Monday, November 05, 2012

New Blog Site

To anyone who is checking this blog and wondering if I survived the primary season: check out my new blog, Right Questions. I may (or may not) come back to this one, but my current focus is on reaching mainstream conservatives and Tea Partiers with uncomfortable questions that might cause them to think. It's all part of a vast libertarian conspiracy ...

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Random Observations On 2012

RON PAUL'S supporters are often unfairly accused of disregarding electability. The truth is that electability matters greatly to us, but only if we have multiple candidates to choose from. Many of us are unwilling to support RINOs and known liars who
  • have shown a willingness to tailor their message to the audience (and thus cannot be trusted to follow through on anything they claim to believe in),
  • have embraced bigger, more intrusive government as the preferred solution to a host of social and economic ills,
  • supported a government mandate to force Americans to purchase health insurance,
  • eagerly look forward to sending more American soldiers into harm's way while having never served in the military themselves, and
  • view the due process protections of the U.S. Constitution as bothersome details to be skirted by fair means or foul.
For us, there is only one choice. Every one of these statements applies to every Republican presidential candidate left in the race, except for Ron Paul.
If electability trumps principle so completely that these facts shouldn't matter, then what is the real purpose of this election? It would seem that Albert Nock was right when he wrote in 1936 that elections had become merely "a contest for control and management" of an ever-expanding bureaucratic apparatus and the power it afforded. Is this election about whose turn it is to run the big government, or is it about limiting the federal government?

ON THAT note, here's a thought for those of you who claim to believe in "small" government as opposed to "big" government. What makes government big: the price tag or the level of involvement in people's affairs? The Tea Party movement has rightly called much attention to the insanity of our government consistently spending more than its revenues. It has also argued effectively for the economic benefits of keeping money in the private sector where it can be used productively rather than destructively. But the election results so far indicate that many conservatives are willing to settle for promises of a more efficient government in lieu of a more limited one.
I submit that government is not made smaller by reducing spending, but by repealing excessive and unjust laws and regulations. A government which more efficiently intrudes itself into the affairs of individuals, families, businesses and foreign nations does not appeal to me.

DONATIONS from active duty military personnel to Ron Paul''s campaign in the last quarter totaled six times the amount given to all other Republican presidential candidates combined. Not bad for the one candidate who isn't afraid to criticize the unjust wars these men and women are being called on to wage. Come to think of it, maybe there's even a connection.

YOUNG VOTERS have overwhelmingly backed Ron Paul in the election thus far. Conventional wisdom (or its modern substitute) looks to youthful rebellion as the explanation. There's probably a bit of that, but as one who has rubbed shoulders with more Ron Paul supporters than most media pundits even know about, I think there's a more relevant explanation. Americans who are thirty and under, for the most part, are skeptical of the federal government's ability to deliver on the absurd promises our grandparents extorted from it. Many of us view entitlement programs as somewhere between a Ponzi scheme and a bad joke, rather than hallowed symbols of the American Way. We tend to be equally skeptical of the idea that the rest of the world longs to be liberated and democratized by an overwhelming application of military force, and perhaps less inclined to oblige even if such a desire exists. This is understandable, considering that we hope to inherit whatever is left of our country when the baby boomers are finished looting it.

DR. PAUL is often criticized for not promising to endorse the eventual nominee, whoever that is. Some GOP elites are on record saying that he should be thrown out of the party for his unwillingness to make such a commitment. Does anyone really think that any of these hypocrites would endorse Dr. Paul if he were the nominee? I didn't think so. Ann Coulter and Newt Gingrich, among others , have indicated that they would vote for Obama rather than Paul. Hmmm.

AT THE RISK of sounding a bit conspiratorial, I can't help noting that:
  • Ron Paul is the only candidate whose percentages in every caucus and primary, without a single exception, have gone down as the total percentage of votes reported goes up;
  • Ron Paul was close to winning Iowa and close to second in Nevada;
  • For the first time in history, Iowa's vote count was moved to a secret location;
  • Iowa and Nevada both claim to be unable to report a precise count;
  • Both caucuses were handled so badly (whether intentionally or not) that the Iowa GOP chair and the Nevada GOP chair both resigned afterward.
I'm just saying.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ron Paul and Abortion - In His Own Words

