Barry Eisler

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How it Looks to the Terrorists

Transcript of an intercepted conversation between two terrorists in a cave somewhere along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border:

Did you hear Dick Cheney's speech to the American Enterprise Institute last week?

I did. It was funny how Cheney said we think it shows weakness when the Americans argue.

I know. The truth is, I'm a little jealous of the way they get to argue.

I would never say this to my wife, but I think the way they argue is a sign of strength. It takes a lot of confidence to argue like that. I once tried to argue a little with Osama, and he told me if I did it again, he would cut my head off.

I know, I know, Osama doesn't like disagreement. But we have to remember, he's our leader and he knows what's best for us.

That's true. Not everyone has a leader as wise as ours. We're lucky to be able to follow him without question.

What was funny was, who cares about the arguing? And even if we did care, Cheney was arguing, too! It was funny to hear him say, "We must stop doing what I'm doing!"

Yes, that was good. It was like, "We must not be as weak as I'm being!"

In fact, it's the way they're surrendering the freedoms they claim to cherish that's so weak. One big attack and immediately they're torturing, kidnapping, wiretapping without warrants, imprisoning people without charging them... it was so easy! I thought it would be harder, but Osama was right -- America is a paper tiger.

Allahu Akhbar.

I have to admit, I was a little worried when they elected Obama. He seemed to understand that among the country's key strengths were its values.

Empty values, though.

Of course empty values. Equality, freedom, individuality, the rule of law... who wants all that when you can have submission to God, instead?

Allahu akhbar.

But still, a lot of people in the world find those values -- call them the American brand -- attractive. That's what I mean when I say American values were making America strong. Throughout history, the values attracted a lot of people to America's cause. Think of the American brand compared to the communist brand. The Soviet Union never had a chance.

Yes, I suppose that's true.

And it's a problem for us, too. Many people are so deluded that they would prefer equality, freedom, individuality, and the rule of law to submission to God. As though there could be any law but God's law!

Infidels.

Yes. But now that America is torturing, spying on it citizens without warrants, imprisoning without charge, and all the rest, the people who were attracted to America's values are recoiling. They are saying, America, the great hypocrite! And the ease with which the soft Americans have surrendered their "cherished" values shows America's enemies how weak she really is.

Then thanks be to Allah that Obama has reversed all those campaign promises.

Yes. For a while, we were afraid America was going to restore its brand and attract new followers again. But Obama is making sure not to do that. If he has his way, Americans will soon surrender more of their "values," including even this thing called "the right to a trial by jury."

You mean the US government will be able to imprison people without trial?

Yes.

US citizens?

Yes.

Forever?

Yes.

Wow. That is a huge victory for us.

Yes. And it came much more easily than we were expecting. Imagine how weak and frightened they must appear to anyone who might once have been attracted to their cause of "freedom!"

Allahu akbar.

I have to say, I don't understand their political system. The Democrats are afraid of the Republicans, and the Republicans are afraid of everything -- except the Democrats.

That is strange.

Yes. But it works for us. You know, when Bush and Cheney left office, Osama was very sad. But all the talk shows and speeches Cheney has been doing since then have given Osama a good idea.

Yes?

I really shouldn't tell you, it's a secret...

I won't say anything.

All right. What Cheney and his allies are doing is trying to convince Americans that if there's another terrorist attack, it happened because Americans didn't give up enough of their values. Because they stopped torturing, for example.

You mean...

That's right. If we can attack them again, there's a better chance than ever, thanks to the work of Cheney, that Americans will quickly surrender even more of their values. That will make them even weaker, and us stronger.

They might torture more?

If we are lucky. Their torture of the brothers is the best recruitment tool we've ever had. It has won us many committed new followers.

They're so easy to manipulate, aren't they? We must take advantage of this opportunity Cheney is giving us.

Exactly. Who would have thought Dick Cheney would go on shaping the battlefield for us, that he would find new ways even after leaving office to encourage us to attack by increasing the benefits of an attack?

Allah works in mysterious ways.

He certainly does.
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16 Comments:

Blogger c.a.communications said...

Interesting.... It's takes more than shutting up Cheney... or torture...or bombing. Don't hang around losers or listen to their sirens. Compete with yourself to be your very best, whether in a protected or invested manner and show by example, who and what one is... manage your boundries wisely. Good job, Barry.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 5:21:00 AM  
Blogger PBI said...

