Quote of the day, far and away

Lay it on the line, why don’t you?

Does anyone believe that if Iran, say, captured an American soldier, kept him awake for eleven days straight, bashed his head and body against plywood walls with a towel around his neck, forced him to stand and sit in stress positions finessed by the Communist Chinese, stuck him in a dark coffin for hours, and then waterboarded him, that the NYT would describe him as a victim of “harsh interrogation techniques”? Do you think Mike Allen would give anonymity to a top Iranian official who defended these techniques as vital to Iran’s national security?

The last seven years have revealed that almost the entire American establishment views itself as immune to the moral and ethical rules it applies to every other country in the world. Now we know, at least. And you can be sure they will protecting each other to the bitter end.

And you wonder why it’s more difficult for us to challenge China from a moral high ground?

Be sure to see that extraordinary post for the jpeg that says it all: we are doing exactly what the State Department has called “torture” when other countries do it. When it’s America doing it, it gets dressed up in euphemisms. There is only one thing to do: Prosecute.

The Discussion: 73 Comments

But in the U.S., we are certainly open and can criticize, expose, and correct such things. Don’t see that kind of open framework many other places. See that in China, do you?

It’s instructive to note that soldiers usually wear uniforms and are commissioned by their country to fight. A US soldier caught by Iranians (assuming he’s caught wearing his uniform and identifying himself as a US soldier) probably would have some protection under international agreements.

Soldiers usually have respect for other soldiers that are representative of that country’s military. The people the U.S. military are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan are not soldiers in the traditional sense — they are rebel fighters from various factions. Call them terrorists, rebels, freedom fighters, criminals. But even these people shouldn’t be tortured, even though these people are probably not specifically afforded rights under the Geneva convention (in my understanding).

April 18, 2009 @ 1:25 am | Comment

America has never been in a position that can challenge China from a moral high ground, as it has never been that clean in the first place, not just the past 7 years.

As far as facts are concerned, China has not invaded any country for 30 years, while US was sending its military all over the world to asserted its interests. Maybe this is a good case for Chinese to challenge Americans on certain moral high ground, at least some basics like invading another country is wrong (and torture is only one of the least miseries war produces).

Ok, here is the thing, I am not defending China here, at least not for what I said above. But merely pointing out the obvious
1. It is not a good idea to critize others as dirty when you are a mess, it is far better to behave in a decent way and let what you do defines you, rather than what you said
2. For every action there is always a reaction, that is way I am not surprised to see things like “anti-cnn” or Chinese protests all over the world last year.

Do you watch or read Chinese news?or just second hand news and live in your imagination?

Here is the most commented news of the month from netease
法官受贿枉法裁判 致绝望女子自焚身亡
And most commented news of the week
As for the these two, here isspecial report regarding torture in China in qq.com,刑讯逼供 深度(“http://news.qq.com/zt/2007/shendubaodao/topic_html/xingxunbigong.htm”) and this one 研究称我国刑讯逼供现象大量存在 凸显制度缺失 from China.com.cn, which assert that the widespread of torture shows the inadequacy of China’s legal system

Last, most commented news of the day
As for the last one, Xiong Zhenlin, the man who killed 8 people was reported as saying 熊振林还对我国刑罚制度提出建议,“从和谐社会角度考虑,国家应废除死刑”;对死刑执行方式提出要求,要求“用药物注射”,因为“用枪打很疼”。(People’s Daily’s webset has a special secion over the issue of the using and abolishing of capital punishment,”http://legal.people.com.cn/GB/43027/43503/index.html”)

In case you do not read Chinese, here is an online English Chinese dictionary “http://www.dict.cn/” or you can use google translation.

Just note, I am not saying that Chines media face no restrction or totally free, but only hope you could note the obvious and have some common sense, which is, you do not claim something as not existing simple because you cannot see it, in this case, the reporting and discussion of torture in China. In fact, you can find many more articles concerning this by yourself.

But the thing is,next time when you want to google “torture” in Chinese, use 刑讯逼供 rather than 折磨 or 虐待, the latter are more likely to lead you to a porn site

April 18, 2009 @ 2:31 am | Comment

http://volokh.com has an interesting comment on the Bybee memo as well as SERE. Need to scroll down a tad.

April 18, 2009 @ 4:02 am | Comment

Coins has two sides. China has many bad things and also has goods thing.And we are improving.

April 18, 2009 @ 4:09 am | Comment

Point taken, BAC, makes sense. I used China as an example of lack of openness — but it has come a very long way in a short time, and I think it’s a marvel.

On my point regarding the openness of the U.S. system — mostly due to freedoms of the press, it’s fascinating how quickly the U.S. government policies can react, adapt, and change. Open up files, make them available, have great dicussions and even congressional hearings, then change policy. I’ve seen it many times but it remains a wondrous thing, and a thing I’m very proud of as an American. I think it’s fairly unique. But America still has a long ways to go as well.

April 18, 2009 @ 4:32 am | Comment

BAC — most would challenge your assertion that “invading another country is wrong”. There is the concept of “just war”.

April 18, 2009 @ 4:43 am | Comment

@Matt – Captured guerillas are afforded a basic level of protection under Common Article 3 of the Geneva convention:


The standard of treatment outlined in these memos, the ICRC report, statements made by JAG officials and attorneys, testimony from detainees, and from the interogators themselves, most definitely falls beneath this standard. The fact that of he several hundred people who underwent torture at the hands of US interrogators, at least 12 died as a result, and numerous other suffered lasting psychological breakdowns, is demonstrative of this.

It should be noted that the US criticised the Communist Chinese and North Korean use of beatings, sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme temperatures, imprisonment in confined spaces, mock executions, and drowning to brainwash UN prisoners and force them to sign false confessions during and after the Korean war.

Really, the only explanation of people who still try to say that no torture took place, or that it was justifiable, is that they are in some way mentally ill.

April 18, 2009 @ 4:51 am | Comment

FOARP: There should be no torture, but I’m going to have to bust a move on you. What you say is probably incorrect. All guerillas that are taken prisoner of war are not afforded the protection of the Geneva convention. There are certain tests that guerillas must meet (see the Third Geneva Convention, Part I, Article 4.1.2):


4.1.2 Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, provided that they fulfill all of the following conditions:

— that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
— that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance (there are limited exceptions to this among countries who observe the 1977 Protocol I);
— that of carrying arms openly;
— that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

Think that guerilla groups do all of the above?

April 18, 2009 @ 5:54 am | Comment

This isn’t related directly, but a fascinating bit of writing about a US ambush mission in Afghanistan. I happened to read this today, and this conversation reminded me of it (because POWs are often taken after incidents like this).