I was working on a post addressing Ron Paul's commitment to life and ending the practice of abortion, when I found this. I've said for a long time that Dr. Paul's pro-life record is stronger and more respectable than can be said for most of his critics on this point, especially when one turns from their rhetoric to examine their behavior. The most relevant example in the context of this election cycle would be Rick Santorum, who misses no opportunity to trot out his pro-life ratings and cultivate his image as a champion of the unborn. As a Pennsylvanian who remembers his unprincipled endorsement of the belligerently pro-abortion Senator Arlen Specter against Pat Toomey in 2004 (an endorsement which arguably cost Toomey the election and set the stage for Specter's predictable mid-term switch from big-government Republican to big-government Democrat), I find Santorum unconvincing, not to say - well, I won't say. But back to Ron Paul: here is his position on the right to life, in his own words. All I have to add is that, as usual, his own words aren't just words, they are backed by a consistent and active thirty year record that is unmatched by any other candidate in the race.

Ron Paul Life Pledge

December 19, 2011

As a pro-life OB/GYN who has delivered over 4,000 babies, I have always opposed abortion. Let me be very clear: life begins at conception. It is the duty of the government to protect life, as set forth in our founding documents.

While I am known for my defense of Liberty, I often say that you can’t have Liberty without Life.

I don’t just believe life begins at conception; I know it as a scientific certainty. And I have sponsored bills in Congress to make this definition law.

Today, I want to tell you a bit more about my views on life than the attached pledge really allows me to explain. I think it is important for us all to describe our views on life in our own words.

I believe the attached pledge is important. The fight for the Right to Life is unlike any other in our society right now, and I am proud to be a soldier in that fight.

But it is also important to fight every battle with principle. At this point, I think I am well-known for my constitutional views and sticking to my principles, even when doing so is hard and forces me to stand alone. Both this pledge and the pro-life issue itself require some careful thought from my fellow pro-lifers so we can avoid the trap of throwing out the Constitution in our effort to save lives. Just as we cannot have liberty without life, I believe the opposite is also true: we must keep the Constitution and liberty in mind when fighting for the rights of the unborn. Otherwise, we undermine the entire system our Founders put their lives on the line to create in order to protect life and liberty.

I guarantee you that no one would work harder to be the most ardent and active pro-life President in history. I do not say that lightly. My entire life’s work has touched on this issue in a way few others have. So as I pondered this pledge, as I do all pledges, I had to ensure I would continue to stand with the Constitution.

I have previously sponsored a Human Life Amendment while in Congress, and though I ultimately do not believe this is how we will end abortion, achieving such an amendment is certainly a laudable goal. Of course, Presidents do not sign constitutional amendments – another reason I cannot guarantee what would happen on this issue.

A Human Life Amendment should do two things. First, it should define life as beginning at conception and give the unborn the same protection all other human life enjoys. Second, it must deal with the enforcement of the ruling much as any law against violence does – through state laws.

To summarize my views – I believe the federal government has a role to play. I believe Roe v. Wade should be repealed. I believe federal law should declare that life begins at conception. And I believe states should regulate the enforcement of this law, as they do other laws against violence.

I don’t see the value in setting up a federal police force on this issue any more than I do on other issues. The Fourteenth Amendment was never intended to cancel out the Tenth Amendment. This means that I can’t agree that the Fourteenth Amendment has a role to play here, or otherwise we would end up with a “Federal Department of Abortion.” Does anyone believe that will help life? We should allow our republican system of government to function as our Founders designed it to: protect rights at the federal level, enforce laws against violence at the state level.

As President, I will sign and aggressively advocate for a law that removes abortion from the jurisdiction of the federal courts. This approach, done by simple majority vote and stroke of my Presidential Pen, would effectively overturn Roe v. Wade and allow states to pass strong pro-life legislation immediately. Millions of lives would be saved by this approach while we fight to make every state a right to life state.

I would place a priority in my administration on ending federal abortion funding, defunding Planned Parenthood, and defunding any state department or UN agency that encourages abortion in their “family planning” activities. As a Congressman, I have consistently voted against giving federal funds to any organization that performs abortions or engages in “family planning” activities, and I have offered legislation on the floor of the House to defund all international family planning programs.

No one has ever completely defunded these programs, because they weren’t willing to undertake the fight that would result from vetoing the spending bills. I will veto these bills every time it takes until no taxpayer dollars go to abortion.

