Thursday, December 18, 2014

Negative Reinforcement

In training a dog it is never necessary to hit the animal… but sometimes you’ve got to smack that hardheaded fucker right across the nose to get its attention.
  - USN Chief Petty Officer, to me, right before he smacked me across the nose.
     He was right, it got my attention.

I may have been wrong about torture.

Upon further examination, it appears torture might be effective after all.

Oh, not effective at gathering reliable and actionable intelligence.  No, that’s a wash. Sure, you might be able to pull a few nuggets out of some terrorist, under the right conditions, but it’s nothing you can depend on.

Nor is torture an effective deterrent to our enemies. In point of fact it appears to spontaneously generate more enemies.  And it appears to make the ones we have already even more determined in their hatred of America.

But in at least one case, in one single aspect, torture appears to have been supremely effective:

“Frankly, this idea that somehow this is gonna make our enemies more likely to attack us, I don't think so. They're beheading Americans right now. So that part of it, I dismiss. But what we need to do is come clean. We move forward. And we vow never to do it again.”

That was Senator John McCain, Republican from Arizona and just about the only conservative politician in America against torture.

McCain spent six years in a Vietnamese prison and he was brutally tortured almost daily. It left him … damaged, in a number of ways.

And that experience, it would appear, seems to have effectively overridden his deeply embedded political programming and permanently rewired John McCain into a decent and compassionate human being. Again, in this one aspect only. 

On the face of things, it seems that six years of torture at the hands of his Vietnamese captors turned John McCain into a liberal America-hatin’ pussy. 


Oh, that. Right. Liberal America-hating pussy, that’s what conservatives called me when I spoke out in opposition to torture as national policy. Logically I assume the same applies to John McCain.  The difference is I that came by my sense of morality naturally, John McCain, like most republicans and their sexual orientation, apparently had to choose his.

Funny, isn’t it? How being tortured made a die-hard right-wing conservative Republican like John McCain go against his own party and his own ideology and see torture for what it actually is? Brutal. Terrible. Immoral. Unethical. Illegal. Evil.  Dishonorable. Disgraceful. And a violation of everything the United States supposedly stands for. Ironic almost, isn’t it?

Goddamned funny that it took actually being tortured for a Republican to be against torture

Some of us, well, you know, we were actually able to get there without being locked in a sweatbox, without being water boarded, without being hung by our broken arms and beaten with bamboo canes, without having our nuts hooked up to a car battery.

But John McCain? The North Vietnamese Army, it took them six years to literally beat compassion and morality into that hard headed fucker.

And if they had not, if LT John McCain, USN, had not ended up in the brutal hands of the NVA, well, then he would be exactly – exactly – like the rest of his party.

Quod Erat Demonstrandum.


Which, you know, makes you wonder if maybe we should toss him back.


No, really, what kind of a man would John McCain be today if we’d maybe left in him that Vietnamese hellhole a bit longer?

Maybe a couple more years in a bamboo cage and John McCain would develop a complete conscience and sincere regard for other human beings. 

Maybe, just maybe, if McCain had been tortured a bit longer, had a couple more gallons of water poured up his nose, had a few more bones broken, had a few of his meals delivered via his puckered asshole, well then maybe he’d be less eager to go around bombing other countries all the time.  Heck, maybe he’d use some of his wealth to help feed the hungry and clothe the poor. Maybe he’d use his power and influence as a Senator to, you know, pass healthcare and education and immigration reforms that actually helped real human beings instead of lining the pockets of his rich friends.  Maybe, just maybe, he’d support life, liberty, and equality for all instead of just the people with his skin color and religion and sexual orientation and income bracket.

You know, it’s goddamned appalling that you actually have to torture a Republican to get them to act like a decent moral human being, to live up the morals and the ideals and the exceptionalism that we, the United States of America, that shining city on the hill, are supposed to represent.

John McCain the POW gets no credit from me for coming out against torture.


You shouldn’t have to torture somebody to get them to see the immorality of torture.

You should already know that torture is wrong, un-American, illegal, immoral, and beneath the dignity of a free and just nation.

Just as you shouldn’t have to see hungry people to understand why allowing your fellows to go to bed with empty bellies each night in a nation literally overflowing with food from sea to shining sea is immoral.

