We executed Japanese soldiers for waterboarding

I just came across this post from Paul Begala that explains that we actually hanged Japanese soldiers for waterboarding following WWII.  

On November 29, 2007, Sen. McCain, while campaigning in St.
Petersburg, Florida, said, "Following World War II war crime trials
were convened. The Japanese were tried and convicted and hung for war
crimes committed against American POWs. Among those charges for which
they were convicted was waterboarding."

Sen. McCain was right and the National Review Online is wrong. Politifact, the St. Petersburg Times'
truth-testing project (which this week was awarded a Pulitzer Prize),
scrutinized Sen. McCain's statement and found it to be true. Here's the
money quote from Politifact:

"McCain is referencing the Tokyo Trials,
officially known as the International Military Tribunal for the Far
East. After World War II, an international coalition convened to
prosecute Japanese soldiers charged with torture. At the top of the
list of techniques was water-based interrogation, known variously then
as 'water cure,' 'water torture' and 'waterboarding,' according to the
charging documents. It simulates drowning." Politifact went on to
report, "A number of the Japanese soldiers convicted by American judges
were hanged, while others received lengthy prison sentences or time in
labor camps."

This is such an amazing powerful argument.  I just don't see how people can go around defending waterboarding as not torture when we executed people for doing it.  Case closed.  The fact that so many Republicans (admittedly not all, but far too many) are defending waterboarding is both intellectually and morally indefensible.  The Republican party has so lost its way.


Teenage virginity and social psychology

How about a little break from torture with a quick look at the social psychology of teenage virginity.  From Balkinization:

why I’m concerned (and what it means for public service messages with
regard not only to abstinence but a host of other issues).

In my last post, I argued that (the truly excellent show) Friday Night Lights
might unwittingly be exacerbating the mistaken idea that the vast
majority of high-schoolers have sex. I worried that this discrepancy
between what adolescents believe (virgins are rare) and the truth
(high-school virgins are the norm) is a dangerous combination…

Robert Cialdini has shown time and again that people like to conform their behavior to that of others. His new book, Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive, is chock full of examples. Want to get hotel guests to forego daily towel cleaning? Include a message telling them that most other guests reuse their towels. Want them to recycle even more? Tell them that most people using their very room recycle…

I’m not calling for the writers of Friday Night Lights
to change the story arc. But Cialdini’s simple idea is that public
service messages would do well to implicitly tell high-schoolers: “Be
like most of your peers — don’t have sex while you’re in high school.”…

Indeed, Cialdini has me thinking that all those “Above the Influence” commercials are seriously off base:

These commercials
implicitly suggest that most of your peers are going to be using drugs
and that you have to gird yourself to be above their influence. They
are too close to the signs in the Petrified Forest. Instead of saying
“Don’t do what most kids your age do,” they might say “Do what most
kids your age do: just say no.”

 You should read the whole post for some great examples of Cialdini's experiments.

The elite consensus on torture

Yes, I am a little torture-focused lately, and I think the last post explained exactly why I think this is such an important issue. One of the most disturbing features of all this is how the elite Washington press is all into the "just move on" angle.  Naturally, Glenn Greenwald hits this hard.  I'm just going to copy the end of his long post on the subject (which is basically from some others):

The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates posts video of the Peggy Noonan comments and writes

job of journalists is to challenge the government and to challenge
their readers and viewers. What sort of journalist tells his readers
that some things must be mysterious?  What sort of writer tells her
readers, and viewers, essentially, to not ask too many questions? We
have a fine era, when otherwise respected, intelligent, and well-read
people step on a national stage and endorse national ignorance.

There's nothing unusual about Noonan's mentality; it's the dominant mindset of our political and media class.  The American Prospect's Adam Serwer notes a column from The New York Times' Roger Cohen today arguing against prosecutions (of course) and observes:

Cohen's argument simply reflects the consensus among certain journalistic and political elites that the powerful simply shouldn't be held accountable
when they make mistakes, because, after all, we all make mistakes. This
compassionate attitude naturally doesn't extend beyond this small
group. America has the highest incarceration rate in the world, fully 1
percent of the population. I'm sure there are millions of people
currently incarcerated who would like it if Cohen's policy of
absolution for crimes was extended to them.

elite-protecting consensus is the central affliction of America's
political culture.  It explains not only how we continuously shield our
elites from the consequences of their crimes, but also explains the
reason such crimes keep happening.  If you constantly announce to a
small group of people that they will be able to break the law with
impunity, you are rendering inevitable future rampant criminality.
That's just obvious.

I actually had to make this argument in class the other day.  Its pretty obviously the case with my 3-year old and even more so with grown-ups.  You tell people they cannot do something, you watch them do it and then just say, oh well, it's alright, you can be pretty sure what will happen in the future.



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