Balkinization  

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Karpinski: Rumsfeld Approved Coercive Interrogation Methods

JB

Reuters reports that former General Janis Karpinski (later demoted to colonel because of her own actions arising out of the Abu Ghraib scandal) has now offered to testify against Donald Rumsfeld:
Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized the mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the prison's former U.S. commander said in an interview on Saturday.

Former U.S. Army Brigadier General Janis Karpinski told Spain's El Pais newspaper she had seen a letter apparently signed by Rumsfeld which allowed civilian contractors to use techniques such as sleep deprivation during interrogation.

Karpinski, who ran the prison until early 2004, said she saw a memorandum signed by Rumsfeld detailing the use of harsh interrogation methods.

"The handwritten signature was above his printed name and in the same handwriting in the margin was written: "Make sure this is accomplished"," she told Saturday's El Pais.

"The methods consisted of making prisoners stand for long periods, sleep deprivation ... playing music at full volume, having to sit in uncomfortably ... Rumsfeld authorized these specific techniques."
. . .
Rumsfeld also authorized the army to break the Geneva Conventions by not registering all prisoners, Karpinski said, explaining how she raised the case of one unregistered inmate with an aide to former U.S. commander Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez.

"We received a message from the Pentagon, from the Defense Secretary, ordering us to hold the prisoner without registering him. I now know this happened on various occasions."

Karpinski said last week she was ready to testify against Rumsfeld, if a suit filed by civil rights groups in Germany over Abu Ghraib led to a full investigation.


These are not new allegations by Karpinski: She made similar ones last year.

We've long assumed that prisoner abuse in Iraq occured in part because the Pentagon entrusted detainee operations in Iraq to commanders who promultaged confusing and conflicting rules that were not consistent with Geneva. These confusions, in turn, were produced in part because the Pentagon had created special rules for the CIA and certain military Special Forces personnel. These ideas about what was appropriate migrated from the CIA and Special Forces rules to Iraq, Gitmo, and elsewhere. (See Marty's summary from August 2005). Although the United States' official positions were that (1) Geneva applied to the conflict in Iraq; and (2) U.S. forces complied with Geneva, Geneva was often flouted, particularly in Iraq.

Karpinski's statement is important because it suggests that there was more than mere confusion at stake, that this was not the accidental migration of CIA/Special Forces techniques to ordinary military detentions in Iraq. She is asserting that Rumsfeld deliberately approved techniques for Iraq that violated Geneva (and hence the War Crimes Act).

To be sure, the Military Commissions Act attempts to hold U.S. personnel harmless for what they did during this period. But whether or not this insulates Rumsfeld from prosecutions in the United States under the federal War Crimes Act (or other federal statutes), it does not insulate him from prosecution in other countries for violations of international law.



Comments:

This is a question out of ignorance, not a challenge to the post.

The article begins stating "Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized the mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq..."

It then lists the following methods:
- making prisoners stand for long periods
-sleep deprivation
-playing music at full volume -having to sit in uncomfortably (sic)

Are these methods definitively categorized as "mistreatment"? Is there some honest debate about this?

Your insight is appreciated.
 

CMclean: In theory -- and even according to the Administration's own assertions -- the prisoners in Iraq were entitled to the full protection for POWs (or civilians) under the Geneva Conventions. If so, they could not be coerced at all. And so, yes, under Geneva, those techniques are "mistreatment." (The question would be a bit more complicated -- but only a bit -- for prisoners, such as those in GTMO, who may "only" be protected by Common Article 3. Even then, these techniques certainly *can* rise to the level of prohibited cruel or inhumane treatment. But in Iraq, the question ought to have been simple.)

For further speculation on how the Administration could have approved this while at the same time professing that Geneva applied in Iraq, see my post to which Jack helpfully linked.
 

I am so tired of the press offering bald faced lies as "reporting" of the news. This Reuters hit piece is a perfect example of the technique. Let us see how it is done....

Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized the mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the prison's former U.S. commander said in an interview on Saturday.

This opening paragraph is a complete lie which is not supported by the following reporting.

Former U.S. Army Brigadier General Janis Karpinski told Spain's El Pais newspaper she had seen a letter apparently signed by Rumsfeld which allowed civilian contractors to use techniques such as sleep deprivation during interrogation.