Just as you shouldn’t have to see poor people sleeping on the streets and living in cold inequality surrounded by a nation wealthy beyond dreams is likewise wrong.

Just as you shouldn’t have to see millions without healthcare or access to the basic medical services that a majority of the civilized world takes for granted to know that as a people, as a nation, we have failed.

Just as you shouldn’t have to see people who love each other denied the right to marry, to work, to housing, to services, to the same respect and liberty as every single other American, just because they happen to be gay.

Just as you shouldn’t have to see yet another unarmed black youth shot dead in the street or another black man choked to death without consequence, without justice, before you realize that all lives matter – not just that of a fetus in a white liberal’s belly.

Just as you shouldn’t have to see millions in poverty and starvation and disease and slavery and oppression to understand why they want to come here, to America, despite the hatred and intolerance and bigotry of those conservatives shouting and waving signs outside the bus windows.

Just as you shouldn’t have to wait until the warm seas are lapping over our shores and the crops are withering in the fields and the lakes are rotting with dead fish and the air is choked with pollution and the oil is gone along with our hope for the future in order to stop pandering to selfish greed and fearful religion.

Just as you shouldn’t have to be threatened with eternal damnation and endless torture by your small and terrible deity in order not to go around raping and murdering and stealing and generally acting like an asshole.

Just as you shouldn’t have to look at the horror and misery and devastation inflicted upon billions by war after war after war to know that there must be a better way.

Just as you shouldn’t have to look upon the idiotic gridlock and infantile tantrums and incivility of Washington partisan politics to know that you are the goddamned problem.

You shouldn’t need to be tortured in order to understand that torture is wrong.

You shouldn’t have to be tortured in order to develop compassion for your fellow human beings.

You shouldn’t have to be tortured into doing the right thing for the right reasons.

You shouldn’t have to be tortured in order to understand basic morality.

You shouldn’t have to be tortured to become a decent person.

You shouldn’t have to be tortured in order to stand up and speak out.

And you damned well shouldn’t need to be tortured to understand what the United States is really all about.

And if you do?

Well then there’s nothing I can say to you, because you will never understand.

Today we are engaged in a deadly global struggle for those who would intimidate, torture, and murder people for exercising the most basic freedoms. If we are to win this struggle and spread those freedoms, we must keep our own moral compass pointed in a true direction.
- Barack Obama, President of the United States of America


  1. Jim, you're analysis brings to mind Cathy in "East of Eden." I can't improve on Steinbeck, so ..."And just as there are physical monsters, can there not be mental or psychic monsters born? The face and body may be perfect, but if a twisted gene or a malformed egg can produce physical monsters, may not the same process produce a malformed soul? ...to a monster, the norm must seem monstrous since everyone is normal to himself…. To a man born without conscience, a soul-stricken man must seem ridiculous. To a criminal, honesty is foolish."

  2. I would like to have the printed on the mirror of every dumb-ass politician and their right-wing supporters so that they could read it every morning. Every fucking morning, and read it out loud. Maybe after a few years they might come around. Is that too much to ask?

    1. " Is that too much to ask?"

      Considering whom you're speaking of... Yes. It is too much to ask.

  3. When I was serving in Vietnam, I'd always heard stories of torture but never saw any of it. It is just as well...I believe that torturing someone is worse than killing them for all parties involved.
    I believe that when you take another human life, no matter how justified, a little part of you dies with them. Torture is even worse because there is no justification for it. The only thing it does is allows the torturer to feel good about themselves. They're in control you see. The'll show this evil terrorist bastard that they can't mess with us. Oh yeah...I'm not afraid...no really I'm not.
    The only thing that we learn from torture is the depths of our own moral depravity.
    Frank Frey
    US Army Vietnam

    1. "They're in control you see."
      Yes I think that is the crux of much of the conservative world view. A refusal to see that the notion of control is an illusion.
      The universe and certainly people, are not part of a well functioning clockwork where good people thrive and bad ones justly suffer.
      What conservatives are most afraid of is chaos. A world were the actors don't know the script. Don't know their place and where actions have unpredictable reactions.
      That is why the myth of the bad guy who deep down knows he's a bad guy and so caves under the righteous rage of the hero.
      Most men believe they are doing the right thing.
      When Ronald Reagan learned that the Soviets feared a first strike from the western powers he was incredulous. "Do they really think we would do that?"
      In RR's mind "We" wore the white hats and the soviets wore their black hats and understood that they were the bad guys.
      The irony of the present debate is if our morality is indexed to that of those we are in conflict with, then we have given that morality over to the chaos they so fear.

