Monthly Archives: September 2009

Hell-Bent On Murderous Mayhem?

The New York Daily News reports on the obviously innocent Islamist “community organizers” whom the racist FBI and NYPD believe to have been planning a Madrid-style attack on New York City’s transportation system:

Detectives were combing Queens storage facilities on Monday for stockpiled explosive chemicals that Al Qaeda terror thugs [ a bit judgmental, aren’t we?] planned to use to bomb New York, sources said.

At the same time, the Daily News has learned that prime terror suspect Najibullah Zazi has confessed [obviously as a result of torture inflicted by Bush holdovers not yet rooted out and investigated by Eric Holder] he was a jihadist hell-bent on murderous mayhem, the sources said.

NYPD investigators, in coordination with the FBI, hit chemical and fertilizer companies looking for customers who bought bulk and paid cash – and they were also showing up at storage centers in Long Island City.

Investigators believe they were going to use the units to mix chemicals for explosives.

“They’re full on, and still going full bore,” a counterterror official said of the bomb hunt.

The Department of Homeland Security at the same time has issued a nationwide bulletin asking cops to look at storage facilities.

“Operation Nexus” took on an extra urgency after raids on Queens apartments Zazi visited turned up knapsacks and cell phones. The exact targets are not known, but the find raised the specter of simultaneous blasts like the 2004 attack that killed 191 commuters in Spain…

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Learning The Wrong Lesson

Canadian columnist David Warren on the consequences of rewriting history to justify pacifist appeasement:

Today is the eighth anniversary of the day after 9/11. This newspaper being an artifact of modern printing, I am of course filing this column on the anniversary of the day itself. In my first column on the terror attacks, written on the day, for the day after, I quoted Rudyard Kipling:

“Our world has passed away, / In wantonness o’er-thrown. / There is nothing left today, / But steel and fire and stone.”

It is from a poem written at the outset of the First World War. Kipling was prophetic.

That poem begins (and is entitled) For All We Have and Are. It was quite frankly a call to arms, such that the line immediately preceding the passage I quoted reads: “The Hun is at the gate.” It tells Englishmen they are now at war, that they must stand and fight, and that even if everything dear to them is lost, the old Commandments stand. “In courage keep your heart, / In strength lift up your hand.”

So far so “war-mongering,” I am perfectly aware that far fewer of my own contemporaries have the stomach for this kind of instruction, than had Kipling’s. Part of the reason is our taught memory of that First World War. It has been presented in our schoolbooks as a great waste of lives.

It was not. The challenge to Europe of Prussian militarism was not an illusion. Germany’s bid for the mastery of Europe was faced down, at terrible cost in human lives, exacerbated to be sure by terrible mistakes on the battlefields. We judge the generals only in smug hindsight, however.

The real, excruciating tragedy was that Germany, after the rise of Hitler, had to be defeated again. We’re taught, falsely, to blame the “mistakes of Versailles.” The implied lesson — that we must never again impose such harsh reparations on a defeated enemy — is nearly the opposite of the one we should have taken away.

The mistake we actually made was not pursuing that war to its conclusion, with a full invasion of Germany, to obtain an unconditional surrender. Such an invasion would have visited reciprocally on the people of Germany the experience of the people of France: the total violation of their security and dignity by German invaders; the humiliation that contributed to the pusillanimity of France in the next generation.

Germans were left with the possibility of believing that they hadn’t really lost the war, that they had been somehow cheated at Versailles, that in the upshot of their military aggression they were somehow victims not perpetrators; that scores remained to be settled.

This is precisely what made the Hitler phenomenon possible in Germany. And it was the bitter experience of 1945 — the unconditional surrender of Germany, in the ruins of Berlin — that ultimately cleansed the German nation of militarist ambitions.

The Second World War was the unfinished business of the First World War; just as in our own time the second Iraq War was the unfinished business of the first.

Again: I know that most of my readers will flinch from such an assessment. This is the flinch that has made it impossible to pursue the unfinished business of 9/11. We have dawdled bloodily and painfully in Afghanistan and Iraq, to no foreseeable conclusion. The forces of Islamist chauvinism have not been defeated. They have instead revived, in Iran, Syria, Libya, and many other Middle Eastern nations, cowed at first by the sight of American arms. Even the Taliban have revived, to threaten Pakistan as well as Afghanistan, in the end thanks to our own pulled punches.

