Archive for the ‘torture’ category

Funny/Tragic

June 17, 2014

This is so on-point it hurts:

iggy pop amnesty

 

Iggy’s confessing that  “Justin Bieber is the future of rock ‘n’ roll”  — and the caption reads “Torture a man and he’ll tell you anything.  Torture isn’t just inhumane, it’s ineffective.  Stop it.”

This comes from the brilliant folks at or working with the Belgian operation of Amnesty International

Here’s another one:

Dalai Amnesty

Same caption to the Dalai Lama admitting that “A man who doesn’t have a Rolex at fifty is a failure.”

It’s worth remembering that the claque who clamored us into war more than a decade ago and are trying to do so again include many of the same people who told us torture would keep us safe.

There is no limit to the wrongness of these people — and as our Belgian friends reminds us, their dishonesty is both a moral and a practical failure.

And by the way — thanks to Iggy Pop and the Dalai Lama for their willingness to take part in this campaign.

In Our Names

July 8, 2013

Titian_-_The_Scourging_of_Christ_-_WGA22826

Driving back from dropping my son off at his first day of summer camp, I turned on the radio in the middle of our local broadcast of the BBC’s World Service.  Almost the first thing up was an interview with director Asif Kapadia, talking about his latest project, a short film starring Yasiim Bey’s (Mos Def).

Bey’s subject: what it is actually like to be force fed, as is now being experienced by detainees at the US indefinite detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.  Bey’s supporting cast included two doctors, volunteering for the roles.  In the camp the procedure is performed by US personnel, working towards the stated purpose of securing the freedom and liberty of the citizens and residents of the United States.

Bey’s video is propaganda in the purest sense. That does not mean it can’t show us something that we should know.

Warning — and pay attention to me here, kids:  This short film is hard to watch — very much so — which is its point.  Don’t hit play if you have a hard time putting images of cruelty or violence out of your mind.  I’m putting it below the fold so that you don’t click on it by accident.

(more…)

A Thought I Wish I Could Get Out Of My Head

November 12, 2011

I read in TPM that Herman Cain said this in the debate tonight:

“I do not agree with torture, period,” Cain said to start the exchange. “However, I will trust the judgment of our military leaders to determine what is torture and what is not torture. That is the critical consideration.”

Asked specifically about waterboarding, Cain tipped his hand. “I don’t see it as torture,” he said. “I see it as an enhanced interrogation technique.”

 

I hear that, and I find mindself performing a thought experiment that leaves my stomach in knots.  What if someone in State College had said something like this:

“I don’t see it as molestation….I see it as an enhanced interrogation technique.”

The moral catastrophe speaks for itself, right?

That’s the problem with the failure to call things by their right name.  No one in the Penn State scandal has tried to term what happened there as anything other than the misery it was, child rape and a fundamental betrayal.  We aren’t that far gone yet.

But the repeated use — and the authorization at the highest level — of acts we hanged people for after World War II?  Those are just “enhanced techniques.”  To this day even the liberal New York Times can’t bring itself to say that inconvenient word “torture.”

That Herman Cain is no fit president is hardly news.  I just wish this particular pathology were confined to him.  It’s not.

Image:  Dieric Bouts, The Martyrdom of St. Hippolytus,1470-1475.

One More Quick Word Before I Go

May 9, 2011

I dropped the ball on the debate in the middle of the week on the idea of torture “working” raised by my response to Josh Marshall’s brief post over at TPM. Despite my promises to engage, I learned once again the eternal truth: the last week or so of the school year is, how shall we say it, interesting to students, and hence a touch crowded for their teachers. So, apologies, all.

Many of the commenters and then mistermix argued that I seriously misread Josh’s point. That would be that torture as a policy is always and everywhere wrong, even if one can imagine that an incident of torture might every now and then provide a bit of timely, useful information. To those folks, Josh was making (somewhat clumsily) a strong case against torture, and not a rhetorical concession to the monsters in our polity who have already done such damage to our country.

Because this has been chewed on pretty good around here, I’m not going to do my usual 4,000 word logorrhea game here, so I’ll just make two quick points.

1: I believe I am in violent agreement with mistermix et al: torture is a disastrous policy, and Josh concurs with that claim. But I do think that it is a real problem to make even rhetorical gestures to the wrong side of this argument. Once you say that it is conceivable that torture “works” — even in the limited sense that Josh may mean it here, as a (very) occasional source of bits of actionable intelligence, then IMHO you have tiptoed onto that often invoked, much more rarely encountered political sasquatch, the slippery slope.

