Balkinization  

Friday, December 08, 2006

A Question for December 7

Scott Horton

Today is December 7. This is a special day in our history, a definitional day, a day to pause and remember. On this day - "a day that will live in infamy" - the Empire of Japan attacked the United States armed forces gathered at Pearl Harbor. And on the other side of the world, December 7 was also a momentous day. The German drive on Moscow stalled - it happened at a place not far from the airport at Sheremetyevo that I drive past a couple of times each year, marked by a memorial composed of over-sized tank barriers. And in Berlin, faced with concern about the stalling effort and the approaching, life threatening Russian winter, Field Marshal Keitel issued the "Night and Fog Decree," one of the bloodiest and most disgusting documents of a war that challenged the conscience of the world. All of this occurred on a single day sixty-five years ago: December 7, 1941. For a generation of Americans, their lives changed, suddenly and dramatically. National security had been a lingering worry. Suddenly it became a matter that dominated and redirected their lives. Americans handled this challenge with a nobility and clarity of purpose that are worth thinking about today. I propose to do just that, for a simple reason: America needs to remember its history, its values and its legacy. In a world of 24/7 cable pseudo news channels, they have gone missing. And that loss cheapens the lives of every one of us.

In his first inaugural, Franklin Delano Roosevelt told us that "the only thing we have to fear… is fear itself." The Roosevelt presidency, and especially the conduct of the Second World War is the first proof of this statement. And in the last five years, Americans have lived through a second proof of it - if they only will open their eyes and see it. Those words sound simple to us today, and we need to remember the context in which they were uttered. As Roosevelt spoke, a shadow of totalitarianism had fallen across much of the world - fascism dominated the European continent and the rising Empire of Japan and communism covered the great Eurasian landmass that stretched in between them. These totalitarian regimes shared many common traits, and chief among them was the use of fear as a political tool. Fear was used to render the domestic populace silent and stupid. Fear was used to threaten and win concessions from the surviving democratic states on the periphery of the totalitarian swamp. Roosevelt understood the threat perfectly, and he understood that fear and the use of fear was the essential dividing line between the Western democracies and the totalitarian states. But somewhere along the line, this fundamental truth was forgotten in America.

In one of his earliest works, Edmund Burke tells us that fear is the hallmark of a despotic society. Fear is used to make a population stupid and subservient; it is used to chill the natural demand for the most basic of freedoms and liberties. A ruler who uses fear in this way deserves contempt, Burke wrote. One of the essential tools of fear is torture. Historical studies of the use of torture inevitably find that torture exists not as a device to gather intelligence, but as a tool to instill fear - to petrify, to silence. The Catechism of the Catholic Church understands this. It contains a single section addressing torture, and it is the same section which addresses terror used as a political tool. The Catechism teaches, and correctly understands, that torture is in its essence a tool for terrorizing a population.

This is why Roosevelt was explicit about fear as a tool, why Allied propaganda made clear that torture marked our adversaries, but not us. The Greatest Generation upheld our nation's ideals when it went to war. It understood the value of those ideals as weapons. It won the war. And then it did some real magic. By treating our adversaries as human beings, by showing them dignity and respect, our grandfathers' generation created a new world in the rubble of the Second World War. The nations which were our bitterest adversaries - Germany, Italy and Japan - emerged in the briefest time as our committed friends and allies. A world was born in which America was the dynamic center. And the foundation was laid to win the Cold War as well, after which America would emerge as the world's sole superpower, its direction-giving force.

Now I'd like you to use your imagination for a second. Let's assume the unthinkable: that America had embraced Mr. Bush's "Program" in the Second World War; that German, Italian and Japanese fighters had been waterboarded, subjected to the cold cell and techniques like "long time standing." Do any of you think for even a second that these nations would have been our allies and friends in the following generations? Think of how much darker, colder and more hate-filled our world would be than it is today.