It is much worse than that. We have the spectacle of open co-operation between enemies of the West across ideological boundaries. We see this in the alliance between Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela and Ahmadinejad’s Iran; in constant significant diplomatic exchanges between all the enemies of the U.S.; in renewed Russian and Chinese malice.

And when we turn to the United States itself, we have the spectacle of the Obama administration, now seeking to prosecute the very people — very decent people so far as I have met them myself — who had the unwelcome job of protecting Americans from fresh domestic terror strikes. We have innumerable signals of apology and weakness from the same administration on almost every international front…

OK, but…

Cartoon from Ramirez

Shades of John C. Calhoun?

Here we go. I said during the campaign that Barry and his apologists would wave the bloody shirt of racism when they got into trouble.

Here’s MoDo:

… Surrounded by middle-aged white guys — a sepia snapshot of the days when such pols ran Washington like their own men’s club — Joe Wilson yelled “You lie!” at a president who didn’t.

But, fair or not, what I heard was an unspoken word in the air: You lie, boy!

The outburst was unexpected from a milquetoast Republican backbencher from South Carolina who had attracted little media attention. Now it has made him an overnight right-wing hero, inspiring “You lie!” bumper stickers and T-shirts.

The congressman, we learned, belonged to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, led a 2000 campaign to keep the Confederate flag waving above South Carolina’s state Capitol and denounced as a “smear” the true claim of a black woman that she was the daughter of Strom Thurmond, the ’48 segregationist candidate for president. Wilson clearly did not like being lectured and even rebuked by the brainy black president presiding over the majestic chamber.

I’ve been loath to admit that the shrieking lunacy of the summer — the frantic efforts to paint our first black president as the Other, a foreigner, socialist, fascist, Marxist, racist, Commie, Nazi; a cad who would snuff old people; a snake who would indoctrinate kids — had much to do with race.

I tended to agree with some Obama advisers that Democratic presidents typically have provoked a frothing response from paranoids — from Father Coughlin against F.D.R. to Joe McCarthy against Truman to the John Birchers against J.F.K. and the vast right-wing conspiracy against Bill Clinton.

But Wilson’s shocking disrespect for the office of the president — no Democrat ever shouted “liar” at W. when he was hawking a fake case for war in Iraq — convinced me: Some people just can’t believe a black man is president and will never accept it.

“A lot of these outbursts have to do with delegitimizing him as a president,” said Congressman Jim Clyburn, a senior member of the South Carolina delegation. Clyburn, the man who called out Bill Clinton on his racially tinged attacks on Obama in the primary, pushed Pelosi to pursue a formal resolution chastising Wilson.

“In South Carolina politics, I learned that the olive branch works very seldom,” he said. “You have to come at these things from a position of strength. My father used to say, ‘Son, always remember that silence gives consent.’ ”

Barry Obama of the post-’60s Hawaiian ’hood did not live through the major racial struggles in American history. Maybe he had a problem relating to his white basketball coach or catching a cab in New York, but he never got beaten up for being black.

Now he’s at the center of a period of racial turbulence sparked by his ascension. Even if he and the coterie of white male advisers around him don’t choose to openly acknowledge it, this president is the ultimate civil rights figure — a black man whose legitimacy is constantly challenged by a loco fringe.

For two centuries, the South has feared a takeover by blacks or the feds. In Obama, they have both.

The state that fired the first shot of the Civil War has now given us this: Senator Jim DeMint exhorted conservatives to “break” the president by upending his health care plan. Rusty DePass, a G.O.P. activist, said that a gorilla that escaped from a zoo was “just one of Michelle’s ancestors.” Lovelorn Mark Sanford tried to refuse the president’s stimulus money. And now Joe Wilson.

“A good many people in South Carolina really reject the notion that we’re part of the union,” said Don Fowler, the former Democratic Party chief who teaches politics at the University of South Carolina. He observed that when slavery was destroyed by outside forces and segregation was undone by civil rights leaders and Congress, it bred xenophobia.

“We have a lot of people who really think that the world’s against us,” Fowler said, “so when things don’t happen the way we like them to, we blame outsiders.” He said a state legislator not long ago tried to pass a bill to nullify any federal legislation with which South Carolinians didn’t agree. Shades of John C. Calhoun!

It may be President Obama’s very air of elegance and erudition that raises hackles in some. “My father used to say to me, ‘Boy, don’t get above your raising,’ ” Fowler said. “Some people are prejudiced anyway, and then they look at his education and mannerisms and get more angry at him.”…

Let’s see if I got this right. A guy yells, “You lie” during Barry’s campaign-style speech in which he accused his health care critics of lying, and we’re to conclude that to oppose Barry is racist?

