pageok
pageok
pageok
Mark Steyn Visits Gitmo.--

After recently visiting Gitmo, Mark Steyn writes a column focusing only on the positive side of treatment there. But in the course of his seemingly one-sided presentation, he makes a thought-provoking observation (tip to Betsy):

If I had to summon up Gitmo in a single image, it would be the brand-new Qurans in each unoccupied cell. To reassure incoming inmates that the filthy infidels haven't touched the sacred book with their unclean hands, the Qurans are hung from the walls in pristine surgical masks. It's one thing for Muslims to regard infidels as unclean, but it's hard to see why it's in the interests of the United States government to string along with it and thereby validate their bigotry.

When I put this point to Adm. Harris, he replied, "That's an interesting question," and said the decision had been made long before he arrived. He explained that they had a good working system whereby whenever it became necessary to handle a Quran — because a weapon or illicit communication had been concealed in it — a Muslim translator would be called to the cell to perform the task. But I wasn't thinking of it in operational so much as psychological terms: What does that degree of abasement before their prejudices tell them about us?

As someone who has visited a couple dozen jails and prisons over the years (including taking my students in two small seminars to two different federal prisons), I never got the sense that I could judge what life was like from just visiting. One of my mentors, the late University of Chicago Professor Norval Morris, used to recommend that I spend a weekend locked up in Stateville, which Steve Goodman in a song once called "the charm school in Joliet." Another of Morris's proteges told me that when he did this, the inmates started hassling him — and then challenged him to tell them what he was doing there. When he said that Norval had told him to spend a weekend in prison, the inmates suddenly became friendly, assuring him that, "Any friend of Norval's is a friend of ours."

Some prisons or jails that I visited were somewhat superficially dormlike (but of course with smaller windows and more locks), like the federal prison in downtown Chicago when I visited about 1980. Some were grim on their face, such as Stateville. The only one that was just horribly oppressive on entering was the early 1970s old Cook County Jail, which was filthy and stank more than any building for human beings that I've ever been in.

DK:
In most circles, treating other people's beliefs with respect is considered a sign of our strength, not of our weakness. Not torturing people used to likewise be a sign of our strength and the rightness of our cause.
10.1.2006 1:37pm
James Lindgren (mail):
DK,

Very eloquent.
10.1.2006 1:44pm
MnZ (mail):
In most circles, treating other people's beliefs with respect is considered a sign of our strength, not of our weakness.


In most circles, fighting accusations of violence with death-threats is so absurd that it wouldn't even be contemplated.

I am not saying that we should sell out our values. However, I really don't see how adhering to some Jim Crow-like religious laws are exemplifies our values.
10.1.2006 1:58pm
David Duke (mail):
I respect other people's right to be racist.
10.1.2006 2:00pm
Dan28 (mail):
My understanding is that non-Jews are forbidden to touch the Torah. Is that "racist"?
10.1.2006 2:15pm
Bottomfish (mail):
The Korans in any public library are handled by both believers and unbelievers and by hands both dirty and clean. Same for Korans in bookstores. If the Gitmo Koran procedure has any real value in improving inmate behavior, the real problem of the inmates is their attitude toward their own holy book.
10.1.2006 2:18pm
Bruce Wilder (www):
The respectful treatment of the Koran is especially ironic, considering that Gitmo is the place where Bush uses our own Constitution as toilet paper.
10.1.2006 2:46pm
Mike Keenan:
I think what is galling to many is the implicit assumption on the part of the detainees and others that a double standard is expected and acceptable -- and is even a further cause for hate. You better treat our books with respect but we won't even allow your book into our countries (eg, Saudi).

How is defering to that a sign of strength? How is not calling them on it anything but weakness.
10.1.2006 3:11pm
Enoch:
In most circles, treating other people's beliefs with respect is considered a sign of our strength, not of our weakness.

Unfortunately, those "circles" do not appear to include the people we're actually fighting.

And that even leaves aside the issue of whether other people's stupid beliefs deserve to be respected. If we were fighting an international white supremacist conspiracy, would we provide the detainees with pristine copies of the Turner Diaries?
10.1.2006 3:15pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
I'm sure Steyn missed the specailly constructed toilets used by Bush to flush both the Constitution and the Koran. I KNOW that they are there because that's what Newsweek and Bruce Wilder have told me and they would not lie.
10.1.2006 3:38pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
I don't respect their beliefs. And I don't accept their behavior, whatever their beliefs may be.
10.1.2006 3:39pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
I can't wait for the movie: The President gives the Muslims a City. Like, Steyn was going to go looking for the torture chambers, not.
10.1.2006 3:44pm
PersonFromPorlock:
We also feed them a Moslem diet and tell them which way Mecca is, so how is handling the Koran their way any different? It's all a mistake if any of it is. Which, of course, it may be.
10.1.2006 4:21pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
An interesting point of tension in terms of respect for other cultures is seen at the US diplomatic mission in Saudi Arabia. While Saudi law--presumed to be religious, but actually cultural--demands that women be covered in public, the USG supports its female employees' choices in how to dress.

