Are moral claims justiciable? MK Gandhi and the Kashmir issue; Empire and Democracy = Terror.

Speech at the Prayer Meeting on 4th January 1948

“Today there is talk of war everywhere. Everyone fears a war breaking out between the two countries. If that happens it will be a calamity both for India and for Pakistan. India has written to the U.N. because whenever there is a fear of conflict anywhere the U.N. is asked to promote a settlement and to stop fighting from breaking out. India therefore wrote to the U. N. O. however trivial the issue may appear to be, it could lead to a war between the two countries. It is a long memorandum and it has been cabled. Pakistan’s leaders Zafrullah Khan and Liaquat Ali Khan have since issued long statements. I would take leave to say that their argument does not appeal to me. You may ask if I approve of the Union Government approaching the UNO I may say that I both approve and do not approve of what they did. I approve of it, because after all what else are they to do? They are convinced that what they are doing is right. If there are raids from outside the frontier of Kashmir, the obvious conclusion is that it must be with the connivance of Pakistan. Pakistan can deny it. But the denial does not settle the matter. Kashmir has acceded the accession upon certain conditions. If Pakistan harasses Kashmir and if Sheikh Abdullah who is the leader of Kashmir asks the Indian Union for help, the latter is bound to send help. Such help therefore was sent to Kashmir. At the same time Pakistan is being requested to get out of Kashmir and to arrive at a settlement with India over the question through bilateral negotiations. If no settlement can be reached in this way then a war is inevitable. It is to avoid the possibility of war that the Union Government has taken the step it did. Whether they are right in doing so or not God alone knows. Whatever might have been the attitude of Pakistan, if I had my way I would have invited Pakistan’s representatives to India and we could have met, discussed the matter and worked out some settlement. They keep saying that they want an amicable settlement but they do nothing to create the conditions for such a settlement. I shall therefore humbly say to the responsible leaders of Pakistan that though we are now two countries – which is a thing I never wanted – we should at least try to arrive at an agreement so that we could live as peaceful neighbors. Let us grant for the sake of argument that all Indians are bad, but Pakistan at least is a new-born nation which has more ever come into being in the name of religion and it should at least keep itself clean. But they themselves make no such claim. It is not their argument that Muslims have committed no atrocities in Pakistan. I shall therefore suggest that it is now their duty, as far as possible, to arrive at an amicable understanding with India and live in harmony with her. Mistakes were made on both sides. Of this I have no doubt. But this does not mean that we should persist in those mistakes, for then in the end we shall only destroy ourselves in a war and the whole of the sub-continent will pass into the hands of some third power. That will be the worst imaginable fate for us. I shudder to think of it. Therefore the two Dominions should come together with God as witness and find a settlement. The matter is now before the UNO. It cannot be withdrawn from there. But if India and Pakistan come to a settlement the big powers in the UNO will have to endorse that settlement. They will not object to the settlement. They themselves can only say that they will do their best to see that the two countries arrive at an understanding through mutual discussions. Let us pray to God is to grant that we may either learn to live in amity with each other or if we must light to let us fight to the very end. That may be folly but sooner or later it will purify us.”

Let Satyagraha present itself as a lesson and practice of a just war applicable to mankind.

When by prayer as a condition applies for all acts against enemies and enemy territory, Satyagraha may be considered by some as acts of terror and by others a moral obligation to promote the well-being and prosperity of all human kind. Some like MK Gandhi argued in his famous struggle for Independence from British Imperial domination, that prayer along with fasting was important in warfare because it properly emphasized the absolute authority and power of God in determining human affairs.

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All evil is not moral. Political evil takes place when those governed obey governments that permit it.

Alan Wolfe, author of Political Evil and Professor at Boston College, USA.

Alan Wolfe, author of Political Evil and Professor Boston College, USA.

How To Learn the Language of Evil,  Alan Wolfe’s Political Evil offers lessons liberals especially need.

