Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Professor Dershowitz's speech from last Thursday

UPDATE 12/5/2007 3:31 PM PST

A friend helped me summarize the text below:

My beef is that Professor Dershowitz did not say, and should have said Thursday night or in reply to my email "yes, I said those words" and then talked about the context of that section the Salon.com article - how he was trying to come up with an acceptable form of torture, and how testicles, while used by most torturers, should be completely off limits.


And now, my original post:

This post is definitely not going to make me any friends in the Jewish community, so I took a lot of time to think this over before publishing this. It's still doesn't give justice to what I'm feeling and thinking inside, but at least it'll get some of my thoughts out of my head.

Audio of the speech and Q&A

(as the content is graphic, you will need to register with LiveLeak to listen to it - sorry folks. If you know of another site online that serves up 100+ MB MP3's for free, post in the comments.)

I had been looking forward to Professor Dershowitz's speech for some time. Ask anybody who talked with me about it - I said that he wasn't Ann Coulter or Daniel Pipes. He knows how to properly phrase the facts and challenge those who need to be challenged without going over the line.

Admittedly, the event itself was a bit theatrical, making it like Professor Dershowitz and Rabbi Spitz were sitting by the fireplace in nice, upholstered chairs. But when the Q&A came on, I was impressed.

Then came the fourth and final question (which starts at time stamp 1:11 / 71 minutes on the above recording):

The questioner is a Muslim student, who begins by asking Professor Dershowitz why he said he supports legalized torture.

Professor Dershowitz denies ever saying such a thing.

The student says effectively "well I have this quote" and precedes to read the following:

"Quote. I want maximal pain, minimum lethality. You don't want it to be permanent, but you want to cause the most excruciating, intense, immediate pain."

Professor Dershowits interrupts the student at this point, stating "No, you got that from a hate web site that made it up. So let me tell you my views. Everywhere I go the same quote is read and it comes from the same place."

At this point, the student breaks in and says "let me finish" and continues: "Now, I didn't want to write about testicles, but that's what a lot of people use. Unquote." The student then says "so my question is, in the past 5 years, since this interview appeared, have you come to a clearer position on the abuse on genitalia in torture and would you be willing to practice what you preach".

Professor Dershowitz's response was first to talk about supposed urban legends about him, then he goes into what he says his beliefs are. He says he has written about torture since 1988 and "I am categorically opposed to the use of torture under all circumstances. That is my normative view," but he wants there to be what I think he would term to be a "torture warrant" should a person in a US enforcement role request the use of torture so there is accountability.

So Professor Dershowitz basically says - without explicitly saying it - that the quotation is false.

Now, you may be asking, where did this student get this quote? Salon.com - a left-of-center online news magazine which I would not consider a "hate web site" to use Professor Dershowitz's term - on September 12, 2002 published an interview by Suzy Hansen of Professor Dershowitz, supposedly interviewing him while he was at his summer home in Martha's Vineyard. The topic was his then recently published book, Why Terrorism Works.

Page 4 includes this Q&A:

Aren't there other forms of torture that would be less painful than that, that you might have considered?

But I want more painful. I want maximal pain, minimum lethality. You don't want it to be permanent, you don't want someone to be walking with a limp, but you want to cause the most excruciating, intense, immediate pain. Now, I didn't want to write about testicles, but that's what a lot of people use. I also wanted to be explicit because I didn't want to be squeamish about it. People have asked me whether I would do the torturing and my answer is, yes, I would if I thought it could save a city from being blown up.


You'll note that the wording of the answer published by Salon.com appears to more or less match the quote from the student's question.

Now several questions need to be answered here:
1) Could this be a made up quote?
Maybe, but it seems doubtful, and here's why:
I found this MP3 excerpt of the same interview on Salon's website. The questions and answers posed in this excerpt start about 4 questions after the quoted Q&A I list above. So if there is an audio recording of part of the interview, chances are the entire interview was recorded. If that is the case, why would Ms. Hansen have to make anything up for her published interview?

2) If this was a made up quote, did Professor Dershowitz, upon finding out, respond in some of his writings?
It appears not. I've checked Professor Dershowitz's website's publications page - nothing, though the Salon interview is also not listed. His blog began 3 years later, so that doesn't count.

3) What does Professor Dershowitz think about this?
I emailed him Friday morning with a brief summary of what you've read so far, asking him three key questions: If I obtained the whole interview, would I hear
something different? Is Salon.com in your view "a hate site" like you
described it last night? Did Salon.com misquote you?

Here was his response:
I stand by everything I said in context. I don't approve these methods. I approve requiring a warrant when they are used, as they will be in a ticking bomb situation. I have writen [sic] extensively and clearly about this problem yet the questioner misquoted me and wrenched my remarks completely out of context to make it sound as if I supportted [sic] these forms of torture which I do not. He got the misuote [sic] not from salon but from a hate website


It pains me that this was his response.

We've all said things in the past that we later regret. I've taken people to task in this blog for things that they've said, especially when they refuse to own up to it (for instance, Chancellor Drake's comments on May 31, 2007, denying that anti-Semitic speakers are invited to campus more than 2 to 3 weeks a year).

In addition, many of us have complained that the administration looks the other way when anti-Semitism happens on campus, ignoring documented violations of university rules. How can I then look the other way when someone from our side refuses to admit that they've said something?

Why didn't Professor Dershowitz just say "yes, I've said that, but five years later, here's what I've come to believe"?

It's estimated that 1,000 people attended that speech. Most of those people paid $18 to reserve a seat (that includes me); a large portion paid $100 for a VIP version of the event; and let's not even talk about the donors who footed the majority of Professor Dershowitz's speaker's fee, which is rumored to be several tens of thousands of dollars.

How can we now accept anything that he said as true? How can we continue to say that we have the truth on our side?

Professor Dershowitz made it clear Thursday night as well as in some of his more recent articles that he does not support legalized torture. He put on a great performance on Thursday night. I just wish he could have at least been a bit more explicit about the Salon.com article.

1 comment:

Narayx said...

I deem you as a sensible person with the ability to spot hypocrisy where it lies. The following link will lead you to Dershowitz' description of how last quarter's event unfolded. Please keep in mind what actually happened that night as I am sure you were present. I'll leave you to do with this what you will.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/940221.html