I’d like to know whether any president has ever before given such a blatantly partisan speech before Congress.

The Misguided Loyalty of American Jews

Norman Podhoretz wrestles with the puzzle that is: Why Are Jews Liberals?:

…Jews … remain far more heavily committed to the liberal agenda than any of their old ethno-religious New Deal partners. As the eminent sociologist Nathan Glazer has put it, “whatever the promptings of their economic interests,” Jews have consistently supported “increased government spending, expanded benefits to the poor and lower classes, greater regulations on business, and the power of organized labor.”

As with these old political and economic questions, so with the newer issues being fought out in the culture wars today. On abortion, gay rights, school prayer, gun control and assisted suicide, the survey data show that Jews are by far the most liberal of any group in America.

Most American Jews sincerely believe that their liberalism, together with their commitment to the Democratic Party as its main political vehicle, stems from the teachings of Judaism and reflects the heritage of “Jewish values.” But if this theory were valid, the Orthodox would be the most liberal sector of the Jewish community. After all, it is they who are most familiar with the Jewish religious tradition and who shape their lives around its commandments.

Yet the Orthodox enclaves are the only Jewish neighborhoods where Republican candidates get any votes to speak of. Even more telling is that on every single cultural issue, the Orthodox oppose the politically correct liberal positions taken by most other American Jews precisely because these positions conflict with Jewish law. To cite just a few examples: Jewish law permits abortion only to protect the life of the mother; it forbids sex between men; and it prohibits suicide (except when the only alternatives are forced conversion or incest).

The upshot is that in virtually every instance of a clash between Jewish law and contemporary liberalism, it is the liberal creed that prevails for most American Jews. Which is to say that for them, liberalism has become more than a political outlook. It has for all practical purposes superseded Judaism and become a religion in its own right. And to the dogmas and commandments of this religion they give the kind of steadfast devotion their forefathers gave to the religion of the Hebrew Bible. For many, moving to the right is invested with much the same horror their forefathers felt about conversion to Christianity.

All this applies most fully to Jews who are Jewish only in an ethnic sense. Indeed, many such secular Jews, when asked how they would define “a good Jew,” reply that it is equivalent to being a good liberal.

But avowed secularists are not the only Jews who confuse Judaism with liberalism; so do many non-Orthodox Jews who practice this or that traditional observance. It is not for nothing that a cruel wag has described the Reform movement—the largest of the religious denominations within the American Jewish community—as “the Democratic Party with holidays thrown in,” and the services in a Reform temple as “the Democratic Party at prayer.”

As a Jew who moved from left to right more than four decades ago, I have been hoping for many years that my fellow Jews would come to see that in contrast to what was the case in the past, our true friends are now located not among liberals, but among conservatives.

Of course in speaking of the difference between left and right, or between liberals and conservatives, I have in mind a divide wider than the conflict between Democrats and Republicans and deeper than electoral politics. The great issue between the two political communities is how they feel about the nature of American society. With all exceptions duly noted, I think it fair to say that what liberals mainly see when they look at this country is injustice and oppression of every kind—economic, social and political. By sharp contrast, conservatives see a nation shaped by a complex of traditions, principles and institutions that has afforded more freedom and, even factoring in periodic economic downturns, more prosperity to more of its citizens than in any society in human history. It follows that what liberals believe needs to be changed or discarded—and apologized for to other nations—is precisely what conservatives are dedicated to preserving, reinvigorating and proudly defending against attack.

In this realm, too, American Jewry surely belongs with the conservatives rather than the liberals. For the social, political and moral system that liberals wish to transform is the very system in and through which Jews found a home such as they had never discovered in all their forced wanderings throughout the centuries over the face of the earth.[emphasis added]

The Jewish immigrants who began coming here from Eastern Europe in the 1880s were right to call America “the golden land.” They soon learned that there was no gold in the streets, as some of them may have imagined, which meant that they had to struggle, and struggle hard. But there was another, more precious kind of gold in America. There was freedom and there was opportunity. Blessed with these conditions, we children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of these immigrants flourished—and not just in material terms—to an extent unmatched in the history of our people.