I will use my constitutional authority as President to stop the enforcement of all regulations relating to ObamaCare, including the new HHS regulations forcing all employers, even religious or church-affiliated ones, to provide coverage for contraceptives and RU-486 as part of their health insurance plans.

In addition, I will only put pro-life judges who adhere to the Constitution on the federal bench.
Finally, I will fight back against our depraved culture by ending all federal programs that undermine the family and our traditional American values of respect for life and personal responsibility. I will lead by example, as I have done every day in my medical practice and in Congress.

We CAN both fight for life AND liberty. We can remain true to our principle of following the Constitution while also fighting for our moral values. In fact, we must.

I ask for the support of every one of my fellow pro-lifers. This is an important moment in history. You can vote for any of the many folks who will sign a pledge, or you can vote for the one who stands by everything he has ever said on this critical issue over the years. You can choose the candidate whose principles and consistency are unquestioned, and whose record is unmatched.

You can vote for BOTH a pro-life champion and a different kind of President, who will end business as usual all across Washington, fix our budget mess, and strengthen our families by restoring jobs and upholding our values.
Thank you for your consideration.

For Life and Liberty,

Ron Paul, MD

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Former Tenth Elder and U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop on Ron Paul

This interesting tidbit was just posted by Jack Hunter over at the Ron Paul 2012 website:

Reagan’s Surgeon General C. Everett Koop on Ron Paul and Abortion

Ron Paul has been 100% pro-life his entire political career. An obstetrician who has delivered over 4,000 babies, being pro-life has always been integral to Paul’s political and personal philosophy. In fact, Paul’s first book written in 1983 was titled Abortion and Liberty. The foreword was written by C. Everett Koop, the pro-life Surgeon General appointed by Ronald Reagan. Below is Koop’s foreword:


One might wonder why another book on abortion. Is there anything to say except the tricky alliteration of a new slogan? Has someone found a new message? Is there a person out there with credentials no one else seems to have?

The answer to that last question is: “Yes.” Ron Paul is not only a physician, but he was trained in the discipline of obstetrics and gynecology and therefore is a the front lines in the battle against abortion. This physician was then elected to Congress four times and looks back on abortion as a problem he saw in biomedical ethics as a student, then as a resident and finally as a practitioner of obstetrics.

The fresh insights that Ron Paul, the physician, brings to the question of abortion stem from the experience he developed as a Member of Congress, as he contemplated the relationship between natural rights and a free society.

It is true that some of the old arguments about rights, viability, mother versus child, child abuse, health of the mother, and rape are considered in these pages. There is much more. The unique contribution found in this book is the examination of a free society in reference to that society’s responsibilities. Perhaps another way of stating it is that there is an examination of the child’s rights versus the mother’s obligations. The concluding warning is clear: a disregard for human life will not expand human freedom.

The individual rights we all cherish are rooted in the value we assign to human life, especially innocent human life. The author’s credentials are unique and so is his approach to the diverse social problem abortion has become in our day.

C.Everett Koop, M.D., Sc.D. 5

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ron Paul, Foreign Policy and the Military

Probably the most common objection to Dr. Ron Paul heard from conservative voters is the well-worn line: “I like Ron Paul, except on foreign policy.” This isn’t because the typical Republican voter agrees with the current Bush-Clinton-Obama foreign policy: a November CBS News poll found nearly three-fourths of Republicans believe “the U.S. should not try to change dictatorships to democracies…” More likely, it is because they hear the same drivel incessantly repeated by people they have been accustomed to respect. A delusional Dick Morris, speaking on the O’Reilly Factor, recently claimed that Ron Paul is a “left-wing radical” who “wants to dismantle the military” and “blame[s] America for 9/11.” Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachmann called his foreign policy ideas “dangerous,” while Newt Gingrich pompously announced that “Ron Paul's views are totally outside the mainstream of virtually every decent American.”