That is: I think the concession allows the bad guys to return to scenario mongering, talking 24 nonsense and muttering about bombs in Times Square…and adding zombie lies about how sustained torture got something good out of Khalid Sheikh Muhammed or whatever, ramping up until the “vanishingly rare” of Marshall’s implied formulation becomes so critically important that it becomes (again!) unpatriotic not to perform the water torture on every detainee, just in case.

2: That leads to my larger point, and it is again one upon which, I think, both sides of the Balloon Juice discussants at least basically agree.

And that is that the use of the word “works” here obscures the reality that torture, in fact does not do so for any reasonable definition of the word “works.”

This is important because if you don’t get that, then in fact you can come up with a formally coherent (even if BS) argument that torture is morally acceptable. That’s the problem with slippery slopes, after all. Eventually you slide to the point of some ham-fisted utilitarian argument, where the harm done to a few people is outweighed by some hypothetical good.

Yes — obviously — there are lots and lots of logical as well as practical flaws in that cartoon of reasoning. But it illustrates the problem with making good faith concessions to bad faith argument.

The real argument that Josh was trying to make (assuming, as I’m willing to, that those who read him kindly are correct) is that it doesn’t matter whether acts of torture work, because summed over the policy, torturing does much more harm than good.

That’s true. Torture throws tons of bad info into the system; it puts our own people at risk, it utterly wrecks hearts-and-minds attempts; and so on. All this we know. It’s wrong, because it does more damage to the individuals who practice it and the societies that adopt it than any conceivable gain — I’m not trying to diminish the moral argument. But, again, to the question of how to conduct the campaign against the pro-torture thugs, we cannot, IMHO, allow them to define, even partially, the frame of the argument. It never is, or should be, about what happens in the dungeon where one luckless victim is being broken — except as illustration of the fact that the use of the vomit-in-the-mouth Orwellianism (really anti-Orwellianism…) “enhanced interrogation technique” is itself sin against any attempt to imagine a moral regime.

Rather, the argument over torture has to be about what happens summed up over the full range of consequences of a decision to ask the CIA to do what we hung Germans and Japanese for perpetrating. You can’t capture the moral catastrophe without demonstrating that the logic of torture evokes more torture to “remedy” the inability to extract “useful” knowledge from each prior attempt — and all the other evils that flow once it becomes possible to think of torture as an occasionally valuable practice. Whenever we allow the Cheneys and Yoos of the world to bullshit their way into a “debate” over whether water boarding KSM did or didn’t help lead to Osama, we’ve already conceded much more than we should, or is safe.

[Quick update: Commenter J argues that it’s important not to be absolutist on torture never working in the small sense — which tells me that I still wasn’t clear about my argument. I’m saying it’s meaningless to assert that torture can work on that scale. Look at it this way. On Monday, you torture ten people. Nine of them give you no or bad intel. One gives you a piece of valid data. You act on the results of all ten interrogations. Did the one valid one work? No, IMHO.]

That Josh may have been making this argument, I concede. That he did so in a way that opens the door for the wrong interpretation is a problem. I ended my last post on this asking for eternal vigilance; it is too damn easy to fall into habits of speech and arguments that concede much more than we intend to people who have already done immeasurable harm to our country and its security.

And with that belaboring of what was already hashed out in a few hundred comments. I’ll deliver my promised extra treat on 17th century English torture and the law as soon as I can, perhaps in 2011. Happy Mother’s Day, y’all.

Image: El Greco, Portrait of a Cardinal c. 1600. This is a portrait of one of two cardinals, each head of the Spanish Inquisition.

Did Anyone Actually See David Broder’s Body?

May 4, 2011

[This is a cross post from Balloon Juice, where it prompted quite a discussion and, this morning, this response from mistermix.  I’m going to tag back later in the day, (promises, promises) but for now, here’s where all this started.  (P.S.  Sorry for not getting this up here at the same time as over at BJ, as is my usual custom.  As happenes, work intervened.]

David Broder is dead, or so they say.

I’m telling you he’s undead, and like the Jack the Ripper figure in that Star Trek episode, seems to be infecting the previously sane.

Exhibit A:

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Here’s Josh Marshall, Josh Freaking Marshall, earlier today:

As a more general matter it’s important to recognize that torture could easily have produced the key information. It just seems not to have in this case. You can be doctrinaire in opposing torture without being doctrinaire in assuming that it can’t produce any good intelligence, which would be foolish.