Some choose to wear abayyas in public, simply to avoid the hassles. Others wear modest western dress, believing that American modesty is as good as Saudi modesty, even if the lines are drawn differently.

If a non-covered woman is hassled, then the Embassy steps in to sort it out.

BTW, this is only for situations outside office hours and official functions. At those times, American female diplomats are expected to wear modest American clothing, whether in the office or out of it, with no exceptions.
10.1.2006 4:59pm
MnZ (mail):
My understanding is that non-Jews are forbidden to touch the Torah. Is that "racist"?


I am not Jewish. However, I understand that the restrictions apply to the sacred Torah scrolls, not printed versions of the Torah. (I am sure that other posters know better than I.)
10.1.2006 5:22pm
CJColucci:
Some of you may remember when that US airplane was forced down and our airmen were briefly imprisoned in China, W's major concern, expressed numerous times, was whether they had Bibles available to them. (If he had made any inquiry into the religious affiliations of the airmen or their own concern, if any, for having Bibles, is unknown, but I'm willing to hazard a guess.) Why such vehement objections to basic human decency?
10.1.2006 6:07pm
MnZ (mail):
Why such vehement objections to basic human decency?


I am fine with providing Koran's to prisoners. However, I would rather that it be done without pandering to our enemies bigotry.
10.1.2006 6:33pm
Elais:
I wonder if this could be argued as leading by example? Showing that America does respect the Koran and the Islamic faith? Even if the prisoners themselves don't respect it?

Or does in this particular case, do we go too far for what might be an extremist belief in how to treat the Koran?
10.1.2006 7:04pm
Ken Arromdee:
Why such vehement objections to basic human decency?

Providing Korans, like providing Bibles, is basic human decency. Providing Korans untouched by infidel hands is not.
10.1.2006 7:24pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
So we provide the Protocols to Jew-murderers and Mein Kampfs to skinheads as a matter of basic human decency?

Absurd. We should be alerting the prisoners and their co-religionists that we do not respect their religion nor accept their behavior and that they had best get about joining the civilized world. Once they've all done that, they won't have to be in prison and they can go to Borders and buy their own Korans like the decent people.
10.1.2006 8:15pm
AntonK:
Whatever we're doing with their Lorans, we are certainly not starving them:


Only in America would you find authorities trying to cope with terrorist detainees by over-feeding them. . . . Guantanamo officers say that while most of the detainees upon arrival at Gitmo ranged from underweight to normal, today the 460 or so held on the base range from normal to overweight to mildly obese.
10.1.2006 8:41pm
Ted Frank (www):
Dr. Lazarus, whatever the problems with Gitmo, can we at least agree that it's not Theresienstadt by a long-shot? If nothing else, Mark Steyn isn't going to be gassed eight months from now. I find the comparison offensive.
10.1.2006 8:58pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
...today the 460 or so held on the base range from normal to overweight to mildly obese.

By hook or by cook, we're Americanizing them, all right!
10.1.2006 9:39pm
Lively:
From the Department of Defense:


4. Handling.
a. Clean gloves will be put on in full view of the detainees prior to handling.
b. Two hands will be used at all times when handling the Koran in manner signaling respect and reverence. Care should be used so that the right hand is the primary one used to manipulate any part of the Koran due to the cultural association with the left hand. Handle the Koran as if it were a fragile piece of delicate art.
c. Ensure that the Koran is not placed in offensive areas such as the floor, near the toilet or sink, near the feet, or dirty/wet areas.


It's one thing to respect a detainee's beliefs and give him a holy text, but the US government is turning cartwheels for an enemy that has no mercy on infidels.
10.1.2006 9:42pm
DG:
The question isn't, "should we treat their Korans with respect". The question is, should we buy into their belief we are unclean or inferior. I'm not for burning Korans. I'm ok with providing them. But not allowing guards to search them when they are being used for contraband is silly.

As far as the Torah - printed copies of the Tanakh can be handled and sold to anyone. The actual scrolls themselves are a different matter - no one (except scribes) touch them with their hands. This is both due to respect and because the scrolls are extremely delicate. I bet even scribes use latex gloves these days.
10.1.2006 9:43pm
James B. (mail) (www):
Matt: Hi Elwood! How ya doing? How was Joliet?
Jake: Oh it was bad. Thursday night they'd serve a wicked pepper steak.
Matt: Can't be as bad as the cabbage roll at the Terre-Haute Federal Penn.
Elwood: Or that oatmeal at the Cook County slammer.
Matt: Well, they're all pretty bad.
10.1.2006 10:52pm
PaulV (mail):
Has everbody the erroneous story done by Newsweek about guards flushing Korans down the toliet? Newsweek Lied, People rioted and died. Military overreacts because of idiots in media.
10.1.2006 11:17pm
Adam B. (mail) (www):
Did no one else read Tim Golden's NYT piece on Gitmo two weeks ago? If we don't extend some decency and understanding to these folks, the prison is ungovernable.
10.1.2006 11:36pm
Ken Harlow (mail):
If I am ever sentenced to prison, I'd like a private cell, climate control, a comfortable bed, reclining chair, 32"(minimum) HD TV, DVD, computer with latest soft ware and full internet access, bookshelf filled with books of my choosing (paid for by tax payers) and of course healthy, nutritious, tasty meals and comfortable uniforms. That's what I'd like. My expectations are that my likings wouldn't count for much. But then, that's what makes it a jail. Treat the bad guys like bad guys. If the war ends, give 'em back, otherwise, guess they'll die there. Can you imagine General Patton ordering his men to wear surgical gloves while handling Mein Kampf?
10.2.2006 12:05am
Tortoise (mail):
Surgical Masks? What would be wrong with, say, a clean crisp linen napkin?

