demoralize, v|diˈmôrəˌlīz|

by Kieran Healy on September 28, 2006

1. trans. To corrupt the morals or moral principles of; to deprave or pervert morally.

The Senate approved legislation this evening governing the interrogation and trials of terror suspects, establishing far-reaching new rules in the definition of who may be held and how they should be treated. … The legislation … strips detainees of a habeas corpus right to challenge their detentions in court and broadly defines what kind of treatment of detainees is prosecutable as a war crime. … The legislation broadens the definition of enemy combatants beyond the traditional definition used in wartime, to include noncitizens living legally in this country as well as those in foreign countries, and also anyone determined to be an enemy combatant under criteria defined by the president or secretary of defense. It strips detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, of a habeas right to challenge their detention in court, relying instead on procedures known as combatant status review trials, which have looser rules of evidence than the courts. It allows evidence seized in this country or abroad to be taken without a search warrant.

b. To deprive (a thing) of its moral influence or effectiveness.

Here’s what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans’ fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws – while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser. … Americans of the future won’t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration. They’ll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

2. To lower or destroy the power of bearing up against dangers, fatigue, or difficulties (F. le moral: see MORALE). Hence demoralized, demoralizing ppl. adjs.

But this detainee bill was, I think, the ballgame. Partly for what it is: in addition to formally disavowing all that was best about our legal system and ideals in the name of “a little security,” it amounts to the Burying the Executive’s Mistakes Act of 2006. With “aggressive interrogations” and without habeas corpus, the law means never having to say you’re sorry if you happen to be President when it passes. The ruling party’s junior auxiliary in the House has already added language broadening those subject to the bill to include US citizens providing “material support” to the nation’s enemies. (On one plausible readong, anyone a military tribunal declares an “unlawful enemy combatant” by any criterion it chooses to apply.) One does not have to read too far into the ruling party’s partisan media to understand that, for them, “the traitors” include all but the tamest members of the nominal opposition. … But the other reason the detainee bill was the Democratic Party’s last shot at remaining a credible force in its own right is what its (non)response to the bill represents: forfeiting the chance to present any meaningful divergence from the precepts of the national-security state as defined by the Republicans. It is now official United States policy that our security depends on hiding people away and torturing them, said decision to be made in secret without review. This is what the United States says about who we are.
Democrats have been voting for stuff I dislike for as long as I’ve been voting for Democrats, but I have to say that their poll-tested cowardice on the detainee bill over the past couple of weeks has been about as bad as anything I can remember. And what makes it worse is that not only is it craven, it’s probably politically stupid as well.

By the way, “demoralize” in the sense of “to deprive a thing of its moral influence” or “to corrupt the moral principles of” does not mean “to transform life as we know it into an ongoing Orwellian nightmare where Americans are rounded up and ‘disappeared’ in huge numbers.” Neither does it mean “to rip the fabric of everyday life to shreds so that nothing is as it was before.” A compromise here, an exception there. What was the country supposed to be about, again? How was it supposed to differ from others? Remind me, someone.

{ 71 comments }

1

Daniel Nexon 09.29.06 at 12:12 am

George Bush in 2004:

Today, on United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the United States reaffirms its commitment to the worldwide elimination of torture. The non-negotiable demands of human dignity must be protected without reference to race, gender, creed, or nationality. Freedom from torture is an inalienable human right, and we are committed to building a world where human rights are respected and protected by the rule of law.

To help fulfill this commitment, the United States has joined 135 other nations in ratifying the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. America stands against and will not tolerate torture. We will investigate and prosecute all acts of torture and undertake to prevent other cruel and unusual punishment in all territory under our jurisdiction. American personnel are required to comply with all U.S. laws, including the United States Constitution, Federal statutes, including statutes prohibiting torture, and our treaty obligations with respect to the treatment of all detainees.

The United States also remains steadfastly committed to upholding the Geneva Conventions, which have been the bedrock of protection in armed conflict for more than 50 years. These Conventions provide important protections designed to reduce human suffering in armed conflict. We expect other nations to treat our service members and civilians in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. Our Armed Forces are committed to complying with them and to holding accountable those in our military who do not.

