Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Blood Simple

 Now Jesus don't like killin'
No matter what the reason's for,
And your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more
--John Prine 

But what I know about is Texas,
an' down here... you're on your own 
--Blood Simple (1983) 

There are few things more fundamentally encouraging and stimulating
than seeing someone else die 
--Paths of Glory (1957)

Why our current fascination with snipers?
2013 brought us Marcus Luttrell's "Lone Survivor" (which grossed three times its budget), and 2015 brings Clint Eastwood's film based on Chris Kyle's "American Sniper" released earlier this month (which has already outearned "Lone Survivor" in its first month of release.)

Since the inception of the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) the SEALs have undertaken a tremendous public relations campaign aimed at propagandizing the U.S. taxpayer into thinking their dollars have been well-spent. For sure, one group of capitalists did benefit handsomely from the propaganda spawned by Luttrell's Lone Survivor, Matt Bissonnette's No Easy Day and Kyle's American Sniper: the video gaming industry. It is unlikely these men considered if or how their missions were relevant to the concept of fighting terror, but their stories are being bled for all they are worth.

Does the impulse to view such films arise from our need to make meaning, or the need to not admit that men's lives are spent often too cavalierly, in the service of projects which reap little if any benefit? Is it an offshoot of the father archetype and the sniper is the Big Daddy who will protect you and keep you safe? Is a tit-for-tat on life's treadmill, an urge to escape the claustrophobic feeling that if they have you in their cross-hairs, at least you have someone on your side whose weapon is trained on them, too? A cosmic Mobius strip of death.

But the recent apotheosis of the sniper belies the fact that no soldier is irreplaceable, nor does any battlefield outcome rest on the scoped rifle of any one participant. Sniping is as old as the U.S. Army. One could even say characters like Robin Hood were snipers, as they were selective marksman. The current sniper movie genre probably began with the 1980's Tom Barringer films featuring modern-day Natty Bumpos -- James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales adopted for Hollywood.

Whether it is Enemy at the Gates or Saving Private Ryan in a theatre Army scenario, or Luttrells' Lone Survivor in a godforsaken valley somewhere in Afghanistan, Hollywood creates the aura that the sniper creates fear and terror in the enemy, but this is not military thinking.

The most common misconception is that a sniper can, by killing the leaders of an enemy unit, destroy the unit's will to resist. But if this were so, why not call in artillery and fire a "battery five" killing them all?

In fact, the Infantry's mission is clear and simple: to close with and destroy the enemy through fire and maneuver. Nowhere does our mission entail fear or terror. We either shoot, move or communicate, or we don't. The idea of the mission being to create fear or terror is a myth.

American Sniper's director Clint Eastwood is that rare conservative Hollywood bird whose head space and timing seem to be a few degrees off judging by his surreal performance at the 2012 Republican convention. But that does not keep a patriot in his dotage from turning out a good cowboy film, even if it is in the Arabian desert and the punks are hajjis.

Eastwood cut his teeth on "The Outlaw Josey Wales," "Heartbreak Ridge" and "Dirty Harry", finding his groove in romanticizing the unglamorous life of the executioner. Chris Kyle's book does not deviate from this hoo-ah approach. For him, his targets were "savages" and "terrorists" (stating in his book that he would like to kill everyone toting a Koran, a sentiment which Eastwood cannily decided to omit from his film.) Surely Kyle saw himself as an instrument of God's hand, every bit as much as those he shot saw him.

However, as Ranger has discussed before, terrorists do not attack hard targets, an example of which would be the U.S. military. The men Kyle was killing were insurgents, soldiers, militants or guerrillas -- take your pick -- but not terrorists. Of course, since the terrorist menace was the casus belli for the PWOT, the longest U.S. war, it pays to play the term for all it's worth.

Unfortunately, when your film's subject has matters so terribly confused, it is hard to make of him a hero archetype. In Chris Kyle's and Clint Eastwood's world, things are black and white, and do not admit of nuance, and it is he who has the fistful of dollars who calls the tune.

The American Sniper's claim to fame is his 165 confirmed (and possible 225) kills, but how did kills become a metric for achievement? The Vietnam War, despite its hopeful and often inflated body counts, showed that "body count" was a meaningless concept when Saigon fell.

