torture memos set to music

April 20th, 2009 | Other Projects

From today’s Times:

C.I.A. interrogators used waterboarding, the near-drowning technique that top Obama administration officials have described as illegal torture, 266 times on two key prisoners from Al Qaeda, far more than had been previously reported.

Yesterday a friend sent me a link to the video below. It’s kind of disturbing–both the content itself, and the notion of making a song about it. But you know how when you read stuff in the paper or hear it on the news, it can be awful and painful but you’ve kind of built up a resistance to hearing awful stuff on the news, so you remain somewhat detached? Because this is such a different mode of delivering the information, I think it’s harder to do that.

99 Responses to “torture memos set to music”

  1. Oh, I’m sorry. I neglected to respond on the last post to the person asking when I was coming to visit Clarion University in PA. I’m sorry to say that I was there last Thursday. It was a trip that came about very suddenly and I didn’t even list it on my appearances page. Sorry to have missed you!

  2. Ruth in RI says:

    Wow, Alison. Talk about cutting through the clutter. I’m grabbing this link. Thanks for posting it.

  3. Acilius says:

    Yikes! Very unsettling, but most appropriate for Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day.)

  4. Notch says:

    As Grandma used to say: Proof’s in the pudding!

  5. Butch Fatale says:

    That guy is writing a song every day. He was recently interviewed on Rachel Maddow. Maddow-Bechdel confluence! Website here: http://www.rockcookiebottom.com/
    Maddow clip here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/#30272308

  6. Cheryl says:

    Although I am greatly bummed that I missed your visit to Clarion, I am encouraged that you have other fans here. I am the Cheryl originally from Lock Haven who forwards articles to you from time to time.

  7. Ian says:

    I applaud the need to comment and raise awareness of the contents of these memos, but I just feel this guy’s music trivialises the issue. Maybe atonal opera would be better?

  8. BrooklynPhil says:

    I think the idea of setting the torture memos to music could be powerful, but like Ian, I don’t think this particular songwriter’s style lends itself to the subject. He has a folk rock style that I associate with observational poetry– what seems banal or everyday has unusual power or poignance. Though the tone of the memos certainly tries to eliminate the horrific nature of torture, I would find music that went in either direction more powerful: really non-melodic, unbearable to listen to or disgustingly sweet bubble gum pop, maybe even with a dance beat. Or how ’bout a 60s bossa nova, with a voice over like a dance record instructor.

  9. Duncan says:

    To heck with the music. I’m sure that everyone here is just totally thrilled that Obama isn’t going to prosecute our brave men and women in the CIA who tortured people, because that would be looking at the past and Obama wants to look at the future — a future of rendition and torture in other locations, done by different US personnel.

  10. Ready2Agitate says:

    Tuesday’s NYT indicates that pressure on Obama is mounting following yesterday’s news: “And while Mr. Obama vowed not to prosecute C.I.A. officers for acting on legal advice, on Monday aides did not rule out legal sanctions for the Bush lawyers who developed the legal basis for the use of the techniques.” Go sign a petition to tell him, yes, we want those people prosecuted.

  11. Alex K says:

    @Duncan: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” Won’t get fooled again, eh? Yes, I voted for him too.

    Yesterday evening, dinner with a woman my age — early 50s — from the Czech Republic. Central European scepticism deep through every bit of her. At least, she says, there were rules for your torturers. In our country there were no rules. And no reckoning.

    Her view: After the Velvet Revolution no one cleaned house. Veils were drawn, lines of evidence and accusation smudged away. That was the Czechs’ greatest mistake, not to let sunlight into the dark places, not to call the torturers and murderers to justice. Czech society is still poisoned twenty years later. Will that be BHO’s, and our, greatest mistake as well?

  12. Ian says:

    Um, I think Obama’s learnt the lesson of JFK – don’t mess with the security services as it’s bad for a president’s health.

  13. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Alex K

    The Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings in South Africa, despite their flaws, were a truly remarkable achievement. Few countries have embarked on similar programs after government abuses (perhaps Argentina, and I’m not sure of any others).

    I was totally against Pres. Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon in 1974; at the time I felt Nixon should have been indicted and prosecuted. But having seen the relative success of the SA commissions, I now think the better tactic for Ford would have been to offer a pardon in exchange for Nixon’s (and cohorts) full and truthful confessions to his misdeeds. There’s no guarantee that the truth will be revealed in a trial, although the idea of persuing justice seems redemptive.

  14. hairball_of_hope says:

    That’s supposed to be ‘pursuing’… too damn early to be typing without caffeine in my veins.

  15. Acilius says:

    @Brooklyn Phil: “Or how ’bout a 60s bossa nova, with a voice over like a dance record instructor.” That’s a terrific idea! You should do that, if you can.

    @Alex K: I also voted for Mr O. I can’t say I expected much good from him, and it would have been a pleasure to mark my ballot for Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente, but the idea of Crazy John McCain with his finger on the nuclear button was too much for me. At least that Dick Cheney wanted to keep the world in existence long enough for Halliburton to report record profits.

  16. --MC says:

    You may have something, Ian. I was just watching “The Fog Of War” — McNamara talks about how JFK was planning to ease the US military out of French Indo-China, planning to have the Army out of there in a phased withdrawl, then November rolls around —

  17. Ali says:

    Torture is always pshycological – so pain becomes the fear of pain, waterboarding the fear of not being able to breath and ultimately death. That it could be done without “pain and therefore suffering” would make it a pointless exercise – surely it is done to extract information – I doubt this would be possible without real fear on the part of the detainee. Why would anyone even try and rationalise this. If it is a necessary evil stand by this, not by trying to make it sound like a harmless pass time. I don’t think any thing can justify torture – behaving in a dehumanising way – it delegitimises claims to moral superiority. The threat from Alquaida is based in the hatred they have of the west and westerners. So torturing detainees and supporting this through moral and legal arguments – shows the west to not only be corrupt but hypocritical. The very governments that condemn the Taliban -who openly carry out torture and murder – make their involvement in such nations to support the creation of liberal and democratic regimes even more spurious. Is there ever justification for torture? Is waterboarding a more acceptable form of torture? Will what has happened in Cuba make the world a safer place?