2

a 09.29.06 at 12:21 am

Now I can see there is a reason to the ICC. Will the rest of the world show enough backbone and indict Bush? Or will it simply say how shocking it is of the Americans to do this and do nothing themselves?

3

Seth Finkelstein 09.29.06 at 12:36 am

I wonder what Alan Dershowitz has to say now :-(

4

Raven 09.29.06 at 12:38 am

Let’s remember to distinguish between the guilty and the innocent in this debacle. Not everyone collaborated, just as (sadly) not everyone resisted.

“The Democrats” in Congress can’t be lumped together on this one… although nearly all “the Republicans” can be.

34 House Democrats voted for torture and against habeas corpus; another 7 didn’t vote; but 160 voted to oppose this evil bill, despite Bush’s accusations of appeasement — and these holdouts deserve our continued support. (7 Republicans and 1 Independent joined them in holding out.)

Likewise, 12 Senate Democrats voted for the torture bill, but 32 voted against (along with Independent Jeffords and one lone Republican, RI’s Chafee).

Remember which of your elected officials voted which way, especially at the next primary.

House Roll Call.   Senate Roll Call.

Meanwhile, let’s get the majority control out of Republicans’ hands this election.
 

5

minerva 09.29.06 at 12:58 am

I can’t believe it. I know it happened but I still can’t believe it. Strange to discover that little bit of hope left in a dusty corner of your mind. I can’t believe this really happened. Is it time yet for us to renounce our citizenship or what do we do?

6

Jack 09.29.06 at 1:10 am

While I agree with raven that it’s important to carefully distinguish who is to blame here, I don’t think the roll-call vote is the best measure. Clearly, those who voted for the bill are pretty bad, and those Democrats deserve strong primary challenges in the Lieberman mode.

But even those who voted against the bill may be complicit. Did they come out against it when it could have made a difference last week? Did they refuse to filibuster when Reid queried each Democrat a few days ago (so he says)? Did they temper their actions in other ways based on the polling, reserving their speeches until it could make no difference? “We tried” is Reid’s apology. Well, failure is another pretty good reason to throw someone out of office.

Craven, cowardly failure is an even better reason.

7

abb1 09.29.06 at 2:37 am

…but 160 voted to oppose this evil bill, despite Bush’s accusations of appeasement—and these holdouts deserve our continued support.

Don’t you think this might be an indication of how confident they are of being reelected, rather than anything else? They are all professional politicians, you know.

Don’t blame politicians, blame the public. Do you expect to see millions protesting, students taking over campuses, a general strike? Of course not.

8

thetruth 09.29.06 at 3:19 am

Don’t you think this might be an indication of how confident they are of being reelected, rather than anything else?

Check the roll call. Republicans are in favor of facism, Democrats opposed. Given that Republicans have been talking about the fact a lot of them are going to get booted out, it would seem the answer to your question is, “No”.

Do you expect to see millions protesting, students taking over campuses, a general strike? Of course not

OK, you start. Pick a day, I’ll ditch work if you will. Maybe we would be the only two people in the United States of America pissed enough to ditch work for a day. Maybe we could find a third, and work from there.

I’m game.

9

abb1 09.29.06 at 3:41 am

Republicans are in favor of facism, Democrats opposed.

Republican constituency is in favor of facism. And also some Democratic constituency, in New Jersey for example. This is not just a vote, this is a special moment-of-truth 6-weeks-before-the-elections vote.

10

Brendan 09.29.06 at 4:41 am

Given that the US has just legalised torture and ‘disappearances’ (essentially) and what with Iraq now being a shining beacon of democracy, just this mean that Iraq can now invade the US to liberate its people?

11

Nick L 09.29.06 at 4:43 am

OK, you start. Pick a day, I’ll ditch work if you will. Maybe we would be the only two people in the United States of America pissed enough to ditch work for a day. Maybe we could find a third, and work from there.

That’s pretty facetious, plenty of general strikes have been called and succeeded in toppling governments when the populace has been motivated enough. But at the same time, I don’t think abb1′s implication that the responsibility falls on the American people is completely true, there are strucutral factors as well. Unions are weak in the US, largely thanks to the race cleavage and McCarthyist policies of the ruling class.

12

abb1 09.29.06 at 5:05 am

…when the populace has been motivated enough.

