Friday, January 07, 2005


Friday Blog Blogging

Very very good stuff from No More Mister Nice Blog and Digby.
Good Lord -- now we're running out of bullets? We have to import them?

For as long as I can remember, Republicans, based on scant evidence, have accused Democratic presidents and presidential aspirants of creating, or being likely to create, a "hollow military." Now here's Bush actually doing so -- this and the leaked memo by the head of the Army Reserve that describes the Reserve's "broken" state are only the latest in a long string of evidence -- and yet it never seems possible to make such a charge stick when the president is a Republican. (John Kerry certainly couldn't manage it.)

But that's how it always works, isn't it? Some ideas are just so damn intuitive that American voters literally can't seem to process evidence that they're exactly wrong. Clinton left behind the military that won the Afghan war; Bush is relentlessly hollowing that military out. Yet everybody "knows" that Republicans are pro-military and Democrats aren't. Democrats have to find a way to hang reality around Republicans' necks -- or at least find a way to remove Republicans' protective cloak of myth.
IOKIYAR, in other words, has to become just an incomprehensible acronym instead of a profound if depressing, cynical codeword for the way things are.
Stand Up

The mere act of finally drawing that line in the sand, of saying "No More" is the very thing that refutes the charge. It's hemming and hawing and splitting the difference and "meeting halfway" and offering compromises on matters of principle that makes the charge of Democratic splinelessness believable. This isn't about a special interest giving money or bending to the will of a powerful constituency. People can feel the difference. There is nothing weak about simply and forcefully standing up for what is right.

A number of the commenters to the post below are convinced that the American people actually approve of torture so this will not be a very salient issue for the Democrats. I disagree. I think it may just be a defining issue for Democrats.

It's not that I believe that all Americans are horrified, or even a majority of Americans are horrified. Clearly, the dittoheads think it is just ducky. But that isn't the point. Just because they aren't horrified or even endorse it on some level doesn't mean that they don't know that it's wrong. They do. And it is very uncomfortable to be put in the position of defending yourself when you know you are wrong. Even good people find ways, but it cuts a little piece out of their self respect every time they do it.

Every person alive in America today grew up with the belief that torture is wrong. Popular culture, religion, folklore and every other form of cultural instruction for decades in this country has taught that it is wrong, from sermons and lectures to films about slavery to photographs of Auschwitz to crime shows about serial killers. It is embedded in our consciousness. We teach our children that it is wrong to torture animals and other kids. We don't say that there are exceptions for when the animals or kids are really, really bad. We have laws on the books that outright outlaw it. The words "cruel and unusual" are written into our constitution.

The problem is not that there isn't a widely accepted admonition not to conduct torture, it's that many people, as with all crimes, will choose to ignore the admonition under certain circumstances. However, that does not mean that they do not know that what they are doing is wrong. There is nothing surprising in that. It's why we have laws.

The arguments for torture being raised by the right are rationalizations for what they know is immoral and illegal conduct. Their discomfort with the subject clearly indicates that they don't really want to defend it. (Witness the pathetic dance that even that S&M freak Rush Limbaugh had to do after his comments were widely disseminated.) Will they admit that they know it's wrong? Of course not. But when they take up their manly jihad and accuse the Democrats of being swooning schoolgirls they will also be forced to positively defend something that many of them know very well is indefensible. And every time they do that their credibility on values and morals is chipped away a little bit.

I don't expect them to change their tune. Way too much of this comes from a defect in temperament and garden variety racism and that's not going to go away. But Democrats have to thicken their skins and be prepared for the usual attacks and insist over and over again that it is against the values and principles of the United States to torture people, period. It is not only right, it is smart.

As I wrote below, the opposition will bluster and fidget and scream bloody murder. But listen to the tenor of their arguments. The WSJ article below rails against the "glib abuse of the word" as if they can run away from the issue by engaging in a game of semantics. They are reduced to claiming that unless we torture it will be unilateral disarmament. We, the most powerful military force the world has ever known, will be defeated by a bunch of third world religious misfits if we don't engage in torturing suspects. Just who sounds weak?
A large portion of the right is made up of bullies and cowards, blustery spazzes who imagine themselves as Rambo (just as a lot of sports fans are fat feebs who think that, with just a bit of luck, they could be Mark McGwire - never Barry Bonds). These armchair commandos derive a great deal of vicarious satisfaction (and vicarious manhood) out of exploiting the bravery and sacrifice of others. It is extremely vital to their sense of self that they always be on the right side, and that their side always be right, no matter what it does. Any criticism of their side, for whatever reason, becomes a criticism of them, and they aren't strong enough to deal with criticism. So they have to discount criticism, discredit it, assure themselves that the problem exists only in the ignoble mind of the critic, not in anything they or their side may have done. Because, since it is their side, by definition anything it does is okay.

What is startling is, this tribal attitude is precisely that of the Arab and Muslim terrorists so despised and feared by American wingnuts. Rush Limbaugh and the creeps at Free Republic have a lot more in common with Osama Bin Laden than they do with you or me.
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