Even had Kyle killed 250 insurgents -- did we win the war? The U.S. is no safer because of the violence men like Kyle visited upon the Iraqi nation, and possibly less so. It could be argued that Islamist State (ISIS/ISIL) is the godchild of the relentless violence wrought by the U.S. military.

Killing without a meaningful military objective is simple murder, whether issuing from Kyle's muzzle of an ISIS executioner's knife. Mr. Eastwood can wrap his movie in a flag and overlay bagpipes playing "Amazing Grace", but the map ain't the territory. 

When Kyle and his actions are apotheosized, it is akin to raising the entire PWOT © to some noble, nation-saving enterprise. Unfortunately, like most of the U.S.'s Counterinsurgency efforts, it was naught more than a bloody game of whack-a-mole. You can put lipstick on a pig ...

Is a film like American Sniper a mass catharsis for the viewing audience eating popcorn and drinking soda? Does it whip up the patriotic fervor that enables a nation to stay in the warfighting game for the long haul? Or is it just another way to shoot two hours of a life being wafted away on the fantasy of some good, clean red-white-and-blue fun?

Hollywood likes to call these fictions "biopics", which is like saying John Tesh's "infotainment" was the news. Viewers leave the theater feeling perhaps proud after the gorefest done in the name of guns, football, hunting, Bibles, beer and cowboys. Eastwood offers us up this heartland bingo and hopes the cards he has throen down will constitute a winning hand.

And in the parlance of the Awards that matter, it probably does. But really, it is just another bad movie based upon a juvenile view of life. The director would have done better to have stopped at his film, The Unforgiven, for that title explains the plight of the gunfighter the best.

America is not about killing people. If it is, then we have morphed into a tawdry version of the Marvel Superhero creation The Avengers.

--Jim and Lisa 

[cross-posted @ Rangeragainstwar.]

( In an interesting aside, American Sniper is poised to out-earn the previous highest-grossing U.S. release, 2012's The Avengers. Chris Kyle stated the he symbolically associated himself with The Avengers.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Losing my religion

I was arguing with jim and Lisa in the comments section of the post below (about the Sydney hostage-taking incident) when a bunch of gunsels claiming to be card-carrying members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula Paris Local 1104 shot up the offices of a French political magazine, killing 12 people.

I was arguing that jim and Lisa were doing our readership a disservice by conflating the actions of a single criminal with some sort of global Islamic conspiracy, doing the jihadis work for them, confusing the situation whilst adding to the generalized public fear and panic over the threat of jihadi violence. It was just that sort of fear and panic that led the United States public into supporting a pointless piece of filibustering in the Middle East, invading a secular dictatorship in pursuit of a violent religious sect and, in the process, setting up a geopolitical situation where a siderunner of that sect is now fielding an actual armed field force that controls the western portions of that now-sectarian dictatorship.

But the Paris shooting is just the kind of thing they were talking about; an act of violence designed and carried out by men because of their political beliefs about religion.

I do not and never have pretended that there are not those sorts of violent men coming out of political Islam.

My point was, and is, that using the violent acts of jihadis in the West to gin up some sort of generalized fear of "Islam" and the people who hold by it is both ridiculous and dangerous.

Ridiculous because religions are supposed to be about a mystical or spiritual way to approach living a "proper life"; you can't shoot that into someone with a bullet or bomb it into them. The jihadis WANT that to be the state of play between them and the West, because that's what they know; they are, typically, men bred in violent times in violent places, and violence is what they see as their strong point. Playing it their way strengthens them and weakens us.

Dangerous because it develops into a mindset that blurs the distinction between the jihadis and "everyone else". If a single criminal nutter can be a jihadi, well, who can't? If some random joker is really part of a vast jihadi conspiracy, why isn't the FBI wiretapping those gomers at the mosque down on Clark Street? Why shouldn't we go Full Malkin and intern all those allah-pesterers for The Duration?

This begs the question, though.

If we should be looking skeptically at the poseurs, what about the genuine article?

In her comment Lisa warns of the danger of violence emerging from "...the IS - IS fellow traveler pool..." to which I'd add the other militarized jihadi factions such as AQ, AQAP, the various mujeheddin factions in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Libyan militias, outfits like Boko Haram in Nigeria...and those factions are violent and dangerous and, in many cases, carry grudges against the West. Grudges held by violent men aren't to be disregarded or taken lightly.