Karpinski commanded a reserve MP brigade at Abu Ghraib, not civilian contractors. This alleged letter is not an order authorizing Karpinski to do anything.

Moreover, the coercive techniques allegedly authorized in this letter are not the sexual abuses perpetrated by several soldiers under Karpinski's command.

Thus, Reutuer's claim that "Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized the mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq" is a lie by Reutuers which is not based on anything Karpinski stated in this article.

Rumsfeld also authorized the army to break the Geneva Conventions by not registering all prisoners, Karpinski said, explaining how she raised the case of one unregistered inmate with an aide to former U.S. commander Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez.

The Geneva Conventions require registration of those who qualify as POWs. None of these captures so qualify.

Karpinski said last week she was ready to testify against Rumsfeld, if a suit filed by civil rights groups in Germany over Abu Ghraib led to a full investigation.

The commander of the unit which committed the most notorious war crime alleged against the United States in Iraq is going to testify on behalf of "human rights groups" suing the US government over the crimes committed at Abu Ghraib?

Well that says all that needs to be said the motivations of both Karpinski (CYA) and the "human rights groups" for whom human rights take a back seat to political considerations. If these "human rights groups" were in the least concerned about the Iraqi victims, they would be suing Karpinski, not using her as a witness. This analogous to using Lt. William Calley as a witness to sue the Sec Def for the war crimes at My Lai.

Karpinski's statement is important because it suggests that there was more than mere confusion at stake, that this was not the accidental migration of CIA/Special Forces techniques to ordinary military detentions in Iraq.

Migrations of what techniques exactly? This letter discusses the use os sleep deprivation and loud music to interrogate prisoners. This are not the sexual abuse for which Karpinski's soldiers were prosecuted nor are they forbidden by law.

She is asserting that Rumsfeld deliberately approved techniques for Iraq that violated Geneva (and hence the War Crimes Act).

Once again, these Captures do not fall under the definition of POWs established by the Geneva Conventions. The DoD can extend or withhold these protections to the unlawful enemy combatants captured in Iraq as it sees fit. The Geneva Conventions do not compel DoD to extend these benefits.
 

Marty Lederman said...

CMclean: In theory -- and even according to the Administration's own assertions -- the prisoners in Iraq were entitled to the full protection for POWs (or civilians) under the Geneva Conventions.

Which prisoners captured in Iraq?

As you noted in your linked post, the United States did not voluntarily extend the Geneva Convention POW protections to foreign al Qaeda unlawful enemy combatants which they voluntarily extended to captured Iraqi unlawful enemy combatants.
 

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 

Bart said just what I was going to. Marty's linked to post doesn't say what he is asserting here. (Or at least he is misrepresenting the administration's stance.)
 

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 

BD: Once again, these Captures do not fall under the definition of POWs established by the Geneva Conventions.

Of course, the treatment of civilians is also covered in the Geneva Conventions, so being designated a PoW is not a prerequisite to its application.

BD: The DoD can extend or withhold these protections to the unlawful enemy combatants captured in Iraq as it sees fit. The Geneva Conventions do not compel DoD to extend these benefits.

Maybe, but the DoD publicly stated that this protection was in place! Are we to take them at their word or not? Either they intended to be in full compliance with Geneva or they lied to the American people and the Congress by saying that they were in full compliance, while authorizing exceptions.

Furthermore, while they agree with Bart that the Geneva Convention does not necessarily apply to AEUCs (and by extension, any such application is in their eyes a privilege, rather than a right), they have been very clear that the Geneva Conventions [b]do[/b] apply to all detainees held in Iraq.

For example, look at some pieces from testimony to the House Armed Services Committee:

GEN. MYERS: Just to reiterate: the detainees in Iraq are covered under the Geneva Convention...
The Geneva Convention applies, and those were the instructions that were issued.


---

REP. GINGREY: Treatment is the same for each and every prisoner?

GEN. MYERS: Exactly.

SEC. RUMSFELD: In terms of the Geneva Convention.


---

From Rumsfeld's intro:
Some have asked: Hasn’t a climate allowing for abuses to occur been created because of a decision to "disregard" the Geneva Convention?

No. Indeed, the U.S. Government recognized that the Geneva Conventions apply in Iraq, and the armed forces are obliged to follow them...

