Monthly Archives: November 2015

Moral realism?

The article below makes an effort to prioritize, with respect to our national interest, the degrees to which America should deal with distasteful regimes.

Dealing with Bad Allies: The Case for Moral Realism

IN THE West Wing episode “The Women of Qumar,” the White House concludes a $1.5 billion arms sale to the fictional country of Qumar on the Persian Gulf in exchange for an extended lease on a base for the U.S. Air Force. C. J.

China bulking up at sea with carriers

It is worth considering China’s long term strategy with the addition of these carriers. What will be the effect on world order as China’s military strength increases? We should remember that the Chinese government does not honor human rights: Artists and political dissidents face jail and abuse under China’s system.

An article below from Ars Technica discusses the carrier effort:

China moving full speed ahead in construction of aircraft carriers

The Liaoning, the PLA Navy’s first carrier, commissioned in 2012. The J-15 fighter, based on a Russian design, can barely get itself off the deck of the Liaoning with a weapons load. A catapult launch and arrested landing test facility in China, revealed in a March satellite image.




Journalist Graeme Wood provides compelling reporting on ISIS

I encourage Americans who have an intellectual or professional stake in understanding ISIS to peruse Mr. Wood’s articles on ISIS and other affairs in the Middle East. He is a uniquely talented writer. In a 2014 article linked below he divides ISIS’s fighters into three types:

The Three Types of People Who Fight for ISIS

The second group is more pious. Call them the True Believers. They are drawn to the caliph himself, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi-a man with a deep, if also horrifying and heterodox, understanding of Islam. Among the Europeans who have flocked to Raqqa, Syria-the seat of the Islamic State-one sees not just blood-spattered young men but families.


— Marcus

The tap code and candidate Trump

When I was a young man, a Vietnam veteran and former prisoner of war came to our church. The veteran demonstrated the staccato knocking patterns that he and his fellow prisoners used to communicate — known as the tap code — to maintain esprit de corps while exposed to years of detention and torture.

A few months ago, presidential candidate Donald Trump casually denied the heroism of Senator John McCain, who suffered torture as a POW in Vietnam: “He’s not a war hero.” With the same callousness he now speaks about waterboarding: “Even if it doesn’t work they deserve it.” I’ll take this opportunity to remind Mr. Trump that America once executed Japanese soldiers for crimes that included water torture. I’ll also remind him that to suffer torture while maintaining the wherewithal to communicate in code requires the kind of genius and resiliency that define heroism.

Trump is a divisive, boorish and unpresidential man. His speeches, rambling farragos of Archie Bunker-style populism, are more-suited for the barracks of social media than the lecterns of world power; they demonstrate his inadequacy for leadership. The veterans below, on behalf of Ohio Governor and presidential candidate  John Kasich, further make the case:


— Marcus

Saudi Arabia, our ally, may execute a poet

Longtime American partner Saudi Arabia recently sentenced a poet to death for the crime of renouncing Islam. An article in the Guardian (linked below) profiles the case of Ashraf Fayadh, a Palestinian-Saudi artist who has participated in shows in the Middle East and Europe (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and Venice, Italy). Ashraf believes that the death sentence — in addition to punishing his secularism — may also be a response to a video he shared online that was critical of the religious police, as well as a reflection of bias against his Palestinian ethnic origins.

These excerpts from a 2014 NewsWeek story describe the grim future Ashraf now faces:

“Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea and Somalia are the only countries in the world that still execute people in public.”

“But even in death, you are not liberated. Your murder is meant to be a sign to the people in the crowd that Saudi Arabia does not tolerate dissent. A loudspeaker announces your crime. Your body may be taken away to be buried immediately. But if you were accused of banditry or drug smuggling, like seven Yemenis who were beheaded last year, your corpse will also be crucified.”

