From Media Matters via The Huffington Post:
Bill O’Reilly suggestedthat the CIA should kidnap Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and perhaps even waterboard Pelosi, at a stop on his “Bold & Fresh” speaking tour on Saturday.
O’Reilly, of course, was joking. Hilarity, yes, followed by predictable outrage.
To me, O’Reilly’s spiel raises an important yet rarely addressed issue: Why is it such a taboo to threaten our leaders with kidnapping and torture and other acts of violence?
Now, I’ve become pretty close to a pacifist in my old age–although, like O’Reilly, I have satirically fantazied about non-violent yet effective means of silencing politicians that have enraged me in the past. (Which got me, rather proudly, on this rightwing list.) This is why I’m such fan of tasers, but I generally think violence directed against anyone, even politicians and pundits, is a bad idea. I’m opposed to it, in fact.
Here’s the dilemma, as I see it. Our political and media elite regularly talk about committing gross acts of violence against other people all the time. Take Iran, for instance, where a certain presidential candidate (and now Secretary of State) once said she’d be willing to “obliterate” that country. That, in my view, would mean the death hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, albeit civilians who have a different skin tone and live far away.
Not only have our elites just talked about this stuff–they have a proven track record of following through, often in a rather spectacularly violent fashion. (See: Regime change, Iraq, Shock and Awe.) As for torture and kidnapping–well, our policy seems to be that our enemies, innocent or not, are fair game for abduction and prolonged detention, and the occaisional “accidental” death. (See: Greenwald, Glenn, for more details.)
Our enemies, of course–like Mr. Bin Laden, or Al Qaeda in Iraq, or Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinasometing in Iran–are also fans of threatening massive violence against U.S. civilians, so I’m not letting them off the hook. They’re assholes too, perhaps exponentially bigger assholes than our own homegrown leaders, I’d say. But I’m just an American, so I’m saving my ire for people I can actually not vote for.
So, my moral/philosphical question for the day is this: why is it okay to threaten large groups of innocent people with death and destruction, yet considered rather impolite, as O’Reilly has demonstrated, to specify ones threat against people who are actually complicit in policies that have brought about death and destruction?
If someone can enlighten me, please do so.
Of course, O’Reilly isn’t talking about war or kidnapping or torture–he’s just saying that Pelosi and Reid need to get out of the way so Obama can effectively govern or something.I would disagree with him there. My kidnap and waterboard list would look a little bit to different to help the president achieve those aims. (And no, Bill wouldn’t be on it–he’s a talented guy, and I have always had sympathy for his phone-sex talking and porn obsessed ways.)
To make this post more interactive, please feel free to list in the comments section your top two or three folks who could use a good kidnap and waterboard experience to smooth the way for Obama to pass his agenda. All in good, hilarious, fun.