Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Enhanced Interrogation

I think it is about time for me to weight in on the subject of Enhanced Interrogation and its use by the United States in the 'war on terror'.

First let me stop those of you who are going to say we should not use this tool because it is barbaric and we are a better people than that. Yes, it is barbaric –but then that is the very nature of war in the first place, isn’t it? War is a terrible thing and it should always be the last resort, something a country or a people are forced to when there is no other choice.

Ever since World War II, we in the United States, have been wrestling with the concept of war. We have been steadily evolving towards the idea that a war should be conducted in a “civilized manner”. This is a horrible idea. What has been the result? Instead of several short furious wars followed by years of peace, we have had small, tortuously long wars with hundreds of thousands of killed and wounded. In the 66 years since the end of World War II we have been engaged in “small wars” or “police actions” for about 40 (over half) of those years (Korea, Vietnam, Iraq 2 times, Somalia, Afghanistan and more, plus the “global war on terror”). We have become a society who has gotten used to the idea of having our Armed Forces fighting somewhere in the world all the time. That is neither desirable nor acceptable and it is clearly not sustainable, even with the exceptionally high-quality and professional nature of our military these days.

Another thing we should get straight -Enhanced Interrogation is a euphemism for torture. There are those who say it is not really torture, but those people are wrong. Sleep deprivation, water-boarding and the other “mild” methods used in Enhanced Interrogations are clearly forms of torture and to argue the point is a waste of time. 

The real question is not if they are torture, and can not therefore be used by a civilized society, it is if any torture can be used at all–and if so, under what circumstances. The answer to that question is clearly, yes. It can when the information sought is of such a nature and importance that failing to learn it will result in the loss of life. I am sorry, but to me it is just that simple. 

Some one once said that in war nobody ever really wins, they just lose less. There is a lot of truth in that statement. In this case the goal is to lose fewer lives --and if torture is the tool you need to achieve that goal, so be it.

At the present moment the debate revolves around whether Enhanced Interrogation contributed to bringing ultimate justice to Osama bin Laden. Detractors of Enhanced Interrogation methods claim it did not and that no useful or reliable information was obtained. On the other side of the issue, there are 3 former CIA Directors, the current CIA Director, the former Director of the DIA, a half dozen former CIA operatives, several flag rank military officers and 3 former high ranking members of the State Department who say that the piece of information that lead to locating bin Laden was obtained a result of using Enhance Interrogation Methods on at least 3 al Qaeda members. Argument in the face of that testimony is ideological, not logical.

As to the question of morality –well, ask me that again once peace is achieved and innocent men, women and children are no longer losing their lives and limbs to terrorist bombings. 

John McCain is a respected and eloquent advocate for banning torture in any form. His experience with torture is very personal and direct, having suffered at the hands of the North Vietnamese for years while a POW. His arguments revolve around 3 main points. First, it is simply not moral. Second, it does not result in actionable and reliable intelligence and third, it places our troops at risk when they are captured. I have already addressed the morality question –war, itself, is not a moral activity and it never should be. As for obtaining reliable intelligence, well, ask that of Osama bin Laden the next time you see him 0h, sorry, you can’t because he is dead. I guess that intelligence was fairly reliable, no? The final question, putting our troops at more risk is an empty one. If captured, our troops are already being terribly treated and tortured. They are often not only tortured, they are mutilated and killed. Al Qaeda is not a signatory of the Geneva Convention and does not answer to the International Red Cross (and never will). The best way to keep our troops out of harms way is to fight to win and put an end to hostilities as fast as you possibly can, using all the tools necessary.

As I said, war is a terrible thing. It should be and must be kept so horrible that it is always the option of last resort. The real crime is trying to turn it into some gentleman’s game, something that can be resorted to casually without fear of the consequences. That is the real debate we should be having, not if saving lives by making your declared enemy suffer is or is not something we should be doing…..

Live Long and Prosper....

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