Saturday, May 16, 2009

When America Tortures, the Terrorists Win

Latest Newspaper Column:

It looks like Dick "Shooter" Cheney has hit the talk show ­circuit, defending his administration's use of torture -- oh, sorry, "enhanced interrogation." This, after steadfastly denying that the Bushistas used ­torture and insisting that any attempt to obtain documentation about it would imperil national security.
Now he wants CIA memos released -- because, he says, they show that torture works (an assertion which Sen. Russ Feingold, who has seen the memos, disputes). But it's not really torture. And we didn't really do it. Sorry, it's hard to keep all these different stories straight.
But you know, I remember reading once about a country where enemy bombs were exploding all night, every night, all over the country, for weeks. The country's very existence was threatened.
In that country, there was a prison that held dedicated and fanatical enemy operatives. The worst of the worst. People who had information that could help save lives and even save the country.
They did not, however, use torture to get that information. In fact, an interrogator who did nothing worse than get frustrated and smack a prisoner on the back of the head was immediately sacked.
And they got good intelligence. On at least one occasion, they even managed to "turn" an enemy operative and use him to send false information to the enemy.
There was another country whose enemy threatened them with nuclear weapons and repeatedly promised to wipe their way of life from the face of the earth. That country didn't torture people, either. In fact, one of that country's best-loved leaders pushed for and signed a treaty forbidding torture.
I'm sure you've figured out who those countries were. The first was Great Britain during the Blitz. As described in a recent column by Christopher Hitchens, a prison known as Latchmere House just outside of London held what would now be called "high-value targets."
The commander of that prison was no touchy-feely liberal; he was a feared martinet known behind his back as "old Tin-Eye." But he firmly believed (as did Prime Minister Winston Churchill) that "Violence is taboo, for not only does it produce answers to please, but it lowers the standard of information." His methods were based on gaining prisoners' trust. They worked. And Britain survived and prevailed.
The second country, of course, was the United States during the Cold War. Even under the grave threat of nuclear annihilation, a succession of American presidents refused to make torture official policy, even for people caught spying for Russia. And we won the Cold War. Because we didn't lose sight of who we were: We were the good guys.
One way you could tell the good guys from the bad is that the good guys didn't torture people and didn't use weasel words to make torture sound like something else. In fact, conservative icon Ronald Reagan signed an international treaty against torture "and other inhumane practices" which he called "abhorrent."
So were Churchill and Reagan wimps? Did they want to "offer the enemy understanding and therapy?"
No. They were leaders who realized that the contest they were in, like the one we're in now, was for civilization itself. And they chose not to fight barbarism by becoming barbaric.
As I've said before, the central front in the War on Terror is not Iraq or Afghanistan. The central front in the War on Terror in the American mind. The goal of the terrorists is to scare us into forgetting who we are. They want to make us act in a way that will allow them to say to the world, "Look! We were right! America is brutal and barbaric!" And the eight years of Bush/Cheney were one long retreat in that war.
Torture is a squalid and cowardly act ordered by people who have let fear master them. When anyone says "we have to torture because the ­terrorists do," they're surrendering to the terrorists. And yes, that includes any Democrats who signed off on it.
Because torture is wrong. It is un-American. It is not who we are.
Bonus: from the Pilot's letters column today: an answer for those who say "what we did isn't torture": Really, [defining torture is] the easy part. If we would prosecute anyone who did it to our sons or daughters for war crimes, then it's torture.

Thank you, Kevin Smith of Aberdeen NC for that.


Kathy Sweeney said...

Amen to that. Have to repeat my favorite quote of the week, from Jessie Ventura, former wrester, governor and Navy SEAL, from a Larry King interview:

Jesse Ventura: .. I was waterboarded [in training] so I know... It is torture...I'll put it to you this way: You give me a waterboard, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.

LongHairedWeirdo said...


It's true that torture will get someone to "talk". But what too-damned-many people seem to have lost the brains to recognize is that a false lead is worse than the absence of a true lead.

What's the one thing almost everyone agrees is impossible as a generality?

Proving a negative. If you have bad information, determining that it's bad is nearly impossible. It can lead you down false trails and hide the truth from you for... well, forever.

While it's scary to have to try to piece together a puzzle without enough information, we *do* that... we do that frightfully often. But to do that, we need *facts*. And any false lead pollutes our ability to find those facts.

Oh, one other thing that I think needs to be broadcast far and loud about this debate...

No, "we" all didn't want torture after 9/11. "We" weren't all so scared of what might happen next that we accepted the idea.

You, me, and a whole bunch of other folks, rejected the idea of torture from the getgo.

