July 09, 2004

Why I Will Not Subscribe to the National Journal

Erin Waters, from the office of the publisher of the National Journal, writes me an email:

From: Erin Waters ext@njp.omessage.com
To: delong@econ.Berkeley.EDU
Subject: National Journal access
Date: Thu, 8 Jul 2004 09:00:00 -0500
Reply-To: ewaters@nationaljournal.com
X-MailSessionID: zc9HkYZWq07.JiHM8uSC0HZrrYAAAZU6AAAAbAE=
Status:

Dear Brad,

Over the next several weeks, you will receive complimentary issues of National Journal, the leading weekly on politics, policy and government. I'm sending them to you because I thought you would find them valuable to your work. There is no obligation and you will not receive a bill. You'll receive a total of five free issues and access to our subscribers-only Web site....

I've also included a http://njp.omessage.com/lrd0_AAGVOgAAAGwB fact sheet, which provides more detail on National Journal and its features.

Please let me know if you have any questions about this complimentary trial.

Regards,

Erin Waters
Office of the Publisher

Erin Waters
National Journal Group
600 New Hampshire Ave, NW
Washington DC 20037
Ph: 202-266-7052

My reaction: I will not subscribe, I will not pay a cent to the National Journal until all connections between the magazine and Stuart Taylor, Jr., have been severed.

Sometimes when you "feign suffocation"--i.e., make people think they are going to drown--they actually do drown, and you actually do kill them. The last thing that American political debate needs is the wider broadcasting of the opinions of ethically-challenged lawyers who sneer at "undue fastidiousness in interrogating terrorists," and draw fine distinctions between "torture" and "highly coercive interrogation methods."

America's key edge and our only reason for being is that we are the good guys. People like Stuart Taylor throw that in the trash:

Stuart Taylor : There is no evidence that the administration ever approved "torture" (which it has defined extremely narrowly) as a matter of policy. Justice did approve a number of highly coercive, still-classified interrogation methods, such as feigning suffocation and subjecting prisoners to sleep deprivation and "stress positions." Using such methods, the CIA squeezed valuable information out of Qaeda leaders...

More of Stuart Taylor's greatest hits:

Stuart Taylor: Some of the attacks on the recently leaked Bush administration legal memoranda about the use of torture and lesser forms of coercion to extract information are a bit facile. It's easy to sit in judgment on those assigned to deal with the threat of catastrophic terrorism. It's much harder to provide morally or legally satisfying answers.... Telling a prisoner that he or his family will be killed unless he talks is not torture, for example, unless the threat is of "imminent" death...

Stuart Taylor : Torture may be justified in rare [cases].... [W]hat about the Qaeda member caught by Philippine intelligence agents in 1995 in a Manila bomb factory? Defiant through 67 days of savage torture -- most of his ribs broken, cigarettes burned into his private parts -- he finally cracked when threatened (falsely) with being turned over to Israel's Mossad. And he revealed the so-called "Bojinka" plot to crash 11 U.S. airliners and 4,000 passengers into the Pacific...

Stuart Taylor : The best way to minimize the conflict between the need for aggressive interrogation and the prohibitions of human-rights law may be to define "torture" narrowly enough on a case-by-case basis to leave considerable leeway for tough, coercive interrogation short of excessive brutality.... Coercive interrogation of suspected terrorists is arguably legal.... This view... seems right.... [U]ndue fastidiousness in interrogating terrorists could lead to the preventable murders of thousands of people...

Stuart Taylor: [I]t's clear... there should be no Miranda warnings or lawyers for suspected Qaeda terrorists.... The same logic holds to some extent even if the suspect is a U.S. citizen, and even if he is seized on U.S. soil, as in the case of the Brooklyn-born Padilla...

Posted by DeLong at July 9, 2004 08:19 AM | TrackBack | | Other weblogs commenting on this post
Comments

Sounds like Stu is bucking for a judicial appointment from the Bushies...

Posted by: Billmon on July 9, 2004 08:23 AM

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Does it escape the notice of people such as Stuart Taylor that information elicited through torture is extremely unreliable? Or does that matter to them? As far as I can tell, torture's only effective use is to satisfy the sadistic cravings of aberrant personalities. Weighed against the cost of the US's moral standing in the world, that seems to be a highly unprofitable exchange.

Posted by: Mushinronsha on July 9, 2004 08:40 AM

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Stuart Taylor : And he revealed the so-called "Bojinka" plot to crash 11 U.S. airliners and 4,000 passengers into the Pacific...

Oh, I know, I know. 9/11 happened because US did not torture anyone for a while. If only we could admit that US is crushing opposition abroad simply by virtue of being an empire. Than we would not have to invent the childish stories about how gods of Libery and Democracy must be appeased with blood and pain of the tortured.

