Sometimes Heat Is As Good as Light

Nearly six months ago,* I made a conscious decision to ratchet up my commentary and analysis of Alberto R. Gonzales in a way that would make clear my disdain for him as a public official and my dissatisfaction with his tenure as Attorney General. And, for the past few months, as any regular reader of this space knows, my criticism of the U.S. Attorney scandal, and Gonzales' role as leader of the Justice Department, has been unstintingly harsh and pointed.

For this I have been applauded in some circles and heavily criticized in others. Some of you have encouraged me to continue to speak boldly on the topic while others of you have blasted me for offering what you considered biased and one-sided views of the situation. Some of you have asked me to speak out similarly on other law-related topics while others of you have wondered not unfairly whether I was harming my reputation as an "analyst" by so strongly taking a position on a contested and contentious squabble that beyond its legal manifestation also had an intense political component as well.

*Disclosure: No, your eyes aren't deceiving you. This post briefly ran yesterday morning before I replaced it with my "Good Riddance" post. But I think it's worth posting again, this time for good.

Now that Gonzales has resigned, I think it is an appropriate time for me to explain to you why I did what I did, why I don't expect to do it very often in the future, and why it's important (and in my mind altogether appropriate and necessary) sometimes for a columnist to express genuine outrage about a particular story, subject or series of circumstances. [Editor's note: Click here for a interview in which Andrew Cohen discusses his handling of Alberto Gonzales's tenure as Attorney General.] Straight-line correspondents may not be able to tell you how they really feel about a particular story. But in this case I believe that consistently telling you how I truly felt about Gonzales' stewardship of the Justice Department was the only true way to communicate to you the depth of the problem and the width of its implications.

I did not make lightly the decision to become a fierce critic of the Attorney General. I have always believed that my job as an analyst is to shed more light than heat on a topic -- to provide you with enough context and perspective so that you can make your own informed judgments about a particular legal issue or event. And I recognize that when you become too subjective about a particular topic, or when you write about it in a particularly conclusive way, you run the risk of cutting into the reservoir of credibility you have with news consumers. After all, one person's utterly lame pol is always, fair or not, another person's honorable politician.

But there are times in the life of a "beat journalist" -- my "beat" being the law -- when the knowledge and experience you've gathered over the years -- in my case, 10 years -- tells you that something is so horribly off-kilter with a particular person, institution or practice that it cries out for a different kind of coverage, a different level of analysis; a different depth of commentary. And when that time comes, it seems to me, the commentator has a responsibility to explain forcefully and with passion why what is occurring is so different from and so much worse than what has occurred before. Anyone who watched Gonzales' unintentionally comedic appearances before the Senate Judiciary Committee this spring and summer knows what I mean.

And so it was for me with Gonzales. His tenure as Attorney General, on matters of both substance and procedure, was in my mind so atrocious and so disrespectful to the men and women who care deeply about the Justice Department that I felt it necessary to stridently defend them at his expense. His lack of independence from the White House on critical matters of constitutional law -- say, the legality of the domestic surveillance program, for example - -was so glaring and self-destructive that I felt it needed to be highlighted for you so that you, too, might be roused from slumber into outrage. His utter lack of leadership at the Department -- not knowing which federal prosecutors were to be fired, he says -- was so unacceptable that I felt the typical "he-said/she said" analysis would not have been able to do credit to the incompetence at work in the corridors of power.

I took no joy in going after the Attorney General the way that I did and I take absolutely no satisfaction now that he is gone. That's because there are no winners in this story. There are only losers. The damage he caused to the Justice Department, to the rule of law and to the Constitution itself is so vast that it will take a long while to mend. And I cannot help but think about how different things might be today if only President George W. Bush had selected a qualified attorney general in 2005 (there were then and are now plenty of Republican candidates) instead of selecting his buddy, a hack, whose only qualification for the job was that he would willingly do the White House's bidding.

I do not plan to continue to cover the Justice Department beat the same way now that Gonzales is gone. I plan to go back now to that "more light than heat" paradigm that seems to have worked well for both you and me over the years. And I pray that the new attorney general does so much better than his predecessor that the next 16 months are for us a virtual love fest. Let me put it another way: Although it may not make for good copy, I would always rather be able to praise good governance when it occurs than to criticize bad governance when it unfolds.

