Monday, November 12, 2007

Counterpoint: It's Called Stupid and Evil

Jack Kelly is a former Marine and Green Beret, and today being Veteran's Day we ought to salute him for that. He went on to serve as a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force during the Reagan administration. He is now a columnist for the Toledo Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. We used to describe him as a "hawkish unilateralist and free-market fundamentalist," and for a time, we would each week dissect the "dangerous" ideas he put forth as a special feature of the Comet. This week, just take those old records off the shelf; we'll sit and listen to them by ourselves.

1) Al-Qaeda terrorists are targeting your schoolchildren.
2) Water-boarding will help prevent this.
3) Water-boarding is not even torture.
4) Boy, the Democrats will have egg all over their faces when your schoolchildren get slaughtered!

There, you just read Jack Kelly's column, "It's Called Defending Ourselves".

Kelly provides some bullet-points as evidence that hostage-taking situations at schools and on school buses is an imminent threat in the U.S.

Kelly's sourcing on the specifics is even more sketchy than usual -- that is, he provides none whatsoever. The Google found some of these same stories, but with no actual author or publication to stand behind any of it. But you know what? That's fine.

We don't want to dwell on disproving this part of his picture. Certainly there are bloodthirsty terrorists out there who mean us great harm, and maybe there are some who aim to attack our schools. So do you here that, Kelly? Our enemy is real enough.

We would rather assert the following:

1) Water-boarding is so torture.

2) Just because some of our special forces are trained to withstand water-boarding, you cannot get away with saying we "routinely" subject ourselves to it, making it somehow not-torture. We're willing to bet those same special forces are trained to withstand actual torture.

3) If water-boarding is not torture, why do we water-board people while asking them questions they do not otherwise answer, holding out the prospect of stopping the water-boarding once we get the right answers? Sounds like torture to us.

4) We're not going to get all morally conscientious on you (though we could), nor are we going to get all Geneva Convention on you (ditto), but TORTURE DOES NOT WORK and everybody knows this already. People will tell you anything to get out of being tortured, confess any nonsense, and you end up with a load of bad intel you can't use, and sources that are used up.

5) If torture is condoned somewhere in the U.S. Military under some circumstances, it more or less winds up being condoned everywhere. So you end up with a bunch of Abu Gharaibs.

6) We never do actually charge or convict our detainees of being al-Qaeda members, and we routinely wind up having to tell scores and scores of them "sorry, nevermind" -- so we end up torturing people, radicalizing them, and then sending them back home to radicalize their entire extended families.

7) So between #5 and #6, you wind up manufacturing new jihadis faster than our military can possibly kill them.

8) Which is the exact wrong thing to do if you'd like to actually win and complete a war, which is what you aim to do, correct?

9) Don't answer that -- we are afraid you just want to torture them because you hate them, and you want revenge for 9/11, and for your buddies getting killed, and perhaps also for being bullied as a child. And there is no logical way to counter that argument except to say you're wrong and we won't let you, not the least of which because we cannot afford to let you (see 4 through 8).


The second-most repulsive thing about this column is that it all boils down at its conclusion not to any recommendation on how to achieve our war aims and end this hellish mess, but rather in a smug warning to Democrats that once terrorists kill our children, they're going to lose votes.

Because Jack Kelly is first and foremost a political analyst. And this is first and foremost a political issue.

The most repulsive thing about this column is that Kelly reveals that both he and al-Qaeda are of like minds:

"They want to create something so horrible that we will lose control in our reaction, we will be lynching Muslim people in the streets and burning mosques," Mr. Thor told Glenn Beck. "They want to reduce us to animals like them to get the Islamic world behind them and finally get the holy war that they want kicked off and ignited."

Historically, Jack Kelly has never offered any ideas on just how, diplomatically and strategically, we might realistically defuse this regional conflagration. He does not propose negotiation under any circumstances, nor regional conferences, or heaven forbid incentives.

He never gets involved in the intense Iraqi politicking that everybody agrees is critical to any solution, except to insist for four years that it has been going super.

He wants us to attack Iran. And he wants us to attack Syria. And he wants us to attack Hamas and Hezbollah. And he wants us to torture anybody we might detain in these many wars, he wants us to toss out all international law, he wants us to ignore the U.N., and he wants us to let our infinite enemies know it.

So basically, Jack Kelly wants the same holy war the worst of the Islamists are trying to goad us into. He wants us to fight and fight and fight, and he wants more and more of our young men and women killed, maimed, and psychologically scarred. He wants all of their young men and women and children to die, until there's nobody left to kill.

He just wants it to happen faster than the Islamic radicals do, and with more culpability on our side.

Why does he want all this? We honestly have no idea. It's manly, we guess.


This is why we don't do Jack Kelly anymore.

We can beat up on Luke with merry abandon, but what's going on at City Hall is -- it's harder to take personally. Luke is just what happens.

Jack Kelly, on the other hand, continues to accrue liability in a war that absolutely did not need to explode in the way it did, with no conceivable endgame on the horizon.

Jack Kelly, by cynically invoking the spectacle of dead children in order to justify torture, wills us even deeper into the black spiral of hatred and perpetual warfare.

What are we supposed to do with somebody like this?

Part of us wants to haul him before some kind of grand tribunal, on charges of deceiving the multitude and enabling war crimes.

Part of us wants to pass him a doobie, give him a scalp massage, and tell him everything is going to be alright.

Part of us -- most of us -- is content to just let him keep doing exactly what he is doing: efficiently displaying himself and his ilk to be ordinary frauds. That's why we are so grateful that some people still have the stomach to process his artful drek each and every week.


  1. Jack Kelly is an idiot and always will be. He is on the wrong side of just about every issue.

  2. I can hear the crescendo:

    For he himself has said it,
    And it's greatly to his credit,
    That he is a Democrat!
    That he is a Democrat!