that we should not do things just because bin Laden doesn't want us to do them, and vice versa.

Nice cult you have there. Two guys, both of whom you seem to have misread.

Or do you disagree with Kos? Do you think that if bin Laden says "don't leave Iraq," that we should leave Iraq?

 
At 11:28 AM, April 26, 2006, Anonymous Spanky the Great said...

Let's look at Kos more closely:

In the post that you provided as evidence that there is a hero-worship cult of bin Laden among Leftists, you quoted Kos.

In that quite, Kos calls bin Laden a "a mass murderer, a liar, a propagandist, a monster," and "a sadistic manipulator."

Sounds like he loves him!

Kos also says that he does not believe that US foreign policy should be formulated solely or explicitly on what bin Laden wants us to do. I agree. The argument that we should be in Iraq because bin Laden doesn't want us to be there, or that we should vote for Bush because he said not to, are very bad reasons for doing these things. If they're the only reason for doing things, then Osama bin Laden would, by definition, by running US policy.

Or do you disagree? Do you disagree with the idea that if the only reason we did something was that bin Laden said "don't do it" that bin Laden would be telling us what to do?

 
At 8:14 PM, April 26, 2006, Blogger Justin Olbrantz (Quantam) said...

Whoa. I go away for a day and a half expecting to come back to another amusing post by Spankmaster, and, much to my surprise, in all that time he still hasn't dared to reply to my challenge. That's amusing in a completely different way.

 
At 8:47 PM, April 26, 2006, Anonymous Spanky the Snarky said...

I'm sorry, you offered a challenge? Is it like, a quest?

 
At 10:32 PM, April 26, 2006, Blogger Justin Olbrantz (Quantam) said...

I'm sorry, you offered a challenge? Is it like, a quest?

Not really. But your lack of response makes me think you subscribe to the philosophy that "arguing on the internet is like running in the Special Olympics: even if you win, you're still retarded". It's okay; I'm used to getting that as a response.

 
At 10:40 PM, April 26, 2006, Anonymous Spanky the Questioning said...

No, really - what was the challenge? I missed it.

 
At 11:03 PM, April 26, 2006, Blogger Justin Olbrantz (Quantam) said...

Never mind the man behind the curtain

 

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