I ask this question because this issue - the use of "coercive intelligence gathering techniques" - should be a matter of grave concern to everyone of us. But it has taken time for the question to be asked and discussed. And for that, I have a bone to pick with our media. By mid-2002, evidence began to collect that highly coercive techniques were being used in Guantanamo and in Afghanistan. A few brave souls reported on this - Dana Priest and a couple of her colleagues at the Washington Post were among the first, and there were stories in a handful of other newspapers. I have spent some time talking with print media reporters and editors about this process. What I learned was not encouraging. There was strong pushback from the beginning. Editors did not want to run these stories. Many stories were spiked. And when they ran, they were cut back and appeared buried deep inside the paper. Why? Journalists were under immense pressure at this point, from the Pentagon, the Administration and from the rightwing chorus that dominates much of the cable news world. Threats were raised: papers that report such matters are slandering our troops, it was said. They are undermining our combat morale. They are weakening our war effort. But my recapitulation here hardly does justice to the ferocity of some of these attacks. In sum what happened? The press was intimidated into a process of self-censorship.

I don't believe this process continued indefinitely, but some disturbing traces continue. In April 2004, the photographs that Joseph Darby circulated out of Abu Ghraib broke in The New Yorker and CBS's 60 Minutes, and a thaw began. The media discovered the issue, and quickly discovered that it had links with important policy decisions taken at the top of the Administration. Curiously, the media long gave equal billing to increasingly absurd explanations offered by Administration apologists. But with time they faded.

When we talk about torture today, Abu Ghraib seems a synonym. But this is deceptive. In fact all those wretched photos show is humiliation tactics. They are grim and disturbing. They make a mockery of standards laid down by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. But they're hardly the worst of the tactics employed. Ninety-eight deaths occurred in detention in circumstances suggesting foul play. Perhaps two dozen of them can be linked pretty directly to torture. This includes severe beatings, waterboarding, and severe stress positions - curiously, all tactics that we associate with torture from the middle ages, definitional torture - as well as alternating extremes of heat and cold, long-term sleep deprivation. We can talk about these techniques in a clinical sort of way, but in the end it is a question of mixing and alternating, a question of destroying the human material in captivity, of destroying humanity.

The media had a role in this process - it was to keep us informed about what is being done in our name. For two years, the media failed us miserably. More recently it has started to make up for its failings. But the process by which the media was silenced is troubling, and it, too, is something we should think about.
The key tool used to silence the media was simple: the patriotism of journalists who wrote critical articles was systematically challenged. There is an irony about this that I find remarkably unsubtle. There is nothing unpatriotic about criticizing the use of highly coercive techniques. They have put Americans in uniform in grave risk - and they will continue to do so for a generation at least. They have done incalculable damage to our nation's honor and reputation. They have dramatically undermined our ability to be a moral leader in the world, to forge and sustain alliances - alliances which could save the lives of thousands of Americans in future conflicts. Our Founding Fathers understood these principles perfectly, which is why the notion of humane warfare were an essential part of the beacon they fashioned. So I ask you: who demonstrates patriotism today - the critics who stand fast by our foundational values? Or those who would ignore our traditions by reaching quickly for the base and the brutal? No real patriot today, no citizen who is concerned about the fate of our fellow citizens in uniform, can be silent on this issue.

A short time ago, in Germany, I spoke with one of the senior advisors of Chancellor Angela Merkel. I noted that a criminal complaint had been filed against Donald Rumsfeld and a number of others invoking universal jurisdiction for war crimes offenses. How would the chancellor see this, I asked? There was a long pause, and I fully expected to get a brush-off response. But what came was very surprising. "You must remember," said the advisor, "that my chancellor was born and raised in a totalitarian state. She cannot be indifferent to questions of this sort. In fact, she views them as matters of the utmost gravity and they will be treated that way. The Nuremberg process happened in my country. It was painful for us. But we absorbed it. It became a part of our legacy. An important part of our legacy. We will not forget it. But I have to ask you: why has your country forgotten?"

