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Torture in Good Faith

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Here is the text of a pamphlet I wrote (revised slightly; I added a short paragraph at the beginning to include a discussion of a better understanding of what Jonh Yoo means by Good Faith – which is far more perverted than I originally conceived.)  Originally handed out to about 100 protesters, (mostly law students I think, although I did give one to George McGovern!  who seemed like a very nice guy by the way).  I also cross-posted it to the forums afterwards, although there are no responses by EvanTH, John Yoo’s well-known vaugely sock-puppetish SA posting persona. Anyways, the pamphlet was originally titled “Torture is a Product of the Market of Desire,” which is a really unfortunate title but I had the flu and printed these damn things at the last minute.  Torture in Good Faith is a much better title, IMHO.

Infrateal gave me such extensive feedback on developing my argument smoothly and coherently (and with such gusto) that I added him as a co-author.  God Bless!

That funny part at the end was my attempt to take back that powerful patriotic American essence that’s been recently co-opted and stolen by the large corporate interests that currently power the Tea Party.  The song of course describes the American flag, and the prose-part is sorta a free whellin’ satirical inversion of Shelley’s immortal sonnet Ozymandias.  So now you know.

A Condemnation of the Ideology of John Yoo
By J.R. and L.V.

John Yoo has defended his decisions on torture in “good faith” in his role at the DOJ, which most regular and reasonable people would take to mean that he fully understood the stakes and chose a path of action internally consistent with his own view of the world.  That is not what *he* means, however.

The “Good Faith” that John Yoo speaks of, on the matter of torture, is actually the name of a doctrine that he, along with the rest of the Bush Six, have created specifically to answer the question of torture. It says that as long as an interrogator does not *honestly believe,* in good faith, that any particular action is torture to a detainee, then the committed act is thus *not* torture, even if most other regular and reasonable people – especially the detainee himself – believe it to be so. The “Good Faith Doctrine” is nothing more than a buearacratic Catch-22 (ya know, the best Catch there is!) that aims to eliminate moral responsibility from the equation and to insulate the agents of the United States from any kind of culpability, despite what any regular and reasonable people might think of the matter.

The loophole is critically flawed, however. Even if this perverted doctrine could absolve those sadistic solicitors at the very bottom of the chain of command of their crimes, the fact that the writ was not a defensive measure, but a pre-emptive one, means that the men who breathed power into its conception *do* themselves understand that what they worked to enable is torture.  The “good faith” of the interrogators thus derives from the actual good faith of men like John Yoo.  That these actions were taken through his good faith means they truly reflect his view of the world, providing us with a periscope into the living, active heart of his ideology, its lenses unclouded by any dissemblance. What we observe is that through this instrument of good faith the approval and encouragement of torture techniques, such as waterboarding, which mechanically induces the physiological sensation of death, and the possibly more terrifying sensory deprivation, which severs a man from the world to simulate the entirety of death, came to be effectively actualized, for a time, into US law. These instruments of terror were considered necessary, in good faith, to prevent terror. How did such a cold and utilitarian perspective of humanity – a perspective whereby the individual person can be, at a moment’s notice, subsumed into mass numerical identity as a humanoid token of calculation – come to be lived in good faith? For it is that critical leap, turning human into mechanical humanoid, that is the core of the controversy and outrage of Yoo’s work in the Bush administration. The possibility of a sudden transformation from human to humanoid should be terrifying to more than just enemy combatants plucked from the battlefields of Afghanistan. Could you imagine your senator or congressman or hometown mayor saying: “Sorry, y’all, for this torture n’ all, but we’ll put an end to it once we develop technology to directly extract information from your brain… y’know, like we do from a black box from a plane crash?” – always helpfully putting the discussion in accessible terms – “That’s why we voted to fund research at this university, after all…” The prospect of anyone in our democratic government propounding such a view is unthinkable, and yet John Yoo and the Bush Six, as the other top officials in the Bush Administration have become known, not only thought it but did it, from the shadows, unaccountable to the American people.

