"Kathy" is one of the main contributers to a trending liberal blog called "Comments from Left Field." Every so often I drop by there to see how liberals think, and to contribute to discussion threads. Unfortunately, it is all too apparent that I will have to keep searching for quality content from the left.
Not that I reached that conclusion only recently. But a recent exchange with Kathy on waterboarding provided such an astounding example of bankrupt thinking that I can't keep CFLF on the Sith blogroll at Sublime Bloviations, and moreover it is time to induct CFLF into the bad blogs list at Bad Blogs' Blood.
I found Kathy's approach to waterboarding typical of the left--in my experience, anyway--and therefore both fascinating and disturbing. Kathy thinks that waterboarding is obviously torture--and her opinion parallels Justice Potter Stewart's famous opinion on obscenity from Jacobellis v. Ohio: "I know it when I see it."
Having read the Bybee and Yoo memos, I was aware that the legal opinion on which the Bush administration relied rested largely on the distinction between "pain" and "extreme pain," the latter representing the concept of torture stated in the Convention Against Torture. Kathy used the Convention Against Torture as her source for the definition of torture, but denied that the CAT definition was ambiguous.
Given the relatively obvious demarcation problem with the CAT definition, I asked Kathy how we should distinguish between "pain" and "extreme pain." Though her posts in the discussion thread contained many errors, her response to that query serves as a clear representation of why a blogging Kathy will serve primarily to uneducate people, and why CFLF belongs on the bad blogs list. At least if she sticks to politics and world events instead of something about which she possesses genuine knowledge.
I expect that most people who seriously follow the news would realize that legal standards based on subjective impressions pose a difficulty. I knew no other way to take a standard based on "what the victim is feeling, not what the torturer thinks he is feeling, or decides he will feel if a particular torture is done in a particular way."
Where do we draw the line between “severe” and non-severe? Do you know, since you do not find it the least bit ambiguous?
Common sense, not to mention intellectual honesty, would tell you that severity of suffering is defined by what the victim is feeling, not by what the torturer thinks he is feeling, or decides he will feel if a particular torture is done in a particular way.
As well, common sense would tell you that if the victim is screaming, or crying, or begging for the torture to stop, severe suffering is taking place.
And common sense should tell you that intentionally drowning someone to the point of blacking out and/or death — much less doing it 83 times, or 183 times — will cause severe suffering.
Finally, common sense will tell you that if the purpose of subjecting a person to waterboarding, or to sleep deprivation, or to excruciating stress positions, or to exploitation of phobias, is to force the victim to comply with your request for information or answers to specific questions, then the suffering really should probably be severe, since mild discomfort is probably not going to do the trick.
And yes, all of this IS obvious. Or should be, to a minimally intelligent and reasonable person.
So much so, in fact, that I feel I’ve entered some Alice in Wonderland world just by answering these questions.
Which is why I won’t, anymore.
Isn't that type of subjectivity the perfect vehicle for a prisoner lawsuit alleging that confinement apart from his terrorist allies produces intolerable psychological pain? How is one to properly serve Allah as a proper extremist if he is prevented from killing infidels? I chose to illustrate the absurdity of Kathy's position by showing her to be a torturer of the worst sort. In my reply, I complained that Kathy was torturing me.
But that wasn't the end of it, of course. Kathy provided the tools to make a strong case against her. After all, it is the victim's impression of suffering that serves to indicate the degree of torture, not the expectation of the torturer. Kathy's own rationale silenced her objections.
True to form, however, Kathy had somewhat contradicted herself. Though the suffering victim of torture is the arbiter of the degree of torture in her view, "common sense" was supposed to inform us that suffering accompanied by various behaviors of the sufferer would indicate to observers (perhaps even the torturer?--I didn't get around to asking that of Kathy) that the physical or mental pain was "severe pain" rather than mere potentially legal "pain."
It was clear what I had to do. I hit the "Caps Lock" key and begged Kathy to stop torturing me.
I figured I had an airtight case according to Kathy's logic. She didn't mount much of a defense.
So, Kathy's mental assessment of the legal definition of torture amounts to "It's obvious" or "I know it when I see it." And when called on her shallow-as-a-Slip 'n Slide definition of torture, she reverted to ad hominem and avoidance.
Bryan: PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE STOP, KATHY!
Dang. You’re guilty.
And you, Bryan, are an idiot. Draw whatever conclusions you wish: I am through here.
And without a deeper rationale than "It's obvious," there is no way to reason the issue. Sadly.