We did conclude that our war against al-Qaeda is not governed precisely by the Conventions, but nevertheless announced that detained individuals would be treated consistent with the principles of the Geneva Conventions.


Source: http://www.defenselink.mil/speeches/2004/sp20040507-secdef0421.html

What frightens me is how excited certain people seem to be about defending a designation that allows people to be mistreated legally.
 

PMS_Chicago said...

BD: Once again, these Captures do not fall under the definition of POWs established by the Geneva Conventions.

Of course, the treatment of civilians is also covered in the Geneva Conventions, so being designated a PoW is not a prerequisite to its application.


These captures are combatants, not civilians, who do not fall under the definition of POWs under the Geneva Conventions.

BD: The DoD can extend or withhold these protections to the unlawful enemy combatants captured in Iraq as it sees fit. The Geneva Conventions do not compel DoD to extend these benefits.

Maybe, but the DoD publicly stated that this protection was in place! Are we to take them at their word or not?


If there is an order or formal regs in place extending Geneva Convention protections to these unlawful enemy combatant captures, then such orders or regs would have the force of law. If there is only a speech, then it is meaningless.

However, Karpinski is claiming that this letter from the Sec Def authorized "civilian contractors" to use coercive techniques against some unidentified category of Captures. If this allegation is true, such a letter would constitute an order with the force of law authorizing such techniques and thus withdrawing POW protections from the captures specified in the letter.

Either they intended to be in full compliance with Geneva or they lied to the American people and the Congress by saying that they were in full compliance, while authorizing exceptions.

As Professor Lederman observed in his linked post, Geneva Convention rights were not extended to al Qaeda captures. I would hazard a guess that this mystery letter refers to the use of coercive techniques against captured al Qaeda. The "civilian contractors" (read CIA) handle the al Qaeda while the Iraqi captures were usually handled by the military. Thus, when the military stated that it extended POW status to its prisoners, then this is most likely a correct statement.

Read your posted statement by Rumsfeld carefully and you will see this distinction:

No. Indeed, the U.S. Government recognized that the Geneva Conventions apply in Iraq, and the armed forces are obliged to follow them...

We did conclude that our war against al-Qaeda is not governed precisely by the Conventions, but nevertheless announced that detained individuals would be treated consistent with the principles of the Geneva Conventions.

 

"unlawful enemy combatants captured"

Some retain the uncomfortable feeling that this is a bill of attainder. We "capture" people.

A determination is made if they are POWs. Some argue the current system does not meet GC requirements, but so it goes. If they are not, they are civilians, who are still protected by the GC.

Then, a "legal" process known as a trial is (ideally) held to determine if the people are "unlawful." POW status supplies a large amount of immunity in this respect, unless rules of law are breached, etc.

I esp. like the term "foreign al Qaeda unlawful enemy combatants." This provides the opportunity for a double BOA. First, w/o a trial, people are labeled "al Qaeda," which the term "foreign" underlines is not just a somewhat easy to determine nationality. Second, they are deemed "unlawful."

Usually, again, "unlawful" implies a law being broken, which requires a trial etc.

[Btw, even if not backed up by the material supplied, it is unclear how we learn the allegation is a "complete lie." Ah, forceful emphasis.

Nor, why "This alleged letter is not an order authorizing Karpinski to do anything" is relevant. Is this the claim? We hear tell that "she had seen a letter" etc. Her defense in part was that ultimately she was often a bystander while things went on that she had little power to stop. Thus, the things she "seen."

Also, the reference to "sexual" abuses. Not only unclear relevancy, but is this even the only sort of abuses alleged in her case? Dogs etc.]

As to CM, I guess the best advice is to follow the links ... the matter has been a long and verbose issue of debate on this blog!
 

PMS_Chicago said...

What frightens me is how excited certain people seem to be about defending a designation that allows people to be mistreated legally.

There is nothing "exciting" about the things you have to do to win wars - killing and maiming other human beings, destroying their property and, yes, making enemy captures miserable to gain intelligence.

War is not a game. We are fighting a total war - a life or death challenge with an enemy who will give you no quarter and who is seeking to kill all of your people - soldiers and civilians alike.

If by breaking an enemy capture I can prevent yet another bombing indiscriminately slaughtering men, women and children just trying to live their lives, I would authorize every single interrogation technique within the law to bring about that result.