What can, or should, the West - that is, the nations of Western Europe and North America, since the old colonial powers and the U.S. are the primary target of these Islamic grudge-holders - do in response to these groups?

I'll propose, first, than we've tried one approach, punitive expeditionary violence, and the results seem to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of this approach. It can put a band-aid on the jihadi tumor but as the examples of Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and Syria appear to show as often as not ends up in just metastasizing the damn thing into new forms in new places it wasn't before.

How about simply disengaging from the region? Walking away from the conflict?

My guess is that it would be difficult if not impossible. The well of hatred and feud is so deeply poisoned that the jihadis will continue their attacks, and even disengaging politically and militarily cannot wall-off the features of Western society that the jihadis hate and fear. It's said that the Soviet Union fell because no Russians wanted to wear Polish sneakers and listen to East German pop music. The jihadis do "hate us for our freedoms" but it is the freedom of our women to walk around in skimpy halter tops and our freedom to tell our pastors to fuck off out of our bedrooms (ironically, the very freedoms our OWN Christian "jihadis" hate and fear...) they hate.

Plus there's Israel and all that petroleum...sigh.

Okay. We're kinda stuck.

More selective violence of the Israeli targeted-assassination sort? That seems to have a sort of Darwinian effect; it can keep the jihadis from "boiling over" but it winnows out the stupid and the slow. Deconstruction the PLO simply replaced them with the deadlier enemies of Hamas and Hezbollah.

And it's well to recall that these jihadis didn't just come out of nowhere.

In 1945 the idea of "political Islam" seemed like the height of lunacy. All over the Islamic world secular governments were replacing the old colonial regimes. In fact the heartland of the current IS and AQ shenangains - Iraq and Syria - was largely run by "Baath" parties which were overtly and fiercely secular. The exemplar for the emerging Arab states was Turkey and the anticlericalism of the Young Turks.

But between the Western powers and Israel these secular states were shown up to their populations as either venal, weak, or both. Secular dictators were suborned with Western cash and weapons, or defeated by Israeli arms. The only groups that seemed to actually fight back effectively were the jihadis.

The U.S. and the West helped coddle a Saudi regime that nursed the Wahhabi madrassis that produced so many of these jihadi vipers. Charlie Wilson & Co. turned them loose on the Soviets which seemed like a damn fine idea at the time...and then cut them loose when the Soviets ran for cover.

So I'd add that, in a sense, we of the West - our governments, at least - helped make this mess. We should, at least, think about what we might do to help clean it up if that is possible...

It seems to me that the BEST answer to the jihadi problem would be the same thing that provided the solution to the Western Wars of Religion; indifference.

Think about it. For hundreds of years Europe was torn up by Protestants killing Catholics, Catholics killing Protestants and everybody killing Jews. Don't even get me started on atheists and witches...where you went to church (or whether you did..) was a killing matter in Europe for centuries. Google "Thirty Years War" sometime and read up on what it did to Germany.

And then we stopped.

Sure, some idiots still want to return to the Good Old Days when killing infidels for Baby Jesus got you into Heaven. But for most of us where our neighbors go to church - or whether they do - is a matter of massive indifference. The notion that someone is scarey because he might be Catholic and take orders from the Pope (as was said of JFK) seems ludicrous as the Blood Libel to us today. Outside of the Balkans (determined to be perverse as they have always been) religious skepticism, ignorance, indifference, and sloth is the rule in Western public life. It's considered rude outside the Issa household to parade your religiousity in public, let alone so much as upbraid anyone else for their infidelity.

So...can the West help inoculate the Islamic world with the vaccine of religious indifference? If so, how?

I'm not sure, myself, so I'm opening the floor to ideas here. What, if anything, can the West do to help the East lose their religion?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Hostage Rescue Situations, II: Civilian

 Whether we like it or not,
the one justification for the existence of all religions is death,
they need death as much as we need bread to eat 
--Death with Interruptions,
 Jose Saramago, 

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be;
and that which is done is that which shall be done:
and there is no new thing under the sun 
--Ecclesiastes 1:9 

When people show you who they are,
believe them the first time 
--Maya Angelou

SubtitleChicken Little, or, The Lone Wolf

Scenario: Sydney (AUS) hostage crisis, 15-16 December 2014.

The media reported yet another Lone Wolf Islamic gunman took hostages at the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney;  two hostages and the hostage taker were later killed. But how -- or does -- this situation differ from hostage situations that preceded it?