  18. bluwhisper says:

    I like the genre precisely because its songs are often meditating on the “banal or everyday” as BrooklynPhil wrote, which is so important because the memos were trying to make torture really simple and comprehensible, “banal and everyday”. The genre doesn’t trivialize the memos because the indie/folk rock style also usually invites meditation on the meaning of what-would-seem-to-be-the-ordinary by slowing down our reactions to it. And since the genre usually ponders questions like the meaning of suffering in an everyday-alienation or everyday-loss or everyday-broken-romance setting, I think this is a meaningful reapplication of the genre, one that adds new depth to otherwise ordinary invocations of suffering. For if we can write songs and be sad about suffering over morning toast or light through glass, how much more horrible is this?

  19. observer says:

    “Yikes! Very unsettling, but most appropriate for Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day.)”

    Wow, what an offensive sentiment to express. So shoving millions of innocent Jews into gas chambers is somehow comparable to subjecting two dangerous terrorists to mild torture? Sure, I’ll grant it’s torture. But it is mild compared to means of torture that people have employed historically. And it arguably did serve a vital state purpose, even if imperfectly. And as the expression goes, some men just needs torturing.

    That’s the problem with the parlor left: no sense of perspective, combined with a penchant for sanctimonious blather.

    Try asking someone in a death camp if they’d trade places with KSM. I bet the vote would be six million to zero.

  20. Kate L says:

    The fact remains that following World War II, the United States prosecuted war criminals for, among other things, waterboarding prisoners. And simply following orders was rejected by the United States as an acceptable excuse for carrying out such an act.

  21. Acilius says:

    If our remembrance of the Holocaust ends with us congratulating ourselves for being morally superior to its perpetrators, we have done nothing to prevent its reoccurrence or to honor its victims. Quite the contrary. The moral self-congratulation of distant observers only converts the victims of violence into excuses for further violence. It is only when we look into the face of our deadliest enemy and see our own reflection that we desist from war, and only when we look into our own reflection and see the enemy’s face that we become capable of peace.

  22. hairball_of_hope says:

    For all those knee-jerk right-wingers, who claim that this illegal torture sanctioned by the US government, kept us “safe” and therefore the means justified the end, I offer Matthew 16:26 (KJV):

    For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

  23. hairball_of_hope says:

    Typo… should read “the ends justified the means.” I wonder if my Freudian slip is showing. 😉

  24. Calico says:

    This is sweet and interesting, and it reminded me of the older photos of lesbians Alison posted some time ago (from College Archives, I believe).

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/04/22/old.postcard/index.html

    I wonder if Fran and Polly were more than friends?

    The postcard, a dying cultural artifact.

  25. Acilius says:

    In October 2003, journalist Mark Bowden (famous for BLACKHAWK DOWN) write an article for THE ATLANTIC that has been characterized as a defense of torture. I don’t think that characterization is entirely fair to Bowden. The point he made in that article, and which he has amplified in many public remarks since, is that the question of whether torture is ever morally justified is not the same as the question of whether it should ever be legally permitted. Indeed, Bowden has argued that torture should always be illegal and should be punished, even if it is morally justified.

    Bowden has confronted the “ticking bomb” scenario head on. Say you know for sure that an atomic bomb is set to explode in midtown Manhattan in 20 minutes. You know for sure that your captive knows where the bomb is, and that if you torture him or her in a particular way s/he will give you information that will enable you to disarm the bomb. You also know for sure that in no other way can the bomb be disarmed. In those conditions, would you be morally justified in torturing your captive? It isn’t really easy to say no, though of course it is easy to point out that the scenario is ridiculously improbable.

    Now, let’s grant for the sake of argument that it would be justifiable for you to torture your hypothetical captive if that was the only way to prevent an atomic explosion in midtown Manhattan. Again, this concession is strictly for the sake of argument. Would you then be morally justified in refusing to do what you knew to be the only way you could prevent that explosion simply because you were afraid of going to prison? I don’t see how you could be. If you don’t think the threat is so grave that your own imprisonment is a price worth paying to defeat it, then how can the threat be so grave that someone else’s torture is a price worth paying?

    In his ATLANTIC article, Bowden explicitly rejected attempts to regualte torture. After quoting an Israeli Defense Force interrogator’s description of how her practices changed after the Israeli Supreme Court’s 1999 decision banning torture, Bowden paraphrases:

    “In other words, when the ban is lifted, there is no restraining lazy, incompetent, or sadistic interrogators. As long as it remains illegal to torture, the interrogator who employs coercion must accept the risk. He must be prepared to stand up in court, if necessary, and defend his actions.”

    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200310/bowden

  26. Ready2Agitate says:

    (Acilius, you get your hands on “Half a Yellow Sun” btw?) (sorry to detour)

  27. makky says:

    Ian and MC. Without really wanting to get into that can of worms too much further, I urge you and anyone else who is sold on the conspiracy idea to read Vincent Bugilosi’s book about the Kennedy asassination. It was an eye opener for me. I now suspect it may just have been Oswald alone all along.

  28. Ginjoint says:

    This music creeped me out, big time. I am struggling for words with this, actually…I hear this, and see someone in a dark cement room, with people looming over him/her, with ice in their veins.

  29. Maggie Jochild says:

    Okay, add Connecticut to the lesbian/gay marriage list, as of today. AP has a story out about it here.