April 18, 2009 @ 6:13 am | Comment

While I fully support prosecution for the reasons you outline, it will not happen if only because while some of Obama’s supporters are for prosecution, Obama wants to preserve the concentration of executive power Cheney has give the office of the president.

For practical purposes, there is no check on power of the office of the president.

April 18, 2009 @ 8:24 am | Comment

Paul, while I’m disappointed, Obama did leave himself a big out with the phrase “in good faith.” He can still go after the worst.

But in the U.S., we are certainly open and can criticize, expose, and correct such things. Don’t see that kind of open framework many other places. See that in China, do you?

Matt, we aren’t talking about freedom of speech. With this criticism of the US, we are talking about torture, which China does, too. But we’re supposed to be above that. Don’t change the subject into, China does bad things.

And I don’t want the conversation to get off the topic into a legal discussion. The discussion here is about cover-up, about performing torture and calling it something else and denying you are torturing. I think Matt wants to go in another direction.

most would challenge your assertion that “invading another country is wrong”. There is the concept of “just war”.

Most people would almost rarely agree invading another is justified. That is something to do only under the rarest of experiences, such as the prevention of genocide or to root out Al Qaeda in Afghanistan after a major attack on US soil. Even then, most Americans are reluctant. Despite all Hitler’s and Tojo’s evils they would not go to war. That taught us a lesson about the need to step in a prevent grotesque crimes against humanity, but we have applied it only a few times. Usually a “just war” is a reference to a war like WW2, where there was complete and total justification for getting involved, without any question. Actions such as Bosnia are still challenged by many, mainly on the right, as unjust and unjustified – there was not enough of a threat to justify US involvement in their eyes. To my knowledge, there has never been an invasion of a sovereign country at peace that posed to imminent threat to anyone that has been referred to as “a just war.”

April 18, 2009 @ 10:10 am | Comment

I am in sympathy with the US.

It is a tough world out there fighting against Islamists.

I don’t think you can afford to be nice and clean while still serious in fighting Islamists.

But still, it is US’s choice to make herself enemy of Islamists. I guess this is the price to pay for being a superpower and for being dominated by Jewish interest domestically.

April 18, 2009 @ 10:31 am | Comment

I think you meant to say you are in sympathy with the torturers. This was not “the US” acting, but a group of over-testosteroned guys in a smoky room who saw themselves as the US. If you say you are in sympathy with the US, then you are in favor of ending this practice, as that is what the US has announced it will do. The US doesn’t casually torture. This was a cabal, a cancer within the government that licensed barbarism. Many of those tortured were not Islamists, they were innocent people in the wrong place at the wrong time, often “sold” to us by bounty hunters and later released. The torture achieved nothing but the destruction of our reputation.

Few if any of the victims at Abu Ghraib were Islamists, which was a good example of this torture mentality shifting and spreading from the war on Al Qaeda into other operations. A cancer. And you can still be a superpower without torturing. We’d done it well enough for long time.

America, fuck yeah!

April 18, 2009 @ 10:40 am | Comment

I don’t think you can afford to be nice and clean while still serious in fighting Islamists.

If you can’t afford to be nice and clean and serious then what is the point of protecting your supposed superior civilization from the islamists (barbarians)?

April 18, 2009 @ 11:08 am | Comment

As I review my life, I think the stupidest thing I did this life is finding a wife.

I believe, if we compare all the wives in the world, then Mainland China’s wives will undoubtedly be rated the worst. Hongkong wives are much better, Taiwanese wives have Japanese flavor, so they are not too bad either. I think European and American wives (pure breed Caucasians) are also not bad, most of them are very family oriented.

In reality, there aren’t many good women in China, not just wives. Now, you may say, how disrespectful you are!”. Of course, I do not fight with my wife, whenever she gets sick, I still take her to the hospital. But that’s another issues. Anyway, China’s women have some very sick traits.

First, fakeness. Whenever you meet a woman, you are forced to say some lies. So women are really the source of fakeness and lies. For example, when I see a beautiful woman, I want to say, “I want to mount you.” That’s something honest. But if I really said that, she’ll be very very angry and will probably curse at me. So, in reality, I’m forced to say something else to her. For example, I’m forced to talk to her about literature, about flowers, about music, about Hegel, Proust, Sartre, Marx, Kong Zi, Lao Zi, Mo Zi, Meng Zi, etc etc etc. If you are eager to mount her, then she’ll think you are a scoundrel, and will refuse you. But if you make it look like you don’t want to mount her, then she’ll think you are a gentlemen, and will let you mount her at the end. What kind of “reverse logic” is that?

2nd trait is asking you to do house cleaning. Those things can tire you to death. For example, it’s enough to clean the house once a week. But she insists on cleaning it twice a week. Well, if you want to clean it, fine. But she puts that as “service to you”, so you are forced to be indebted to her for her because she cleaned the house so often. So whenever there’s argument between us, she’ll say “I work so hard for this family, cleaning the house, blah blah”.

No one asked you to cleaned the house. You do it yourself.

The third trait is the unnecessary demands the woman put on the husband. For example, all women say they support the man’s career. That itself is a ridiculous thing to say. What men wants is for their wives to not support their careers, to want them to be wasting time, to spend days watching other people playing chess on the street, or collect stamps, or raise pet birds, etc. Instead, men are forced kiss their bosses asses so they can get a promotion, to compete with their colleagues so they can get a promotion, all because the wives forced them to. Without a wife, you are free, you don’t have to compete with others, you don’t have to worry about how much money you are making, you can live as lazily as you want. Why do women put “caring, career-oriented” as the preferred traits in men on dating advertisements? What if I’m non-caring, and I’m not career-oriented? What’s wrong with that?

I want to live as free as I can. Why can’t I eat whatever food I want and sleep whenever I want? I’ll die you say? Well, who will not die at the end? Even if I die in my house and my body was discovered a few days later, it’s still worth it to be able to live life to its fullest.

Anyway, in Mainland China, if you are a man and you found a wife, you’ll become a selfish person, a vicious person, a psychologically twisted person, a sycophant-person, a hypocritical person, a painful person.

But if you don’t have a wife, you’ll become an open-minded person, a good-tempered person, a well-mannered person, a sunnily-optimistic person, a confident person, a magnanimous person.

(also, my wife has 30 some relatives and I am forced to let 30 people into my life and they eat and live in my house for free. I have a dream one day that I can take an automatic weapon and start a “relatives-massacre”).