Posted by: a on July 9, 2004 08:46 AM

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The man refutes himself.

"Defiant through 67 days of savage torture -- most of his ribs broken, cigarettes burned into his private parts -- he finally cracked when threatened (falsely) with being turned over to Israel's Mossad."

The Bojinka plot was set for January 1995. In other words, this fellow lasted through torture so bad that agents were surprised he survived, until well after any thing he knew would do his captors any good. And anything he knew we already had learned from the computer recovered form the plotters' apartment, thanks to an accidental fire there. Anything he told us two months later was in no way helpful to thwarting that plot. So he offers us an example where we sold our souls by torturing a man almost to death for no return whatsoever.

Posted by: Gordon on July 9, 2004 08:56 AM

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"Telling a prisoner that he or his family will be killed unless he talks is not torture, for example, unless the threat is of "imminent" death..."

So telling a prisoner they'll be killed in 5 minutes is torture; telling him he'll be killed tomorrow is not? Does that come close to making any sense at all?

"...he finally cracked when threatened (falsely) with being turned over to Israel's Mossad."

So they could maybe skip the torture part and just tell him they'll turn him over to Mossad and get the same result?

Does Taylor even read what he writes?

Posted by: flory on July 9, 2004 09:22 AM

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I hated Taylor long before this, for his Monica commentary.

This administration, much like an organized crime family, demands its supporters compromise themselves irrevocably. Said supporters then have nowhere else to go. Kleiman has posted on widespread fear among CIA field agents(torturers) about what would happen were Bush to lose power.

I partly believe the Republicans sent their unqualified children to the Green Zone in Iraq in order to implicate them in Geneva and Hague violations, thereby ensuring loyalty for fifty years.

Posted by: bob mcmanus on July 9, 2004 09:25 AM

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A lawyer is a zealous advocate for his client. Who is Stuar Taylor's client?

Posted by: Peatey on July 9, 2004 09:28 AM

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A lawyer is a zealous advocate for his client. Who is Stuart Taylor's client?

Posted by: Peatey on July 9, 2004 09:28 AM

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the road to hell is gentle and easy, whereas the path of righteousness is often difficult.

" The Gospel according to St Freud ".

Posted by: latibulum on July 9, 2004 10:05 AM

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If we believe U.S. Senator James "Göd's cöcksücker" Inhofe, the term is not "highly coercive interrogation methods", but "losing a good night's sleep".

Posted by: ogmb on July 9, 2004 10:56 AM

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Another reason not to subscribe is that is jaw-droppingly expensive.

Posted by: dan on July 9, 2004 11:20 AM

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Its coverage of the intricacies of politics, political personnel, and lobbying is second-to-none...

Posted by: Brad DeLong on July 9, 2004 11:43 AM

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Taylor is just atrocious. His coverage of the Florida recount would have have had to add a significant amount of internal consistency and empirical support to rise to the level of "tendentious hackwork."

W/r to the National Journal, however, the 12 grand a year or whatever is costs is enough to dissaude me...but shouldn't they be able to afford better legal writers at that price?

Posted by: Scott on July 9, 2004 02:13 PM

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With all this talk of how ineffective torture is, or how it works to our strategic disadvantage, I find it a little depressing that this most basic argument gets relatively little air time:

Torture is wrong, and Americans don't do that sort of thing. And yes, that means bad guys captured by Americans know (or should know)they won't be faced with injury, drowning, killing of their family members, turning them over to the Mosad, or whatever.

Yes, that means you can argue we are fighting this fight with one hand tied behind our backs. I call that a reasonable price to pay for being a free, liberal democracy. It's supposed to be the right way to behave, not necessarily the easiest way to behave. I'm willing to risk my safety and that of my family on the proposition that we wake up every morning in a nation that holds itself to the highest standard of moral conduct, even at the (theoretical) expense of our short-term effectiveness.

Well, there. I feel better already.

Posted by: Patrick Allen on July 9, 2004 02:18 PM

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The funny thing about Taylor is he is a former lefty who wrote an article about the Paula Jones case that supported her position, and became a darling of the right wing press, and, viola, he switched sides.

Posted by: pj on July 9, 2004 02:27 PM

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There isn't a single one of you guys who is even close to being in Taylor's league, as either a gentleman or a scholar.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 9, 2004 05:22 PM

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Patrick: Based on Taylor's writings, as excepted in this post and elsewhere, I must say that we are certainly in agreement on the facts. May it ever be thus.

Posted by: Doctor Memory on July 9, 2004 06:31 PM

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A scholar, Patrick? Perhaps. A gentleman? No.

And as Doctor Memory notes above, I would say that you are correct that Taylor is certainly playing in a different league than I am. Thank God I do not, and will not, stoop to the league in which he is playing.

