the factual and logical errors of a torture enthusiast, spring wallpaper, chocolate and human trafficking

To get this story in context it helps to understand a little about who Marc A. Thiessen is. he has talked and written about his love of torture and other fetishes before. While he really does seem sincere in his love of torture, his justifications for it are notoriously factless. So one can give him some credit for consistency when it turns out that his torture manifesto cum genuflecting to G.W. Bush is also not tarnished by the facts. Counterfactual – A curious history of the C.I.A.’s secret interrogation program

“Courting Disaster” has a scholarly feel, and hundreds of footnotes, but it is based on a series of slipshod premises. Thiessen, citing McConnell, claims that before the C.I.A. began interrogating detainees the U.S. knew “virtually nothing” about Al Qaeda. But McConnell was not in the government in the years immediately before 9/11. He retired as the director of the National Security Agency in 1996, and did not rejoin the government until 2007. Evidently, he missed a few developments during his time in the private sector, such as the C.I.A.’s founding, in 1996, of its bin Laden unit—the only unit devoted to a single figure. There was also bin Laden’s declaration of war on America, in 1996, and his 1998 indictment in New York, after Al Qaeda’s bombing of two U.S. embassies in East Africa. The subsequent federal trial of the bombing suspects, in New York, produced thousands of pages of documents exposing the internal workings of Al Qaeda. A state’s witness at the trial, a former Al Qaeda member named Jamal al-Fadl, supplied the F.B.I. with invaluable information about the group, including its attempts to obtain nuclear weapons. (Fadl did so without any coercion other than the hope of a future plea bargain. Indeed, the F.B.I., without using violence, has persuaded dozens of other suspected terrorists to coöperate, including, most recently, the Christmas Day bomber.)

[   ]…Thiessen, citing the classified evidence that he was privileged to see, claims that opponents of brutal interrogations can’t appreciate their efficacy. “The assessment of virtually everyone who examined the classified evidence,” he writes, is that the C.I.A.’s methods were justified. In fact, many independent experts who have top security clearances, and who have had access to the C.I.A.’s records, have denounced the agency’s tactics.

Besides page after page of factual errors ( more at both links) Thiessen is also guilty of logical fallacies. The footnotes are, to use the casual term, called overwhelming the reader with bullsh*t. Within that fallacy he also puts the burden on the reader of proving him wrong – leaving out documentation. In addition to appealing to secret sources which cannot be verified. Will the book sell and pass through the collective gut of the torture cheer-leading club to be regurgitated by people who want to believe what Thiessen writes. Probably.

blue waters

This may be odd, but to give everyone proper credit – via Bad Attitudes which got it via The Philosopher’s Stone. From Robert Paul Wolff’s memoirs (pdf)

It seems, [Carl] Sandburg began, that two cockroaches, brothers, were riding on a farmer’s cart into town one day, when the cart hit a bump, and they were both thrown off. The first brother fell on a big pile of dung, which is seventh heaven for a cockroach. He settled in, ate himself fat and glossy, and prospered.

The second brother fell into a deep hole, where there was nothing to eat and scarcely any way to get out. Slowly, laboriously, he dragged himself up the side of the hole, repeatedly falling back and starting again. He grew thin and weak, and his shell lost its sheen, becoming dull and discolored.

At long last, by the greatest of effort, he managed to heave himself back onto the road. Looking up, he saw his brother perched happily atop his dung pile. “Brother,” he said, looking up, “You are so fat and sleek. How have you managed to flourish like that?”

His brother looked down disdainfully over the edge of the dung and said, with a smug self-congratulatory smile, “Brains. And hard work.”

mixed media spring wallpaper

Human trafficking – buying and selling people – is one of the world’s fastest growing criminal enterprises. Something often associated with drugs and the sex trade, but it has connections to products that some people buy and would never think a slave was involved in the production of the product. Cocoa’s bitter child labour ties

In an investigation into the supply chain that delivers much of the chocolate sold in the UK – more than half a million tonnes a year – the BBC found evidence of human trafficking and child slave labour.

Panorama also found that even chocolate marketed as Fairtrade cannot rule out the possibility that it is sourced at least in part using the worst forms of child labour – as defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

[   ]…In a village in Ghana, Kenyon met 12-year-old Ouare Fatao Kwakou, who was sold to traffickers by his uncle and taken from neighbouring and impoverished Burkina Faso to work as a cocoa picker.

More than a year later, he had not been paid a penny for his work – the profits of his labour going instead to his new cocoa masters and to the uncle who sold him.

In the port city of San Pedro in Ivory Coast, Kenyon posed as a trader and sold on cocoa beans which had been produced by the worst forms of child labour.

It is at this point where the traceability of the cocoa ends and it can be sold on to major chocolate makers worldwide who cannot say how it was sourced.

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