The torture issue exposes more hypocrisy of Trump opponents


The rise of Donald Trump has seen a whole lot of people in the Republican party and conservative movement suddenly realizing that divisive rhetoric and xenophobic attitudes and bigotry are bad things, even though they were advocating those very same things for decades except using coded language. They seem outraged that he is openly saying what they were covertly advocating.

Perhaps the most repulsive is seeing all those who were so gung-ho about using torture and defended and even immunized those who ordered it and carried it out, signing a letter now expressing shock and outrage that Trump has ‘gone too far’ in advocating for it. Glenn Greenwald ridicules the position these people are taking.

But the group signing this anti-Trump letter can’t pretend to find an embrace of torture itself to be “inexcusable” because most of them implemented torture policies while in government or vocally advocated for them. So instead, they invoke the Goldilocks Theory of Torture: we believe in torture up to exactly the right point, while Trump is disgraceful because he wants to go beyond that: he believes in “the expansive use of torture.” The same dynamic drove yesterday’s widely cheered speech by Mitt Romney, where the two-time failed GOP candidate denounced Trump for advocating torture while literally ignoring his own clear pro-torture viewpoints.

He says that the idea, proposed by the odious Michael Hayden of all people, that the American military would defy orders to carry out ‘expansive torture’ is absurd.

It’s obviously a pleasing fiction to believe – it produces nice, nationalistic feelings of nobility – but everything in the past decades proves that Trump is right when he says “they’re not going to refuse.” Some likely would, but nowhere near enough to preclude the policies being carried out. In fact, the primary argument used to justify immunizing America’s torturers is that they were just following orders as approved by John Yoo and company: reflecting a moral code which dictates that, even when it comes to plainly illegal policies, obedience is preferable to defiance.

The final straw is the horror being expressed at Trump’s willingness to go after the family members of those accused of terrorism, when the reality is that both the Bush and Obama administrations and Israel have been doing so for years.

Then there’s the feigned horror over Trump’s proposal to kill the family members of terrorists. Though they claim they don’t do it deliberately, the fact is that this is something that both the U.S. and Israel, among others, has routinely done for years: they repeatedly bomb people’s homes or work places, killing innocent people including family members, and then justify it on the ground that a terrorist was among them. While they claim they don’t target terrorists’ family members, they certainly target their homes and other places family members are certain to be found.

Whatever his many faults, Donald Trump has performed a singular service is demonstrating that the hateful rhetoric Republicans indulged in for so long was not actually cost free but was instead a debt that they were building up. Payment is now coming due.

Comments

  1. Lofty says

    Some of them think it’s OK to say these things so long as you’re polite about it. Trump isn’t polite.

  2. StevoR says

    PS. Incidentally, NO I am NOT advocating torture here btw.

    There’s a difference between “uncomfortable” and torture and between Da’esh and well, decent human beings who deserve better. Like the victims of the Jihadists and their targets which is pretty much everyone except them including most other Muslims.

  3. says

    SteveOr@#3:
    You’d rather he was comfortable and happy instead?

    Yup.
    It’s easier. That way ISIS looks entirely in the wrong when they mistreat their prisoners. After all, that’s one of the reasons ISIS are the meanypants in this scenario. It’s best to distance oneself from one’s enemies’ methods or you confuse the huddled masses.

  4. StevoR says

    @ ^ chigau (違う) : That sounds a bit snobbish and unfair of you there. Really?

    @5. Marcus Ranum : Yeah, see that’s why you get accused of siding with the terrorists here and likely elsewhere too.

    Da’esh are just plain evil. What makes Da’esh leaders happy is the mass murder of innocent people and their aim is to impose their theocratic nightmare fundamentalist Islamist Kalifate on the planet by brutal force. They can’t be negotiated with or appeased or bargained with. Yet you have just admitted that you want people like that to be happy. When what makes them happy is killing and hell for everyone else alive.

    Now what does that say about you and your ability to tell right from wrong & good from evil?

    What exactly would you see done about people like Da’esh and other Jihadists? You cannot talk with and appease them, they are just too hateful and unwilling to compromise and tolerate the existence of others and too determined to impose their terror upon everyone else on the planet.

    You have to stop Daésh and the Islamofascist terrorists like them everywhere.