“There are different methods of crucifying the headless. Hoisting a decapitated body up on a crane is one way, but more likely a pole will be used. And while the headless corpse is mounted, your head is placed in a plastic bag similar to the ones put on the ground to catch the blood. Your head is then raised above your body and appears to be floating and detached. Your corpse might be kept in that position for up to four days, as a grotesque warning to others of what might happen if they stray outside the law.”

Extreme societies breed extreme citizens: Recall that the majority of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudis (ironically, none were Iraqi or Afghani). We have a duty to the victims of 9/11 to encourage Saudi Arabia to move toward a more enlightened, tolerant society. We should push for the release of this innocent man.

— Marcus

Saudi court sentences poet to death for renouncing Islam

A Palestinian poet and leading member of Saudi Arabia’s nascent contemporary art scene has been sentenced to death for renouncing Islam. A Saudi court on Tuesday ordered the execution of Ashraf Fayadh, who has curated art shows in Jeddah and at the Venice Biennale.


Candidate Trump hacks democracy, wants more waterboarding

Since this fight’s been picked:

Donald Trump, blowhard, builder of tacky hotels, and presidential candidate, said this morning that he’d be fine with America reinstating waterboarding. That Trump is a meat-head carnival barker (the clinical term is pathological narcissist) is a tautology. But that his irresponsible rhetoric is consequentially dangerous to the world may be missed on some, and so I’ll make a note of it here, despite my better instincts not to feed this beast (and I’ll break this down to a simple list so Mr. Trump may be better able to understand):

Mr. Trump,

  1. Terrorism is an international phenomena.
  2. We need our allies to cooperate with us and trust us to combat terror.
  3. Supporting torture undermines that trust, and is also immoral, illegal, and counterproductive.
  4. Therefore, we should not torture.

It is neither courageous nor hard-nosed to endorse torture. It is cowardly and weak. America needs leaders who understand these issues better than Trump.

Oh, and democracy-hacker? In the same way that the Kardashians, who share Trump’s taste for trashy, gilded decor, have made a rich kid’s sport of the fame actors and filmmakers spend their lives working to achieve, so has Donald Trump twisted the rules and made a joke of our democratic process. No candidate without his wealth, fame or influence would be permitted the armchair ideology that passes for policy positions his campaign regularly pumps out.

Trump’s business success in some ways qualifies him for the test of political leadership, but nothing else about him does.  If elected, he will be a President Rob Ford, only worse, as he will have real power to do real damage to the world.

Note: This blog does not have a political agenda outside of our anti-torture, pro-human rights positions. We welcome the support of any politicians who are opposed to torture and for human rights from any party.

— Marcus


‘This Week’ Transcript: Donald Trump

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT FOR NOVEMBER 22, 2015 and it will be updated. ANNOUNCER: THIS WEEK, global threat: the capital of Europe on lockdown after an unprecedented terror warning. The streets emptied, businesses closed, why officials say an attack is imminent. Martha Raddatz on the ground…


New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza: No easy defeat for ISIS

ISIS, Terrorist Sanctuaries, and the Lessons of 9/11 – The New Yorker

In the summer of 1985, Ronald Reagan, concerned about a spike in the number of international terrorist attacks from 1983 to 1985, delivered a speech on the subject before the American Bar Association. He offered a simple prescription: “There can be no place on earth left where it is safe for these monsters to rest or train or practice their cruel and deadly skills.

New book: Stay the Hand of Vengence

Stay the Hand of VengenceIn an interview with radio host Diane Rehm, author Gary Bass noted that President FDR and Prime Minister Churchill discussed castrating members of the Nazi leadership after WWII. The Soviets wanted, at most, a show trial followed by quick executions.

A few brave jurists, led by American Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson and his European counterparts, begged to differ; they made history with the expeditious, fair tribunal process known as the Nuremberg trials. Their actions held the murderous Reich officership to account for its crimes, and wisely stayed the hand of vengeance, creating the closure the victors and the defeated needed to move on from the tragedy of war. Gary’s book is an excellent resource for those who want to understand this subject better.

— Marcus

Find additional suggested reading on our Bibliography page.



Below find links to selected works useful in interrogation.