Posted by: PaulB on July 9, 2004 07:25 PM

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The question is simple. Are you a thug or ain't you. I ain't.

Posted by: mario on July 9, 2004 08:03 PM

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Here's a question for you geniuses, is it also not allowed to kill in self-defense?

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 10, 2004 08:18 AM

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I don't pretend to be a genius, Patrick, but I am smart enough to recognize a stupid, non sequitur question when I see one. We're talking about torture, Patrick. When you want to talk about that, we'll be right here. Until then, I see no reason why I should play games with you.

Posted by: PaulB on July 10, 2004 09:03 AM

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We've all seen that this administration believes that the ends justify the means, no matter what. Look at the smear tactics they used against McCain in the last election, alleging that he has a black bastard child. Acceptance of torture as is just another example. They have no limits, and thus no ethics.

Posted by: Jackie on July 10, 2004 09:21 PM

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"The point, by contrast, is to assume an appropriate oppositional stance, and to feel good about oneself."

That criticism of the usual suspects' mentality is courtesy of the host.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 11, 2004 10:32 AM

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:: Here's a question for you geniuses, is it also not allowed to kill in self-defense?

Paddywhack seems to have forgotten the 'reasonable force' defence. But that's because he's neither a gentleman nor a scholar.

Posted by: ahem on July 11, 2004 10:33 AM

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I have thought for years that I was the only US citizen who had noticed how awful is Stuart Taylor's work as a journalist, aside from Lyons and Conason, of course.) How wonderful to discover that I was not alone.

My favorite non-torture example of Taylor's recent work is a column which appeared, at first, to be a critique of the Bush administration's personal attacks against Richard Clarke, but upon further perusal revealed that Taylor agreed with them on Clarke's lack of credibility, but would have preferred for Clarke's critics to base their arguments on Clarke's book and 9/11 Commission testimony. It didn't seem to occur to Taylor that the reason they hadn't was that they couldn't have slimed Clarke sufficiently on that basis.

Best of all, Taylor, after listing the poisenous nature of White House and Republican attacks on Clarke's personal character, reminds us that they pale in comparison to the way the Clinton White House slimed Kenneth Starr, not to mention Monica, and every other women who "dared" attack Clinton. How true. I can remember my own shock and horror when the White House released that personal note from Kathleen Wiley thanking the President for his kindness. If memory serves, that release became the basis for a lawsuit and an investigation by a Grand Jury, and more Congressional hearings, although I don't believe it was among the bill of particulars for which Clinton was impeached. Those lucky Clintons.

Posted by: Leah A on July 11, 2004 01:01 PM

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Is no one in this thread capable of understanding that there is a difference between the coercive methods authorized by the U.S. (making prisoners stand for long hours, keeping them in darkened cells, depriving them of sleep) and real torture? There's a lot of moral hysteria at this site, and very little understanding of the moral differences between very different types of acts. For liberals, making a terrorist murderer stand for hours to find out where his compatriots are going to strike next is morally equivalent of lowering him into a vat of acid. For liberals, all coercion, all violence, is equally bad.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on July 16, 2004 08:27 AM

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I believe the amount of 'hysteria', moral or otherwise, is in direct proportion to the lack of any semblance of humanity exhibited by Stuart Taylor in his writings, and on a larger scale, reflect the inhumanity of Bush and his administration.

We can digress into discussions on how these are soulless times, and yada, yada, yada, self defense requires offensive tactics. After all, pacifism didn't exactly help the Tibetans. But, getting to the point, what exactly necessitate this detachment from the laws of human decency? Where is the need to inflict any more pain on poor, hungry, angry and already suffering people? I mean, there are no WMDs. They're not going to shoot anything at us. The danger of terrorism, while legitimate, hardly lies within the lives and bodies of these few Iraqis. Though, thanks to Bush and his administration, no doubt terrorism will be a bigger threat in Iraq now than before.

No, torture in this situation is so abhorrent, and hence Taylor's defense of it is so abhorrent, because there was very little need and no excuse for it.

BTW Lawrence, your discernment on the differene between "coercive methods" and "real" torture shows a fine sensibility. After all, it takes a really deep person to understand that being dipped in acid is worse than standing for hours. But, I find it ironic that you would berate people on this thread for failing to distinguishing between the different shades of torture, and then continue to make a pronouncement on all liberals. It's really quite hypocritical, telling others to do one thing when you fail to do the same yourself. And, as you are not a liberal, please refrain from conjecturing on something you do not understand. As a liberal, I do not believe that all coercion, all violence, is equally bad. Unnecessary coercion, pointless violence however, is always bad.

Posted by: chickensoup on July 22, 2004 06:49 PM

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Here's another reason not to subscribe to the National Journal: you can get all of the online content (well, except for American Health Line) free as a member of the Berkeley faculty (through the library proxy server).

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