    Torture:
    (1) Doesn’t work. (Think Joan of Arc, Jesus, and John McCain.)
    (2) Shreds our standing in the world.
    (3) Dehumanizes all concerned.

    It’s a no-brainer. Which yes, means, those who believe in it are not using their brains.

    One of the main purposes of the torture employed by the Bush regime was to force a confession that would link Saddam Hussein to 9/11 and therefore justify our illegal invasion of a sovereign nation. All other excuses and justifications are after the fact.

    Obama has been a fucking coward on this issue, playing politics (as usual) instead of standing up to the Big Baddies. He released the memoes so there’ll be enough ammunition out there for someone else to do the job he doesn’t want to do. Perhaps Spain and the International Court will make sure Rumsfeld, Rice, and Cheney dare not ever again leave our shores (or else be arrested as the war criminals they are), but that’s not good enough.

    We either clean this up or these roaches will be back again, just as they returned after Nixon and Reagan’s illegalities to give us the last 8 years of national destruction.

  30. hairball_of_hope says:

    @observer

    Ok, I’ll bite…

    I’m speaking as someone for whom the phrase “six million” is not a mere statistic, nor some jimgoistic shorthand for crimes committed by the Nazis.

    My family is somewhere in all those zeroes after the “6”. None of my family who remained in Europe survived the dual onslaught of Stalin and Hitler.

    I have no illusions about how wonderful life was under the Soviets, and I wouldn’t be here today if not for the willingness of this country to take in people who were not white Christian English-speaking with easy-to-pronounce-and-spell names.

    My family and I have a great deal of respect and gratitude for the US, despite its imperfections, its mistakes, and its historical baggage.

    Where I grew up. many of my neighbors and the parents of my friends and classmates were Holocaust survivors. The Holocaust is not something that’s far removed and nebulous for me, nor something I learned about in a Hollywood-ized story like “Schindler’s List.”

    What I learned from the up-close-and-personal experience of my family, my neighbors, and my classmates was to always be vigilant, and to be skeptical of mass media and government “information.” Vigilant of government excesses. Vigilant of political party excesses. Skeptical of what is considered “official” news and “popular” opinion. Vigilant against manipulation of the news and opinion.

    For example, I note that the USSR had 20 million people killed by Hitler, and the US propaganda machine never seems to mention that.

    I also note that despite the split with the USSR in the post-WWII Allied occupation of Germany, none of the Allies raised a peep about the war crimes committed by the Soviet troops.

    Occasionally there might be mention of the Soviet massacre at Katyn Forest, but no prosecutions ever resulted from it. The Russians finally admitted the Katyn massacre about 20 years ago, but despite the fact that there is no statute of limitations on war crimes, justice has not been pursued.

    Other Soviet war crimes against civilians are almost totally unreported, and are mostly unexamined by historians.

    In particular, members of the Soviet Army systematically raped and brutalized women in the East German sector. We made a big deal over the Japanese war crimes in China, even highlighting the atrocities against women as “The Rape of Nanking,” but no such attention was paid to the women in Germany. May I suggest something for your reading list… “Frauen” by Alison Ownings. It’s an oral history of German women about the Third Reich and the postwar aftermath.

    Here we are nearly 65 years after WWII ended, and the US is hounding octogenarian former SS guard Ivan Demjanjuk for war crimes.

    Our hypocrisy is galling.

    Why I bring this up… What all war crimes and genocides have in common is the dehumanization of a group of people classified as “other.” Jews, Poles, Gypsies (Rom), Germans, Japanese, Tutsi, Armenians, Muslims, whatever.

    It starts with a denial of their basic humanness. They’re “not like us” therefore they are less-worthy/not-worthy of the considerations we give ourselves. Once they cease to be human, our moral strictures against cruel, degrading, inhuman treatment fall by the wayside.

    It’s a slippery slope you’re on, my friend. Torture of the Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prisoners is no less reprehensible than the torture and murder inflicted by the Nazis, the Soviets, the Rwandans, the Turks.

    You can’t have one set of rules for our behavior and actions, but another set for theirs. Torture is torture, no matter the protagonist, no matter the victim.

    It’s wrong. It’s illegal. And it should be prosecuted.

    Off my soapbox…

  31. hairball_of_hope says:

    [[Comment altered: No trolling the troll]]

  32. Acilius says:

    @R2A: I haven’t had a chance to get to HALF A YELLOW SUN yet, but thanks for the reminder.

    @h_o_h: I agree with you. Disagreeable as the commenter has been in the past, and thoroughly wrong as he is now, his comment here is a clear statement of a position that many otherwise thoughtful people hold, and that position deserves the serious response that you, Maggie, and Kate have given it.

    [[Comment altered: No trolling the troll]]

  33. Mentor says:

    Just to be clear about the rules of discourse:

    1] Thoughtful commentary is always welcome (and, indeed, encouraged), even when heartfelt or intensely expressed.

    However:
    2] While a great deal of latitude is shown, all posted comments must be civil. In particular this means:
    – No trolling.
    – No trolling the troll.
    – No name calling or personal attacks.

    Period.

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.

  34. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Mentor

    Thank you for your vigilance on our little visitor. I weighed the pros/cons of responding, and opted to respond because like Acilius, I’ve heard and debated the same argument with thoughtful and intelligent people in my own life.

    Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa on my making a direct reference to the Orange-Haired One in my second message. I’ll be more restrained in the future.

    But I have a question about the OHO’s posts and the latitude for retention/deletion of his posts… his post on 4/22/09 (right before Kate L’s response) is still up, as are his test messages purporting to be croatian_bruna. ???

  35. ksbel6 says:

    @Ginjoint: I hope you went back a couple of posts and read my last comment.

    This music would get me to talk.