Are they just taking the piss regarding excessive sterility?

Or is the juxtaposition just supposed to be a profoundly threatening and/or disturbing image? If I found a surgical mask in my cell, I would quite reasonably conclude that surgical procedures are not uncommon in that institution.

Is it safe?
10.2.2006 1:31am
Harry Eagar (mail):
Adam, it's governable. I understand the prisoners very well. If there's a decency deficiency, it's on their side, not ours.

Maybe we should do like Sheriff Joe and feed 'em baby food. And dress 'em in pink unmentionables. Offer 'em hot dogs.

After all, the Geneva Conventions that everybody is so het up about specifically says that you must feed your prisoners what you feed your own forces.

They'll come around.
10.2.2006 2:15am
Kovarsky (mail):
i might point out to some gentiles that tonight might not be the ideal evening to solicit the propriety of gentile-touching from the jew-touchers. we're in the midst of our annual, collective 24 hour hunger strike, where we eschew petty sarcasm and reflect on our sins. for me personally, there are just too many sins to deal with.

as for the sterilized book issue, my instict is that the "gesture" is as much to keep the detainees calmer and more cooperative as it is to express any compassion.
10.2.2006 4:36am
logicnazi (mail) (www):
First of all let me be clear that if I thought this was a deciscion justified on some principle of religious tolerance I would be completely against it. Not because some sort of weird symetry argument about how they treat us, what diffrentiates moral behavior from simple tit for tat behavior is the ability to treat others better than they treat you, but because crazy preferences shouldn't get a special pass because they are religious.

People, and especially the government, shouldn't be in the buisness of favoring religion over non-religion but this is exactly what giving arbitrary random religious beliefs more weight than other strong preferences amounts to. I have no doubt if someone in any prison with an OCD disorder who demanded that no one else touch his mattress springs or some similarly random preference would be given the same allowance that someone with a random preference for religious reasons would be given.

This having been said I'm all for doing this in gitmo. There are very compelling PR reasons to show respect for muslim beliefs. Gitmo is bad enough PR we hardly need more people to become terrorists because they see this as a muslim anti-muslim battle.

I don't really care if someone sees accomodating their religious beliefs as weakness. This isn't some schoolyard fight to see who can impress people as being tougher. Frankly I would much rather the US be seen as weak kneed christians who are too secular/timid to demand equal treatment for their religion than as a strong tough christian nation standing up to islam. The later is going to promote more extremism and terrorism directed against us.

Remember the group we are fighting does not have secular values. The idea of being fair by treating different religions the same doesn't make sense to them. If you see islam as the true description why would you think you need to give false descriptions of the world similar treatment?

Hell I don't understand how any religious people support the concept of religious equality. I mean just like science religion claims to be a true description of the world. Just as we think it would be absurd to give false science equal public weight as true science why wouldn't a religious person feel the same about their religion. The only explanation I can see is if they are somehow unsure that their religion is really correct or if their religion directly mandates tolerance so being intolerant is in fact being tolerant.
10.2.2006 7:25am
Neal R.:

"It's one thing to respect a detainee's beliefs and give him a holy text, but the US government is turning cartwheels for an enemy that has no mercy on infidels."

Of course, even the administration has conceded that some of the "enemy" at Gitmo is innocent.
10.2.2006 8:30am
Neal R.:

"It's one thing to respect a detainee's beliefs and give him a holy text, but the US government is turning cartwheels for an enemy that has no mercy on infidels."

Of course, even the administration has conceded that some of the "enemy" at Gitmo is innocent.
10.2.2006 8:33am
sksmith (mail):
"In most circles, treating other people's beliefs with respect is considered a sign of our strength, not of our weakness."

Don't be absurd. The defense of Piss Christ had nothing to do with respecting Christianity, nor of arguing that art institutes or Serrano are respectful or weak. It was all about ASSERTING the right to speak, even/EXPECIALLY when insulting. Insults to others' beliefs are signs of strength, self-evidently.

Unless you mean by 'in most circles' something like "in leftist circles when the argument is convenient (even if in contradiction to previously-made arguments)", your statement is nothing more than a convenient bromide that you don't even believe.