Such a cynical ideology is far more pervasive than just Yoo. The outrageous torture memo is, at its core, aligned with both neoliberal reasoning which considers torture (or any human question) on the basis of a “cost-benefit” analysis or utilitarian tradeoff, and neoconservative rhetoric which propounds torture as an unquestionable necessity. Setting aside empirical evidence against the ability of torture to render reliable intelligence, all such arguments remove a human being’s humanity entirely from the matter, and thus imply that torture’s goals are acceptable even if the current method is not. That such a view is widely entertained is the result of no conspiracy theory, but what we see as a national existential malaise brought on ever-so-steadily as cultural and technology evolution have disconnected us from each other. The case of John Yoo and the Bush Six is just a particular instantiation of a much more widespread ideology that has begun to see us, as human beings, as abstract units to be controlled and quelled and kept at a safe distance. Fearful of the irrational forces of desire that exist in the human mind, this ideology demands a brutal and unrelenting order: at the individual level, that these forces be locked away, and at the societal level, when desires run orthogonal to any particular individual, that they be manipulated for society’s own good. Whether justice is brought to bear in this case or not, we, as a people, must reject any line of thought that would seek to deny us our own humanity.

One consequence of this human to humanoid ideological shift is promotion for a so-called “market democracy,” where matters of society are handled solely by the rules of and the faith in the free market: if the people want it, then the market will reflect that demand, thus bringing democracy in its purest and fairest sense to all people. We disagree that an idea hatched in such rarefied ideological air can survive in reality, not without growing into a monster. A market system ignores the checks and balances built into democracy as we currently know it to prevent minorities from being trampled by the majority; “pure” majority rule is mob rule, not only tyrannous in itself but susceptible to extraordinary delusions and the tyranny of a manipulator. The widespread belief that The Free Market Is God cannot help but be contrasted with an equally widespread but oppositely aligned belief of animosity for our American government.

In his 1958 essay, “Two Kinds of Liberty,” Isaiah Berlin discusses the difference between the negative and positive freedoms, on which the relationship between an individual and society is built. Negative liberty is constituted of constraints that society has defined for the individual, with the implication that the individual has the freedom to do anything that he or she is not explicitly denied. Positive liberty, in compliment, is the freedom implied in “free will”, the self-determination that allows one to care for and change the world around them. This differentiation is important as an instance of one kind necessarily negates the existence of the other for any particular case, and both are needed for any healthy society. The great triumph of democracy is the right of all citizens to proactive involvement in their government, placing the positive liberty of self-determination in command of that great arbiter of negative liberties. Thus democracy signifies a subjugation of negative liberty to positive free will, while retaining negative liberties as a counterbalance.

Thus a society dependent on a pure market system of rule does not represent true democracy for two reasons:

First, a regulatory body of negative rights is no longer ultimately subordinate to positive rights; it is absent entirely. The recent economic disaster has demonstrated the massively deleterious ramifications of even negligent regulation; consider a similar disaster afflicting not only the national budget and your pocketbook, but the nation itself, your liberties and physical security.

Second, the human desires which constitute free will, and thus the self-determination guaranteed by our system of democracy, manifest themselves within that system by sustained efforts: voting is instantaneous, but campaigning for a preferred candidate or issue is what controls the vote, and candidates committed to running for office is prerequisite for a vote. Such efforts to change the government by campaigning can be considered linear, as vectors of self-determination; only after these vectors have run their course is an instantaneous point of measure taken in a vote. Short-circuiting this process to yield the derivative instantly does not measure the true will of the constituency, with their human need for time to advance their campaigns. A marketplace may provide a majority, but as a snapshot on a curve fluctuating faster than human reason; all semblance of voting reflecting considered opinion is replaced by commodified desires, simple machines that produce simple, free-floating cravings. A market of desire is a system built from a fundamental, crass reductionism.