This enemy is the closest thing to barbaric evil since the Mongol hoards slaughtered their way across Asia killing everything in its path. They have forfeited any indulgence we might grant another more restrained foe.

The only limit I would place on our actions against this enemy are those which our conscience demands. My bright line is the intentional infliction of severe pain. Yours appears to be considerably more lenient. Neither one of us is "wrong" in our conclusions because they are subjective. However, I would urge you to seriously consider the nature of the foe and the consequences of failure before you suggest further restrictions on our forces fighting this war on the front lines.
 

"those which our conscience demands"

Please, don't say "our" conscience, Mr. DePalma. I've learned far too much about your conscience on this blog for me to be comfortable seeing mine mixed in with yours.

(The standard Mr. DePalma sets would, for instance, allow us to tie down a naked prisoner and have guards relieve themselves upon him. No pain, right? And trust me -- once we were to draw the "bright line" he suggests, anything & everthing on one side of it would be done. For starters.)
 

Well at least Bart doesn't believer there is such thing as a war against terror.
 

Anderson:

Our conscience does not refer to your or my personal beliefs, but rather refers to the judgment of the nation as enacted by its elected representatives.
 

Bart:

You emphasize that Secretary Rumsfeld did not authorize sexual abuse as Abu Ghraib. You also emphasize that that you draw the line only at intentional infliction of severe pain. This raises an obvious question. Do you consider the types of sexual abuse that took place at Abu Ghraib to be lawful and/or permissible?
 

I have long believed that the most important story about Abu Ghraib was not the abuses that took place there, but how widely we swung our nets and how many people we picked up by mistake. The Red Cross's estimate was that 70-90% of all people we detained at Abu Ghraib were mistakes. Perhaps the Red Cross overestimated. But our own military investigation's estimate was 60%.

Surely we should take into account that we had only 40% certainty that our detainees were the enemy at all in deciding what is and is not lawful
 

Enlightened Layperson said...

Bart: You emphasize that Secretary Rumsfeld did not authorize sexual abuse as Abu Ghraib. You also emphasize that that you draw the line only at intentional infliction of severe pain. This raises an obvious question. Do you consider the types of sexual abuse that took place at Abu Ghraib to be lawful and/or permissible?

Fair question. I was using the severe pain threshold as a shorthand because it applies to the list of coercive interrogation techniques approved by the Executive, which do not include sexual abuse.

I would similarly oppose sexual abuse and I believe that the MCA addresses this.
 

We are fighting a total war - a life or death challenge with an enemy who will give you no quarter and who is seeking to kill all of your people - soldiers and civilians alike.

This enemy is the closest thing to barbaric evil since the Mongol hoards slaughtered their way across Asia killing everything in its path. They have forfeited any indulgence we might grant another more restrained foe.


Well Bart, I think you point out the divide, no the chasm, no the gaping chasm, between the radical right and the rest of the world. Of course, if I see the "Mongol hordes" pouring over the hill to kill my family, anything goes. But you seem to feel that a battle in the suburbs of Baghdad between Ba'athist and Shiites rises to that level. That a few dangerous sociopaths in Afghanistan are the equivalent of the Turks at the gates of Vienna.

It's clear that the difference in world-view here is not one that can be overcome by rational discussion; it is tantamount to a Christian discussing God with a Taoist -- no meeting of the minds is even reasonably approachable, because the basic standards of evidence are so divergent.

It's more likely that you could have a fruitful discussion with the Islamists you despise; at least you both would agree on the apocalyptic nature of this war. On the other hand, many of your debate opponents see danger coming from the power brokers in this world, and not the rag-tag ideological bomb-throwers, who may be dangerous but ultimately are incapable of subjugating the industrial juggernaut of modern society.

We see each other as existing in a Bizarro world, where the very laws of physics appear to diverge. Such minutae as legal interpretation are beneath the level of the obvious epistemological divide.
 

I second jojo!
 

I also agree with Jojo. Every time I try to enter a reasonable dialogue with someone like Bart it proceeds up to a point, but we always end up running into an unbridgeable gulf. And that unbridgeable gulf is always the same -- they see the danger as much more apocalyptic than I do.

