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I'm Ashamed

From a New York Times article out today:

The Central Intelligence Agency has used coercive interrogation methods against a select group of high-level leaders and operatives of Al Qaeda that have produced growing concerns inside the agency about abuses, according to current and former counterterrorism officials...

In the case of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a high-level detainee who is believed to have helped plan the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, C.I.A. interrogators used graduated levels of force, including a technique known as "water boarding," in which a prisoner is strapped down, forcibly pushed under water and made to believe he might drown....

Defenders of the operation said the methods stopped short of torture, did not violate American anti-torture statutes, and were necessary to fight a war against a nebulous enemy whose strength and intentions could only be gleaned by extracting information from often uncooperative detainees.

So strapping a man down, pushing him underwater, and making him believe he might drown isn't torture?

It's beyond me how Middle America can look at the Bush Administration and think, "Good job. Let's give them four more years." I look at the Bush Administration and see damage done to the US that will take at least a generation to undo. We have dismissed the viewpoints of many of our closest allies. We have refused to sign treaties that would place limits on our misbehavior. We have engaged in a war based on false pretenses. We have asserted our right to detain suspected terrorists indefinitely, with no legal recourse. Now we find out that we have been torturing prisoners on multiple fronts.

I cannot believe that this is the sort of country the Founding Fathers had in mind. It's not the country of which I thought I was a part. But the worst part is that it's entirely conceivable that we may be in for another four years of this. If President Bush were running 20 or 30 points behind John Kerry in the polls, I would feel better -- I would say to myself, "At least America realizes how awful things are and is determined to do something about it." But that's not the case. There are plenty of people who think George Bush is doing just fine, thank you very much. And for the life of me, I can't understand that.

As ashamed of my country as I am right now, if President Bush is reelected, I'm going to feel much worse. What kind of signal would that send to other nations -- that we would voluntarily return him to office after what he and his team have done to America's reputation throughout the world?


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September 2, 2001: Going back in time I arranged it so the CIA would get a hold of Osama and prick him 'til he speaks. Would anyone have a problem with this?

OK. Maybe these guys would:

click here

Justin, hindsight is 20/20. If I suddenly found myself in Linz, Austria circa 1899, would I incapacitate (or even kill) 10-year-old Adolf Hitler? Yes, I would. But that's because I know precisely what he did as an adult. There is no question of his culpability in the deaths of millions of innocent people.

Similarly, we know that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people. If I could go back in time and instruct the CIA to do whatever it took to get him to reveal his plans, would I? Yes, I would.

But these are absurd examples -- as is the link you provided. The real world doesn't work this way. We don't have time machines. We don't know what people are going to do in the future. We don't know in advance who's innocent and who's guilty. We in the civilized world have therefore evolved legal systems that attempt to protect people from unfair treatment. In the case of civilians, we cannot hold them without due process, and we must presume they are innocent until proven guilty. In the case of soldiers in a war, we must treat them humanely, and we must release them once hostilities have ended. The current US administration has thrown this entire philosophy out the window.

Our government has asserted the absolute right to determine who should be governed by international conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war and who should not. In the case of the former, it turns out that we have engaged in torture (can we please drop the word "abuse"?). In the case of the latter, our government has said, simply, "trust us." Why should we?

The typical argument of people in power in such situations is, "If you knew what we knew..." Okay, I'll bite. Let's say they know more than us. Let's say these interrogations have revealed all sorts of nefarious plans. Has the US government prevented any of them? It didn't in Bali. It didn't in Madrid. Has John Ashcroft convicted even one person under the PATRIOT Act?

Part of what I think you're missing is that much of America (excluding myself) believes that almost any sort of action is acceptable against an enemy once you have declared war. War is considered the erasure of the rules of civilized action, demonstrated in part by the mythology surrounding American settlers' successful guerrilla war against the Red Coats. Part of the success is attributed to discarding formation and breaking the concept of a polite battle.

The "7 idiots who lost the war" are considered by some to have failed by releasing images that hurt the war effort, and not by torturing the enemy.

Trevor, sadly, I think you may be right. Of course, if that's how Middle Americans feel, then they should be honest about it and call for the US a) to withdraw from the Geneva Conventions and b) to realize that any American regarded as an "enemy combatant" by another nation will be a legitimate target for torture and murder. I don't think that's what Middle Americas really want. I think what they want is for the US to behave with impunity while imposing limits on the actions of others through the threat of retaliation.

One issue is that we're not at war with nations, and thus there is no body which is able to ensure that their troops honor the Geneva Convention.

In this situation, we should have expected that our captured troops would be used in horror shows, and I wonder if the existence of small, cheap, digital cameras will eliminate the illusion that any army follows the Geneva Convention without fail.

When the troops come home, they will bring CF cards full of images which they protected during the conflict but will release in the aftermath. TheMemoryHole.org servers will need an upgrade.

We? We? We didn't do a damn thing. Bush, his cohorts and the lameasses in Congress did those things. Not "We". I've never even voted for those a -holes because they all disgust me. As for the torture, a case can be made that since these people are not members of a recognized uniformed military organization they don't fall under Convention protection and you can go as far as you're willing to extract information. The Convention even allows you to shoot people out of hand as spies if they are found on the battlefield out of uniform .

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