Perhaps we should clarify that “Ron Paul’s views” aren’t just random gleanings from the Huffington Post. Unlike Santorum, whose chief foreign policy adviser might as well be Toby Keith, Ron Paul is one of the most well-informed people in the beltway when it comes to the Middle East, its history and America’s involvement there. Even if you don’t agree with his conclusions, you can’t help noticing the depth of his knowledge when he warms up to this subject. His thorough historical studies and his own observations over the last 35 years form a solid basis for understanding world events. His advisers have included Michael Scheuer, a 22 year CIA veteran who spent over 17 years focused exclusively on Bin Laden- and Al Qaeda-related intelligence analysis, and who for some time headed the “Bin Laden desk” at the CIA, and Philip Giraldi, a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and contributing editor for The American Conservative. His foreign policy views are more or less those of George Washington, Grover Cleveland, Calvin Coolidge, Sen. Robert Taft, Russell Kirk – even William F. Buckley’s views on foreign policy come closer to Ron Paul’s than those of any other current presidential candidate. With that said, let’s take a closer look at these “extreme” views.

Ron Paul’s budget calls for cutting defense spending back to 2006 levels. That’s right, the same spending levels we had four years into the so-called War on Terror and three years into the Iraq War. If that were done, our defense budget would only amount to 35-40% of the entire world’s military spending, approximately equal to the next ten countries combined (Russia, China, UK, France, etc.). It is beyond difficult to imagine that Dick Morris is unaware of this fact, so he must be either nuts or disingenuous.

On “blaming America for 9/11,” Paul has merely pointed out that our policies and actions in the Middle East have – predictably - caused an extreme backlash among Muslims, of which 9/11 was a result. To the neocon hawks who measure the strength of America’s defenses by the number of bombs we drop in a given week, this view may sound extreme and radical. It is shared, however, by the previously mentioned left-wing radicals – sorry, I meant intelligence experts - Scheuer and Giraldi. It is also the view expressed by the 9-11 Commission and by many of the counter-terrorism experts who testified during its investigation. Even more relevant to the absurd claims of Dick Morris is the prediction conservative icon Russell Kirk delivered back in 1991 in a speech to the Heritage Foundation. Speaking of the Gulf War and the policies pursued by the first President Bush, Kirk warned that “We must expect to suffer during a very long period of widespread hostility toward the United States — even, or perhaps especially, from the people of certain states that America bribed or bullied into combining against Iraq. In Egypt, in Syria, in Pakistan, in Algeria, in Morocco, in all of the world of Islam, the masses now regard the United States as their arrogant adversary …”

Those of us who have admired Ron Paul for years were entirely unsurprised to hear him say that 9/11 reflected a backlash to American policies. After all, he had called for President Clinton’s impeachment in 1998 after the Sudan and Iraq bombings, noting that “our national security is jeopardized by allowing this to happen… We’re liable to have more attacks … by terrorists. ” Many Republicans agreed with him at the time. Prior to September 2001, Dr. Paul had repeatedly predicted that the arrogant course we pursued since the 1950s in the Middle East would lead to increasingly deadly terrorist attacks. His warnings were largely ignored, but given the accuracy of his predictions, those who ignored them should not be astonished that he still maintains the same views.

Speaking to Sean Hannity back in October, Rick Santorum credited Ron Paul with extensive experience and a “deep” understanding of foreign policy issues; and, while noting that he and Paul had “different viewpoints,” added that “when the phone rings at three in the morning” Paul would likely know the history and the characters and have a plan to handle the situation. But last week he called Paul “dangerous,” falsely accusing him of saying that a nuclear Iran is not a threat to Israel. Actually, Paul has said that a nuclear Iran does not pose a credible threat to America, and that Israel has both the right and the capability to respond should they determine that Iran poses a risk to them.

A little known fact bears mentioning here: when Israel bombed two Iraqi nuclear reactors in 1981, the United States Congress passed an almost unanimous resolution condemning Israel’s actions as reckless and unjustified. I said almost unanimous – Ron Paul was the only vote against the resolution. He opposed it on the grounds that Israel had a right to defend itself and that America should stay out of their affairs unless our involvement was requested.

Santorum also recently attacked Paul’s assertion that military aid to Pakistan is not in America’s best interest, arguing that because Pakistan has nuclear weapons, America has no choice but to buy Pakistan’s allegiance, whatever it takes. There is a lesson here if one can get past the embarrassment of a presidential candidate making such a cowardly argument in public. Maybe Rick doesn’t realize this, but if he is smart enough to make the connection between Pakistan’s nukes and the billions of dollars their political and military leaders siphon away from American workers, you can bet the Iranians are too. As Dr. Paul has pointed out before, we talked Gaddafi out of his nuclear ambitions and then turned on him. Bomb = aid; no bomb = lots of bombs dumped on you; what possible motivation have we left Iran for abandoning a nuclear weapons program, if indeed they have one?

