Tuesday, January 11, 2005


Going down....

You have to hand it to him. Probably few people thought that George Bush could come up with a worse choice for Attorney General than a religious fundamentalist maniac like John Ashcroft - but he did it anyway. As White House counsel, nominee Alberto Gonzales requested a memo from the Justice Department justifying torture practices during interrogation of prisoners, and argued that the War on Terror made the Geneva Conventions obsolete. And now it seems indeed this creep will be confirmed as Attorney General. It would be hilarious if it wasn't so sickening.

The nomination seems to have sparked some interesting debate, with one Jonah Goldberg supporting Gonzales:

As for the Geneva Convention and al Qaeda, you'd have to be higher than a moonbat to treat them as signatories to it. Everything they do is a violation of the convention. It may be fun to mug for the cameras and criticize Gonzales for saying that the Geneva Convention is "outdated" when it comes to al Qaeda. But unless you think Khaleed Sheikh Mohammed deserves an allowance in Swiss francs that he can spend at the local canteen, you have to concede Gonzales is right

Well, Al Qaeda may not have signed the Geneva Convention - but the US has (this aside from the question how much of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay are actually Al Qaeda-members). Earlier, Goldberg argued that the photographs from Aby Ghraib should have been kept secret.

Mention should be made, of course, of those pro-war writers who have spoken out against torture practices in Iraq, notably, and very eloquently, Christopher Hitchens here.

A favourite argument of those supportive of torture or "extreme interrogation techniques" or whatever is the simplistic fantasy situation in which an impending, massively murderous terrorist strike can be averted by roughing up the prisoner a bit. Justin Raimondo makes short work of this argument on Antiwar.com, arguing, correctly of course, that there is no way to know if information extracted under torture is correct. At Reason, Jeff A. Taylor offers another, interesting counterargument, arguing that the scenario in which a terrorist attack is avoided by a suspect confessing under physical duress is unrealistic:

This premise continues to escape any serious examination. For in addition to the rather mundane fact that the extra-legal status and treatment of terror detainees has not produced significant, actionable intelligence to anyone's knowledge, it may just be that playing rough is not a sound long-term strategy for the United States. In addition to being tactically ineffective, torture may be a bad grand strategy for the United States to pursue.

Finally, Llew Rockwell has produced a brilliant article, arguing that the main enemy for US libertarians is no longer the left, but a "Red State Fascism", as he dubs it:

The American right today has managed to be solidly anti-leftist while adopting an ideology – even without knowing it or being entirely conscious of the change – that is also frighteningly anti-liberty. This reality turns out to be very difficult for libertarians to understand or accept. For a long time, we've tended to see the primary threat to liberty as coming from the left, from the socialists who sought to control the economy from the center. But we must also remember that the sweep of history shows that there are two main dangers to liberty, one that comes from the left and the other that comes from the right. Europe and Latin America have long faced the latter threat, but its reality is only now hitting us fully.

What is the most pressing and urgent threat to freedom that we face in our time? It is not from the left. If anything, the left has been solid on civil liberties and has been crucial in drawing attention to the lies and abuses of the Bush administration. No, today, the clear and present danger to freedom comes from the right side of the ideological spectrum, those people who are pleased to preserve most of free enterprise but favor top-down management of society, culture, family, and school, and seek to use a messianic and belligerent nationalism to impose their vision of politics on the world.

- Merlijn

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