Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Comparing Apples to Oranges and Finding Scorpions

Very few people take Andrew Sullivan seriously on the subject of torture anymore. He has, for a long time, been unserious in his equation of the ordinary things attending wartime detention with torture. He thinks, for example, that merely keeping an enemy combatant, if I can use the precise phrase now banned from official use, away from the battlefield for the duration of a war is torture. He long ago lost the distinction between simulated drowning and actual murder. So it is no surprise that he comes to this conclusion here:

Bush and Cheney were, in fact, more brutal in their "enhanced interrogation" than the Gestapo was. And note that I am not engaging in the slightest hyperbole here.

Notice his denying doing exactly what he is doing (a rhetorical device whose name escapes me just now*). He is engaging in hyperbole and he knows it, so he denies he is engaging in hyperbole. Like a liar saying spontaneously, "I'm not lying."

Notice too that he is comparing a report on a series of complaints, by our lying enemy combatant friends we haven't made yet, to a report on the field manual for effective interrogation (as far as the Nazis were concerned).

Although the authors of the report vouch for the veracity of the enemy combatants neighbors with a valid beef, I have read their field manual which commands them to lie about their confinement and always allege bad treatment. I do not yet believe them. I do however believe that the Gestapo would beat a prisoner with a stick. I also believe that a branch of the Gestapo murdered millions of Jews, hundreds of thousands of Poles, thousands of Gypsies and homosexuals and Jehovah's Witnesses und so weiter.

Comparing our three uses of waterboarding, simulated drowning, to the experiments in the concentration camps with prisoners in cold water, reveals a slightly different view. The Nazis wanted to know just how long they had to rescue their pilots who had bailed out over the North Sea. Prisoners were placed in varying degrees of cold water to see how long they would last before hypothermia, or, more usually, drowning killed them, because the cold made them so weak they could no longer keep their heads above the surface. Compare those things, Andy, when you're comparing the 'Bushies' to the Nazis. I continue to think that the totalitarian left caused 99% plus of the political murder in the 20th Century and thus any of their regimes were likely worse than the Bush Administration.

It takes a lot of education to be as morally vapid as Andrew Sullivan

UPDATE: *Apophasis, denying you're doing just what you're doing. An example:
I will not even mention Houdini's many writings, both on magic and other subjects, nor the tricks he invented, nor his numerous impressive escapes, since I want to concentrate on...


a. Yesterday I read that the ranks of deniers are diminishing, today that very few people take Sullivan seriously. Both may be true, but since no evidence is forthcoming, we must treat as hyperbole - which is a shame because that's what you are trying to argue against.

b. The Sullivan article compared a red cross summary sheet with a Gestapo document, and you have to admit they were similar. yet the comparison is clearly fatuous - why? presumably because the Gestapo regularly ignored it - why the Gestapo even arrested and executed their own countrymen!

c. I'm unclear on the role of the non-Gestapo sections of the SS vs. the Gestapo itself in the atrocities you mention....

d. We have to agree that Sullivan's comparison is ridiculous. But let's not let that blind us to the fact that there is still a sinister side to "enhanced interrogation" that can't be ignored. According to Newsweek, the CIA has destoyed 92 videotapes of the interrogations and confinement of al Qaeda suspects. Now why would that be?

e. I once read the book "The One That Got Away", about the only German POW who escpaped British custody. The thing I remember about the book is that the Brit interrogators just talked with the guy, and actually tried to put him at ease so he would open up. And it was amamzing what thy were able to learn from what was apparently just chatting. Since subsequesnt research indicates that torture-induced talk cannot be trusted, one wonders why "enhanced interrogation" is practised anyway - perhaps it's the interrogators training that needs to be enhanced
This is a long-ass comment. Thanks. Here is my response:
a. what 'rank of deniers' are you talking about? I agree Sullivan has lost readers and influence.
b. the difference between Gestapo manual and red cross report is that one is the unverified accusations of the receivers of the treatment and the other is the admission of how the Gestapo did business. There appear to have been instances when the Gestapo went beyond the limits of the manual.
c. The Gestapo was a subset of the SS and part of the Gestapo ran the death, indeed, most of the concentration camps.
d. Destruction of evidence is always suspect but I don't want there to be any successful prosecutions of 'war crimes' against Americans. Call me patrioticly stupid.
e. In a different time, with a different enemy, we would just talk to them, but I think Sgt. Schultz would have been treated differently from Reinhard Heydrich, and appropriately so. Most of the Guantanamo captives were Heydrich equivalent. I don't believe every word under torture or even harsh interrogation short of torture is necessarily suspect, just as I don't believe every word derived from gentle interrogation is fact.
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