But Newt Gingrich stands out in the lineup of Paul bashers. His sweeping, all-inclusive, and arrogant attacks are earning him the disrespect of many, if not most, Americans. Imagine that you are a soldier in Afghanistan, or a sailor in the Persian Gulf, and a Ron Paul supporter. You’ve gone beyond merely supporting him; you’ve given a chunk of your shamefully low combat pay to his campaign. You’ve made this sacrifice, along with thousands of your fellow fighting men and women, precisely because of Paul’s views on foreign policy. You know why active duty military personnel are far and away the largest group (by employer) among his supporters. You know why he has received more in donations from military men and women than all the other GOP candidates combined. You are living the war on terror; your life is on the line every day; you’ve seen firsthand how the effort to win hearts and minds in the Middle East really works; and you believe Ron Paul is right when he says we are less safe because of our military adventurism. Now a narcissistic career politician and lobbyist who studiously avoided military service in Viet Nam declares those views - your views – to be “totally outside the mainstream of virtually every decent American.” How exactly does that feel?

Which brings to mind one thing I really don’t like about Ron Paul: he is way too kind to Gingrich and his ilk. He tends to stick to his own argument even when seemingly irresistible opportunities present themselves for showing up windbags like Newt. He did finally call Newt out as a chickenhawk last Saturday night, which brought an angry reaction from the former Speaker: he denied using college deferments to avoid the draft, claiming that he was married with a child and thus wouldn’t have been eligible anyway. To which Paul responded icily, “When I was drafted, I was married and had two kids, and I went.”

And one more thing for the record, Newt: he’s still married.


Here's a great article by John Nichols on why Ron Paul isn’t just a conservative, he’s the only conservative running for President this election cycle:

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Ron Paul, Slander and Christian Libertarianism

As a Christian, I constantly get emails from moral majority types who think they believe in freedom, but have encountered the shocking idea that freedom might actually allow others to behave in ways that are ultimately wrong. And as a vocal supporter of Ron Paul, I get a lot of unsolicited information regarding his views on individual liberty from well-meaning folks who imagine I don't know what those views are. I generally ignore this stuff unless the sender is a personal friend, in which case I try to explain why I agree with Dr. Paul (which I do, most of the time).

Yesterday, however, I received a particularly low assault on Dr. Paul's candidacy, one which had evidently been circulated widely before reaching me. I was particularly upset because it was forwarded by a fellow Paul supporter who seemed a bit shaken by the allegations it contained. What follows is my response. I hesitated to post it here but ultimately decided it might be helpful to someone, so here goes. I removed the name of the individual who apparently originated the email, partly out of courtesy and partly to deny his blog the unmerited attention it might receive as a result.

I should point out that I don't go far into my own positions in this response - it is pretty narrow and focused in scope. I was simply answering the charges made in the email. On some issues I'm not so libertarian-leaning as Dr. Paul, and on others (like immigration) I might be even more libertarian than he is. But that's irrelevant to this post.

This is absolutely shameful. I don’t have time to respond but this is too slanderous and deceptive to ignore. Point by point:

  1. Denies that God says homosexuality is a sin.

The link is to an interview with a particularly obtuse John Lofton, who consistently refuses to get the very important point Dr. Paul repeatedly makes about sin and military service. He does not deny that God says it is sin, but he does not admit it either. He’s wrong about that. But why don’t the hypocrites that slam him for his hesitation also slam Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Barry Goldwater, and the majority of other Republican candidates who won’t call homosexuality a sin either?

  1. Supports open homosexuals in the military and repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”

Another link to the same interview, but this statement is absolutely a lie. Paul clearly says in the interview that he does support “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – a policy similar to George Washington’s approach 2 centuries ago.

  1. Supports the “freedom philosophy” of legalizing cocaine, heroin, marijuana and all other hard drugs. “Government has no role or authority in regulating drugs.”

The federal government has no role in , or authority to, regulate drugs. Anyone who reads the Constitution knows that. Some, however, would prefer to slander a man who has done more for this country than they ever will, rather than admit that their own pet issues are beyond the legitimate purview of any government. I wonder if D___ would support a United Nations initiative to prosecute drug dealers and users globally? To be consistent he would have to.