Steve
10.2.2006 9:43am
AntonK (mail):
Also this on the detainees and their rights:

"The case against Guantanamo rests on a web of falsehood. Far from being held "beyond the laws of civilized nations"--laws that terrorists, by definition, reject--the detainees here enjoy a panoply of procedural protections. All except the 14 recent arrivals have gone before Combatant Status Review Tribunals to re-examine their designation as enemy combatants--even though these "Article V" hearings are required under international law only if that designation is in doubt, and under the U.S. Supreme Court's 2004 Hamdi v. Rumsfeld ruling if the detainee is a U.S. citizen. (Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told me last week that the newly arrived detainees had not yet received Article V hearings but would.) In addition, each detainee annually goes before an Administrative Review Board, analogous to a parole hearing, which determines whether he can be released without harming U.S. security."

Read the whole thing
10.2.2006 10:17am
Steve:
Dr. Lazarus, whatever the problems with Gitmo, can we at least agree that it's not Theresienstadt by a long-shot? If nothing else, Mark Steyn isn't going to be gassed eight months from now. I find the comparison offensive.

Odd that you don't find several commentors' comparison of the Koran to Mein Kampf equally offensive.
10.2.2006 10:19am
Thales (mail) (www):
I'm not sure that the belief regarding physical respect for the Koran as an object is an indication of racism or bigotry, at least no more so than any other religion's overt identification of believers and exclusion of non-believers. If a non-believer is identified in a holy book as being destined for damnation or simply not part of a selected group of people (e.g., those who reject Jesus Christ, those not included in God's covenant with Abraham, respectively, in the New and Old Testaments), isn't that in a way the same kind of exclusion based on religion? If these beliefs are not bigoted, I'm not sure why the requirement that non-believers not directly handle the Koran is--is it because it requires a physical sign of exclusion when the non-believer handles the book viewed as sacred? Why does it need to be seen as abasing the handler, instead of the handler being magnanimous enought to respect the prisoner's dignity and deeply held beliefs? The protocol does seem excessive in its care, but not difficult to accomplish, and there are good reasons having nothing to do with capitulation to "The Enemy" to show this kind of respect for Muslim prisoners. It might make them more likely to talk, for example.
10.2.2006 10:30am
Fub:
Seems to me that the domestic political debate is between those who see anything and everything as torture and those who don't. The conflict leads to such "politically correct" silliness as giving the prisoners Korans untouched by infidel hands, while trying to find ways that aren't "torture" to convince them to reveal information about whatever terrorist plots they know.

Since we actually need whatever information these prisoners have, then we should focus on getting that information, not on debates about how well they're treated. So I say treat them so well that they'll talk until we tell 'em to shut up.

Each prisoner gets two rooms. One room is the same as the current cell, complete with sanitized Koran and other amenities. The other room is the privilege. It will either be accessable or not, depending on the prisoner's cooperation in giving up information.

It has a sumptuous array of food, some of which is Halal and some not, clearly marked. The best coffee, tea and alcoholic beverages are available. There is a TV with every channel imaginable, the shopping channels, porn channels, education channels, movie channels, Fox, CNN, ESPN, and every non-USA channel on satellite, the whole nine yards. Books of every work ever translated into the prisoner's language are available. If the prisoner wants something specific, he can ask and he should get it if it is possible to provide. Another KFC bucket o' chicken? No problem. Would you like some beer with that, or a nice Riesling?

Give them a few weeks to get used to the second room, then start with small, easy and unimportant questions. One act of insubordination, or one refusal to answer a question, and the second room is locked until they answer. Back to reading the Koran and dreaming of the good life in the cave with Osama. But the privilege room is always visible through a small window in the cell.

Rinse and repeat until they have nothing further useful to reveeal.
10.2.2006 10:39am
johnt (mail):
The usual amount of bullshit, different day same deference towards a religion and it's followers that would have no problem killing those that offer the deference.

Was it in Saudi Arabia that the "holy book" was being destroyed by the thousands, something having to do with wahabbi interpretations? So when does the book become, or stop, being holy?

It's all about harassing the guards, which I suspect is known by most, possibly all of us.

The Times did a piece in the Sunday magazine a couple of weeks ago about the battle going on inside Gitmo between prisoners and the guards for control and influence. Think about it! And while doing so imagine a like battle going on in every prison, state or federal, every city, town and county jailhouse in America. Can't do it, can you?

Perhaps a few of those who sympathize with the prisoners would feel a little different if they had a bag of feces flung in their faces, a routine occurance in this hellhole of prisoner abuse. Then again maybe it wouldn't make a diference, some people are adaptable.
10.2.2006 11:04am
Anderson (mail) (www):
Steyn's observation tells me nothing about Gitmo and all too much about Steyn. "Abasement" before their "prejudices." What a fool.
10.2.2006 11:09am
JosephSlater (mail):
As is often the case, Logicnazi gets it right.
10.2.2006 11:11am
Steve:
And while doing so imagine a like battle going on in every prison, state or federal, every city, town and county jailhouse in America. Can't do it, can you?

Of course I can. Not a lot of experience with the corrections system, I assume?
10.2.2006 11:28am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
As a general rule, intent is not particularly relevant.

Results are relevant. The important question is what effect this treatment has on the WOT, and that depends on what the prisoners and other Muslims think of it. Not what some uninvolved commenter on a blog thinks of it.

