ABORTIONS AND BUSH

There has been no increase in the number, despite reports to the contrary.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Even we at Fox News manage to get some lefties on the air occasionally, and often let them finish their sentences before we club them to death and feed the scraps to Karl Rove and Bill O’Reilly. And those who hate us can take solace in the fact that they aren’t subsidizing Bill’s bombast; we payers of the BBC license fee don’t enjoy that peace of mind. Fox News is, after all, a private channel and our presenters are quite open about where they stand on particular stories. That’s our appeal. People watch us because they know what they are getting. The Beeb’s institutionalized leftism would be easier to tolerate if the corporation was a little more honest about it.” – Fox News’ London bureau chief, Scott Norvell, as reported by Tim Noah. He’s right on both counts. The problem with the BBC’s leftism is that it’s publicly financed and Beebers are in denial about it. Neither problem afflicts Fox, to their credit. They’re not in denial, as Norvell proves; they simply fib about it. Why not acknowledge the bias and revel in it? That’s what we do here at as.com.

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THE EVIDENCE MOUNTS

You can read an excellent summary of material I have been posting and writing about as well as some more statistical and political data here. Even Glenn Reynolds is now forced to concede that the accumulation of evidence is “non-hysterical”, (i.e. written by a heterosexual male), and “well-documented” (unlike, I suppose, the review-essay I wrote a while back after poring through all the official government reports). One critical fact the author omits is, to my mind, one of the more telling: there have been no reports of prisoner mistreatment anywhere in the war-zone in detention facilities that were not geared toward interrogation. Doesn’t that suggest a strong link between the abuses and new interrogation standards? Another really excellent review is found in the current New Republic by Noah Feldman (alas, subscriber-only). Feldman points out that critics like me do not have a huge smoking gun linking all the abuse to decisions by the White House to relax standards of detainee treatment. The reason?

Plenty of material certainly remains classified, and it will remain so for the foreseeable future, as perhaps some of it should in light of the continuing terrorist threat. We cannot at present answer responsibly the question of the exact consequences of the memoranda by the administration’s lawyers.

But we can parse what we know and the empirical evidence points to widespread abuse and torture of detainees in every field of operation. The patterns of abuse were very similar – geared toward humiliation of Muslims through nakedness, use of dogs, sexual shame, etc. – and they crop up everywhere. Abu Ghraib was “Gitmoized” and techniques approved for the CIA in cases of al Qaeda big-shots “migrated” throughout the system, as the government reports delicately put it. The memos lowering U.S. moral standards were part of the Iraq war-plan, even though no observers would dispute that the Iraq war was covered by the Geneva Conventions in every respect. The evidence of abuse – far greater than any infractions in domestic U.S. jails – is now simply indisputable. It is telling, it seems to me, that the administration’s essential defense now is that all the abuse was a result of military insubordination, i.e. that it was not in control of its own soldiers. So you get to pick between a deliberate legal choice of abuse and incompetence on an epic scale. But if it was incompetence, why have none of the architects been fired? In fact, they’ve been rewarded.

THE QUESTION OF RECIPROCITY: Feldman’s deeper argument – and the superb essay is well worth re-reading – is that the administration made a simple decision after 9/11 to change for ever the way the U.S. wages war. Since the enemy was now beneath civilized standards, the argument was that we should be prepared to match them in depravity, if “military necessity” required it. The Jacksonian logic was one of reciprocity. But the point of the Geneva Conventions was far more than reciprocity. It was to lay out clear, universal moral standards for civilized countries to pursue; and, like all such international agreements, gained force and power by the cumulation of adherence. For the most powerful actor on the world stage to formally renounce or marginalize the code of Geneva might have made short term sense in pursuing the evil men of al Qaeda (although the purported benefits have yet to be shown). But in the medium and long term, all it has done is to soil the U.S.’s reputation as a beacon for human rights and undermined the war itself, especially its broader pro-democracy aspects. It has also made the cumulative force of Geneva far weaker. The next time a U.S. soldier is captured and tortured, we will have very little credibility in complaining. Why could we not have said: “This is a war. We will fight it as we always have done – with vigor but humaneness toward prisoners. Just because they are scum doesn’t mean we have to copy them. We will provide them with our own military documentation and treat them like Geneva inmates. We will only release them when bin Laden declares an unconditional surrender.” If we’d done that, we would have maintained the vital structure of Geneva, we would have avoided the blights of Guantanamo and Bagram and Tikrit and Basra and Abu Ghraib. We would have far more moral force in our legitimate, vital campaign for democratization in the Middle East and beyond. Now it is too late. You only get one shot at maintaining Geneva. And we blew it. Reversing course now would subject too many soldiers and commanders and CIA interrogators and administrtoion officials to legal perils. So Bush will hang in there. It remains one very important reason why we should have fired him last November.

EMAIL OF THE DAY

“As a former Marine officer I can tell you that your criticism of the inscription on the tank was proper. The officer or NCO in charge of that tank should at a minimum be reprimanded.
However, I suggest, it may have been better had you not printed that misguided and vile email. It may give some the idea that the opinion of that one soldier, probably someone ensconsced in the safety of the Green Zone, represents more than just his or her immature bragadoccio. I have great doubt it represents the thinking of the great majority of our soldiers and Marines.”