    2. "The only thing that we learn from torture is the depths of our own moral depravity"
      Thank you, fantastic sentence. We need this on memes & bumper stickers.

    3. With Jim's permission we could put this on bumper stickers at Cafe Press with all payment going to Jim.

    4. Dammit, Frank, quit twisting my conscience and bringing it up to the light.

  4. I've been following you on FB and your writing and passion never fails to move me, often to tears as this entry did. Thank you for this piece, and everything else you take the time to write.

    1. Yes, this one blog is so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes almost immediately

  5. To have a healthy and realistic view of humanity. each of us needs to understand that it is only an accident of birth, followed by many random events, mostly out of our control, that have placed us in the life situations we find ourselves. No one should be so arrogant as to believe that they could not have found themselves in the shoes of those that they might consider inferior, or different, or unworthy of humane treatment.

    1. I believe you have your finger on the problem right there. So many conservatives seem to have a Calvinistic viewpoint, even if they do not explicitly state it.


    2. "There but for the grace of God go I" isn't something they can envision. It comes in part from an abundance of self-righteousness.

  6. I vaguely remember him supporting torture earlier, when it was expedient. Maybe in relation to Guantanamo. But I'm too lazy and tired to look it up. He's another git unworthy of any respect from me. He's another arrogant bastard in power, that is enough.

    1. I concur. I recall a time when he was angling for the GOP nomination to the presidency. He was talking about how the US should not and does not commit acts of torture. And he was doing it publicly while questioning the whole enhanced interrogation techniques schema. Then Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld called him into a meeting at the White House. They must have read him the riot act and then dangled a carrot in front of him. All he had to do was publicly acknowledge that there was no torture going on at Gitmo. And they would see to it that he got the nomination he so badly wanted. [Of course he got the nomination and then selected Palin as his running mate....] His cover was that the specific techniques being used simply did not amount to torture. No, really. 'enhanced interrogation techniques' just aren't the equivalent of real, honest-to-God torture.

      No, I can't prove it went down this way. But it sure did look like it from my vantage point. I had a modicum of respect for McCain prior to that and none after.

    2. Greg - ETC(SW) USN - RetiredDecember 19, 2014 at 10:45 AM

      I believe McCain has always been anti-torture (as Jim mentions, his only apparent redeeming quality), but he has not always been consistent on either closing GTMO or leaving it open. It seems the GTMO question is more of a political one for him.

    3. Yes, he could be called anti-torture. He is OK with those same techniques when they are called enhanced interrogation techniques. And it is this splitting of terms and semantics that is the problem. Waterboarding is OK when is it referred to as an enhanced interrogation technique. This is the whole crux of the propaganda that came out of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld. 'We do waterboarding, but it is OK because it is just an enhanced interrogation technique. It isn't torture because it doesn't cause organ failure.' Or some such nonsense.

      I personally do not buy this propaganda. Waterboarding is torture in my book. I don't recall that McCain said yea or nay to any specific technique - he just said torture wasn't happening. Given the propaganda though, I know to know exactly what he thinks constitutes torture before I give him a pass.

  7. Once again, perfect commentary Jim. I so appreciate how you express what I feel. I certainly cannot say it as well. Thank you again.

  8. You know, those who are on the wrong side of this argument, those who now not only condone torture but celebrate it seem to be the folks who profess the loudest as being "true Christians." I don't recall Jesus ever being for torture or war for that matter in any of the readings I have done. So this shows just how perverted their special brand of "Christianity" has become. I think some may realize they are wrong but to admit as much would show they aren't perfect. But none of us are so why do they double down big time, often in a blind rage while professing self-righteousness?

    1. There's also the revenge aspect. Their guy was tortured to death by the Romans (and they wear the instrument of his torment around their necks to this day), and they're more than willing to pass some of that along to anyone they don't like, *especially* Muslims. I wonder how many of them have the snap to realize they're damn lucky it was the Romans, and not Vlad the Impaler...

