President Obama campaigned on uniting the country and creating a post-partisan environment. Watching the differences displayed this past week regarding the release of the CIA memos about interrogation techniques; it is quite evident we will never bridge the gulf that divides us.
We watched one group describe how members of the Bush Administration, including the Vice-President and possibly the President, should be hauled into court essentially for war crimes. But if you are surfing news channels, you can see people like former CIA Director Michael Hayden defending the actions of his predecessors and painting a distinctly different picture.
As a starting point, it is clear no one endorses the behavior that went on at Abu Ghraib. General agreement exists that what was done there was reprehensible. That behavior is not what we are speaking about here. We are speaking about techniques used to extract information from prisoners of war by our top professionals for the purpose of advancing our war aims and saving Americans lives.
The divide goes back to the difference in perspective of what kind of action we are involved in and how to confront the issue of terrorism. Prior to 9/11, the Clinton Administration treated this as a policing action. The Bush Administration defined this as a war, but a large portion of the left never accepted that perception. For example, Reza Aslan, while promoting his book How to Win a Cosmic War, states clearly where the left is coming from on this issue. He says that America (the Obama Administration) has finally come around to agreeing with our Europeans allies that this is a policing action. He purports we were treating this as a religious war between Muslims and Christians. The fact that our “Christian” soldiers freed millions of Muslims from totalitarian regimes appears to be lost on him.
Some of his viewpoints may be on the edge, but his positions are the mainstream of the left and they are being pursued by the Democrats in Congress. They seem to have a mindset and they are not called to task for it by the press, including the best at Fox News.
We deserve answers to four questions from the Democrats who continue pursuing this issue:
1) The Democrats kept asserting that use of “torture” techniques has been a major recruiting tool for Al Qaeda. They repeat this mantra at every opportunity. If so, please let us know how they know this. How many terrorists that have been recruited attribute their joining the cause to our “torture” of other terrorists? Do they have a Gallup Poll on this? Do they have in-depth studies of the terrorists and their motivations? We deserve to see this material so we can make an educated analysis of the situation. Without such information it is reasonable to suppose that someone spouted this out once and now it has been repeated a thousand times with no substantiation.
2) The point that the techniques that have been used do not produce results. After the mantra about the recruiting tool, this comes out of their mouths next. Whether you believe the techniques used should be used or not, to purport that torture does not work defies hundreds of years of use of torture. Surely some torture was done just because the people involved were sadistic. But please don’t foist some study by a PhD upon us and ask us to buy that. In fact, it is clear that the CIA personnel involved have disclosed that vital information was derived from the prisoners. Tell us you are against it for moral reasons, but don’t create a lie that it does not work. That is insulting to our common sense.
4) Please define what you are going to do to extract information from high-level prisoners of war. If you don’t like the techniques used then what are you going to do? We were not putting these people on the rack or cutting off fingers. In the realm of techniques of information extraction, these are relatively mild and people of good conscience can disagree whether they were actually torture. But now that these procedures have been taken out of our playbook, what are we going to do when we have a legitimate suspect and a plot to blow-up O’Hare has been discovered? We deserve to know how you are going to save thousands of innocent lives.
Until we have a clarification on these points we cannot take these people seriously. It appears they are against military action and just drowning in their hatred of whatever Bush-Cheney did during their term. Real matters of grave seriousness are at stake here and from all appearances we cannot take the current administration and their cohorts seriously. That, folks, is scary.