Saturday, April 19, 2014

Question Time

The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

Today’s column is a grab bag of questions which, for some strange reason, I can never seem to get a straight answer to:
If you think President Obama’s “weakness” in Syria is what led to Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea, what do you think we should have done in Syria? Should we have bombed them for using chemical weapons even after they agreed to give up their chemical weapons stockpiles and production facilities? If so, do you also think police officers should be ordered to shoot criminals who’ve thrown down their weapons?
Do you think America should have intervened or should now intervene militarily in Syria? If so, which side should we come in on, the side backed by Hezbollah, or the one fighting alongside al-Qaida?
If you think our current response to the Russian annexation of Crimea is too weak, do you favor military intervention? If so, please locate Ukraine on a map and tell us where American troops should be based for such an intervention and where they’d be supplied from.
If you blame President Obama’s “weakness” for the Russian annexation of Crimea, do you also blame President George W. Bush for the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia? If not, why not?
If you think Obamacare needs to be repealed, are you also willing to repeal the popular parts of it, like the part protecting people with pre-existing conditions and the part allowing parents to insure their children to age 26? If not, how do you propose to keep the insurance system alive if everyone isn’t required to pay into it?
What do you propose to do with the millions of people already insured through the exchanges when the mandate goes away and insurance companies can go back to charging people exorbitant amounts or denying them insurance altogether if they have pre-existing conditions?
If you were one of the people who insisted in 2012 that the polls putting President Obama ahead of Mitt Romney were “skewed” and that Romney was going to win in a landslide, please tell us why we should believe you when you claim that the Obama administration is “cooking the books” on Affordable Care Act enrollment and that Obamacare is doomed to fail?
If you believe that a single-payer, taxpayer supported, medical insurance plan is “socialism” and that it will destroy America, do you plan to refuse a Medicare card when you become eligible or turn yours in if you have one now? If not, why not? If your reason is “I already paid into this,” isn’t that just an acknowledgement that it’s a taxpayer-funded system?
If you claim Obamacare is a “socialist takeover” of the American health care system, please explain how the terms “socialism” and “takeover” apply to a system of privately owned insurers paying privately employed doctors with support from privately paid premiums.
If you don’t think “enhanced interrogation” techniques such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation, being locked in small boxes and subjected to extended “stress positions” are not torture and therefore not legally actionable, would you say the same if those techniques were used by terrorist groups against American citizens?
Would you consider being strapped to a board, having a cloth put over your face, then having water poured on the cloth until you had the sensation of drowning to be torture if you had to undergo that yourself? If waterboarding isn’t torture, do we need to apologize and pay reparations to the families of the Japanese officers we prosecuted for war crimes for using similar techniques?
If you’re upset about government gathering of private data, were you as upset about it when the government’s ability to do so was greatly expanded by the Patriot Act? If not, why not? Do you support rolling back the Patriot Act? Do you think we should re-examine the principles set out in Smith vs. Maryland, the 1979 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled that getting “metadata” about American citizens’ phone calls (i.e., information about who called who when and for how long) was not a “search,” since that information was not “private” at all? If not, why not, if you claim to be angry about government spying on us?
Normally, when I pose these sorts of questions to my fellow Americans, I get attempts to change the subject or angry denunciations of President Obama and/or “libs,” “leftists,” “statists” or “Obama-bots,” none of which have any connection to the question asked.
Can you do any better?
(Author's note: if you follow the link to the paper's website and check out the comments, you'll see that the answer to that last question is "no").


Kelli said...

The only question in that list that I can come up with a possible answer to is the one about what would be a location for a base and supplies for action in Ukraine -- and it's a lousy answer: Turkey. Turkey is putatively an ally, a member of NATO, and might let us work from there. Maybe.

There's not much use in doing so, though; it's across the Black Sea from Ukraine, a distance of some 250 miles from the north coast of Turkey to the middle of Crimea. That's a long supply train. I suppose some sort of naval support could be set up in the Mediterranean, but the naval presence would itself still have to be supported from somewhere, and we're back to Turkey.

This logistics discussion is still separate from the issue of whether we *should* intervene; IMHO, we shouldn't.

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite defenses of waterboarding is that it's used during SERE training.

It is. When the "you've been capture" part of the program starts, they tell you to sign a confession to having been involved with warcrimes. Legend has it one team managed to overpower their captors; but in all - *all* - other cases, everyone ends up signing.

So people who know that it's their own people, and know that they won't be seriously injured or killed (except through some horrible accident), all make false confessions, but waterboarding prisoners in the war on terror would yield reliable confessions because...?

JD Rhoades said...

Kelli: Agreed. We should not go to war over Crimea.

johnpalmer: Didn't Sean Hannity once volunteer to be waterboarded, then backed out?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure about Hannity; I know that some folks who thought they'd show how not-torture it was found out that they couldn't last more than a few seconds.

I've heard that in some training specialties, they'll expose troops to an irritant gas, which some folks might think sounds horrible, but it's an important lesson. Gas masks are hideously uncomfortable, and they need to make sure people understand on a gut level that *nothing* about that protection is more uncomfortable than not having it when you need it.

Waterboarding and other "after you're captured" awfulness is partly for the same reason - make sure that a soldier(/sailor/rifleman/airman) realizes that however awful life on the run is, it's better than what a POW might face. No sleep, constant movement, and three irritated patches on your skin proving that you couldn't chow down on the last three hopefully-edible plants - but hey, you're not being waterboarded.