By Michael Ignatieff,

Evil is a moral problem for everyone, difficult to acknowledge in ourselves, hard to understand in others, and difficult to defeat without committing lesser evils. Liberals—I count myself as one—have a special problem with evil, connected to our particular form of self-regard. Liberals like to believe we are tolerant, but evil, by definition, cannot be tolerated. We believe that politics ought to be deliberative, but we can’t deliberate with evil. We think compromise can be honorable, but there are no honorable compromises with evil. We think politics ought to be governed by reason, but evildoers, while they may reason, are not reasonable.  Political evil—genocide, massacre, terrorism, ethnic cleansing—is another matter. Here, Wolfe argues that we are dealing with motives, intentions, which while repellent are political. Killing all Jews is not crazy: It is a plan that will make you master of all you survey. Expelling everyone unlike yourself is not insane: It guarantees eternal domination for your kind. Terrorizing a people you cannot defeat in battle is not pathological: It may force your enemy to yield. Alan Wolfe has written a guide to these quandaries. He distinguishes between evil in general and political evil in particular, and argues that we should think politically about evil because the evil that we can actually do something about is a form of politics and can be defeated only if understood as such.  Moral evil can be understood when laws that govern human beings are disobeyed. There is plenty of evil out there. Adolescents slaughtering other adolescents at a high school, predators molesting children, loners acting out fantasies of revenge and empowerment with automatic weapons. Our various therapeutic and explanatory discourses still leave us without consolation in the face of these murderous frenzies, but, Wolfe argues, we should at least spare ourselves the foolish idea that such evil lurks in all our hearts. The Norwegian killer who sprayed bullets over children at a liberal party summer camp was a psychopath. He is not us and we are not him. He tells us nothing about Europe, about Norwegian society, about anything. It accords him a dignity he does not deserve to explain him. It is appropriate to mourn and remember, and it would be prudent to keep him locked up for good. It is an utter waste of time to give him significance.

So, Wolfe’s first lesson is a very old one, but worth repeating. There is method in apparent madness. The world is not divided between a sane world of deliberative politics and an insane world of apocalyptic violence. It is all politics, all the way down. To call a terrorist attack “senseless” is merely to admit that you have not understood its purpose. Moral precision is a precondition for political precision. Nothing is gained, and much is lost, if, in seeking to mobilize opinion to stop a massacre, you call it genocide. You debase the coinage of outrage. Next time you cry wolf, no one will believe you.

We are indiscriminate in our use of the language of evil, Wolfe argues, because we like what the language does to our own moral standing. It makes us self-righteous. To call others wicked is to give us a moral privilege we may not deserve and a moral permission we are likely to misuse. The language of good and evil only seems to create moral clarity: It actually creates moral entitlement.  Moral clarity mobilizes: Who does not want to enlist on the side of good against absolute evil? But clarity also anaesthetizes. If I am on the side of good, they on the side of evil, what am I not permitted to do? The authors of President Bush’s torture memos claimed the privilege of moral superiority after 9/11 and used it to torture.

Here’s What Actually Gets Terrorists To Tell The Truth — And It’s Not Torture.