Instant analysis provided by hasty experts lead to the speedy disappearance of any discrete event from the headlines in favor of the next shock and awe event, and any lessons to be found in commonalities are lost in the relentless quest for the new. So what's new and what's not?

All hostage taking is criminal behavior, and law enforcement exists deal with such events. The laws already exist in the legal codes of all civilized nations. Motives, tactics and response times may differ, but there is always a police response that is appropriate. Sydney is but another in the ignominious history of the hostage taking event. While there is no comprehensive list online, one can begin ticking off the scores of events in recent memory:

Moluccan separatists (Holland, 1977); DFLP Ma'alot massacre (Israel, 1974); numerous aircraft hijackings, beginning in the 1930's; Mumbai hotel (Lashkar-e-Taiba, 2008); Chechen theater takeover (Russia, 2002); Grozny (Caucasus Emirate, 2014); Beslan School Siege (Chechen, 2004); Grand Mosque seizure (Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 1979); Munich Olympic massacre (Palestinian - Black September, 1972); OPEC ministers (Carlos the Jackal + German and Arab terrorists, 1975); Iran embassy takeover (1979); Iranian Embassy siege (London, 1980); Raid at Entebbe (Uganda, 1976); Norrmalmstorg robbery (Sweden, 1973) -- origin of the "Stockholm Syndrome", etc.

"Lone Wolves" are nothing new. The "shoe" and "underwear" bombers were also lone wolves. Anyone who attempts such an illegal and audacious action is by definition a lone wolf, even if representing a larger group. Most lone wolves are backed by a much larger transnational support system facilitating their operations.

All hostage takers give off intel predictors of their actions, just as all spree killers have. The problem is that we ignore these indicators. The perpetrators of the attacks of 9-11-01 and all subsequent attempts by affiliated groups gave off indicators, but nobody connected the dots. It's not that they are invincible but that we are negligent.

Our negligence allows these people to slip through the cracks and fly under the radar. Since the agencies tasked to ensure our safety are often no more than theater, look for the attacks to continue. The people leading these agencies often lack a police or security background

The police operate on the belief that all life is sacred, including that of the hostage-taker; but if intel indicates the hostage takers will execute hostages, then police must end the situation by assault. The police assault differs from the military one, however.

When the SEALs entered Yemen their assault was a predetermined, essential part of their plan. In contrast, a police assault should be effected only to prevent further loss of hostage lives. As the police assault phase is fluid, hostage lives always hang in the balance. In Sydney, the police had no option as all intel indicated the hostage taker was intent on killing his hostages.

The only critical observation in the Sydney scenario is that the police may have used too much firepower when they employed fully automatic fire. Prudence in the civilian setting may call for less rounds fired in select single fire mode to avoid accidentally killing hostages. A police response should always be measured, but it is always a judgement call for those on-site.

Hostage barricade situations are not going away, but the Western world has levels of security which can address any criminal activity, to include terrorism. The Euroterrorism of the 1960-90 era was effectively neutralized by good police work, intel and counteraction efforts, without governments crossing into authoritarian mode. The same comment will be made 30 years from now about today's "Lone Wolves".

Today's Lone Wolves do not differ much from their predecessors: they want to broadcast a message, and they often seek to gain ransom for further operational funding. Individually, they seem to be nihilists who do not value their own lives. However, their actions continue to support the viability of their group (=the Islamic State), even if they were not directly affiliated with the group to which they claim fealty.

As an aside: what hath the media and its mandatory political correctness wrought by feeding us the line that Islam is a religion of peace? It keeps us in a state of unknowing, children who must act shocked each time we put our hands on the stove and it burns. Certainly there are good Muslims, but the intermittent terrorist act will continue to erupt from that unsettled pool, and we must be stoic in our application of established police protocol.

To deny that there is a large swath of "bad" Muslims who rejoice in their 10th century ethos is to be willfully blind to a movement taking over large swathes of the Middle East and Asia. To paraphrase Sam Kinison, it's called The Islamic State, people. "Bad" to us is "good" to them, and never the twain shall meet.

Our fundamental worldviews are different ... it is not simply a matter of the West disbursing a few more palletized bundles of Benjamins, or more education or fruit juice boxes at the Loya Jirgas. We are as puppets on a string when we recoil in horror at the beheading du jour.

What's new is the environment of fear fomented in the press.