Here’s Senator Feinstein, speaking to the particular, as reported in Josh’s own Talking Points Memo:

“To the best of our knowledge, based on a look, none of it came as a result of harsh interrogation practices,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee in a wide-ranging press conference.

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Moreover, Feinstein added, nothing about the sequence of events that culminated in Sunday’s raid vindicates the Bush-era techniques, nor their use of black sites — secret prisons, operated by the CIA.

“Absolutely not, I do not,” Feinstein said. “I happen to know a good deal about how those interrogations were conducted, and in my view nothing justifies the kind of procedures that were used.”

And as for the general claim, that “torture could easily have produced the key information,” here’s the lede to that very story, written by Brian Beutler:

More and more evidence suggests a key piece of intelligence — the first link in the chain of information that led U.S. intelligence officials to Osama bin Laden — wasn’t tortured out of its source. And, indeed, that torture actually failed to produce it.

If Marshall wants to argue that torture is a valuable tool for intelligence gather, let him make the case.  I don’t actually think he does, of course.  But his bland suggestion that it might be so reeks of both-sides-now-ism.

__

Combine that with the hippy-bashing use of the word “doctrinaire” — as in hide-bound, close-minded, and inflexible — to describe the properties of opposition to torture, and you have a bit of even handed applause for the right’s conventional wisdom that Mr. Broder himself would have admired.

Marshall is better than this bit of overly fast punditry…but in some sense that’s the point.  It shows how easy it is to slip into Broderism, into the habits of sloppy thinking, or simple refusal to think, even for people who’ve made a career of bullshit detection.

Eternal vigilance, peeps.

Image:  Pierre-Paul Prud’hon, Justice and Divine Vengeance Pursuing Crime, 1808

None Dare Say Its Name: “Even the Liberal New York Times” edition.

May 3, 2011

One reason the Bush got Bin Laden meme is in with a chance is the growing chorus claiming that “enhanced interrogation” was the key to cracking the case.  (Warning:  wingnuttia at that link)

This is nonsense, of course, on at least two levels. One, well documented by lots of folks, including, repeatedly, commenters here, is that the mind-crumbling treatment of detainees being touted as the key to the case is both unnecessary for properly trained interrogators and counterproductive as well.  Oh and people, like Khalid Sheik Muhammed, the man that Cheney’s acolytes allege gave up the nickname of the courier who led US intelligence to Bin Laden’s compound, have already admitted lying to end the pain (hoocoodanode?)

The other reason this claim is nonsense is that the accumulating record of this case demonstrates that a lot of old fashioned intelligence work — and some basic policing, in fact — and not torture produced the leads that ultimately brought a Seal team to Abbottabad.  The New York Times has written a mostly impressive account of the case that reads in part like a procedural thriller.  In it, the reporters describe how the courier was first tagged:

Prisoners in American custody told stories of a trusted courier. When the Americans ran the man’s pseudonym past two top-level detainees — the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed; and Al Qaeda’s operational chief, Abu Faraj al-Libi — the men claimed never to have heard his name. That raised suspicions among interrogators that the two detainees were lying and that the courier probably was an important figure.

So KSM did not reveal the secret under torture.  Rather, he held his tongue…and this is how US intelligence closed the gap:

By 2005, many inside the C.I.A. had reached the conclusion that the Bin Laden hunt had grown cold, and the agency’s top clandestine officer ordered an overhaul of the agency’s counterterrorism operations. The result was Operation Cannonball, a bureaucratic reshuffling that placed more C.I.A. case officers on the ground in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

With more agents in the field, the C.I.A. finally got the courier’s family name. With that, they turned to one of their greatest investigative tools — the National Security Agency began intercepting telephone calls and e-mail messages between the man’s family and anyone inside Pakistan. From there they got his full name.

Boots on the ground, intercepts, the slow, boring sifting through data.  Cop work.  Spy work — the real kind, not the deluded fantasies of those who think Jack Bauer actually works for the US government.

All good so far:  the usual suspects of or enamored with the Bush-Cheney crime family are wrong, lying and gaining at least a bit of traction, but mainstream media accounts are out there that give them the lie.

So what’s my beef?

This, from the same article:

As the hunt for Bin Laden continued, the spy agency was being buffeted on other fronts: the botched intelligence assessments about weapons of mass destruction leading up to the Iraq War, and the intense criticism for using waterboarding and other extreme interrogation methods that critics said amounted to torture. [Italics added]

No.