That is a question to reflect upon on this day, on December 7. The time has come to remember.

-----------------

Remarks delivered at the Wolfson Center, New School University, New York City, Dec. 7, 2006

Comments:

Wow. As always.
 

As to the role of the media, I just finished "The Best of I.F. Stone" edited by Karl Weber and am now reading Myra MacPherson's bio of Stone: "All Governments Lie!" The media's "misrole" in times of war goes back to at least the Spanish American War. Apparently the press clause of the First Amendment fails to provide standards for free, truthful reporting. That's where the public comes in, to put the media's feet to the fire. The fourth estate has been in a celebrity bubble for too long. Izzy should be the standard.
 

It can never be unpatriotic to question one's own government.

Mr. Horton you're definitely good at writing speeches.
 

From wikipedia: "Efficient and enduring intimidation can only be achieved either by capital punishment or by measures by which the relatives of the criminals do not know the fate of the criminal...these measures will have a deterrent effect because - A. The prisoners will vanish without a trace. B. No information may be given as to their whereabouts or their fate."

I repeat my question to Bart, what part of the MCA prevents it from being exactly such a decree? You yourself have said the only reason to hold a commission for a detainee under MCA is to issue a death sentence. I am still waiting to hear from you which portion of the text of the MCA requires any of the due process rights subsumed by your naive statement, "My family can prove my citizenship." What in the text of the MCA prevents it from being used as just such a political tool? And, please, spare us comments about not knowing the difference between the amoral Nazis and the God-fearing GOP. Stick to the text in question. Which words in the text of MCA preclude it being our own Nacht und Nebel?
 

The famous FDR phrase about fear comes from his first (1933) inaugural, not his second.

Regarding our conduct during World War II: in 1945 we killed 200,000 Japanese city dwellers in just three air attacks. We bombed and shelled our way through Italy, even after it had surrendered and entered the war on our side, and joined the British in laying waste to dozens of German cities. US planes strafed Japanese soldiers clinging to life rafts in the Bismarck Sea in 1943, and Americans fighting in the Pacific often collected Japanese gold teeth as souvenirs. US soldiers shot 70-odd Italian prisoners during the invasion of Sicily ... I think my point is clear. I honor and respect the Americans who fought in World War II, but I also think we should also remember that all war is cruelty.
 

Scott Horton:

In his first inaugural, Franklin Delano Roosevelt told us that "the only thing we have to fear… is fear itself."...Those words sound simple to us today, and we need to remember the context in which they were uttered. As Roosevelt spoke, a shadow of totalitarianism had fallen across much of the world - fascism dominated the European continent and the rising Empire of Japan and communism covered the great Eurasian landmass that stretched in between them.

Excuse me, but Roosevelt gave that speech in 1933 and the subject was fear economic destitution.

Apart from the Soviet Union and to a much lesser extent Italy, most of Europe was free of totalitarianism. Hitler had just been appointed Chancellor in what was still a German democracy. Japan was 4 years away from its first military expansion into China.

This is why Roosevelt was explicit about fear as a tool, why Allied propaganda made clear that torture marked our adversaries, but not us. The Greatest Generation upheld our nation's ideals when it went to war. It understood the value of those ideals as weapons. It won the war. And then it did some real magic. By treating our adversaries as human beings, by showing them dignity and respect, our grandfathers' generation created a new world in the rubble of the Second World War.

I think you need to do some research on how we treated captured enemy during WWII.

Very often, we did not even attempt to capture Japanese or SS prisoners because those enemy soldiers did not take our troops prisoner or abused them when they did.

Enemy captured wearing civilian clothing or our uniforms as do the current al Qaeda were summarily executed.