A market is Darwinian by nature, and thus a market of desire ranks the biggest, purest, and most HUNGRY desires as most valuable: those iron-clad, invincible base instincts, unaffected by rhyme or reason or community. The great danger of such a system lies in the fact that its will is arbitrated by the power that arbitrates all markets – capital. Whether a market is a fair way of appropriating human resources is a separate matter, but on the matter of appropriating the resource of human consciousness, the danger is absolute: it is the path to Fascism, as we understand as totalitarianism developed by and channeled through mass movements. Propagandists, like Frank Luntz, George Lakoff, and Clotaire Rapaille, would seek to design an interface into our desire, little buttons that manipulate a part in order to manipulate the whole – and all you need to press a button is capital. Corporations such as Forrester and IDC seek to create a user manual to the humanoid, a handy guide that shows which buttons to push and how to amplify the effects of a push through identity/wedge politics – and all you need to give for this helpful info is capital. But as these subversive manipulations are externally induced into our consciousness, their presence as part of the whole is not coherent, and inducing cognitive dissonance is hardly in the rational self interest of the individual, or eventually, of society. While the mind of a human being is an unquestionably hardy creation, the end point for an individual in a market of desire is the same desperate, psychotic insanity that occurs any time that irrational desire overwhelms conscious will – effects seen in the likes of Joseph Stack, Malik Hasan, Jack Bedell, and the very same fundamentalist terrorist suicide bombers that our war on terror is targeted against.

I conclude that democracy powered through the derivative of free will is not a democracy of human beings, but a pathological ideology that leads to fascism, which, we reiterate for clarity, we understand as totalitarianism developed by and channeled through mass movements. For it is through this ideology and its utilitarian view of humanity that the Patriot Act, which sanctions dictatorial powers for the executive branch as long as it can maintain a state of perpetual war, was authored by John Yoo and the Bush Six in good faith. It was through this ideology that silent, warrantless surveillance of American citizens was demanded by John Yoo and the Bush Six in good faith. And it follows only from this ideology that a justification of torture and reduction of human beings to mere flesh-covered containers of information is possible in good faith. The ideology of John Yoo is the ideology of Fascism and THAT, in its totality, is what we have come here today to protest.  It is time for the rest of us regular and reasonable people to assert that moral responsibility, not torture, is what we must derive from good faith.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

a lonely voice rings out across the sea…

“It takes just,
a single song of rock-n-roll…
echo-ing away into the night…
and across the stars shrines through a light,
and the darkness… begins to fade all awaaayyyY…”

And in New York’s harbor, a cold grey statue stirs to life… her butt’s ’bout burned to the filter, and so yeah, you could say she’s got a bit of an AXE to grind. Cold smoke still wisping from her fingers, this colossal Queen of Queens slowly reaches down, underneath her robes, and emerges with the flash of BLUE STEEL – ye mighty ten-ton-tall electric gee-tar of the nation’s psalm of freedom. An old rumor sez that she chiseled “LIVE” “FREE” onto her knuckles with her own hand… *vBRRRRGNrngnrrr….* The first pluck of the morning twangs with a radiant shockwave that pierces the dull orange shadow of the dawning light. Don’t know nothin’ bout no rumors, but yeah baby, that sound is bitchin’. There’s a short pause of silence as she tunes the pegs; you can hear the faint crackling of the clay between her fingers, and the creaking groan of her ancient iron joints, and the thunderous tapping of her feet upon the pedestal. But now, grip on Blue Steel steady and sure, she lights the fire again…

“It takes just a single song of rock-n-roll…”

A Condemnation of the Ideology of John Yoo

John Yoo has defended his decisions on torture in “good faith” in his role at the DOJ, which most regular and reasonable people would take to mean that he fully understood the stakes and chose a path of action internally consistent with his own view of the world.  That is not what *he* means, however.

The “Good Faith” that John Yoo speaks of, on the matter of torture, is actually the name of a doctrine that he, along with the rest of the Bush Six, have created specifically to answer the question of torture. It says that as long as an interrogator does not *honestly believe,* in good faith, that any particular action is torture to a detainee, then the committed act is thus *not* torture, even if most other regular and reasonable people – especially the detainee himself – believe it to be so. The “Good Faith Doctrine” is nothing more than a buearacratic Catch-22 (ya know, the best Catch there is!) that aims to eliminate moral responsibility from the equation and to insulate the agents of the United States from any kind of culpability, despite what any regular and reasonable people might think of the matter.