By Andrew Cohen |  August 28, 2007; 7:54 AM ET
Previous: Good Riddance | Next: Help Wanted: The New Attorney General


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Don't put away the heat just yet. Let's see who the Little Prince gets as a substitute.

Posted by: Jim Tewes rj2z | August 28, 2007 08:31 AM

Thank you for recognizing that sometimes there is no "other side" to a story. Too often those in the MSM get so caught up in tit-for-tat journalism that they fail to present the truth and allow themselves to become the unwitting tool of those who would lie, cheat and steal to stay in power. We deserve better, and you gave us that on this story.

Posted by: Nellie | August 28, 2007 09:57 AM

Andrew, it was good to read this. It's more than refreshing to hear what someone really thinks (and I believe this can certainly be done without any loss of light; after all if what one thinks something is valuable to others, it is so because they think what they do for a good reason, which is what people mean by "light"), and to hear the reasons and background for why they said what they did.

Good job, and thanks again.

Posted by: Bill in CA | August 28, 2007 10:59 AM

When it comes to expertise on hacks, you are eminently well qualified, Mr. Cohen. As they say, "it takes one...."

Posted by: Paul Stifflemire | August 28, 2007 11:45 AM

At no point have I ever felt, Mr. Cohen, that you crossed any line of propriety. Your columns on Gonzales have been spot-on all along.

Posted by: Chris Fox | August 28, 2007 12:00 PM

Time for this long National Nightmare to end!

Posted by: Gerry Ford | August 28, 2007 12:02 PM

Hello World, I am new here.
I am a super U2 and trash metal music junkie
I play football and like playing video games.
I love this cool forum
Also I enjoy a lot, but am just getting into is swinging
just wanted to say hi
Please don'tjudge me just because I like attending swingers parties

Posted by: pebbleshehe | August 28, 2007 12:07 PM

Mr. Cohen,

Did you see the Adam Lipsak "sidebar" piece in yesterdays NY TIMES? What we witnessed with Gonzales is not just about him, it happened in a context in which there are significant deficiencies in scope and implementation of legal ethics, I have some unique insights and experience with a "meltdown" in legal ethics at US Office of Special Counsel (OSC) that, indirectly at least, puts us all at a greater risk of a nuclear 9/11.

Can you give me an email, fax, or mail address for me to get this info to you?


Joe Carson, PE
Knoxville, TN

Posted by: Joe Carson | August 28, 2007 12:18 PM

After over 200 burglaries, torture and much more, one hopes that justice will be pursued a little more aggressively. Crime pays under Bush. But America can not rely on the loyal Bushies to stop crime. We must work together to catch the perpetrators of this important series of burglaries and much more and bring them to justice. We can not wait for the Bushies to suddenly find a born again respect for the law. Those career professionals who dedicate their lives to fighting crime can not allow this series of heinous acts to go ignored.

Posted by: Furious Bush Looting Victim | August 28, 2007 12:26 PM

By the way, good decision today, Taliban. Why so long?

Posted by: Mustafa | August 28, 2007 12:28 PM

What it took was to enable the South Koreans and Taliban to talk directly to each other, and to remove the obfuscating influence of the Afghan government and the US. Things progressed quickly once that was done. For the Taliban to wait out this time to do so shows the right step and the right direction.

Anyone who BY NOW believes in the sincerity the current US admin and the representatives they've installed in various governments (and that's not rhetoric in this case, that is EXACTLY what they did) is a fool (in fact what such emisarries say is getting toward being almost THE OPPOSITE of the truth and stability), and actually is supporting forces AGAINST peace and coexistence. That should be abundantly obvious by now for all sorts of reasons, in American domestic as well as international affairs.

Posted by: M | August 28, 2007 12:37 PM

A good day indeed: AG agreeing to leaving and the hostages going to be released.

Posted by: | August 28, 2007 12:39 PM

The above is not saying that the installed governments are not better than nothing, but what they say and do, does need to be taken with some salt and independent thinking.

Posted by: | August 28, 2007 02:40 PM

Mr. Cohen,

You are one of the lights in journalistic analysis on your beat. Thank for this, and thank you for close coverage of this story.

There are times for righteous indignation.

