I’ve been on the front lines of those ridiculing the idea that torture doesn’t work (really? How’d we find bin ladin?), saying that I would do just about anything were the lives of my family – or the life of my country – in danger made imminent by a person shackled in front of me, and that waterboarding isn’t “torture” (if it isn’t enormous pain or disfigurement, it isn’t ‘torture,’ and getting wet isn’t torture).
I have supported EIT as I have understood it.
I also have supported the release of the Feinstein report. Why? Because I believe in the Rule of Law. I believe that nothing the government does that is not directly connected with national security – and ten-yr-old interrogations aren’t – ought to be withheld from We the People who actually are – and need to start acting as we are – in charge around here.
I expect that Ms Feinstein and the Democrats shortly will release the complete reports on Fast & Furious, IRS v Tea Party, Benghazi, FEC decisions not to indict NBP for voter harassment, etc. Not to do so will ensure that whatever value brought to our society by her CIA report is not actually about the Rule of Law, but about partisan politics, a personal grudge and a need to offset the Gruber testimony on the day of the release of the report.
In all candor, I wasn’t going to read yet another partisan report hammering activities of a former administration by the most partisan, lawless, non-transparent and anti-American administration in the history of America. What’s the point? He-said-he-said. If I want my Constitution I can keep my Constitution.
In the direction of ex-post-facto criminalization of activities deemed lawful at the time lies every administration imprisoning its predecessor, and that won’t work out well for America or the world.
Then I read sections of the Feinstein report.
The value of the Feinstein report is similar to the value of Edward Snowden’s reports: Our understanding of these government programs has been less – far less – than complete. In a free society that is wrong.
If you have not yet read any of the “highlights” of the report, I’d like to recommend doing so prior to, as did I, engaging in punditry without knowledge.
My son convinced me to read the report. He is a very bright, historically-aware, well-educated libertarian-leaning young man. I am glad he did so.
I have used arguments such as:
• I’d do just about anything to stop another 9-11
• Waterboarding a few guys to stop a massive terror attack on the US is legit
• If EITs stopped an attack that would have killed thousands, it’s all good with me.
But – you know what? It isn’t.
(My bin laden example, above? Killing bin laden – a bad guy, sure, but a guy out of the fight for years, old and dying of kidney failure anyway – was nothing but an ego salve to Obama and Americans, a head on a stake outside the castle walls. His death had no strategic or tactical value. It was theater, plain and simple. And if this is what it took to kill him, then we didn’t need to kill him. )
I would not do or condone having done in my name these kinds of things. It wasn’t just waterboarding and it wasn’t just a few guys.
More than that, however, is the idea that we – Americans – have put in place leaders who could countenance these actions, or that we are hiring people capable of them to begin with.
But – as I noted above – would I do these things if my family or my country were in imminent danger? I can’t answer other than to say, ‘I hope not,’ as I have no idea how I would live with myself afterwards; at that point it’s a lose-lose proposition with only the (perhaps outdated) concept of honor to advise me against it.
Many on the Right today are comparing collateral civilian deaths from drone assassinations to these, as though some moral equivalency exists.
An attack with an explosive in combat kills everyone within range. If the target is of high enough value that he must be killed – and making those decisions is why we elect presidents – then killing him supersedes the death of those around him. It’s a war, folks, and there are no good choices in war; there are only choices between “bad” and “worse.”
I can accept the deaths of civilians – even women and children – in an act of war taken to kill a high value target. How do you think we won WW2? Did you think there were no women & children in Dresden? Berlin? Tokyo? Hiroshima? Those all are “bad.”
If the goal is worth going to war, you’ve already made the decision that achieving that goal is more important than human lives. Now you’re just picking which lives.
If the goal is not worth going to war – to win, then any killing, maiming or torture done is immoral. THAT is the issue America has refused to face since 1945.
As I have written many times, the only way ISIS is going to be stopped is by nuking them, by using our most productive weapons on our most lethal enemies, and that doing so would be far more moral than sending our educated western liberal young men out to trade bullets with illiterate fanatics of a pre-modern death cult. (We killed over 2M Vietnamese in 15 years of conventional warfare. Would a nuke or two on Hanoi in 1962 have killed that many? Nope. Ended the problem? Yep. Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved between 9-10M Japanese lives. Using nukes was – and is – the moral choice. Productivity counts, more in war than any other endeavor.)
But these black sites and this torture have nothing to do with imminent danger. This choice was “worse.”
If you can stand a guy up on his own broken foot for 48 hours, “imminent” isn’t in the equation. Don’t believe me? “The American Fighting Man’s Code of Conduct” Section V, says, “…I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability.” Our training, when I was a cadet at USAFA, was that 48 hours is all the “utmost ability” you need, that’s long enough for any high-value intelligence to have been altered on the event of our capture; plans would be changed; give it up.
If you shackle a naked man to a cold concrete floor until he dies of hypothermia, what possible intelligence value did you hope to gain?
If you shove pureed food up a man’s butt in order to “feed” him and it hasn’t already crossed your mind that you’re acting as a depraved and utterly inhuman human being, I – literally – don’t want you on my side.
Do I believe Sen Feinstein released this report to further the Rule of Law? Of course not. Absent reports on the lawbreaking of THIS administration, which does not even have the trappings of national security in mind, it is impossible to believe that. Her release is partisan and an exercise in revenge for CIA spying on her – which, in and of itself was an inexcusable encroachment of the Executive Branch onto the Legislative. Would that Congress was so exercised by lawless amnesty and Obamacare changes.
But I am glad she released it.
America IS better than this.
But we are better than the lawless man in the oval office, too.