Thursday, December 13, 2007


The Party of Violence

Is the distinguished gentleman from Missouri a lying sack of crap, or just stupid? Kit Bond, who despite all appearances to the contrary is actually a United States Senator:

GWEN IFILL: Do you think that waterboarding, as I described it, constitutes torture?

SEN. KIT BOND: There are different ways of doing it. It’s like swimming, freestyle, backstroke. The waterboarding could be used almost to define some of the techniques that our trainees are put through, but that’s beside the point. It’s not being used.

Yes, it is of course comparable to swimming. Being tied down, then having water poured down your nose and throat until you come as close as possible to asphyxiation, then having a rag or plastic wrap shoved into your mouth so that you cannot cough the water back out is exactly like learning the backstroke.

Given the number of times this has come up -- from Rush Limbaugh to Dick Cheney -- I can only conclude that conservatives live very different lives from everyone else, and that as a child Kit Bond must have gone to the world's most malevolent summer camp. I know of no swim lessons that involve intentionally attempting to drown a person. I have never heard of anyone learning to swim with a soaked rag shoved into their mouth to prevent them from breathing through it, then having water poured into their nose so that they cannot breathe through that either.

True, there are various "techniques" -- depending on the available amounts of water, on what is used to cover the mouth, on whether the prisoner is tied down or merely held down by the collective weight of his interrogators -- but nonetheless, it would be hard for me to declare it like the backstroke unless I was either a bloodthirsty sadist, an unapologetic liar, an idiot, or some amalgamation of all three. Given that Kit Bond is a Republican, and is mouthing (luckily, Gwen Ifill does not use watersoaked rags to gag her interviewees, though it would probably give better results) what has come to become standard Republican talking points, it is anyone's guess which of those three ignoble characteristics best represents the good Senator. Perhaps someone can ask him.

The Republican party has devolved into unapologetic supporters of violence on all levels. Torture, war: it is all the same. Watching the Republican primaries, what stands out the most is how eager to please all candidates are, when it comes to issues of violence, and how ravenously the audiences consume any such expressions. You will get applause for declaring that you will double the internment of prisoners; you will be booed if you dare say you will reform it. You will get applause for spinning tales of ticking clocks, imminent mushroom clouds, and the justifications for torturing anyone who may yet turn out to be entirely innocent and unknowledgeable; you will be a lone, fuming onstage exception, if you object to such tactics. It is not that Republicans are merely supportive of detention without charge, or of torture, or of prisoner abuse, or of war itself; they have given themselves over to all those things in service of pandering to a more base primality. It does not pay to think, anymore, only to passionately hate, and wound, and seek revenge. That is what it takes, to rally the God party.

Yesterday, Jonah Goldberg gave one of his charming College Republicans presentations, "All I am Saying is Give War a Chance", in which he was to give forth on the "costs, necessities, consequences, and benefits of war". This should be mildly eyebrow raising, as I have never once heard anyone give a student lecture exploring "The Case For Rape", or "The Case For Mugging", even though I would imagine you could reuse most of the same material: each uses violence to unapologetically force a weaker party into doing what you want of them. If you wanted to make a case for mere self defense, you would not make a case for the benefits of war -- for bloodshed as a way to gain actual advantage.

Rush Limbaugh cannot open his mouth about Abu Ghraib without an utter dismissal that anything about it was wrong. To him, the sexual abuse, sodomy, and beating to death of prisoners was petty fraternity house hazing: using techniques such as dousing prisoners with acid or shoving broken chemical lights up their rectums is all good, clean Republican fun: "people having a good time", to use his precise words. For his part, supposedly moderate Republican Congressman Christopher Shays said of it "Abu Ghraib was not torture. It was outrageous, outrageous involvement of National Guard troops from [Maryland] who were involved in a sex ring".

So why would we expect anything different, but that torture be defined down to, as conservative Rachel Marsden stated on CNN in November, a "CIA sponsored swim lesson"? Why would we expect any less than the Vice President himself giving explicit public endorsement of the technique, and Kit Bond giving his own dismissive approval, and all the conservative pundits, and the Republican candidates for President of the United States giving their public approval, all the while detaching it neatly from being torture by merely refusing it the word, regardless of plain history or fact?

The current Republican Party stands for nothing; there is no moral hole too deep but for the party to crawl into it and make it home. The imprisoning of individuals without evidence, the torture of those prisoners, manufacturing evidence for "preemptive" war, outing CIA agents that tread too close to things the administration doesn't want said... nothing. David Vitter can continue see all the whores he wants, as long as -- God help the party -- none of them are male. Anyone can stand in front of a podium and say literally anything, and it will be defended as noble and patriotic and religiously sound and morally just.

And the United States can indeed torture -- even as Kit Bond was mouthing the words "It's not being used", a CIA agent was being paraded around the halls of the press to say it was being used: we can only presume that Senator Kit Bond is functionally illiterate, and deaf and dumb besides, for him to have missed such a blazingly promoted scoop.

So Kit Bond is, at best, a very stupid man. At worst, he is a national liar, and a willing apologist for violence, and a defender of the drowning and potential death of possibly innocent people under the thin premise that it is not, after all, all that bad.

Nobody has any excuses, at this point, to not know what waterboarding is. Nobody in power can be that stupid: no, Kit Bond is not stupid. He is merely a defender of violent abuse and potential death, because his party has elected to be the pro-torture party, because their very moral and religious supporters are enamored with expressions of violence in all their forms.

UPDATE: Oh, this is rich. Apparently Malkin, Drudge, and the NRCC are pretending to be up in arms today over Pelosi saying Republicans "like this war. They want this war to continue."

Oh, the scandal! How could she say such a mean thing! Oh, if only she had been more civilized, like appearing on television with a smile and reducing acts of intentional government-sanctioned torture into mere swimming techniques!

And yet -- duh. Republicans "like" war? Well, that's the very premise of Jonah Goldberg's lecture, at the least. It's the very premise of the "surge", for that matter. It's the very premise of continued drumbeating to bomb Iran, whether or not they have anything to actually bomb. They like the war, they demand the war continues, and many of them have demanded for four years that we find other countries, like Syria and Iran, to bring into the war.

Of course Republicans like the war. And as Kit Bond, Rush Limbaugh, other conservatives, and nearly all Republican presidential candidates have demonstratively proclaimed, they like a lot of other foul things besides. Not only like them, but are willing to publicly advocate for them.

Poor babies. They advocate for war, endorse torture, and dismiss prisoner abuse, but then someone said something mean to them. How uncouth.

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