The loophole is critically flawed, however. Even if this perverted doctrine could absolve those sadistic solicitors at the very bottom of the chain of command of their crimes, the fact that the writ was not a defensive measure, but a pre-emptive one, means that the men who breathed power into its conception *do* themselves understand that what they worked to enable is torture.  The “good faith” of the interrogators thus derives from the actual good faith of men like John Yoo.  That these actions were taken through his good faith means they truly reflect his view of the world, providing us with a periscope into the living, active heart of his ideology, its lenses unclouded by any dissemblance. What we observe is that through this instrument of good faith the approval and encouragement of torture techniques, such as waterboarding, which mechanically induces the physiological sensation of death, and the possibly more terrifying sensory deprivation, which severs a man from the world to simulate the entirety of death, came to be effectively actualized, for a time, into US law. These instruments of terror were considered necessary, in good faith, to prevent terror. How did such a cold and utilitarian perspective of humanity – a perspective whereby the individual person can be, at a moment’s notice, subsumed into mass numerical identity as a humanoid token of calculation – come to be lived in good faith? For it is that critical leap, turning human into mechanical humanoid, that is the core of the controversy and outrage of Yoo’s work in the Bush administration. The possibility of a sudden transformation from human to humanoid should be terrifying to more than just enemy combatants plucked from the battlefields of Afghanistan. Could you imagine your senator or congressman or hometown mayor saying: “Sorry, y’all, for this torture n’ all, but we’ll put an end to it once we develop technology to directly extract information from your brain… y’know, like we do from a black box from a plane crash?” – always helpfully putting the discussion in accessible terms – “That’s why we voted to fund research at this university, after all…” The prospect of anyone in our democratic government propounding such a view is unthinkable, and yet John Yoo and the Bush Six, as the other top officials in the Bush Administration have become known, not only thought it but did it, from the shadows, unaccountable to the American people.

Such a cynical ideology is far more pervasive than just Yoo. The outrageous torture memo is, at its core, aligned with both neoliberal reasoning which considers torture (or any human question) on the basis of a “cost-benefit” analysis or utilitarian tradeoff, and neoconservative rhetoric which propounds torture as an unquestionable necessity. Setting aside empirical evidence against the ability of torture to render reliable intelligence, all such arguments remove a human being’s humanity entirely from the matter, and thus imply that torture’s goals are acceptable even if the current method is not. That such a view is widely entertained is the result of no conspiracy theory, but what we see as a national existential malaise brought on ever-so-steadily as cultural and technology evolution have disconnected us from each other. The case of John Yoo and the Bush Six is just a particular instantiation of a much more widespread ideology that has begun to see us, as human beings, as abstract units to be controlled and quelled and kept at a safe distance. Fearful of the irrational forces of desire that exist in the human mind, this ideology demands a brutal and unrelenting order: at the individual level, that these forces be locked away, and at the societal level, when desires run orthogonal to any particular individual, that they be manipulated for society’s own good. Whether justice is brought to bear in this case or not, we, as a people, must reject any line of thought that would seek to deny us our own humanity.

One consequence of this human to humanoid ideological shift is promotion for a so-called “market democracy,” where matters of society are handled solely by the rules of and the faith in the free market: if the people want it, then the market will reflect that demand, thus bringing democracy in its purest and fairest sense to all people. We disagree that an idea hatched in such rarefied ideological air can survive in reality, not without growing into a monster. A market system ignores the checks and balances built into democracy as we currently know it to prevent minorities from being trampled by the majority; “pure” majority rule is mob rule, not only tyrannous in itself but susceptible to extraordinary delusions and the tyranny of a manipulator. The widespread belief that The Free Market Is God cannot help but be contrasted with an equally widespread but oppositely aligned belief of animosity for our American government.

