Torture and Permanent Detention Bill Passes

By Sean Carroll | September 28, 2006 10:51 pm

The Senate has voted 65-34 in favor of S. 3930, “A bill to authorize trial by military commission for violations of the law of war, and for other purposes.” Here, “trial by military commission” means that, if you are an unlawful enemy combatant, you have no right to a trial by your peers or any other basic protections of the Bill of Rights. (Who counts as an “enemy combatant”? Whomever the government says. Even U.S. citizens who haven’t even left the country, much less engaged in combat? Yes.) And “other purposes” means torturing people.

I remember when Republicans used to look at government with suspicion. Now the motto of the Republican Party is “Trust us, we’re the government, we know what’s best and we don’t make mistakes.”

I have nothing to add to the discussion that hasn’t been said by more expert people elsewhere. I just wanted it on record, if the internet archives last a thousand years and I’ve been cryogenically preserved for the same length of time, that I was one of the substantial number of people who thought the bill was repulsive and anti-democratic. It will go down in history as one of those sad moments when a basically good nation does something that makes later generations look back and think, “What made them go so crazy?”

I can just quote other people. Jack Balkin:

The current bill, if passed [as it just was], will give the Executive far more dictatorial powers to detain, prosecute, judge and punish than it ever enjoyed before. Over the last 48 hours, it has been modified in a hundred different ways to increase executive power at the expense of judicial review, due process, and oversight. And what is more, the bill’s most outrageous provisions on torture, definition of enemy combatants, secret procedures, and habeas stripping, are completely unnecessary to keep Americans safe. Rather, they are the work of an Executive branch that has proven itself as untrustworthy as it is greedy: always pushing the legal and constitutional envelope, always seeking more power and less accountability.

Almost all the Republican Senators, of course, voted for the bill, Lincoln Chafee being the lone honorable exception. As Glenn Greenwald notes,

During the debate on his amendment, Arlen Specter said that the bill sends us back 900 years because it denies habeas corpus rights and allows the President to detain people indefinitely. He also said the bill violates core Constitutional protections. Then he voted for it.

Most Democrats were against (although not all, sadly). Hillary Clinton:

The rule of law cannot be compromised. We must stand for the rule of law before the world, especially when we are under stress and under threat. We must show that we uphold our most profound values…

The bill before us allows the admission into evidence of statements derived through cruel, inhuman and degrading interrogation. That sets a dangerous precedent that will endanger our own men and women in uniform overseas. Will our enemies be less likely to surrender? Will informants be less likely to come forward? Will our soldiers be more likely to face torture if captured? Will the information we obtain be less reliable? These are the questions we should be asking. And based on what we know about warfare from listening to those who have fought for our country, the answers do not support this bill. As Lieutenant John F. Kimmons, the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence said, “No good intelligence is going to come from abusive interrogation practices.”…

This bill undermines the Geneva Conventions by allowing the President to issue Executive Orders to redefine what permissible interrogation techniques happen to be. Have we fallen so low as to debate how much torture we are willing to stomach? By allowing this Administration to further stretch the definition of what is and is not torture, we lower our moral standards to those whom we despise, undermine the values of our flag wherever it flies, put our troops in danger, and jeopardize our moral strength in a conflict that cannot be won simply with military might.


Russ Feingold
:

Habeas corpus is a fundamental recognition that in America, the government does not have the power to detain people indefinitely and arbitrarily. And that in America, the courts must have the power to review the legality of executive detention decisions.

Habeas corpus is a longstanding vital part of our American tradition, and is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

As a group of retired judges wrote to Congress, habeas corpus “safeguards the most hallowed judicial role in our constitutional democracy — ensuring that no man is imprisoned unlawfully.”

Mr. President, this bill would fundamentally alter that historical equation. Faced with an executive branch that has detained hundreds of people without trial for years now, it would eliminate the right of habeas corpus.

But words are cheap, and nobody stepped up to filibuster the bill. Democrats, as usual, put their fingers to the wind and decide to be spineless. The calculation seems to be that they won’t look sufficiently tough if they come out strongly against torture. They don’t get it. “Tough” means that you stand up for what you believe in, and that you’re willing to fight for it if necessary. How are you supposed to keep the country safe when you’re afraid to stand up to demagoguing Republicans? People know this, which is why it’s been so easy to paint Democrats as weak.

The “tough” stance of the Bush administration has taken Iraq, a country that formerly opposed al-Qaeda, and turned one-third of it over to al-Qaeda, in the process fueling Islamic radicalism and making the threat of terrorism significantly worse. If that’s what you get from “tough,” I’ll stick with “smart” and “principled” any day.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Human Rights, Politics
  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/joanne/ JoAnne

    I continue to be embarrassed to be an American. Our present government, and both parties are responsible here, continue to forget the basic principles upon which our country was founded.

  • http://chivononpo.blogspot.com Joao Carlos

    Well… All I have to say is “vote him out!” As a foreginer, I can’t tell you what to do. But I’m sorry to see a country divided against itself. The last time you had this kind of situation, it endeded into a bloody civil war. The cause of “Liberty” prevailed then.

    I wonder what Abe Lincoln would say about W. Bush administration… But my only hope is the true american spiit will take his fat ass out the sofa and vote against those bigots. America is no longer “the land of tthe free and the home of the brave”. It’s mora like the “land of paranoids and the home of the cowards”.

    Roman Empire started falling this way…

  • http://www.badastronomy.com/ Phil Plait, aka The Bad Astronomer

    I blogged about this as well today, and while I’m shocked it passed, I’m not surprised.

    I am also very, very saddened.

    And just as a cautionary note, I have not heard about why Chaffee voted against it, so don’t be too quick to put him up on a pedestal. He may very well have moral objections to the bill (as any American should), but there may be other reasons.

  • janko

    “abuse of power comes as no surprise”

    this makes me wonder what the american government will do when china really starts taking the lead; economically and militarily.
    In holland we have a saying; “a cornered cat makes strange leaps (jumps)”
    Let’s hope it to be a leap of imagination, or a leap of faith.

  • Rob

    This whole Republican-backed bill seems quite suspicious. They probably have figured out that – IF! the November elections are held in a free and fair manner – they will most likely lose both Houses of Congress. Hence, they want to give the President – their only remaining person to carry out most of their hawkish agenda – as much Executive power as possible to do whatever he can to deal with Islamic militancy…

    It seems that Republicans are sending a clear signal to Muslims across the world: either you cool off or we will punish you like hell. I don’t know if that tactic will likely reduce Islamic militancy or increase it further; there is real cause for worry in all this…

  • http://arunsmusings.blogspot.com Arun

    The Democratic leadership is perhaps wrong, and the American people are so outraged about the descration of the Constitution that there will be an electoral revolution this November.