It helps explain why dialogue is so difficult -- how do you hold a dialogue with fear? And it creates a definite advantage on their side because it is easier to argue a person into fear than out of it.
 

Jojo to Bart: It's more likely that you could have a fruitful discussion with the Islamists you despise...

ELP: ...we always end up running into an unbridgeable gulf.

ELP: Part of the reason this happens is that Liberals and Conservatives can seem to be entering into the same conversation while in reality laboring under entirely unrelated criteria sets. Typically the Liberal is more inclined to concede points in the name of intellectual or ideological honesty while the Conservative is pursuing the goal of persuading others to their world view. Put differently, the Liberal is seeking to change their own world view to more accurately reflect a complex reality, where the Conservative is seeking to change the world view of others to fit their simplified black-and-white thinking or otherwise create an advantage over the persuaded. So while the opening moves of the game may seem related it is not long before the irreconcilable differences in goals and criteria make themselves felt. Put yet another way, the Liberal is more likely to want to learn, the Conservative more likely to want to teach...or perhaps "preach" is the proper term. Either way, neither the DePalma's nor the bin Laden's nor the O'Reilly's are the slightest bit interested in learning, other than learning more ways to persuade by whatever means necessary. Neither are they allowed the luxury of self-question or self-doubt, both staples of Liberal intellectual honesty. It's like playing chess with someone who can only see the attacks they can make but have no capacity to see the weaknesses of their position. Eventually they always leave themselves open to mate.

BTW, what was that part of the MCA, Bart? The one that lets your folks prove your citizenship when you get picked up, wrongfully, as an AUEC?

As a final disclaimer, neither Liberals nor Conservatives have a corner on either honesty or verbal abuse. I use those terms in this context advisedly, with folks like DePalma and Rove and bin Laden in mind for "Conservative" and folks like ELP for "Liberal." YMMV.
 

Robert,

You do have some point about learning: a religious conservative knows the Truth, so in the big picture, they're religiously opposed to learning certain kinds of things; they're mostly doing missionary work.

But there's more to it than that. Imagine an 8th century Christian discussing the law with a 2nd BC Greek (after translation of course). The cultural divide is too large to even agree on facts, such as the physical mechanism occurring before them, much less legal terms. But their likely to be using similar term, if speaking in Greek, and even citing the same texts, even if they interpret them in completely incommensurable ways.

I don't doubt that Bart actually believes that the Islamic hordes will, someday, pour in and put us all under Sharia, unless we unleash the nukes. If he's disingenuous, his statements definitely reflect a too common view, at least in the US, of how the world works. If it's not the Muslims, it's the liberals, or the Communists, or the Nazis (sometimes they're even right), or the Blacks (there's some wonderful early 20th race war literature), or the Indians, or the Catholics, or the French, or the Masons. But there's an underlying assumption that the world is ruled by a 'Satanic' force, that can only be stopped by the righteous few (luckily enough for us, that is us). The logic is driven by that basic assumption, rather than the other way around. On the other hand, most of the other commenters would automatically interpret events in terms of a secular history, where ambiguous guys set bad precedents that lead to bad/ambiguous events.

I'm sure Bart would dispute it, but then most folks are blind to what is their emotional, underlying, basis; you can only discern it from their religion, and at a certain religious distance, rational discussion can at best be an anthropological investigation.
 

"Bart" DePalma says:

Once again, these Captures do not fall under the definition of POWs established by the Geneva Conventions. The DoD can extend or withhold these protections to the unlawful enemy combatants captured in Iraq as it sees fit. The Geneva Conventions do not compel DoD to extend these benefits.

OIC. There's no POWs in Guantanamo. Nobody captured on the battlefield. No one openly carrying arms. They've all had their CSRTs.

IC.

"Bart" knows all this, of course, because he wears Sooper-Dooper RepublicanVision® glasses and he gets to see things we mortals can't see....

Cheers,
 

"Bart" DePalma hasn't read the Geneva Conventions:

["Bart"]: Once again, these Captures do not fall under the definition of POWs established by the Geneva Conventions.

[PMS_Chicago]: Of course, the treatment of civilians is also covered in the Geneva Conventions, so being designated a PoW is not a prerequisite to its application.

These captures are combatants, not civilians, who do not fall under the definition of POWs under the Geneva Conventions.


