Saturday, 21 July 2007

can you hear the sound of the moral high ground collapsing?

I am ranting today. I don't do it often, but I am really on a tear this morning so you might want to scroll down to the more pleasant posts or click over to something more soothing like the Harry Potter site. You have been warned. If you are in a ranting mood, click over to Long Way Home for a feminist's rant (this one is good for stay-at-home-dads as well).

Is it torture if you have the go ahead from the United States government? Don't think for a minute I don't get it. I lost people I love to terrorists long before it was "the war on terror". I also know how much you can and cannot learn by torturing someone - no matter what nice name you put on it. I know how terrifying the actions of these people can be, that is after all the idea. If my child were in danger do you think for a moment I would not want to do whatever was necessary? Would that make it right? Our 21st century world of mechanical, scientific, and medical advances is becoming more violent every day. Is more violence in the form of torture the answer to that? If they cut the heads off captives how can we of the west condemn that action if we have their people in a small room somewhere bleeding from a thousand cuts? Is it better because we don't televise our actions? Is it better intel if it is not true but said to stop pain? Does the US actually believe there is one chap calling the shots and all the terrorists report to him? That there is a nice clean chain of command you can break up if you just know who to shoot? Have they not been watching the Israelis? There is no one better at breaking a prisoner, there is no one with more reason to get the intel on terrorists groups. Has it been working? Or is it more likely the releasing of prisoners to back the moderate Abbas (out of the 10,000 they are holding) is a better plan?

In order to contain suicide bombing they are not torturing people, it doesn't work. Today suicide bombers are middle-aged and young, married and unmarried, and some of them have children. Some of them, too, are women, and word has it that even children are being trained for martyrdom.

Suicide bombing initially seemed the desperate act of lone individuals, but it is not undertaken alone. Invariably, a terrorist organization such as Hamas (the Islamic Resistance Movement), the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), or the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade has recruited the bomber, conducted reconnaissance, prepared the explosive device, and identified a target—explaining that if it turns out to be guarded or protected, any crowded place nearby will do. "We hardly ever find that the suicide bomber came by himself," (a police officer quote to Bruce Hoffman). "There is always a handler." In fact, in some cases a handler has used a cell phone or other device to trigger the blast from a distance. "There was one event where a suicide bomber had been told all he had to do was to carry the bomb and plant explosives in a certain place. But the bomb was remote-control detonated." Do we think torture is going to make people with a commitment like this tell us what we want to know? Suicide bombers and other terrorists' acts are committed by people who know the secret: people of the West "love life more than any other people, and they prefer not to die". In contrast suicide terrorists are often said to have gone to their deaths smiling. Data from "The Logic of Suicide Terrorism" by Bruce Hoffman.

According to the Rand Corporation's chronology of worldwide terrorism, which begins in 1968 (the year acknowledged as marking the advent of modern international terrorism, whereby terrorists attack other countries or foreign targets in their own country), nearly two thirds of the 144 suicide bombings recorded have occurred in the past two years. No society, least of all the United States, can regard itself as immune from this threat. Israeli Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized this point when he addressed the U.S. Congress nine days after 9/11. So did Dan Schueftan, the Israeli strategist. He said, "It is an interesting comment that the terrorists make: we will finish defeating the Jews because they love life so much. Their goal is to bring misery and grief to people who have an arrogance of power. Who has this? The United States and Israel. Europe will suffer too. I don't think that it will happen in the U.S. on the magnitude we have seen it here, but I have no doubt that it will occur. We had the same discussion back in 1968, when El Al aircraft were hijacked and people said this is your problem, not ours."

Israel has developed a plan that has decreased the number of terrorists incidents of suicide bombings, and it does not involve torture. Not from any moral stance, but because it doesn't work.

Torture is not new. If it worked would we not have a more peaceful world at present? Think people!

I cannot tell you how I am further not reassured by actions of the U.S. in sending officials recenty to visit Africa and France to drum up support for a new US military command in the region. The new command, known as US Africa Command (AFRICOM), is supposed to lend "greater focus to US policy in the region". Yes, I've always supposed one needs a military unit in order to "lend ..focus to policy..".