It’s not that “critics say” waterboarding is torture.

As everybody likely to read this already knows, many times over, waterboarding is torture, as defined by international law and has repeatedly been recognized as such by the U.S. in the prosecution of other nations’ war criminals.  It is also recognized as such by everyone who has experienced it.  See, e.g. Christopher Hitchens.

This has gone on too long.  I’m sick of it.  Killing Bin Laden is a significant milestone in the pursuit of the criminals who murdered US citizens in 2001 (and many others before and after, of course).  We know now that the success of that mission turned on classic approaches to investigation and the pursuit of fugitives.  That the US government tortured people for years produced one of the key victories won by  Osama Bin Laden, as discussed in John’s thread earlier today.

The inability of the newspaper of record to simply state that torture is torture helps preserve that victory.  They should know better.  Hell, they do know better.  But in that one weasely little “critics said,” the New York Times gives aid and comfort to the worst — and least competent — among us.

Image:  José Ribera, Ixion, 1632.

It’s A Tear Down

April 24, 2011

That would be any culture that could produce a video/mobile game like this. Before you click that link, be aware that it takes you to the beta site of an Android game called Dog Wars.  From that link (all typography in the original):

Raise your Dog to Beat the Best!

A GAME THAT WILL NEVER BE IN THE iPHONE APP STORE!!!

Feed, water, train and FIGHT your virtual dog against other player’s… action games, chatroom, many characters and dogs to choose from, virtual store, etc.

If this already has been blogged widely, my apologies.  Hell, my apologies for belonging to the same species as the presumptively sentient types who wrote the necessary code.

I know that there are all kinds of real arguments folks have over whether or not games or porn or violent kids shows or Kill Bill evoke or displace the behaviors they depict.

What’s more, I’ll concede that point, FWIW:  if I were a betting man, I’d lay cash down on the proposition that no one is going to be seduced into dog fighting by playing with digital pit bulls on a three inch screen.  But that’s not my point.

It is that our culture — all the ways we experience, interpret and express feelings and ideas about the business of living in the world — dies just a bit every time something like this slips by.  If we think that cruelty isn’t be fun, then representations of the joy of sadism can’t be passed by in silence.

Perhaps I’m just too much of an alter-kocker in saying so, but there it is.  To be clear:  I do not argue that games like these should be banned.  I think it, its makers, and anyone playing it  should be shamed.

It should be no more acceptable to play this than it is scream “kike” in Fenway’s bleachers (happened to me once; called the guy on it; did not get my head removed, to my rather surprised relief).

I would not let my son play with any kid who showed him that game, and I tell the parents so and why.  I would respond to anyone who talked of it with gusto to me (pretty unlikely, I’d say, given my DFH-ish daily round) that this kind of thing is a moral and an aesthetic cancer.  I’d write this.

It just isn’t acceptable to celebrate others’ pain.  Dogs, people, whoever.  I’m sickened, saddened and most troubled by the comments at that link that tell me to chill, because after all, it’s only a game.

Well yes it is…but if the old writer’s adage — you are what you read — has any truth to it, we need to be damn careful about what we play.  And if we care about our collective capacity to care about what happens to one another, then it seems to me both right and necessary to name and shame those who wallow in this particular swamp.

Please forgive the rant.  I’m just gobsmacked by this one — perhaps over reacting to what is, after all, just one more in a long line of stupid human tricks.  But still…

Image:  William Blake, The Stygian Lake, with the Ireful Sinners Fighting, (illustration for Dante’s Inferno, Canto VII), 1824-1827.

…Til It’s Gone

December 15, 2010

(Cross-posted at Balloon Juice)

This is a follow up to John Cole’s Thug Nation observation.

He’s right, of course: we’ve allowed our fears, and the cynical manipulation of those night sweats, to lead us to surrender rights and values that a decade ago we might have thought untouchable.

It is funny – in a tragic kind of way — that someone like the odious Ken Cuccinelli can claim that a mandate to purchase health insurance is an assault on liberty, while actual, unequivocal, physical and mental tyranny passes without comment.

Which is not to say that I am unsurprised that the Big Lie party plays in that particular sandbox.  Rather, it is the fact that we don’t deny such folks the regard of civil society just shows how far we’ve sunk.

That is:  horrible as the story of Private Bradley Manning’s incarceration is, it should come as no surprise to anyone.