  9. You just blew this one out of the park. I am having a tough time typing and getting the tears out of my eyes.


  10. Once more, bless you, sir.

    Jim Mason

  11. "We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We've got to spend time in the shadows..." - Dick Cheney

    Sunlight is the best disinfectant. The US finally released a report on the Torture used at the behest and urging of the Bush/Cheney Regime.

    We, the People and the rest of the World have known for over a decade the Bush/Cheney Regime requested, created, oversaw and protected the Use of Torture or as it euphemistically became known "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques".

    Right after 9/11 Dick Cheney told the Nation and the World, the New American Policy was Torture. Who would be tortured? Anyone. Everyone. Innocence and Guilt were non-factors. Bush and Cheney wanted Torture.

    Whole sections of the Executive Branch were devoted to making Torture Official US Policy, the Justice Department was co-opted into crafting "legal" arguments for the efficacy of Torture and the rescinding of the "quaint" Geneva Conventions. White House officials made repeated Sunday Talk Show appearances hinting at the dozens of plots stopped by Torture. Jack Bauer would save Fox America through Torture. Torture was the Universal Panacea of the Bush White House.

    The report is just the latest reveal of the brutal War Crimes committed by the Bush Regime. And those war crimes were enabled by the worst Traitors in American History: Conservatives.

    So, while Torture doesn't work it was successful,

    "The United States of America is awesome, we are awesome," - Andrea Tantaros

    Either Awesome Tantaros and many conservatives are lying or they don't have the courage of their convictions. Torturing people under the rubric of the Global War on Terror was either harmless Frat Boy pranks or an invaluable tool which stopped hundreds of Terrorist Attacks, saved thousands of lives and led to the kill of Osama Bin Laden.

    But, besides giving Cheney Sadistic Thrills Torture doesn't work. Anyone who supported or voted for John McCain should know Torture is not useful in gaining information and gaining information through coercion is not only futile but criminal.

    The clearest example of an interrogation practice that will void a confession is the infliction of physical force or pain upon the person under interrogation, because it is an incontestable fact that harm of this nature may produce a confession of guilt from an innocent person. This is also true as regards indirect physical harm - for instance, an unduly prolonged continuous interrogation, especially by two or more interrogators working in relays or the deprivation of food, water, or access to toilet facilities for an unreasonable period of time. A threat of physical harm may have a similar effect --- the extraction of confession from innocent persons. - Fred E. Inbau

    Unless, that is, you actually believe that all those woman tortured by the Inquisition were really Witches.

    George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, Ari Fleischer, Liz Cheney, Monica Goodling, Jay Bybee and hundreds of others in the Bush Cabal are War Criminals. Indeed the worst of sort of war criminals for they, safely ensconced in air-conditioned state-side offices, far from the battlefield, coldly crafted Torture memos and policies. Clear cut criminal intent not influenced by the heat of the moment or fear of imminent danger.

    1. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

      Martin Luther King, Jr.

  12. Preach it!

    Personally, I am glad that McCain, at least, has learned from his experience. Obama published those words in 2006 in The Audacity of Hope. Has he lived up to them? Jesus preached about these things. So did the nameless philosopher of Ecclesiastes. These are not new complaints. Maybe…maybe people do have to get these things wrong before they can get them right.

  13. I like what Obama has said. But what he has done does not match those words. The only person his DOJ has prosecuted and sent to prison in connection with torture is a whistleblower, John Kiriakou.

    And his current CIA chief, John Brennan, has lied to Congress over and over and needs firing.

    =>Udall extended his criticism to President Obama as well as the CIA. The White House, he said, has shown “no moral leadership” or willingness to confront the CIA on torture, and has broken campaign promises on transparency:<=

    1. Hoover, it is said, blackmailed many politicians, perhaps even presidents. I wonder if John Brennan, or some nameless CIA figure, is blackmailing Obama.

    2. Cynic that I am, it would be a wonder if he wasn't...

  14. Thank you sir, for once again expressing the thoughts and feelings that so many of us find difficult to adequately express.

