Clearing the Fog
in the
War of Words


  logomachy--1. A dispute about words. 2. A dispute carried on in words only; a battle of words.
logomachon--1. One who argues about words. 2. A word warrior.



Torture is bad? Torture is Twinkies!

One night as we were proofing page paste-ups of our college paper, another SEA vet and I were chatting about napalm. A rather wussy undergrad on the other side of the table said primly “Ya know, guys, that’s not the most pleasant topic of conversation”. To which we replied, “Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.”

Same for torture.

Another story. There were a couple of engineering students, also Vietnam vets, whom I took a lot of classes with, especially computer science. This was back when we would punch holes in the cards with rocks, hand in the deck, check to see how many hours it would take for the job to run, then walk up the hill for coffee at the student center. So we had time to chat and tell war stories.

One of the guys had learned Cambodian at Army language school and was assigned as an interrogator to a unit operating along the border, where a lot of the VC were ethnic Cambodian. He told us that although coercion was against the rules, if the CO told him to get information from a captive, say, about booby traps on the trails ahead, he “got out his water bucket”.

I think he was right. Let me be clear that we are not talking about prisoners of war covered by international conventions. This is about unlawful combatants, in Vietnam and in the war on terror. The argument against mistreatment of such prisoners is the general moral one that they are no longer combatants. They can’t hurt you. But that isn’t true. They have information--immediate, tactical information--that can mean the death of your soldiers. By not providing that information, the prisoner is still fighting, almost as much as he would be if he set off a grenade hidden in his shirt. I think some mental and physical coercion is appropriate to get that information.

How about behind the lines, say with the terrorists at Guantánamo Bay? The liberal Hive has been buzzing with two truisms that are not true: “stress” techniques don’t work and US interrogators engage in torture. If you believe that, then you just don’t know what you are talking about, and you won’t until you read Heather Mac Donald's article.

No Oil for Pacifists has a good work up with good comments and links. But here is how the great All-American torture machine that liberals are certain their countrymen are running really works:
So what were these cruel and degrading practices? For one, providing a detainee an incentive for cooperation—such as a cigarette or, especially favored in Cuba, a McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich or a Twinkie unless specifically approved by the secretary of defense. In other words, if an interrogator had learned that Usama bin Ladin’s accountant loved Cadbury chocolate, and intended to enter the interrogation booth armed with a Dairy Milk Wafer to extract the name of a Saudi financier, he needed to “specifically determine that military necessity requires” the use of the Dairy Milk Wafer and send an alert to Secretary Rumsfeld that chocolate was to be deployed against an al-Qaida operative.


Back scratching

Iowahawk was kind enough to mention Logomachon and add me to his blog roll:
For a dose of straight thinking from a Catholic perspective, you are also encouraged to pay a visit to Logomachon.
I’m a little puzzled by the “Catholic perspective”, since I don’t try to emphasize it—and certainly don’t usually claim to speak for anyone but myself. On the other hand, I do think that a Catholic perspective is the basis for straight thinking . . . . maybe it shows.

Check out Iowahawk. He does a lot of good satire, like this instant classic of environmentalists blaming the Boxing Day Tsunami on angry sea gods.

And while you are at it—well, actually, before, or after . . . whenever—check out No Oil for Pacifists: Great name, lively commentary, great name, good satire, great name. It’s going into my list of e-mail epigraphs.


We are at war with Islam

Michelle Malkin goes ballistic over lefty misrepresentations of her position on internment of Japanese in 1942 and Muslims in America today. The links will keep me reading all morning.

She builds her post around attacks on Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes and left-wing charges that that he “has fond visions of rounding up Muslim Americans and putting them in concentration camps”. Pipes actually just advocates treating the US Muslim community are a threat and a critical intelligence target in WWIV.

I agree with Pipes and Malkin that the Japanese internment was appropriate and that the US Muslim community’s Islamic identity overrides loyalty to America. Here is an example.

In 2004, The Chicago Tribune published a 12-part series, "Struggle for the Soul of Islam." On 4 January 2004, NPR's Tony Cox interviewed the Tribune’s managing editor Jim O'Shea and staff writer Noreen Ahmed-Ullah about the series. They made a number of interesting points about Islamic “moderates”:
  • King Hussein of Jordan told a CIA contact that calling the NGO mujihadin “murderers” or “terrorists” could backfire because “there is a little bit of me in them and a little bit of them in me”. This from the man whose father killed thousands of “Palestinians” and drove the rest (more than a million) out of his country.
  • There are radical Muslims in the US who strongly support the jihadists. They are a minority but dominate the community.
  • ”Moderate” Muslims in the United States decline to speak out, not only because of fear of violent reprisals from radicals, but because they would be ostracized by the Islamic community .
  • When NPR’s Cox asked what to do about the way the Bush administration’s policies were driving moderates toward radical positions, the reporters confounded the liberal shibboleth by saying that in fact the reverse is happening. Muslims who had a romantic sympathy with the jihad pose are disassociating themselves from the terrorist reality. That is what they call “moving toward the moderate position”.
( NPR News with Tony Cox has links to the broadcast and to the Tribune’s “Struggle for the Soul of Islam” series.)

This is why we have to understand that we are at war with Islam—World War IV. Islam, in America and throughout the world, is a pond in which NGO mujihadin can swim in comfortable obscurity. Its political, social, and economic pathologies—not to mention its explicit scriptures--breed mujihadin, and its crowds cheer their atrocities. It is absurd to send troops to the other side of the world in a forward defense of the United States, and refuse to look for enemy soldiers within enemy populations right at home.