Later in the War, up to 800,000 captured enemy soldiers who fell under the Geneva Conventions starved to death or died of exposure as food was intentionally withheld from them. Eisenhower justified this deprivation by arbitrarily changing the status of uniformed soldiers from POWs to to "Disarmed Enemy Combatant."

http://hnn.us/articles/30624.html

Now I'd like you to use your imagination for a second. Let's assume the unthinkable: that America had embraced Mr. Bush's "Program" in the Second World War; that German, Italian and Japanese fighters had been waterboarded, subjected to the cold cell and techniques like "long time standing."

It would have been a significant upgrade in treatment over summary executions and dying of starvation and exposure.

I ask this question because this issue - the use of "coercive intelligence gathering techniques" - should be a matter of grave concern to everyone of us. But it has taken time for the question to be asked and discussed. And for that, I have a bone to pick with our media. By mid-2002, evidence began to collect that highly coercive techniques were being used in Guantanamo and in Afghanistan. A few brave souls reported on this - Dana Priest and a couple of her colleagues at the Washington Post were among the first, and there were stories in a handful of other newspapers. I have spent some time talking with print media reporters and editors about this process. What I learned was not encouraging. There was strong pushback from the beginning. Editors did not want to run these stories. Many stories were spiked. And when they ran, they were cut back and appeared buried deep inside the paper. Why? Journalists were under immense pressure at this point, from the Pentagon, the Administration and from the rightwing chorus that dominates much of the cable news world. Threats were raised: papers that report such matters are slandering our troops, it was said. They are undermining our combat morale. They are weakening our war effort. But my recapitulation here hardly does justice to the ferocity of some of these attacks. In sum what happened? The press was intimidated into a process of self-censorship.

Are you kidding? Today's press is an open spigot on a fire hydrant compared to the past press.

In WWII, the press was censored. No word of all the dead enemy POWs was ever reported. Certainly, no press source would have considered publishing enemy complaints of abuse.

In comparison, our media today continuously ran Abu Ghraib for which it had evidence and dozens more stories of abuse for which it had nothing more than enemy allegations.

I would suggest that the rosy view of the "Good War" which you and others share, not to mention our ability to maintain civilian morale in that war, is due primarily to press censorship and US propaganda.
 

It is an amusing sport to pick one of Bart's citations and look behind it for a laugh. This week, I selected the one about DDE and the 800,000 German POWs he starved. If one were to actually READ the link (an article, apparently the first, by an HNN intern), and then one were to actually READ the studies linked to at the intern's article, one - if rational - would never EVER contend that there was any serious scholarship supporting the accusation that DDE starving 800,000 German POWs, at risk of being seen as a buffoon or, worse, morally and intellectually bankrupt. Take your pick.
 

I concur. Read where that "800,000" figure comes from before you believe Bart. Also note that that, even if the claim is taken at face value, this event took place after WWII. So it couldn't possibly support the argument that harsh measures are necessary to win wars.
 

Derek Schilling above totally eviscerates this post

I'm sure the hundreds of thousands if not millions of German and Japanese civilians that FDR's war machine slaughtered wholesale would have leapt at the chance to be water boarded for a few seconds or have to listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers at 50 decibels in exchange for not having themselves and their families burned to death in a horrific firestorm of incendiary bombs.

I could be wrong, maybe they'd rather be killed and have their cities destroyed than suffer some sleep deprivation or some belly slaps.

It's amazing that liberals continue to hold up FDR and WW2 as the good war when our and our allies behavior in that war was much more brutal and inhumane than our behavior in this war.

In fact, if you look at history, the US was far more brutal in WW@, Korea and Vietnam than it ever was in Iraq.

Do the names Wurzburg, Dresden, Nuremberg, Hamburg, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Monte Cassino, Anzio, Salerno, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Tarawa, Enola Gay, Falaise Pocket etc... mean anything to anyone

The NYT and the liberals who today criticize Bush would have been calling FDR a war criminal, which by any objective standard he was. He just happened to be out war criminal and he won the war so he was never prosecuted. If the Germans and the Japanese won you can bet that Roosevelt would have been hung, if he hadn't died forst.
 

