The buck doesn't stop anywhere!

Saying war is hell is to remark the obvious.

But isn't death worse than torture?

For the record, I guess I should hasten to add that I am against all torture. (Which puts me to the left of Alan Dershowitz.) I'm also against sexual abuse of prisoners, whether here or in Iraq.

But still, why is torture worse than death? And why is sexual torture worse than "normal" torture or death? Some would call me depraved for saying this, but for the life of me I have never understood why it's worse to subject me to sexual intercourse against my will than to beat me to a bloody pulp. And why would I be in more trouble if I walked up to a child and exposed myself than if I hit the same child? Moral relativism? Moral absolutism?

I just can't follow the logic.

In war, people are killed, and everyone thinks that's normal. And if I think about it, were I given the choice between being killed and having some twit of a girl leash me and walk me like a dog, even beat me up, what do you think I'd choose?

Call me insensitive, but I don't think what most of those Iraqis experienced was a fate worse than death. What they experienced was in many cases less severe than what routinely goes on in American prisons. Rapes, beatings, torture, "suicides," killings -- these things are so mundane that when you talk about them, people just yawn and shrug. Many are not sympathetic at all. They think American criminals should be raped, beaten, tortured or killed. Yet when they see accused Iraqi terrorists -- many of whom killed U.S. soldiers, and know about plans to kill more -- being humiliated and degraded by the same American prison guards who learned their trade back here, Americans are all freaked out. What gives?

Is it because we are concerned about Islamic sensibilities? The role of women? What am I not getting? Charles Krauthammer and many others have been talking about how much worse this is because women were involved. And come to think of it, why are feminists so silent about women torturing men? I could find nothing at the NOW site. The accused include not only enlisted women, but even a woman general, who ought to be considered an ideal role model. Why isn't NOW defending them?

It's baffling and disappointing to see a general (Janis Karpinski ) getting away with not taking responsibility for what went on under her command.

Instead (and notwithstanding her background in military inteligence), she has pointed her finger at the CIA. Or, depending on what you read, military intelligence. (There's also an attempt to blame feminist affirmative action for Karpinski's rise, although I'm not sure that making her the culprit is even in the interest of those who will do that....)

But as to the CIA, we're talking George Tenet, Clinton appointee, patron of Yasser Arafat, the guy many people thought Bush should fire after 9-11, but who stayed on for reasons best known to Bush.

Might things have not worked out as well as Tenet wanted? His boy Arafat seems to have fallen by the wayside, and there were the allegations of crummy intel about WMDs. (Plus the right wingers hate to see the once-proud CIA now loaded with homos and women....)

Is it possible -- just possible -- that George Tenet might be happier under a Kerry administration?

Laurence Simon suggested that Bush fire Tenet .

Considering history, I think it could be extremely dangerous -- for Bush -- to open that gate.

The last time a Republican president had trouble with a CIA director he'd inherited from a Democratic administration, it was Richard Nixon....

There could be many reasons why Tenet gets to keep the job that many say he shouldn't have. (Link via Ilyka Damen.) Not too many of them are pleasant to contemplate. (As I have said before, though, Tenet is not Bush's fault.)

Somewhere, right now, the guys at the top are in a huddle. Who gets the blame and who takes the fall are at the top of everyone's agenda. Many people want it to be Bush. Some of them are working for him too.

Isn't that a conflict of interest?

I think it's almost as bad as hiring sadistic prison guards, looking the other way, and then playing the plausible deniability game when the predictable happens.

UPDATE: Captain Ed offers some perspective on at least some of the torture allegations, and asks some good questions:

So, would a disrupted sleep pattern or two be worth the lives of 3,000 Americans? Would humiliating detainees on a case-by-case basis be an acceptable trade-off to saving the lives of 80,000 Jordanians? Would you approve the imposition of loud, obnoxious rap music in order to save Los Angeles?
In addition Captain Ed's right on top of Jodi Wilgoren (one of my old favorites.....)

And Mitch Berg points out that there are some people who very much believe that the treatment of Iraqi prisoners is at least as bad as mass murder. Why am I not more amazed?

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS ON NIGER URANIUM: Though he's not Bush's fault, Tenet might well not have appreciated having to admit fault himself. More here. Such things can become festering sores of resentment, and regardless of whether such resentments are justified or not, power means having the ability to get even. This is all of course speculation on my part; the truth takes decades to emerge, if it ever does.