Good stuff, Barry!

Paul
Sensen No Sen

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 11:41:00 AM  
Blogger bystander.again said...

I suspect your imagined conversation is a good deal closer to the truth than many would like to know.

If only there could be a few in the so-called loyal opposition who would take their fingers out of their ears. And, stop with this juvenile La La La La ... I can't hear you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009 8:45:00 AM  
Blogger Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

Spot on Barry

Wednesday, May 27, 2009 3:02:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Barry, I stumbled on your novels through comments at the website of Murder by the Book, an indie retailer a brief trot from my Denver home.

Reading comments and seeing the awards you've earned, I figured to pick one of yours up there. Then I googled and read your blog and now I'm less certain.

Here's the heart of my matter (pun intended): Whatever carping might be done about America, it's a country founded on limited government and great personal freedom. We are not a socialist nation. Supporting people, political parties or platforms that would take from one group and give to another under the guise of government, who would rob from shareholders and bondholders and distribute proceeds to parties of lesser standing, well this is no less criminal than the actions of the kings and barons of old who abused power.

Cheney and Bush deserve some recimination. But save your volleys for the defense of the republic, which is under full frontal assault by the Obama regime. It's the modern embodiment of everything we defied through our Declaration of Independence from the tyranny of the crown.

We are selling our republic's birthright for some cheap, feel-good soup. It's beyond disheartening.

Tim Quast

Thursday, May 28, 2009 1:22:00 PM  
Blogger Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

Tim,

Do yourself a favour and get the books, they are worth it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009 3:04:00 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

Thanks, Sean, of course I'm inclined to agree. But there are people who can't enjoy the books if I don't share their politics, and Tim might be one of these.

Tim, forgive me for being so direct on short acquaintance, but your post is the kind of thought-free polemic that probably feels good to get out of your system but has no chance of persuading anyone. "Full frontal assault... modern embodiment of everything we defied... selling our republic's birthright..." Even if you think hysteria is warranted, what effect do you expect it to have on anyone other than fellow hysterics?

Tone aside, your comment has nothing to do with my post, except possibly as an oblique complaint that I don't share your political priorities. You're concerned about "socialism," I gather, whatever that word means to you. I'm more concerned about the rule of law than I am about whatever economic system a people might choose to implement in keeping with the law. So our priorities are different. Does this really offend you so much?

But whatever motivated you to leave your comment, I still don't understand its contents. Socialism and freedom are incommensurate? I guess I'd have to know how you're defining "socialism" before responding. I'd also be curious to know what countries you consider to be socialist, and whether you've ever visited one. Sweden is generally considered to be Socialist, for example, and until recently has been governed mostly by the Swedish Social Democratic Party. The Swedes seemed pretty free when I visited the country some years ago, but I wasn't there long, didn't travel widely, and so, I suppose, am going on not all that much in concluding that Swedes, though living under a socialist system, are free people.

You're welcome to post here, of course, but I'd be grateful if when you do so you could think more, speechify less, provide evidence in support of your arguments, and post a little more on topic.

Best,
Barry

Thursday, May 28, 2009 3:46:00 PM  
Blogger JCH said...

Barry,

I wanted to say, as a long time fan, and a regular follower of your blog, that your incisive commentary (as well as the wealth of blog posts you link to) make me weep for what passes as political "coverage" in mainstream media. Bravo for speaking plainly, cutting through oratorical BS, and staying on message. Something our political leaders could do more often.

I was writing because I was curious about your stance on military targeting of suspected terrorists. We have not declared war on anyone officially, and so at what point does our use of military assets to hunt down terrorists step outside the purview of the executive branch's Constitutionally limited ability to direct the military without consulting Congress? Could the argument be made that without a declaration of war any extended use of the military to attack citizens of another nation is, in itself, an act of war?

Just curious if you had any thoughts on the subject...

Jason

Monday, June 01, 2009 11:49:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Barry, I meant no offense! My bride Karen has said similar things to me: "Browbeating wins no converts." ;-)

Sean: thanks for suggesting I read anyway, and I will do so.

