Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Cal Thomas - Pro Torture

Cal Thomas's latest article responds to a particularly problematic episode of 24 and a new manual on interrogation techniques. The new manual attempts to curtail the kind of abuses that went on at Abu Ghraib prison; Cal Thomas, on the other hand, is pro-torture.

For those who missed that episode of 24, you can read a good and complete summary of it here, courtesy of one of my favorite websites, Television Without Pity. Also funny, in an angry sort of way. But to be brief, CTU captured an American Citizen with no criminal record who was meeting an Arab on his boat. The acting President had some problems with torturing him to get information, but Jack Bauer, our hero, figured out a way to torture him anyway.

Oh, and they definitively told us and Jack Bauer that this guy definitely knew something that would stop a Terrorists who had stolen a nuclear weapon. In order to stack the deck, morally speaking. They know for sure that a Nuclear bomb is missing, and they know for sure that this guy can help them find it.

A couple bits of bullcrap about this situation, pointed out by M. Giant (author of the recap at Television Without Pity).
At CTU Buchanan and Kiefer stand there looking defeated. Buchanan starts to leave, saying he'll have Curtis start the interrogation. Kiefer says they can't waste time like this. Now they're wasting time? When they could have been questioning Prado all along in the attorney's presence? It's not like the lawyer would object to CTU giving Prado a choice between spilling what he knows now in exchange for a deal, and the extreme likelihood of eventually ending up in a chicken-wire cage at Guantanamo Bay under the care of soldiers who won't be too impressed with a traitorous ex-Marine. But again, everyone's so stuck on torture as the only solution, they can't see any other way. If the only tool you ever use is a hammer, pretty soon everything starts to look like a nail. Good job, show, demonstrating how easy it is to fall into that trap. Buchanan reminds Kiefer of the Veep's order. "The president's not here," Kiefer says. "You are." Buchanan says, "If I authorize this, they'll know in ten minutes, we'll all be out the door." After CTU's multiple screw-ups and minimal firings since 6:00, I doubt that. But Kiefer's got an idea that "won't implicate anyone else but me": Buchanan just needs to accept Kiefer's resignation and let Prado go without charges. "He won't need a lawyer, he won't need a Marshal." Buchanan gets it: "You're going to take him on as a private citizen." Kiefer just looks at him. Well, that's great. This is a demonstration of the problem-solving skills that have served Kiefer so well all along. Can't torture a suspect? Figure out another way . . . to torture him.
Anyway this is the text Mr. Thomas has chosen to sing from this week.

But, of course, the situation that 24 presents us is as phony as a three dollar bill. Even within the logic of the show, there are alternatives to torture that might have been used, and the show was set up specifically to be a parable about torture.

Cal Thomas chooses to avoid specificity. He doesn't talk about specific actions in Abu Ghraib (which, presumably, led to the new manual), or the continuing questions about Guantenemo. Instead he engages in some low caliber masculine posturing and Arab baiting. And, of course, he accuses us liberals of being weak and, well, not masculine.

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