  15. Convincing a majority, A FUCKING 2:1 MAJORITY, of our fellow citizens that torture is wrong seems futile at best. How did we get here? So much for the conservatives' wailing about this being a Christian nation. None of this is Christ-like.

    1. I think the show "24" helped to normalize torture in the hearts & minds of the right wing...

    2. Phil, for the fundamentalist, christian right Christianity has nothing to do with Jesus. It's centered on hatred of anyone outside their circle of insanity, especially persons of color just because they're not white/pure. Their objective is not to spread the gospel (good news) of Christ, but to spread fear and hatred. The ignorance of conservatives is their strength.

  16. I don't see where Obama has prosecuted any of these war criminals for torture, which is illegal by our own laws. Unless he prosecutes, his administration gives tacit approval to not only the torturers, but guarantees that those agencies which consider themselves exempt from any such existing laws, will continue to torture.

  17. Replies
    1. The president can't ban or end something that was already illegal by executive order. It's also entirely possible that that executive order could be reversed by the next president without telling the American people. If he wants to truly do what is right he must prosecute, through the justice department, all those guilty of torture right up to those who ordered it, Cheney and Bush. Until then we can assume those at the top protect each other and agree to cover each others crimes from president to president. What kind of country does that make when our leadership has no accountability?

  18. I only wish our national dialog could stop asking the question, "Does torture work?"

    Because it is beside the point. It doesn't matter if it works. It's wrong. Full stop. Just wrong.

    It's so frustrating because it still has me sitting here thinking about arguments against "can torture be worth it"... how even if it ever provided actionable intelligence, it would still fail tests of both usefulness and basic morality and ethics.

    It's like it's all anyone can talk about. As if, if torture worked, we'd all be like "Ok hey cool, let's do it! Yay!"

  19. Dammit Jim, you keep getting better. FWIW you're now appointment reading.

  20. Good read! I'd wager the esteemed Senator referenced therein would frack a smile at his own caricature.

    Have you considered a few words about "The Interview", not as a movie review but as the use of media as a cudgel?

  21. The usual standing ovation worthy article, I've come to expect and always get from you. Except for one tiny thing...

    "Logically I assume the same applies to John McCain".

    You should know better than imagining, even for a milisecond that "logical assumptions" cannot be seriously considered or applied to those of the CONservative mindset. It just can't be done, sir.

  22. Jim,
    I am at a loss. You speak for me, and thousands of others who have no voice. Only if we gather together and VOTE in 2016 will we be heard. We must never let this happen again!

  23. Unfortunately Jim, though you are spot on in your analysis, the people like Senator McCain and his ilk will never see the moral side of the argument or problem because ,,,, er, well, AMERICA !!

  24. Jim, I am amazed. You have managed to find a justification for torture. Man, you really a glass-is-half-full kind of guy. [/irony]

    -Paul Cooper (former QM3/SS)

  25. This is my favorite article so far, Mr. Douglass!

    I used to wonder what made these folks lose their humanity, if it was ever even there to start with. Parental distancing? Did they fail to develop a sense of empathy growing up? Are these unsocialized, overgrown schoolyard bullies? A mixed bag of psychopaths who've somehow bonded?

    Now I realize that it doesn't matter why they're this way. There is no reaching them. That was evident when Bowe Bergdahl was returned to us amid their demands for his immediate imprisonment or execution, no questions asked - before he even touched American soil. They sped past apathy and raced directly to pure hatred.

    To a large degree, I blame Fox 'News.' I blame Fox for convincing these people that their resentment is fully justified. I blame Fox for praising their despicable actions, such as making feeding the homeless illegal. I blame Fox for their fervency in wasting millions of dollars to investigate Benghazi again and again. I blame Fox for telling crazy people that they have every right to carry loaded guns.

    Fox has built an alternate reality for them to live in fueled by fear. Hate is not just socially accepted, but lauded. The title of 'News' legitimizes their influence. The power of Fox over its viewers resembles that of a cult. What's being called 'freedom of speech' amounts to 24/7 brainwashing of weak minds. It scares the hell out of me.

    If we can't make Fox tell the truth (because they're an entertainment network), can't we at least force them to change their name to 'Fox Entertainment'?