Contextually, what got my goat was the flippant manner in which our natural right to defend ourselves is treated. It disappointed me that you'd choose, by dint of imagined discussion, to place the interests of our enemies above our own.

I concede that I wandered into the weeds of socialism, but our drift toward it is part of a spiritual slide away from a defining feature of the collective American character and gravitas: we don't run from our own shadow and constantly question ourselves. Socialism is the embodiment of that mindset, because it puts safety above risk-taking, and risk-taking is inherent to the American mind.

Sweden may be prosperous. Luxembourg and Lichtenstein have two of the highest per capita incomes on the planet. Freedom isn't about the assurance of prosperity, but the right to fail.

As to rule of law, this is the one that irks me most. To on one hand decry torture as a breach of the rule of law, while breaching the Constitution -- our supreme rule of explicit law -- at every turn is the height of hypocrisy.

As Darwin said, "Great is the power of steady misrepresentation." While we're wrapped up in the morality of torture, our Constitution -- the agreement between states establishing boundaries for government -- is being dismissed.

I've been moved in the past year more than any time in my life to stand up in defense of freedom. We are a free, good, kind and generous people. We don't have to apologize for ourselves, and we sure as hell don't need to become Europe. Again. This has nothing to do with prosperity, and everything to do with the differences of human spirit.

Here's an analogy: Like the American Indians, I simply want to come and go as I please and do no harm, so quit trying to take my land, my freedom, my way of life and my damn horses. So to speak. ;-)

Best,

Tim Quast

Thursday, June 04, 2009 8:57:00 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Two more things if I may:

1) I'm opposed to torture in any and all forms. But you don't tell your enemies, "You bring a gun to the fight if you want. I'm sticking with this knife. Period."

There is a naivete about human nature that has developed in the American psyche lately. Just because you're nice to everyone does not mean they'll be nice back to you. Having that mindset as your geopolitical policy plank is suicidal and foolish.

2) And Gitmo is terrible. I'm completely opposed to it. I would never hold these people with no form of redress, even though it happens all the time to POWs in wars. I would propose instead that we inform the nations whose citizens we hold there that they can either take their people back, or we'll shoot them. This is a simple, Solomonic solution. ;-)

Thursday, June 04, 2009 9:08:00 AM  
Blogger Barry said...

Jason, great question, and not something I know enough about to offer a meaningful opinion.

Which perhaps offers a nice segue into Tim's latest comments. Tim, send me a scan of your passport where it's stamped Sweden, Luxembourg, and Lichtenstein -- the three countries (among others, no doubt) of which you claim knowledge sufficient to support your (completely off-topic) opinions -- along with a PayPal account number, and I'll send you $100.

Why people are so wedded to opinions -- so wedded they imagine they have a factual basis for holding them -- will forever mystify me.

In the course of apologizing for causing any offense, you say, "It disappointed me that you'd choose, by dint of imagined discussion, to place the interests of our enemies above our own." Well sometimes I can get offended by an accusation of treason, but ordinarily the accusation has to be at least minimally relevant and barely coherent first. So no worries.

The rest is just too powerfully argued and keenly insightful to warrant anything other than awe as a response. "Just because you're nice to everyone does not mean they'll be nice back to you," for example. As devastating as it is enlightening, especially when you consider that if you don't torture anyone it means you're being nice to everyone. This equation is not immediately obvious to the untrained mind and not everyone would realize it.

Here's what I said in my previous comment addressed to you:

"You're welcome to post here, of course, but I'd be grateful if when you do so you could think more, speechify less, provide evidence in support of your arguments, and post a little more on topic."

Given that you seem unable to follow the advice in the paragraph above, please consider whether HOTM is the wrong kind of blog for you. There are thousands of others where your style of discussion would be welcome. Why not give them a try?

Best wishes,
Barry

Thursday, June 04, 2009 3:42:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Barry, it's your blog, so apologies for cluttering it. You're right, I ran long.

The World Bank rankings of per capita income show Luxembourg at the top, while Lichtenstein's rank, due to its small population, is subject to interpretation. Nominally, it's the highest in the world at roughly $120,000 equivalent US dollars. I've not been to either, but I have traveled extensively throughout the world (I'll be in Italy shortly), even living for a year in Sri Lanka. See my letter on that experience in the June 1 WSJ. My first, firsthand experience with death and terrorism.