"Bart" DePalma says:

Enemy captured wearing civilian clothing or our uniforms as do the current al Qaeda were summarily executed.

"Bart" keeps repeating this assertion, but without a shred of supporting evidence. While there were prosecutions during WWII for summary executions, this was of the enemy, not U.S. soldiers. But "Bart" wants to pretend (for his own rhetorical purposes) that such summary executions were a matter of common practise and accepted policy. This is not true, and the fact that we prosecuted Germans for such is just one such indication.

On a more general note, I agree with those that point out that war is a horrendous situation with many abuses, tragedies, and some of the worst of what mankind has to offer. I'd note that this inevitable characteristic is what should make war truly a "last resort", rather than the CNN/"video-game" sanitary exercise that makes it a first option, and a principal element of the U.S. diplomatic armamentarium for those that are more than willing to go along with the CNN pretense.

"Bart", OTOH, embraces the sanguinity and inhumanity of war and the excuse to let our standards and our principles lapse. He exalts the lawlessness that the Nacht und Nebel cloaks and hides. He wants there to be a terrible global war with Commi-- ... Terra-- ... ummm, "Islamofascists" where the gloves can be taken off (this is present in his continued assertions that the AUMFs put us into a "state of war"). He thinks this is a "feature, not a bug". Oh, the humanity....

Cheers,
 

"Bart" DePalma is hard of reading:

Says "Bart": Later in the War, up to 800,000 captured enemy soldiers who fell under the Geneva Conventions starved to death or died of exposure as food was intentionally withheld from them. Eisenhower justified this deprivation by arbitrarily changing the status of uniformed soldiers from POWs to to "Disarmed Enemy Combatant."

"Bart" links here: http://hnn.us/articles/30624.html


But "Bart"'s own source says:

Concerning the second and third classifications of Nazi POWs, some are more skeptical of the treatment these POWs received. In 1989, a Canadian novelist by the name of Jacques Bacque wrote Other Losses, which contained accusations against General Eisenhower in this regard. Bacque argued that Eisenhower’s misdeeds led to the starvation of "over 800,000, almost certainly over 800,000 and quite possibly a million" German POWs. Bacque claimed that Einsehower nefariously got around the Geneva Conventions by changing the status of the Germans prisoners from "Prisoner of War" to "Disarmed Enemy Combatant." Since, according to the Geneva Conventions, POWs are to be fed military rations while there are much more relaxed standards for feeding "Disarmed Enemy Combatants," Bacque alleged that Eisenhower himself was to blame, even citing one instance of Eisenhower turning away a train full of food from entering a Nazi camp.

Christof Strauss of the University of Heidelberg calls into question many of Bacque’s accusations, as have others, as spelled out in this debate conducted by HNN in 2003. While Strauss decided that "conditions in these camps indeed did not meet the requirements of the Geneva Convention of 1929," he also maintains that "contrary to Bacque’s assertion, the Americans did allow aid to be delivered to the inmates by representatives of the German churches." The International Red Cross was also permitted to see the prisoners. Strauss says that Bacque made the death toll appear much higher than it actually was.


Not quite the same, eh?

Not to mention that this is hardly evidence that such treatment -- even if as alleged -- was acceptable or legal policy.

Once again, I won't make a claim that WWII was in all respects "The Good War" (and the subsequent current Geneva Conventions represent in part some hindsight developed in the wake of WWII). But I'm just a bit curious as to "Bart"'s reception at the local VWF when he goes on his tirade about the abuses of WWII.... For "Bart" to run down the WWII veterans just to make plitical points for defending the maladministration's current policies is just creepy.

Cheers,
 

sarahweddington said:

I'm sure the hundreds of thousands if not millions of German and Japanese civilians that FDR's war machine slaughtered wholesale would have leapt at the chance to be water boarded for a few seconds or have to listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers at 50 decibels in exchange for not having themselves and their families burned to death in a horrific firestorm of incendiary bombs.

