Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Please Don’t Use Rough Interrogation Unless the Bomb Might Be Near Me

We’ve been over this scenario a thousand times. Your grandson has been kidnapped and is trapped in an unknown place underground with limited air to breathe. You have the kidnapper’s accomplice who knows where the boy is, but isn’t talking. Your grandson has hours and perhaps minutes to live if the guy doesn’t tell you where he is.

So far, Congress cannot seem to grasp that interrogators might occasionally face a situation like this. Yes, we respect the basic human rights of all persons, and yes, western and American values make us recoil from the thought, but when we face a monster, and in the case of Islamic fascists a great big group of monsters, we have to get down in the muck with them to defend ourselves and our values, because both our lives and our values will be gone if we don’t.

Somewhat influenced by what a small group of idiots did at Abu Ghraib, and what a large group of idiots who call themselves journalists think, almost all Democrats and a few RINO Republicans are holding up a reasonable definition of the techniques that our intelligence interrogators can pursue in the questioning of captured terrorists who might have information to shut down a ticking bomb. They, and Senators McCain and Graham need to get a grip. It’s not often that I have agreed with Alan Dershowitz, the renowned attorney and Harvard professor, but, unlike many of his liberal colleagues, he can think through certain issues:

Alan Dershowitz: Should we fight terror with torture?
London Independent | July 3 2006

The United States' Supreme Court has ruled that military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay breach the human rights of inmates. But in an age of suicide bombings and mass civilian casualties, do our laws themselves need to be rewritten? Are we just ignoring the unpalatable truth: that the survival of our society may depend on the legalized torture of terror suspects? Here, America's leading liberal lawyer, Alan Dershowitz, presents the case for radical reform:

"The great American justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr once remarked that "it is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that it was laid down in the time of Henry IV. It is still more revolting if the grounds upon which it was laid down have vanished long since, and the rule simply persists from blind imitation of the past." The rules of law regulating how civilized societies protect their citizens from aggression were not laid down as far back as the time of Henry IV. They were enacted, in significant part, following the two awful wars of the 20th century in which massive numbers of civilians were targeted for death and murdered in cold blood. The human-rights revolution of the mid-20th century was largely a reaction to the human wrongs of the Holocaust.

The period between the end of the Second World War and now has seen more profound changes in the nature of warfare than occurred from the time of Henry IV to the beginning of the First World War. Weapons of mass destruction in the hands of suicide terrorists with no fear of death and no home address have rendered useless the deterrent threat of massive retaliation. This threat has been the staple of military policy since the days of the Bible. Because suicide terrorists cannot be deterred, they must be pre-empted and prevented from carrying out their threats against civilians before they occur. This change in tactics requires significant changes in the laws of war - laws that have long been premised on the deterrent model….

Consider, for example, the United Nations Charter, drafted in the aftermath of Germany's aggressive war between 1939 and 1945. Article 51 confirms "the inherent right of individual or collective [to] self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a member." The use of the word "occurs" would seem to require a nation, seeking to act in compliance with the charter, to wait until it is actually attacked before it responds in self-defense. But what should a democratic nation do if it becomes aware of an imminent threat of attack by a group of suicide terrorists in a distant part of the world? Surely it should not simply wait until an "armed attack occurs" and then engage in retaliatory self-defense. First, there is often no known entity to attack, since the suicide terrorists have died and the leaders who sent them have gone into hiding among civilians and may well be preparing renewed terrorist attacks. Second, there is no good reason for a democracy to have to absorb a first blow against its civilian population, especially if that blow can be catastrophic. Third, there is little possibility that potentially catastrophic first blows can be deterred by the threat of retaliation against a phantom enemy who welcomes martyrdom….

Here Mr. Dershowitz spells out in unmistakable terms the problem faced by President Bush since 9/11:

The problem is that the current laws regulating the detention of combatants are near useless when it comes to this motley array of detainees. These detainees simply do not fit into the old, anachronistic categories. Most are not classic prisoners of war. They were not part of a uniformed army under the command of a nation. But neither do they fit in to the classic definition of "unlawful combatants". They are not spies or saboteurs, as those terms have been understood in the context of conventional warfare. Nor are many of them simple "criminals", subject to ordinary trials under the domestic law of crimes. They comprise a new category - or set of categories - unto themselves. They cannot be held as POWs until the end of the war, because this is a war that will never end. They cannot simply be released, because many of them would quickly volunteer to engage in suicide terrorist missions against their former captors, as some already have done. Most cannot be tried as criminals, because their actions took place outside the jurisdiction of the detaining nation. Those who have valuable, real-time information will be interrogated, and - short of the absolute law against "torture" - there are few, if any, rules governing the nature of permissible interrogation when the object is not to elicit "incrimination confessions" for purposes of criminal prosecution, but rather to obtain "preventive intelligence" for the purpose of pre-empting future terrorist attacks."

