Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Juan Cole lays it out:
Juan Cole has written a succinct summary
of the terrorist threat - a summary this blog heartily endorses: (excerpt, emp add)
The Bush administration needs the Terror/ al-Qaeda bogeyman to justify the military occupation of strategic countries that have or are near to major oil and gas reserves. It needs al-Qaeda to justify the lily pad bases in Kyrgyzstan etc.
But the problem is that we now know that serious al-Qaeda is probably only a few hundred men now, and at most a few thousand. Look at who exactly did the London subway bombing. A few guys in a gym in Leeds. That magnitude of threat just would not keep a "War on Terror" in business. The embassy bombings, the Cole, and September 11 itself were done by tiny poorly funded cells that functioned as terror boutiques to accomplish a specific spectacular operation. They don't prove a worldwide, large organization. They prove tiny effective cells. Most of what the Pentagon does and can do is irrelevant to that kind of threat. You'd be better off with some good FBI agents.
So how do you prove to yourself and others a big terror threat that requires a National Security State and turn toward a praetorian society? You torture people into alleging it.
Global terrorism is being exaggerated and hyped by torture just as the witchcraft scare in Puritan American manufactured witches. It is even to the point where 5 African-American and Haitian Christian cultists in Miami can be identified by the FBI as an "al-Qaeda threat" interested in "jihad" after an FBI informant offered to hook them up with al-Qaeda.
Bush needs torture for the same reason as Karimov does. He needs to generate false information that exaggerates the threat to his regime, so as to justify repression. He needs the ritual of confession and naming others, to have it down on paper so he can show it to Congress behind closed doors.
Jeebus, what'd we say?
Or was it a troll posing as our much-loved Leah?
See you in LA, I trust?
As far as sanctioning torture goes, I would make two points. First, I would ask if any of the things the US would do is what Saddam would do. Presumably we are better than Saddam. Presumably we liberated people from Saddam to rid the world of that kind of brutality.
Second, I would take the devil's advocate position, assuming there are times for brutal coercion. A Fox reporter gave an example of a German man being coerced into revealing an abducted girl's location.
There are two points to this. I think we can safely say situations like this are exceedingly rare and only apply in the most extreme of circumstances. Even if you advocate such practices as law: First, the law has to be written appropriately narrow to reflect the extreme situation, and second, written with the appropriate checks and balances. You can even write the law similar to FISA, which reviews situations and grants approval *retroactively*.
The way I understand the law as passed, it gives the Executive branch broad license and no oversight, which would be pure folly. There are times where using a shotgun is appropriate, but you want safeguards in case the wielder is Elmer Fudd. We don't want Abu Graib again.
Again, this conclusion was reached even after capitulating to most of the right-wing talking points. I would actually argue that if there was a situation where a federal agent needed to coerce a terrorist into giving information that would save American lives, he would be a prime candidate for a Presidential pardon. Bush already has that power.
The German man who was coerced? Were there other ways of obtaining the information? Did they know the German man knew the information? If questions like this aren't asked, we pave the way for use of torture based on mere suspicion. Without proper oversight, any power can be abused.
If someone asked me if I would rather see the little girl die while "protecting" the German man, I would say, "No, but I don't want to see that girl grow up and fall under abuse of this kind of coercion, either.