If it convinces some Muslims that the west can be rolled by a bit of rough-tough, then it has a bad effect. If it mollfies some Muslims, then it has a good effect. If it does both, the net may be for the better or for the worse.

But the issue is what they think about it, and that means wondering what and how they think, or however many "theys" there are.

IMO, kindly treatment will not mollify a goodly proportion of the Muslims around the world, since they consider it their due, the base that infidels owe them. It's not a gift or magnanimity.

On the other hand, they know we have the power to make the prisoners' lives miserable, as Muslim jailers surely would. But it looks as if we lack the will. And what lesson does that teach?

The gratitude for infidel sacrifice on behalf of Muslims, say, in the Balkans, is notable for its complete and utter non-existence. To think there would be any gratitude for treating prisoners nicely wouldn't seem any more likely.
10.2.2006 11:37am
Still Learning:
The problem is, Muslims think they are the chosen people and the rest of us are equal to pigs. By handling their Koran with gloves we imply that we know we are worthless pigs and need to obey to their demands.

It's like us allowing anti-Jesus jokes and cartoons but not anti-Mohammed stuff. We're showing them that we know they are right but we are so stupid we don't care.

They just don't understand that our freedoms are more important to us than any religious rules.

What we need to do is tell them they are no better, and in many ways worse than other religions and we will do what the hell we want, and Mohammed and their Allah are impotent to stop us. Once they realize that their religion is no better than others they will stop dying for it.
10.2.2006 11:45am
The River Temoc (mail):
The problem is, Muslims think they are the chosen people and the rest of us are equal to pigs.

Would you care to elaborate on your source for this little gem, please?
10.2.2006 12:18pm
noahpraetorius (mail):
Malkin has a link for purchasing of a bobble head Muhammad with a bomb for a turban. I'm not sure I would recommend putting one on your dashboard...but I am for an anonymous campaign to display images of Muhammad in public places. Let them riot and kill if they must but I will be ready if they come for me. Maybe if we keep insulting them like they insult us, they will learn a little tolerance in the process. If not, so be it.
10.2.2006 12:25pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Ted Frank—

Well, maybe you can come up with a less inflammatory example of an absurdly partisan "observer" unable to find evidence of abuse (which he had neither desire nor, given his lack of relevant foreign languages, the ability to find) at a detention camp where reality—we already know—has been something else. I can't. Indeed, to fool the Red Cross visitors to Thereisenstadt required a serious deception to create the "Potemkin Extermination Camp". Steyn? Not so much. Not so much at all.
10.2.2006 12:43pm
noahpraetorius (mail):
Lazarus, I bet you thought the video of Zarqawi sawing the screaming Nick Berg's head off while chanting "Alahu Akbar" (sp) was just an unfortunate example of religious excess. Steyn makes no bones about his partisanship but at least he is not in denial.
10.2.2006 12:51pm
Captain Holly (mail) (www):

Odd that you don't find several commentors' comparison of the Koran to Mein Kampf equally offensive.


Considering how popular Mein Kampf and Jew-bashing is in the Islamic world, that's not necessarily an invalid comparison.
10.2.2006 1:02pm
Captain Holly (mail) (www):
Yes, I know that should be "Mein Kampf and Jew-bashing are". Remember kids, preview is your friend.
10.2.2006 1:04pm
Gary Farber (mail) (www):
"...can we at least agree that it's not Theresienstadt by a long-shot?"

It's possible one might just wish to shoot for a higher standard than that.
10.2.2006 1:06pm
Steve:
As usual, the best place to go for arguments that we are in a religious war with Islam are LGF and the comments section at volokh.com, without fail.
10.2.2006 1:16pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
I always love this rhetorical tactic...

A: XXX is as bad as (insert contemptable person/place/thing)

B: No he's not, for reasons 1,2, &3

A (or A's likeminded buddy): That's your standard?!? (aforementioned terrible thing)?!? Don't you think you should aim higher?
10.2.2006 1:41pm
Luke 1152 (mail):

but the US government is turning cartwheels for an enemy that has no mercy on infidels.

Oh you mean because these people are terrorists, right?

How about a trial and a conviction before we decide what they are?

And, just in case you are so daft that you think that their arrest is somehow proof of the their evil, you might want to reflect on the fact that more than 1/2 of the people originally detained at Gitmo have been released.
10.2.2006 2:14pm
K Parker (mail):
JosephSlater,
As is often the case, Logicnazi gets it right.
Actually, not in this case! Logic is great (and admittedly his is impeccable) but even the best reasoning gets you nowhere when you start with faulty premises: "This isn't some schoolyard fight to see who can impress people as being tougher." On the contrary, it's hard to come up with a reading of bin Laden's pronouncements that doesn't conclude this is a major aspect. Strong horse, and all that...

As far as how I look at this, put me down in Richard Aubrey's column.
10.2.2006 2:40pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Mark me as another Aubrey fan.

Logicnazi gets it wrong when he says it isn't a Muslim-antiMuslim fight. The Muslims think it is. Me, too.
10.2.2006 3:17pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
"This isn't some schoolyard fight to see who can impress people as being tougher." On the contrary, it's hard to come up with a reading of bin Laden's pronouncements that doesn't conclude this is a major aspect.