Staples: We don't got that!

Office supply mart Staples advertises "Yeah . . . we got that!", but John Moore at Useful Fools knows something that they don't get (see "Staples to Learn about Blogs - The Hard Way".
According to The Washington Post, Staples has cravenly given in to a radical left movement to silence dissenting opinion. In doing so, they have also shown a dangerous lack of understanding of the blogosphere and the internet age.
What Sinclair Action.org, a cabal of MoveOn.org, Campaign for America's Future, and others, wants is to get Sinclair to balance a conservative commentary feature with a progressive program. To that end they are organizing an advertising boycott of Sinclair.

John is starting his own boycott: "Do you advertise in the New York Times?" he asks in a letter to Staples.
Their editorials are almost universally liberal (and often very offensive). Furthermore, their news coverage itself is frequently slanted, always to the left. Are your advertising principles anti-controversial, anti-conservative, or are you just cowards? Given what I have seen, I must conclude both of the latter.

You have lost a customer in myself, my family, and my company. I suspect that as word gets out, many others will likewise decide to spend their money at stores less willing to cave in to campaigns orchestrated to suppress dissent.
John includes the statement of purpose of the anti-Sinclair cabal and a link to sample clips of the commentary the noble progressive free-thought/free-speech types find so intolerable. Prepare to be shocked. Sinclair called liberals' attitudes before and after the election "arrogant", and one piece called for the repeal of the fascist McCain-Feingold campaign restrictions!

Logomachon has to note the use of one of liberals' favorite rhetorical ploys: invalidly applying arguments from one level of abstraction to another (a form of the fallacy of composition). While an active intellectual marketplace is certainly important to any polity, it doesn't have to be replicated in toto in every individual media outlet. People who watch a Sinclair station often do so because they like the conservative tone. If they want to hear something else, alternatives are just a click or two away. Liberals think you should be required to listen to them, and they are prepared force Sinclair to make that happen. Seems judgmental and arrogant to me.

Logomachon urges you to join John Moore in putting Staples high on the embargo list, next to France.


Tsunami Pharisees

J'accuse Ass is an irregular department. It recognizes a public accusation, complaint, insinuation, alarm, or whining notable for its arrogance, irrelevance, spite, stridency, obtuseness, or mendacity.
President Bush announced yesterday a tenfold increase in emergency aid to stricken areas of Asia, bringing the federal government's commitment to $350 million, and he said the United States would probably add more resources as the scope of what he called an "epic disaster" became clearer.

The action came after mounting criticism that Bush, who stayed at his ranch all week and spoke publicly about the disaster once, had reacted too slowly.--Phila. Inquirer 1 Jan 05
See UPDATE on private donations at the bottom of post.
At my Jesuit high school, we learned Ignatius Loyola’s prayer for generosity, which includes the line to give and not to count the cost. But some people are so eager to find fault with other’s generosity that they forget to count anything.

They are the ones baying (“Outraged”) about President Bush’s response to the tsunamis around the Indian Ocean: he didn’t express his sympathy soon enough; the US didn’t offer enough aid; the US is “stingy” compared with other countries (if you use comparisons that exclude more than half of what the US spends).

This is the carping politics of the empty gesture. Even less attractive is the assumption of wickedness, or at least moral sloth, on the part of others, in contrast to one’s own fervor.

When the first estimates of a mind-numbing 20,000 dead, soon increased to 40,00, came in, the administration made an initial commitment of $15 million. As later reports revealed even greater devastation, the commitments increased, open-endedly, to $35 million by Wednesday, and to $350 million by Saturday.

A “visibly annoyed” Colin Powell made clear (see the NYT/Inquirer story above) that the disaster area is remote and isolated, Back-of-the-Beyond-by-the-Sea. Powell said “what we have to do
is make a needs assessment and not just grasp at numbers or think we're in some kind of an auction house where every day somebody has to top someone else. . .

It's not just a matter of money; it's a matter of being able to distribute supplies.
As another article puts it, “Aid pours in, but delivering it is difficult “.

But the carpers of the self-styled reality-based community cannot grant good will to their chosen whipping boys. Bush didn’t promise aid for a disaster that killed 150,000 when the toll was 20,000, so he doesn’t care. The carpers want to claim credit for badgering him into increasing the US estimate of aid,

Do they suppose that a facile sound bite of womanly blubbering by the President would have saved a life, would have gotten so much as a clean sock to a disaster area one second sooner? As for the money, do they suppose that $350 million promised on Monday rather than Friday would have increased “pressure” on the relief “pipeline” so aid would have arrived sooner?

The word for this kind of criticism is Pharisaical. And it has a nasty, post-modern twist. The Pharisees were a privileged Jewish sect who were notorious for burdening the common people with strict interpretations of the letter of the Law without regard to the Law’s spirit. The post-modern Pharisees set exalted standards for others, also, but they make up the rules as they go along, so the bar is always raised above whatever has been done.

Like some international guardians of The Pose of the High-Toned, when post-modern Pharisees measure generosity, they ignore private contributions. Fortunately, private giving still counts for the relief of the victims.

UPDATE: Captain's Quarters is sponsoring a blogsphere World Relief Day. He has set up a link to a dedicated page at World Vision. The target date is 12 January, but donations are already rolling in.



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