Sunday, February 13, 2005

Every Precaution a Provocation

According to the Reuters, Australia may be guilty of preparing its soldiers to resist interrogation which goes beyond that allowed by the Geneva Convention.

Australian soldiers are stripped naked, hooded, deprived of sleep and threatened with physical and sexual abuse, methods banned under the Geneva Convention, to train them to resist interrogation if captured by hostile forces. Defence Minister Robert Hill told parliament in a written statement that Australia had been conducting the training for the past five years. Hill said no soldier was actually abused and that soldiers who would be conducting interrogations of prisoners were not permitted to undergo the training.

An Australian civil liberties group criticised the government on Sunday, when news of the training first became public, saying such training was unacceptable. ... "These people are people who ultimately may have to look after prisoners of war and this is not the example that should be set. It's not a fair enough argument to say that they should be trained by being tortured," Murphy told reporters. Photographs of U.S. soldiers abusing prisoners in Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq shocked the world when published in 2004.

If the inner logic of the accusation seems strange, it shouldn't. The US and Australia are at war with a gentle enemy. Noble insurgents who wouldn't hurt a fly and against which no such rigorous preparation is necessary, though if they turned out not to be noble, it wouldn't be their fault. But if any captured Australians weren't prepared for torture, it would be due to the negligence of John Howard, just as it is Rumsfeld's fault there aren't enough armored Humvees in Iraq, despite the fact that it is a waste of money to divert spending away from social programs and environmental concerns to the War Machine.

According to Newsweek, Kim Jong Il can still be dissuaded from building nuclear weapons if America gives him what he wants.

George W. Bush has given Kim ample reason to worry. The president has long insisted that North Korea scrap its nukes before Washington makes concrete offers of aid or other inducements. ... Rice noted hopefully that Pyongyang still aimed for a "denuclearized Korean Peninsula," and she said America's approach was to continue diplomacy: "The United States has no intention of attacking or invading North Korea." But in truth, the administration has not put any new diplomatic solutions on the table since Juneā€”not least because some senior Bush hawks believe talking and cutting deals won't work. ...

If bribes are not enough, America should consider laying down a few arms to show North Korea how much we care.

Some worry that American scientists already are losing a bit of their edge. "Pakistan is now producing more nuclear pits [the plutonium charge in the first stage of a fusion weapon] than the U.S. does," says Peter Pye of the House Armed Services Committee. "Do we really want to lose the technological lead which we have built up at such cost over the years?" That concern is fueling talk that even fresh weapons tests may be needed. A few lawmakers think that some erosion of U.S. nuclear know-how is a risk worth taking if it will help diplomatic efforts to halt nuclear proliferation. The spread of nukes, they point out, is perhaps America's biggest nightmare in the age of terror. And as the propaganda from Pyongyang suggested, Washington will have a hard time insisting that other nations remain nuclear-free if it continues to insist on developing new warheads.

It is American strength that has encouraged North Korea to arm; and it will be American weakness that will induce Pyongyang to disarm. But it is equally true, according to US House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi that the reckless Bush Administration policy of weakening the military has embolded Kim Jong Il, who is otherwise peace-loving, to threaten to incinerate North Asia.

"This administration has not paid enough attention to the situation in North Korea," Pelosi said. "The North Koreans know that we are otherwise occupied in military actions in other parts of the world and they have taken the liberty to be brazen."

Once upon a time the simultaneous accusations of too much preparation and too little; not enough bribery and too much; a surfeit of strength and a want of it could be made without much trouble. If being on the Left meant never having to say you're sorry; not being on the Left meant being guilty without effort. You could be a Filipino cook jumping from a 110 storey building and still be a "Little Eichmann". The miracles of the saints were as nothing to the transubstantiations of the Left. But the trouble came with memory. The Internet. And with remembrance the dim recollection of betrayal.