False dichotomy. Or is it just a "red herring"? In any case, hardly honest argument.

Sarah continues:

It's amazing that liberals continue to hold up FDR and WW2 as the good war when our and our allies behavior in that war was much more brutal and inhumane than our behavior in this war.

Lack of documentation duly noted. But this in defence of the maladministration's policies -- even if true -- would be a bit of a tu quoque.

In fact, if you look at history, the US was far more brutal in WW@, Korea and Vietnam than it ever was in Iraq.

The question is under what circumstances the brutality is occuring. On a battlefield in the midst of combat, a hand grenade or a bayonet to the stomach is unarguably brutal. But in a detention cell half a world and years away from the fighting is an entirely different place. This is something that the courts have noted, but both "Bart" and Sarah seem to have missed.

Do the names Wurzburg, Dresden, Nuremberg, Hamburg, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Monte Cassino, Anzio, Salerno, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Tarawa, Enola Gay, Falaise Pocket etc... mean anything to anyone

Yes, and I have yet to see any of the neocons or Dubya supporters out demonstrating against the Enola Gay exhibit documentation in the Air and Space Museum. Nor praising Kurt Vonnegut for his book "Slaughterhous Five" (or his current thoughts).

I'd suggest, for those interested, the fine book by Freeman Dyson (truly an eclectic), "Disturbing the Universe", in part for his comments on his role in Bomber Command (he's a brilliant man in many respects, and the book has many other things worth reading as well).

But that avoids the point: Yes, war is bloody (and that's one of the reasons why we ought not invade other countries willy-nilly to give people a "Feels good!" moment and to prop up sagging polls at home (particularly when such invasion is unwarranted and unlikely to come to any good). But that combat itself is sanguinary doesn't affect whether we ought to mistreat prisoners.

Cheers,
 

To the Michaels:

I posted "up to 800,000," which includes lesser figures. The fact is that Eisenhower's reclassification of prisoners and the cuts in their rations are all confirmed. The exact numbers of deaths are not known because we did not keep records.

However, to be extremely conservative, let us reduce the 800,000 figure by 99% and you arrive at a figure of 8,000 who died from intentionally denied lack of available food and medical care.

In point of comparison, how many enemy prisoners in Iraq or Afghnaistan do you allege were killed on the orders of General Casey or anyone else high in the chain of command? I am unaware of a single case.
 

For those who question my post concerning execution of unlawful combatants who were not dressed in uniforms, I would commend Special Forces’ Wear of Non-Standard Uniforms by W. Hays Parks.

http://www.pegc.us/archive/Journals/
parks_4_Chi_J_Intl_L_493.pdf

Page 555 in the appendix notes that the SS dressed in US uniforms during Operation Greif of the Ardennes Offensive were executed.

Here are some anecdotal posts of how we treated those SS unlawful combatants:

http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/
004957.php#c27

http://volokh.com/posts/1132067781.shtml
 

In your otherwise compelling account you mention the reluctance of media to publish stories about the inhuman coercive techniques used against prisoners held by the US. They have been under tremendous pressure by the US administration. May be. Yet, I wonder how the administration is able to "pressurize" powerful corporate media, which are financially independent of government subsidies. Moreover, the media have not only been reluctant to publicize stories on "coercive techniques. They have vehemently refused to reveal the numerous anomalies in the official account on the events of 9/11. One of these glaring anomalies is the lack of evidence that any of the 19 named hijackers actually boarded any of the aircraft which they allegedly hijacked. Nor have the media highlighted the fact that the FBI has admitted to possess no "hard evidence" about links between Osama bin Laden and the mass murder of 9/11. Nor have the media published the fact that over 100 firefighters have reported to have experienced, heard or seen explosions in the World Trade towers prior to their collapse. This failure to inform the public about facts related to mass murder on US soil is even more frightening than what you have been covering.
 