I say so so baldly because of a meaningless coincidence.  Just yesterday, I happened  to finish Dave Eggers’ remarkable book Zeitoun, a work I recommend to anyone reading this.

There, Egger tells the story of one family’s experiences during Katrina.  The title character, Zeitoun, a Muslim from Syria moved to New Orleans, where he met and married Kathy, a convert to Islam, and with her, put together a successful business as a painter, contractor, and property owner/manager.

When Katrina came, Kathy and their children left the city before the storm, eventually reaching friends in Phoenix.  Zeitoun stayed, feeding abandoned dogs, rescuing those he could with a canoe he’d bought at a yard sale, checking on his property around town – until he was arrested without warning or explanation, denied a phone call, and disappeared into a makeshift prison system set up by FEMA, in which all normal recourse to courts and process disappeared.

Here is Egger’s description of the first makeshift outdoor prison in which Zeitoun found himself, set up withing  a couple of days after Katrina hit in the New Orleans train and bus station:

…The parking lot, where a dozen buses might normally be parked, had been transformed…

Chain-link fences, topped by razor wire, had been erected into a long, sixteen-foot-high cage extending about a hundred yards into the lot.  Above the cage was a roof, a freestanding shelter like those at gas stations.  The barbed wire extended to meet it…

It looked precisely like the pictures … [Zeitoun had]seen of Guantánamo Bay.  Like that complex, it was a vast grid of chain-link fencing with few walls, so the prisoners were visible to the guards and each other….

The space inside [each] cage was approximately fifteen by fifteen feet, and was empty but for a portable toilet without a door.  The other object in the cage was a steel bar in the shape of an upside down U….

[Prisoners] could stand in the middle of the cage.  They could sit on the steel rack. They could sit on the ground.  But if they touched the fence again there would be consequences….

The men were not given sheets, blankets or pillows…They asked [the guard] where they were supposed to sleep. He told them that he didn’t care where they slept, as long as it was on the pavement, where he could see them.

It gets worse from there.  With Zeitoun’s arrest, the rest of the book reads as if Kafka met Cormac McCarthy in some dive in the French Quarter.

As Eggers documents, Zeitoun was both a witness to straight physical torture, and, if being forced to dig out an infected splinter with the shards of a broken Tobasco bottle counts, was a victim of it too.

The kind that leaves less marks — that too.  Certainly, if you run the simplest of tests:  what would one say of such treatment if it were documented in Iran, say, or North Korea, then what Zeitoun suffered- along with hundreds of others, American citizens and legal residents — was a gross violation of basic human rights.

And all of this was done through a “system” that most closely resembled the arbitrary exercise of the state monopoly on violence we associate with tinpot dictatorships.

Which is to say is that the transformation of America into anything  but a shining city on a hill has been unfolding for a while.

It was happening right in front of us back their in the Big Easy, when an incompetent and often criminal administration sought to mask their grotesque failures in fights against a mythical terrorist threat along the levies.

It was happening before that, when the GOP fought the 2002 election on the “with us or with the terrorists” platform.

It is sure as hell with us now.

I drove home tonight through the pleasant neighborhood in which I am privileged to live.  I looked at the quiet streets, the trees, the lights in ground floor windows as folks got ready for dinner.  And I thought of a friend of mine who lives a few blocks from me, a rich guy, who told me recently that he was moving a significant chunk of his money to Canada – that he actually went to Montreal in person to open the account – because as an old Jew whose dad had raised him in the memory of the ‘30s and ‘40s, there was the whiff of those times coming round again.

Travelling along these streets, there’s no visible sign that my friend might be right, that the banks may continue to go sour; that some crazy act in New York or Chicago or Dallas might set off another round of Hunt The Other; that passports might not work so well; or, as Eggers writes of Zeitoun, that men and women in black vests may burst into your own building and heave you down a hole into which you simply disappear.

But it could happen here.  To anyone, to any of us.  We know it can.  It already has.

Images: Fra Angelico, St. Lawrence before Emperor Valerianus, 1447-1450

Gustave Doré, Newgate Exercise Yard, 1872

Master E. S., Temptation of Despair, c. 1450.

In the Matter of the US vs. Bush…

June 9, 2010

not yet indicted for confessed war crimes, I give you an amicus brief from Ambrose Bierce:

PARDON, v.  To remit a penalty and restore to the life of crime.  To add to the lure of crime the temptation of ingratitude.  (From The Devil’s Dictionary)

That second definition applies particularly well to the accused’s partner in such crimes, the also not-yet-indicted Richard Cheney.