April 18, 2009 @ 12:08 pm | Comment

Me thinks Math has gone round the bend…and that’s saying something.

April 18, 2009 @ 12:09 pm | Comment


April 18, 2009 @ 1:10 pm | Comment

Richard, you do the same thing you accuse many of reactionary Chinese defenders of doing, namely, claiming that we shouldn’t criticize others because of our own bad behavior. I’m disappointed that you would take that attitude. American policies have been criminal in their complete disregard for thee Constitution and international law let alone common decency. I think the increase in that bad behavior is a relatively recent thing and it is inexcusable. It is should be brought out into the open. It’s perpetrators should be indicted, convicted and sentenced. Average American need to wake up and stop being complicit in these transgressions.Chinas government, on the other hand acts reprehensibly as a matter of policy virtually 100% of the time. The Chinese government answers to no one because they are no legitimate. The Chinese constitution is a rag that’s not fit to wipe butt. Corruption, lies, thievery and intimidation are the order of the day, every day. The stark contrast between misdeeds of American politicians and Chinese “leaders” is that American behavior is shocking because it is the exception. Chinese criminal behavior is tolerated (and even venerated by ultra-nationalist illiterati.In the end both the American people and the Chinese people need to hold their politicians accountable for their misdeeds. Unfortunately, the Chinese people have virtually no means at their disposal to do so.

April 18, 2009 @ 1:37 pm | Comment

As I review my life, I think the stupidest thing I did this life is finding a wife.

Math, $10 says your wife has similar feelings toward you.

April 18, 2009 @ 1:46 pm | Comment


I know this American bloke who told me of a Filippina woman who once told him that she didn’t want to get married, or have any commitment from him, but that she wanted to have his baby.

Do you want me to ask him for you if he still has her telephone number?

April 18, 2009 @ 2:43 pm | Comment

Math wrote: “As I review my life, I think the stupidest thing I did this life is finding a wife.”

What was the second dumbest thing that you did?

April 18, 2009 @ 3:53 pm | Comment

@Matt – Common Article 3 is so called because it is found in each of the Geneva Conventions, and covers people captured in non-international conflicts even when they are not classified as prisoners of war.

April 18, 2009 @ 4:25 pm | Comment

@Richard – Compare and contrast this to the current police investigation into MI5 involvement in the torture of Binyam Mohammed by the Metropolitan police and the Crown Prosecution Service here in the UK, which was initiated as soon as the details of his torture were made public. This is not happening because Britain is much better than the US morally, or because our government is so much more respecting of human rights, but because Britain’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, and as a country which recognises the jurisdiction of the ICC, demands that these investigations should be carried out.

A lot of people are talking about Obama leaving a door open to later prosecutions, but really, if they are going to happen no more evidence is needed for their initiation – signed documents detailing the authorisation of torture are now in the public domain. The only possible explanation can be that they are not politically expedient at the time being, in which case you have to wonder when they will ever be held.

April 18, 2009 @ 5:19 pm | Comment

Math, of all your diatribes this one is the most stunning. And I mean stunning. And I mean not in the sense of wearing a stunning new suit. I mean, stunning. Someone actually recommended it on Reddit, bringing in a flood of traffic on what’s usually a slow day. It’s that stunningly inane.

I loved the part that begins, “Whenever you meet a woman, you are forced to say some lies. So women are really the source of fakeness and lies.” Tell us, do you believe in honor killings? (Just for women, of course.)

NaS: Richard, you do the same thing you accuse many of reactionary Chinese defenders of doing, namely, claiming that we shouldn’t criticize others because of our own bad behavior.

NotAS, please don’t put words in my mouth. I never said – and I repeat emphatically, never – anything even close to that. Ever. What’s wrong with you? That is about as sloppy as you can get.

FOARP, fair points and I am not delighted with the way Obama has handled this. I guess the very most we can say is he seems to have left a door open, and it looks like the wording was very intentional. Let’s see if anything happens, because I’m fairly certain a lot of this torture wasn’t performed “in good faith.” If nothing happens shortly down the road, I will be further disappointed with the Obama administration.

April 18, 2009 @ 5:38 pm | Comment

Richard — I do believe the US should take the high road — no torture. FOARP is using the Geneva convention as some kind of blanket protection for all insurgents, and I pointed out that it is certainly not clear-cut whether insurgents are provided protection under those regulations. The Geneva protocols are written with a distinct slant towards protecting uniformed armies and militias that abide by the seemingly odd notion of “rules of war”. Nonetheless, there should be no torture and I think most of us are in agreement.

Just War theory — in many ways, the current war in Afghanistan can fit that bill. Not Iraq though (though someone can probably make that argument somehow, using Saddam’s crimes as a basis).

April 18, 2009 @ 9:28 pm | Comment

There is constant torture in countries with conflicts where the US is involved such as Colombia, and both the neglect or inadequacy of the Geneva Conventions and the attitude and denial towards torture of the previous american administration was not restricted to the US military but also and primarily to its (often less transparent) allies, and the recent and welcome opening of the discussion and disclosure must be eventually accompanied by a corresponding (and perhaps more horrifying) disclosure from the part of its allies. This must happen, but it will be difficult, painful and slow, as we have already seen with what little has been disclosed in Colombia.
To a certain extent and on certain levels, one could also consider China to be a military ally of the US, how does this relate to the discussion on torture?

April 18, 2009 @ 10:11 pm | Comment

@Matt – I think you may have confused Common Article no. 3 with the 3rd Geneva Convention – they are not the same thing. The Geneva convention has two parts – one extending a high level of protection to POWs captured in international conflicts as defined in the treaty, and another part giving a lesser level of protection to those captured in non-international conflicts under Common Article 3. It is for this reason that Common Article 3 is called a ‘mini convention’ as it essentially forms a separate agreement with separate subject matter.

As a demonstration, consider the example of men of the Provisional IRA, INLA, UDA etc. held during the 70s and 80s. Under Common Article no. 3, as men captured in a non-international conflict, both the UK and Eire had agreed that :

(1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria. To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
(b) taking of hostages;
(c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;
(d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.
(2) The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.
An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.

The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.

The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.

(emphasis added)

The governments of the Irish Republic and the United Kingdom treated the men as criminals, tried them and sentenced them, thus fulfilling at least the letter of this agreement. Had they so wished, they could, under the treaty, have declared them POWs, but this would have meant granting their actions legitimacy and immunity from punishment, and would also have been a dubious definition given the lack of a truly international dimension to the conflict.