And so we can be terrified even of subcontinents, the Indian Army indicted its first battery of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile on 21 June 2007. Oh goody. And the German Luftwaffe (I'm sorry but that title sends shivers down my spine) has passed the half-way mark of the deliveries of the Taurus KEPD 350 stand-off missiles. Mr. Churchill?

South Korea's Ministry of National Defence has proposed a 9.9 % increase to the Fiscal Year 2008 budget. That's equal to KRW26.9 trillion (29.3 billion usd). No worries about the hungry there - forget cake, feed them lead.

Russia's national defence expenditure is set to break the RUR 1 trillion (39.3 billion usd) mark for the first time in 2009. Not to be outdone as this would only put them close to the spending on defence of Western European countries such as France and Germany. Don't you feel all warm and fuzzy over that?

And in the UK an amendment to the UK Competition Act has been passed in the parliament allowing the US secretary of state for defence to exclude certain contracts from parts of the act, paving the way for Complex Weapons partnering agreements. As far as I know only the people who actually wrote this amendment know what it means other than giving the US a say in who the UK shoots at or takes and makes weapons for..

Is it just me or is this nuts!? No I don't have the answer, but I have been around a while and I just can't see that the answer to the current situation is more violence and torture. It's like the death penalty in that if you get the wrong chap - once you're done it's too late to take it back.

I'm done. I'm going to go read a novel now and bury my head in the sand (no pun intended). Lighter subjects on Monday I promise.


KarenO said...

Don't worry about the ranting, it's a very worthy cause! And I so agree with you: "...I just can't see that the answer to the current situation is more violence and torture. It's like the death penalty in that if you get the wrong chap - once you're done it's too late to take it back." Sometimes I don't know how some people think, if they do at all. No argument can justify something that is wrong, wrong, wrong! But I will listen, even if it is just to try and understand their way of thinking.

Mama Zen said...

HUGE moral issues aside, I've never understood the logic behind torture. The "say anything to stop the pain" factor looms too large. How much time, manpower, and money is wasted chasing after intel of this nature that turns out to be completely bogus?

lady macleod said...


Yes we have to listen. How else will we know what the opposing side is, and they may have a point?

thank you for reading and thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...

mama zen

An enormous amount!!!!!

thank you for coming by.

Omega Mum said...

I agree - it does sound awful. But the only thing I'd say is that if Israel (which doesn't exactly have a softly softly approach to its neighbours) has abandoned torture, it's quite likely that other countries will follow suit. That may not make you feel better. On the other hand, it might - slightly.

Omega Mum said...

PS Am still touting 'The Lucifer Effect' as a way of understanding why people behave in the ways they do.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

A couageous post, very well written, Lady M. I agree with you: if asomeone hurt, or threatened to hurt, someone I loved I would do whatever I had to do and I would cause them pain with no compunction. But, as you say, that would not make it right. It is scandalous that western governments, including our own, are still condoning torture in the 21st century. They really don't learn from history, do they?

@themill said...

No, it's not just you. You make my blogs seem very trivial.

Lord Straf-Bilderberg said...

You have hit the nail on the head, m'lady. It produces no resuilt. It is the product of the Abu Ghraib minds who run the show and whom I am forever railing against.

lady macleod said...

omega mum

I hope you are right about other countries taking the plunge to drop torture as routine. I don't mean to mislead, I don't think Israel, unfortunately, has abandoned torture methods altogether but has found them ineffective in identifying suicide bombers. One can only hope that attitude becomes policy toward all prisoners.

I have "the lucifer effect' on my list of books to buy next time i am in the west.

thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...

welshcakes limoncello

Thank you for he kind words. I have become convinced over the past years that politicians DON'T READ HISTORY.

thank you for coming by

lady macleod said...


PLEASE don't say that. It is not my intent to ever make anyone feel trivial. I enjoy your blog and you have just as much to say as I do. I have been touched by more than one of your post dealing with your fight to make life better for your child. What is more important than that?

thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...