I don't claim that my views are correct for you, just so long as your views don't become legislative mandates that rob me of inalienable rights to mine, and my pursuit of happiness. ;-)

I see common ground! I absolutely share your ruthless commitment to views backed by reason, fact and well-turned argument. You didn't rebut my points, however; you just questioned my intellect. Okay, fine, but that doesn't constitute substantive Aristotelian repartee, my friend.



Best wishes,

Tim Quast

Thursday, June 04, 2009 4:20:00 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

Tim, when your arguments are this gelatinous, you can't reasonably complain when someone doesn't bother nailing them to the wall. I know what follows won't make sense to you, but for anyone who's still reading and looking for a guide to styles of discussion I welcome here and styles I discourage, I hope this will be helpful. And please note -- again -- that word, "style." This isn't about the substance of your argument -- honestly, I'm not even sure I know what your substantive point is, or even if you have one. Instead, this is about your lack of coherence.

By way of illustration: anyone is welcome to post here with a topic sentence such as "Torture is good." Or, "Enhanced interrogation is not torture." Or, "Torture is generally not good, but when we do it it is necessary." Etc. But you have to support such opinions with evidence and argument, not with irrelevant, solipsistic, pseudo-arguments about, for example, socialism and the American spirit. So:

"We don't run from our own shadow and constantly question ourselves."

Impossibly vague. How can you complain that someone won't engage you when in effect you've said nothing?

"Socialism... puts safety above risk-taking, and risk-taking is inherent to the American mind."

Thank you for defining your term, but you're still fixated on socialism while commenting on a blog post on torture.

You quoted Darwin. Here's one from Churchill: "A fanatic is a man who can't change his mind and won't change the subject."

"Freedom isn't about the assurance of prosperity, but the right to fail."

Do you really believe anyone would argue that freedom=assurance of prosperity? Did I argue that? Why are you making these points? You're giving speeches about a topic that, while clearly important to you, has nothing to do with the discussion here. Do you do this in the real world, too? How does it go over with the people you do it to?

"As to rule of law, this is the one that irks me most."

The rule of law irks you? The most?

"To on one hand decry torture as a breach of the rule of law, while breaching the Constitution -- our supreme rule of explicit law -- at every turn is the height of hypocrisy."

Are you saying some breaches are worse than others? Or that torture is not a breach? If the former, do you see how there's no meat in your statement, that it's just pontificating? If the latter, please refer to some of the links in my posts, in particular to the UNCAT and Article VI of the Constitution you claim to venerate.

"As Darwin said, 'Great is the power of steady misrepresentation.'"

Indeed.

"While we're wrapped up in the morality of torture, our Constitution -- the agreement between states establishing boundaries for government -- is being dismissed."

Again: do you see how there's no meat in your statement, that it's just pontificating? Perhaps you know exactly what you mean, and therefore assume your point is so obvious, and so obviously compelling, it requires no evidence, explanation, or argument. There's a word for such a view: narcissism.

And who is it that's "wrapped up in the morality" of torture? Torture is illegal. The people who want to get themselves wrapped up in the morality of it all do so to avoid the excruciatingly obvious point that torture is a crime.

[continued below]

Thursday, June 04, 2009 5:29:00 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

"I've been moved in the past year more than any time in my life to stand up in defense of freedom. We are a free, good, kind and generous people."

There is a point to this?

"We don't have to apologize for ourselves, and we sure as hell don't need to become Europe."

We are not just good, kind, and generous, then -- we are actually perfect. How can the world not recognize something so obvious?

And becoming Europe... again, your points are so vague that it's almost as though you're speaking in a code comprehensible only to you.

"This has nothing to do with prosperity, and everything to do with the differences of human spirit. Here's an analogy: Like the American Indians, I simply want to come and go as I please and do no harm, so quit trying to take my land, my freedom, my way of life and my damn horses."

See my comment above.

"I'm opposed to torture in any and all forms. But you don't tell your enemies, "You bring a gun to the fight if you want. I'm sticking with this knife. Period."

You can't say you're opposed to something in any and all forms and then follow the statement with a "but." Especially when what follows the "but" is as vague, silly, and meaningless as a cliche about knives and guns.