Instead of either of these options, the United States government sought to create a third option – that the men would neither be held as criminals, nor as POWs, but as ‘enemy combatants’ – a category unrecognised by the treaty. However, the mere fact that the US had done this did not affect its responsibilities under the treaty. If these men were held as criminals – why weren’t they tried? If not, why weren’t they held as POWS? The treaty requires and either/or answer – but one the US government has not given. Either the United States obeys the Geneva Convention, or it does not – but it cannot publicly say that it does not see itself as bound by it without officially breaking away from it.

Now, imagine if, instead of holding the men of the Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries as criminals, the UK and Eire had simply declared them ‘enemy combatants’ and imprisoned them on the Cayman islands, held them indefinitely, tortured them, refused access to independent legal advice, refused familial visits, and refused access to the Red Cross. Considering that this would have meant that many of them would have been imprisoned for more than 20 years when some of them (most notably the Guildford four and the Birmingham six) were innocent of wrong-doing, what do you think the attitude of the US government would have been towards the UK and the Republic of Ireland? What do you think the good people of Boston and New York would have said? What would you have said?

April 18, 2009 @ 11:06 pm | Comment

Speaking of torture, remember John Yoo? Where do they dig these people up? He’s a professor of law, for Christ’s sake!

[Episode of the popular TV game show “Jeopardy”]:

“I’ll take ‘Sado-Masochists for 100”.

“This sado-masochist was responsible for framing the intellectual justification for torture in the US Justice Department.”

“Who is John Yoo.”


April 19, 2009 @ 1:05 am | Comment

I tried to post the other night and it wouldn’t go through. So rather than rehash what I was going to say, here is my list for prosecution:

George W. Bush
Dick Cheney
Donald Rumsfeld
Alberto Gonzales
John Yoo
(forget his first name) Bybee.

Am I forgetting anyone?

April 19, 2009 @ 3:59 am | Comment

The cynic inside me says that the decision to offer an “amnesty” was made to ensure the White House can continue to use the CIA to its full extent. Otherwise in the future it would have simply replied to requests to do anything remotely dastardly, “sorry, Mr President, but that’s illegal according to [name of domestic/international law] so we can’t help you out.”

I should stress that I don’t support the use of torture, but I don’t find the decision taken so surprising.

April 19, 2009 @ 6:12 am | Comment

Hi FOARP — thanks for the response. One initial question though… aren’t the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan “international conflicts”?

April 20, 2009 @ 12:37 am | Comment

I watch the U.S. television program This Week with George Stephanopoulos, and this morning they were talking about this issue. Really fascinating in terms of law (again, one of the great things about the US; we can discuss and try to sort out these things and have wonderful debates and change policy). Anyway, it was brought up in the panel discussion that prosecution may not be possible because it’s not a clear-cut case (as I’ve been debating with FOARP about, in one respect to international conventions), because of divisions in theories of US constitutional law. There is the theory of the unitary executive theory (which no one on the panel thought was correct, and neither do I), but there are arguments to be made that would theoretically protect torture in prior efforts under the GWB administration.

My opinion is that it’s not clear-cut folks, and it won’t go to prosecution. The probable course is that we will move on and have learned from this whole thing.

April 20, 2009 @ 12:46 am | Comment

@Matt – Not according to the US government and its allies they’re not. The UN never recognised the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan, in 2001 Pakistan was the only nation which ‘enjoyed’ diplomatic relations with them, with all other nations recognising the Northern Alliance. You might recall the interview with the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan a few weeks after 9/11 in which he announced that the Taliban would not hand over Bin Laden and Al Qaeda as they were ‘guests’ of the Taliban regime.

According to the US, the Taliban were merely an insurgent movement which the US helped the Northern Alliance defeat – in fact there was a significant level of military support for the Northern Alliance from the US even before 9/11 in the form of intelligence sharing and logistics. According to the 9/11 commission a plan for the removal of the Taliban substantially the same as the one that was put into effect was submitted to George W. Bush on September the 10th, and a meeting was held that day as to whether an ultimatum would be delivered to the Taliban to hand over Osama Bin Laden. The decision reached was to deliver an ultimatum, and if the Taliban refused to use covert means to support the opposition. Only if both these options failed was the US to openly use military force. It would seem that Al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks precipitated the ultimatum, and made the open use of military force by the US the natural consequence of refusal.

Likewise, Al Qaeda in Iraq only arrived after the provisional authority were established, thus making them insurgents. Whilst these wars do take place outside the United States, the US is not at war with any officially recognised country, merely factions in rebellion against the recognised governments of those countries.

On the issue of the US constitution, all I can say is that it makes international treaties which the US signs up to the laws of the land. If the US does not obey these laws, then the person responsible for the breach will have broken the law. However, if you really believe that the US constitution requires clarification on this point, the US supreme court is the body tasked under the US constitution with clarifying such points and it is to them that this question should be addressed. Indeed, if the constitution is unclear on such an important point as where or not the president can order torture, then this is something which they should issue an opinion on without delay.

April 20, 2009 @ 2:46 am | Comment

Can’t buy the fact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not classed as international, sorry FOARP. International protocols did not forsee the rise of asymmetric warfare and the use of quasi-state organizations such as AQ, and insurgents backed by, say, Iran.

On the second point of the issue going to prosecution, that would not be a bad thing; it certainly would be interesting. There is a risk, though, of the prosecution losing — which may be worse than not having tried. Not sure this is right but it seems to have the risk of such unintended consequences.

April 20, 2009 @ 3:25 am | Comment

@Matt – I don’t think of it as anything but an international conflict either, at least in the broard sense, however, in the narrow sense they are civil wars between governments and insurgent organisations. However, the important point is that the US government’s position is that they are non-international conflicts. The fact that the protocols do not foresee the rise of international terrorism is neither here nor there, if the US wishes to rely on these protocols for the safety of its own troops then it cannot argue that they are obsolete.
Anyway, the convention quite clearly accommodates such conflicts through Article 3 – that is, it requires a minimum level of treatment for captured insurgents which I do not think is at all unreasonable or excessive, it merely requires that some of the most basic human rights of those captured are respected. Freedom from torture is one of those rights.

International and state-sponsored terrorism has actually existed for much longer than many people assume. The numerous communist uprisings of the cold war were all at least in part sponsored by China and the USSR, Nazi Germany funded uprisings and coups in countries like Slovakia, Austria, and Norway. During the troubles, the IRA received the majority of its weapons and funds firstly from Irish-Americans, and then from Libya. In none of these instances did the states opposed need to seek to invent legal fictions to cover their actions, many resorted to secretive extra-judicial killings – but I am not condoning this. Methods which brought much less in the way of opprobrium involved treating the insurgents in the main as regular prisoners of war, or treating them as criminals. Both these options lay open to the US, and either of them would have worked better than the option the Bush administration chose.