Look, they the populace is for this law. This is not something they passed in the middle of the night hoping that no one will notice; on the contrary, they passed this law to be able to go to their districts and brag about it. Well, except a few places like most of New England and California.

13

robert the red 09.29.06 at 5:34 am

This is the formal end of the American Res Publica, and the formal start of our Principate. The President is now the ‘elected’ Emperor.

14

jonst 09.29.06 at 5:36 am

Those 34 Democratic Sen’s that voted against the bill can do something. They can vote to dump their craven, and in this case, stupid, leadership, for agreeing not to filibuster. They can do that themselves. They have the votes. They won’t.

15

bi 09.29.06 at 5:47 am

Wait, I thought the 34 Democratic Senators voted for the bill. (Or can someone just boot them out? Please?)

16

abb1 09.29.06 at 6:07 am

Well, eventually this bill will be challenged in the SC, and then we will find out to what extent the US really is a liberal democracy.

17

Richard Cownie 09.29.06 at 6:20 am

“craven, and in this case, stupid, leadership, for agreeing not to filibuster.”

You need 41 votes to mount a successful filibuster.
Obviously, Reid counted the votes and knew he
couldn’t succeed. Leadership is partly about
choosing fights you can win: so don’t blame
the leadership, blame only those who voted the
wrong way.

18

Steve LaBonne 09.29.06 at 7:21 am

As usual these days, only The Onion can really do justice to the news.

19

glenn 09.29.06 at 7:25 am

Shame, shame, shame.

20

Steve LaBonne 09.29.06 at 7:34 am

With apologies to Phillip Larkin:

Next year we shall be living in a country
That told its soldiers it’s all right to torture.
The statues will be standing in the same
Tree-muffled squares, and look nearly the same.
Our children will not know it’s a different country.
All we can hope to leave them now is dishonor.

21

John Emerson 09.29.06 at 7:37 am

Leadership is partly about choosing fights you can win.

That’s a truism but the wrong thing to say right now.

In his rise to power Gingrich picked many fights he lost, and then used the votes to smear the Democrats with. “Democrats pass bill raising your taxes!” etc. He was playing an aggressive, forward-looking game.

The Congressional Democrats have been playing a cautious, defensive, short-term game forever.

An unsuccessful filibuster, especially if combined with other stuff, could serve to focus attention on what’s really happening.

The Bush claque is enormous though, and the media seem to have been disabled. The significance of this bill will not be apparent to someone who looks at what comes up on Google news — coverage is bland and uninformative.

22

Bob N. 09.29.06 at 8:30 am

You think a Democratic Senate will help? It didn’t when the Iraq war resolution passed. And getting control this time will require victories by Brown (OH), Ford (TN), and Menendez (NJ). Look up their votes and weep.

23

Steve LaBonne 09.29.06 at 8:42 am

That’s why I’m just not able to get excited by the prospect of narrow Democratic majorities after this fall’s elections. The practical consequences will be disappointing and may even set the party up for defeat in 2008 when it matters more.

I did not know about Sherrod Brown’s vote until your message. As an Ohioan, it makes me very angry and may even make me think about abstaining in this fall’s Senate election. What in the hell was he thinking?

24

Brendan 09.29.06 at 9:18 am

‘That’s why I’m just not able to get excited by the prospect of narrow Democratic majorities after this fall’s elections.’

And narrow is all they will be. After all, we now have the exciting new ‘facts on the ground’ of gerrymandering; the satirically titled ‘voting machines’ (or ‘not voting machines’ as they should be called), the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of voter registries, and the numerous other fun and games that Republicans plan to use to hold on to power indefinitely. And all this presupposes that Democrats actually want power (dubious) and that even if somehow it does fall into their lap that they will do anything with it except what the Republicans would have done (except maybe slightly slower).

So….what’s the point?

25

Thomas 09.29.06 at 9:53 am

I guess I never understood the country to be about our treatment of enemy combatants. I certainly never understood the country to be about the habeas rights of enemy combatants.

26

eweininger 09.29.06 at 9:57 am

Dan Nexon–that link is really stunning. I’m sure it’s just a PR department doc of the sort that executives have produced constantly for ceremonial occasions, and which almost always go entirely unnoticed. But still.

I don’t suppose our Unitary leader ever actually uttered those words? On tape?