In his 1958 essay, “Two Kinds of Liberty,” Isaiah Berlin discusses the difference between the negative and positive freedoms, on which the relationship between an individual and society is built. Negative liberty is constituted of constraints that society has defined for the individual, with the implication that the individual has the freedom to do anything that he or she is not explicitly denied. Positive liberty, in compliment, is the freedom implied in “free will”, the self-determination that allows one to care for and change the world around them. This differentiation is important as an instance of one kind necessarily negates the existence of the other for any particular case, and both are needed for any healthy society. The great triumph of democracy is the right of all citizens to proactive involvement in their government, placing the positive liberty of self-determination in command of that great arbiter of negative liberties. Thus democracy signifies a subjugation of negative liberty to positive free will, while retaining negative liberties as a counterbalance.

Thus a society dependent on a pure market system of rule does not represent true democracy for two reasons:

First, a regulatory body of negative rights is no longer ultimately subordinate to positive rights; it is absent entirely. The recent economic disaster has demonstrated the massively deleterious ramifications of even negligent regulation; consider a similar disaster afflicting not only the national budget and your pocketbook, but the nation itself, your liberties and physical security.

Second, the human desires which constitute free will, and thus the self-determination guaranteed by our system of democracy, manifest themselves within that system by sustained efforts: voting is instantaneous, but campaigning for a preferred candidate or issue is what controls the vote, and candidates committed to running for office is prerequisite for a vote. Such efforts to change the government by campaigning can be considered linear, as vectors of self-determination; only after these vectors have run their course is an instantaneous point of measure taken in a vote. Short-circuiting this process to yield the derivative instantly does not measure the true will of the constituency, with their human need for time to advance their campaigns. A marketplace may provide a majority, but as a snapshot on a curve fluctuating faster than human reason; all semblance of voting reflecting considered opinion is replaced by commodified desires, simple machines that produce simple, free-floating cravings. A market of desire is a system built from a fundamental, crass reductionism.

A market is Darwinian by nature, and thus a market of desire ranks the biggest, purest, and most HUNGRY desires as most valuable: those iron-clad, invincible base instincts, unaffected by rhyme or reason or community. The great danger of such a system lies in the fact that its will is arbitrated by the power that arbitrates all markets – capital. Whether a market is a fair way of appropriating human resources is a separate matter, but on the matter of appropriating the resource of human consciousness, the danger is absolute: it is the path to Fascism, as we understand as totalitarianism developed by and channeled through mass movements. Propagandists, like Frank Luntz, George Lakoff, and Clotaire Rapaille, would seek to design an interface into our desire, little buttons that manipulate a part in order to manipulate the whole – and all you need to press a button is capital. Corporations such as Forrester and IDC seek to create a user manual to the humanoid, a handy guide that shows which buttons to push and how to amplify the effects of a push through identity/wedge politics – and all you need to give for this helpful info is capital. But as these subversive manipulations are externally induced into our consciousness, their presence as part of the whole is not coherent, and inducing cognitive dissonance is hardly in the rational self interest of the individual, or eventually, of society. While the mind of a human being is an unquestionably hardy creation, the end point for an individual in a market of desire is the same desperate, psychotic insanity that occurs any time that irrational desire overwhelms conscious will – effects seen in the likes of Joseph Stack, Malik Hasan, Jack Bedell, and the very same fundamentalist terrorist suicide bombers that our war on terror is targeted against.

I conclude that democracy powered through the derivative of free will is not a democracy of human beings, but a pathological ideology that leads to fascism, which, we reiterate for clarity, we understand as totalitarianism developed by and channeled through mass movements. For it is through this ideology and its utilitarian view of humanity that the Patriot Act, which sanctions dictatorial powers for the executive branch as long as it can maintain a state of perpetual war, was authored by John Yoo and the Bush Six in good faith. It was through this ideology that silent, warrantless surveillance of American citizens was demanded by John Yoo and the Bush Six in good faith. And it follows only from this ideology that a justification of torture and reduction of human beings to mere flesh-covered containers of information is possible in good faith. The ideology of John Yoo is the ideology of Fascism and THAT, in its totality, is what we have come here today to protest.  It is time for the rest of us regular and reasonable people to assert that moral responsibility, not torture, is what we must derive from good faith.

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