On the question of prosecution, I simply cannot see how a prosecution could fail, US law is actually very clear on this, so long as you include those precedents that the memo drafters ‘forgot’ to mention, such as the example of Japanese torture.

April 20, 2009 @ 4:00 am | Comment

FOAP — We can agree to disagree on our interpretations of the Geneva protocols. The US can rely on these protocols for non-torture of their troops, as uniformed military are clearly covered, no matter how much it pains some to believe. The protocols are clearly biased in terms of protecting specific groups of people, and not all insurgergents are protected. I agree that all humans should should be afforded basic human rights, but frankly that’s not what the protocols say. Can you give citations that support your argument, rather than your own opinion?

For instance, I was thinking about this today — what about agents involved in espionage — undercover spies? It appears that they are not protected, but that’s my opinion based on my limited understanding.

See how I say words like “probably” and “in my opinion” and how I admit that I don’t know everything? Isn’t that fun? You should try it FOARP, you will feel better. Just try it once.

It’s not slam dunk — there’s ample room for defense

April 20, 2009 @ 7:22 am | Comment

I don’t think you can lump together the Guantanamo stuff with the Chinese system of torture.

They are both called torture but the two are totally different.

In China, torture is widespread according the UN special rapporteur. It is routine practice in common institutions including mental institutions where dissidents are held and labeled as crazy and tortured with crazy drugs etc.

In China it is considered a state secret how many forced labor and detention centers exist.

It is also a state secret how many people are “executed” in China

In China, there is no system that requires the CCP bodies to document and follow due procedure when detaining and torturing people. The CCP can commit innumerable crimes since it is in control of the so called legal system.

For me, to most striking difference between the two countries (on this point) is the motive and intention of the torturing. In China:
1. the torture and murder are used as terror tactics, to teach a lesson to the society about subversive behavior.
2. The goal of torturing dissidents is that the dissidents will give up their conviction for what is right (the CCP knows what is right, they know they are not on the just side).
3. The people in China who carry out the torture get promotions and bonuses based on how many people they can brainwash and change through the torturing. They are told that they will absolutely not be held responsible for death due to the torture.

In China there is no system of accountability. You can’t get the info on what’s real, and even if people did know what was going on behind the scenes, the torture is there to keep them in line. The constitution is used as toilet paper for the communist leaders who support quashing dissent at any and all costs.

So I really think that there’s a great big difference between this Guantanamo deal and the mass movement by the CCP to use torture as a method to withhold basic human rights, mostly freedom of thought, from as many people as they can control, mainly 1/4 of the worlds people + whomever is affected by our grovelling politicians and media.


April 20, 2009 @ 10:13 am | Comment

Yes snow is exactly right. When America tortures, it is to defend freedom and democracy for the whole world! It is a great historical mission. When China tortures, it is an evil act by Communists.

When an American farts, it is a fragrant fart, good for the health of the recipient, good for the environment. It is a fart from a democratic country, a fart from a free country. This is totally different from a fart from China, it is more smelly, more disgusting, it is full of pollution, full of evil ingredients in the Communists’ evil food.

April 20, 2009 @ 12:29 pm | Comment

Hong Xing, just so you know, many Americans like me have spoken out against this torture, and our media exposed it. In China, those being tortured have less hope of getting their story told, and the policy is less likely to be changed. Which doesn’t forgive America’s sin, but puts it in some perspective.

Torture is torture, despicable and intolerable in any form. And yet, if I remember correctly, you and Math had no problem with the torture (followed by murder) of Sun Zhigang, remember? As long as it’s Communists doing the torturing, it’s a-okay with you.

April 20, 2009 @ 1:18 pm | Comment

“When an American farts, it is a fragrant fart,…”

[Jamie Oliver’s kitchen]

When I read this I was eating a sandwich during my lunch break.

April 20, 2009 @ 1:45 pm | Comment

HongXing wrote: “When an American farts, it is a fragrant fart, good for the health of the recipient, good for the environment.”

Yeah..They’re the best….

According to Al Gore, the American fart has a much smaller carbon footprint.

April 20, 2009 @ 3:41 pm | Comment

Jackie Chan: “I’m gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we are not being controlled, we’ll just do what we want.”

He said: “I’m…gradually…beginning…to feel…that WE CHINESE…NEED…to be controlled.”

April 20, 2009 @ 7:36 pm | Comment

@Matt – Maybe I do come off as a know all, but the people who drafted the Geneva covention did not allow at all for loop-holes in the treaty – the provisions are very clear indeed, and the US senate has made them the law. This is not to say that US courts cannot, for example, sentence spies to death – indeed, Common Article 3 accomodates this – just so long as the basic human rights of the accused are respected. Even if you want to argue that this does not fall within the Geneva convention (and it does, as there is no separate category of ‘enemy combatant’ under the treaty), the US is still banned from using torture against these men by the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The President does not have the authority to make that which is illegal legal, and Presidents who have given illegal orders may face trial for it. It was, for example, only Gerald Ford’s pardoning of Nixon which saved him from a potential jail sentence.

On the question of whether the treatment of, for example, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was water-boarded 185 time in one month, constitutes torture, US law is very clear – US courts have ruled in every instance, whether it be Japanese treatment of US service men, or police treatment of suspected criminals, or US soldiers using it in the Phillipines, that it is torture.

Once again, I’m sorry if this comes off as somewhat know-it-all-ish, but this is most definitely a slam dunk.

April 20, 2009 @ 8:38 pm | Comment

Torture is most definitely against many international agreements (though all insurgents are not protected specifically by the Geneva protocols, though they are by others). But not a slam dunk when considered against Geneva. It may be the the Bush administration relied on perceived vagaries of Geneva, to the exclusion of other torture related agreements such as Red Cross.

One unintended consequence — commanders may decide the most prudent thing to do is to kill insurgents on the battlefield, before they surrender, or for others, try them as ununiformed spies and execute if guilty.

The final result of this will likely be no trials for anyone involving torture, but it’s a lesson learned. America, through this process, still takes the high road in the policy reversal, and we move on. Again, I can’t imagine any other country having this open discussion and policy reversal. It’s a lovely display of democracy.

April 21, 2009 @ 12:50 am | Comment

I don’t think so.

The end result is that nobody will be prosecuted, for a variety of reasons. The only people that you can reliably make a case to be prosecuted are lawyers essentially approving the torture, and their bosses, probably including the VP. Never happen though, and one of the reasons is because torture could still happen under Obama, in certain instances.