    Or the Democratic leadership senses the mood of the people. People are upset only because of the incompetence of the cowboy, not because they are being led to the slaughterhouse. The people have been stampeding since 9/11, and to stand in their way is simply to be trampled down. There is no one to administer the salutary slap to bring America out of its hysteria.

    Digby has another interpretation – the Congress is rubberstamping this President’s actions, because they dare not provoke a Constitutional showdown, the United States is a corpse, but no one knows it is dead yet, and the illusion of life is not to be shattered.

    http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2006_09_01_digbysblog_archive.html#115944912295724580

  • http://goatsreadingbooks.blogspot.com Tim D

    I wonder if we’ll bomb Iran before the election. Fear, fear and more fear…

  • http://lusepuster.wordpress.com Thoeger

    JoAnne -

    Don’t be ashamed to be an american, no woman is responsiblke for the men raping her, and no country is responsible for the leaders lying to it and cheating it. Only reason to be ashamed would be to bow one’s head and accept without protesting.

    Being Danish, I have little more reason than you yanks to be proud of my government’s foreign (not to mention domestic) policy. But people never know more than they’re taught, and when people are fed up with fear, there’s nothing odious in them being afraid and following leaders playing it tough. The criminals are the people lying to them.

    And it’s ironic; we accept torture and barbarism setting os hundreds of years back in order to defend modern humanism and open-mindedness… My.

    Thanks, by the way, for an awesome blog, I keep reading with joy and interest.

  • jepe

    You said it Tim. Fear. Many ordinary folks seem to support this bill because of fear. And many invertebrate Democrats sense this and have slithered accordingly.

    Republicans have masterfully convinced the majority population of the country that they are a , in a sense, a minority and are under incessant attack. Attack from terrorists, attack on hitherto un-questioned traditional values, uncontrolled influx of foreigners, attack on religion (e.g. war on christmas). It’s as if the biggest gang on the playground suddenly becomes convinced that they a couple of scrawny ‘new kids’ and will get beaten up unless every possible threat is stamped out, and stamped out fast.

    Here, it seems the two most prevalent arguments supporting a bill like the ‘torture bill’ are:
    1.) ‘We haven’t been hit yet and there’s a reason for that..’ [paraphrasing cheney]‘ . Conclusion: It must be b/c of our gov’t and therefore we must continue to support all of their policies w/o question.
    2.) ‘Trading freedom for saftey’. If you were a real patriot, you would sacrifice a few luxury liberty items for security (Franklin was wrong). To do anything else is ‘appeasement’ ala Chamberlain. Ahh..the WWII phrase that evokes good memories of so many weekend movies depicting American victory over evil-doers…it works on us like a charm.

    These arguments are seemingly invincible. Since many of my generation never learned about how Fascism arose or about American foreign policy since 1945, it is no surprise that people tend to support a torture bill w/o question. I know high school education programs used to stress ending American history classes on a ‘positive note’ to promote good citizens and patriots. Therefore, ending at WWII makes perfect sense. Unfortunately, it engenders a growing, uninformed population that is easily manipulated.

  • Ambitwistor

    Joao,

    I wonder what Abe Lincoln would say about W. Bush administration…

    Interestingly, Lincoln himself suspended habeas corpus — but whether he would have approved of this administration’s behavior is an exercise for the reader.

  • http://gabotlanta.blogspot.com Gabriel

    Also shocked me the fact that the bill allows the detention process to be administered by people outside the military, and even foreign countries. The definition of “enemy” is so wide that anyone may be sent to the worst hole in the world if you just pissed off bush. And you will be tortured by turkish contractors!

  • nc

    Sean,

    It is refreshing news, and very cheering. My parents are getting old and remember WWII. So, all through childhood, I was reminded how lucky I am to live a decent and free society, run under open, fair and democratic principles without secret police powers, unlike the USSR, the Nazis, the medieval Inquisition, etc.

    I really love the fact that the USA authorities now have immense powers approaching those of the SS and KGB. Obviously there is a key difference: the USA has not resorted to the extreme measures of setting up secret torture camps like the Inquisition, or concentration camps like Nazis and USSR.

    The world would be a dull place without secret police with vast powers to luck away people without charge in the name of state security. I’m so glad that America is not letting this fine tradition die out. Next, it would be nice if America could expand its liberty across the world by invading all the other countries in the world and setting up proper American-type democracy in each one, so that everyone can enjoy real liberty.

  • http://stillangryblog.blogspot.com/ Dylan

    I remember when Republicans used to look at government with suspicion. Now the motto of the Republican Party is “Trust us, we’re the government, we know what’s best and we don’t make mistakes.”

    Always my favorite cheap and nonsensical debating point on these issues. Republicans have only ever looked at government interference in the economy with suspicion. They’ve always been somewhat in favor of fewer criminal procedural protections (i.e., abolishing Miranda). On those occassion they’re on what you’d consider the side of the angels, it’s usually because of gun control fears or similar attempts to avoid enforcement of those regulations they don’t actually like, not a general commitment to such protections for their own sake.

    But if they turn down an opportunity to privatize torture I’ll admit you’ve gota point.

  • Raymundo Arroyave

    How is the US a beacon of democracy and liberty to the World?
    Slavery until the 19th century.
    Racial seggregation until the 60s.
    Wars of aggression in many places of the world (including Latin America, where I come from) throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
    Legalized torture and suppression of fundamental judicial rights at the beginning of the 21st century?

  • http://brahms.phy.vanderbilt.edu/~rknop/blog/ Rob Knop

    and no country is responsible for the leaders lying to it and cheating it.

    But we elected him, and, more to the point re-elected him. Yes, I didn’t vote for him, and yes, JoAnn (I’m guessing) didn’t vote for him, but as a whole, he won the second election more clearly than he won the first one.

    There’s lots of blame to be spread around, but, yes, there is some blame to go on the people of the United States. But, even without blame, we still feel ashamed, becuase all of this is being done in our name. Whehter or not we’re responsible, it is our name that’s being tarnished, and it is in our name that deception and chaos and death is being spread. There’s plenty to be ashamed of.