    This means either arrest them – in which case you need to get intelligence from them which means at least making them uncomfortable and keep them locked up forever which as the case of Gitmo shows is something you don’t like. Locking them up perpetually also means they will always be a threat as long as they live because people can do harm in and from jails and they can also be freed from jails through criminal or legal means and used as bargaining chips encouraging more hostage taking to try and exchange their freedom to kill again for the lives of innocent civilians. Or you have to kill them e.g. with drones which you’ve also opposed.

    (Note here that terrorism is an individual’s choice. When someone chooses to become a terrorist they decide their own future and probable fates and deserve everything they get and then worse again.)

    I asked you back in #3 whether you wanted him happy and comfortable instead of jailed and facing some unpleasant interrogation and just confinement. I should have added the other alternatives of blown up into little pieces scattered across the desert perhaps with his followers and unfortunate indoctrinated wives and kids. Because those are the two basic choices that most reasonable and decent people who say should happen to evil extremist scum like the Da’esh (&, for that matter, Hamas, Taliban & Al Quaida) leaders. Would you really prefer neither option – to have Da’esh killers loose to keep killing and committing their terrorism and other atrocities which I remind you include slavery, rape, mas murder,public executions, oppression of minorities including genoicide (Yazidis, Syrian Christians, non-heteronormative folks, etc ..) It seems from your earlier answer here # 5 that you do.

    Wanting the terrorists to be happy and comfortable makes you wrong and a bad person.

  5. Reginald Selkirk says

    @ ^ You’d rather he was comfortable and happy instead?

    Just exactly how does this argument work out?
    “They are bad, awful, nasty, brutish, barbarian people. We should be more like them.”

  6. Reginald Selkirk says

    StevoR #7: in which case you need to get intelligence from them which means at least making them uncomfortable

    From which popular TV shows or movies did you get your in-depth understanding of interrogation?

  7. says

    SteveOr@#7:
    SO how did you go from my: treat people like human beings, and expect them to treat other people like human beings
    to I’m supporting ISIS and Al Quaeda and the Shining Path and CIA and every other terrorist group out there?

    Part of the problem is that you appear to wholeheartedly buy the state’s narrative that “terrorism” is what the “plain evil” guys do. I find reality to be a bit more complicated than that. You’re also spouting typical lies about “they can’t be negotiated with” etc – claims that come straight out of the state’s propaganda mouthpieces. In fact, the US has negotiated with both the Syrians, ISIS, and even the Taliban. They just aren’t doing what the US wants, so the US is trying to kill them. Perhaps in SteveOr land “negotiation” means “do what I say or I’ll kill you” – it seems to be that way.

    Unlike you I don’t draw a distinction between “terrorists” who bomb civilians using car bombs and “terrorists” who bomb civilians using predator drones and F-16s. The ISIS folks are definitely horrible but the US is not attempting to de-escalate a civil war – its strategy all along has been to make it worse on behalf of Turkey and Israel and other regional powers that wanted to see Syria a failed state. ISIS is a direct reaction to the US’ empire-building in the middle east; in that sense they are as much “ours” as anyone else’s. Oh, yeah, and when your strategy for “negotiating” with someone is to assassinate their leaders (as the US did with the Taliban, and with Zarqawi in Iraq and nearly Al-Sadr in Iraq) you can’t exactly expect people to be willing to sit down across a table from your predator drone for a “chat”

    Your comment is a perfect example of the observation that for most complicated problems there is a simple answer that is completely wrong. BUt that’s fascism 101, isn’t it? Just shout loudly enough that it’s your way or the highway and everyone else deserves to die: so simple.

    So, when I face a complicated situation like the Iraq/ISIL situation, I don’t oversimplify it by casually grouping people into “people who don’t matter” and “people who matter” like you do. I try to fall back on basic human rights. Because if you acknowledge that nobody deserves to be made miserable because of politics, you’ve established a basis for why all prisoners should be treated humanely. You fucking idiot – that’s not weakness that’s strength.

  8. Dunc says

    Even from a purely practical standpoint, it’s well established that treating prisoners humanely is actually more effective in terms of gathering reliable intelligence. This has been known by professional interrogators for decades, but for some reason amateurs keep refusing to believe it. It’s almost like they just want to abuse people whilst feeling self-righteous about it. I generally prefer not to speculate about people’s psychology, but that’s kinda messed up…

  9. Holms says

    @ ^ You’d rather he was comfortable and happy instead?

