Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Sending a message?

President Bush spoke last night to the National Newspaper Association, noting at the end the ways in which the Congressional reaction to the ports deal could complicate our relationships with strategic allies. Here’s what he said:

My administration was satisfied that port security would not have been undermined by the agreement. Nevertheless, Congress was still very much opposed to it. My administration will continue to work with the Congress to provide a greater understanding of how these transactions are approved, in other words the process, and how we can improve that process in the future.

I’m concerned about a broader message this issue could send to our friends and allies around the world, particularly in the Middle East. In order to win the war on terror, we have got to strengthen our relationships and friendships with moderate Arab countries in the Middle East. UAE is a committed ally in the war on terror. They are a key partner for our military in a critical region.

And outside of our own country, Dubai services more of our military -- military ships -- than any country in the world. They’re sharing intelligence so we can hunt down the terrorists. They’ve helped us shutdown a worldwide nuclear proliferation network run by A.Q. Khan. UAE is a valued and strategic partner. I’m committed to strengthening our relationship with the UAE and explaining why it’s important to Congress and the American people.

You can read stories about the speech and related issues
here, here, here, and here. What I find most striking is the demand on the part of some Congressional backbenchers that they still be permitted a vote so that they can go on the record with their disapproval of the deal. Is it really necessary to poke an ally in the eye after you’ve already kicked him in the groin? While a few members of Congress have displayed some significant leadership on this matter, all too many have simply exploited it for short-term political gain.

Now go re-read Jonah Goldberg’s piece.

Discussions - 9 Comments

I wonder if the current hysteria with regard to this ports deal, and more generally with regard to terrorism and terrorists (for example in Gitmo) is not unlike the fear of witches that swept the world?

For example : In 1631, at the epicenter of the worst excesses of the European witch-hunts, Friedrich Spee, a Jesuit priest, published the Cautio Criminalis, a book speaking out against the trials that were sending thousands of innocent people to gruesome deaths. Spee, who had himself ministered to women accused of witchcraft in Germany, had witnessed firsthand the twisted logic and brutal torture used by judges and inquisitors. Combined, these harsh prosecutorial measures led inevitably not only to a confession but to denunciations of supposed accomplices, spreading the circle of torture and execution ever wider.

Is it not reasonable to at least postulate that the same peverse logic that resulted in the deaths of thousands of helpless women, is at work today?

For example, a rare interview with a Gitmo inmate was recently released. In it he claimed that he was innocent, had repeatedly claimed this to his captors, and that he had been tortured.

The response to this is to explain that "we cannot trust this testimony. After all he is a terrorist, they have been taught to claim that they are innocent, and to claim that they have been tortured. Here is the manual".

Much as in the witch trials, no matter what you say, it is pre-interpreted through the lens of assumed guilt.

In this situation, surely it is almost impossible to prove your innocence?


When personal testimony is suspect, you seek external validation or beliement for that testimony. It was ever thus.

Bush is right to worry about the message this sends to various allies, including the unprincipled grudging cooperators.

But he is wrong not to worry about the message the ports deal would have sent to the American people.

To dismiss critics of the ports deal as racists, as Bush came close to doing, is arrogant and clueless.

As a foreigner, I am staggered at this sudden show of concern for "how this looks".

Why no previous concern for the impression made by interminable imprisonment, torture (defined as such in every civilized country except the US), illegal invasion, occupation and responsibility for at the very least, 30,000 deaths.

That looks pretty bad too. Arrogant and clueless is just the beginning of a very long list of indicments.

Following my witch hunt theme, I’ve done some additional reading. A few choice but oddly familiar examples of witch hysteria.

Read with the following in mind. Witch/woman=terrorist.


No longer God or nature, but witches are responsible for everything.

Hence everybody sets up a clamour that the magistrates investigate the witches - whom only popular gossip has made so numerous.