27

Steve LaBonne 09.29.06 at 9:57 am

I guess you need to read the Geneva Conventions, and the news reports about how people actually ended up in Gitmo (hint: in many cases it had little to do with being “combatants” by any conceivable definition), rather than the Wit and Wisdom of Emperor George.

28

Katherine 09.29.06 at 10:02 am

Thomas’s argument is, essentially:

“they’re enemy combatants, so they don’t deserve a hearing to determine that they’re enemy combatants.”

It’s such a circular, bad argument, that it’s amazing it’s been successful for so long.

They aren’t actually all enemy combatants, of course.

29

Michael Dietz 09.29.06 at 10:04 am

Leadership is partly about choosing fights you can win.

Bullshit. There’s no trick to fighting when you know you’re going to win. Fighting when you know you’re likely to lose, and fighting anyway because there’s something more at stake, is leadership.

The Democrats have none of it, anywhere in their ranks.

30

abb1 09.29.06 at 10:29 am

I guess I never understood the country to be about our treatment of enemy combatants.

Well, the new law defines them as “a person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents“, so clearly “enemy of the people” would be a more correct term than “enemy combatant“.

31

Anderson 09.29.06 at 10:39 am

Look, they the populace is for this law.

Um, no. The populace has no idea what’s in this law, or what we’ve done to our prisoners, or why it’s a bad idea to strip habeas.

The Dems claim to know these things, but they seem to think it’s the media’s job to tell the public. And, as that wonderful example of the different Newsweek covers from around the world shows, the U.S. media says “not my job, buddy.”

If the average American were told, “the law says you can’t torture, but then it says that only the president gets to decide what torture is, and here’s what the president says ISN’T torture, and here are descriptions by people who’ve had those things done to them” — well, I think that would be pretty easy.

But the Dems have other, higher priorities.

32

John Emerson 09.29.06 at 10:48 am

Under the new law people, including American citizens, can be declared enemy combatants by fiat.

The Geneva treatment of enemy combatatants, while not American in origin, has been part of the international world America is part of, and it’s been a generally good thing. Abolishing it puts American soldiers at risk of similiar treatment and destroys our gounds for protest. The premise is, I think, that America is powerful enough to win all wars, and without firends and allies either.

There’s an additional level with the declaration that some enemies are “illegal combatants” with no rights at all.

33

mpowell 09.29.06 at 11:02 am

Well, as disappointing as this is, I still have hopes for a Democratic majority soon. If you look at the vote totals, all of the democrats in the Senate and the House could have voted for this bill and they still would have passed.

When a bill is going to pass anyways, politicians will frequently vote for the bill if they think it will help them politically. On an issue as important as this, its disappointing, but that’s politics.

This bill would not have passed w/ a democratic legislative majority, or even a larger minority. I still think the dems can take back both the presidency and the legislature and if they do (or even if McCain is pres), this odious legislation can be repealed.

34

Dan Simon 09.29.06 at 11:06 am

Okay, Kieran, I’m not going to debate the moral aspects of this issue with you, since the rhetoric you quote here makes it plain that our moral positions are simply too far apart for such a debate to be productive. But I would like to understand your position better in pragmatic terms.

What, exactly, do you see happening in the future as a result of the passage of this bill? Do you envision some kind of slow (or rapid) descent into totalitarianism in America, with torture and “disappearances” being used to crush political dissent? A Japanese-internment-style roundup of Muslim Americans? An “American Foreign Legion” rampaging across the world, torturing and murdering civilians with impunity? All of the above? Or is the type and scale of activity we’ve already seen–a few hundred detainees at Guantanamo, a few dozen “extraordinary renditions”–already enough, in your eyes, to constitute a catastrophe for the republic?

35

John Emerson 09.29.06 at 11:18 am

For Christ’s sake, Simon, nobody sees “exactly” what will happen. Are you a complete idiot? There’s quite a large range of possibilities arising from this and other precedents, and some of them are very bad. Do you completely reject the concept of “bad precedent”?

What **can** happen now is that the President of the US and perhaps others can declare an American citizen living in the US an illegal enemy combatant, arrest them and hold them forever with no legal process, and torture them within certain very wide limits. There used to be mechanisms in place to keep this from happen, and in several steps the Bush administration has eliminated all of them.