FROM DEMOSTHENES

He writes back taking issue with my stance on stem cells. Here’s his point:

I wanted to comment back to you because I, frankly, found it odd that you would grant my premisex97that the administrationx92s position is incoherent yet maintain that the stance taken is still the correct one. If the underlying precedent condition of the argument is contradictory the antecedent result cannot be legitimately rooted in that. Unless you think Bushx92s position is right by accident, but that assumes that the embryos in the post are ‘alive’ when the truth is cryogenic preservation means an embryo isnx92t moving towards life–itx92s dying. It has a fatal condition–the lack of a womb. It can be adopted, implanted to the genetic donor, used for research or disposed of. Even if itx92s the first two, the embryo is still not viable life as the millions of embryos that wash out in menses (unremarked upon) demonstrate.
You write: “Nevertheless, actually using such embryos for medical research, and creating them for that purpose, does strike me as more morally problematic.”
Ummmx85. How? While discussing this with my friend I noted several observations. The issue is not the creation of embryos for research. There are hundreds of thousands of fertilized eggs that are the by-product of IVF that can be used for stem cell research. So even if you are against the creation of embryos for research, that is not really the immediate issue, and this objection can be readily discarded.
Second, how can you deem destruction of these fertilized eggs as being less morally problematic than using them for life-saving experiments? They are not in the process of livingx97they are in the process of dying. It is not possible to oppose the use of embryos for research if you simultaneously support (or don’t oppose) IVF which necessarily involves the destruction of fertilized eggs.
Further, if it is the status of a flushed embryo than we must as readily object to the process of heterosexual intercourse, which results in this as a natural byproduct (as does IVF).
You oppose the research by supposing that the use of embryos for medical research is more objectionable than throwing the embryos into a medical waste dump.

Two things. I don’t support banning such research. I support banning federal funding for such research, which gives the imprimatur of the American democratic system to such a morally troubling area. Second, I do indeed think there’s a difference between letting organisms that are “in the process of dying” die and using them for experimentation. The latter exploits them in a way that merely letting them die does not. To take a simple and inexact parallel: would it be okay to use, say, a near-death patient for medical experimentation that would end in her death just because her death was imminent anyway? I know the embryo analogy is not exact, but the principle is similar: using some human life for the possible, but not proven, benefit of others’. Just because you’ve already crossed one line doesn’t mean you cross all of them.

CONSERVATISM AND FOREIGN POLICY

A take on Rich Lowry’s latest take.

ONLY IN ENGLAND: The Church of Englad will allow its priests to marry their partners under Britain’s looming civil partnership provisions, civil marriage in all but name. But they will have to promise they’re not having sex. Of course, if they’ve been married for many years, that might not be such a sacrifice.

ANOTHER DEMOTION: A longstanding general with a largely exemplary career gets a quick exit from the military, with a reduced rank. Hmmm:

]W]hat cost Riggs his star? His Pentagon superiors said he allowed outside contractors to perform work they were not supposed to do, creating “an adverse command climate.” But some of the general’s supporters believe the motivation behind his demotion was politics. Riggs was blunt and outspoken on a number of issues and publicly contradicted Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld by arguing that the Army was overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan and needed more troops.
“They all went bat-shit when that happened,” recalled retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay M. Garner, a one-time Pentagon adviser who ran reconstruction efforts in Iraq in the spring of 2003. “The military part of [the defense secretary’s office] has been politicized. If [officers] disagree, they are ostracized and their reputations are ruined.”

Not a way to win a war. But then we knew that already, didn’t we?

EMAIL OF THE DAY

“I would hope to see you over here in theater running your pie-hole about your calls to remove Marines from their post for the ‘New Testament’ inscription on the main battle tank. You would be buried with your insurgent ‘friends’ that you support, through your criticism of our men and women dying for this mission with a bulldozer.
For your safety, I would not even be around soldiers, airmen, or marines. Treason is a high crime and misdemeanor and the price is quite high. Your actions border on treason. You could not survive the long days, enemy in-direct and direct fire, and high demands that our soldiers today execute in 100 degree weather. You would have to have a rucksack full of Vagisil for your clam pal to make it a week here.
Most of us are Christians and will continue to support our faith in any way we see fit. Do the right thing: support us or STFU !!!!!!!!!!” – from a soldier in Iraq.

REWARDING FAILURE

It’s a Bush administration meme. If you screw up, you get promoted, as long as you’re a team player. If you really screw up, you get a Medal of Freedom. If you screw up to such an extent that it cannot be ignored, then you find a couple of low-level grunts to scapegoat. If you get something right, but Cheney got it wrong, you’re fired. Is this really a way to win a war?

AIRFORCE ACADEMY NEWS: Some promising signs that the military is taking Christianist intolerance seriously.

HOMELAND SECURITY: They’re hard at work protecting movie copyrights. Thank God for a new government agency.

COUNTRY CLUBS AND MARRIAGE: Right-thinking gets my point.

“PEOPLE SEEDS”: Ambivablog makes a case for drawing the moral line for human life at successful implantation in the womb. Worth pondering.