In these trials nobody is allowed any means of fair defence, for witchcraft is reckoned an exceptional crime [of such enormity that all rules of legal procedure may be suspended], and whoever ventures to defend the prisoner falls himself under suspicion of witchcraft - as well as those who dare to utter a protest in these cases and to urge the judges to exercise prudence, for they are forthwith labelled supporters of witchcraft. Thus every­body keeps quiet for fear.

Even though she denies these charges and satisfactorily answers every accusation, no attention is paid and her replies are not even recorded; all the indictments retain their force and validity, however perfect her answers to them. She is ordered back into prison, there to consider more carefully whether she will persist in obstinacy - for, since she has already denied her guilt, she is obstinate.

Next day she is brought out again, and hears a decree of torture - just as if she had never refuted the charges.

When the woman has been shaved and searched, she is tortured to make her confess the truth - that is, to declare what they want, for naturally anything else will not and cannot be the truth.

They start with the first degree, i.e., the less severe torture. Although exceedingly severe, it is light com­pared to those tortures which follow. Wherefore if she confesses, they say the woman has confessed without torture!

Now, what prince can doubt her guilt when he is told she has confessed voluntarily, without torture?

The result is the same whether she confesses or not. If she confesses, her guilt is clear: she is executed. All recantation is in vain. If she does not confess, the torture is repeated - twice, thrice, four times. In exceptional crimes, the torture is not limited in duration, severity, or frequency.

If, during the torture, the old woman contorts her features with pain, they say she is laughing; if she loses consciousness, she is sleeping or has bewitched herself into taciturnity. And if she is taciturn, she deserves to be burned alive, as lately has been done to some who, though several times tortured, would not say what the investigators wanted.

On the other hand, if she does not die under torture, and if some exceptionally scrupulous judge hesitates to tor­ture her further without fresh proofs or to burn her without her confession, she is kept in prison and more harshly chained, there to rot until she yields, even if it take a whole year.

She can never clear herself. The investigating committee would feel disgraced if it acquitted a woman; once arrested and in chains, she has to be guilty, by fair means or foul.

Meanwhile, ignorant and headstrong priests harass the wretched creature so that, whether truly or not, she will confess herself guilty; unless she does so, they say, she cannot be saved or partake of the sacraments.

More understanding or learned priests cannot visit her in prison lest they counsel her or inform the princes what goes on. Nothing is more dreaded than that something be brought to light to prove the innocence of the accused. Persons who try to do so are labelled troublemakers.

Now, in Heaven’s name, I would like to know, since she who confesses and she who does not both perish alike, how can anybody, no matter how inno­cent, escape? O unhappy woman, why have you rashly hoped? Why did you not, on first entering prison, admit whatever they wanted? Why, foolish and crazy woman, did you wish to die so many times when you might have died but once? Follow my counsel, and, before undergoing all these pains, say you are guilty and die. You will not escape, for this were a catastrophic disgrace to the zeal of Germany.

When, under stress of pain, the witch has confessed, her plight is indescribable. Not only cannot she escape herself, but she is also compelled to accuse others whom she does not know, whose names are frequently put into her mouth by the investigators or suggested by the executioner, or of whom she has heard as suspected or accused. These in turn are forced to accuse others, and these still others, so it goes on: who can help seeing that it must go on and on?

God, you are long-winded.

I think "Brian Coughlan" is Gaelic for "don’t bother reading what follows."

God, you are long-winded.

Well in fairness, I didn’t write it, just cut and paste it from the online book I was reading.

I guess the original writer felt that burning women to death was something that warranted detailed attention. Say like interminable imprisonment or torture.

I’ll try and keep your attention deficit disorder in mind going forward:-)

Besides, I’m the best thing that ever happened to this dusty club of genteel elderly chaps patting each other on the back.

Besides, I’m the best thing that ever happened to this dusty club of genteel elderly chaps patting each other on the back.

Heh. They’re not all THAT elderly . . .

Thanks, Matt. I was waiting for someone to say that. I’m only 39, gosh durn it!

Hmm, come to think of it, I’m not terribly "genteel," either.

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