Actually, I had a relative in WWII in the German army who was captured by Soviet troops dressed up as US Soldiers. Hilter had already died which his unit knew. They continued fighting in the eastern theater believing that US troops would come to help them fight the Russians. They choose to ally themselves with what they saw as a prefered situation, because they believed that Americans followed their own rules with respect to how they treated POWs (his own description). They would have easily died to the last man fighting the russians, since in their perception they had nothing to lose against them. How the US really treated its POWs didn't matter - what mattered was what people believed about the US. This is precisely what we lose by claiming to be some kind of leader with respect to morality and then turn around and torture people.

Its an about face that weakens our ability to fight terrorism, as such a fight calls for a much higher need for international cooperation than directly fighting a nation state on the ground. To actually make headway in defeating terrorism, we can hardly afford to simply dismiss what other nations and cultures think of us. Without their genuine support, the US will find it extremely difficult if not impossible to track down and deal with terrorists.

If, on the other hand, if what we really want is a war we'll never win, we're doing exactly what we need to in order to achieve that end.
 

"German, Italian and Japanese fighters had been waterboarded, subjected to the cold cell and techniques like "long time standing." Do any of you think for even a second that these nations would have been our allies and friends in the following generations?"

Such hysterics. We did much, much worse than this.
Edgar L. Jones writes in the Atlantic Monthly in 1946

"What kind of war do civilians think we fought anyway? We shot prisoners in cold blood, wiped out hospitals, strafed lifeboats, killed
or mistreated enemy civilians, finished off the enemy wounded, tossed the dying in a hole with the dead, and in the Pacific boiled the flesh off enemy skulls to make table ornaments for sweethearts, or carved
their bones into letter openers."

Then we dropped two atom bombs.

War is awful business, and has a morality all its own.
 

"Bart" DePalma says:

Page 555 in the appendix notes that the SS dressed in US uniforms during Operation Greif of the Ardennes Offensive were executed.

This, even if true, doesn't make "summary execution" officially sanctioned policy.

As the item that "Bart" references says, concerning "disposition":

"Members captured in US uniforms executed; mission commander Skorzeny and ten others aquitted in war crimes trial."

If summary execution is the official penalty for fighting "out of uniform" (as "Bart" falsely contends), this result could hardly pertain.

I'd note that this "Table of Historical State Practice" which "Bart" references lists dozens of incidents of such "unlawful combatant" actions ... and, with the exception of two cases of Nazi executions and one Japanese one (hardly a laudable standard for our behaviour), there is just this one incident of such summary executions. How such a review can support "Bart"'s claim that "summary execution" is SOP is far beyond me; in fact, I think that rational minds would say that this paper refutes "Bart" forcefully.

Another day, another lie by "Bart"....

Cheers,
 

So the argument from some around here seems to be:

1) The US has engaged in torture and inhuman brutality in the past, so this somehow justifies this sort of conduct now. (We'll ignore the factual inaccuracies and outright falsehoods put forth here, since these people are immune to facts).

2) The US won WWII because of its "press censorship and propaganda."

3) The only reason we are losing in Iraq (sorry, I mean 'eternally around the corner from winning,' of course), is that we aren't brutally firebombing or brutally torturing enough of the civilians we are "bringing democracy to." If we would only use more "brutal" methods (whatever that means), then the "terrorists" would fear us and do whatever we say.

4) In sum, the US needs to become more like its fascist and communist enemies of the past, because those guys knew how to be brutal, how to shut the press up, keep everyone in line, and lose wars.

You people are beyond parody.
 

Long live Porter29 not failing for the trap set by our neo-con friends in this thread: we're harsh now, but we did it too in WWII.

Who bloody cares?
 

porter & anne:

The entire point of this thread was a set of remarks giving a factually incorrect comparison between WWI and today's war against Islamic fascism with the purpose discrediting today's treatment of unlawful enemy combatants as more brutal than what we did in WWII.