To read the entire article, click here.

On Fox News Sunday, Brit Hume pointed out that President Bush has asked that the definitions created by Senator McCain’s bill last year, and signed into law, be the definitions used. Astonishingly, Senator McCain objects. Something is wrong with this man.

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At 11:18 AM, Blogger Repack Rider said...

These people just can't help themselves. They have to torture somebody, and they will use every possible hypothetical situation that has never happened in order to justify it. Never mind that they cannot give a single example of timely, life-saving information that was extracted through torture, but there are many examples of prisoners dying under such "techniques" in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and of innocent people detained on suspicion and assumed to be terrorists with all the attendant consequences.

I do not understand this psychological sickness, but it seems to pervade the administration, dating back to the president's boyhood when inserting fireworks into live frogs was his summer pastime.

As Abe Lincoln said about a sheep's tail, calling it a leg doesn't make it one, and calling torture by any other name does not justify it. Looking down on the prisoners as some sort of illegitimate opponent may help the torturer dehumanize them in order to rationalize his act, but it does so at the cost of our moral authority. Now we are just like them.

As long as the heads of the CIA and DoD are willing to volunteer to undergo the same "techniques" to be used on prisoners, I have no objections. Anything they wish to inflict on another human being, that they themselves would not undergo, is torture.

Jesus said something like that, didn't He?

We recently had an example of an innocent man, imprisoned and tortured in another country on the suspicion that he was one of the stateless terrorists who can't be dealt with by traditional legal methods.

What do we do when the victim is innocent? Torture him until he says he didn't do it?

That trick never works, does it?

At 12:13 PM, Blogger RussWilcox said...

The hatred of President Bush just overwhelms some people, allowing them to ignore facts, invent stories and believe anything.

At 12:44 PM, Anonymous pragmaticmase said...

Well Repack Rider my friend, you seem to have enough moral values for us all and then maybe even more. I agree with you that some may be falsely accused…it happens all the time in our system of law and order but that doesn’t mean that we should scrap the whole system. It is not nice, even seems inhumane (which it is ) to torture another human being, which is completely at odds with our Christian values. It would be nice to turn the other cheek so that we can get slapped across the other, but say it to the parents, spouses and other loved ones of those lost at the World Trade Center. It is so nice to think that we can treat our enemies with the same Christian values, as we like to be treated. Unfortunately, this is not the real world as the founder of our country, George Washington, once remarked…”don’t think for one moment you can treat a foreign power like you treat your neighbor..Foreign powers only understand power…they will obey treaties only long enough to serve their own purposes and will scrap them when they no longer serve their needs”. Dershowitz is right….those treaties and niceties were drawn up when most nations had at least some respect for human rights..The Muslim extremists have none, not even for their own lives. There are countless victims of their torture evident in the streets of Baghdad, throughout Iraq and Afghanistan. They seem quite accustomed to this practice and recognize no other way…so your system of values are naïve and wasted on the lot you are trying to protect. If you don’t want to participate in such acts we are not forcing you but it just might save your life or that of someone that is dear to you. And don’t think for one moment that I don’t have the same Christian values that you seemingly adhere to and I don’t need anyone to try to take the higher moral plane than I do, I am just pragmatic and angry and trying to rid the temple of money changers and opportunists and murderers….Christ did that didn’t he?

At 3:35 PM, Anonymous Joe Alves said...

I'm for letting this President use any kind of coerced interrogation techniques that will get us the information that we need to prevent another attack on this country. These killers who bomb innocent civilians, and do not wear uniforms, do not come under Geneva Convention Rules. To somehow think that providing terrorists with Geneva protection is going to benefit our troops, is asinine. This is about protecting the American People. I have no concern for these murderers. People like John McCain, Linsay Graham, and Susan Collins, do not speak for me. We are fighting a war on terrorism against Islamo- terrorist facists, who want nothing more than to annihilate this country and everyone in it. Two of our soldiers were skinned alive, burned, and left in the street to rot. How is giving their killers Geneva protection, going to prevent this from happening again? McCain needs to get a life. As far as he's concerned, it's not all about terrorists, it's all about him! Who is he fooling?


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