I suspect that actually being the president, the responsible executive, is much different and more difficult than any of us can imagine.

In my opinion, America has retaken the high road again on this issue, the policy is changed, and that’s the thing to be thankful for. It’s a lovely show of democratic change, one that exists seldom elsewhere.

April 21, 2009 @ 2:20 am | Comment

Hong Xing, just so you know, many Americans like me have spoken out against this torture, and our media exposed it. In China, those being tortured have less hope of getting their story told, and the policy is less likely to be changed. Which doesn’t forgive America’s sin, but puts it in some perspective.

Torture is torture, despicable and intolerable in any form. And yet, if I remember correctly, you and Math had no problem with the torture (followed by murder) of Sun Zhigang, remember? As long as it’s Communists doing the torturing, it’s a-okay with you.

You first say that torture in China is not reported.

Then you use the example of Sun Zhigang, which was the most reported news in China’s media in that year, and led to the cancellation of a 10-year-old law.

Will the torture in the US lead to major changes in US law? I highly doubt it.

April 21, 2009 @ 7:40 am | Comment

Sun Zhigang’s death was reported by one daring paper in Guangzhou and then the Internet took over. It was not widely reported in the mass media until it became an Internet sensation and the government had not choice but to step in. Torture is routine in China, and it is not regularly reported and there is nothing the victims can do about it. And let me ask again, did you not once excuse the behavior of Sun’s torturers and say he kind of had it coming? Think back real hard….

April 21, 2009 @ 8:58 am | Comment


If we’re talkin’ about farts ok, then I would say probly Americans are worse cause they eat more processed foods and junk, and tooo much, ok, so that’s farts, but we were talkin’ about torture right, so farts has nothing to do with it.

I have no preference as to who is better, China or America, Canada, whoever is better whatever, I don’t care, so I have no interest in being irrationally biased.

So although your farts thing was really stylish and although a lot of Chinese might agree with you that any criticism of the CCP means that that person is irrationally and jealously anti-China, your argument does hold up here.

Maybe you feel that too many people are looking critically at your country, so I know maybe that doesn’t feel good, but just cause the government is torturing people relentlessly doesn’t mean that China is bad as a country or that Chinese people aren’t cool.

April 21, 2009 @ 10:05 am | Comment

oops, I meant to say : your argument DOES NOT hold up here

April 21, 2009 @ 10:25 am | Comment

Snow wrote: “…your farts thing was really stylish…”

[Project Runway]

April 21, 2009 @ 10:51 am | Comment

Australian farts smell like eucalyptus.

April 21, 2009 @ 11:33 am | Comment

Sun Zhigang’s death was reported by one daring paper in Guangzhou and then the Internet took over. It was not widely reported in the mass media until it became an Internet sensation and the government had not choice but to step in. Torture is routine in China, and it is not regularly reported and there is nothing the victims can do about it. And let me ask again, did you not once excuse the behavior of Sun’s torturers and say he kind of had it coming? Think back real hard….

Of course a news is always reported by one paper first. If a paper reported it 2 mins before another paper, then you can say it reported it first.

Torture is routine in China but is not regularly reported. Then how do you know it’s routine? Your uncle works for secret police in China? Tell me, how do you know it if it’s not reported? Please buy some logic in the store.

Guantanamo was reported by one daring paper in Washington DC and then the Internet took over. It was not widely reported in the mass media until it became an Internet sensation and the US government had not choice but to step in.

April 21, 2009 @ 12:37 pm | Comment

Torture is routine in China but is not regularly reported. Then how do you know it’s routine?

Hey, HongXing. Pull my finger…

April 21, 2009 @ 1:19 pm | Comment

Twisted Colour wrote:
“Australian farts smell like eucalyptus.”

That’s what Rupert Murdoch’s new wife, Wendy Deng, says.

April 21, 2009 @ 2:42 pm | Comment

Sorry, TL, but Rupert doesn’t hold Australian citizenship, he’s a Yank. We aussies don’t want him back. His mother, though, is an absolute legend.


April 21, 2009 @ 3:02 pm | Comment

Speaking of farts, who won the Miss America pageant?

While I was watching the Miss America pageant, everyone kept saying: “It’s gonna get really ugly.”

What did they mean?


April 21, 2009 @ 9:12 pm | Comment

@Matt – I’m just going to say this again. Geneva is not vague – it is very clear, it has no loopholes and places precise but non-onerous duties on its signatories. And no, people cannot be executed as spies under American law if they are captured overseas, as this is not within American jurisdiction. Instead what happens is that captives are handed over to the local government to be dealt with.

That captives might be shot out of hand is actually an entirely false argument – local authorities are tasked with detaining the vast majority of detainees. US officers do not have the authority to order men shot out of hand on charges of spying and would be committing a crime if they did so. Summary execution of spies out of uniform (or, indeed, anyone) is in fact a war crime under national law.

Not torturing is not a ‘high road’, it requires only a very basic and minimal level of respect for human rights and the rule of law. There is no excuse for it, neither in the pressure of a job, nor in the duress of circumstance. Even in the ‘ticking time bomb’ scenario duress can only be accepted as a partial defence – a guilty sentence must still be delivered. The only explanation for its use as a general practice is moral bankruptcy.

Look, this may be hard to accept, it may seem to add an unfair burden to the challenge faced by service men in the line of fire, but it is in fact for their own protection, and in the long run the observance of international law renders their victory more likely, as no insurgency can be defeated without winning hearts and minds.

You’re probably wondering why I’m arguing like this when we essentially agree, and you touched on the reason in your comment. If this is not dealt with now then a future government will dig it up and make use of it, allowing the idea that there are grey areas around something so basic as the prohibition against torture, even of international terrorists, is an extremely dangerous business.

April 22, 2009 @ 12:04 am | Comment

Well, speculate no more:

“Senior members of the Bush administration who approved the use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation measures could face prosecution, President Obama disclosed today .

He said the use of torture reflected America “losing our moral bearings”.

He said his attorney general, Eric Holder, was conducting an investigation and the decision rested with him. Obama last week ruled out prosecution of CIA agents who carried out the interrogation of suspected al-Qaida members at Guantánamo and secret prisons around the world.

But for the first time today he opened up the possibility that those in the administration who gave the go-ahead for the use of waterboarding could be prosecuted.

The revelation will enrage senior Bush administration figures such as the former vice-president Dick Cheney.”