It's true, whole bunch of folks were scared enough to abandon their principles (well, assuming they had principles in the first place). And that means it's time for them to come clean, admit that they fucked up because they were scared, and help other people not make the same mistake in the future.

Charlie Stella said...

Long Hair: Immediately after 9-11 I would've been in favor for televised torture and trust me, I have principles.

Phil Donahue nailed it on some talk show immediately following 9-11 when he said we (America) was just dying to go out and punch somebody in the face. We were.

At that time I could care less whether torture was effective or not. I've come to change my mind (on quite a few things regarding 9-11 and its aftermath), but the arguments against torture made sense.

So, for me, it wasn't abandoned principles or fear. It was anger. It was an emotional response to an emotional issue.

Since the Iraq debacle, I've grown an equal amount of anger for those who lied us into a war (and those who signed onto it without bothering to read the reports--like our Secretary of State). Instead of all the useless ranting about a now dead issue, it'd be nice to see those in power to do something about ANYTHING actually DO SOMETHING.

But they didn't go after those who lied us into a war since they first had the chance (the majority) in 2006 or since.

Now they're using the "torture" issue like a quarterback uses a dummy call and it seems at least the democratic party faithful are falling for it hook, line and sinker.

I mean look at what happened on the economic front last week. Look at what the Democratic Congress and Senate did for banks and Wall Street. Look at how they repudiated single payer health insurance (by having those supporting it arrested at a Congressional hearing). Look at the latest record setting unemployment figure.

Or just have a strong cup of coffee.

The Jesse Ventura quote is great.

LongHairedWeirdo said...


I'm really sorry the world doesn't work the way you want it to.

But torture is still wrong. And I don't care *why* there's a slowly growing chance for prosecuting those responsible for torture, so long as the prosecutions are fair and just.

charlie stella said...

Meatball (long hair), I was agreeing with you about torture, but you can't make a blanket generalization about why people were for it (regarding their principles especially).

Don't be sorry for me, brother. You're the one pursuing change with blind faith ... just don't be surprised when you run into that tree.

LongHairedWeirdo said...

Don't be sorry for me, brother. You're the one pursuing change with blind faith ... just don't be surprised when you run into that tree.Okay, here's the thing, Charlie.

Are you lying, deliberately?

I mean, you don't know me, but you're making statements that assume knowledge of me.

So, are you just deliberately making up whatever bullshit comes to mind?

Or do you just not know better?

charlie stella said...

I should've guessed this one flew past your mullet, long hair ... but you make the decision. I'm too tired tonight.

Did you catch any of the Geithner's gift to wall street news yesterday? It has to do with his championing their right to unregulated executive compensation (because, you know, they did such a great job in the past the gov't shouldn't hinder their ability to operate). I would've sworn that was a Republican ideal ... but what do I know?

Not you, that's for sure.

I must be lying.

charlie stella said...

Long hair. Sorry if I offended. But just in case you haven't read the article in Fortune, see the teaser below. Essentially, it's what the Democrats (not the Republicans) are doing for all of us (middle and lower incomes) vs. them (the rich). From Fortune:

Imagine if you were not really in the market for a house but the government came along and said that it would finance 94% of a home's purchase price with a mortgage rate of less than 3%.

Still not interested? Wait, Uncle Sam has some additional sweeteners: if you do the deal and buy the house for only 6% down, you also get the equivalent of rental income every month to the tune of at least an annualized yield of 10% of the purchase price.

But wait there's still more: if, say, after two years, you decide you don't want the house any longer, you can just walk away from it. No need to pay the balance of the mortgage (it won't affect your credit rating), and you can keep the rental income received to date.

That's essentially the deal that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has offered qualified professional investors who participate in the so-called TALF (Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility). Two months into the program as the first TALF- backed deals hit the market, you can see why the likes of hedge fund Fortress Investment Group are drooling over it. "I'm a big believer in the impact that TALF can and should have," Fortress CEO Wes Edens said on a May 6 investor call, adding that he expects that Fortress will be "a big participant" in the TALF program "three to six months from now."

Read the rest of the article and it'll pretty much make you sick (unless you're an investor). TOTAL PROTECTION FOR INVESTORS. ABSOLUTE AND TOTAL.

The point being, there's no "change" because there's essentially no "difference" between the parties. And so long as so-called liberals claim they agree with Ralph Nader but can't vote for him ... well, we get Bush-Light (in the Obama form).


See one of the links at the bottom for the real fbi story today; note that the fbi infiltrates political groups to control investigations & to avoid accountability for their crimes in this case:

Here are the alternate links to the same report:


See one of the links at the bottom for the real fbi story today; note that the fbi infiltrates political groups to control investigations & to avoid accountability for their crimes in this case:

Here are the alternate links to the same report: