Monday, January 04, 2010

Have we lost all commonsense?

The charges against Abdulmutallab will doubtless include 288 counts of attempted murder. But if the jet jockeys terrorist wanted to kill only 288, he could have detonated his bomb over the Atlantic. He waited until final descent because he wanted to bring down that Northwest Airlines jet over the Detroit airport crowded with holiday travelers. The death toll might well have exceeded that of 9/11. On Christmas. Get the point?

Are there more young killers in the skies? Before he was read his Miranda rights, and given a taxpayer-funded lawyer, Abdulmutallab was our best source for information about the nature, extent, and future plans of the worldwide terrorist conspiracy bent on slaughtering Americans.
So says Ken Blackwell, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

As it turns out, of course, Abdulmutallab is now enjoying the legal protections which the heroic Navy Seals who captured Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, will not enjoy. For they are being tried in a military court where considerably fewer constitutional protections are accorded defendants. Their crime? -- punching the mastermind of 9/11 in the stomach (or so claims Khalid Shaikh Mohammed) and for roughing him up during his apprehension.

Every time one thinks that political correctness has reached its apogee of absurdity it outdoes itself yet again. Jihadists throughout the world must be doubled over with laughter.


Robert Mooney said...

Since when is adhering to our constitution instead of going in the direction of a kangaroo court where neither the defendant nor his attorney (chosen by the court probably) can even see the evidence against him considered to be political correctness. And when the no doubt heroic Navy Seals apprehended the 9/11 mastermind, he was still innocent until proven guilty. Sounds like you think to avoid political correctness the Navy Seals should have shot him dead on the spot or at least put him in prison without trial for the rest of his life.

and do you honestly think those Navy Seals will be convicted on the word of that accuser?

Gil Bailie said...

What a silly interpretation that is.

Gil Bailie said...

My sentiments exactly. Is it commonsense to treat a mass-murdering war criminal, who may have knowledge of what other mass-murdering war criminals are planning to do, as though he is an "alleged" shoplifter? Is it commonsense to expect military personnel who risk their lives to capture of mass murderer to do so without using force?
If we caught someone with probable knowledge of a nuclear attack on Los Angeles, would we read him his Miranda rights and provide a state attorney -- thereby making it impossible to interrogate him about what he knows?
While we behave as though every act of war is merely a criminal offense, those who are trying to kill as many innocent people as they can are waging war. One day soon all this will become tragically clear, and when it does, those who thought the ACLU was the answer will look pretty silly.
If one is opposed to violence, one has to be prudent in trying to avoid it. We have yet to realize the scale of the war that is being waged against our culture. Our constitutional system has always made a distinction between criminals and enemy combatants. This is no time to pretend that that distinction is no longer pertinent.
What was silly was this sophomoric remark: "Sounds like you think to avoid political correctness the Navy Seals should have shot him dead ..." etc. So strike silly and make that sophomoric.

Rick said...

I reject even the "only 288" argument. I mean, I think that just proves no number is too large.
I think you bring up the key when you say who will look "silly" then, Gil. It is the one thing at last, a leftist will stand for. He'll give anything to avoid it.
Rick F.

Robert Mooney said...

I attempted to post a reply to you calling my post silly. Apparently it didn't get posted. In it I apologized for my exaggeration for effect which was to much exaggeration. And in it I also said such a dismissive response to my post (calling it silly) is not befitting a man of your integrity and asked for response in the spirit of dialog.

I will respond to your followup which was much more like dialog until the very end. Calling somneone's statements silly or sophomoric is a more emotionally charged way than necessary and letting your arguments state your disagreement should be sufficient and is much more respectful.

Gil Bailie said...

I'm sorry I was such a grump. I worry about the drift of things and it can get the best of me. But I always feel bad afterward. No hard feelings at this end anyway.

Rick said...

"Calling somneone's statements silly or sophomoric is a more emotionally charged way than necessary.."

I disagree. If a person's statements are silly or sophmoric, it is appropriate to call them what they are. This will likely be helpful for the person making the statements.
Rick F.

Robert Mooney said...

No hard feelings.

I have heard much decrying the vitriol from both extremes, which, of course, deserves decrying. What I sadly hardly hear at all is a plea for people to admit to themselves that they cannot know the hearts of their adversaries and then limit their complaints to the actions and suggestions their adversaries make. And even avoid indirect shots at the moral or ethical (for those who see a difference) culpability of their adversaries.

This the beef I have with many who you post articles or quotes from on the moral issues in in today's political issues.

Robert Mooney said...

Rick, I think it should be obvious that an insult will be far less effective in encouraging the receiver to consider his words or yours more carefully than constructive criticism would be.

Robert Mooney said...

Now about your second reply. I agree, we should treat foreign terrorists differently on arrest. We need to take the opportunity to garner information that we can by moral and legal means, which, of course do not include torture.

If you think torture is warranted when the suspect may have information on a bomb that is set to go off and could kill a lot of people, or knowledge of others who may imminently attack us with potential loss of many lives, then there is a question that gets to the morality of doing so. Would you, if they were available, would torture his young children in his presence to induce him to tell what you think he knows?

Besides, what stops him from telling you what he thinks you want to hear anyway false as it is likely to be, to get you to stop hurting him?

Doughlas Remy said...

Robert, your point about torturing a suspect’s child in front of him in order to elicit information is a very good one.

I am not a Christian myself, but if I were, I think I would look to Jesus’ words about mercy in the Sermon on the Mount. I would ask, “What part of ‘Blessed are the merciful’ is not clear?”

We’ve had this discussion before on Gil’s site, at a time when several other secular humanists were weighing in. If I remember correctly, three or four of the Christians thought torture could be justified in certain cases, and none of the secular humanists did. Could this be one reason why people are becoming disillusioned with religion? If the Manhattan Declaration is any indication, Christians are now more concerned about same-sex marriage than about the moral issues that concerned Jesus. And in a discussion about torture, none of the Christians seems to give a hoot what he might have thought about it.

ignatius said...

I don't think it helps to knock Christians or to hold that they have views which are morally more reprehensible than other people's on the issue of torture. There are some difficult factors here.

Clint Eastwood challenged all of us in his first Dirty Harry movie on this topic, in which the cop shot down a sadistic kidnapper and tortured him until he disclosed the location of his victim, who was dead by the time the police got to her anyhow. Was Dirty Harry wrong to torture the guy to get the info.? Should he have gone the way of "moral people" and protected the kidnapper's rights, knowing that the loss in time would decrease the survival chances of the victim?

I don't have the answers to these questions and this is admittedly an extreme example, but I can't fathom how taking Dirty Harry's side in this situation is less merciful. There was a girl dying out there.

I've enjoyed the discussions on this blog and thank you for running it, Gil. I'll still look in on it occasionally, but won't contribute much due to a demanding work life which begins again tomorrow. All the best to all of you.

Rick said...

I believe it is possible for an adult to say something silly. I've witnessed it and committed it. And when called out on it an adult will regret saying it, and apologize.
Or they may act insulted.
A more precise word may be foolish.
I wasn't necessarily claiming your point was silly, but that it most certainly is appropriate to call something what it is. It may be patronizing to not do this.
Rick F.

Rick said...

It is quite telling that by now Gil has practically been accused of supporting torture. Robert brings it up and Douglas supports his point. And Christians are accused of not being true Christians.
Gil made no such indication he supported torturing anybody.
This is a perfect example of what is commonly called "projection."
Rick F.

Robert Mooney said...

First, I didn't say Gil supports torture. Read my post.

Constructive criticism respectfully given is not patronizing and how could that be less effective in effecting change than an insult? Perhaps you respond better to insults, Rick, but I doubt most people would.

And Ignatius, if the sadistic kidnapper's children were there and Clint Eastwood would have probably correctly surmised that the kidnapper would give up the victim's location sooner if he tortured the children while the kidnapper watched, do you think the viewing audience would have cheered that?

Robert Mooney said...

Doughlas, it is, of course always problematic when characterizing a group by the actions of a small sample, but I don't think you were doing that, only commenting on how the actions of a few on each side of the question fell. It does seem, however, that many Christians who are against abortion are for the death penalty for instance and to some extent vice versa. And many who decry homosexual marriage or civil union seem to have much less concern for the poor. Notice I am saying "seem." The stereotype of ""Two kinds of Christians" would be the Old Testament The-law-is-the law or the Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it kind on the one hand and the New Testament social Gospel Christians on the other. In any case, there is a lot of crossover between these and since they are only stereotypes they cannot be used ethically in categorizing anyone.

Some of the NT ones favor pro choice, but Bernardin's seamless garment approach that all life sacred and it is not our choice when anyone is to die, much less to take an active part in killing, is the belief of many NT and OT ones.