Good, it’s not 100%, but the fact that they’re looking into it means that if they don’t investigate they’re going to have to explain why – and that will be tough. One big question: if they are charged, how many of them will be willing, like Gordon Liddy was, to do federal time rather than turn on the men they worked under? Men can surprise you, but my impression of Jay Bybee, Addington, John Yoo and the rest is that they’ll crumble. I can’t say that this opinion isn’t informed by the cowardice and lack of moral fibre which shine out from every page of the memos they drafted.

I also can’t see Cheney’s request for evidence of the ‘success’ of the use of a procedure – one which needed to be used 183 times in one month on one man to be ‘effective’ – to be released as anything but an attempt to forestall this. It is also remarkable how the man speaks as though he were still in charge.

Ideally, I think the men who carried out the torture should be held responsible for their actions, but I’m certainly aware that this is too likely to raise public anger at the thought of foot soldiers being punished for following orders in what they thought was a good cause.

April 22, 2009 @ 2:39 am | Comment

Could be interesting to have the attorneys who outlined the legality of torture to be tried. FOARP, I think you’re missing my point about the US being one of the only countries out there willing to undergo such self-scrutiny. Give us brothers some props.

For my tastes, bring these attorneys to trial and see what comes up. Don’t hold a trial of the underlings that were told it’s perfectly legal — that ignorant, nauseating Army Reservist Lyndie England comes to mind… just a private or a specialist, and gets held as the straw man. I was once a private, and even I remember the section in the field manual that tells you how to treat prisoners. And I was not an MP.

April 22, 2009 @ 3:45 am | Comment

@Matt – I give absolute credit for what the current US administration has done so far, and I’m sure that the majority of US servicemen, like yourself, are well aware of the correct way to treat prisoners and stick to the rules. I’m sure some will try to accuse the President of hounding his predecessor, but it would have been an easier decision to let the whole thing slide, especially as the economic situation has everyone’s attention.

Please don’t get the impression that I’m some kind of purist or anti-war crusader, everyone knows that in war prisoners catch the rough end of the stick, but there’s a difference between squaddies roughing up looters, and the sanctioning of torture by the highest office in the land. You might also wonder why a Brit like me would get so het up about this – well, apart from my concern about human rights in general, British soldiers may well be getting shot at and bombed by people recruited using Islamist propaganda which makes hay out of the torture scandal. Not just that, but Britain’s role as a US ally may have lead to compromises being made over our own laws prohibiting torture, or to a distancing of the UK from the US.

Your very correct about the people who were involved in the Abu Ghraib having been patsies. Their ‘ringleader’ is still in jail for having done pretty much the same thing these CIA investigators did, the only real difference is that the CIA men had the wise idea of getting a legal opinion to cover their arses with.

April 22, 2009 @ 5:11 am | Comment

Looks like Obama is on the right track (gasp, did I just say that?!) with the nod to the possibility of prosecuting the attorneys. That’s the money shot, not the CIA field agent. It won’t be ultimately rewarding to the far left, but it’s not a bad compromise IMO.

My human side of me says that torture is wrong, it’s against everything I’ve been taught, and that the US has no business in doing it — don’t give the bastards a chance at drawing equivalence to crackpots and despots. The cynical side of me says — do it if it gets actionable intelligence. Lucky for me, though, I don’t think torture works. So I can resolve the internal struggle, and it’s convenient but I’m on slightly shaky ethical grounds.

The vestigial soldier side of me says to drop the insurgents in their tracks while they are still fighting.

April 22, 2009 @ 6:38 am | Comment

Torture is valued not an instrument for arriving at the Truth, but as an instrument for creating a false reality since under intense pain people will say anything. Torture is an instrument of propaganda. In the Khmer Rouge torture center of Tuol Sleng victims were only tortured as much as was needed to obtain their “confession”, after which they were promptly executed.

One wonders to what extent the so-called “War On Terror” is a false reality.

April 22, 2009 @ 10:48 pm | Comment

combatants captured in afghanistan or iraq should have been kept in afghanistan or iraq and then turned over to our allies in the afghani or iraqi government to be tried by them.

others “arrested” outside of combat areas in other countries should have been treated as criminals and handled with current law.

thang is correct it was propaganda.

the concept that 911 created a unique situation requiring that the bush administration be given immunity to do whatever they want with no accountability was driven by laziness and a lack of values.

it is interesting how paulson used the same argument about “uniqueness” so he could get all the money he wanted and have a free hand to use the money how ever he wanted with no accountability.

i think the obama administration should follow the law and us principles and let the chips fall were they may. if clear violations of the law are uncovered then the DOJ should do their job.

Cheney is sticking around and keeping his foot in his mouth in public on the issue because he knows he is a liar and violated the law and american values. give cheney his day in court. he knows he only got away with it because he surrounded himself with “yes” men who fought over who got to please the old man the most. with out his chorus of yes men and no authority to silence dissenting positions cheney must listen to his own conscience and you can see in his eyes that it is not what he wants to hear.

Clinton’s method in the lewinski issue was “deny, deny, deny” Cheney uses that same playbook. Unfortunately for him he is not in a position to control the story, the facts, how they are presented nor silence opposing facts and arguments.

I sympathize with the politics of the situation. there is unfortunately a large number of americans, not a majority, who don’t understand what is wrong with torture some may even think cheney did not go far enough.

Our system of law has held for this long. if bush had forced them to stick to our laws and principles we could have dealt with all the prisoners at gitmo and elsewhere and there would be no problem.

surprised cheney did not push to rename DHS the ministry of peace.

April 24, 2009 @ 4:21 am | Comment

Torture is routine in China, and it is not regularly reported and there is nothing the victims can do about it

Fact is though Richard, the Chinese government does not countenance torture. Its just that there is lack of a transparent enough judiciary and society to prevent it from happening on a widespread scale. But that is a problem with newly industrializing countries. When America was at a similar stage of development she was hanging cattle rustlers without much due process, and lynchings were common. But still lynchings were not approved by the Federal government of the time – so they could be blamed for slackness and inaction perhaps – but not for the deed itself.

Blaming the Chinese government for the beating deaths of some inmates in custody is the same as blaming the American government everytime someone is wrongfully gunned down by the police in the US, or given a beating (which I am sure happens sometimes still).

Torture, and beating confessions happens too often in China – but again it is not something that is considered to be a desirable thing on the part of the government. And it is illegal. Hence the difference between Chinese government and the official legitimizing of torture by the Bush government.

Having said all this – regardless of whether you are anti-China, anti-American or pro-whatever, it is unreasonable to prosecute people who carried out policy which was legal at the time, and which they thought was in the best interests of their country at the time, and most of all which they thought would save lives. If you do prosecute, the relevant agencies will in future be gun shy in their pursuit of terrorists.