  26. There is a nasty underbelly in the US,and I see it here in Britain as we lurch right. If you are poor, if you are hungry, if you don't have a job, then it is your fault. You are not trying hard enough. You don't deserve help.

    A US investment fund bought up social housing in London, and was going to raise the rents from £800 to the market rate of £2000pcm. To get to US $ add a half. These are 2 bed flats, built in the 30s for workers. But now London isn't an industrial city. Its one where Saudi princes and Russian oligarchs buy high end apartments.

    The 'victory' though it may only be a stay of execution, came when protests have convinced the company to sell to a social housing trust, as reported in The Guardian, a left of centre broadsheet. Many comments were supportive, but some felt they needed to complain. Why should these people get housing at 60% discount? Its their own fault for living in London.

    Those who vote Right wing have no compassion. Just a sense of entitlement. They are like the spoiled brat who sees someone with a toy he doesn't have, so demands it. Never mind these tenants are earning £7 an hour cleaning, or serving coffee in the city. Why should poor people get 'cheap' (ha) rent?

    30 years of Reaganomics and Thatcherism have taught too many to let the devil take the hindmost.

    When you live in a culture of "I'm all right Jack" why wouldn't torture be acceptable?

  27. Excellent analysis Jim.

    The next logical step would be to subject all Republican Senators and Congressmen/women to six years of the same treatment as John McCain received from 1967 to 1973.

    Perhaps it would permanently rewire them also into decent and compassionate human beings - in this one aspect anyway. Perhaps not. But IMO it's worth a try.

  28. I, too, was deeply moved by this piece, Jim. Yes, to tears. I also had an epiphany while reading: it's HARD to be liberal! Caring about the things we do (all outlined in your essay - no reason to repeat) is a heavy burden, as we are assaulted on all flanks every day by more stories of injustice in this rich country. Simple Kantian ethics (can the action be globalized?) doesn't appear to be understood by conservatives. I didn't really "get that" about the other side until this essay. This old dog has learned a new trick today, and now I need to go ponder it for awhile.

    Excellent essay. Excellent writing, as is always the case. I'm so very glad you have continued to do so.

  29. 29 years in Special Operations and over a decade in OEF (Dog Years), and not once did I feel the need to torture or put a military dog onto a EC; given enough time and know how a good debriefer will gain there trust and piece the puzzle together....

    53% of Americans condone "Torture" according to a Pew Survey.....we have a misinformed, ignorant society right next to the ConserviNatsies and the "Do Nothing DC Politicians"....This so called the greatest Western Democrasy in the history of mankind but is still very much "Tribal" and has a long way to go in order to evolve to decency....

    You know you have crossed the line morally and ethically when if your actions are made public that they would give just the hint of impropriety and wrongdoing or a carelessness of responsibility/accountability...if I as a DoD member were caught doing some of those techniques I would be fired and kicked out of the military but not the beltway types....

    I get an ill informed public, but the push back from the "Beltway Inter-Agency" folks is purely unacceptable, but it is the DC-Standard of CYA (Cover-Your-Ass)....

    Givem Hell Jim! Awesome essay!

    Gray Man

  30. 29 years in Special Operations and over a decade in OEF (Dog Years), and not once did I feel the need to torture or put a military dog onto a EC; given enough time and know how a good debriefer will gain there trust and piece the puzzle together....

    53% of Americans condone "Torture" according to a Pew Survey.....we have a misinformed, ignorant society right next to the ConserviNatsies and the "Do Nothing DC Politicians"....This so called the greatest Western Democrasy in the history of mankind but is still very much "Tribal" and has a long way to go in order to evolve to decency....it is not a sin to be ignorant but it is if you choose to remain so, I use this as a metaphor; I have no tolerance/patience/time for any religious doctrine or divinely written books...keep your superstition!

    You know you have crossed the line morally and ethically when if your actions are made public that they would give just the hint of impropriety and wrongdoing or a carelessness of responsibility/accountability...if I as a DoD member were caught doing some of those techniques I would be fired and kicked out of the military but not the beltway types....

    I get an ill informed public, but the push back from the "Beltway Inter-Agency" folks is purely unacceptable, but it is the DC-Standard of CYA (Cover-Your-Ass)....