    Didn’t they basically prove through statistics kept during WWII that leaving people in solitude and only providing the basic nutrition requirements is the best way to get them to tell the truth? I always thought that the biggest problem with torture methods (besides the fact that they are just evil) was that the information the victim provides cannot be trusted. Basically they will tell you whatever it is you want to hear to get the torture to stop.

  36. Mentor says:

    @HOH:

    1] The quick answer is that, ultimately, this is an art, not a science.

    2] That said, with regard to the particular message you allude to: It affords an interesting example. The concern here is with “mode of expression” not of “content”.

    On the one hand. while the message might have skated worryingly near the edge, it doesn’t seem to have stepped over the line, regardless of the actual opinion expressed.

    On the other hand, this is unlike subsequent posts from “observer” in this thread which clearly were out of bounds, and which resulted in the message being removed and the source IP-address being banned.

    3] To phrase this another way, if “observer” or “bleeder” (or whoever) wants to post his/her opinions in a civil, thoughtful way, they will be welcome. However, neither they (nor anyone else) will be allowed do act like a jerk.

    (Disengaging back to sleeper-mode.)

  37. Acilius says:

    @Mentor: Sorry to have stepped over the line. And sorry that you had to take your time to sanitize my comment.

    @ksbel6: I vaguely recall the studies you mention. Can’t solitary confinement protracted long enough amount to torture, though?

  38. Andrew B says:

    We don’t know who “Mentor” is. It’s not like Alison to use aliases or post lists of rules. And if she’s the person who mixed skating near the edge with stepping over the line, she’s having a very bad day. So far as I know, Alison has not had an assistant lately. When she did, her assistants always identified themselves by name when posting here. So while I can’t argue with much of what “Mentor” has said, I think we should be cautious about accepting her/him as a legitimate authority.

  39. Acilius says:

    I assumed that Mentor was the old guy who traveled with Shazam in the Saturday morning TV show from the 70s, the show that was paired with THE ADVENTURES OF ISIS. Clearly, no one could quarrel with the authority of statements emanating from so august a source as that. Either him or the guy from Vergil’s AENEID. Either way, unimpeachable.

  40. Aunt Soozie says:

    Acilius, I agree wholeheartedly.
    Or maybe it was one of the characters from DTWOF… they have had those little episodic mutinies where they take control without Alison’s consent… and they’ve been left to their own devices for quite awhile now.

    Can you imagine what must be going on there… what sort of garments they’ve been wearing (now that no one is watching) The conversations they’ve been having about Alison and how she has neglected them. One of you artists out there should draw up that strip… the entire cast, pissed off at Bechdel for taking them out of the light.

    I can hear it now, all the bitching about how she’s so busy with that new girlfriend that she has no time to give them the life they deserve, how they made her career in the first place, how she’s writing another friggin memoir, about her relationships… lah-de-dah… what about our relationships? I guess we’re all supposed to wait around in stasis while she contemplates the intricacies of her intimacies. Sydney would say…. we should have had a straight cartoonist in the first place, I told you all that, we’d have had better clothes and perkier boobs!

  41. Ready2Agitate says:

    Holy crap, first the Electric Company, then Soupy Sales, and NOW I hafta rush to YouTube to revisit Shazam and O Mighty Isis!!!

    But first:
    Kate & Acilius, I appreciated both of your earlier replies to the post that was meant to provoke, not engage. I know I’ve recommended it before, but Samantha Power’s “A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide” is superbly written and an important primer on human rights the world over (and the US’s lack of action time and again). The ticking timebomb scenario, btw, is such a red herring; I really hope our new leadership has to ovaries to really address torture genuinely, rather than sit around hypothesizing. I’m glad Obama purged the former CIA, but I’d now like to see some new policy foundations laid (Power is consulting to him, in fact), and yes, some prosecutions to be sure.

  42. Ready2Agitate says:

    Oh Aunt S., Hee! you are too much! (you already satisfied the idea with your apt description!)

  43. Aunt Soozie says:

    “has the ovaries to”! hee to you too, I like that… and I don’t know, I would still like a visual…. the facial expressions and all….

  44. croatian bruna says:

    hairball of hope, you said:

    “(right before Kate L’s response) is still up, as are his test messages purporting to be croatian_bruna. ???”

    who is claiming to be me? or are you talking about the comment i left before asking the other “bruna” to … etc.etc.?

  45. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Andrew B

    I assume that Mentor is an authorized person empowered to monitor/police/clean up our musings on this blog. S/he swiftly deleted the offending posts of our friend, and redacted the posts from Acilius and me, so it’s clear the Big Web Eye In The Sky is watching.

    Now… do I bite on our latest agent provocateur’s posts? Mentor’s stated guidelines include “if ‘observer’ or ‘bleeder’ (or whoever) wants to post his/her opinions in a civil, thoughtful way, they will be welcome.”

    Thinking this over…

  46. hairball_of_hope says:

    …thinking…thinking…hoping this doesn’t run afoul of our kind hosts…

    Look pal, there’s no need to insult anyone. And you’re being mighty presumptuous to state that the Russian troops tearing the Chechen girl in half didn’t bother us, because it sure as hell bothered ME.

    Civil discourse is welcome here. I think it was Acilius who wrote a while back that it’s useful to have someone from the other side of the political spectrum posting so we’re not in a self-congratulatory echo chamber.

    So behave yourself, and we can all have a nice chat. Okay?

    Last, but not least, my early training in vigilance and skepticism extends to the entire political spectrum, not just those right-of-center. There’s plenty of hypocrisy on the left as well, and I’ve ruffled plenty of feathers among my “fellow travelers” over the years.

    You’re wrong on the Hiroshima history. The American Left (if there is such a monolithic entity that deserves upper-case treatment) proclaimed it a criminal act that targeted civilians very early on.

