Sunday, April 21, 2013


First off, let me give a shout-out to all the Russian and German search engines that have decided my blog contains particularly tasty keywords as late. I’m not sure what has drawn them in, but over the last month I’ve gotten all sorts of traffic from those two countries. It’s possible, I suppose, that those hits represents actual people, in which case I’ve probably just offended them badly by dubbing them soulless electronic algorithms. If so, sorry about that. My bad, as the kids say. However, since I can’t even get my own personal circle of friends to read this thing, I’m doubting I’ve caught on like wildfire abroad.

Now, on to Boston…

Beantown joined the unfortunate group of cities that have suffered terrorist attacks when some lunatics planted bombs to give a gory and horrific ending to the Boston Marathon. It didn’t take long for suspects, two brothers, to be identified and found. One of them is already dead. The other, 19-year old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is in hospital, suffering from gunshot wounds to the legs and neck. Both had been living normal lives in the US for years, for all intents and purposes normal citizens until recently. Smelling the blood, the political sharks are circling.

On one side, the hawks. They have a “top US interrogation group” ready to question the last living suspect. It’s already been declared they aren’t going to read him his Miranda rights, so no lawyering up. He’s going to be treated as an “enemy combatant” because the most important priority is obtaining information to protect the USA from future attacks just like this.

In the other corner, the doves. They are decrying the removal of Miranda rights as “un-American,” claiming it’s only going to make it harder down the road to obtain a “fair conviction.” They want to understand what has driven these men to do this terrible thing.

Given that the Constitution Project just submitted its final report after two years of review and inquiries, this debate is well-timed. The Project concluded without doubt that the US Government used torture during interrogations in the wake of 9/11. It accuses the government of having lost its “moral compass.” Furthermore, and perhaps most damning, it finds absolutely NO instance where the information gained through torture materially aided investigations into past or future terrorist activities.

In other words, detainees were treated inhumanely, and nothing was gained. You can almost understand using “heightened interrogation techniques” (to use the phrase preferred by hawks) if lives are going to be saved. I think a lot of people, if they were forced into honesty, would support torturing one guy if it had meant the planes that hit the Towers could have been stopped on the runways. But to use torture and get no benefit at all? Only psychotic sadists, people who get their yucks from the pain of others, can support something like that.

Now here we are again. The US has suffered another terrorist attack in a very public place on their own soil. Granted, the body-count is fractional compared to 9/11, but as the Japanese of the 40s could tell you, the US doesn’t generally go “eye-for-an-eye.” They tend to go a little harder than just balancing the scales, tit-for-tat. To steal a phrase from Unforgiven, “Any sumbitch takes a shot at me, I’m not only gonna kill him, but I’m gonna kill his wife, all his friends, and burn his damn house down.”

If the Brothers Tsarnev did this evil deed on their own, unaligned with any nation-state or organization, the US will have no target for its vengeance except for young Dzhokhar. In that case, “heightened interrogation” is the least of what he’s in for.

I’m not saying the Brothers Tsarnev are innocent. Probably they’re as guilty as can be. But how does torturing a teenager, no matter what he’s done, solve anything? The hawks claim they want to prevent future attacks. Well, the truth of the matter is, we live in a world where anyone at all can make explosives with crap you can buy in an afternoon’s casual shopping. You can’t, you simply cannot, keep that world safe through security forces. Your best bet is to make sure the people who live in your own country are happy to be there.

Happy people don’t blow other people up. Happy people don’t take guns to school and cut down their classmates. Happy people don’t join gangs, do drugs, murder, rape, or start riots. Happy people quietly pay their bills and don’t rock the boat. Making people happy is a lot harder than torturing, that’s true, but it pays better dividends in the long run.

Of course, the hawks will see the phrase “making people happy” and immediately start research into ultrasonic mind-control devices and Happy Pills. The doves will just try and get pot legal.

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