Lying to defend torture

Presumably you've read/heard by now of Bush's plan to move alleged Al Qaeda members to Guantanamo to face trial.  Why do I use “alleged”?  Because, honestly all we have is Bush's word on it, and based on past history, that's not worth very much.  That said, all give Bush that these guys are the worst Al Qaeda has to offer– it is still wrong to lie to the American public to justify torture.  According to this analysis from The New Republic's Spencer Ackerman, Bush has done just that.  Basically, Bush distorted and fabricated the intelligence we got from “aggressive interrogation” of Zubaydah in order to justify torture.  The rub:

First, according to Ron Suskind,
Abu Zubaydah didn't clam up because he was “trained to resist
interrogation,” but because he has the mental capacity of a retarded
. (emphasis mine) Second, the idea that Abu Zubaydah's interrogation tipped off
the U.S. to the existence of Ramzi bin Al Shibh is just an outright
lie. A Nexis search for “Ramzi Binalshibh” between September 11, 2001
and March 1, 2002–the U.S. captured Abu Zubaydah in March 2002–turns
up 26 hits for The Washington Post alone. Everyone involved in counterterrorism knew who bin Al Shibh was. Now-retired FBI Al Qaeda hunter Dennis Lormel told Congress who Ramzi bin Al Shibh was in February 2002. Abu Zubaydah getting waterboarded and spouting bin Al Shibh's name did not tell us anything we did not already know.

Of course, most Americans don't have access to Nexis. And most
Americans don't remember–and can't be expected to remember–newspaper
coverage of Al Qaeda for a seven-month stretch between the attacks and
Abu Zubaydah's capture. Bush is exploiting that ignorance to tell the
American people an outright lie in order to convince them that we need
to torture people. As Bush once said in another context, if this is not
evil, then evil has no meaning
(emphasis mine)

Again, no doubt most of these guys are very bad men.  But how is bringing ourselves down to their level a good thing?  Enough with all the facile apologists who say, “but they'd just as soon decapitate us.”  Are we supposed to define our standards of behavior by what terrorists do now?  Somehow we managed to defeat the Nazis without systematically murdering and terrorizing civilian populations and (largely) stuck to our ideals. 

Most importantly, torture does not work.  I seem to recall an anecdote from John McCain (or maybe a fellow prisoner of his in Vietnam) who when asked for names of fellow soldiers provided the starting lineup of the Green Bay Packers.  Time and time again history has been shown that people will say anything to avoid torture.  Oh so rarely is it actually useful information.  This is why, despite the push from Bush and other top administration officials, the military leadership at DoD as disavowed the use of torture. 


Mam or sir?

Interestingly, it turns out that the relative pitch of men's and women's voices is as much a cultural phenomenon as a biological one.  From Marginal Revolution (courtesy of Kevin Drum):

Women in almost every culture speak in deeper voices than Japanese
women.  American women's voices are lower than Japanese women's,
Swedish women's are lower than American's, and Dutch women's are lower
than Swedish women's.  Vocal difference is one way of expressing social
difference, so that in Dutch society, which doesn't differentiate much
between its image of the ideal male and the ideal female, there are few
differences between male and female voice.  The Dutch also find medium
and low pitch more attractive than high pitch.

This PhD thesis suggests that men's deeper voices are largely a result of sexual selection.  Apparently men lower the pitch of their voices as a sign of physical dominance over other males and women are more attracted to men with a lower pitch, especially when they are more fertile.  Given that I am sometimes referred to as “mam” on the phone, much to my dismay, one might question the quality of Kim's choice.  Then again, I would seem to be a decent enough provider and good enough to father three children.

On a somewhat related note, I just started reading a very interesting book, Self Made Man, by Norah Vincent, a journalist who spent 18 months undercover as a man.  In addition to the fake stubble, before beginning her project she took voice lessons.  It was interesting to read of the many stylistic differences that seem to distinguish male from female speech patterns.  So far, it is really interesting stuff– I'll have a full report when I'm done.  (I need to finish Nightfall by Nelson Demille first.  Which I started on my recent airline flight, just to show how not afraid I am of a plane crash). 

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