Thursday, April 30

Just. Shut. Up.

CLIFF May, torture apologist, in the Corner:
Re: Not Pro-Torture, Just Pro-Facts just about everything I’ve written and said, I’ve taken pains to emphasize that I oppose torture. However, I do think (1) it’s important to define torture so we know what we are talking about, and (2) all forms of “stress and duress” utilized to elicit cooperation from a terrorist in possession of life-saving information are not torture.

Every opponent I’ve debated on has taken this tactic — labeling me as “pro-torture,” refusing to grapple with definitions, and refusing to consider whether there may be methods of interrogation that are unpleasant but fall short of torture.

The full Stewart interview from Tuesday night is here, if you want it. I'm on record as wishing those Daily Show interviews would just go away; unlike Colbert's they grind the show to a screeching halt half the time, and when they don't it's generally because they're delightful fluff. I realize it's easier than trying to write another ten minutes of comedy every night, but Jon's no interviewer, and especially when he has some axe to grind they tread dangerously close to the Olbermannesque, with the exceptions that Jon doesn't come across as having an Ego too big for the studio, and that he'd be somewhat justified if he did.

When he decides to tear somebody a new one, McCain, say, whom he'd kissed up to after Honest John played kissyface with Bush, or whatisname from the whatchacallit financial news, he winds up shouting platitudes. It's Jon, so it's believable and sorta cute, like a comedy routine without the jokes, but compare Stephen asking Peggy Noonan whether it was Reagan or John Paul II who won the Cold War.

And that Cliff May shite above is a case in point. It was practically the first thing out of his mouth: "I'm not pro-torture". At which point Jon made a funny about going to commercial.

Okay, it was early in what was a planned five minutes. And it's Jon. But May's routine here is the essence of what had happened to the story last week, as the Right tried to shift the shame from the revelations of how wantonly we did use torture to how specious an abstract concept it is willing to turn torture into and then defend. How is it we come to be discussing, yet again, the teevee thriller "philosophical" "justifications" for torture as though we haven't been over it a few thousand times already? It's like saying, "I'm not a racist, but...." We don't need what follows repeated. We're not deaf. We're not avoiding the argument. We've rejected it, several hundred reiterations ago.

That the Bush administration was torturing people is established. It was established beyond dispute two weeks ago, when the numbers "83" and "183" were printed in the same sentence as "in a month". At that point every previous attempt to justify our use of torture--the Ticking Time Bomb gambit, the Only Way To Extract Certain Information ploy, and the What We're Doing Is Perfectly Legal ruse--shriveled up and died like a spider on a hot stove.

That any of those is treated as an actual argument in the first place is bad enough; none rises above the level of suggested essay questions at the end of a high school civics textbook chapter. But how do they reappear as "answers" or "facts", of the Corner sort, after this month's revelations? They don't. At this point, assuming you are anti-pro-torture, it's yourselves you ought to be questioning. This is the dog that didn't bark of the whole sordid tale.

Yet May is allowed on th' teevee to say, e.g., that the CIA called the Bush administration to say that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed wouldn't talk, and could they try something a little stronger? despite the fact that it's now March of 2003, the torture program has been in place for a year, and if they'd spent any time at all trying to get him to talk without torture those waterboardings must have come every 18 minutes instead of every four hours. He's allowed to say "we only waterboarded three prisoners, all high al-Qaeda officials", despite the fact that he knows no such thing, and to repeat the latest Crazy Islamic Theology canard, that Allah requires these guys to endure interrogation to their utmost limit before spilling, because the noted Islamic scholar Abu Zubaydah told the CIA just that. According to the CIA. After they tortured him.

And this, y'know, despite the fact that we learned a couple weeks ago that Abu Zubayday had already provided us with all the important information we got from him before we waterboarded him every eight hours for a month. I used to think that sort of thing qualified as a contradiction, or as trapping someone in a lie. Now it's more like a tic.

Why is it we're still hearing this when those hypotheticals--what loony Cornerites call facts--didn't rise to the level of justifying the bullshit "he talked after 30 seconds" routine back before that one became inoperative? Why do we need a "definition" of torture based on how close to the line we can get, or what sorts of categorical euphemisms qualify as "acceptable"? If you fall from a 14th story window you're dead, from the fall; it's not ameliorated by calling it a Deceleration Event or a Routine Gravitational Occurrence, nor by the fact that the building had a nurse on duty. The Geneva Conventions are not a collection of suggested high school debate topics. If we are gnawing over what "shocks the conscience" means, rather than what "183 times in a single month" means, it's because we are looking for ways to justify torture, not guidelines for avoiding it. "Pro-torture" is really one of the nicer things Cliff May ought to be hearing said about himself.

AND let's say this one more time: if we truly had a situation where Time was judged of the essence, and a field commander judged that physical coercion was the only way to extract information, he'd use it; and no doubt this has happened many times. We're not having this conversation because any one of those "hypotheticals" came into play, or because an episode of unauthorized torture came to light (again, nobody's even bothering to claim we were getting intel from Abu Ghraib). We're having it because the Bush administration specifically sought to torture al-Qaeda "officials", and god knows who else, and to do so under cover of cutesy "legal" "opinion". I realize that Jon Stewart, e.g., has not seen these guys in operation as long as I have; if he had the idea that Dick Cheney, e.g., would torture captives just for the sake of the kitten-in-the-woodchipper psychic satisfaction it brings (long distance, natch), would not reside as some sort of Horrible Thought in the far corners of his head, but operate as a sort of manual for dealing with that end of the political spectrum, day-to-day. As it has for me, for decades.


arghous said...