    J. Edgar Hoover (Director of the FBI for life) then sicced his Red Squad on the Left. If you recall your history, we had that little awful episode in US history that schoolbooks now call the McCarthy Era, where exercising freedom of speech was equated with disloyalty to the US, where the state security apparatus spied on and blackmailed lefties, intellectuals, and LGBT persons in a manner worthy of the East German STASI (secret police). Our so-called elected officials in Congress had kangaroo court hearings that ruined the lives of those who “named names” and those who refused to go along with the “popular” political witch hunt of the day.

    It’s not just the Hiroshima bombing which targeted civilians. The Dresden incendiary bombing also violated US and international rules of conduct for armed conflict, which supposedly try to limit “corollary damage,” a euphemism for harming innocent civilian populations.

    Both Dresden and Hiroshima were intentionally left unbombed until their attacks with incendiary and atomic weapons, respectively. This was because each of these targets was an EXPERIMENT. They were intended to be demonstration exercises where the US military could measure how much damage could be done by these types of weapons.

    War crimes? Definitely. Unprosecuted? Definitely. Hypocritical of the US? Absolutely. So what else is new?

    If Joe McCarthy and J Edgar Hoover were still around, I’d be on their list for writing this. For all I know, I might be on the enemies du jour list of our current STASI-like security apparatus. Hello NSA!

    It was Truman, not FDR, who had to make the decision to deploy both nuclear weapons in Japan. The test firing of the first atomic device in Alamogordo NM was in July 1945, long after FDR’s death in April 1945. The Manhattan Project was still a theoretical weapon during FDR’s lifetime.

    If you ever get your butt out of your chair and take a road trip, may I suggest visiting the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, MO.

    Once there, you’ll get to read Truman’s journals and letters which clearly indicate that he knew innocent civilians were being targeted. He agonized over it, and concluded that deploying the nuclear weapons would save an enormous number of US troop casualties resulting from conventional warfare and invasion of Japan, so he relucantly signed the order authorizing the use of atomic weapons.

    His assessment of the costs/benefits of using the atomic bomb is somewhat analogous to your earlier cost/benefit argument about torturing prisoners vs. saving millions of people in the event of a dirty atomic bomb in midtown Manhattan.

    Criminal? Yes. Should be prosecuted? Yes. Dilemma? Absolutely.

    Also on display at the Truman Library is a letter he wrote but never sent to Senator Joe McCarthy, castigating him for his shameful conduct and “un-American” hearings. He called McCarthy a scoundrel in the letter. I couldn’t help but think that Truman’s inaction, and his not speaking out against McCarthy and the “Red Scare” prolonged that horrid period in US history.

  47. Acilius says:

    @h_o_h: “Hiroshima history. The American Left (if there is such a monolithic entity that deserves upper-case treatment) proclaimed it a criminal act that targeted civilians very early on.”

    As did much of the American Right, as a matter of fact; the conservative “America First” that had opposed US entry into World War Two in 1939-1941 was by some measures the largest antiwar movement America has ever seen, and its views were by no means extinct in August 1945. Conservatives and future McCarthyites as US News and World Report publisher David Lawrence and Henry Luce, the publisher of Time, Life, and Fortune magazines condemned the bombings at the time, and as late as 1959 National Review could write that “The indefensibility of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima is becoming part of the national conservative creed.”

    The “My country right or wrong” attitude that we saw so much of during the Bush/ Cheney administration didn’t become mandatory among self-described conservatives until the Vietnam era. Even today there are voices on the right, mostly the eccentric corners of it populated by individuals who have no hope that the successes of the Republican Party will advance their careers, who are willing to speak out against militarism. Reading somebody like Ron Paul or Pat Buchanan on race, gender, economics, the environment, and many other issues reminds me of what George Orwell said about Rudyard Kipling- they express opinions which a decent person will find not only unacceptable, but intolerable. Still, when the topic is America’s addiction to warmaking they speak with a human voice.

    Here’s a link to an article about conservative opposition to the Hiroshima bombings, from the right-wing peacenik site antiwar.com:

    http://www.antiwar.com/orig/maleymohan.php?articleid=11959

  48. Ginjoint says:

    @ksbel: Yeah, I saw your last comment; thanks for the feedback. Stay safe in MO, O.K.?

    A couple of nights ago I watched the movie The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, about the friendship between a boy in a concentration camp and the young son of a Nazi officer. Of course, for a lot of reasons, this particular story could not have happened in real life, but it reminded me of something else. During the Nuremburg Trials, it was agreed that “I was just following orders” is not a valid defense for torture. And yet here we are, sixty-odd years later…

  49. Kate L says:

    The nomination of Kathleen Sebelius to be secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration has been blocked by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, leader of the Republican Party in the United States Senate. Senate majority leader Harry Reid (Democrat of Nevada) is confident of the eventual success of the Sebelius nomination. According to today’s Topeka Capital-Journal, the two senators from Kansas (conservative republicans Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback), have been openly criticized for not “openly campaigning” against Sebelius. Roberts and Brownback know better than to campaign against the most popular elected official in their home state. If Sebelius does not become a member of President Obama’s cabinet, she will probably become the next U.S. senator from the state of Kansas (and the very first democrat elected to the senate since statehood in 1861).

    Here is some of what the Capital-Journal article said, follwed by a link to the article:
    “GOP national committee chairman Michael Steele called on Obama to withdraw the nomination if Sebelius wasn’t “forthcoming” about her political connections to Wichita abortion provider George Tiller.

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., objected to a final vote on the nomination because senators required more time to weigh the “fairly contentious” choice of an abortion-rights governor to lead HHS.”
    http://www.cjonline.com/news/local/2009-04-23/gop_intensifies_criticism_of_sebelius

  50. @Andrew B. “Mentor” is trusted friend who has been pitching in to help moderate the site lately. I should have said something about this earlier–so sorry. I don’t always visit the blog often enough to delete disruptive posts before they do their work. Having another person helping with that tiresome task has been great. Mentor’s been zapping most of these things before I even see them.

