The idea that "Arabs" developed the swine flu and deliberately introduced it in Mexico to destroy the United States is so far out there that psychological exams. Hopefully that whacko idea is merely sensationalism for ratings and exposure.
No, the latest nadir that I want to talk about is much more mainstream and apparently widely accepted: the response to the administration's release of four torture memos.
vjack did his normal, excellent job of blogging about this earlier today http://www.atheistrev.com/2009/04/real-torture-debate.html , but I've been running a few ideas around in my head for several days now and want to get them out.
I sort of understand the "look forward" argument. I don't agree with it, but I can understand what assumptions might lead someone to think it is a legitimate and correct position. Which is why I was totally blown away by the indecent garbage that the pundits and right-wing politicos began spewing when the memos came out. In retrospect, I should have remembered better, I wouldn't have been so surprised.
Back in the early to mid 90's, when I was teaching college freshman, I taught a few semesters where torture would be examined as part of the curriculum. Two things from that time are pertinent: first, 25% of my classes, year after year, defined "integrity" as "doing whatever is necessary to win." The second pertinent fact is that around 75% of each class was fine with torture as long as they themselves didn't actually have to do the torturing.
So let's hit the responses:
Waterboarding, walling, sleep deprivation and so on aren't "torture." Wrong. Waterboarding has been internationally defined as torture for decades. We did, in fact, execute war criminals for waterboarding Americans. Throwing someone against a wall (even if you give them a collar that will prevent whiplash) is assault and battery, even if the wall is flimsy.
These aren't Americans, we're not obliged to give them any rights or to follow the Geneva convention if we don't want to do so. Bollocks. Think you can go down to Florida and start killing Canadian tourists because they aren't Americans? The Geneva convention might not, in fact, apply to many of the detainees, because we aren't at war with Al'Queda because they aren't a nation state upon which we can declare war. The only other option for dealing with them, outside the Geneva convention, is to treat them like the common criminals they are. There is no third horn for our government to pursue: they are either POWs or criminals, there is no special category of "people with whom we can do whatever we like."
Torture works. Almost certainly wrong. Most of the world literature on the subject, plus professionals that I know (such as Air Force SERE instructors) say this isn't true. But as vjack pointed out, this doesn't matter. I DON'T GIVE A SHIT IF TORTURE PREVENTS ANOTHER 9/11!
This seems harsh. And obviously, if time was running out for someone that I cared about I'd probably be willing to grasp at any straw I could find. As a personal, emotional response that's understandable. On the personal, emotional side I want to do what I want. I want to be able to kill anyone who, in my personal opinion, threatens me or my family or friends. If personal, emotional justifications make things right and should be implemented by one of the most powerful nations on earth then we're in for a severe population drop.
More than 10 times as many people were killed in auto accidents during the year of 9/11. Why did we not torture the auto makers to determine if there were any additional Pinto-like situations on the horizon (or perhaps ongoing)?
Killing every single suspected criminal that is arrested will eliminate recidivism in this country and save billions in penal costs. That doesn't mean it is a good idea that should be pursued by the government.
Releasing what we do to people will render torture ineffective. Bullshit, Rove. Since it is illegal for Americans to torture others, and since we shouldn't be doing it, this is moot. Just stop torturing people!
Airing our dirty torture laundry will cause Arabs to hate us and make terrorists. Do you think that the kind of people who become terrorists are just on the border, and one more wafer thin mint of injustice is going to open the floodgates to jet setting terrorists? If we apply transparency to the problem then there is at least a PR angle to pursue to demonstrate American resolve in the pursuit of justice. Pursue Osama? By all means. Invade a country with no ties to Osama? Stupid. Arabs who are disposed to become terrorists don't have to read confidential memos to know that people are being tortured by the US, the whole frickin' globe knows that by now.
Democrats are going to get splashed, too! Excuse, me, but so fucking what? This isn't a partisan issue. Should a special victims unit not pursue rapists because a mayor is a Republican and the rapist might be one too?
Truth, justice and the American way. The pundits have ruined this phrase for me. Once I thought that truth and justice, while not exclusively American concepts, were part and parcel of the American way. Between the Republicans and Fox News, and after 8 years of Bush, I have to wonder if we've seen a final divorce between the American way on one hand and truth and justice on the other. The rampant immorality of the GOP leadership and the conservative news organs is so completely un-American that I want to vomit. Every male member of my family (in the patrilineal line back to the Civil War, and including me) has served in the armed forces of the United States. We all took on oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. But when people lack the ability to discern reality, when the vice-president of the US says that breaking the law is ok as long as some good comes out of it, then what have we become? Rove, Chaney, Hannity, these people spit on the people of the United States and the principles upon which our country was formed.
So they can stick it up their ass with a red hot poker, except that's torture. So let's investigate instead, and bring the truth out into the light and achieve justice for as many as possible.