Archive for the ‘War on Terror’ Category
Glenn Greenwald has a great post on the Gitmo detainee who just killed himself. Read the whole thing. Kudos to Greenwald for holding Obama’s feet to the fire on the detainee question.
The Vice-President who has never seen service? Or the guy who has conducted 1000 interrogations?
The most common defense of waterboarding is that we subjected our own soldiers to it. That’s true–as a way of training them to withstand enemy torture. When you reverse engineer a torture-resistance program, you’re almost by definition engaging in torture.
In reality, Bush’s waterboarding methods did differ from the U.S. military’s torture-resistance training, in that our soldiers knew how far we’d go and could stop the exercise if they couldn’t bear it. Conservatives have inadvertently confirmed this point. Numerous Republicans object that the release of the torture memos will render waterboarding and other techniques useless–“terrorists are now aware of the absolute limit of what the U.S. government could do to extract information from them,” complain former Bush officials Michael Hayden and Michael Mukasey.
It’s true. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, or torture methods devised thereby. Our chief weapon is surprise. (Surprise and fear. … Amongst our weaponry are such elements as surprise and fear, as Michael Palin might put it.) That’s exactly why training soldiers to withstand waterboarding is different than actually waterboarding.
The other blog has been chock-a-block with torture posts, so I’d thought I’d post up a few links here. There’s other stuff to talk about, too. I flayed Obama’s national service initiative yesterday.
The Daily Dish is basically a clearing house for the truth about the Bush torture regime. His coverage has been great. Typical quote:
The Western anathema on torture began as a way to ensure the survival of truth.
And that is the root of the West’s entire legal and constitutional system. Remove a secure way to discover the truth – or create a system that can manufacture it or render it indistinguishable from lies – and the entire system unravels. That’s why in the West suspects are innocent before being found guilty; and that’s why in the West even those captured in wartime have long been accorded protection from forced confessions. Because it creates a world where truth is always the last priority and power is always the first.
This is not a policy difference. It is a foundational element of Western civilization. The way Cheney constructed it, it was not even a mere war-power as we have usually understood it – because the war was defined in ways we haven’t usually understood it. Since the war had no geographical boundaries, since an “enemy combatant” could be an American citizen or resident, since the enemy could never surrender, and since the war could never end, the dictatorial powers, allied with the power to torture, undermined the balance of the American constitution. Until this is fully accounted for and the law-breakers brought to justice, that constitution remains with a massive breach below its waterline. It may not sink immediately; but its fate is sealed unless this precedent is not just moved on from, but erased.
Sullivan made this point last week:
What we have learned is that once Islamists actually wield power, their popularity collapses. Religious fanatics do not know how to run countries; their real interests lie elsewhere (you can apply that on a much lesser scale, of course, to the competence of the Bush administration). The place where Shiite Jihadism is least popular? Iran. And remember how al Qaeda managed to turn off the Jordanians after various atrocities; and how they lost the battle for the hearts and minds of Iraqis (with the brilliant and brave help of US troops) – after the Bush administration unwittingly gave them a lease of life in that country?
Now: if you’re a rational kind of person you might deduce from this that containing Islamism and letting it collapse under its own insanity is certainly a viable policy, given the unsavory alternatives. You might at least consider that taking the bait from these guys and reigniting religious wars might actually be giving them the oxygen they need.
Once again, I am struck by the parallel between Islamism and communism. The communists were all sexy and revolutionary when they were guerillas. The second they got into power, their ideology failed. Look at the Khmer Rouge. Or Mao. Or the Hollywood worship of Che Guevara and Casto vs. the reality of Cuba.
There are times when we have to fight, however. We couldn’t tolerate Communist incursion in central America. We had to bulk up our military in Europe to prevent a Soviet invasion. We funded guerillas in Afghanistan — eventually producing the Taliban as a side effect.
The current war differs from the last in that the enemy has no compunction about attacking us with small cells of maniacs. That doesn’t necessarily mean we have to go to war with every terrorist coddler out there. But it does mean we have to be more pro-active.