UPDATE: For some time now, Glenn Reynolds has been writing about the issue of sadistic abuses in American prisons. His conclusion?

This suggests that concern over events in Iraq is overstated, or that concern over prison conditions here is understated. Or maybe both. (Does this mean we should pull out of Pennsylvania?)
More sordid details (including the callused behavior of California Attorney General Lockyer) here. Bless InstaPundit for it, and I hope he gets well soon.

UPDATE: Evan Coyne Maloney highlights a significant under-reported tidbit from Bob Woodward's new book, showing Bush as "a thoughtful and critical consumer" of the WMD intelligence which Tenet termed "a slam dunk!" Evan concludes,

It does make one wonder about Tenet, though. If I were as conspiratorially-minded as many on the left, I'd think that Tenet, a Clinton hold-over, was trying to sabotage the Bush presidency. I don't think that. I just think intelligence gathering and analysis is a tough business, and that our systems need serious work.
Because it is a tough business (and a vital one for the country) I don't think it's conspiracy thinking to ask questions about Tenet. Or Woodward. (Or other highly placed sources -- all of whom can be expected to engage in CIA CYA thinking.)

posted by Eric on 05.09.04 at 12:58 AM


Good, comprehensive coverage here. And thanks for the trackback.

Regarding this:

And come to think of it, why are feminists so silent about women torturing men? I could find nothing at the NOW site. The accused include not only enlisted women, but even a woman general, who ought to be considered an ideal role model. Why isn't NOW defending them?

I don't believe it's the job of NOW to defend all women everywhere regardless of circumstance. Nor do I think there's anything special about the women-torturing-men angle, other than that it's a fairly recent, modern development, and an inevitable one in an integrated military such as ours.

If you're interested, one feminist take on the issue is here, and a scathing open letter to the female perpetrators is here. (Yeah, I know: Some blog title, huh?)

ilyka   ·  May 9, 2004 3:37 PM

Thanks for the comment! Enjoyed reading the links, too. I can certainly understand the concerns; if being treated like a woman is considered a fate worse than death, what does that suggest about the men who think it?

Now, men are phsyically stronger than women and there are also brain differences. But to suggest these differences are so enormous that to be like a woman is a fate worse than death -- from where derives such paranoia?

Men who think this way are hardly in the best psychological position to win a war....

Perhaps they should be given one last chance to surrender now, to American men -- or else they'll have to surrender to women!

All good psychological tactics, mind you; I'm just wondering whether the people behind it saw certain other lurking opportunities....

Eric Scheie   ·  May 10, 2004 8:58 AM

Call me a coward, which I am, but torture is _much_ worse than death. It hurts! Oww! I know that, sado-masochist though I am in my fantasies, and though I can stand a whipping or caning, I have a rather low pain threshold. If somebody put a gun to my head and threatened to blast my brains out, I know that I'd be much braver than if they threatened me with the rack, the stake, the cross, the wheel, or any of a number of the other ways humans, more beastly than any beast, have contrived to inflict prolonged, excruciating, agonizing, unbearable, screaming physical pain on other human beings. Give me the hemlock any day over those things. Or hanging, shooting, the electric chair, the gas chamber, or the guillotine.

Capital punishment (for capital crimes such as murder or treason) as practiced in America is not cruel or unusual. What Saddam and his minions did every hour on the hour to their political opponents was, as were the tortures inflicted by the Communists and the Nazis.

Sexual torture is not physically painful as much as psychologically humiliating. It has been done to prisoners of war since the prehistoric eras and certainly throughout the long history of the land now known as Iraq, i.e., Mesopotamia, from the Sumerians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Chaldeans, and on and on. The taboo against male homosexuality (e.g., Leviticus 20:13) largely stems, I think, from the use of forced buggery as a weapon of subjugation in ancient wars.

"It's baffling and disappointing to see a general (Janis Karpinski) getting away with not taking responsibility for what went on under her command."

Yeah, I wondered about that, too, when she was on CNN last week. Maybe she was more clear in other public appearances, but what she said then was essentially, "I accept responsibility, in that many of the personnel concerned were under my command, but I don't accept blame." Sounded very wifty. It did occur to me, though, that given the overlapping organizations involved, she might have nominally been a superior officer without having any real authority to monitor operations. You might conceivably not want to say such a thing directly, out of loyalty; on the other hand, what she did say didn't make it seem as if saving face for others was a particular priority of hers.

Sean Kinsell   ·  May 10, 2004 11:55 PM

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