    We knew before the second (2004) election that Bush had lied and misrepresented facts, that under his watch torture had been performed by US authorities, that the war in Iraq hadn’t been about 9/11 and was degrading to a mess. However, even though it was pretty clear then that all of those things were happening, there was just enough wiggle room that a near-rational person might have been able to believe that all of those things were due to, say, an emphasis on the wrong facts by the “liberal news media.”

    Now, however, it’s bloody obvious that all of those things have happened. When Bush and his gang get up to try and spin the intelligence report that the Iraq war made the global terrorism situation worse (which all of us who read the papers already knew) as not right, it’s almost comical. He and his political allies have now pushed through a bill saying, “yes, we torture.” Iraq is unambiguously a chaotic and dangerous place that on balance worse than it was under Saddam. But what is tragic, rather than comic, about all of this, si the number of Americans who still back Bush. Republicans should be embarassed that this incompetent, lying buffoon is bearing their standard, but instead they take their dislike of (say) Hillary Clinton’s policies as a reason to close ranks and line up behind their charismatic but criminally incompetent leader.

    And that is what makes me weep for the future. That and the fact that those in (ostensible) power who aren’t part of the Bush Gang don’t really stand up to him, because they are too afraid of the consequences of the media’s penchant for portraying “balance” even when one side is completely idiotic.

    Yeah, I’m ashamed to be am American right now. I remember being embarassed by Bill Clinton, thinking that this paragon of executive sexual harassment and abuse of power for purient purposes was out there representing the USA in the world. But at least Bill Clinton was just making himself look like an idiot; he wasn’t fucking up the whole world and undermining the very principles of the USA the way Bush is. This current administration is an embarassment to end all embarassments.

  • JCD

    But words are cheap, and nobody stepped up to filibuster the bill.

    A filibuster wouldn’t have gone very far, with over 60 Senators supporting the bill.

  • Elliot

    I would suggest that Hillary stop worrying about the presidential election and how her Senate votes will be characterized by the GOP during the campaign, and start worrying about the fundamental freedoms she should be protecting.

    Elliot “Glad to be from Illinois with Durbin/Obama”

  • sumit

    Rob is 100% correct.

    In fact, practically the ENTIRE WORLD feels that (half of all) Americans (the 50% electorate who re-voted Bush/Cheney into office) did so knowingly that the whole Iraq WMD assertion was a fabrication, and they [the pro-Bush/Cheney voters] still gave their implicit consent because the lure of unlimited free! gas was too savoury to pass off…

    The world thinks that Americans (atleast the overwhelming supporters of Bush) wanted to take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to *steal* as much of Iraq’s oil as possible, and wouldn’t have given a darn what the facts! were…

    While as an American Rob may feel some reservations on what I have said, it is quite representative of what world opinion is these days – not about the Bush Administration – but about the nature of (atleast half of the) American people.

  • Elliot

    Rob,

    It is not clear that Bush was legimately elected (FL) or re-elected (OH)

    Elliot

  • http://www.amara.com/ Amara

    From the perspective of a foreigner with some deep totalitarian history: When my Baltic relatives visited the U.S. last year, they told me that, when they passed through the airports, they felt that were in the old Soviet Union again.

    From the perspective of a dual-citizen living on the other side of the Atlantic, I am very worried. The actions of the Bush administration are already contrary to the principles upon which the country was founded, but the Congress should provide a check on him, and they are not. Instead they seem to be complacent participants.

    The Latvian historian Modris Eksteins says in his brilliant book: _Walking Since Daybreak_, of the events leading up to 1945:

    “Before we can move forward, we must come to some kind of terms with 1945, with what it represents. A start would be the recognition that 1945, with its devastation, displacement, and horror, was the result not just of a few madmen and their befuddled followers, not just of ‘others,’ but of humanity as a whole and of our culture as a whole. Nineteen forty-five is not our victory, as we often like to think; 1945 is our problem.”

    This is why I am very worried. The U.S. is moving on its distressing political and philosphical path, not only from the hysterical urging of one mad President and his few mad advisors, but instead, from a larger, more diffuse support in the larger government, which is supported by _enough_ US citizens. I don’t know what advice or suggestions, I could give. I only have a very black feeling in the pit of my stomach for how this situation will evolve.

  • fh

    Raymundo, Neither in the US nor in Europe for that matter is there an overwhelming conciousness of the injustice and suffering brought onto the world by the respective countries. The beacon of liberty democracy and justice (etc…) always only referrs to domestic behaviour.

    The outward behaviour, as consistent as it might be is considered as a pathology, an aberration that was, in due time, corrected. Alternatively it was neccessary for the greater good of fighting communism.

    It is difficult to accept the reality of the character of the country you live in, especially if it is so at odds with how you initially conceive and define your nation. Every nation is built on a myth, and for the US that myth is that they are the force of good, the free society, statue of liberty. Accepting those not welcome or starving in Europes monarchies and deep hierarchies. This is a myth worth hanging on to and a vision worth fighting for:

    The New Colossus (Emma Lazarus, 1883)

    Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame
    With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
    Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
    A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
    Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
    Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
    Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
    The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame,
    “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
    With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

  • http://brahms.phy.vanderbilt.edu/~rknop/blog/ Rob Knop

    It is not clear that Bush was legimately elected (FL) or re-elected (OH)

    I haven’t followed the shennanigans of the seconed election enough, but about the first election, I’m very confident stating one thing : to within our ability to measure the vote counts, the election was effectively a tie. Yeah, Gore had greater popular vote overall, but I’m not convinced that it was by more than one or two sigma.

    And even in the second election, there’s no way there was so much fraud to deny the fact that approximately 50% of Americans voted for Bush. He’s not fringe, he’s mainstream. What’s more, Republicans who should know better continue to support him.

    In fact, practically the ENTIRE WORLD feels that (half of all) Americans (the 50% electorate who re-voted Bush/Cheney into office) did so knowingly that the whole Iraq WMD assertion was a fabrication, and they [the pro-Bush/Cheney voters] still gave their implicit consent because the lure of unlimited free! gas was too savoury to pass off…

    I don’t dispute that that’s what general sentiment in the rest of the world is.

    However, I do think the rest of the world is giving the general American way too much credit for forethought. It may be that Cheny and various high-level staffers and campaign contributors are cynically thinking, hey, let’s grab as much Iraq Oil as possible. Mabye even Bush is thinking that, although I’ve sort of bought into his public persona of “utter idiot”.