Over the past five years, psychological research — some involving real terrorist suspects — has shown how to get information from people who don’t want to talk. Now Washington has the chance to put these findings into practice.  Hollywood has a lot to answer for. Thanks to the hit TV show 24 and movies like Zero Dark Thirty, we think we know what terrorist interrogations look like: After being roughed up and threatened, the suspect breaks down and reveals all. Mass murder is thwarted. Osama Bin Laden is shot.  The end, we tell ourselves, justifies the ugly means. Even after the abuses committed at CIA “black sites” were laid bare last year by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, most Americans stuck to this view. Some 59% believed the CIA’s harsh interrogation methods were justified, in a December 2014 poll run for the Washington Post and ABC News.  Steven Kleinman knows better. In 2003, he was one of the U.S. Air Force’s top interrogators, sent to Iraq to oversee the questioning of suspected insurgents. After arriving in Baghdad, he walked into a darkened room to find a handcuffed detainee kneeling before a seated military interrogator. The suspect was slapped across the face every time he answered a question — whatever he had to say. Kleinman was told that it had being going on for half an hour. Then a lieutenant colonel, Kleinman pulled rank and halted the interrogation. But what he had witnessed was by then standard practice. “Later I saw people being stripped nude and forced to stand for a long period of time,” Kleinman told BuzzFeed News.  Kleinman was appalled not only because what he saw breached human rights, but also because his long experience in interrogation told him that it just wouldn’t work. “It’s not even close to a consistent means of getting reliable information,” Kleinman said.  At the time, it was easy to dismiss the anecdotal experience of interrogators who opposed these abusive methods. “We didn’t have the science,” Mark Fallon, formerly a Naval Criminal Investigative Service special agent, told BuzzFeed News. When Fallon arrived at Guantánamo Bay in 2002, leading the effort to bring terrorist detainees before military courts, he had more relevant experience than anyone else present. He had helped prosecute Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, who planned the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and had led the investigation into al-Qaeda’s 2000 attack on the USS Cole.  Yet even Fallon was sidelined as inexperienced interrogators implemented the harsh tactics — including sleep deprivation, isolation, and painful stress positions — that had suddenly come to dominate the military’s approach. Today, Kleinman and Fallon finally have science on their side. Over the past five years, a small group of researchers has pulled together a body of evidence about what works in getting people to give up their secrets. It has nothing to do with abuse and coercion. Instead, it borrows methods from psychotherapy to get suspects talking and uses the science of how our brains process information to separate truth from lies. When the U.S. Congress returns from its summer recess in September, it can pass a law that makes this new science of interrogation the official playbook across the federal government. When the U.S. Congress returns from its summer recess in September, it can pass a law that makes this new science of interrogation the official playbook across the federal government. Expecting brutal interrogations to extract good intelligence is like “banging a hammer on a radio to get a better signal,” Morgan told BuzzFeed News. “It doesn’t enhance cognition. It only makes it worse.” So much for what doesn’t work. But what does? Getting good answers to that question has been a priority for the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG), which brings together intelligence experts from the FBI, the CIA, the Pentagon, and the State Department. It was established by President Barack Obama in 2009 to set a new course for terrorist interrogations after the abuses committed in the early days of the “war on terror.” Since 2010, the HIG has also backed researchers working to transform the science of interrogation.  Yet there’s little evidence that adversarial interrogations work — unless your goal is obtaining a high rate of false confessions. And the idea that liars reveal themselves when under high emotional stress stands on similarly shaky scientific ground. Polygraphs, which detect signs of arousal including heart rate and sweating, are notoriously unreliable. Rather than focusing on stress, the new interrogation research program has concentrated on interviewing techniques that help people remember details about events — and make it harder for liars to keep their story together. Central to this approach is the “cognitive interview,” developed by Ronald Fisher, a psychologist at Florida International University in Miami. Rather than being asked a series of questions, suspects may be told to close their eyes and recall what happened at a key meeting, or draw a sketch of the room in which it took place. They are encouraged to go over events repeatedly and offer details whether or not they seem important.  In one test, Fisher’s team asked seasoned instructors at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia, to get their colleagues to recall the details of meetings held to plan field exercises. Those who used a cognitive interview, rather than the standard approach of asking direct questions, extracted 80% more information.  This approach can also separate liars from truth-tellers. When recalling their experiences in a cognitive interview, people who are telling the truth give longer and more detailed answers. Their recollections also tend to grow as more details come back into focus. Liars, on the other hand, typically tell a bare-bones story that doesn’t develop with retelling. “Credibility is all in the words people use,” Meissner told BuzzFeed News. “It’s in the way they tell their story.” And crucially, it seems hard to game the system. Telling a lie is more mentally demanding than telling the truth, and hiding this cognitive effort is harder than concealing signs of stress. Make a memory task tougher — by getting suspects to tell their story in reverse order, for example — and the differences become even more obvious.  In one study, Morgan simulated the investigation of a bioterrorist plot. He recruited biologists, who all visited a coffee shop in New Haven and were told remember what they saw. Some of them were also shown a picture of a “terrorist” and asked to phone him. They met him at the coffee shop and were given instructions and materials to grow cells in the lab. All of the biologists were given cognitive interviews — including reverse order recall — by interrogators with more than 15 years of experience. Most of the biologists simply had to truthfully remember what they saw, but those who had participated in the plot had to do so while denying any knowledge of the terrorist or involvement in his activities. By analyzing the total length of the biologists’ responses, and the number of unique words they used, Morgan found that he could separate the liars from the truth-tellers with 84% accuracy. This vastly outperformed the experts who conducted the interviews — whose judgments were little better than flipping a coin. Other methods that help detect liars include strategically withholding key evidence until late in an interrogation. Put all your cards on the table to begin with, and it’s too easy for a suspect to adapt their story to fit the facts. http://www.buzzfeed.com/peteraldhous/torture-doesnt-work.

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