  51. ksbel6 says:

    AB: I agree, I like how quickly all the stuff is removed, including the responses to the stuff.

  52. hairball_of_hope says:

    Thanks, AB. I am particularly impressed that Mentor is hard at work in the wee hours. For those of us awake far too early in the day (as Kinky Friedman calls it, “the ass-crack of dawn”), it’s quite a revelation to see her/his moderating hand at work while most normal people are sleeping.

  53. Kate L says:

    In my last post, I should have added that Governor Kathleen Sebelius just vetoed a bill recently passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature that would have (further) restricted abortion rights for women in Kansas. And, Dr. George Tiller of Wichita is one of the few physicans still providing abortion services in Kansas. The rest have been driven out of state by the religious right. His “political connection” to Sebelius is that he actually contributed to her re-election campaign.

    Oh, and there’s =another= news story out of Kansas today with national implications. I think that’s a record for this state! 🙂 Some individuals from Texas are suing Kansas over the outgoing Bush administration’s decision to locate the successor to the Plum Island biohazard lab here in our fair little midwestern college town*. They think that it is inexplicable that Texas should have lost out in its bid to host such a big-ticket federal laboratory, especially to Kansas. Of course it probably would have helped their case against Kansas if Rick Perry, the republican governor of Texas, had not recently said that Texas may leave the United States and become an independent republic if the policies of the Obama administration are not more to his liking(!)

    * The tentative site for the new National Biological and Agro-Defense Facility or NBAF (I find that name the perfect embodiment of the military-industrial complex!) is about one mile from my home. Yep, I’d be living one mile away from the new Plum Island!

  54. […] Posted by acilius under Music, Violence | Tags: Alison Bechdel | [2] Comments  Via Alison Bechdel’s website,  a way to take some words that have become all too familiar and give them back their power to […]

  55. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Kate L

    I thought it was a totally insane idea to relocate the lab from Plum Island (which is an island off the coast of Massachusetts), to the mainland. One of the reasons for siting the lab on an isolated island without civilan inhabitants was to ensure that whatever nasty stuff was being studied on the island had a very hard time escaping to the population at large.

    So how stupid is this… move the lab to the center of the mainland, where there are lots of susceptible hosts (cattle and people) nearby. Better hope that Level 4 containment is working.

    Suggestions for your reading list… “The Hot Zone” by Richard Preston, and “The Coming Plague” by Laurie Garrett.

    Is there no local activism against siting the lab in your area?

  56. ksbel6 says:

    If I were Obama I would have started removing all National Guard and any other military services out of Texas the second I heard about the governor’s threat. You want to be your own country, go ahead. Good luck with that. Send us a note to let us know when you have officially become part of Mexico…because that is exactly what would happen if they left. **disclaimer to all Texans that read this-I was born in Corpus Christi and I know everything is bigger in Texas. But really, one could cut Alaska in 2 and then Texas would be the third largest state. Texas isn’t that big.

  57. Kate L says:

    hairball,

    Oh, yeah, there’s opposition. The usual suspects. Unitarians, green folk, rad dykes who watch out for us. They fought the good fight, but were ground under the heel of the military-agricultural complex…

  58. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Kate L

    Will there be any connection between your school and the lab?

    Oh, the joys of getting a security clearance in the Google and Facebook/MySpace era. 🙁

  59. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Kate L

    Suggested new-and-improved acronym for the National Biological and Agro-Defense Facility… NBADF. It’s BAD to the core!

  60. hairball_of_hope says:

    Haiku for NBADF…

    Biohazard lab
    In the middle of Kansas
    Pop! goes the virus.

    Tornado alley
    That’s a great place for this lab
    Nothing could go WNORG.

    Trust us, say the Feds
    We want jobs, say the locals
    Money or your life?

    Hoof and mouth disease
    Want some Ebola with that?
    Cooties run amok.

  61. Kate L says:

    hairball

    I’m sure that a radical lesbian Unitarian will have no trouble at all getting her security clearance! And yes, there WILL be a connection with the local state university. The university even built a high-level biohgazard lab of its own to lure the federal lab here. Really. It’s named “Pat Roberts Hall”, after the sitting senior U.S. Senator from Kansas. I was wondering if we’d get to rename it if he lost an election or was involved in a sex scandal.

  62. Ian says:

    Sorry – this is completely off-topic and probably tasteless given the subject, but I need to spread some light, creativity and community to remind me there is hope for the human race.

    I don’t know why it’s taken my fancy so much but it has. After 23 years, a pensioners’ afternoon club have finished KNITTING a model of their village in Kent, England. Pics from the BBC:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/8017645.stm

    The attention to detail is incredible. I love it when people get together to do something positive.

  63. Ame says:

    HoH, beautiful haikus. Thank you, and you too, Ian–fabulous.

  64. Aunt Soozie says:

    Ian… that village is so sweet… to bad someone can’t buy the whole thing and donate it to a museum or something like that… such a labor of love, shame to see it split up and sold off in pieces!

  65. Ready2Agitate says:

    Dang, I don’t even know what all the commotion is about… thanks, Mentor! 🙂

  66. Ready2Agitate says:

    ps omg – OT – but I’m hoping to see this film at the Boston Independent Film Festival Saturday, about the heroic efforts to rescue left-behind animals during Hurricane Katrina… and the aftermath of such.

    It’s called “Mine” – looks pretty good,
    http://iffboston.bside.com/2009/films/mine_iffboston2009

  67. Alex K says:

    @Ian: Well, it makes a break from wondering what the memorandum guidance will look like for running “black camps”, where tortureres could REALLY let loose.