No one is justifying today's practices based on the fact that those in WWII were actually far more brutal. Today's practices either stand or fall on their own merits or faults. You are changing the subject because the false comparison which you endorsed fell of its own weight.
 

bart,

A few points:

1) I didn't endorse anything.

2) Torture was US policy during WWII? (Now he'll say, "We do not torture.")

3) I always find it amusing that the same people who so vehemently deny that the US uses torture are the same people who are always seeking to justify the use of torture (e.g., "the US treated prisoners more brutally in the past (so stop complaining -- that's war.)" "you have no civil rights if you are dead," "torture works," "techniques defined as torture since the Middle Ages are now just 'fraternity pranks'," etc.)

4) >>No one is justifying today's practices based on the fact that those in WWII were actually far more brutal.

Oh, really? That is exactly what you are attempting. If not, what is your point?

5) I think you meant that your claims were factually de-pantsed, which is why you are eternally changing the subject.
 

@Bart: true I mixed up two threads in which I was commenting at the same time. My bad.
 

I believe 18 of Skorzeny's SS men were executed during the Ardennes offensive for wearing American uniforms. They were tried very quickly, and (as I recall) executed after their sentences were confirmed by the First Army commander. In at least one case, three SS men were shot six days after being captured. So while their executions may not have been summary, they did not receive full due process by contemporary standards.

After the war Skorzeny was tried for having ordered his men to use American uniforms in 1944, but was acquitted after he produced a witness who testified that British special forces had worn Axis uniforms for deception purposes on at least one occasion.

Regarding German POWs in American custody in 1945, I recall reading that the US provost marshal reported about 16,000 deaths out of about 5 million men. Bacque's claim of 800,000 to 1 million deaths is sensationalist nonsense, as false as the oft-repeated death toll of 135,000 in the Dresden bombing.
 

Remembering Godwin's Law, it probably is best not to start with a post that compares WWII and anything else: the discussion (starting with the original post, in my view) doesn't seem very productive. As with Hitler invocations, these comparisons only harden people's views. Of course, I realize that Mr. Horton probably spend most of his time with people who agree with each other on political matters so thoroughly that the only rhetorical interest in their lives is seeking clever ways to harden each other's views.
 

Sean: Remembering Godwin's Law...

Some comparisons are apt. Mr. Horton has a knack for such. The greatest danger our nation faces is not so-called "Islamo fascism," but rather the home grown version, where folks like Yoo do what von Moltke wouldn't, where legislation like MCA give us our own potential Nacht and Nebel, coupled with the unforgivably naive belief that "it can't happen here." I can happen here, it is happening here, by dribbles and drabs, and folks like Scott and the rest of the Balkinization hosts are trying to prevent it. Wishful thinking and a fear of learning from where others have gone wrong isn't going to do the trick.
 

But Robert Link, if Scott Horton is so rhetorically brilliant, how come he doesn't seem to persuade anyone who isn't already a flaming lefty? That's the problem with this site: it's like a City College lunchroom in the 30's, where Trotskyists at one table and Stalinists at another engage in utterly fanciful debates about "true socialism" and inspire each other to ever greater dedication to their respective ideals. Meanwhile the regular students bemusedly collect their diplomas and go live in the real world.
 

Uh, Sean, did you actually have an argument to make? Or do you just drop by to cast asparagus? (Caveat: That's only gonna make sense if you haven't had your sense of humor removed.)

And who said anything about socialism? We're talking about a prevention of totalitarianism here in American soil. Torture apologists like Yoo and draconian (look it up) legislation like the MCA are unarguable moves towards totalitarianism. Try to keep on the topic.

After the time lost with Bart, only to conclude in his own words that it's all black-and-white to him, I must say, it's looking like about time for the killfile for you. You know how to reach me if you really want.
 

Kudos and thank you to all the Balkinization hosts who are trying to think carefully, evocatively, ethicly and better about how we should treat each other! This is not sophistry - this is our responsibility as human beings.
 

What happened during WW2
is horrible I hope it never happens again!
 

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