    Excluded middle, a fallacy; there is a wide gap between ‘torture’ and ‘pamper.’ How about we treat a prisoner as if they were a human, with all right intact? The ‘good team’ is only as good as its behaviour, ignore the rhetoric of fear and hate.

  10. StevoR says

    (NB. Mano Singham please allow me to answer the questions directly put to me here. I am happy to abide by your rules & I do respect that it is your blog which is one I enjoy & generally agree with. Commenters have asked me some pretty harshly worded questions on this one thread though which I’d like the opportunity to answer, please.)

    @ ^ Holms : I’m NOT advocating either torture or pamper so, again, you are misunderstanding me whether deliberately or otherwise I cannot say. My comment there was aimed at what #2. Marcus Ranum wrote and included don’t forget the word “happy” – note that what makes Jihadists happy is a nightmare to the rest of us.

    @8. & 9. Reginald Selkirk :

    “Just exactly how does this argument work out?
    “They are bad, awful, nasty, brutish, barbarian people. We should be more like them.”

    Yes, they are bad, awful, nasty, evil, brutal, barbaric people – but no, we shouldn’t be like them. We should however prevent them from killing us and if that makes them uncomfortable and unhappy then, good. We certainly shouldn’t leave them free to committ atrocities against innocent people if we can possibly help it.

    From which popular TV shows or movies did you get your in-depth understanding of interrogation?

    I didn’t. Get my understanding of interrogation from any TV shows or movies that is although many TV shows and movie so have a lot to say about the area and are worth watching and thinking about. I get my understanding mostly from reading and thinking here and from listening to what the experts in the field say. Note that some movies and TV shows such as Zero-Dark Thirty are based on what the experts have said based on their know-how and experience. Incidentally, I write that based on what I’ve read about that movie having never actually seen it.

    @ 11. & 12. Marcus Ranum : “Do you support torturing prisoners?”

    I’ve already answered this in #4 here and many times previously proving again that you have an issue with reading comprehension. The answer,yet again, is NO No, I do NOT support torturing prisoners.

    Nor, OTOH, do I support going wrong in the other direction by making life for Jihadists happy and comfortable either. As far as legally possible and stopping short of torture they should be made uncomfortable and very definitely made unhappy because after all they are, y’know, Jihadists and terrorists and those are NOT good things to be or encourage or treat lightly and kindly. And I’m actually someone who really believes in kindness and compassion to everyone. Well, okay almost everyone. Jihadists and a small number of other equally reasonable exceptions (pedophiles, cult leaders, serial killers, rapists, MRA’s,some politicians, etc ..) excluded.

    SO how did you go from my: treat people like human beings, and expect them to treat other people like human beings to I’m supporting ISIS and Al Quaeda and the Shining Path and CIA and every other terrorist group out there?

    Because of your past record of criticising anti-terrorism efforts and nations that are fighting back against terrorism and especially Jihadism and your admission in #5 here that yes you want terrorists to be “comfortable and happy.”

    You’re also spouting typical lies about “they can’t be negotiated with” etc – claims that come straight out of the state’s propaganda mouthpieces. In fact, the US has negotiated with both the Syrians, ISIS, and even the Taliban.

    It has? Citations needed and its no lie to say that terrorists cannot be appeased or negotiated with – exhibit A what happened with the land for peace swap with the Oslo accords between Rabin & Arafat and the subsequent Palestinian “intifada” war launched against Israel by Arafat and similarly what happened to Israel after they voluntarily withdrew from Gaza and from southern Lebanon only to have these areas turned into Jihadist strongholds and used to fire rockets indiscriminately against Israeli civilians.

    They just aren’t doing what the US wants, so the US is trying to kill them. Perhaps in SteveOr land “negotiation” means “do what I say or I’ll kill you” – it seems to be that way.

    That’s a total strawmonster and false.

    Plenty of people and groups don’t do what the US wants – even Aussie ones at times – and they don’t get killed nor should they natch! It is because they are Jihadist terrorists who are trying to kill us and impose their extreme and brutal Kalifate over the whole planet (all of us Westerners and non-Muslims and even many Muslims who disagree with them or don’t belong to their Salafist sect – you, me, everyone.) that explains why they are being justifiably and legally targeted as we all have a collective right to self-defence against their Jihad.