My Lord

continue to rail, i've got your six.

thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...

welshcakes limoncello

*shiver* Indeed!

thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...

mama zen

Yes I'm afraid...

thank you for coming by.

New said...

Hello there, Lady Macleod. "Super-S" here. Thanks for the comments you left on my blog a while back. It was fun getting comments from someone whose blog I so enjoy. :)

Anyway, enjoyed the rant here today. It's always good to read some well-articulated thoughts on issues of the day. I also enjoyed the rant on "the Long Way Home." That is Q's blog, yes? It seems we attended the same university and overlapped there for 2 or 3 years. Small world indeed. :)

lady macleod said...


I enjoyed visiting you. My it is indeed a small world as Long Way Home is indeed Q. Being that you are one of the UP people just goes to prove what marvelous persons graduated that university!

I am pleased you took the time to read the rant, thank you.

thank you for coming by.

Brillig said...

It's not just you. This is nuts. It's horrifying. It's... horryifying.

Thanks for the rant. You say it all so well, so accurately.

jmb said...

I'll never forget that Kenneth Clarke said in his series Civilization that the Western world is more civilized today than at any other time, in that we don't hang draw and quarter people or do similar things now. However lately we seem to be regressing and this is an example of it.
I don't know what the answer is but torture is certainly is not acceptable to the majority of people.
Good post Lady Mac.

Liz said...

The arguments for having nukular weapons seem to be equally at fault. How can they justify using them first - or second or third? If there is anything left by then.

Liz said...

I meant to say first that I agree with you!

lady macleod said...


thank you and thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...


thank you for your comments and thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...


that's all right, I got it. I think the justification is some convoluted process inside the head that is only available to the idiot making the call.

thank you for coming by.

darth sardonic said...

man i love this one! i think sometimes as humans we have gotten arrogant (in general, across the board, barring race religion and creed, though as a yank, i fucking KNOW we have gotten way too arrogant), and sometimes it seems (enter my doomsdayer self) the only way to get ourselves back on track would be a huge cataclysm of some sort to set us back technologically a few millenia and pare our numbers down considerably. and while i like to think this will be leveled at us by god/allah/the giant turtle, we are more likely to do it to ourselves with the nukes. now, if you will excuse me, i have to learn how to make clothes out of rawhide and shoot bow and arrow.

Ruthie said...

A FABULOUS post, Lady Macleod.

I need to visit your blog more often!

Rebecca said...

it makes absolutely no sense at all to react with even more viloence and abhorrent, immoral behaviour. It's all just horrifying, dreadful and sad.

lady macleod said...


I do have such a crush on you! thank you for your comments and thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...


Indeed! you do:-) thank you for the kind words and

thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...


thank you for your comments and thank you for coming by

Unpremeditated said...

A wonderful thought-provoking post. Not only does torture clearly and provably not work it also pulls the rug of legitimacy out from under those who use it at the same time as criticising others for their failure to respect human rights. The idea that "when we or our allies do it it's okay, when you do it it's wrong" is exactly the same kind of thinking which allows extremists to murder innocents.

fake consultant said...

a police officer cannot be certified to use a taser until they have had the taser used on them, as part of the training process.

maybe politicians should be required to experience the particular torture they wish to legalize before they can vote to allow it.

then sell lottery tickets for the opportunity to "waterboard" your favorite politician.

hey-an idea that reduces the likelihood of torture, and lowers the federal defecit at the same time...who says there's no win-win solutions out there?

bekbek said...

But I find it so ironic that you mention Harry Potter in the same post. I know, I know, Harry Potter is the savior of all our otherwise non-reading children, blah-dee-blah... but there is such a "magic pill" aspect to the whole thing.

Our kids are devouring stories in which there is a clearly identifiable Good and Evil, the bad guys always have nasty names, and you must simply "be brave and good" and wave a wand...

And our leaders are defining whole peoples as Evil and then insisting that if we are brave and good, we can do no wrong, and by the way, here we have some nasty nuclear wands to wave...

I prefer the rant over the lightweight. I like reality. Keep it coming.