Historically these things are what are called star chamber proceeding, bills of attainder, and violations of habeas corpus. They’re exactly what the American Revolution was all about. They’re’ the exactly the kind of thing that several hundred years of common law and liberal politics have tried to eliminate. And now they’re all back.

I really think that you are imposing on our civility by playing dumb like that, and I really hope that you are, in fact, so ignorant and stupid that you don’t understand what the words you are saying mean, because if you aren’t, you’re far worse than ignorant and stupid.

36

Barry 09.29.06 at 11:21 am

Thomas, STFU. This has been hashed over enough that there are no good-faith supporters, just deluded ones. Please educate yourself, and come back then.

Dan Simon, it’d be nice if you’d also STFU. You know the reasons why this is a bad idea; it’s certainly not our duty to explain them to people like you. People who are salvageable, maybe.

37

marcel 09.29.06 at 11:33 am

thetruth wrote: Do you expect to see millions protesting, students taking over campuses, a general strike? Of course not

OK, you start. Pick a day, I’ll ditch work if you will. Maybe we would be the only two people in the United States of America pissed enough to ditch work for a day. Maybe we could find a third, and work from there.

I’m game.

You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he’s really sick and they won’t take him. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they’re both faggots and they won’t take either of them. And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. They may think it’s an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. And friends they may thinks it’s a movement.

And that’s what it is , the Alice’s Restaurant Anti-Massacre Movement, and all you got to do to join is sing it the next time it come’s around on the guitar.

38

Tim McG 09.29.06 at 11:36 am

Let’s step back and try to imagine that the people who voted for this bill are not craven evildoers, but good people who made a mistake.

I, and I suspect most of you, do not think it is acceptable for even one person to be tortured in American custody. I, and I suspect again most readers here, do not think it is acceptable to hold individuals without something approximating a modern judicial proceeding (public notice, right to confront accusers and see evidence, etc.).

But there are people (Dan Simon?) who say, “Listen, I know these are bad things, but I’m willing to accept those losses because I know that they will be minimal. Yes, there may be twenty or fifty people in secret custody who are completely innocent. Ten or fifteen people who are guilty of something will be tortured. But I’m willing to accept that, in order to be able to imprison people who are actually intent on doing us harm.”

I think there are several strong arguments against them but ‘You are “ignorant and stupid”‘ is not one of them.

39

John Emerson 09.29.06 at 11:40 am

He’s ignorant and stupid, or worse. He cannot know that consequences will be minimal. He has no way of knowing that. Nobody does.

If I took him at face value I’d say that his thinking wishfully, but he’s got enough of a tarck record around here that I’m pretty sure that it’s worse than that.

The assumption of good will is at the beginning. You don’t have to keep assuming it forewver.

40

Barry 09.29.06 at 11:48 am

tim, I didn’t call anybody stupid, and resent that. I called people deluded or evil, and I stand behind that. And after the hashing and rehasing of these issues, people who pop with with such arguments don’t get the benefit of the doubt.

Thanks for joining in, John. Dan has indeed lost any right to an assumption of innocence. There is a standard right-wing piece of rhetoric, to pretend that there is no history behind the current debate, to pretend that nobody has laid out the reasons before, to pretend that we haven’t seen such things happen in other countries (or our own), and to ignore the history of individuals.

41

Martin James 09.29.06 at 12:00 pm

Welcome to the counter-reformation.

I really think the roots of this politicaly lie in past Supreme Court decisions prohibiting the death penalty.

I agree that the rule of law has taken a step back but here is how I see the political logic.

You have a constitution that contains a term such as cruel and unusual. Average public opinion changes as to what cruel and unusual means, the law is enforced differently over time to the same circumstances based on the new understanding of cruel, those whose opinion did not shift with the prevailing tide feel shafted that the rule of law is not being upheld , vow to get in power, when they get in power they don’t trust the law and become increasingly corrupt in substituting discretion for law.

If you ask the average Republican voter why they oppose international standards of law, one prime reason is that they think it is decadent to oppose the death penalty the way the Euros do.

Only the future gets to tell who took leave of their cultural senses, the anti-torture moralists or the authoritarian brutalists.