What I am saying is that if anything bears eloquent testimony to the infinitely precious virtues of the traditional American system, it is the Jewish experience in this country. Surely, then, we Jews ought to be joining with its defenders against those who are blind or indifferent or antagonistic to the philosophical principles, the moral values, and the socioeconomic institutions on whose health and vitality the traditional American system depends. [emphasis added]

In 2008, we were faced with a candidate who ran to an unprecedented degree on the premise that the American system was seriously flawed and in desperate need of radical change—not to mention a record powerfully indicating that he would pursue policies dangerous to the security of Israel. Because of all this, I hoped that my fellow Jews would finally break free of the liberalism to which they have remained in thrall long past the point where it has served either their interests or their ideals.

That possibility having been resoundingly dashed, I now grasp for some encouragement from the signs that buyer’s remorse is beginning to set in among Jews, as it also seems to be doing among independents. Which is why I am hoping against hope that the exposure of Mr. Obama as a false messiah will at last open the eyes of my fellow Jews to the correlative falsity of the political creed he so perfectly personifies and to which they have for so long been so misguidedly loyal.

Podhoretz’s book Why Are Jews Liberals? is just out.

War And Medical Insurance

Thomas Sowell deconstructs the Democrats’ medical care strategy:

… One plain fact should outweigh all the words of Barack Obama and all the impressive trappings of the setting in which he says them: He tried to rush Congress into passing a massive government takeover of the nation’s medical care before the August recess– for a program that would not take effect until 2013!

Whatever President Obama is, he is not stupid. If the urgency to pass the medical care legislation was to deal with a problem immediately, then why postpone the date when the legislation goes into effect for years– more specifically, until the year after the next Presidential election?

If this is such an urgently needed program, why wait for years to put it into effect? And if the public is going to benefit from this, why not let them experience those benefits before the next Presidential election?

If it is not urgent that the legislation goes into effect immediately, then why don’t we have time to go through the normal process of holding Congressional hearings on the pros and cons, accompanied by public discussions of its innumerable provisions? What sense does it make to “hurry up and wait” on something that is literally a matter of life and death?

If we do not believe that the President is stupid, then what do we believe? The only reasonable alternative seems to be that he wanted to get this massive government takeover of medical care passed into law before the public understood what was in it.

Moreover, he wanted to get re-elected in 2012 before the public experienced what its actual consequences would be.

Unfortunately, this way of doing things is all too typical of the way this administration has acted on a wide range of issues…

And Bret Stephens examines the consequences of abandoning Afghanistan:

…Afghanistan matters not because that’s where 9/11 was conceived. It matters because that’s where it was imagined.

In 1979 the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. A little less than a decade later, the Soviets left, humiliated and defeated. Within months the Berlin Wall fell and two years later the USSR was no more. Westerners may debate whether credit for these events belongs chiefly to Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, Charlie Wilson or any number of people who stuck a needle in the Soviet balloon. But in Islamist mythology, it was Afghan and Arab mujahedeen who brought down the godless superpower. And if one superpower could be brought down, why not the other?

Put simply, it was the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan that laid much of the imaginative groundwork for 9/11. So imagine the sorts of notions that would take root in the minds of jihadists—and the possibilities that would open up to them—if the U.S. was to withdraw from Afghanistan in its own turn.

Notion One: Attacks on the scale of 9/11 are by no means fatal to the cause of radical Islam. On the contrary, despite the huge losses the movement has suffered over the past eight years, it would emerge from a U.S. defeat in Afghanistan with something it was denied in Iraq: a monumental political and ideological victory from which it could recruit a new field of avid jihadists. Ergo, further attacks on the U.S. homeland could yield similar long-term benefits.

Notion Two: The U.S. has no stomach for long-term counterinsurgency. Ergo, surrender or political accommodation to apparent U.S. military success is pointless; if you hold out long enough, they leave and you win.

Notion Three: The U.S. is not prepared to stand by its clients in the Third World if it believes those clients are morally tainted. That happened to South Vietnam’s Nguyen Van Thieu, it happened to the Shah of Iran and, if the U.S. leaves Afghanistan, it will happen to the lamentable Hamid Karzai. Ergo, other shaky or dubious U.S. allies in the Muslim world—Algeria, for instance, or, yes, Saudi Arabia—are prime targets for renewed assault.