It is my reading that the Bible does not know homosexuality as a sexual orientation. In every case in the OT where a homosexual act happens or is threatened, it is heterosexuals using or threatening it as an act of inhospitality. It is heterosexuals acting against their nature = sinful and committing inhospitality, a grave sin for a Hebrew in the times these events are described as happening. In the NT there is the pedophilia of adult Greeks condemned, if I remember correctly, their proclivity for sex with young boys. Pedophilia is not correlated with homosexuality. This was practiced mostly if not all, I think, by married men, i.e., heterosexuals acting against their nature.

None of this is to make a defense of any element of what is believed by anyone to be a homosexual lifestyle.

I think Gil may have a problem with my reading of the Bible, here. And I invite correction if appropriate.

Doughlas Remy said...

Ignatius, my point is that Christians—by and large, from what I can gather—are not speaking out against torture to the extent that one would expect them to do considering that mercy is a focus of Jesus’ core teachings. Jesus is not even brought into the discussion. Instead of asking what Jesus would do, you yourself seem to be asking what Dirty Harry would do. What is wrong with this picture?

I attended Sunday school in a protestant church when I was a child, and I must have been paying attention on the day we studied the Sermon on the Mount. The Beatitudes made a huge impression on me. (I no longer accept everything in that Sermon uncritically, however.)

If one is going to claim to be a Christian, then one should presumably try to come to terms with Jesus’ teaching about mercy rather than ignoring it. If that teaching doesn’t seem practical in the real world, then one has two choices—renounce the teaching or recommit to one’s faith in it. (I suppose a third approach—a really dishonest one—is to pretend that Jesus “really” meant the opposite of what he said...)

Robert’s response to your Dirty Harry scenario is, once again, a good one. Torturing the suspect’s 3-year-old child in front of him might be more effective than torturing the suspect himself. But must we always be slaves to what is effective? Again, Christians are the ones who claim to have the moral compass that transcends such considerations.

To his everlasting credit, Pope Benedict has called for a universal condemnation of torture.

Doughlas Remy

Mike said...

If I may throw in my 2 cents...

I think that ideally, torture should not be used. Then again, ideally, we shouldn't have to go to war. We shouldn't have to defend ourselves against people who want to kill us, because ideally, they shouldn't want to kill us.

In reality, people do want to kill us. I believe we have the right to defend ourselves and I don't think that is inconsistant with the Christian faith. We can sit over here and speak about what is ethical and unethical from the comfort of our own homes, while our next biggest decision is whether to eat in or out tonight, while our soldiers are making life and death decisions moment to moment.

Do I think torture is wrong? Absolutely. How much should we blame soldiers for resorting to it? I think it all depends upon the nature of the incident. Each should be a case by case review.

There are more complicated issues involved if we allow a realistic view. What if you had a friend who got blown up by a suicide bomber. Afterward, someone who was thought to be involved with planning your friend's death was captured. Wouldn't you want to know what you could learn from him, so you could avoid another friend's death, or possibly your own? Or should we assume that he probably was only involved with the one bombing? This exact scenario was described to me by a friend of mine who has done two tours thus far.

Am I justifying torture? No, but I think the reason there is not an overwhelming condemnation of all torture from all Christians is that we distinguish from an ideal world and the very real one we are currently inhabiting. Especially when you consider that the ability to gather intelligence is a factor that is significantly stacked against us. We air everything we know and do via the media while a captured terrorist will be defended in court by an American lawyer using taxpayer dollars. He enjoys benefits from the very country he wishes to destroy.

Living in the real world does not mean giving up on the ideal world, let's just not put the cart before the horse.

Robert Mooney said...

Mike, you may not be justifying torture in the ideal world, but you seem clearly to be justifying it in the real world. Being a Christian limits us to means that are as moral as the ends we use them for. There is evil in the world, and we who call ourselves Christian are required to resist it lest we cooperate with it by our inaction, but we cannot use evil to fight evil. It is like using Satan to cast out Satan. When that is done, you still have Satan. The terrorists are willing to use tactics that we, in order to be followers of Christ, cannot in good faith use. We are required to firmly resist evil and to, as J.V.Langmead Casserly says "endure its sting without reciprocating" -- as Jesus showed us by his living example.

Rick said...

If I may jump in in your absence..

There is a difference between interrogation and torture. These days the latter term is thrown about much too casually. It diminishes, devalues what truly horrible things infrahumans will do to men. I believe it desensitized us by overuse and is disrespectful to those who have truly suffered under it.

"The terrorists are willing to use tactics that we, in order to be followers of Christ, cannot in good faith use."

To suggest that sawing off the heads of living men to prove some point or serve some valid religious belief is the same as what we are doing to protect lives (waterboarding) is truly disgusting.

Rick F.