They had a pretty good run going there for a few months. With the "Surge Worked" meme being lapped up by the MSM, it was almost as if they themselves believed that they might be able to resurrect Bush's legacy from the trash heap of history.

Now not only have the wheels come off, but they're careening into the stands.

I concur whole-heartedly with the label you tagged on this piece; May is as disgusting as Thiessen before him.

Uncle Omar said...

I would not be surprised if the next line of defense is "It wasn't torture because it worked."
That would confuse all those liberal commmie lovers, wouldn't it?

Christopher said...

The pro-torture "argument" consists of the most blatant bald-faced lies possible combined with logic so twisted and vile that it makes gay marriage opponents look like the the second coming of Socrates.

And, like the anti-gay arguments, the fact that pro-torture positions are illogical nonsense transparently motivated by the worst traits humanity has to offer has not stopped the national media from treating them with the utmost respect and deference.

Anybody defending our torture policies long ago outed themselves as the most reprehensible scum possible. They should never be allowed to speak in public again without being pelted by rotten fruit, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

Grace Nearing said...

God Cliff May is a twat. He actually claims that he has taken pains to demonstrate his opposition to torture.

R. Porrofatto said...

With you on the Stewart interviews. They always remind me of Carson's when he started inviting politicians and pundits on the Tonight Show who came off like squares among the hepcats trying to acquire coolness by osmosis and failing miserably.

I love how for defenders of torture (Gestapologists?) like May this doctor-assisted "coercive interrogation" is "life-saving." I'm guessing it's just like when they apply them life-saving high-voltage electrical paddles to patients on ER each week, four or five times per episode, only the patients have to answer a few questions to make it stop.

They never mention the 110 or so prisoners who've died in our custody, probably because taxi drivers with pulpified legs, or asphxiated by crucifixion... I'm sorry, stress positions... aren't nearly so much fun to talk about on the Daily Show.

heydave said...

Clifford the Big Dumb Ass; what a piece of shit.
And those reconciliations of "not torture," really, just annoyances or perhaps pranks, but oh so valuable and necessary pranks...
Fuck this tool.

bill said...

Seems to me that if people like Cliff May are going to rationalize and justify torture, they need to know what the whole argument is about. Is it torture or is it just "unpleasantness"?

I think Cliff should go through the whole torture process--hanging, stress positions, slapping, sleeplessness--for about five days in order to get a feel for what's really being done to the detainees, what the whole "harsh interrogation" regime really consists of. Because waterboarding--where the discussion seems to be focused and the undergoing of which is already de rigueur amongst the Hannity set--is only one part of the whole torture menu (no a la cartes allowed unless approved in advance by your psychoparamedical team).

To Cliff May I say, Man up, puke. Go gonzo, take one for the team. Do five days in the hole, limpdick. Then we might believe you have one fucking idea of what the fuck you're fucking talking about.

(This rant brought to you by the word Fuck.)

Jordan said...

3 guys. You guys are whining about 3 guys that had water splashed in their face for 40 seconds.

And Abu Z gave us KSM who have us the West Coast plot which saved lives.

I'm sorry if you guys feel dirty that we saved lives, but hey... that's your thing.

Anonymous said...

The problem is, in Stewart's handling of it, the idea of torture comes off looking debatable. If Stewart would have been able to ridicule the pro-torture position unmercifully, great. But I think if you let this particular May/Stewart debate happen too often, then you're contributing to normalized torture.

Kathy said...

"...I’ve taken pains to emphasize that I oppose torture. "However".."

"Taken pains" Ha! Ha! Good one! I'm not one to ROTFL, more like "SITC,S"
(sit in the chair, snickering)

Whenever someone states a viewpoint, however strongly, if they add "HOWEVER," or BUT, you KNOW their stated belief is nothing but a BIG FAT LIE, and what's more, their PANTS ARE ON FIRE!

bill said...

Always with the "they saved lives." Let's analyze.

Is Jordan referring to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's giving up info--under torture, let's stipulate--that allowed the US to foil the plot to fly an airplane or so into the Los Angeles Library Tower? At least I think that's what the story is these days. Where's the proof? What did KSM tell the CIA and when? What did we get from him under duress that was dispositive to the interrogators and helped them foil the plot and save lives?

From what I just read on the Google, the main plotters in that attack were all in US custody by March 2003. When did the plot come undone? My source ( says the shit started coming apart back in 2001 when the first plotter, a Malaysian, quit the job just after 9/11 and was arrested shortly thereafter. KSM and the Malaysian's boss were arrested in March and August 2003, respectively, according to the stratfor article by Fred Burton ( Burton says the plot was effectively shut down when all three terrorists landed in jail--by dint of police work in advance of Jordan’s beloved torture, even granting that the arrests themselves probably violated numerous human rights laws. But that is not our point here.

No, our point is more like, if you're happy that we have become what we say we hate--which is the kind of country that says to its prisoners, "Ve vill make you talk."--then you must have slept through being an American, proud of its leaders like Washington and Lincoln who forbade mistreatment of prisoners, not held meetings in the fucking White House to figure out which stress position goes best with fearsome animal or insect.

And don't try to hide behind legalisms like "enemy combatant" or any of that David Addington crap, either. America isn't allowed to give herself the power to unilaterally abrogate international treaties, especially ones that we helped draft. Just because Arturo Gonzales or whatever his fucking name was told his daddy Bush that it was legal doesn't mean shit on the world stage, my friend, even though it may inside your own head. Get real.