    But the rank and file Americans– I don’t think many of them are even thinking it through that much. I think they believe the flag-waving “defending our freedom” rhetoric, and think that the war in iraq is the Right and Necessary thing to do. Thinking through having cheap gas for some time to come– this is the country that can’t remember changes in gas prices past a few months, and that has had ever-declining gas efficiency in its vehicles compared to the rest of the world for years. Forethought, even very selfish forethought, is, I believe, giving way too much credit to the electoral forces that re-elected Bush. It was head-in-the-sand, wanting to back up our Big Guy, denial about the real state of the world that did it.

    -Rob

  • Elliot

    Rob,

    The 9/11 attacks had a catalyzing effect on many Americans who may or may not be “deep thinkers” The GOP has effectively utilized this event to create a sense of fear in many Americans.

    Also, if you look at the two Bush elections, vs. Gore and vs. Kerry, GWB came off as more of a “regular guy” vs. an aloof intellectual on the democratic side. Don’t underestimate the effect of this type of visceral response vs. analytical thinking in voting behavior.

    It is clear (or should be) to Americans and people around the world, that invading Iraq was not a appropriate response to the 9/11 attacks. But those attacks provided just the excuse that was needed.

  • http://www.pccitizen.com John D

    This blog needs a little more balance…. :-) I will try to offer some. First of all some of us need a history lesson. Those of you who went to school, forgive me.
    Raymundo (and maybe a few others who think the US is evil):
    -Hugely bloody civil war freed slaves, preserved union.
    -Helped end WWI in Europe, LEFT.
    -US Dragged into WWII:
    -Helped defeat Nazis, and put in place democracy in Germany, LEFT.
    -Gave billions via Marshall aid. Germany is powerhouse of democracy
    -Defeated Japanese, put in place democracy and LEFT.
    -Japan is powerhouse of democracy in far east.
    -Helped hold off communists in Korea, helped put South Korea on road to democracy. South Korea is powerhouse. North Korea is BASKET case.
    -Fought communists in Vietnam, americas, around the world. BUGGED OUT of vietnam when left couldn’t stomach it. We are in a very similar struggle today.
    -Outspent the Soviet Union, upped our defenses, Soviet Union COLLAPSED. Because Reagan STOOD UP TO THEM (remember how Carter pandered? nah, you’re too young). I am thinking few of you under 50 even REMEMBER what it was like living under communist menace….
    -Communism collapsed around world. Social solution exposed for lie that it was (is). A few tinhorn dictators left unfortunately….
    -Spearheaded liberation of Kuwait in 91, LEFT Iraq in place, maybe unfortunately
    -Invaded Afghanistan after 9/11. Freed millions. Democracy in place.
    -Invaded Iraq after the whole world agreed Saddam was a threat with his WMD (but of course only the US had the guts to do it….), freed millions, put democracy in place. WILL leave, tho it is hard to see exactly how this one will end.
    -Spearheading effort to contain Iran. All we need is for them to let one of their nukes slip to some of their jihadi buddies… You think they won’t do it?? Will Bush bomb Iran or not? I doubt it. He will leave that for Hillary. Liberals back in vogue! Bush gets blamed for previous ills. Life goes on. Democracy and freedom spread. Jihadis join their communist brothers underground, continue to kill innocents, blaming Bush.

    All in all, unless you are a nazi/communist/jihadi sympathizer, the record has been pretty impressive. All this for oil, right?? Along the way there have been many missteps, which I am sure you will point out. Seems like the US is almost going it alone trying to keep the jihadi thugs from spreading their nice social programs. This is the most liberal world agenda imaginable, and it is being promulgated by Bush. I think that is what bothers the liberals. Clinton had to deal with Monica Lewinski, Bush gets to deal with Saddam and bin Laden. Liberals will get their chance… This will last for decades. Wake up world…
    John

  • http://www.woodka.com donna

    John D,

    Whatever drugs you are on, I want some.

    It’s you who needs to wake up.

  • fh

    John D, yes you focus on a distorted version of one half of the record. You ignore the democratically elected leaders ousted by CIA coups, the military juntas supported by the state department, etc.

    As for Europe, the record is pretty damn good. Thank you, well done. Alas, the history doesn’t end there. You are reading history in the narative supplied, as I said, lots and lots of small evils commited are justified by the big evils defeated.

    Maybe you’d like to amend your history lesson by Latin America?

    http://www.zompist.com/latam.html

    Or maybe the US/CIA condoned terror attacks on…. wait for it…. Italy? Of course being well informed on international history and US involvement in it you know all these things, right? If not, stop lecturing us “youngsters”.

  • M. Brown

    Sean, I’m a recent initiate to your blog. Is it wrong of me to throw out a comment on an past blog? I’ve been hanging around hoping to see you stir up some blogging energy on Janna Levin’s luminous new book. It is stunning. Blew me away. I saw she received some impressive reviews but I can’t help but feel the general populous is not quite getting it. Have you read the book? It’s incredibly well-crafted. It is the best description of what it is like to think, to be lost in mathematics, that I have ever read. I’d really like to hear your take.

  • http://www.amara.com/ Amara

    John D #24:
    Beware of the terrible simplifiers. Many of the items you write are not at all black and white. I do wonder from your list if you have lived for any length of time outside of the US. I recommend Ekstein’s text for extensive references.

    So not to dwell too long, let’s look at a small portion.

    >-Helped end WWI in Europe, LEFT.
    >-US Dragged into WWII:
    >-Helped defeat Nazis, and put in place democracy in Germany, LEFT.

    (Don’t forget that Soviets and the Americans were helping each other)

    WWII.
    First the deaths:

    The Russian deaths in their ‘Great Patriotic War’ are thought to have exceeded 27 million. The Germans lost 3.8 million solders killed, and probably an equal number of German civilians died. Another three million solders were captured by the Russians, and of these about one million did not survive. Six million Jews died, and several hundred thousand French, English, American, Canadians, were killed, and so the list goes on.

    In this maelstrom, the roles of victims and perpetrators was sometimes not very clear at all. Examples.

    While the whole continent of Europe was on the move, the roads of Europe become clogged. A State Department report in June 1945 estimated the total number of refugees in Europe at 33 to 43 million. The Allies faced an enormous problem as hundreds of thousands of refugees fled westward; so the Allies blew up bridges leading west in order to stop the tidal wave of fleeing humanity.

    Germany became a wasteland. Between 1943 and 1945, the Allies dropped about 1.25 million tons of bombs on German soil, most cities were unrecognizable even to people who had lived there all of their lives. A normalization of horror ensued. What the Allies rained down from the sky, the Soviet advance continued (in their own way) on the ground: rape, pillage, murder, burn, and rape again.