42

Brendan 09.29.06 at 12:05 pm

It is not entirely by the by that even Dan Simon’s description of the current situation is nonsense. There are not ‘a few hundred’ detainees in the American system (am I allowed to say ‘gulag’?). No one really knows by definition how many people are being held, but 14000 is a reasonable guess. (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060917/ap_on_re_mi_ea/in_american_hands)
It is also highly unlikely that the US will soon be like Hitler’s Germany (for reasons I wrote about in a previous post that has mysteriously not appeared yet) but something not unlike Putin’s Russia (with a neutered pseudo democracy, a cowed and beaten press, rampant and massive illegality pursued by the ‘governing class’ and the real decisions carried out in smoke filled back rooms) seems plausible (Berlusconi tried something similiar and might still succeed in the long run).

43

Michael Dietz 09.29.06 at 12:19 pm

It is also highly unlikely that the US will soon be like Hitler’s Germany, but something not unlike Putin’s Russia seems plausible …

Or something closer to home like, say, Pinochet’s Chile. Not soon, perhaps, maybe (God willing) never, but it’s not not a live possibility at this point. Let’s not forget that we have currently in the government men who funded and trained and otherwise approved of death squads in Guatemala and Honduras during the Reagan era. Who believe the dirty wars in South America in the ’70s and after to have been glorious chapters in the history of freedom.

The Congress has just approved all the statutory foundation required for a police state. Does that sound paranoid? Consider the relevant history. And imagine what happens, say, should the economy turn to crap and working people start inconveniently acquiring a leadership …

44

Ginger Yellow 09.29.06 at 12:25 pm

“Listen, I know these are bad things, but I’m willing to accept those losses because I know that they will be minimal. Yes, there may be twenty or fifty people in secret custody who are completely innocent. Ten or fifteen people who are guilty of something will be tortured. But I’m willing to accept that, in order to be able to imprison people who are actually intent on doing us harm.”

If that’s really Dan Simon’s position then he’s not ignorant or stupid. He’s profoundly immoral and cowardly. He’s willing to throw dozens of innocent people to the winds, to have them tortured and held indefinitely, so that he can be (possibly, and given the inutility of torture in the vast majority of circumstances and the backlash we’ve already seen against Abu Ghraib etc,almost certainly not) marginally safer. That is precisely the act of a coward.

45

fifi 09.29.06 at 12:26 pm

Let’s remember to distinguish between the guilty and the innocent in this debacle. Not everyone collaborated,

A few good apples.

46

jen r 09.29.06 at 12:43 pm

Dan, it was already a catastrophe for the republic that we elected (more or less) leaders who *want* the power to imprison people indefinitely without trial and torture them. That it is now legal for them to do so just drags our country further from the ideals it had already largely abandoned.

47

abb1 09.29.06 at 12:53 pm

It’s not necessarily stupid or evil, it’s just a different political system, like, say, Rome before and after Julius Caesar. And why not? Maybe it is more suitable for the current geopolitical circumstances and for our Historical Mission to install Liberty and Democracy everywhere and make the world safe for Israel.

It’s a hard mission as it is, but it’s next to impossible when every little thing has to be endlessly discussed by the Senators and then double-guessed by a bunch of judges. No, really.

48

John Emerson 09.29.06 at 1:02 pm

Hm, Dan is silent. Any way to keep him that way?

Yes, I am a Stalinist, except on the question if Isreal, on which I am a Nazi.

49

John Emerson 09.29.06 at 1:02 pm

of / Israel

50

jet 09.29.06 at 1:35 pm

The rhetoric here is on par with the anarchists of the turn of last century and would play with the general public about as well. When claiming that this will endanger US soldiers you might want to check if US soldiers are even protected by the Geneva Conventions? Senator McCain might be able to come up with an antedote or two.

I wonder if there has ever been a time when a small minority changed the opinion of the much larger majority by calling them stupid amoral barbarians that should STFU? Keep up the good work, for what is an echo chamber without echoes?

And John Emerson, calling yourself a Nazi on the issue of Israel has to be some kind of new low, even when reading through Indymedia.

51

Martin James 09.29.06 at 1:42 pm

I’m confused about what American ideals we are talking about. My grandmother was an idealistic american who lived for some time in Japan and had many Japanese friends. She also lived near an internment camp during WWII and to her the idea that the American internment of the Japanese was somehow “wrong” was bizarre.