So because our enemies are morons, we're supposed to be morons too?

But even that response would miss the point. Osama is not our "enemy." He is a criminal who successfully conspired to murder thousands of Americans. His nutball theories are not of any more interest to me than was the Unabomber's manifesto.

Osama has attracted relatively few people to his actual organization, but he has a relatively broad swath of support, tolerance, or neutrality in many Muslim states. Those people are not studying his pronouncements as if he were some Islamic authority (he's not). Rather, they are dissatisfied with their lot in life &prone to blame America for their ills, in part b/c of our supposed "crusader" mentality.

Some of these people, obviously, wouldn't be appeased if Bush converted to Islam on a live al-Jazeera broadcast. But not everyone is so committed. And the more we can get out there that we do, in fact, respect Islam, the more chance there is that we'll be better regarded, in a conflict where how you're regarded is, in fact, a very big deal.

Now, do details like Qur'an-handling matter, when we're also legalizing torture, creating kangaroo courts, throwing out the most cherished human rights where furriners are concerned, and invading Muslim countries on bogus evidence? Well, no, probably not very much.

But if we're doing *anything* halfway right, this is not the time to discontinue it, because it affects the pathetically fake tough-guy stance of frauds like Mark Steyn.
10.2.2006 3:37pm
Lively:
Luke1152:

And, just in case you are so daft that you think that their arrest is somehow proof of the their evil, you might want to reflect on the fact that more than 1/2 of the people originally detained at Gitmo have been released.


My point is: it is one thing to give a detainee a Koran allow them to read and practice their religion/mythilogical beliefs.

But it entirely different matter to require the federal government to practice Islam. That is exactly what the DoD is doing when they issue orders how to handle a Koran, which hand to manipulate the Koran with, which shelf the Koran must go on. All of the above mentioned directives are found either in the Koran or Hadiths. Our government is practicing Islam.
10.2.2006 3:56pm
Mongoose388:
"In most circles, treating other people's beliefs with respect is considered a sign of our strength, not of our weakness."

Applying rational thought to irrational convictions is irrational. Extremists have no respect for others' respect of their beliefs. Respect must be mutual to have any validity. Respecting the detainees humanity is only for our own consciences.
10.2.2006 4:36pm
Mongoose388:
"Luke1152:
you might want to reflect on the fact that more than 1/2 of the people originally detained at Gitmo have been released. "
And you might want to reflect on the fact some have been recaptured.

http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/paperchase
10.2.2006 4:44pm
JosephSlater (mail):
LogicNazi can defend himself, no doubt better than I can.

But I'm not convinced by this "stronger horse" stuff, to the extent that it's a license to treat prisoners badly or (if you take the logical extension, an argument in favor of treating prisoners badly. First, see what Anderson wrote. Also, by that logic, Abu Gharib should have really shown those bad guys who the strong, tough horse is, right? And at the margins is should have helped, right?

I'm not comparing what happened at A.G. to what we do with Korans, but the idea that making life miserable for prisoners will make the enemy back down seems both morally and practically suspect.
10.2.2006 4:46pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Steyn makes no bones about his partisanship but at least he is not in denial.

Denial about what? Am I in denial about the existence of an over-arching war of civilizations? Maybe. That isn't the point of this thread. About conditions at Guantánamo? Steyn certainly is in denial. Was he allowed to tour all parts of the facility without notice? Was he allowed to interview prisoners of his own choosing without observation? Without such absolutely-elementary acts, his 'description' of the facilities is 100 percent P.R. bullshit. In fact, denial is not the right word. He is indifferent to the conditions there, except insofar as he can participate in the War on Terror as a useful idiot. Much the same should be said of people on this thread who answer questions about what the United States does with what Al Qaeda does. None of our parents accepted that explanation for playground misbehavior.
10.2.2006 4:47pm
MnZ (mail):
Those people are not studying his pronouncements as if he were some Islamic authority (he's not). Rather, they are dissatisfied with their lot in life &prone to blame America for their ills, in part b/c of our supposed "crusader" mentality.


Actually, I don't think if that is right. I understand that Islam says that everything that occurs is the will of Allah. So, if Muslims are suffering, it must be the will of Allah. Now, why would Allah want Muslims to suffer? Well, one possible answer is that Muslims are not faithful enough.

In other words, America is the cause of their ills only as much as Allah allows America to be the cause of their ills. Muslims take different views on how they can rectify this problem. For his part, Bin Laden believes that, by practicing Jihad against America and the West, Allah will not only bless Muslims with victory but in other ways as well.
10.2.2006 5:04pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Joseph Slater.

Treating the prisoners badly isn't the point. The point was, what was the effect of treating them with kid gloves?

My opinion is that it is, in terms of our enemies, slightly negative, in that it shows we can be intimidated by Islam's tough guys. Now, it's obvious to all the Professionally Incredibly Wonderful that we do terrible things to the Gitmo gangsters, and that our great treatment of them is the result of the aforesaid P.I.W.'s insistence.