"There is a naivete about human nature that has developed in the American psyche lately. Just because you're nice to everyone does not mean they'll be nice back to you."

Thanked you for this insight already.

"Having that mindset as your geopolitical policy plank is suicidal and foolish."

I imagine it would be, if anyone actually thought this way outside your imagination.

"And Gitmo is terrible. I'm completely opposed to it. I would never hold these people with no form of redress, even though it happens all the time to POWs in wars. I would propose instead that we inform the nations whose citizens we hold there that they can either take their people back, or we'll shoot them. This is a simple, Solomonic solution."

And a particularly interesting one, from someone who purports to venerate the Constitution.

"I don't claim that my views are correct for you, just so long as your views don't become legislative mandates that rob me of inalienable rights to mine, and my pursuit of happiness."

As I've said, your views, whatever they are, are not the problem.

"I see common ground! I absolutely share your ruthless commitment to views backed by reason, fact and well-turned argument."

An easy point to proclaim -- as easy, in fact, as George Bush repeatedly proclaiming that We Do Not Torture. I wish your behavior were equal to it.

"You didn't rebut my points, however; you just questioned my intellect. Okay, fine, but that doesn't constitute substantive Aristotelian repartee, my friend."

As I said, it's hard to rebut points as gelatinous as yours. The best I can do is point out why they're like jello. I didn't question your intellect and in fact have no opinion on it. Not knowing how to argue or otherwise express yourself effectively isn't necessarily a sign of any overall intellectual deficit.

Thanks for respecting my wish that you take your style of discussion elsewhere, Tim, and good luck.

Best,
Barry

Thursday, June 04, 2009 5:29:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

You made me chuckle, Barry! And I do stand corrected now about your not having offered riposte (re-post?).

In regard to its content, I'd however refer back to your comment:

"Your post is the kind of thought-free polemic that probably feels good to get out of your system but has no chance of persuading anyone."

;-) I couldn't resist. Glad my gelatinous goo grabbed well enough to make you feel like sticking it to me!

I'll leave you be now, with best wishes,

Tim Quast

Friday, June 05, 2009 6:27:00 AM  
Blogger designer88 said...

"Human beings the world over say they want to contribute to the well-being of others, to connect and communicate with others in loving, compassionate ways. Why, then, is there so much disharmony and conflict?"
Well after reading about your one 'blog' part about active talking and listening, and how to make clear statements, seeing all sides, researching,-then make a proper opinion, it's obvious most people seem to only want to hear what they want to hear and shut off all others. This is the essence of one-on-one discussions; everyone wants to be right to a degree. People are unactively listening, thinking mostly about what they're ready to talk about, and not full engaged or really caring with compassion about what the other person said. As you said-"Pending the article on how to argue, I'll just say this: if you want your argument to be persuasive, and if you
hope to be taken at all seriously, at a minimum you have to: (i) familiarize yourself with what's being discussed,
whether it's an interview, an article, or the comments of other posters; (ii) respond to points that other people are
making, ideally by quoting their exact words; and (iii) understand the difference between opinion and evidence and use
the latter to bolster the former."

This is then should be the way to communicate by politicians; the fact they have a solid stance on their own agenda, & will stand by their opinion so deeply, even if they know it's ot quite right. They're scared to be in the wrong, or scared they may have to 'remap their facts & change their opinion, if proven not correct. So as when, I believe it was Cheney's wife, said that Obama shouldn't have got the Nobel Peace Prize, her mouth opened before her brain did. It just comes out from their self absorbed prior stance on issues that are so imbedded in their mind, that just like George Bush -they will say things without much thought, unless they had a paper to refer to, or someone write their speech or opinion for them with substance and logic.
The problem we have with one to one discussions is the lack of 'Emphathic Listening' skills, so without this skill, it is so easy to bolster conflict. One on one to world discussion, beween political leaders is the same way, but on a larger scale, having people go and support one opinion or the other,-now it's a huge communications dilema, hard to resolve, unless in the beginning both parties in talking and listening were doing it with emphathically,compassion and with clearly understanding each other.

Without this skill, it is why we will keep on having disharmony and conflict in our world.
http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/empathic_listening/

-Vesa Peltonen.

Monday, October 12, 2009 5:05:00 PM  

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