It seems to be having it both ways to say what the USA did in WWII (including Hiroshima) was wrong AND that similar things are against the traditions of the country.

Americans have long (and to many a proud) tradition of harsh treatment of enemies (even perceived enemies).

To claim the moral high ground progessives bear the burden of calling people’s grandmothers immoral.

The political problem is that the “STFU people” like Barry have better judgment than Grandma.

52

Ginger Yellow 09.29.06 at 1:50 pm

I’m perfectly willingto call your grandmother immoral. I’m willingto call my grandfather immoral, as he supported internment.

I’d also point out that the issue wasn’t so much internment of Japanese people, but internment of Japanese Americans. And I’m sure you’re aware that just because there’s a severe discrepancy between what America is supposed to stand for and what it has done, that doesn’t make what America stands for any less important. It still means something to say that slavery or monarchy are un-American, even if history and the present political situation would indicate otherwise.

And Jet, for Christ’s sake, I know irony gets lost on the internet, but anyone can see that John’s taking the piss.

53

John Emerson 09.29.06 at 1:57 pm

Jet performs up to expectations.

54

Walt 09.29.06 at 2:02 pm

We’re beyond the point of convincing people. All we have left is to bear witness. If you do not oppose this bill, you are an amoral monster. Full stop. You have dishonored America. Dishonor is a stain that never washes away.

55

John Emerson 09.29.06 at 2:06 pm

Jet and Simon, in particular, are people not worth bothering to try to convince. To the extent that they are idiots, it’s by choice. Were I to talk to a neighbor who was legitimately uninformed, I would use persuasion. But not with certified moron shits.

56

Daniel Nexon 09.29.06 at 2:06 pm

“What, exactly, do you see happening in the future as a result of the passage of this bill? Do you envision some kind of slow (or rapid) descent into totalitarianism in America, with torture and “disappearances” being used to crush political dissent?”

The gist of my response to this sort of argument: does it matter if we enact tyrannical laws that leave many of us untouched?

The inquisition was no less an affront to humanity because its victims were overwhelmingly conversos.

When Louis XIV promulgated the Edict of Fontainenbleau, only a tiny minority of the French population suffered direct repression. If you weren’t of Japanese ancestry, you lost no rights due to Roosevelt’s internment policy.

Heck, even in Nazi Germany the majority of people were safe from prosecution if the quietly went about their lives.

Rights, duties, ethical imperatives… What value do these hold for us if we sacrifice them for a little safety and say “who cares” when we remain unaffected? We show our true natures when doing the right thing is hard: when we uphold rights for others at some risk, and little gain, to ourselves.

57

Martin James 09.29.06 at 2:07 pm

Ginger Yellow,

I’m with you, I’m just arguing that its not self-evident that I should be with you.

For example, I think it is disgustingly unamerican to fawn over British (or any other ) royalty. But I can’t expect the Brits to see it as self-evident that a token monarchy is a political evil.

Its just disingenous to think that the Oakland Raider motto “Just win, baby” isn’t as American as it gets. And that to this side of the american psyche, to see that in Iraq we are playing the role of the Revolutionary British and wearing uniforms and saying “no fair” to the tactics of the underdog home team is disappointing enough to support some bad laws to get back an edge.

Misguided or not that’s just the way it is in America.

58

ingrid robeyns 09.29.06 at 2:33 pm

What should those who don’t have voting rights in the US do? The only thing I can think of, is to join Amnesty International, and write (more) letters, engage (more) in political activism, donate money to human rights organisations. Any more effective suggestions?

59

Steve LaBonne 09.29.06 at 2:36 pm

Ingrid, as a disgusted American I wish I knew what to say. Sadly, both BushCo and its deluded supporters take criticism from human rights organizations as a badge of “honor”.

60

SamChevre 09.29.06 at 3:45 pm

Ingrid,

You ask, “What should those who don’t have voting rights in the US do?”

My suggestion would be, See if your own country has anything similar, and try to change it. The less cover the US has internationally, the likelier this policy is to be rejected in the long run.

(And no, I’m not joking; the French and Italian police have far more power to detain people arbitrarily than any US police force, even with this change; the British MI5 has far more surveillance capacity than any US organization. I don’t know about the Netherlands and Belgium.)