But my point is, whatit looks like from the Islamist's point of view. And my conclusion is that it doesn't look like magnanimity in strength, particularly when it's obvious that some of our treatment of the Gitmo Goons enables their resistance and that we know it but lack the will to stop it.

The omnipotent US DOD brought low by the whinings of the US liberals who are terrified of the Islamists. Their view, I should say, not mine. But not far from mine.
10.2.2006 5:07pm
Captain Holly (mail) (www):

pathetically fake tough-guy stance of frauds like Mark Steyn.


Just wondering, were you aware that when Mr. Steyn wanted to observe the conditions in post-Saddam Iraq in 2003 he went there by himself, with no bodyguard?

Now, you could argue that Mr. Steyn was foolhardy. You could argue that conditions in Iraq have deteriorated since then and his analysis of the situation is no longer valid. You could even argue that Mr. Steyn purposely witheld facts from his story to make it look less dangerous than it was.

But I don't think you can argue that Mr. Steyn is a coward, or that he's not willing to put his money where his mouth is.
10.2.2006 5:29pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
But I don't think you can argue that Mr. Steyn is a coward

Well, I'll be careful not to argue that, then.

What I said is that he's a fool, and a fraud, and that he adopts a pathetically fake tough-guy stance. I could google up numerous examples of Steyn's gibberish being taken apart, but I am trying to bill some hours this week after my immersion in the "torture threads" last week.

Still, here (via Greenwald) is Steyn in May 2003, mocking those who actually thought we might be in Iraq for a year or more ... and here's Djerejian's wonderful takedown/rant on Steyn's "Great Persian Campaign." Fool; fraud; pathetically fake tough-guy stance. All well-documented.

(My god, I spelled Greg's name right on the 1st try ... must spend less time on Internet ....)
10.2.2006 5:40pm
poster child (mail):

What I said is that he's a fool, and a fraud, and that he adopts a pathetically fake tough-guy stance. I could google up numerous examples of Steyn's gibberish being taken apart, but I am trying to bill some hours this week after my immersion in the "torture threads" last week.


I love the way lefties have now taken to defining deviancy UP. If only there were more "fools" and "frauds" like Mark Steyn. It certainly would be nice to find the world populated by witty and insightful fools like Steyn--imagine how wonderfully clever and talented the smart folks would be! Similarly, if all of our "frauds" were merely occasionally though unintentionally wrong (like Steyn), how nice would that be?
10.2.2006 5:48pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
You can also look at the 200+ comments to the Volokh thread on Steyn's "bomb Iran" piece.

I wonder sometimes about the VC's reading habits, based on the proffers of people like Steyn, Krauthammer, and Rauch as pundits worth contemplating, rather than stopped clocks that are correct twice a day at best.

A confirmed lefty myself, I make a point of reading a few conservative blogs (the VC, Outside the Beltway, Drezner -- used to read Tacitus, when I had the patience) to avoid groupthink.
10.2.2006 6:33pm
Mark in Colorado:
Daniel "I voted for Kerry" Drezner runs a conservative blog? Gee, the "confirmed lefties" at VC do have a lot to teach me.....
10.2.2006 7:24pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
You would learn even more, Mark in CO (would that be Colorado Springs?), from actually reading Drezner's blog. But see "groupthink," supra.
10.2.2006 7:26pm
dick thompson (mail):
Anderson,

Shame you were not successful in avoiding groupthink. You may read those blogs but you do not actually read them for understanding. You read them to pat yourself on the back and then ignore the arguments. Big difference.
10.2.2006 7:33pm
Mark in Colorado:
Anderson,

No, I do not live in (or near) Colorado Springs. Why do you ask? It wasn't due to any "We know what sort of people live there" leftist groupthink, was it?
10.2.2006 7:42pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Richard A.:

I never suggested that treating prisoners humanely was going to convince any great number of radical Islamists that the U.S. offers a superior model, and I don't believe that is true. I merely responded to the opposite suggestion, that roughing up prisoners would should show that we were the "strong horse" and have a postive impact for U.S. policy. I would also suggest there are other reasons for humane treatment.

Again, what exactly counts as "humane" treatment (or torture) can be debated. Again, I think LogicNazi had the best analysis way upthread of this particular issue.

And I echo Anderson's point about Mark Steyn and others. These folks have been so consistently wrong about Iraq (and other issues) that it's hard to take them seriously now.
10.2.2006 7:58pm
Captain Holly (mail) (www):

And I echo Anderson's point about Mark Steyn and others. These folks have been so consistently wrong about Iraq (and other issues) that it's hard to take them seriously now.


And there were plenty on the Left who have been just as consistently wrong about the War on Terror.

Remember the Media hyperventilating about the "brutal Afghan winter" in 2001? The Afghanistan that was the "graveyard of superpowers" that would consume our troops like a hungry dragon? How the Northern Alliance would never be able to overthrow the Taliban? You might not, but I sure do.

Or how Robert Fisk et al predicted that we would lose thousands of troops before we even entered Baghdad in 2003? Or how it would take us months, if not years, to even get there in the first place? Or the preening Democrats such as Kerry, who were against the war before they voted for it, and then turned against it again when the going got tough?

