Saturday, December 09, 2006

What if America Tortured During WWII?

Andrew Sullivan has the quote from Scott Horton:

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...

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?"

19 comments:

Jack's Shack said...

I have a problem with this for a variety of reasons. FWIW, we could easily make a case that the Japanese were more brutal than the Germans.

Talk to survivors of their camps and or the Bataan Death March.

Anyway, jumping into the fray here is part of the issue for me. People seem to think that WWII was fought by men who did no wrong.

The answer is far different. WWII saw its share of barbarism committed by US and Allied forces. Do not think for a moment that we did not engage in any of these activities.

It is patently false.

I am not suggesting that because we did then that it makes it any better now, but that we have to look at the context of the time and remember a number of things.

We are training people to go out and kill other people.

Think about that. And now consider for a moment what happens when you capture enemy combatants.

Two minutes earlier these people were trying to kill you. Do you really think that you can just flip a switch and forget that.

Bad things are going to happen.

Again, I am not saying that I condone these actions or that we shouldn't try to prevent them.

What bothers me is that some people seem to be so horrified about this.

War is hell. If you watch your friends die or be maimed. If you are trained to kill. And if you happen to capture those that were trying to kill you, what do you think would happen.

Jewish Atheist said...

Your point that atrocities were committed in WWII is a good one and maybe destroys the whole argument here -- if the Japanese became our allies even after Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and all the firebombing, it's hard to claim that torture would have prevented an alliance.

However, I can't agree with the implications of the rest of your post. What happened at Abu Ghraib was perhaps a few bad apples who lost it. (I doubt this, but that's a different discussion.) But Bush seems to have officially authorized water-boarding, extreme sleep deprivation, stress positions, and "long time standing." There's a difference between soldiers committing atrocities in passion and officially-sanctioned torture.

Anonymous said...

JA, I think you need to explain your point. What you've put up isn't much more than a rhetorical question.


I've lost respect for Andrew Sullivan over the past year or so because he's kind of gone off the deep end. For example, he's the one who complained we were engaging in torture because we were using fake menstrual blood. Someone then pointed out that, duh, fake menstrual blood means something that looks like menstrual blood but isn't, like maybe ketchup. So Sullivan has a low threshold for what constitutes torture.

BTW, wonder what's on the menu at Gitmo tonight. If history is any judge, it's robably something better than what I had.
Another anon

Jewish Atheist said...

JA, I think you need to explain your point. What you've put up isn't much more than a rhetorical question.

My point is that we're supposed to be the good guys. Torture is not only almost always immoral, but our using it makes us look awful around the world.

BTW, wonder what's on the menu at Gitmo tonight. If history is any judge, it's robably something better than what I had.

Very cute. I'm sure you'd happily switch places with any of the "detainees."

Jewish Atheist said...

I THINK THIS WAS COIMMENTED IN THE WRONG THREAD:

RE: "What if America Tortured During WWII?"

What is interesting about this question is that it was a german line of defense @ the nazi war trials. Or, an attempted one at least.

It was deemed to be a tu quoque fallacy.

"An example of its use in court was in the Nuremberg Trials, where the defendants attempted to introduce a tu quoque argument, in claiming that the Allies too had committed crimes similar to those of which the Nazi regime was accused. (This line of defense was eventually not allowed by the court's judges.)"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tu_quoque

I often consider what would have happened had the allies and the US lost WW2. How would dropping the atomic bombs on japan have been justified?

I think that had we have lost, the US may also have been tried for war crimes.

Essentially, it seems that it is the victor who determines if war crimes have been committed.

By beepbeepitsme, at 9:32 PM, December 09, 2006

Jewish Atheist said...

bbim:

What is interesting about this question is that it was a german line of defense @ the nazi war trials. Or, an attempted one at least.

I hope you're not under the impression that I'm defending our enemies. On the contrary, I'm arguing that even though they are worse than we are, we're not being good enough.

I think that had we have lost, the US may also have been tried for war crimes.

You should watch Fog of War, an amazing documentary. Robert S. McNamara, who was an air force officer during WWII, agreed with his commander General Curtis LeMay's assessment that if the U.S. had lost, they would have been called up on war crimes charges for the firebombing of Tokyo, etc.

Ezzie said...

That's ridiculous. Firstly, the Germans committed far greater atrocities than anyone ever will (hopefully) - yet within a few years, were not only part of the global community, but were making money off of it.

Second, the US *did* do some pretty bad things (see the Japanese). And yet, the Japanese now are pretty decent allies.

Third, there is a complete difference in the type of combat, and this may be the most important difference. While in WWII, torturing would have gotten us almost nowhere in terms of enemy tactics, now, we are trying to stop further attacks. We knew who the German and Japanese forces et al were trying to attack - Allied forces, primarily. It was a war, with clear sides. Terrorists are a completely different type of enemy, who fight a completely different kind of war, and it's time to stop pretending that it's the same.

Actually, the time to stop pretending that was probably 1971 in Munich.

Jewish Atheist said...

Ezzie:

I think that you and Jack are correct that the argument that torture prevents future allies is false.

Terrorists are a completely different type of enemy, who fight a completely different kind of war, and it's time to stop pretending that it's the same.

Actually, the time to stop pretending that was probably 1971 in Munich.


Please go back in time and tell it to Bush before he invades Iraq.

Ezzie said...

Wait - I thought Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism? Which is it?

Anonymous said...

JA,

In your response to my comment, you seem to be saying the problem is just one of public relations. Do you really worry about what the European socialist elite thinks?(I don't know who else you might be referring to.) If the information we get saves one American or innocent Iraqi's life, then isn't that more important than the sensitivities of the European
socialists.