    I bet that from here on in NO ONE in that whole village gets planning permission from the council to add a conservatory or to carry out a loft conversion. Unless they agree to tat them into the knitted model.

  68. Acilius says:

    Thanks, Ian! That’s brilliant.

  69. Mentor says:

    My previous posts seem to have muddied the waters (and in view of Alison’s post above) I’d like to clarify a couple points.

    1] As Alison noted, I’m attempting to help with some of the day-to-day moderation of the blog.

    The goals here are:
    – I should be unobtrusive (the less you are aware of my presence, the better).

    – Actual moderation should be as minimal as possible (see below).

    – Finally, I should note that my motivation is purely self-interest. I think we can all agree that the more time that Alison can devote to more “productive” tasks, the happier all of us will be.

    2] In view of the above, the intent of my previous notes was to get in, quickly lay down a couple ground rules, and then get out.

    However, as Andrew B and others rightly noted, I handled this somewhat clumsily. For which I apologize.

    3] With regard to moderation: The only real standard here is one of civility.

    In particular, as noted above, thoughtful, reasoned discussion –whatever the content– will always be welcome.

    However, make no mistake: Anyone who demonstrates that they are not willing to “play nice”, will lose all access to the site. Period.

    4] Which brings up the thorny issue of “trolling the troll”.

    The general point is a (repeated) appeal to not feed the troll. (As they say, it just makes good sense).

    The specific point is the following can of worms:

    Again, to be clear, the issue here is not one of content. Folks should be free to address any topic, even if initially raised by the troll.

    This, however, is different from bating the troll his/herself. (Even taking into account either how much the troll may deserve such abuse, or how little s/he would be willing to grant the same courtesy to others.)

    In a few cases I have modified a couple of posts to remove some explicit (although comparatively mild) references to our recent troll. I really don’t like doing this. But on the other hand, unplugging someone’s mike while allowing other folks to continue taking potshots at him/her is something I am simply not willing to do.

    5] Let me make one last point and then get out of the way.

    Any of us who had the misfortune of dealing with poisonous personalities know that one of the most damaging consequences of their behavior is that it is the rest of us, the innocent bystanders who are, at heart, friends, who will often end of fighting with each other.

    I truly hope that the behavior of this, or any, troll (or, say, clumsiness like my posts above) will not contribute to this any further.

    Now, that said, and with luck, you’ll never hear from me again.

    If we shadows have offended
    Think but this, and all is mended.
    That you have but slumber’d here
    While these visions did appear.
    And this weak and idle theme
    No more yielding but a dream.
    Give me your hands, if we be friends,
    And Mentor shall restore amends.

  70. Mentor says:

    P.S. @Andrew B: Point well taken with regard to badly blended metaphors.

  71. Acilius says:

    @Mentor: Oh, you haven’t been clumsy at all. Quite the contrary. You’ve been doing a very impressive job, and I for one am quite grateful.

  72. bean says:

    haven’t been here for a while and seems i missed a bunch of drama.

    however, responding to something posted towards the top of this discussion, i just wanna say that although millions of jews were murdered in the holocaust, and part of the purpose and near affect was a european jewish genocide, it REALLY irks me that people fetishize the number six million, when millions of others including communists, queers, people with disabilities, prostitutes and many other “undesirables” were also murdered. the truth is, no one knows how many jews or others were murdered, but i’m pretty sure that the number six million (how many? six million. are you sure? yes, six million, six million, six million!) is arbitrary.

    the total number of murdered i’ve heard is somewhere around 11 million. but of course, that number is probably as flawed as the six million. anyway, my point is that jews were murdered and a LOT of other people were too. in that historical incident. and, of course, there have been other historical incidents that have resulted in catastrophes for other peoples as well. Big ones.

    the other point i wanted to make: torture = bad.

  73. Andrew B says:

    @Mentor: oh, forget about it. There’s nothing like a metaphoric mashup to make the world run as it rolls around the sun and dances on its way. It just didn’t sound like Alison, that’s all.

  74. Ian says:

    @Alex K et al: Glad you liked the diversion. It is rather fab isn’t it?

    I too am not looking forward to what comes out of the really, really bad places. I find these days that I can only let in so much bad news before it overwhelms me. I kind of have to ration the horror otherwise I’ll give up on humans and just go work at the Dogs Trust and invest my emotions in animals instead.

  75. Thank you, Mentor! You are a scholar and a gentleperson!

  76. NLC says:

    kindle test

  77. hairball_of_hope says:

    I’ve spent the morning reading a bunch of online news reports about the decisive victory of the Left Green party in Iceland.

    What caught my attention was how few of the reports mentioned, even in passing, that Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardóttir is an out lesbian.

    I’m not sure if that’s because her orientation is not considered germane to the political story, if the assumption is that her orientation is old news, or if it’s just another MSM slight.

    I can’t really tell if this is a good thing or not. Every story about the financial bailout in Congress doesn’t start off with the lead, “Openly-gay Rep. Barney Frank said…” so maybe this is a good thing. But maybe it’s just more of the usual invisibility of LGBT folk in MSM. Hmmm.

    Guess which of the English-language reports from these news orgs mentioned her orientation: NY Times, Reuters, Radio Netherlands, AFP, Aljazeera, Financial Times, Reuters, Bloomberg, AP, Xinhua, BBC, Guardian, CNN International, South African Independent.

    The answer: NY Times, South African Independent, AFP, CNN International. A few mentioned that she is the country’s first female prime minister.

    No matter, it’s good news for Iceland.

  78. hairball_of_hope says:

    From the Czech Republic comes news that they are kicking out former KKK leader David Duke:

    http://www.radionetherlands.nl/news/international/6274303/Former-KKK-leader-kicked-out-of-Czech-Republic

    I do wish they had banned him from entering in the first place, as the UK did with Rev. Fred Phelps.

