I’m getting SO tired of SO many people saying that the United States is torturing suspected terrorists. It’s unbelievable to me that it is so easy for news commentators or politicians or arm-chair quarterbacks to give the rest of the world the impression (and I think they honestly believe this) that Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Rice sit around all day trying to think up new ways to torture people. “Whom can we drag into the chamber next?” “Where should we put the next CIA gulag?”
That’s just utterly ridiculous, and I’m getting sick of people like Howard Dean or John McCain implying otherwise.
I don’t know a single person (politician or otherwise) who has given me the impression that cutting off fingers or electrifying genitals would be okay with them. Even in the Abu Ghraib scandel — where you could make the argument that we actually did torture people — the people who did it are being prosecuted. Some are already in jail. It’s the terrorists who are lobbing people’s heads off with machetes, not us. We’re not even in the same universe.
So I want to know what “torture” is. To me, if we cause someone irreparable physical harm (chop something off or beat someone bloody), then we’re torturing, and I don’t think we should be doing it. That’s torture, and I’m against it. We’re better than that. Shooting someone in the leg, breaking fingers, shock treatment, etc. This stuff’s right out.
But scaring someone. Threatening them with words. Loud music. Dogs barking. Sleep deprivation. Stripping them naked. Scantily clad women making them feel uncomfortable. Keeping them in a really hot or cold room. Maybe even slapping them around a bit if necessary. All this stuff, if it breaks them and saves lives, then I’d approve it. I’m not happy about it. I don’t want to do it. I don’t get my jollies from it. But it’s an unfortunate, though necessary, part of war.
I guess what I’m tired of is all the worry and concern and hand-wringing over the emotional well-being of captured terrorists. I just don’t have much sympathy on that front, because I’m much more worried about sparing the tens of thousands of people who would lose somebody and have their lives irrevocably altared in the next 9/11 (if it were to occur). I think their safety and their emotional well-being comes first. Period. And if a few captured terrorists have a few bad days in prison to get it, then so be it.
Now, I can already hear you asking, “How do we know they’re actually terrorists? What if they were just barbers that took a wrong turn in Kandahar and ended up at Gitmo?” First, I can’t believe people actually think that’s the case. How incompetent do you have to assume our military is for that to happen?!
But second, I agree (in a sense). We should only rough up / make really uncomfortable the guys who have been tried in the military tribunals and found guilty, or whom we believe have information we need immediately. In those cases, the guy who went through three different levels of scrutiny before ending up in Guantanamo (because that’s what it takes) goes into cold-exhausted-rap-music-break-him-now mode. And I won’t really feel that bad about it.
And another thing… When John McCain implies we’re becoming like the enemy, it’s just plain insulting. How are we even close to the enemy, Senator? And when Nancy Pelosi or Howard Dean or Ted Kennedy says we’re torturing people, and Al-Jazeera puts that in primetime in Saudi Arabi, they don’t envision barking dogs, Hooters girls and loud music — they envision limbs being ripped off. And neither the enemy without nor the enemy? within bothers to clarify. Shocking that they’d hate us so much!
Last point before I get to my question… I heard one of the analysts on Fox News the other day say that we should use the following test to determine what are coercive interrogation policy should be… “If we would be comfortable with Al-Qaeda doing X to our troops when captured, then it’s all right for us to make X a part of our policy for interrogating prisoners.” He was making the point that we wouldn’t want the enemy who had captured our soldiers to strip them naked, lock them in a cold room and play the Red Hot Chili Peppers really loud (which is what the CIA did to extract vital information from Abu Zubaydah a couple years back), so we shouldn’t do that to the poor terrorists.
That’s SO ridiculous. First of all, our soldiers would be thrilled with that treatment. Unfortunately, we have to train them to be prepared to get mutilated by the enemy if captured. The second thing that really bothers me is that every time I hear someone (typically a conservative) say what I just said, I seem to always and immediately hear someone else (typically a liberal) say that just because they do it doesn’t mean that we should. Of course that’s true! Of course we shouldn’t! But that’s not what I’m saying, and I don’t think that’s what any conservative I know of is saying either. My point is that the same standard shouldn’t be applied.
The Fox News analyst’s test is totally invalid / fallacious. If our marines were the ones running around blowing up cafe’s and hospitals, beheading prisoners of war, and flying civilian airliners into buildings of more civilians, then YES … I would cetainly approve the Red Hot Chili Peppers and a cold room for them. If it were me, I’d probably approve more. But because we aren’t doing that kind of thing (not even close), we can’t use the same standard with the two sides. We are better than they are … more noble, more honorable. It’s extreme for us to “waterboard” someone. For the terrorists, there is no such thing as extreme. Therefore, in my opinion, it’s a totally invalid comparison. We cannot be too idealistic or theoretical, or we won’t be able to beat them.
All this brings me to the question… What does it mean to torture someone? Define it for me. And let’s get past all this nonsense about how the US is 30-seconds away from becoming like the enemy. Give me a break! We’re not even on the same planet.