  1. Supports legalization of pornography and prostitution.

I didn’t follow this link because it’s youtube and I don’t want to know what else might be there. But this is another false statement because it ignores the difference in federal and state government.

  1. Supports right of homosexuals to marry one another. i.e. “gay marriage.” (“Gay couples can do whatever they want.”)

Also not true. Dr. Paul rightly says that in the absence of a federal marriage amendment, marriage is a state issue. Again, how about a global ban on gay marriage?

  1. Is “pro-choice for states” on abortion. Individual states should be able to legalize abortion if they so choose. All pre-born babies don’t possess a God given right to their own lives which no individual state may ever violate.

I’m trying to stay calm. Really.

This links to a hit piece by which is so slanderous and transparently dishonest it seems beneath even the national prolife lobbying profession, which is saying a lot. I simply can’t take the time to dissect it, but anyone interested in the truth should be able to see through much of it just by reading it carefully. Those not interested in the truth can keep reading D___ .

  1. Supported abortion legislation regulations which have resulted in 7.4 million chemical and surgical abortions since taking office in 1997 in Congress.

Still trying to stay calm, but failing. This links to the same hit piece, but restates the most profoundly evil of their claims, which is that since 7.4 million abortions have been committed since Paul last took office in states where abortion might remain legal even if his Sanctity Of Life Act were made law, he is somehow responsible for allowing those abortions. Are we to hold those allegedly pro-life legislators who oppose the Sanctity Of Life Act to the same standard? Are they responsible for all the abortions that have taken place in states which might have outlawed or restricted abortions if Roe v. Wade were nullified? Of course, isn’t interested in telling us those numbers.

  1. Doesn’t believe it’s government’s role to “legislate morality” even though all laws are based on morality.

Watch the clip. He is absolutely right. The most totalitarian of Christian conservatives still thinks government shouldn’t legislate morality in the areas where they are immoral. Of course all legitimate law is based on morality, but that isn’t the only criteria or we would all be criminals before the civil law, as we are before the Creator and His Law. This gets back to the point Lofton doggedly refused to acknowledge in the very interesting interview linked earlier. The so-called “Christian right” loves to dwell ad nauseum on a very few sins, while ignoring or even promoting others just as evil. Unlike Ron Paul, I won’t hesitate to agree that homosexuality is a sin, an abomination, and a shameful blot on the face of our society. But unlike D___ and the myopic brand of “Christian” politics he represents, I also believe that lying, back-biting and slander are equally shameful, abominable sins.

What makes me want to cry is that people can tear down the most pro-life candidate in the race, a stand-out beacon of decency, honesty and integrity in the cesspool that is our federal capitol, because they can’t stand the thought that their beloved leviathan of a federal government might be somehow restrained by the Constitution from instituting heaven on earth, something we can all see is just about to become a reality. They treat the one candidate with no skeletons in his closet, no improprieties in his personal life, and no stains on his honor, as if he were a first-degree pervert because he doesn’t recognize the federal government’s jurisdiction in the bedroom. Yet these same people care nothing for the slaughter of 40,000 Mexicans in less than five years by the drug lords they have created and sustained. They support the torture of their fellow men by an out-of-control military and intelligence sector with no oversight, no protection for the innocent or justice for the guilty, and justify it all with ridiculous scenarios that have never occurred in the history of the world. They dismiss with contempt the deaths of more than 100,000 innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan because it feels good after 9/11, and they lash out in rage when a soldier exposes to them and the world an example of how those deaths occur. (Bradley Manning and Julian Assange shone a light on a world of iniquity beyond most American’s comprehension, but the average “Christian” conservative I meet knows far more about their personal sexual sins than the cruelty, violence and fraud they exposed.) Like Jonah, they hope and pray for the destruction of “Israel’s” enemies rather than the triumph of the gospel of Jesus Christ over the false religions that keep Jews and Muslims alike in bondage. They are a worse blot than homosexuals, because they dishonor not only the society in which they live, but their Lord and Savior.