That “not-yet” should most likely read “never” is merely a reflection of a my suffering the lapse of mind Samuel Johnson described in defining a second marriage: “The triumph of hope over experience.”

Image:  William Hogarth, “The Bench,” 1758.

Chronicles of the Gutless, or When Did the GOP Become Such Cowards? Scott Brown edition

January 11, 2010

Just listened to the last debate in the MA Senate race and caught the exchanges between Scott Brown (R-Soundbite) and Martha Coakley (D).

Lots of stuff to notice — mostly that if I were a committed anti-abortion voter, I would  have no one to vote for in this election, as Scott Brown was for, against, and unsure of what he thought on the issue, especially around his proposal a couple of years back to permit hospital workers to refuse to inform rape victims of the existence of a morning-after contraceptive.  He sponsored the idea, then voted in favor of a bill requiring such information, and finally said he was for Roe v. Wade…or sort of.

I have no idea what he really thinks (and how he would vote), and I’m not sure he does either, but I do know that neither supporters nor opponents of women’s right to make their own medical decisions should have any warm and fuzzy feelings about the man right now.

I also liked the zinger that third party guy Joe Kennedy (obligatory no relation reference here) got off on Brown, noting how he’s against taxes now, but declined to support an anti-income tax measure in the run up to the last election.  I actually think that his was the right position at the time, but he sure is running as if he hopes no one remembers that moment of GOP apostasy now.

But all of that is just the secret sauce on top of what makes me think that Brown is truly in tune with the gutless heart of modern Republican “thought” (sic — ed).

That would be his stance on trying accused terrorists in civilian courts, as opposed to maintaining our version of a no-exit gulag beyond the reach of law.

He said, repeatedly, that he opposed trying such suspects in civilian court at — as he said over and over again — “taxpayer expense.”

The witlessness of that got me, of course:  these dudes aren’t a drain on the American public purse now, Mr. Brown?  You think that all those water bills and their three squares, Guantanamo style, come free?

But more deeply, when did the macho-er-than-thou “Mission Accomplished” GOP become so terrified of a handful of violent men (not to mention all those lumped in with the baddest guys who ended up there by accident, but that’s another story) that the mere thought that the rule of law might apply to their cases would send allegedly grown men and women reaching for their blankies?

That’s the rub, for me.  It has always seemed a fundamental mistake to dignify those who aim to blow up random children, women and men with the epithet “enemy” or “combatant.”

Our adversaries — at least  those who use overstuffed jockstraps as weapons — are not warriors. They are not soldiers to be dignified by any hint of equivalence with the men and women we have sent in harm’s way.  They are mere thugs, and they should be treated as such.

This isn’t mere semantics.

We have done nothing to serve the interests of al Qaeda or its kin as to acknowledge them to the world as enemies capable of inspiring fear.  What a recruiting tool, to enable some persuasive person to proclaim to young men that the world’s only superpower fears its “enemy combatants!”

Add to that the help we have given them as our leaders cowered and then masked their fear in the false bravado of torture.  Abu Ghraib was understood to be what it was: not an aberration, but an expression of the policy of the US government — driven by the fear evoked by the specter of global terror.

And now Scott Brown, with all the deep grasp of the issue that only service to Wrentham and posturing in the rump minority of the legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts can bring, comes along and tells us that torture, and indefinite detention, and the suspension of habeas corpus and all the rest remains the only way to deal with the existential threat posed by this bunch of thugs.

Maybe — if we were truly weak, if we were a  fragile, illegitimate rump state, dependent on every last dirty trick of security-apparats to push off  the throes of disintegration.

But we are not.  We are the United States of America, and if that means anything anymore, after all the broken faith of the Bush years, then it means we are capable of using the law to protect and to punish those who have earned the penalty.

Scott Brown doesn’t think so.  His 30 years of military service seem not to have endowed him with spine, or much of a sense of the Constitution he has sworn to protect.  He’d rather cower, and leave those he fears in the cells forever.

Gutless.

We need better in a Senator.  We need someone who is not afraid of shadows, one who understands that the equal application of the law is a defense against those who threaten the idea of America — and not now, nor ever, our weakness.

My Massachusetts readers:  don’t forget to vote come Tuesday, 19 January 2010.

Image:  Georgios Iakovidis, “Cold Shower,” 1898