Posted by: Lisa | August 28, 2007 02:42 PM

Mr. Cohen:

It might be good for you to summarize for your readers G's rise from being a real estate lawyer to being Attorney General. It is important for people to know that he never set foot in a courtroom, and yet Bush made him a Texas Supreme Court Justice. From drafting real estate contracts to Attorney General--Bush's desire for a total loyalist who would cover his xxx and do his and Cheney's dirty work led to his choice of one totally unqualified for the job.

It is a shame that all that has been written about the US Attorney firings did not mention that the idiot who was doing the firing had himself never set foot in a courtroom.

Posted by: Elaine | August 28, 2007 03:07 PM

Thank you, Mr. Cohen, for a very thoughtful article. The only quibble I have is with the term "news consumers." We are not "consumers" of news. We consume food and cars and soap in the sense that those are commercial products and we buy them. Is that what you are saying about your articles? That they are commercial products? I hope not.

Your readers are, instead, people who are hungry for the truth, truth that has been denied us for a very very long time by corporate media. I am very thankful for the few remaining true journalists, including you and Josh Marshall, who have kept this matter is the light and delivered it with heat to those who need to know what is going on in their world. Let people consume "American Idol." The news should be free from that kind of frivolity.

Posted by: PJ White | August 28, 2007 03:10 PM

He used the term "news consumers"- and I appreciate his saying it- to indicate why sometimes his reason for sometimes not speaking as freely as he might.

Posted by: Ds | August 28, 2007 03:19 PM

ignore "why sometimes" before "his"

Posted by: | August 28, 2007 03:21 PM

Sometimes heat IS light. An ordinary MSM article, which you might compare to "light", is actually darkness because it does nothing to illuminate.

Posted by: Vulture Breath | August 28, 2007 03:24 PM

I am not surprised that you and most of Andrew's fans pine away for the days when the Taliban and their terrorist brethren ran Afghanistan with an appropriate dictatorial edge.

But you may have missed a few things.

First. The hostages have not been released:
"The South Korean government said Tuesday night that release of the hostages would not happen immediately, noting that further negotiations would be necessary."

Second, you might have overlooked in the "compromise" the complete cave in to the forces of terror and the effective quashing of religious freedom:

"The two sides reached agreement on the release of all 19 Korean hostages on condition that the Korean government withdraws its troops in Afghanistan by the end of this year and bans missionary work by Korean Christians in Afghanistan,"

Of course, it as not as though our steadfast allies the South Koreans would have shown any spine, it's just that they could not give away a few items in the store that were not in their possession:

"He added that Korean negotiators had persuaded their Taliban counterparts, who wanted to swap Korean hostages for Taliban prisoners held in Afghanistan, that any such deal was far beyond the power of South Korea.

And finally it looks like this was a little bit of the "Ransom of Red Chief" as the hostages were a burden on the Taliban who like to travel light:

"The Taliban appear to understand our point," Cheon said. "It also seems that they were inconvenienced by holding as many as 19 people for such a long time."
I am sure that you would endorse an equal measure banning Christian evangelism here in the United States if you could get it.

While I am not sorry to see the AG resign, at least give him credit for recognizing who America's enemies are and trying in his pathetically ineffective way to do something about it.

Posted by: Constitutionalist | August 28, 2007 03:29 PM

Mr Cohen my congratulations to you on a series of wonderful and very needed reporting/analysis during the past six months. Gentlemen such as yourself and Mr. Arlen Spector provided a ray of hope in a world of media babble. I view this as placing truth and country above partisanship and "following the crowd".

Posted by: BERobinson | August 28, 2007 03:55 PM

Constitutionalist, I wonder why he should be given credit. Because he condoned torture, a well documented and incredibly ineffectual way to get information? Or perhaps it was his willingness to give up YOUR Constitutional rights (I assume by your name this means something to you) and leave a system open to abuse?

I love people who make anyone who questions, anyone who believes in the Constitution, a Taliban loving Liberal. Apparently in your small minded America there is no price too high to pay for freedom, including your own. You'd happily let the government do whatever they want because the label 'to keep you safe' has no boundaries.

There is not one person who doesn't want terrorism stopped (except those who do it). But your blatant and unreasonable labeling of anyone who dares question is both sick and pathetic. We all want to be safe. We all want what makes this country great to remain intact. The second you choose to abandon those freedoms, you have lost. The cowards are not those who question and want checks and balances, it's you and anyone who blindly accepts the loss of freedoms. And you are a coward because you fail to stand up for your Constitution. You are a coward because you put your hands up when this government tells you to be scared and 'trust us'. You are a coward because you think basic human rights don't apply to ALL. So if someone else thinks you don't deserve basic human rights, I guess that's okay because you think the same way as him.