    1.25 millon tons of phosphor bombs rained down on your head is probably not something that you can comprehend very well, so I’ll put it in human terms, via a friend of mine from Braunchweig. In the 1960s there was this saying, which, translated literally, was: “Oh, boy, you are completely in the bucket” and it meant you were knocked out, severely punched, something in that direction. This expression has its origin from that time. After the 1940s air bombs, people were carrying their burned relatives to the cemetary in 10-liter-buckets. Why 10 liter buckets? Those were the buckets they used to try to put out the fires. How could a human fit into a 10-liter bucket? Since the water was used against phosphor bombs, the water only intensified the firestorm. Human beings had been shrunk to a size that fit into the very water buckets that were used to extinguish the fires.

    Moreover, as awful as the war had been, it could have been worse. During the summer of 1944, when it seemed for a time that the Normandy invasion had stalled, and when London was being subjected to a steady dose of V-1 rocket attacks, Churchill and his advisers did give thought to gas and bacteriological warfare. They backed off for the moment. A year later, after the fighting had stopped in Europe, the Americans, who in relative terms had a light war, did not twitch as they dropped their new atomic bombs on Japan. Had these been available earlier, would they not have been used on Germany? Many Germans were convinced they would have.

  • http://brahms.phy.vanderbilt.edu/~rknop/blog/ Rob Knop

    -Invaded Afghanistan after 9/11. Freed millions. Democracy in place

    ER… Invaded AFghanistan after 9/11. Ousted Taliban, provide substrate whereby democarcy might grow.

    Diverted many forces to irrelevant and ultimately disastrous war in Iraq. Left Afganistan way under-garrisoned, LEFT with the job undone. Taliban resurgence growing, chaos in Afganistan about as bad as in Iraq.

    Just because the USA has done some good things in the past doesn’t mean that it isn’t utterly fucking up right now. And, indeed, it is utterly fucking up right now.

    -Rob

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    M. Brown — I don’t have Janna’s book yet, but I’ve ordered it and hopefully will have a chance to talk about it. She’s an amazing writer, no doubt. But let’s not stray too far off topic, although perhaps it’s too late.

  • Ijon Tichy

    We, the people have spoken, more than once: safety over liberty, security over constitutional rights. The quality of the average citizen has steadily declined since the Depression. We are cowards and slackers living off the hard work and good deeds of our recent ancestors. Dubya is only a taste of things to come.

  • http://lusepuster.wordpress.com Thoeger

    It’s obviously true that at least the second election voted Bush in.
    My point remains, however; when fed up with fear by the enormously powerful corporate media, I won’t blame people for actually geting frightened. You only know what you’re taught, and although the stories of the WMD fraud were told, it’s still a part of a larger picture of GWB as one of the white-hats standing firm against terrorism and other kinds of evil. Being ashamed of people gathering around someone they believe to be a savior in times of crisis is pretty much being ashamed of human nature; IMHO that will lead to nothing but depressed apathy.

    The whole record of US merits on the international stage is, well, ambiguous.

    Yes, the US helped ending the terrible and meaningless WWI in Europe. However, they also fought in the russian post-revolutionary war, on the side of the tsar and Germany and Austria/Hungary who were supposed to be the enemy; giving Red Russia a lot of good reasons for the paranoia that led to the Cold War.

    Yes, the US fought Nazi Germany during WWII, and we are thankful for that. However, German tanks were build by the Ford Corporation, and the paper forms for the administration of Holocaust were provided by, IIRC, IBM. The US were not alone here, all too many of the European countries have a similar record, the leading corporation of my own country being no exception.

    Yes, the US gave billions in Marshall aid, but that money didn’t come for free. As for Denmark, we recieved some of the help, too, but it restricted our financial politics, the money were to be spend largely in US businesses, and it was even a part of the deal that a certain number of hollywood movies were played in our theatres! The aid was welcome, but it was not a christmas present, it was a part of an ideological war against the USSR and should be viewed as such. I bet the USSR would have done the same thing, for very much the same reasons (gaining sympathy and influence in Europe), had their entire industry, infrastructure and even their labor force not been blown to smithereens during the war.

    Yes, the US tore Quwait out of the hands of Saddam in ’91. It’s not like quwait was any kind of free country neither before nor after that war, though. It’s a plain, old-fashioned dictatorship, with one dictator or the other. Furthermore, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Saddam’s invasion of quwait was an epilogue to the Iran-Iraq war, a war that Iraq started with the heavy financial and technological support of the US. Yes, Saddam was our friend in the Free World back then, remember?

    Reagan standing up against Communism? I was a kid in the early 80′es, and I was, like my parents, dead-scared by the aggressive ways of mister R. I remember a sticker I saw once, with a drawing of Reagan saying, ‘We’ll fight to the last european!’. Maybe things were obvious over there, but here they were not. We’d be the first, not only to be hit by the nukes, but also to be rolled over by the US and russian tanks, soldiers and entire war machine, with little hope of survival if The Big One came. To Reagan and Kruszthev alike, Europe was a chess board; to us it was our homes and lives, and lots of us did not like the big guys playing it tough on our behalf.

  • jepe

    Thoeger:

    The caveats you mention are, for some reason, poorly known throughout much of the country. And caveats, nuance etc , as we know, are usually quickly dismissed as practices of the weak, dishonest, and unpatriotic. Remember: “Actions, not words” (A saying by Chuck Norris on the back of many a Marvel comic book in the 80s).

    The points John D. mentioned above are pretty much what I and many others were told prior to college. (Vietnam is usually deleted b/c it’s just too depressing…it was only a tie…not a clear win). I have to say, his list is not totally wrong. Rather, it’s presented in terms of black and white and that’s what is easily digested. Especially if you’re hearing this as part of the winning and hence, virtuous, side. If this is what you know, then of course it is inconceivable that anybody should dislike the US (the hand-wringing “why do they hate us?”) except for the truly misguided. You have it exactly correct: “you only know what you’re taught…or what you choose to learn!”. And you make your decisions and votes accordingly.

    Thus, as Rob Knop pointed out, people are not supporting our One True Party for necessarily deep reasons. Rather, they see their policices as epitomizing the best values of what we know about American history. Hell, since such policies have worked in the past and you’d have to be stupid or cowardly not to see that they’re working now, or require time. Who wouldn’t support them and the legislation they think best?