[cross-posted @ rangeragainstwar.]

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Hostage Rescue Scenarios

We will fight hostage taking 
like we fight terrorism 
--Ali Abdullah Saleh, 
former Yemen statesman 
Hostage rescue situations are among the most fraught police and military scenarios. It is instructive to look at the recent SEAL raid in Yemen, in which neither hostage was retrieved alive, and the Australian hostage scenario, which resulted in two hostage deaths; the scenarios share a few similarities and many differences.

First, Yemen:

In the military hostage rescue operations are usually phased, the most difficult military efforts. The death of the hostage is always a probability.

In military terms, these are raids with a hostage retrieval. The raid is usually in a denied area, requiring an approach or movement to contact followed by an assault phase in which it is usual to kill all enemy except for prisoners, which may provide intel about future enemy intentions. The objective is usually isolated, and approach marches, difficult. Assaulting the objective is difficult not in a military sense, but in the attempt to preserve the life of the hostage.

In warfare, you can kill everyone on the objective if they are combative. They do not need to be armed since warfare does not require rules of engagement. Warfare is a state of belligerency, unlike in civilian law enforcement. A soldier's mission is to sweep the objective and leave it as soon as hostages are secured.

Since SEALs operate in secret there are few details for the Yemeni raid, but these comments are based upon historical context:

1) Hostage rescue is a host nation function, therefore, why didn't the Yemenis conduct the raid?  Does the United States have a status of forces agreement (SOFA) with Yemen?

2) Did the US SOF employ agents to approach the hostage-taker's compound? Was this a go-it-alone venture? If so, why are our allies not hands-on in their own country?

3) Why is the U.S. in Yemen in the first place? Why are Western civilians allowed in a high-threat area? Does the U.S. want potential hostages running around the AO willy-nilly?

4) Why doesn't the Department of State declare Yemen, Iraq and all other high-threat areas off-limits to U.S. citizens? If we are banned from travel to Cuba and North Korea, then why not from areas of flat-out craziness? It is no secret that Westerners are desirable targets.

5) If the U.S. is in Yemen to secure Saudi Arabia's flank, then why can't Saudi Special Forces be employed in the hostage rescue efforts? Saudi assets could penetrate Yemen territory more easily than can U.S. SEAL teams.

6) Is Yemen really a country, or a lawless sand pit? If Yemen cannot ensure the safety of foreigners, can we say they are a nation?

7) Are the Yemen hostage-takers proponents of Saudi Wahhabi beliefs?

8) Why are all of the recent raids and hostage rescues being conducted by SEALs? Why are Special Forces no longer being employed -- aren't SF teams part of General Joseph Votel's SOCOM? When did SOCOM become a one ring circus?

Why are the SF not being rotated on the hazardous duty roster? SF has institutional Infantry combat knowledge beyond the capability of SEAL teams.

Next: we will look at the civilian hostage rescue or barricade situation in Sydney, Australia, the so-called "lone-wolf" scenario which may become the face of recurring hostage situations in this century.

[cross-posted @ rangeragainstwar.hostage barricade, hostage negotiations, hostage rescue, hostage scenarios, Islamic violence, lone wolf hostage takers, SEAL raids]

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Peace on Earth

Sven put up a short post titled 16 Days.  We need 16 years of peace.

Not so much peace in Iraq - http://www.newsweek.com/pope-condemns-violence-persecution-iraq-and-syria-christmas-message-294751

Or the Ukraine, although their Christmas is not for two more weeks - at least in the eastern part where the fighting is.  And the Minsk peace talks just halted.  Hopefully it was only for a Christmas break and not for a breakdown.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Russia's position gets a little more...interesting

Back in August (when the Guns of August were thundering in the eastern parts of was still nominally "Ukraine") Al wrote about the Curious Case of Russia. He noted that:
"The Cold War was primarily a standoff between two military powers. The Soviet impact on, and involvement in, the world's economy was negligible. Probably one of the major reasons the USSR collapsed. It was Soviet military, and the resultant political power, that we wanted to keep in check. We are now dealing with a new Russia, and that new Russia has become an economic player far greater than the old Soviet Union. Now, when Russia rattles it's political saber, there are economic ramifications of concern. Yet we still seem to be stuck in the Cold War mentality that Russia is always to be opposed."
and quoted an editorial from one of the Athenian newspapers that in their opinion "...a "stable and powerful Russia" is a key ingredient to global economic security."