So do you condone torture? Then you are no better then the terrorists. So do you condone the government having unchecked access to everyone's lives? Then welcome to your authoritarian world of Saddam Hussein. Because you are ready to allow the exact same things he chose to do. Because there is no respect for human rights or humanity in general.

So tell me Constitutionalist, are you what your name implies or are you what your words imply?

Posted by: Larry L | August 28, 2007 03:57 PM

This is one of the most momentous events of the year (AG's resignation) and it is already off the front pages of the WaPo. What a rag! If it weren't for Mr. Cohen and Mr. Froomkin, it wouldn't be worth reading. I want to know about the follow-up of this story. I want to know if AG is going to be held responsible for his travesties. I want the truth wrung out of him, if nothing else. He should NOT be allowed to just ride off into the sunset.

Posted by: PJ White | August 28, 2007 04:55 PM

Larry L., your comments a rather hostile; it is the equivalent of me questioning your patriotism. But they are worth addressing.

No, I do not believe in torture, the wanton violation of civil right and privacy ritghts, nor even enhanced interrogation methods which are said not to be torture. I do however believe that America and western culture in general faces an existentialist threat to our collective and individual freedoms and rights from a dangerous foe.

I believe that many on your side argue civil rights but in truth dismiss the nature and depth of the threat. I think that M.'s comments clearly cross the line in claiming the United States stood between a "reasonable" settlement between the Korean's and the Taliban, when that settlement was in fact a complete capitulation to torture.

Gonazles was a lousy AG, and a poor choice. But that does not mean that every "the, but, and" he uttered was wrong, malevolent and designed to deny American's their rights. And I would point out that many of our surveillance laws were outdated and limited the effectiveness of our counter terrorism efforts.

There are gray areas around interrogation and eavesdropping that fall short of torture and into the area of "hot persuit." Many like M. would call for feather beds for combatant prisoners, condeming American's who "disrespect" the Koran while endoring the disrepect of Korean Christians.

So I will ask you, as I raised the point: is this a good settlement to ban Christian missionary work? to withdraw a military force from a real combat zone that was used as a base for an attack on the United States? to exchange innocent hostages for prisoners of war? That is what the Talliban and the Koreans have entered into and what M. says the United States tried to block. I say more power to us if we can protect western values in the face of a terrorist assult on the freedoms people like you claim to defend.

Posted by: Constitutionalist | August 28, 2007 05:18 PM

Yes, my response, Constitutionalist, was rather hostile. Because your tone and implications were.

You ask if we should abandon a real war zone. The question is a difficult and far from black and white one. Given the ruse used to go in, it's easy to say get out. Get out is not so easy nor simple. I believe this is an untenable situation. I also believe 'stay the course' or 'stay the surge' are unworkable.

The Maliki government is a joke and I question the death and dying of American soldiers to help people who don't want it. Who are unwilling to bring about change. You may disagree but America can't force this. I believe forces should protect the borders from incursion but let the Iraqis figure it out for themselves.

I also believe the real need to stop terrorism lies in Afghanistan and Pakistan and we had every opprotunity to do some real and permanent damage. We walked away from it under ridiculous pretense. Saddam sucked but what we have in Iraq now is as bad or worse and will be for a long time.

We need to work with the rest of the world instead of trying to dictate everything. We need education to understand the cultures we are dealing with instead of guessing where their thoughts and loyalties lie. What we have now is inexcusable. Fixing it is impossible. Making the best of it requires honesty and not rhetoric.

Posted by: Larry L | August 28, 2007 05:41 PM

Larry L. please take a deep breath and think! Try to stay up with the conversation.

I AM talking about Afghanistan!!! That is the real combat zone.

A quick geo-political lesson for you: the Taliban and the Korean hostages are in Afghanistan. The Korean military is (until the end of the year) in Afghanistan. The "so-called" enemy combatants were initially captured in Afghanistan (and later elsewhere outside of Iraq); all were associated with Afthanistan or Al Quaida bases, many in Afghanistan.

So I assume the "ruse" here refers to America's engagement in Iraq and not the alleged American involvement in the destruction of the twin towers.

Now, given this understanding can you go back and read my comments and M.'s comments in a new light and tell me that I am wrong?

Will you at least concede that praising the Korean's for negotiating with the Taliban is a capitulation to terrorism not witnessed since Ronald Reagan negotiated the Iran-Contra guns for hostages deal? And that its long-term effects will be worse than that: just kidnap a few Italians and watch their whole nation bow down to Allah and throw out the Pope from the Vatican.

Posted by: Constitutionalist | August 28, 2007 06:09 PM

According to the various news stories on the South Korean Hostage situation, the South Korean government had already decided to withdraw their military support personnel (which were mostly engineers and medics) before the missionaries had even been taken hostage. In their dealings with the Taliban, the South Korean government only agreed to abide by their previous decision to withdraw their military personnel. So in reality, all they agreed to, beyond banning any further missionary work in Afghanistan, was to carry out a decision that they had already made. That hardly seems like a concession at all.

Posted by: | August 29, 2007 11:43 AM

Okay C, one more time. Let's clear the stories of the AG, Iraq and Afghanistan. Here's my takes:

AG: Gonzo was unqualified. There were far better candidates, Republican candidates that got ignored. Is every word he said wrong, no. But he abused some basic tenets of American society. I doubt you would completely disagree and surely you can see he didn't belong.

Afghanistan: The Korean situation is complex. And it's easy for you and I to pass judgement. You can say Korea was weak for giving into demands for their troop withdrawl and no more Christian missionaries. You can sit there and say no one should give in to them. If one of the hostages was your family member, what's your choice? The troops were leaving anyway. I can sit here and say they shouldn't do it. But how much do we know of the public response in Korea. If they just want out and the government is not on solid ground, I can easily see the second choice happening as it did. As I understand the public response, it was overwhelmingly in favour of getting them back no matter what. That was a few weeks back and I haven't kept up. The troops were leaving anyway, getting the missionaries home too is not as bad as you make it given the circumstances. I'm not sure who praised the Korean government. I do have to say that every situation is not black and white and that seems to be how everything is viewed these days. I firmly believe gray exists and is the major aspect of EVERYTHING.

In general I am not in favour of negotiating. There are always exceptions. And having no conversation with them, or Iran or any other bad guys is stupid (and you can see how well that works). If there's no talk then all that's left is military. Is that your idea of handling everything? You may think diplomacy has no place but it should be the first resort, not the last. I'm not sure whether you view negotiating and diplomacy in the same light. I'm curious.

Iraq was what most of what I said referred to. While most of your response to M had to do with the Korean situation, I was more focused on the AG and torture then Afghanistan. That was why I was more focused on Iraq. Most of this stuff with Gonzo comes after Iraq. So I appreciate the 'lesson', but it was unnecessary...

Posted by: Larry L | August 29, 2007 12:02 PM

Constitutionalist, your assumption that I would endorse a BAN on a sect of "Christian" evangelism in the US is completely false. People can proselytize whatever they like as far as I am concerned, as long as it isn't forced upon one (the door to door person, if I agree to hear him/her, can say what they like, but is NOT entitled to come in and stay contrary to my wishes).

(btw to use the O Henry comic tall tale as a comparison is frivolous and characteristically insensitive and insensible)

I hadn't heard the "grasping for straws" Tu night quote that the release would require "further negotiation", seems to contrary to the situation elsewhere reported, but ANYWAY as of this morning twelve have already been released. Hopefully the tribespeople there while having some different customs, can at same time have integrity of a sort (indeed I dare say possibly of a sort sometimes lacking in our own "advanced", "civilized" administration of whose habits even the common people have seen something) .

That you don't hesitate in assuming that in supporting the hostage release one pines for some religious totalitarianism is completely false and not surprising.

I'll admit that I "missed" at first the "complete quashing of religious freedom" involved in the release, until I saw what you used to support that statement was the forbidding further Korean missionary proselytizing. So any country whatever its religious affiliation is REQUIRED to allow Christian (a vague term implying a consensus which isn't the case, but not really applying to many of those who try to convert, or who adopt its name)missionaries to try to convert its population? That is to laugh.