Notion Four: A U.S. that doesn’t have the stomach for a relatively easy fight like Afghanistan, where even now casualties are a fraction of what they were in Iraq during the worst of the fighting, will have even less stomach for much tougher fights. Ergo, maximum efforts should go into destabilizing and, not implausibly, taking over Pakistan…

And from here the possibilities flow. Withdrawal from Afghanistan, and a Taliban takeover in Kandahar and perhaps Kabul, would plunge Afghanistan into another civil war infinitely bloodier than what we have now. Withdrawal would force Islamabad to abandon its war on terror and again come to terms with its own militants, as it did in the 1990s. Only this time, it wouldn’t be clear who is patron and who is client. Withdrawal would give Pakistan’s jihadists the freedom to shift fronts to India, with all the nightmare scenarios that entails. Withdrawal would invite the al Qaeda remnant in Iraq—already on an upswing—to redouble its efforts, and do so with the confidence that the U.S. has permanently soured on Middle Eastern interventions.

This is a partial list. The alternative is a winding and bloody struggle to defend and improve a hapless and often corrupt government in a godforsaken land of often (though by no means pervasively) ungrateful people. This is not the noblest fight, and no sane nation would wage it by choice. But we did not choose it and, if we keep our nerve, we can win it. Otherwise, the consequence will be ashes flying again in our own streets, something to remember on the eve of another 9/11 anniversary.

Can He Do Anything Right?

Yesterday on Meet the Press, the self-righteously indignant New York Times columnist Tom Friedman almost broke into tears over the idea that anyone could be so “stupid” as to object to Barry addressing America’s school children. And Ellis Henican, on the Fox News website offered this: “Why does Obama’s mere presence in office cause some of his opponents such distress? In their eyes, can he ever do anything right?” (Could his opponents be racists? Just asking.)

Apparently, Friedman and Henican forgot the 2000 presidential election which gave birth to the illness Charles Krauthammer labelled “Bush Derangement Syndrome.” That wacky election, a kind that seems to occur once a century or so, unleashed the left’s just-below-the-surface conspiracy paranoia. This paranoia is like the disease shingles: a chicken pox virus contracted in childhood that flares up painfully in middle or old age.

The left’s conspiracy paranoia first appeared in the wake of the Kennedy assassination as a result of the successful campaign, waged by Kennedy’s family and hagiographers, to turn a cold warrior president, who was at best ambivalent about the civil rights movement, into a civil rights martyr, despite the inconvenient fact that his murderer was a Communist pro-Castro fanatic. This produced extreme cognitive dissonance which, in turn, produced knee-jerk paranoia in succeeding generations of liberals.

The 2000 election inspired a level of irrational hatred of George W. Bush that surpassed even what the left directed at Nixon. To try to rationalize the irrational, the left rewrote the history of the post-9/11 era. The new official media version is that the country was united behind Bush after 9/11, that the left supported the invasion of Afghanistan, and that they only turned against Bush when he invaded Iraq. The truth is that the left, Susan Sontag and Richard Reeves for example, blamed American Middle East policy for producing the supposedly justifiable hatred that inspired the attacks. And the left did not support the Afghanistan invasion which the New York Times and other left wing sources, recycling their Vietnam War rhetoric of a previous generation, called a “quagmire” in which American soldiers wouldn’t sink, but instead would freeze to death during the “brutal Afghan winter.”

I don’t need to repeat the titles of innumerable books as well as columns from the likes of Maureen Dowd accusing Bush of the most heinous crimes against humanity, all a part of a campaign born in the wake of the 2000 election which lives on in the rhetoric of Barry and the actions of his attorney general in unleashing a prosecutor to investigate CIA agents for doing their job, that is, thwarting terrorists.

Liberals, excuse me, progressives have noted that both Reagan and the first Bush addressed school kids and nobody complained. Maybe so, but that was before November 2000 and the unleashing of the Bush Derangement Virus. Maybe liberals should recognize a similar virus when it infects conservatives and show a little understanding and compassion.

Here’s the answer to Ellis Henican’s question: “Why does Obama’s mere presence in office cause some of his opponents such distress? In their eyes, can he ever do anything right?”: Just substitute Bush for Obama, and it will all be clear.

Mercy to the Guilty, Cruelty to the Innocent

Thomas Sowell on the West’s death wish:

… In ways large and small, domestically and internationally, the West is surrendering on the installment plan to Islamic extremists.

The late Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn put his finger on the problem when he said: “The timid civilized world has found nothing with which to oppose the onslaught of a sudden revival of barefaced barbarity, other than concessions and smiles.”

He wrote this long before Barack Obama became President of the United States. But this administration epitomizes the “concessions and smiles” approach to countries that are our implacable enemies.

Western Europe has gone down that path before us but we now seem to be trying to catch up.