  79. Minnie says:

    Thank you, Mentor, aka Puck or Robin Goodfellow. I love the wrap-up from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, and remembered Brooke McEldowney’s online comic-strip production of same (with a cast of characters drawn from both his strips), now available as a book.

    I appreciate the thoughtful takes on serious issues here, the references that enrich, and oh, that knitted village! Delightful!

    Strengthened by you all — here’s to enlightenment. Now to clean the augean stables before the flu hits (sorry).

  80. Anonymous says:

    Worst haiku ever? (my first try)

    This blog needs Mentored?
    Who will mentor The Mentor?
    Alison I guess!

  81. Acilius says:

    As someone with no plans to visit the Czech Republic, I admit to being selfish enough that when I heard the Czechs had kicked David Duke out of their country, my first reaction was to wish they had made him stay there indefinitely. I don’t suppose the Czechs have done anything bad enough to deserve him, though. Now Ukraine, where an accredited institution of higher learning awarded Duke a PhD for producing an antisemitic tract, they have something to answer for. Having to put up with Duke for some time to come might be a suitable penalty for that.

  82. Dr. Empirical says:

    While I firmly believe that there’s nothing that could happen to David Duke that would be so awful that he didn’t deserve it, I also believe that no one should ever be punished for words.

    Speech is free. ANYONE trying to charge someone for speech is a badguy.

  83. Acilius says:

    @Dr. E: Oh, I agree, most definitely. Duke should be free to speak on his own behalf, and thereby to expose himself to the world as a hate-addled fool.

    I would just point out that the Ukrainian school that awarded him a PhD in antisemitism is a state institution. When it speaks, it does not speak on its own behalf only, but on behalf of the Ukrainian people. So when such an institution endorses Duke and his ideas, it labels Ukraine and Ukrainians as antisemites. I should hope that Ukrainians everywhere would take this as an insult, and would protest against it.

  84. Ellen O. says:

    “Speech is free. ANYONE trying to charge someone for speech is a badguy.”

    Does this mean that there should be no charge to hear a former president speak? A best-selling author? An inspirational speaker?
    Or do you mean “charge someone to speak”? Or, if you want to stand on a soap box on a street corner and spout verses from Leviticus, you should be able to do it for free?

    Just curious.

  85. NLC says:

    Acilius: […]expose himself to the world as a hate-addled fool.

    I’ve always been fond of the quote attributed to the philosopher of science Karl Popper:
    “To attack a man for talking nonsense is like finding your mortal enemy drowning in a swamp and jumping in after him with a knife.”

    A little over-simple, perhaps; but I like the spirit.

  86. Dale says:

    Well, if we are haiku-ing, then please allow me to wax pathetic…

    Sydney and Mo are patient
    Perhaps not Clarice
    Raffi is nearly sixteen

    Hooray for Connecticut!
    Another vict’ry
    Let’s throw organic brown rice!

    Another Golden Girl lost
    Goodbye Bea Arthur
    Find Sophia and find peace

    Applause for our dear Mentor
    Patrolling the posts
    Your vigilance never wanes

    Thank you! Thank you! I’ll be here all week! Be sure to tip your waitress.

  87. hairball_of_hope says:

    Haiku about haiku…

    Haiku syllables
    Are seventeen in three lines
    Five, seven, and five

    Counting syllables
    Looking for just the right words
    Preserves sanity

    Anal-retentive
    Hyphen or not to hyphen
    That is the question

    Thank you Alison
    For hosting this blogosphere
    And thank you Mentor

  88. Ted says:

    @ Minnie, I really like Brooke McEldowney’s strip. Where else but DTWOF could I find fans of Soupy Sales and 9 Chickweed Lane. I believe Pibgorn played the role of Puck. If any of you aren’t familiar with this strip check it out. You will love Seth and Mark.

    Mentor, I am sure many people were saying WTF to themselves after your first posts but you came across so well that everybody figured you must be here in some capacity as a friend to AB. I wish you luck in your use of “teh Ban Hammer”.

  89. Ian says:

    I think the confusion about Mentor’s identity or status came about because AB and her minions/beautiful assistants usually have their usernames in orange … Damn. Now Obama’s in charge I can’t work in some kind of joke about raising the threat level to orange, or something along those lines.

  90. NLC says:

    And of course there’s Douglas Hofstadter’s contribution:

    Haiku’s inventor
    must have has seven fingers
    on his middle hand

  91. NLC says:

    And speaking of Midsummer’s Night Dream…

    If you’ve not seen this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEqsMDOtyU0

  92. Dale says:

    Damn dyslexia
    Got it all backwards, I guess
    Cheers, Hairball of Hope

    Well, now I feel like a dumbass. Either way, I had fun.

  93. Aunt Soozie says:

    that’s okay Dale, you invented a new form… the dyslexadale
    now, how about a quatrain? ballad? villanelle?
    or my personal favorite… a sonnet?

  94. Dr. Empirical says:

    Ellen

    I was using the word “charge” in the legal sense, as in “Charge with a crime.”

    Clear?

  95. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Dale

    Not dumbass at all
    Contemporary haiku
    Is not bound by rules

    Ukiah Haiku
    Festival was yesterday
    April 26th

    http://www.ukiahaiku.org/

    There’s no bacon here
    And there’s no maple syrup
    Why no food poems?

    Chocolate haiku
    Slightly bitter, slightly sweet
    Taste lingers on tongue

  96. Dale says:

    Thank you dear Hairball
    Aunt Soozie made me chuckle
    Mmmm…maple syrup

    Chocolate cake with
    Peanut butter inside it
    Mouth orgasms, babe!

    How’s that, HOH? 🙂

  97. hairball_of_hope says:

    Feed me… (swoons for dark chocolate)

  98. Aunt Soozie says:

    There you go! Haiku!