It's amusing that you emphasize Cheon's statement-- as if you have some omniscient knowledge that this was the reason, which you don't--that, of course, holding so many prisoners was a handicap (of course they could have killed some or all of them this time if they felt it was restriciting their movement since July, and all the while when they are being targeted by American/Afghan forces; I'll note that as widely reported, HUNDREDS of Taliban were killed yesterday by US/Afghan forces on the same day that the release was announced; it wouldn't have been entirely surprising if they had reacted with anger and reneged in some way on the agreement, but they didn't, and commendably followed through with at least twelve releases today) , which was said in passing- the main statement is that "the Taliban seem to understand our point".

You say a settlement to release the hostages with the only concessions the Koreans made were to remove their troops, which they already were planning to do, and requesting no more Korean missionaries (which the Korean family members actually felt the need to publicly apologize to their own country, so they regret it also, not just the danger) is a "complete capitulation to torture". To call that idiotic is to my mind an understatement.

You say, "is this a good settlement to exchange prisoners for the hostages"-see it looks as if such are yourself are most concerned to justify their past positions and muddy the waters- that wasn't even a central motivation for the hostage-holders, as they gave up that claim. I suspect/hope they realized they made a mistake in the first place by taking an unimportant third party captive, and then were stuck with them. But it is significant and indicative, they didn't take the easy way out and act like the monsters you and others of whatever same ilk, even to the most ridiculous extent in the face of contrary evidence, are determined to make them out to be (and why do I suspect, that goes for ANY opposition?).

You show no foundation, but isn't surprising, in making suppositions that I or others would support "feather beds for 'combatants'", and equate not allowing further proselytizing "disrespecting" Korean Christians.

your words:give credit to AG for "recognizing who our enemies are".
and I'm "out of line" for saying that the US (and the actions of some of the current Afghan government) positions wasn't helpful to getting the hostages released? The current administration held to saying that "it doesn't negotiate with terrorists", so it WASN'T a help, practically or otherwise. Guarantee that US involvement wouldn't have helped, but then could claim ownership/credit for what might have happened. Does the current US government ever refrain from involvement in anything it feels like, however special interest driven? I'll note that it's significant that a group of 25 prisoners being held prisoner was hardly mentioned for a period even fell off the news radar, and that after the first two were killed, there was little reaction or outrage. I think that says much right there about what I should "respect".

Why should the S. Korean government be so concerned as it was in public statements today whether the US or other countries approve? They did a great job ( at least as it appears today, fingers crossed that heavyweight powers-that-be who were callous all this time don't screw up the rest of the release, their agenda, and infantile to the point of criminally callous justification of past predetermined positions in practice overriding all other human considerations), and seem to think there was some mutual understanding.

You say finally " will you agree that praising the Koreans for negotiating is a capitulation to terrorism" and as an Afghan government minister (and their government had through the situation only political/ideological concern in "rejecting" a swap of prisoners) also said this morning that this agreement would reward taking hostages. Fat lot of good a rigid, phony righteous, ignorant "don't negotiate with whoever I decide to label bad people (and I'll note that this designation of who is 'bad' and an 'opponent' is willfully and with free lying, applied to whatever is in the way of the whim or agenda of the moment) " would have done in this case! I'll also note that had the hostages been killed, there would in fact have been little or no effect on, or remorse from, the administration (I'll also note that earlier in the summer when the captors threatened to kill all of them if no one would negotiate with them THERE WAS LITTLE OR NO REACTION OR RESPONSE, even in the news, with the inescapable implication that the situation with innocent people's lives at stake by the moment wasn't worthy of attention) , but instead would have highlighted the superior importance of its policy, and possibly used the event as further pretext for its agenda. I'll note how the focus of attention has turned to Pakistan and Afghanistan in the last few months.

The presupposition made (and seems to be done by those who have no restraint fabricating what others WILL DO without having a shred of evidence to base it on, possibly because it gives a pretext for action, although some have shown they don't even feel the need for a pretext when they want to take action; some such freely make accusations without even having any evidence or knowing the person, as even you have done here and previously)
is that releasing the hostages (and clearly you prefer the event that the hostages remained prisoners or even killed, without remorse, ALL FOR THE CAUSE/IDEOLOGY-it is a prevalent and characteristic attitude now) would encourage further actions.

