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June 22, 2005

A Question For Excitable Andy

Excitable Andy likes asking questions. Well, one question. The question he keeps asking -- first to Hugh Hewitt, now to emailers who disagree with with him -- is this:

So go ahead: answer his implied question. If you had been told that prisoners had been found in this state in one of Saddam's or Stalin's jails, would you have believed it? Of course, you would.

One of the few emails he prints that's not of a "You go, girlfriend nature" makes this point:

soldier sat in his barracks, shining his shoes. So go ahead: answer his implied question. If you had been told that soldiers had been found in this state in one of Saddam's or Stalin's barracks, would you have believed it? Of course, you would." This is the fundamental problem with Durbin's analogy. The are many things that are "encompassed" in the behavior of those regimes. However, we remember those regimes for the worst of their behavior not the behavior slightly below the median. You know this, dude. Don't play dumb.

Which is a good answer.

But I have a question for Excitable Andy.

Much of the attacks on American policy from the left -- and clearly Excitable Andy has joined the left in most important respects; obviously he's taking the left's position here -- follow a pattern. The pattern is simple; it's the oldest one in the book. The pattern is to simply excortiate America's actions without every stating, in affirmative terms which themselves can be analyzed and critiqued, any alternative line of action.

I was delighted when, before the invasion of Afghanistan, Excitable Andy debated The Nation's Katha Politt and continually challenged her to say what she would do, in affirmative terms, about the problem of the Taliban sheltering and supporting Al Qaeda, rather than simply saying "no, no, no" to Bush's plan to invade and remove the regime. He embarassed her, because she was forced to admit, ultimately, that she didn't know what to do; she just knew we shouldn't do this.

As they say in poker and politics, you can't beat something with nothing.

But now Excitable Andy is aping the left's tactics as well as their policy agenda. For while Andy rips into America for treating terrorist prisoners "like animals," he himself offers no counter-proposals regarding how to treat them.

The implication, of course, is that we should treat them more or less kindly, and give them all the comforts that, say, prisoners in a medium security prison would enjoy. No harsh treatment, no stress positions, no withholding of comforts like central air, etc., except in cases of violent behavior.

But he refuses to address the central question: If you're not going to employ any coercive tactics against terrorists, how the hell do you expect to elicit information from them -- information, mind you, that will often (if not always) save innocent human lives?

Are there any coercive tactics he approves of? If so, it is his duty as someone who fancies himself an intellectual braveheart and straight-shooter to announce what levels of coercion he's comfortable with and would approve of. The tactics he is currently so, well, gob-smacked about -- denying air conditioning, chaining to the floor, playing loud rap music -- seem fairly mild. So it does seem, at least by implication, that Excitable Andy approves of no coercive tactics against terrorists whatsoever during interrogations, apart from raised voices and lots of cursing.

Does he imagine that some impotent yelling and cursing will actually elicit any information? Does he think that terrorists will break just because some mean CIA contractor calls him a "coward" or even a "faggot"? (And would Andy approve of using that sexual hot-button word against a terrorist? I bet he wouldn't, even if it actually were useful.)

There are competing moral concerns here. One is to treat those captured in battle (or through covert snatches) humanely; that's the old "We have to be better than our enemies" line.

The other moral concern is to protect and save as much innocent human life as possible. Terrorists work in cells, in which they protect they small number of terrorists they know by name as best they can. If we're to find other members of that cell -- including the leader -- we'll have to do a bit more than yell and scream and jump up and down during interrogations to get those names, the locations of those safe-houses and meeting-places, those secret email accounts by which messages are exchanged, etc.

And each of those terrorists allowed to remain at liberty -- to plot, to act, to facilitate murder, to detonate bombs in pizzarias or on school buses -- represents some fraction of an innocent human life taken, vaporized, stolen by vicious thieves from the living world.

The moral question is posed in stark and unavoidable terms: to what extent is it moral to engage in otherwise-inhumane behavior to serve a humane cause? When do the ends justify the means? Certainly not always; but certainly, Excitable Andy, not never, either.

And as between people who have voluntarily enlisted in an Army of Psychopathic Murder and their would-be victims, I think the scales of morality lean more heavily towards the side of protecting innocent human life. Even if that means we have to twist arms or deny sleep to these bastards for days on end.

The question is posed. You claim to be an intellectual of some moral bravery.

So go ahead: answer my *explicit* question.

Or be exposed as the hack we all suspect you to be.

Are you an actual thinker and commentator, or are you just another Katha Politt, except, perhaps, a little more emotionally unstable?

PS: Stalin, Hitler, and Pol Pot tortured people and murdered them by the millions for, to put it in the most understated of terms, bad reasons.

They killed and tortured people for the crime of doing things that are not crimes -- for disagreeing with the political regime, for being too educated to be part of the New Peasant Order, for being Jews/gays (I'm reliable informed, by no lesser authority than Excitable Andy, that Jews and gays are now the same; this news leaves me torn between Oy vey and Faaaabulous!!!).

On the other hand, we are, arguably, mistreating or abusing terrorists (not "torturing" them, except in the most extreme cases of very high-level known terrorist leaders, and we generally haven't heard too much about those) for committing acts and concealing information about their confederates' acts which are not only illegal, but downright inhuman. Satanic, even. The word may seem over the top, but committing mass-murder in the service of "religion" is just about as Satanic as you can get.

Excitable Andy's and Dick Durbin's little analogies are similar to calling a soldier who kills an armed opponent on the battlefield a "murderer." Yes, he killed a fellow human being -- one of the worst crimes imaginable, if it is in fact a crime -- but that killing was justified.

Excitable Andy and Dick Durbin blur right over this distinction. If the extreme circumstance of war makes it justified to kill another human being -- in the appropriate case -- how can we say that rought tactics against terrorists who plot to mass-murder innocent women and children (and men, too, of course) are not similarly justified by an even more extreme circumstance?

At least war -- as fought between fairly civilized peoples -- has rules. There are no "Rules of Terrorism," no Geneva Protocols restricting which 10 year old schoolgirls you can blow up on a bus to make a political point.

Al Qaeda is on the scale of the Nazis in terms of pure evil. They only lack in terms of ability to actually carry out their vicious slaughters with the well-funded industrial precision of the Nazis.

I would not say that justifies everything we could possibly do to these sonsabitches. But it does justify an awful lot. Let's just say it opens up a bit of leeway and "gray area" in what constitutes justified and civilized treatment of these psychotic murder-cultists.

And by the way, Excitable Andy:

If you think we didn't occasionally abuse or mistreat a captured Nazi officer we knew had important information about the Wehrmacht's plans -- information that could spare the lives of American soldiers -- you're not merely naive. You're flat-out stupid.



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posted by Ace at 02:26 PM

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