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Daily Affirmations 5/8

1. I'm really not sure what to say at this point about the GOP fear-mongering campaign against transferring suspected terrorists to American prisons. Even assuming that terrorists could break out of a maximum security prison, what do we imagine they will do, stranded in come tiny town with no money, weapons, knowledge of the local terrain or ability to speak English?

Conor Friedersdorf notices former McCain campaign spokesman, and current Weekly Standard blogger Michael Goldfarb explaining why it was perfectly fine to hold hundreds of thousands of Nazi POWs inside the United States, but not a few al Qaeda members:

Here’s a clip of Rep. Pete Hoekstra at the presser this morning explaining to a particularly thick reporter why the threat posed by al Qaeda detainees is different, and far more serious, that that posed by German prisoners of war. As Hoekstra explains, the Germans didn’t kill three thousand American civilians as they went to work.

Michael Goldfarb.

I’ve never found myself arguing that Nazis were actually pretty harmless, let alone trying to prove my point by asserting that unlike the Nazis, really bad guys kill at least 3,000 innocent civilians. If I ever do, I’ll consider it a red flag signalling that perhaps my argument is absurd.

I suppose Goldfarb imagines that, having escaped from a maximum security prison, a terrorist would immediately roam the countryside killing civilians with his bare hands, someting Nazis were either unwilling or incapable of doing. Good point, Conor Friedersdorf!

2.  Andrew Sullivan catches the New York Times using the word "torture" to describe aset of practices identical to what the United States implemented at Guantanamo -- identical, of course, because they were the practices used against our soldiers in Korea that we copied to use against al Qaeda -- except of course the Times only calls it torture when it's done against us:

In an obit today, the editors manage to use the word "torture". It's in an obit. The obit runs:

...Col. Harold E. Fischer Jr., an American fighter pilot who was routinely tortured in a Chinese prison during and after the Korean War, becoming — along with three other American airmen held at the same prison — a symbol and victim of cold war tension, died in Las Vegas on April 30. He was 83 and lived in Las Vegas. The cause was complications of back surgery, his son Kurt said.

From April 1953 through May 1955, Colonel Fischer — then an Air Force captain — was held at a prison outside Mukden, Manchuria. For most of that time, he was kept in a dark, damp cell with no bed and no opening except a slot in the door through which a bowl of food could be pushed. Much of the time he was handcuffed. Hour after hour, a high-frequency whistle pierced the air.

You will notice how the NYT defines torture when it comes to foreign governments - isolation, sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation. Much milder than anything the US did to one of its own citizens, Jose Padilla. But the parallel is almost perfect: these are, after all, the exact Chinese Communist techniques that were reverse engineered from the SERE program. So you have a perfect demonstration of the NYT's double-standard. If Chinese do it to Americans, it's torture; if Americans do it to an American, it's "harsh interrogation." Does Jill Abramson really expect us to take this lying down? ...

The NYT's incoherence and double standards, equally, are self-evident. But I would like to know if Bill Keller will remove the t-word from this obit and replace it with "harsh interrogations" as he does when referring to the US government's use of identical techniques. If not, why not? Remember: these people won't even use the word torture to describe a technique displayed in the Cambodian museum of torture to commemmorate the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge - as long as Americans do the torturing.

I mean: the NYT isn't just a vehicle for US propaganda, is it? It's a newspaper, right? It has standards that it maintains across its copy. Right?

This pretty clearly exposes the Times' actual policy, which is to avoid using a term merely because one of the political parties objects to it, however clearly factual it may be. Good point, Andrew Sullivan!

--Jonathan Chait