Maybe we need to be reminded that there are other sins besides homosexuality:

Rom 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

I read that list and thank God with fear and trembling for His forgiveness and long-suffering. I don’t feel that I’m in a position to focus on other people’s sins. There is plenty of guilt to go around. That doesn’t mean I think other people’s sins are ok, just that when I hear others calling for the state to legislate morality, I wonder where they find a definition of morality that they would want the state to judge them by? If the legitimate authority of the state is not limited to those areas where one’s immorality violates another’s rights, then where is the limit?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Guantanamo, Torture and Due Process

Of all the political positions that tend to be arbitrarily labeled "right-wing" or "conservative" by the mindless mainstream these days, support for "Club Gitmo" (and the detention and intelligence gathering systems it has come to represent) is surely one of the most inexplicable, not to say inexcusable. While many self described libertarians (including those of us in the GOP) are well aware that there is anything but unanimity in the military and intelligence communities on the Guantanamo issue, most rank and file conservative Republicans view opposition to this government's handling of terror "suspects" as disloyalty bordering on treason.

Even on the issue of torture (now euphemistically called "enhanced interrogation techniques), those relatively few conservatives who do not embrace its alleged usefulness still tend to rely on arguments that skirt the real problem. I recently heard a sermon delivered by a PCA minister for whom I have great respect to a group of military personnel and their families, in which he objected to torture on the grounds that it dehumanizes those who engage in it and lowers "us" to "their" level - they, of course, meaning terrorists. Essentially, he argued that torture is immoral and "isn't us" - therefore we should not rely on it.

This is true, of course: torture, like indefinite detention and war in general, brings out and fosters the worst in human nature. But rejecting torture solely on such grounds fails to address the other fundamental problems with coercive interrogation. One of those problems is that torture and other forms of coercive interrogation have been extremely effective throughout history at producing false confessions, but not accurate intelligence. There is an important difference between inducing a suspect to talk and inducing him to be honest, and the more intense the pressure to talk becomes, the more likely the suspect is to say what he thinks will relieve the pressure.

Significantly, many of the torture methods employed by this and the last administrations in the "war on terror" were borrowed from the military's SERE training program. SERE was developed during the Cold War to prepare American aviators for the treatment they would likely suffer if captured by a Communist military. The interrogation techniques used during SERE training, including waterboarding, smoke inhalation, sleep deprivation, prolonged stress positions, and other cruel and humiliating treatments, were all known methods of interrogation used by the Soviets and their allies. What should be painfully obvious to anyone familiar with the interrogation of captured Americans during the Korean and Vietnam wars is that these methods were used primarily for the purpose of extorting false confessions. While pilots like Red McDaniel and John McCain were also questioned regarding intelligence and technology, the primary focus of their interrogations was to get them to admit to war crimes. And while little useful intelligence was ever gained by the torture of American pilots in Vietnam, many false confessions were obtained and circulated around the world.

Similarly, during the Iranian hostage crisis, some of the American hostages were subjected to much milder forms of coercive interrogation, and while their treatment was not nearly as harsh as the standards adopted by the Bush administration and continued under Obama, it nevertheless resulted in several false confessions. One hostage famously confessed to being "in charge of wheat mold," leading the gullible students questioning him to announce to the world details of an American plot to starve Iranian families by molding the bread in their cupboards.

The problem of false confessions leads us to what I believe is the central problem with our entire approach to the detention and interrogation of terror suspects. When libertarians argue that terrorists should be tried in the criminal court system like other criminals, the usual objection is that as foreign "enemy combatants," they aren't entitled to the legal protections and due process of the American judicial system. The idea seems to be that, unlike rapists, murderers, mob hit men and other privileged persons, the terrorist doesn't deserve due process. He's evil, so we should just take him out with a drone, but sometimes we capture him so we can talk to him first. In either case, he has no rights, so it doesn't matter what we do with him.

As any thinking person will observe, this line of argument takes for granted that the detainee is a terrorist. There is not the slightest allowance for the possibility that he may be an innocent individual. He was picked up on the battlefield, right? No chance of a mistake there. One is left to wonder why there should be any trial at all?

This is the fundamental misunderstanding of most conservatives. The legal protections we call due process are not there because criminals of any sort deserve them; they are there because innocent people deserve them. They are not designed to clog the legal system and to slow the wheels of justice; they are designed to make sure that justice is indeed served. The tragedy of Guantanamo is not that would-be terrorists are locked up there, but that we have absolutely no reason to believe that the majority of our fellow creatures who are locked up there really are would-be terrorists.