  • http://www.amara.com/ Amara

    Here is a more complete description of the US’ record in the Middle East: http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/attack/consequences/2003/0210ahistoryles.htm

  • http://www.amara.com/ Amara
  • anonymous

    It’s deeply disturbing that both the suspension of habeas corpus and the legalization of warantless wiretaps were legislated on the same day – those just happening to be two key provisions of the 1933 Reichstag Fire Decree. The crucial – and very fortunate – difference seems to be in the apparent security of our political freedoms, and those of the press (which were, in contrast, censored after Reichstag).

  • jimbo

    “…as Rob Knop pointed out, people are not supporting our One True Party for necessarily deep reasons. Rather, they see their policices as epitomizing the best values of what we know about American history.”

    That, unfortunately, is part of the reason that so many of the world’s population consider us annoying meddlers: giving high-sounding lectures about the innate values of freedom and liberty, and why the rest of humanity should willingly follow our lead, while having little or no (first-hand) knowledge of what the “real” world is all about; i.e. we tend to think we know everything there is to know (and understand it even better than the people who are directly facing the problems), when in fact in turns out we only understand as far as the eight ‘o clock news program will allow us to…

    That is the greatest misfortune of our people.

  • jimbo

    Amara,

    Thanks for the links. I am adding the sites to my favorite bookmarks list.

    Jimbo

  • http://www.amara.com/ Amara

    You’re welcome!

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  • spyder

    It seems to me that JohnD’s problem is similar to that of the current administration; if you don’t agree with him you:
    need a history lesson. Those of you and maybe a few others who think the US is evil
    BUGGED OUT of vietnam when left couldn’t stomach it.
    remember how Carter pandered? nah, you’re too young)
    few of you under 50 even REMEMBER what it was like living under communist menace….
    -Communism collapsed around world. Social solution exposed for lie that it was.
    You think they won’t do it?
    you are a nazi/communist/jihadi sympathizer
    This is the most liberal world agenda imaginable, and it is being promulgated by Bush. I think that is what bothers the liberals

    That last one is a bugger isn’t it? I am trying really hard to imagine how a unitary executive totalitarian government can be a liberal agenda???? One of my other problems w/ his list is this time gap:
    -Hugely bloody civil war freed slaves, preserved union.
    -Helped end WWI in Europe, LEFT.

    The two million or so indigenous native peoples who were systematically slaughtered here in North America (including many of my relations) seems to have been worthy of us attention. Hell, without all that genocide none of the rest of his list would merit distinction as being of value now would it? Similarly he failed to mention our nuclear ambitions which led to atmospheric testing, dropping two bombs on Japan, destroying some Pacific Islands, and inducing cancers in thousands of US citizens. Naaaaa, that would be nit-picking, sort of like his line about Communism collapsing; can you say China???

  • http://www.pccitizen.com John D

    Well, I am glad I stirred up the natives with my little “history lesson.” I apologize to Sean and the others. I hope we don’t swamp the “cosmic stuff!”
    I enjoy pontificating/reading about world history…
    You certainly pointed out to me how history is a nasty business. I appreciate that. The world does indeed suck big time, at all places, all peoples and races, at all times. The US, and liberal Western civilization barely floats to the top of this cesspool of human history, doesn’t it (sorry I offended some of you there…)? I too read some years ago how Churchill wanted to use gas on the Germans, and I was rather taken aback. So much for liberal tendencies, huh. Basically kill or be killed. I also do not apologize for using the A-bomb on Japan. In fact it probably saved many many millions of Japanese (and American) lives. The imperial Japanese were the original jihadi wackos (slightly lacking in appropriate indiscrimminate slaughter of innocents, rather preferring combatants…). The invasion of Japan probably would have looked like the invasion of Okinawa to the tenth power. Total defeat was the only option. Too bad we don’t have that option with the jihadi thugs. Except for the occasional slaughter of innocents, it seems to be just a media war on who does the least damage to the innocents. The jihadis are winning, thanks to their leftist sympathizers. That is too bad. Have no fear people, it looks like we will have a show circus during Bush’s last years, of impeachment excitement. Can’t wait. Osama must be hoping he lives long enough to ride a victory parade thru DC. OTOH, Hillary may become a man among men (my sensibilities preventing me from expressing it differently) We can hope, no…?

    I have read a lot of Churchill. I am just stunned at how deeply pacifist Europe (and yes America) was after WWI. Hitler could have been thwarted and probably toppled 4 times, easily if they had stood up to him. I credit that supremely weak kneed pacifism for the deaths of those almost 100 million people one of you listed. A lesson for today to be sure. What do we want this world to look like???? Do you think a jihadi world will pay much attention to particle physics?? Women particle physicists? Are we willing to promulgate our beliefs in this nasty business of history, or have we become such weak kneed liberals feeling sorry that we have caused pain and suffering along the way? The Jihadis want to cause as much pain and suffering as they can.

    Reagan certainly scared a lot of people, didn’t he! Carter was too scared to do anything about Iran. I partially lay the blame for our whole modern predicament on Carter empowering the original Iran jihadis by doing NOTHING. People would have died to be sure (nasty history stuff again…), but methinks he could have landed a few divisions and caused the Iranians some grief. Certainly not today! Why do you think they released the hostages when Reagan took office?? So Reagan topples communism, Carter gets the Nobel peace prize. I think I prefer Reagan. (I know that is simplistic, but hey, this is gonzo journalism!)

    You know, if we want to exorcise all our liberal ghosts of wiped out peoples, races, civilizations, along the course of our nasty history, we should all just kill ourselves in all countries but Africa, and let them start the grand trek out of there again.

    And yes, I still see America as a shining light. Tell me please, why we are being invaded from Mexico. Are these people coming looking for oppression do you think? Or is it opportunity? Oh, I see, they are being forced to come by the terrific social policies of the Mexican gov. It is amazing we have been able to absorb these 10′s of millions. So far… Can’t wait for you tell me how they are being oppressed working at all those low end jobs….

    And tell me why are there legions of Russians, Iranians, Pakistanis, Indis, Chinese, Koreans at my place of work- mostly first generation. All fine people. Why don’t they go back home? Why are they becoming citizens, of all things, of this oppressive country? I am an engineer, and white, and am definitely in the minority. That is OK with me if these people love America for what they have found. Some of you should think about that too… (just some of you..)

    I do appreciate the references. Lots of great references/links herein..
    John

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    John, so it seems that if it weren’t for the Jihadis, the Neo-Cons would be finished. :)

  • http://www.memesinconflict.com Memes

    I commisserate with your feelings. This morning, in line for Brunch, people kept asking me why I was stabbing a nearby stack of newspapers with a plastic fork. Luckily, I was pacified by a large stack of bacon.