"Bart" pretends there's a Fifth Geneva Convention Respecting Treatment of Unlawful Enemy Combatants. There is none. The distinction is between the third and fourth conventions ("POW" versus "civilian"). The Fourth Geneva Convention even expressly acknowledges that some "civilians" may be "saboteurs" or "spies" (see, e.g., Articles 4 and 67; also see commentaries on the Fourth Geneva Convention, in particular commentaries on Article 3).

I'd note that "Bart" is insistent that there is a legitimate "war" going on, so to turn and then claim that the (alleged) opponents are "brigands" (in the words of the Geneva Conventions), and not subject to the provisions thereof, is just intellectually dishonest.

Cheers,
 

"Bart" DePalma:

This enemy is the closest thing to barbaric evil since the Mongol hoards [sic] slaughtered their way across Asia killing everything in its path. They have forfeited any indulgence we might grant another more restrained foe.

Ahhhh. Yessssss. So much more beastly, so much more evil than our civilised Crusaders. ;-)

Say, how is killing and destroying all in one's path compatible with a "hoard"?

Cheers,
 

"Bart" DePalma comes clean:

My bright line is the intentional infliction of severe pain. Yours appears to be considerably more lenient. Neither one of us is "wrong" in our conclusions because they are subjective. However, I would urge you to seriously consider the nature of the foe....

I don't notice anything in there about considering "Bart"'s own "nature". Therein lies his problem, methinks.

Cheers,
 

Here's "morality" fer ya:

["Bart" DePalma]: Our conscience does not refer to your or my personal beliefs, but rather refers to the judgment of the nation as enacted by its elected representatives.

Nuremburg, here we come.

"Bart" is willing to let authorities tell him what his conscience is. As for myself, thanks but no thanks, and I think my road the better of the two.

John Dean's got people like "Bart" nailed down in his book Conservatives Without Conscience. Wouldn't help for "Bart" to peruse it (for reasons that Dean expounds on there), but the rest of you ought to give it a read (you can buy from other than Amazon, if your book-buying tastes are a bit bluer).

Cheers,
 

Jojo: Imagine an 8th century Christian discussing the law with a 2nd BC Greek (after translation of course).

I get your point, I truly do. A favorite misquote goes something like, "The problem is we try to understand the universe with a language best suited to saying where the good fruit is." So I am sympathetic to your point, and grateful for the gracious manner in which correction is offered, and look forward to many chances to learn by disagreeing. ;)

I am on a long term quest to better explain why "conservatives" so often seem to get the better of "liberals" in conversation. Rigged games like O'Reilly's archtype of disigenuously named shows, "The No-Spin Zone," serve as my prime example. In such settings there is only the feeblest pretense of fair play. Questions are begged willy-nilly, and partisan posturing is palmed off on the television audience as if it was legitimately established truth. Countless viewers then parrot the content and manner of the Coulters and O'Reillys and Gingrinchs, and they rarely get a proper challenge to their unvoiced assumptions and unprovable axioms, in no small part because such people, lacking the analytic ability to actually support the positions they parrot, lapse into more naked aggression when painted into an intellectual corner.

Where you invoke a deep cultural divide I look at a different split: the different ends to which discourse can be an means. Bart has quite candidly said his stance is that debate is a means of persuading others to one's world view. I am familiar with that means-ends constellation, but am more inclined toward the "discourse as a means toward finding richly nuanced truths" version. We are of the same culture, Bart and I, we would both agree that a loaf of bread at arm's length on a table before us is exactly what it appears to be. But because his, and Coulter's and Rove's, aim is to persuade others to a given world view he may or may not be able/willing to admit as much. If it is more suitable to his partisan needs he seems fully capable of arguing the loaf of bread is a colony of living beings whose rights must not be abrogated merely for the sake of filling our stomachs.

Jojo: The logic is driven by that basic assumption, rather than the other way around.

Indeed. There are words for that kind of reasoning, most of them at least faintly pejorative. Back to my quest, of why "liberals" fare so poorly in debate with "conservatives": I maintain the ability (not to mention willingness and undaunted preference for truth over vanity) to question our unspoken and even unprovable axioms is the liberal's short term weakness when faced with thugs like O'Reilly and our long term strength in the pursuit of a just society.

Peace.
 

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