Personally, I've been waiting to see that explosion of the mythical Arab Street that was supposed to be the biggest negative effect of the Iraqi invasion. Plus, I'm still waiting for that "imminent Iraqi Civil War" that has been "imminent" since early 2005.

Of course, let's not forget the fact that most of the American Left was wrong about the US handing over control to the Iraqis, wrong about the Iraqis going to the polls, wrong about the Sunnis participating in the electoral process, wrong about the Sunnis and Shiites forming a government together.

And I won't even mention how laughably wrong the Left was about the first Gulf War (remember Senator Wellstone's famous "nothing good will happen in America if we go to war" speech?).

Speaking of other issues, when is that secret Fitzgerald indictment of Karl Rove going to be unsealed?

Now, I'm willing to admit that the Iraq War has not gone as planned. I'm also willing to admit that many predictions of those on the Right look silly three years later. But to suggest that somehow pundits on the Right have been the only ones who have been wrong about Iraq is pure partisan hogwash.
10.2.2006 8:29pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Anyond can find predictions from both sides that have turned out to be wrong, especially as we edge to the extremes of both sides. I would still maintain that the mainstream anti-war folks have been right about much more about the Iraq war than not only folks like Steyn but also than Bush and Rumsfeld.

Even in the examples you give, if Iraq isn't already in a form of civil war, it's a heck of a lot closer to that than "greeted with flowers," "last throes," etc.

But we're not going to get anywhere with the general "is the left more correct than the right, or vice-versa?" My point was about Steyn and Iraq, and I stand by it.
10.2.2006 8:36pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Odd that you don't find several commentors' comparison of the Koran to Mein Kampf equally offensive.

"My Struggle" and Jihad (working on the conquest of the Dar al Harb) are rhetorically similar constructions. Jihad is one of the Five Pillars of Islam as set forth in the Koran. Mein Kampf is a more personal crie de cour but both are directed towards world domination.

"They hate us because of our freedom." That is, they hate us because we refuse "submission" -- in Arabic "Islam".
10.2.2006 9:56pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I talked to soldiers who went into Iraq initially, some who were there since. Some were greeted warmly, although I believe flowers were out of season in February.
Some were attacked.
I would remind you that the Symbionese Liberation Army kept parts of California hopping, all dozen of them. It doesn't take many to make trouble.
Roughing up prisoners isn't going to make us look like the strong horse. This is a coin with only one side. Front, no obverse. Doing the kid glove thing in the fashion it's being done makes us look weak.
10.2.2006 9:59pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I talked to soldiers who went into Iraq initially, some who were there since. Some were greeted warmly, although I believe flowers were out of season in February.
Some were attacked.
I would remind you that the Symbionese Liberation Army kept parts of California hopping, all dozen of them. It doesn't take many to make trouble.
Roughing up prisoners isn't going to make us look like the strong horse. This is a coin with only one side. Front, no obverse. Doing the kid glove thing in the fashion it's being done makes us look weak.
10.2.2006 9:59pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Comparing what's happening in Iraq now to anything the Symbionese Liberation Army did in California is fundamentally unserious.
10.2.2006 10:51pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Joseph Slater.
Saying I'm comparing what happened with the SLA and Iraq is fundamentally dishonest. But you knew that.

However, in order to forestall another effort on your part to misrepresent what I said, I'll put it another way and you can save your time.

It only took eleven people to make things jumpy in California for some time.

For a liberal, free society to get along without much trouble, something like 99% of the population has to refrain from being buttheads at any given moment.

It doesn't take many more active buttheads to make things difficult.

The point is, which I'm sure Joseph Slater knows but hoped to obfuscate, is that what is happening in Iraq gets a good deal of ink but does't require all that many of the population to be actively involved.

Remember all those folks who insisted that the huge, great, humongous majority of Muslims just want to get through the day? Well, if that's true, then the ones left over are a tiny minority. Simple arithmetic. By definition, then, there can't be too many giving us trouble. The hope is to get the Iraqi government strong enough to remain in being while putting up with a lower level of violence, of the kind not unknown in those areas.

I hope we succeed, not least to enjoy the reactions of certain of my countrymen.
10.2.2006 11:35pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Has anyone seen Mr. Aubrey and the Medium Lobster together in the same room? Just askin'.
10.3.2006 11:08am
JosephSlater (mail):
Richard A.:

No obfuscation, and no need to repeat your point, I understood it: it doesn't take many folks to create a disturbance, which the media can then overplay. If you think that's the correct analysis for Iraq today -- a country spiraling further and further into violence, sectarian strife, and yes, civil war -- you're kidding yourself in ways posts on blogs can't correct.

To get back to the original point, I'm glad we agree that treating prisoners especially badly won't help us in combatting the problem of Islamic terrorism. And we agree that treating them humanely in and of itself won't solve the problem. We disagree about whether treating them humanely makes the problem worse. I'll stick with "no, it doesn't make it worse" as my answer.
10.3.2006 11:28am