    Ross
    Using Aggressive Memetics Since 2006

  • Chris W.

    I guess this is what happens when 50+% of the American people vote for a man who found it amusing to torture small animals as a child.

  • marcello

    Donna, can you say something about the issue, instead of just critisizing fellow blogger?
    To those who think black and white is bad; what is your preference then?
    grey or colors?
    For those who don’t like simplistic; perhaps you could move to france where they discuss everything to death.
    And the frog sympathisers, perhaps you did not hear about the compassion a very young George W. showed his mother when his very young older sister died of leukemia. Why not read up on that; doesn’t fit in with a preconceived notion of what you would rather believe?

  • http://www.allysonbeatrice.com/blog/ Allyson

    Having nothing useful to add, perhaps I can at least provide a service and start taking bets on how many posts it will take before someone invokes Godwin?

  • fh

    John D, why do you hate freedom?

    Seriously:

    a) Nobody here thinks the US is evil (in this comments at least). We just don’t think that it’s “good” by definition or divine destiny. If it’s good it’s good by it’s actions.

    b) Nobody here thinks that we should never involve ourselfs in other countries, most of the countries opposing the US’ so called “War of Terror” and the “War on Iraq” were supporting the Blakan and Afghanisthan Wars. These were difficult decisions, too.

    c) “Leftist sympathizers” want to understand the enemy to eliminate it. Instead of simply blindly waging vaguely or totally unrelated wars and thereby strengthening it (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/5384548.stm). We are against the war in Iraq because it’s a ’cause celebre’ for al Quaeda. We are shocked by this latest legislation because see a).
    This is not about leftist sympathizers what the CIA has done and is now authorized to do is simply illegal. Several Attorney Generals are investigating CIA agents, some arrest warrants against CIA agents have been issued. This has nothing to do with partisan politics. This is quite simply an issue of modern civilization, the rule of law and reason. This is what makes us “good” and them “evil”.

    d) I personally have repeatedly argued that the US has been one of the most benign Imperial Powers the world has ever seen. Often opting for indirect and economic influence rather then direct control. The Roman empire was so succesfull in parts because it granted total Religious freedom to the subjugated regions.
    The counter narrative is that misguided capitalist policies backed by Europe and the US have wrecked many countries economies and limited their democratic freedoms.

    e) In order to maintain it’s imperial influences the US agencies have, often without knowledge of the US people, resorted to anti-democratic, anti-freedom, anti-human rights methods, these deeds stand in contrast to the (not purely, though partially selfless) deeds you mentioned.
    The US left? Well except of course for the military bases it has throughout Germany.
    (And if you want to be legalistic about it: “Germany remained under nominal military occupation until 12 September 1990, when the Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany, the final peace treaty, was signed by the four powers and the two German governments, restoring German sovereignty.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allied_Control_Council)

    f) Internally the US has shown time and time again that it has a great resillience to fascist tendencies, McCarthy, Concentration camps during WWII for the Japanese, and so on, all resulted in a backlash that undid these terrible things, so I have no doubt that this will happen again, because people like Sean and others who have commented will push things back. It’s not accidental that the US is the longest surviving democracy on this planet…

    g) For me the central question is the following: The US (and to a somewhat lesser degree the EU) are militarily and economically the dominant powers in the world today. This will last for a few more decades until China overtakes us and the brief centuries of European dominance (of which the US dominance is just the latest chapter) of the globe come to an end.
    What do we do with our power? We defend our values, of course. We cannot accept the limits on freedom of speech, science and culture that the terrorist threat has brought forth. This is not neccessarily best done by military power of course, ideally we would just be calm about the “terrorist threat” which is minimal anyways (http://www.boingboing.net/2006/09/17/flu_hernia_or_police.html).
    But beyond that? Do we try to spread our values? If so these can only be our humanist values and not our christian values. Our humanist and democratic values were developed in a specific cultural tradition and context though, and though I believe them to be in some sense universal it’s likely that each soiciety needs to reach these universal values in their own way.
    This is a diffcult question to which your postings have not contributed at all, in fact they merely distract from this, IMO, most real and urgent question facing us.

  • http://www.pieterkok.com/index.html PK

    As John D clearly demonstrates (thanks John!), we tend to look at history through the filter of our politics and preconceptions. Therefore “proof by historic analogy” is deeply flawed, and can be used only as a rethorical trick. The real lessons of history are hardly ever learned.

  • bemused

    #48: fh, I pretty much agree with everything you said, but I have often heard Americans claim that the US is the world’s oldest democracy – why? Iceland, Switzerland and Great Britain, for example, have had democratic institutions for far longer than the US has been in existence. New Zealand was the first to achieve universal suffrage, I believe, if your definition is the right to vote for all citizens. I thought blacks in the South effectively didn’t even have the right to vote till the mid 1900s. I am often bemused by the mandate assumed by US politicians to “spread democracy around the world” – its arrogant and ignorant.

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  • fh

    Hmmmm… Iceland has only been ruling itself since 1904, And Switzerland only established a proper democracy in the 1800s (nevermind that Women’s sufferage was only established in 1971), In 1780 about 3% of the Engliah population were eligible to vote, so it’s by nature a gradual process and depending on where you draw the line I guess you could arrive at different countries.

    I think what’s safe to say is that none of these nations had a text beginning with the words “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” at their basis. That slaves, black and women should be counted among men came gradually, but the US was a bold step, in France similar and bolder steps led to catastrophe and relapse into absolutism.

    However, my point was merely that this is something worth remembering for critics of the US. Whether or in what sense they were “first” is not that important in this context.

  • Cynthia

    It sounds as though the Democratic Party has carelessly spun-off a senatorial breed of Blue Dog Democrats: a vicious breed that ought to be ejected from the premises of the US congress.

  • bemused

    fh, I agree the words and the intent behind them is very noble. But in the end one gets judged by ones actions, not words. When I first came here I had a perhaps naive/idealistic picture of of the US as a beacon of democracy and hope to the world. However, over the past few years that view has been gradually eroded by reality. One’s vote doesn’t even count if one doesn’t live in the right place, and then only if some sort of fraud is not being perpetrated. Whether one can run for office successfully is directly dependent on how much money one has. Don’t get me even started about the sorry state of the press. The population is largely ignorant about important issues affecting their country and the world. Non-citizens are not treated with much friendliness by the authorities – these days you are made to feel very unwelcome when you enter the country. Sorry if I sound very critical but its the voice of disillusionment speaking.