But if the problem is only public relations, then what you're calling "torture" is light by the standards of the rest of the world. They're probably laughing at us because we're not really lowering the boom.

Of course if Al Qaeda wants treatment per the Geneva Convention then all they need to do is to conduct themselves accordingly. They're not.

You also might want to consider taking what you read about the "torture" with a grain of salt. Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, CNN, NYT etc. all suffer from BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome). They also have their own agendas.

So I for one am not going to rely on them to conclude that the problem is something more than a few bad apples.

As far as changing places with the detainees at Gitmo, actually I wouldn't want to change places even with someone who's entitled to all the rights of Geneva Convention, which the detainees are not. But that's not the point. The point is that the detainees are being treated a lot better than any of our soldiers would be if he was captured by Al Qaeda. I say "he" because if it were a "she" it would be even worse.



Another anon.

Jewish Atheist said...

Ezzie:

Wait - I thought Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism? Which is it?

It had nothing to do with terrorism, but Bush used the war on terror as cover for it. Either he believed it really was part of the war on terror, in which case, he made the mistake we discussed above, i.e. fighting it like an old-fashioned war by invading and occupying a country, or it was just propaganda.

Ironically, now that we've made it a not only a training ground for terrorists but the best recruitment tool Islamic extremists could have hope for, Iraq has everything to do with terror.


Another anon:

In your response to my comment, you seem to be saying the problem is just one of public relations. Do you really worry about what the European socialist elite thinks?

I'm not talking about the "European socialist elite?" (Who would that be, four people?) I'm talking about the world. The America I love used to stand for freedom and democracy. There is a whole generation of children in our country as well as across the earth being raised in a world where America, that supposed beacon of freedom and democracy, tortures its enemies.

We're supposed to be the good guys, damnit.

Of course if Al Qaeda wants treatment per the Geneva Convention then all they need to do is to conduct themselves accordingly. They're not.

First of all, we are not restricting torture to al-Qaida members, as far as I know. Second of all, as your kindergarden teacher should have taught you, two wrongs don't make a right.

Do you want America to win because it happens to be the country you live in or do you want America to win because we're the good guys? We have to be the good guys.

You also might want to consider taking what you read about the "torture" with a grain of salt. Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, CNN, NYT etc. all suffer from BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome). They also have their own agendas.

Boy have you been sold a load. The administration and their toadies have convinced you nobody can be trusted but them. You might as well join Scientology.

Jack's Shack said...

I agree that there is a question of whether torture is an official policy. I am not suggesting that it should be. There have to be some moral limits and structure.

But I think that it is false to suggest that the war is the best recruitment tool that the Islamists have.

There are too many examples of attacks against the West that preceded it.

You might be interested in this post about Arab self esteem.

beepbeepitsme said...

(Ooops, I posted this on the wrong article.)

RE: "What if America Tortured During WWII?"

What is interesting about this question is that it was a german line of defense @ the nazi war trials. Or, an attempted one at least.

It was deemed to be a tu quoque fallacy.

"An example of its use in court was in the Nuremberg Trials, where the defendants attempted to introduce a tu quoque argument, in claiming that the Allies too had committed crimes similar to those of which the Nazi regime was accused. (This line of defense was eventually not allowed by the court's judges.)"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tu_quoque

I often consider what would have happened had the allies and the US lost WW2. How would dropping the atomic bombs on japan have been justified?

I think that had we have lost, the US may also have been tried for war crimes.

Essentially, it seems that it is the victor who determines if war crimes have been committed.

Jewish Atheist said...

Jack:

But I think that it is false to suggest that the war is the best recruitment tool that the Islamists have.

There are too many examples of attacks against the West that preceded it.


Okay, maybe not the best, but certainly a good one. The intelligence agencies seem to agree that the Iraq war has caused terrorism to increase.

You might be interested in this post about Arab self esteem.

We'll "beat" the Muslims when we convince them to join the modern world.


beepbeepitsme,

I copied your post above and responded there.

beepbeepitsme said...

RE: JA

RE "I hope you're not under the impression that I'm defending our enemies. On the contrary, I'm arguing that even though they are worse than we are, we're not being good enough."

Not at all. I just took the question on face value. The fire bombing of Dresden, for example, during the second world war would certainly have been claimed as a war crime had the germans won.

And I agree that if any nation, group etc wants to claim the high moral stance, they need to make sure they are acting accordingly.

It does seem to me though, that war crimes, acts of torture etc, are determined as such by the winners. I am not making a moral judgement when I say this, just an observation.

The winners have the power and will to determine these things. The losers don't have the political will or power to defend their actions or to excuse them either.

beepbeepitsme said...

RE: above

I am a realist, maybe. I recognize that in any conflict both sides have blood on their hands. It is within the political will of the winner to determine if the bloodshed was "nobly shed" or not.

Jack's Shack said...

The intelligence agencies seem to agree that the Iraq war has caused terrorism to increase.

They also said that if we win it will act as a deterrent .

beepbeepitsme said...

RE jack

There is such a cultural tradition in Papua New Guinea called "payback killings."

At a simple psychological level, this is what happens when blood is shed.

It becomes a cycle of payback until one side or the other comes to the realization that a violent response only encourages further violence.

Or until one side's ability to retaliate is severely diminished.

I am not condoning this, merely stating that this seems to be the pattern, and in this light, violence begets further violence.

Jewish Atheist said...

They also said that if we win it will act as a deterrent .

By Jack's Shack


Well, yeah. But that's not looking too likely.