    Givem Hell Jim! Awesome essay!

    1. I think it is appropriate your comment is included twice, as it needs repeating.

      I only know torture third hand (I have known family members - now all safely dead - who knew people who were tortured during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands).

      *That* sort of regime needs torturing. The West, as it currently is, with the US militarily at the helm, should stay away from it; if only to be exceptional, and to *export* that exceptionality, until everyone in the world considers it normal.

  31. So long as the media continues to sit quietly and listen to "rebuttal" from chickenhawks like Cheney who growl about how "I''m a bigger patriot that you, because I am willing to torture our enemies and you're not!" Then a huge swath of the country will never even begin to consider the deeper argument, the one that McCain is supporting, which Jim elucidated pretty well in the post before this one. If this country is going to regain it's dignity it needs lots more patriots to stand up to goons like Cheney and say that true patriotism is not about being willing to "go to the dark places". It's about avoiding the temptation to go to those dark places, because by going there we destroy what we are.

    Which was of course what the terrorists set out to do in the first place: goad the goons into destroying the country. For a while they succeeded almost without a dissenting voice. In many ways they are still succeeding, the goon mentality is still very strong in the country and in our elected representatives. The only way to "win" the battle against terrorism is to say no to being a country of goons.

  32. It may be comfort to remember that polling often only reflects superficial opinions, and polling two years later may show those random, or even that opposite views have become popular. (You may recognize similar patterns from debriefings.) When the propaganda networks are pumping out their toxins, the thinking of the public is poisoned.

    Now, we could have mass media that worked to inform the public, rather than entertain or deceive, but that would make too much sense.

  33. Jim, you hit the nail on the head... again. I envy your ability to so perfectly articulate what I want to say, but find myself incapable of articulating, because of rage, sorrow, and plain old incredulity that it even needs to be said. Republicans are fond of saying they want THEIR country back. Yeah, well so do I... because the America I grew up believing in wasn't one where half (or more) of the population thought this kind of shit was fine, as long as it's us doing to somebody else...

  34. Another good one, Jim...thank you...I fear that the path forward for our Nation, is to look back, so we won't do it again..

  35. As we've seen time and again, literally ad nauseum, the ONLY time Conservatives "get it" is if it's happened to them, or to a close family member. Torture? Gay Rights? Abortion?

    Unless it's them and theirs, it doesn't matter.

  36. According to Wikipedia, the Japanese captured an American pilot right before we dropped two atomic bombs on them and then tortured him for information on how many more we had. The problem was that he didn't know. He told them 100. They surrendered.

    1. That was ¾ of a century ago. This is the 21st century. In those days Germany practiced mass exterminations on the Jews. Today it has the highest immigration rate of Jews, higher than that of the US as well as that of Israel. So get with it.

  37. QUOTE: You should already know that torture is wrong, un-American, illegal, immoral, and beneath the dignity of a free and just nation. UNQUOTE

    I strongly disagree: Torture is indeed very American. Of all the 35 or so countries, which comprise the “West” the US is the only one, within which major forces of the government structure not only condone, but even endorse torture. Only they do not call it thus, but “enhanced interrogation” instead.

    1. You might have missed the entire point of the essay, and the previous one which is linked to in the first line.

    2. Jim, No, I think Golestan very much caught the gist of your essay. What he is saying is that torture is VERY American, and has been for hundreds of years. America was built whole cloth from genocide, slaughter, slavery, imprisonment, lynching. The list goes on and on from Hernán Cortés to The Taming of the American West to Jim Crow to Japanese American Internment. All of it was “wrong, un-American, illegal, immoral, and beneath the dignity of a free and just nation.” But, sadly, it’s who we are.

      Peace and Merry Christmas
      Chris in South Jersey

  38. Negative reinforcement is the removal of something that leads to an increase in the frequency of behavior. It doesn't mean giving something to someone that you associate with being bad.

    I understand that you wanted an attention-grabbing title for your blog article, but it gives those of us who are familiar with the term the impression that you are ignorant. This undermines what you have to say in the article itself.

    I hope that I don't come off as attacking you. I am merely trying to offer some constructive criticism for the future.

  39. well said. well written. i agree pretty much completely. it should be read into the congressional record.


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