61

ingrid robeyns 09.29.06 at 4:04 pm

It’s really depressing that the US takes critcism from human rights organisations as a badge of “honor”; the implication seems to be that as an outsider one cannot do anything to defend basic human rights.

I’m going to check with some friends who are teaching law, but I really doubt that there are similar human rights violations legal in the Netherlands and Belgium. I’m happy to be corrected if I’m wrong. Surely incidents happen from time to time, but then the offenders are put to court, and it’s a violation of a law. I don’t know anything about France (re: police rights), though when I lived in England things happened that I thought were unimaginable in the EU. Nevertheless, the difference with the USA is that the USA has political power that none of these other countries has; and seems increasingly to care less about what the European heads of state think or say.

62

lemuel pitkin 09.29.06 at 4:21 pm

Steve Labonne writes:

That’s why I’m just not able to get excited by the prospect of narrow Democratic majorities after this fall’s elections.

Then I guess you’re not that bothered by toture and indefinite detention on the executive’s say-so? Because with a narrow Democratic majority, this law would not have passed.

63

Steve LaBonne 09.29.06 at 4:43 pm

I’d like to believe that, Lemuel, but in fact I think the prospect of actually defeating the bill, and therefore presenting an even bigger target to the wingnuts, would simply have produced even more Democratic defectors.

64

belledame222 09.29.06 at 5:06 pm

I guess it would’ve depended on the Democrats in question.

goddam but a bunch of them are a sorry-ass lot.

ou sont les Wellstones d’antan?

65

Katherine 09.29.06 at 6:28 pm

We’ve got Leahy and Feingold.

66

lemuel pitkin 09.30.06 at 2:51 am

It’s not about numbers on this vote, Steve, it’s about the leadership. With a Democratic Senate, this bill would never have made it out of committee. There would have been no vote for individuals to defect on.

67

Steve LaBonne 09.30.06 at 8:38 am

Well, again, you have a lot more faith in these people than I do. I think they would have “negotiated” a “compromise” at least 90% as bad as this one. There’s no way they’d kill it altogether right before an election, they just don’t have the stones for that.

68

John Emerson 09.30.06 at 1:07 pm

I agree with Lemuel. Not so much because I defend the Democrats, but because they’re all we’ve got. If the Democrats fail, there’s no hope.

My first impulse was the same as Steve’s, but talk about punishing the Democrats is silly. If they’re really no good at all, forget them. It’s time to flee the country. Wasting time punishing the Democrats just endangers you.

69

C. L. Ball 09.30.06 at 3:50 pm

#56 gets it right. Few people were detained under material witness warrants or on alleged immigration violations or (non-violations, like Hady Hassan Omar and Dr. Al Bader Al-Hazmi). That doesn’t make it any less wrong.

S.3930 is a travesty: it weakened the enforcement of the Geneva conventions in US law (and the norms that creates); legitimates beatings and any physical or mental pain not considered “severe” and effectively strips away a right against self-incrimination as a norm of international behavior by allowing coerced testimony into evidence. Moreover, as Bruce Ackerman points out, it has legally recognized the “unlawful enemy combatant” construct as “a person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents” — and this applies to US citizens as well as aliens. Did anyone lend a copy of On War to an Uzbek, say? Well, our hypothetical book borrower happens to be rebel agaist the regime, you just provided material support to hostilities against a US co-belligerent. The president can declare you an enemy combatant and detainee you indefinitely.

On 28 Sep. 2006, America became ‘Amerika’ by an act of Congress.

70

roy belmont 09.30.06 at 11:04 pm

“Fighting when you know you’re likely to lose, and fighting anyway because there’s something more at stake…”

“If they’re really no good at all, forget them. It’s time to flee the country.”

Brigadier General John Stark August 16, 1777:

“There are your enemies, the Red Coats and the Tories. They are ours, or this night Molly Stark sleeps a widow!”

and again in 1809, age 81:

“Live free or die. Death is not the worst of evils.”

71

abb1 10.01.06 at 8:14 am

Live free or die? C’mon. You, guys, clearly overconcentrate on the tragic and thus vastly underappreciate farcical aspects of this thing.

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