April 24, 2009 @ 11:06 am | Comment

You are really putting words in my mouth John. I didn’t say the Chinese government countenances torture (that can be debated), just that it does occur here routinely (as it does in many countries, for the record). I never said I blame “the Chinese government” for the beating death of Sun Zhigang. The question of the government’s role in torture is murky

Completely disagree with the “when America was at a similar stage of development” BS. But that’s a whole day’s work. With that argument, you can justify any act of barbarism and say, “But look, America did that when it was at a similar state of development.” The parallels aren’t nearly as neat and clean as that. Licensed brutality to blacks in the south was sometimes carried out by urbane, highly educated, “developed” people. Singapore is as developed as you can get, yet torture is a perfectly legal punishment there.

it is unreasonable to prosecute people who carried out policy which was legal at the time, and which they thought was in the best interests of their country at the time, and most of all which they thought would save lives.

You really need to study up on your history and ethics, John. The most bestial SS monsters believed they were doing what was best for humanity, saving the life of Europe from the hell of Jewish domination. And it was perfectly legal to smash in the skulls of children in front of their mothers. They were only doing it to save lives and make Germany and Europe a better, safer place.

April 24, 2009 @ 12:27 pm | Comment

Here’s Liz Cheney trying to keep her dad out of jail:


Here’s someone who hasn’t mortgaged their soul:


I’m going to say this one more time. There is no debate to be had about whether torture is wrong or not, there is no debate to be had about whether the things done to the detainees was torture. Either you accept that depriving people of sleep for more than a week, slamming their head 30 times against a wall, drowning them 183 times in a month, shackling them in a standing position for days, beating them about the head and stomach, and threatening to kill their family are torture, or you are a morally bankrupt person who wishes to deny reality.

April 24, 2009 @ 9:46 pm | Comment

Very good post. Made me think.

April 25, 2009 @ 5:00 am | Comment

Speaking of false realities:

“Scientists said the virus combines genetic material from pigs, birds and humans in a way researchers have not seen before.”


I guess that the leadership could create an entirely false reality in a society if the people in the society were: (a) institutionalized such that they are infected with conformity and group think and promoted on the basis of conformity and group think; (b) kept in a constant state of fear of authority, being different, fear of the external bogey man; and (c) fed with a constant stream of “evidence” obtained through torture confirming the false reality.

April 25, 2009 @ 2:56 pm | Comment

US has a lot of transparency and hence all these mild techniques of torture (did I say mild? Well double that) are talk of the town the world over. To put things in perspective, this torture should be reported alongside the kind used by other countries. This kind of skewed reporting gives people esp in Islamic countries the idea that oh US is the only one torturing. Since their own countries are not transparent, they do not know what freckin hell is going on there.

Why does US have to occupy the high moral ground on anything? It is but one amongst equals and not the first.

April 29, 2009 @ 9:57 am | Comment

A Chinese – The US may not be more moral than China, but then again, when does country A need to be ‘more moral’ than country B before it can criticize B? Who is to judge when country A is ‘morally superior’ enough to criticize B?

It is a naive to think that a country is clean simply because it didn’t invade a foreign territory. Britain did nothing when Hitler invaded Poland, and likewise western nations stood idly for a long time when people were killing each other like pigs in the former Yugoslavia. Do you seriously think these countries are “clean” for the general principle that no invasion of foreign countries is involved?

In any case, US troops are now in foreign soil to eradicate elements they deem hostile to their national interest – a notion called forward defense – and virtually the very same notion based on which China had justified its involvement in the Korean War as well as Sino-Vietnam conflicts. So what exactly it is that makes the US ‘dirtier’ than China?

Even if you think China is cleaner than the US because it hasn’t invaded any foreign countries at least the last 30 years, that doesn’t mean China is innocent by a mile – it was exactly 30 years ago, in 1979, that China was involved in a armed conflicted with Vietnam. And how did you come up with the notion that 30 years is a long enough period for China to have washed off its “sins”? Did China set itself as a moral role model by refraining from criticizing other nations when it was involved in a conflict with Vietnam 30 years ago? Whatever aggressiveness China may not be showing to other country now, it is showing it with a vengence against domestic dissent. Does your sense of morality apply only to international relations?

Let there be no mistake – politics, especially international relations, has always been about interest – and morality is nothing more than an after-the-fact justification. China can criticize others just as it can be criticized. If China wants to call itself a world power, then be prepared to face the real world where nations CAN and DO express their opinions of each other freely.

May 11, 2009 @ 9:08 pm | Comment

@another chinese

i don’t believe you have posted here before, so please let me welcome you here as a fellow commenter. i basically agree with what you said so please don’t construe this as an attack on your points but there are a couple of errors in your examples:

“Britain did nothing when Hitler invaded Poland”. This is incorrect, the UK declared war on Nazi Germany as a direct consequence of Hitler’s invasion of Poland in September 1939. I presume you are confusing Poland with Czechoslovakia, and the European nations’ policy of appeasement during the 1930s. This was due, I think we should all remember, to guilt over a perceived injustice against Germany in the aftermath of WW1

“and likewise western nations stood idly for a long time when people were killing each other like pigs in the former Yugoslavia.” Again, you are overlooking the Dayton Agreement of 1995 and various attempts at a peaceful solution thoroughout the 90s. If you are in China I should let you know the link is wikipedia:


The NATO bombing only commenced when it became extremely clear these attempts to bring people to the table were not working, and required a good deal of arm twisting to get the US involved.

With all due respect, I think maybe the Rwandan genocide might be a better example of how the west could have intervened in an unfolding tragedy and decided to sit on their hands. I submit these points just to pre-empt criticism of your points and provide examples backing up your excellent points

“It is a naive to think that a country is clean simply because it didn’t invade a foreign territory”


“The US may not be more moral than China, but then again, when does country A need to be ‘more moral’ than country B before it can criticize B? Who is to judge when country A is ‘morally superior’ enough to criticize B?”

Hope to see you again!

May 11, 2009 @ 10:05 pm | Comment

Thanks to both Si and Another Chinese. Excellent comments, though they won’t do much to change A Chinese’s mind.

May 11, 2009 @ 10:10 pm | Comment

The best wife of all to marry, of course, is Math. Because then you can divorce him/her/it. The only question is, in terms of legality, etc., is Math a man, woman, animal, or vegetable? Is it straight marriage, gay marriage, or animal marriage. Unfortunately, I can’t be as absurdist as Math. Sorry.

May 12, 2009 @ 12:10 am | Comment

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