Still, the release of a mass-murdering terrorist, who went home to a hero’s welcome in Libya, shows that President Obama is not the only one who wants to move away from the idea of a “war on terror”– as if that will stop the terrorists’ war on us.

The ostensible reason for releasing al-Megrahi was compassion for a man terminally ill. It is ironic that this was said in Scotland, for exactly 250 years ago another Scotsman– Adam Smith– said, “Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent.”

That lesson seems to have been forgotten in America as well, where so many people seem to have been far more concerned about whether we have been nice enough to the mass-murdering terrorists in our custody than those critics have ever been about the innocent people beheaded or blown up by the terrorists themselves.

Tragically, those with this strange inversion of values include the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder. Although President Obama has said that he does not want to revisit the past, this is only the latest example of how his administration’s actions are the direct opposite of his lofty words.

It is not just a question of looking backward. The decision to second-guess CIA agents who extracted information to save American lives is even worse when you look forward.

Years from now, long after Barack Obama is gone, CIA agents dealing with hardened terrorists will have to worry about whether what they do to get information out of them to save American lives will make these agents themselves liable to prosecution that can destroy their careers and ruin their lives.

This is not simply an injustice to those who have tried to keep this country safe, it is a danger recklessly imposed on future Americans whose safety cannot always be guaranteed by sweet and gentle measures against hardened murderers.

Those who are pushing for legal action against CIA agents may talk about “upholding the law” but they are doing no such thing. Neither the Constitution of the United States nor the Geneva Convention gives rights to terrorists who operate outside the law.

There was a time when everybody understood this. German soldiers who put on American military uniforms, in order to infiltrate American lines during the Battle of the Bulge were simply lined up against a wall and shot– and nobody wrung their hands over it. Nor did the U.S. Army try to conceal what they had done. The executions were filmed and the film has been shown on the History Channel.

So many “rights” have been conjured up out of thin air that many people seem unaware that rights and obligations derive from explicit laws, not from politically correct pieties. If you don’t meet the terms of the Geneva Convention, then the Geneva Convention doesn’t protect you. If you are not an American citizen, then the rights guaranteed to American citizens do not apply to you.

That should be especially obvious if you are part of an international network bent on killing Americans. But bending over backward to be nice to our enemies is one of the many self-indulgences of those who engage in moral preening.

But getting other people killed so that you can feel puffed up about yourself is profoundly immoral. So is betraying the country you took an oath to protect.

And the usually liberal Richard Cohen, who abhors “torture,” is nonetheless worried:

Call him Ishmael.

Call him a terrorist or a suicide bomber or anything else you want, but understand that he is willing — no, anxious — to give his life for his cause. Call him also a captive, and know that he works with others as part of a team, like the 9/11 hijackers, all of whom died, willingly. Ishmael is someone I invented, but he is not a far-fetched creation. You and I know he exists, has existed and will exist again. He is the enemy.

Now he is in American custody. What will happen? How do we get him to reveal his group’s plans and the names of his colleagues? It will be hard. It will, in fact, be harder than it used to be. He can no longer be waterboarded. He knows this. He cannot be deprived of more than a set amount of sleep. He cannot be beaten or thrown up against even a soft wall. He cannot be threatened with shooting or even frightened by the prospect of an electric drill. Nothing really can be threatened against his relatives — that they will be killed or sexually abused.

He knows the new restrictions. He knows the new limits. He may even suggest to his interrogators that their jobs are on the line — that the Justice Department is looking over their shoulders. The tape is running. Everything is being recorded. He is willing to give up his life. Are his interrogators willing to give up their careers? He laughs.

This business of what constitutes torture is a complicated matter. It is further complicated by questions about its efficacy: Does it sometimes work? Does it never work? Is it always immoral? What about torture that saves lives? What if it saves many lives? What if one of those lives is your child’s?

Attorney General Eric Holder has named a special prosecutor to see whether any of the CIA’s interrogators broke the law. Special prosecutors are often themselves like interrogators — they don’t know when to stop. They go on and on because, well, they can go on and on. One of them managed to put Judith Miller of The New York Times in jail — a wee bit of torture right there. No CIA interrogator can feel safe. The interrogators are about to be interrogated.

No one can possibly believe that America is now safer because of the new restrictions on enhanced interrogation and the subsequent appointment of a special prosecutor. The captured terrorist of my fertile imagination, assuming he had access to an Internet cafe, knows about the special prosecutor. He knows his interrogator is under scrutiny. What person under those circumstances is going to spill his beans?…