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  • Ann

    If facts are of any interest on this blog (and they so seldom are in political debate) Sean’s original post on the new law is factually incorrect in a very significant way.

    U.S. citizens are NOT subject to being tried by military commission. The law specifically defines the persons subject to trial by military tribunals as ALIEN unlawful enemy combatants (at Section 948c) and defines alien as a person who is not a citizen of the United States (at Section 948a).

    A lawful enemy combatant is not subject to trial by military tribunal either.

    Only an ALIEN UNLAWFUL ENEMY COMBATANT

  • Ann

    Oops! Last post was incomplete.

    Only an ALIEN UNLAWFUL ENEMY COMBATANT is subject to trial by military tribunal. Could Sean or one of the posters who is opposed to trying such indviduals by military tribunal make clear what their alternative would be? A criminal trial with full consitutional protections including taxpayer funded defense counsel, Miranda warnings upon capture, and full discovery of all intelligence upon which their capture was based?

    Sorry, folks. I don’t remember Lincoln, Wilson, FDR or Truman granting such rights, so why the Bush hatred for his failure to do so?

    And anyone who is offended by legislation attempting to define torture hasn’t read much legislation. The whole point of a law is to make as clear as possible what it applies to and what it doesn’t. You may think waterboarding or sleep deprivation is torture, even though I’ve heard both are used in training our own soldiers and new parents are routinely subjected to sleep deprivation, but not everyone would agree with you. A non-believer touching the Qu’ran with ungloved hands may be torture to some people, while forbidding it might be considered pandering to bigotry by others.

    As for the historical review devoted to addressing whether the United States is good or evil, or overall has acted for good more than for evil, or whatever: A lot of interesting points are being made, but I am reminded of discussions I have had with suicidal people. There’s a strong underlying premise that if parts of your life really suck, it’s not worth living. A lot of the arguments about Amercia’s problems seem more to be justifications for why it should not consider itself worth saving, especially if saving itself entails any unpleasantness.

    I guess I am one of those ignorant, stupid, fearful individuals who continue to support Bush. That’s because he’s President and he seems to be more interested in making war on Al Qaeda than on Walmart, and he seems to have a plausible though not guaranteed long-term strategy for diminishing their number and appeal to their co-religionists. I have plenty of complaints about how he’s done his job, but they are largely irrelevant because I don’t think the alternative I had in the last election, John Kerry, would have done as well, and there were, after all, only two choices.

    In the final analysis, there usually only are two choices – [metaphor alert] drown or come up for air. When people complain bitterly how the country is going to hell in a handbasket because Bush is engaging in the very mildest versions of actions FDR is still lauded for having taken to extremes, I can’t help thinking that drowning is only way we’ll satisfy some of them that we are pure enough. Much like the people who complain about how we squandered all of the world’s goodwill by going to war after 9-11. We could surely have kept that goodwill – if we’d kept on dying.

  • http://vacua.blgospot.com Jim Harrison

    Your guess is correct! You are one of those ignorant, stupid, fearful individuals who continue to support Bush.

    Value issues aside, support for the Bush agenda is based on a misunderstanding of the facts. The threat from terrorism is real but entirely managable–terrorism tends to be self limiting unless it wins the tacit support of its erswhile opponents. Bush would have to be nuts to allow a real victory over Islamic terrorism since his political fortunes absolutely depend upon scaring the wits out of the public. If his administration defeats terrorism, it will be by mistake. On the other hand, if grownups were in charge, the radicals in the Middle East would be marginalized in short order. What the heck do they have to offer to anybody?

  • Ann

    Jim Harrison has given us a good example of why Bush Derangement Syndrome seems a reasonable diagnosis for some people.

    The diagnostic criteria for this Syndrome seem to be:

    – the conviction that no intelligent, informed and rational person outside the Bush Administration could possibly agree with Bush, and that no person inside the Bush Administration holds any honest convictions on the matter of how to deal with terrorism if those convictions conform to Bush policies. In this sense, the Syndrome shares some features with paranoid personality disorder, although limited to the political context.

    - the belief that an assertion of opinion, such as the claim that “terrorism tends to be self-limiting unless it wins the support of its erswhile (sic) opponents,” if stated in strong enough terms and with enough contempt for skeptics, becomes a fact, and the belief that a prediction of the outcome of a policy has the same logical weight as a fact. The Syndrome therefore shares some of the characteristics of schizoid personality disorder, notably the tendency toward magical thinking;

    - a memory defect that prevents the sufferer from recognizing that President Bush’s last term expires in two years, and that therefore there is no rational basis for believing that Bush’s “political fortunes absolutely depend on scaring the wits out of the public.” Memory also appears to be affected in other areas, such as the belief that “if grown-ups were in charge the radicals in the Middle East would be marginalized in short order,” a belief that requires forgetting the history of the current threat since its beginnings in the late 1920s, as well as the history of other regimes such as the Nazis and the Communists, which also offered an overarching ideological framework, a sharp delineation between the pure adherents of the ideology and all others, and an exclusively utilitarian view of the individual human being.

    - in an environment where both available choices involve risks, a compulsive need to minimize to the point of insignificance the threats from one choice, “What the heck do they have to offer to anybody?” while exaggerating the threats from the other, Bush, precluding any rational analysis of the choices. Jim ought to understand one of the things that the Islamists have to offer, since he derives it from his own political beliefs, and that is a certain conviction of one’s superiority over other people who don’t share one’s views.

  • http://vacua.blgospot.com Jim Harrison

    Hey, there’s small glory in outstripping donkeys, but it’s a living.

  • Sam

    i thought (R) Sen. John McCain voted against the bill too. maybe i just heard wrong from somebody.

  • Hafeez

    Most of us do not know the history of economics of mankind…Creation of wealth,private property and all value productions were the source of HUMAN LABOUR.The origin of all kind of prosperity was human labour and still it is the same source…Here the criminal Philosopers like PLATO-ARISTOTLE changed the future real human path by Criminaly creating slavery as just and moral.Human beings the inocents were braught in as slaves by the criminal consciousness to loot the labour of slaves and to deprive them all kind of rights as human being.These were the seeds of future crimes,wars for more human labour,to get more prosperity for more crimes and more wars.The road was set for the criminals to rule the world by criminal force.We will never be able to live like HUMAN BEINGS with out wars with human rights unless we removes the criminality of slavery…HR

  • http://www.amara.com/ Amara

    Keith Olberman on The Beginning of the End of America. Frighteningly good commentary about this topic.

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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .

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