Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Hope for the Future?

Most people probably don’t know about the Presidential Scholars program; I only do because a friend of mine in high school was named one. It’s one of the biggest honors a high school senior can get, with only two from each state picked to receive them each year. They get invited to the White House, where this year they gave President Bush quite a shock:

President Bush was presented with a letter Monday signed by 50 high school seniors in the Presidential Scholars program urging a halt to “violations of the human rights” of terror suspects held by the United States…

The handwritten letter said the students “believe we have a responsibility to voice our convictions.”

“We do not want America to represent torture. We urge you to do all in your power to stop violations of the human rights of detainees, to cease illegal renditions, and to apply the Geneva Convention to all detainees, including those designated enemy combatants,” the letter said.

I think I just became a little less cynical.


  1. #1 Chuck
    June 27, 2007

    Well, one-half of 100 of the best and brightest young men and women in a country of three-hundred million is definitely a step in the right direction, especially given the directness of the letter and the circumstances in which it was given to the president, but there is much work to be done to overcome the apathy of youths.

  2. #2 Royale
    June 27, 2007

    I heard about this. Our illustrious President replied something akin to “America doesn’t torture people.”

    Yes, and potatoes aren’t potahtoes.

  3. #3 David Durant
    June 27, 2007

    What does it say of the 50% who were presumably offered the chance to sign the letter and refused to do so? If there is a published list of signatories then I wonder how it splits amongst red / blue states?

  4. #4 Jim Lippard
    June 27, 2007

    Chuck, David: Apparently there were at least 140 Presidential Scholars at the event, not 100. There were four from Arizona.


  5. #5 Soldats
    June 27, 2007

    I shall now do my best attempt to emulate their critics:

    This is further proof that the elite of this country are removed from the concerns of the average person. They provide aid and comfort to terrorists and care more about them than they do about the safety of their fellow citizens. 9/11 changed everything and they are clearly not thinking with a 9/12 mindset.

  6. #6 Richard Gay
    June 27, 2007

    “America doesn’t torture people.”

    That’s right, America doesn’t torture people. American thugs torture people.

  7. #7 Chris Hallquist
    June 27, 2007

    Thought one: Go my generation!

    Thought two: Damn, he lied to them.

    Thought three: How did they react to the lie? This, to the best of my knowledge, hasn’t been reported.

    And btw, Ed, dunno if you do blog memes, but tag: http://uncrediblehallq.blogspot.com/2007/06/blog-meme.html

  8. #8 wolfwalker
    June 27, 2007

    I wonder how many of these supposedly-intelligent high schoolers actually know what the Geneva Conventions say on the subject of human rights and imprisonment of the enemy in time of war?

    My guess: zero.

  9. #9 xebecs
    June 27, 2007

    Apparently there were at least 140 Presidential Scholars at the event, not 100. There were four from Arizona.

    There are two from each state, plus a few wild cards — not sure how those are picked. I was nominated for one back around 1980, but refused to fill in the required paperwork — not the smartest “rebellion” I ever perpetrated.

  10. #10 Robert
    June 27, 2007

    Wow, Wolfwalker, that was amazing relevant and full of evidence. Way to completly shut down their argument.

    How much do you know about what the geneva conventions say on the subject of human rights and imprisonment of the enemy in time of war?

    My guess: zero. (Wow, evidence free accusations are easy!)

  11. #11 Leni
    June 27, 2007

    Less cynical? No. More stupid.

  12. #12 Kenny
    June 27, 2007


  13. #13 Gretchen
    June 27, 2007

    Well, who’s to say that all of them were given the opportunity? We don’t seem to have any way of knowing.

  14. #14 Gerard Harbison
    June 27, 2007

    Our illustrious President replied something akin to “America doesn’t torture people.”

    That may be technically correct. It’s probably more accurate to say “America outsources to tin-pot dictators, to do the torturing Americans won’t do”.

    Extraordinary rendition, or globalism? You be the judge. 🙁

  15. #15 ctower
    June 27, 2007

    Add this to that kid who nailed O’Reilly with his own words the other day, and it looks as if the teens are the only ones willing to stand up to the rightwingers these days.(Of course, the fact that they don’t have cushy media jobs to lose might have something to do with it…)

  16. #16 Keanus
    June 27, 2007

    Given his closeted style of management, listening only to those who tell him what he wants to hear, that letter may have been Dubya’s first hint that some Americans don’t cotton to torture on our behalf. And when he said “America doesn’t torture people,” he was thinking one of three things:
    1) Conflating himself with America, he wasn’t personally practicing torture,
    2) He was using the Cheney definition of Torture, or
    3) The people have no right to know the truth.

    Sometimes I’m appalled at my cynicism.

  17. #17 Justin Moretti
    June 28, 2007

    The Geneva Convention, like the Hague convention, does not, IIRC, apply to enemy combatants who have not signed it (which is the case for terrorists), and in fact releases signatories (which the US is not) from their responsibilities to those conventions when engaged against non signatories so that they cannot misuse it to gain a combat advantage.

    This was recognized a long time ago. When the enemy fights dirty (by blowing up children and killing left-wing aid workers who probably support their cause), ‘we’ are clear to take off the gloves too.

    There is no such thing as morality in war – the willingness of the democracies to take higher combat losses in the interest of sparing civilians is only a very recent development, and is very much a “bonus” which everyone takes for granted. Ditto the way prisoners are treated. However we may be “torturing” our prisoners, you have to remember what the other side is doing, i.e. decapitating them live-to-air.

    Morality in war is not a matter on which the enemy is willing to reciprocate, and I wish those who talked about the immorality of torture, and of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, would focus on the other side as much as they do ours.

  18. #18 DuWayne
    June 28, 2007

    Justin Morretti –

    It really doesn’t matter what the enemy is willing to reciprocate. Just because some barbaric people choose to act in an unacceptable manner, does not make it ok for us to do the same. All that our torturing others does, is to make us no better than them.

    I would also note, that they said nothing about the Geneva conventions. They said human rights abuses and they are bloody well spot on.

  19. #19 James
    June 29, 2007


    There is a practical matter as well. It is far from clear that torture actually confers a tactical advantage. Torture-obtained intelligence is unreliable as well as immoral.

    I also second DuWayne’s point. The whole idea is that we in the Enlightened West are better than our barbaric enemies. Otherwise, what’s the point? That’s not to say that we shouldn’t push some of the limits (I don’t think we need to adhere to all the geneva conventions against terrorists) but there need to be some lines that we will not cross.

    The end does not (always) justify the means.

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