This attitude, seemingly rooted in "positive reinforcement","behavior modification" by reward or punishment often followed by blind, mechanical predetermined reactions/techniques as one does in "training" children and animals, I believe fallacious ( and I find even some animals comprehend reason far more than the "utilitarianly" stick or carrot superior white colonist' attitude presumes), and certainly shouldn't be blindly assumed as some subconscious, determined, unintentional helpless FACT of behavior (the "profiling" notion of personality, and presuming what someone will always, innately do is similar) , which one has no choice or control over.

Whatever affiliations (and may be circumstantial, desperate, or not even fudamentally intended-- and I don't support many of the past practices of the Taliban; but I would think natives would have at least SOME claim to their own cultural customs) some group has, they at least should be talked to as having a point of view and reasons, not presumed as some lower form of life or civilizedness that one knows better than.

For my part, I APPLAUD this result as it has taken place so far, the South Koreans for working directly to get some meeting of the minds, and placing individual citizens' welfare over some idiotic IDEOLOGY without blindly resorting to violence, and the captors, who made a DRASTIC mistake in doing this in the first place and in TRAGICALLY and NEEDLESSLY executing two people, to staying with the process over several months to a good result. (that the Taliban defer such respect to simple village elders, is JUST ONE INSTANCE there is something they can work with in some Asian cultures also, for just one example of cultural conversation)

Big question: Where was the UN? What is its role? Isn't this the sort of thing, with reasonable non-ideological third party intermediaries, a major purpose for its existence?

And by the way, I think from what you write I understand better what you mean by "Constitutionalist".

Posted by: M | August 29, 2007 01:20 PM

Constitutionalists' last sentence at 6:09 (and guys, I just meant to bring up the subject incidentally, when delighted to hear the news-while of course of much importance and worthy of discussion, this IS Andrew's LEGAL blog)

/implication/bogus threat, to all appearances actually seriously intended, that as a result if a few Italians are kidnapped, Catholics will be thrown out of the Vatican, the Pope will be thrown out, and the whole nation "bowing" to Islam (and that's EXACTLY what you said) is SO INCREDIBLY MORONIC...

Posted by: M | August 29, 2007 01:28 PM

As far as the UN, even the captors expressly asked for its protection for discussions outside the country even. Did it do anything? How would it look if the captives had been killed, as was extremely easy as far as anyone knew to have happened, as a result of satisfied indifference?

Posted by: | August 29, 2007 01:32 PM

All the above said as far as Afghanistan,
Ahmadinejad's statement that Iran is now ready to step into the necessary power vacuum in Iraq, praising the loss of American influence in Iraq, (did he REALLY say that?) is so misguided. What is he thinking? What he said is entirely not the point.

The point of reducing American occupation in Iraq (and COMMEND Maliki, as well as the Pakistan guy, at least for stating some independence and resisting being bullied from American encroachment, esp. in the face of challenges to their government-once they give in to that they've lost everything- and what kind of military even self-protection do most of the other oil-rich Arab countries have-- don't mean against Israel, just in general-- while Israel of course is Ok'd to have the nuclear bomb)is to get Iraq self governing and self-policing (of course again, if the "liberating" US had been so interested in "liberating" Iraq, they would have focussed on enabling them to get self-governing and self-policing right after Sadaam was deposed, whatever is thought of even the validity of THAT invasion; it's no surprise no serious attempts for that to happen, and can't be a matter of the idea not to have occurred) , not to OPEN IT UP FOR IRAN TO TAKE OVER.

What is Ahmadinejad even thinking by blustering about that?

Posted by: | August 29, 2007 01:55 PM

That is, other than some lame attempt to stroke the self-importance of some of his own public (I rememeber some similar accolades at Iran's prowess and pride when the Brits recently were taken captive). If they fall for that kind of stuff (which statements may be taken seriously for action by some of the international community), they need to get out more often or something

Posted by: | August 29, 2007 02:22 PM

and Larry L., thanks for your statements.

Posted by: | August 29, 2007 04:26 PM

SOMEBODY needed to say what you have been saying, Andrew Cohen. And needed to say it again. And again. And yet again. As far as I'm concerned, there isn't nearly enough outrage about the destruction of the Constitution at the hands of Alberto Gonzales. I fear this mess will outlive several generations.

Posted by: Gardenia | August 29, 2007 08:51 PM

If only a few more journalists had been willing to speak the same truth you did, Berto's damage might have been less.

Posted by: jpk | September 7, 2007 10:59 AM

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