Robert Mooney said...

Rick, I should not have used the word tactics, because you are right that waterboarding is not equivalent to decapitation. However that does not make torture, and there is worse than waterboarding in that category, but certainly including waterboarding, a moral act for a Christian.

And as to using the correct English word for cruel acts in the way of interrogation techniques that the Geneva Convention and Army Field Manual proscribe is only good communication. If you have a better word that would cover the meaning territory that "torture" covers, we are listening. To communicate clearly using the correct word disrespects no one.

One thing we should be ashamed of is that the terrorist have succeeded in making us think whether or not to torture is an issue of reasonable debate. We used to routinely condemn countries that we thought used torture for doing so. Now we have become cowards in the face of the relatively small threat terrorism has for any of us here. We should work against terrorism, but we shouldn't let it change who we are. To the extent it does, they have won.

Rick said...

"However that does not make torture...certainly including waterboarding, a moral act for a Christian."

Robert, I could not disagree more. Your standards are unreasonably foolish. It would be one thing if you were only your own worst enemy. But unfortuatly for me and our fellow innocent Americans, their spouces, children, your suggestions also make the cause we both pray for much worse. Continously calling interrogation (which has one primary and distinct purpose) calling it torture (which cannot be further from the purpose of interrogation) most certainly emboldens our enemy. It makes it easier for them to kill us, the more and faster the better.
We are foolish and they know it. When we interrogate, we are being reasonable. Christ wants us to be reasonable, not foolish. If the enemy cannot see our reasonableness, this is not a fault of ours or a reason to change what we are doing. No other country, ever, has tried so hard for so long to do the right thing. If there were a better and faster, more effective way to interrogate for a certain crisis, there is no doubt in my mind this country would do it.

Mike said...

Thanks Rick, you raise a good point. Too often we let the lines between interrogation and torture become blurred by those who are more interested in winning political arguments than in finding the truth.

Robert, you said,
"Mike, you may not be justifying torture in the ideal world, but you seem clearly to be justifying it in the real world."

I think you misunderstand what I said. I am not justifying torture in the real world, but I think I can understand how powerful the temptation might be for those who might directly benefit from it. Should our soldiers torture terrorists? I don't think so. But I can certainly understand how tempting it might be knowing that the information gained might save my own life.

What I tried to say is that I struggle greatly when I hear the self-proclaimed elite in this country condemning the very soldiers that are protecting their freedom to so ignorantly run off at the mouth.

I wonder how many of those who are looking down their noses at our soldiers would hold fast to their moral superiority if they were toting rifles in the mountains of Afghanistan? I'm guessing probably not.

I agree that the end does not justify the means. And I am not saying that we should torture people to get information. I do feel however, that our soldiers are and have always been under-appreciated, and under-paid. And it disturbs me when either party disrespects them or uses them politically.

It bothers me when Americans fall all over themselves wishing we were more like Europe. Sometimes I wish we could just buy them a one-way ticket and make everyone happy. There is one thing about Europe, however, that I wish we would emulate. Let's bring on conscriptions. If every child born in this country could potentially be drafted, then perhaps our politicians wouldn't so hastily send them to war. (I would argue that this did not happen in our current wars) And if they were sent to war, our politicians wouldn't be so ready to strip them of the tools they would need for success.

Of course, the quality of our armed forces would suffer, but it is a thought.

Robert Mooney said...

Mike, glad for the clarification. Sorry I misread you.

I do not look down my nose at soldiers. We should be grateful for their efforts and sacrifice for us even if we strongly disapprove or the military action they are engaged in. Any onus for an unjust war or substantial portion thereof, as long as the soldiers are being led, is on the leaders, and most likely not their direct leaders, rather those much higher up.

I agree the lines between torture and legal interrogation must be clear in actions and in arguments of suitability or ethics or morality. I was about to suggest the same thing to Rick. I trust he does not find the Geneva Convention quaint and the Army Field Manual too restrictive. Perhaps we are mainly just saying or very similar things with different words.

I am sorry for my part in poor communication if this is the case, and I hope it is.

Mike said...

BTW, for some reason I am not able to check the e-mail me follow-up comments box until after I have submitted a comment. Therefore, I am only able to check it if I send two comments. Can anyone tell me what I am doing wrong or is this normal?

Rick said...

You're doing it right, Mike. It's Google Blogger that's messed up. The work-around is:
Hit Preview after you type your comment.
Then Edit, which takes you back to the comment window.
You'll have to type in the new word verification code but the check box for email will now be available.

Mike said...

Thanks Rick!