    Unlike you I don’t draw a distinction between “terrorists” who bomb civilians using car bombs and “terrorists” who bomb civilians using predator drones and F-16s.

    Which would be where you are going very wrong. Because that is a very critical distinction which should be made with the notable correction that the US are not terrorists and do NOT target civilians. Your claiming otherwise does not make you factually correct rather the reverse.

    The ISIS folks are definitely horrible but the US is not attempting to de-escalate a civil war – its strategy all along has been to make it worse on behalf of Turkey and Israel and other regional powers that wanted to see Syria a failed state. ISIS is a direct reaction to the US’ empire-building in the middle east; in that sense they are as much “ours” as anyone else’s.

    That’s just wildly wrong in fact. Its also all unsupported assertion on your part here. FYI Da’esh arose from a split within Al Quaida and a turf war with even more extremist leaders breaking away because AQ wasn’t terrible enough for them. The Syrian civil war broke out as a result of crop failure and drought both probably caused by Global Overheating and political unrest during the so-called brief Arab Spring movement followed by Assad’s brutal repression of his own people with the USA for many years deliberately avoiding getting involved. Turkey and Israel are at odds with increasingly Islamised and corrupt Turkey also using the war as an excuse to attack the Kurdish people who do have a legitimate claim to a land of their own. Oh & the United States is NOT an empire and is NOT trying to colonise South West Asia but has instead tried to liberate some SW Asian nations from tyrants and hand them to their own people.

    Oh, yeah, and when your strategy for “negotiating” with someone is to assassinate their leaders (as the US did with the Taliban, and with Zarqawi in Iraq and nearly Al-Sadr in Iraq) you can’t exactly expect people to be willing to sit down across a table from your predator drone for a “chat”

    The reason Zarquawi – of AlQuaida in Iraq infamy – was taken out was exactly because he was NEVER going to be willing to negotiate nor were the likes of the Taliban, etc .. The refusal and unwillingness to negotiate came first before their removal not despite it. Had they shown a willingness to negotiate then they wouldn’t have been killed. Again, the Jihadists and terrorists decide to be Jihadists and terrorists and know the likely consequences of those choices. They can – but rarely do (Maajid Nawaz being a heroic exception) – choose otherwise.

    Your comment is a perfect example of the observation that for most complicated problems there is a simple answer that is completely wrong. BUt that’s fascism 101, isn’t it? Just shout loudly enough that it’s your way or the highway and everyone else deserves to die: so simple.

    Again, you are strawmonstering my position and me. That’s not what I think or am implying and I have provided plenty of reason and logic and evidence and links to show you why I think as I do. Nor have I said that everyone deserves to die, although some day we all will just a matter of how and why and what we do with our time on this pale blue dot whilst we’re here. I oppose fascism and I oppose the likes of Trump and Cruz and yes, Jihadists as well.

    So, when I face a complicated situation like the Iraq/ISIL situation, (1) I don’t oversimplify it by casually grouping people into “people who don’t matter” and “people who matter” like you do. (2) I try to fall back on basic human rights. Because if you acknowledge that nobody deserves to be made miserable because of politics, you’ve established a basis for why all prisoners should be treated humanely. (3) You fucking idiot – that’s not weakness that’s strength.

    Numbering added for clarity.

    1) Da’esh and Syria actually and yes it is complicated. Iraq is just a part of this and probably it is really an ex-nation already that arguably shouldn’t have ever been created as it was with the borders it has. I’ve said elsewhere that Iraq and Syria are probably better split up into more ethnically and religiously representative areas e.g. a Kurdish state, an Alawite state, a Sunni state and a Shia state or Shia region joining with Iran. I don’t think the Sectarian wounds and divisions there are really healable.

    2) Except that is NOT what I do. It really isn’t and shows how little you’ve actually comprehended what I’ve written. Jihadists vs decent humanity and the US and other militaries is very much NOT the same thing as people mattering or not.

    3) And again here. I’m not saying don’t treat them humanely. I’m not calling for torture in fact I’ve explicitly ruled that out but this doesn’t mean that they should be comfortable or happy either – and they should definitely be stopped from harming and bringing horror and torment and suffering to others which is what these Jihadist scum live to do. This is what makes them uncomfortable and unhappy and the Jihadists deserve to be both those things. But, no, not tortured – or pampered.

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