I'm kind of intrigued by this for several reasons.

One is that it tends to reinforce my suspicions that the rump-Soviet state is, in fact, what I called it back in August: "...a lot of the Soviet weaknesses...overlaid...with 1) a thicker layer of corruption and 2) an excessive, almost-Nigerian-level of extraction resource dependency." The Post article makes an interesting point, that:
"There's one way, and only one way, that this ends: with capital controls. Or, in plain English, by making it illegal for people or companies to turn their rubles into foreign currency. That would get rid of the selling pressure, and let the ruble settle at a new, lower equilibrium. Putin, though, is loath to use capital controls, because his political base—the oligarchs—wants to move their money abroad, whether that's to their London or New York hideouts."
So the "tyrant" is an economic hostage to his political condotierri, another little reminder of the old saying about doing anything with bayonets (or in this case, the long knives of your criminal crony-capitalist "pals"...) except sitting on them.

The other is that it gives me a nasty little cat-smile remembering all the Usual Idiots who were fulminating about how manly Vladi Putin was and how the United States needed a sharp dose of his shirtless manly manliness to counteract the emo-girly-man Kenyan Usurper.

To quote O'Brien from the Post: "At this rate Putin will be riding around shirtless because he can't afford one anymore."
Perhaps the single most worrying part about this is the reminder that Russia - still a major Eurasian power and a nuclear one at that - is neither stable nor as powerful as it thinks it is.

This isn't to talk up my own country, whose political response to the Great Recession has been to double- and triple-down on the great shift to oligarchic meanness and stupidity that characterized the fucking Hoover Administration, but to note that for all that my country seems to be overrun with morons who think that "government is the problem" that if you deliberately set things up to govern badly it will be badly governed.

And that after a bad government the more-worse idea is to turn the levers of power over to a bunch of rich pricks whose only concern is their own profit. That's the sort of thing about the incoming Republican Congress (as expressed recently in the loathsome Wall Street Welfare rider to the cromnibus spending bill...) that makes me sleep poorly at times.

But I don't think I'd be sleeping nearly as well if I lived in Gdansk, or Tallinn.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"We do not torture"

You don't say?

To me the saddest part about this hot mess is that we pretty much all knew all of this all along. We knew what was going on, or, at least, that something fairly awful was going on, and didn't care enough to make a fuss about knowing the details or care enough to stop it. Seydlitz discussed this all here four years ago; the real crimes here were committed by We the People. We knew all of this, and we knew that the whole nonsense about how this was "protecting us" and "fighting terrorism" was nonsense ginned up by people many of whom wanted to see just how far the American People were willing to go into the darkness if distracted enough by fear and foolishness.

And if there was ever any doubt of that distance this report clarifies that there really are no limits to the fear and inertia of the American Public. Provided I can spin a scary enough story, provided I can puff even the thinnest smokescreen imaginable, I can do anything. I can torture. I can kill. I can commit the sorts of war crimes that the Arsenal of Democracy executed people for in the Forties.

And I can do it in all-but-plain-view because the huge unmoving slorg of Public Opinion will be utterly unarsed enough to even bother to ask questions, to so much as slip a letter of reprimand in my 201 File.

Execute me?

Don't make me fucking laugh.

And make no mistake; without punishment this will happen again. And again There's always a good reason for breaking the laws. Smoking guns become mushroom clouds. Not fighting them there means fighting them here. They hate our freedoms. They're coming to kill us.

But then you find that if you cut down the laws to get at the devil, when you catch him you'll find that there is nowhere for you to shelter from the broad highway of evil you've opened up, the laws all being flat.

Update: The always-eloquent Charlie Pierce has more. And worse. And much, much more and much, much worse.
"I no longer take seriously anyone, in or out of government, who talks about "the debate" over whether the United States tortured people. The only debate left is the debate over whether or not it will remain the policy of this nation to torture people, or to outsource the job of torturing people, or to otherwise commit moral and national suicide by euphemism.

Anyone who still believes there's a "debate" over whether or not the United States, using techniques previously used by the Japanese Imperial Army, the Gestapo, the North Korean People's Army, and the KGB, tortured people is an idiot and a coward and I have no time for them. Not any more. Debate's over. We became what they think we are. And worse. This is not debatable and, alas, it is anything but a surprise."