The Handcuffs We Willingly Wear

Posted: Apr 28, 2009 12:01 AM
The Handcuffs We Willingly Wear

"I'm not naive about my country. My country is definitely not always right; my country has at times been terribly wrong. But I know this about Americans: We don't set out to kill innocent people. We don't cheer when innocent people die.

The people who did this to us are monsters; the people who cheered them have hate-sickened minds. One reason they can cheer is that they know we would never do to them what their heroes did to us, even though we could, a thousand times worse. They know that when we hunt down the monsters, we will try hard not to harm the innocent. Those are the handcuffs we willingly wear, because for all our flaws, we are a decent people." – Dave Barry, September 13, 2001.

That excerpt from a Dave Barry column just following the September 11 attacks is something I have quoted often throughout the years and today it seems more relevant than ever. 

When Barry wrote of the “handcuffs we willingly wear” it was two days after the September 11 attacks.  He was talking about how our country would respond to the horrific murder of three thousand innocent American men, women and children – that even in war we would do whatever we could to spare the innocent.  He was responding to those wickedly cheering the 9/11 attacks saying America deserved them.

The “handcuffs” being discussed today go far beyond those discussed by Barry seven years ago. Many critics of the former administration believe the “handcuffs” we must wear when trying to prevent future “man-made disasters” include a ban on the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” particularly waterboarding.  Many on the left are telling us that we have not been a decent people. We are being told that those tasked with keeping us safe for the past eight years acted immorally and now they must pay a price. 

Last week the New York Times and some Democratic congressmen called for the impeachment of Federal Judge Jay Bybee.  Frank Rich called for “fair trials that at long last uphold and reclaim our nation’s commitment to the rule of law” identifying Judge Bybee as one of the villains he wants punished because “as an assistant attorney general, he was the author of the Aug. 1, 2002, memo endorsing in lengthy, prurient detail interrogation ‘techniques’ like ‘facial slap (insult slap)’ and ‘insects placed in a confinement box.’” Cue the pitchforks and torches (and get rid of those caterpillars while you’re at it).

On numerous leftwing websites bloggers and commenters have invoked Nuremberg, saying that following orders to carry out the enhanced interrogation techniques is no excuse.  One headline even read “The USA Hung’em at Nuremberg – The USA Hung Saddam – HANG BYBEE!”

Those on the angry left are out for blood and the man they helped elect president appears afraid to deny them their witch hunt.  Unfortunately for President Obama and those on the left, this is not a terribly difficult issue for most Americans to understand and many will see the attempted prosecution (and other forms of persecution) of former administration officials, CIA agents, lawyers, etc. for what it is – politically motivated and dangerous to our national security.

Most Americans can tell the difference between following orders to gas innocent men, women and children to death in Nazi concentration camps in the service of a murderous psychopath and following orders to make a suspected (and sometimes confessed) terrorist believe he might be drowning in order to extract information in an effort to save the lives of thousands of innocents.

Don’t expect Americans to look favorably on an administration willing to compromise national security to settle political scores or in an attempt to gain political advantage.  According to pollster Scott Rasmussen, 58 percent of Americans believe Obama’s recent release of CIA memos regarding enhanced interrogation techniques endangers national security.

Americans know that for seven years following the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration was responsible for keeping the country safe.   On September 12, 2001 and for some time later, it was believed by many that there was no question “if” we would be attacked again, only “when.”   The Bush administration was incredibly successful in keeping us safe.  While there were significant terrorist attacks around the world including in Mumbai, Bali, London, and Madrid, we have not had another terrorist attack on U.S. soil.   This is something Americans know.

Something many Americans do not currently know is exactly what information was obtained through the use of enhanced interrogation techniques that helped keep us so safe.    Last week Marc Thiessen wrote  about  one memo that revealed how interrogation with enhanced techniques led to the discovery of a Khalid Sheik Mohammed plot, the “Second Wave, to use East Asian operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into' a building in Los Angeles”…and also “led to the capture of Riduan bin Isomuddin, better known as Hambali, and the discovery of the Guraba Cell, a 17-member Jemmah Islamiyah cell tasked with executing the 'Second Wave.'”

If the pitchfork and torch crowd get their wish for investigations and prosecutions Americans will most likely learn of additional information obtained through the use of enhanced interrogation and of additional planned terrorist attacks that were thwarted. 

Some Democrats, including the President, currently succumbing to the howls from their rabid base, may want to remember that even in a country that now takes its safety somewhat for granted, Jack Bauer is the hero of the television show “24,” not the villain.

I wonder if those currently so eager to prosecute those in the Bush administration for war crimes will be just as eager to extend the investigations to include those Democrats in the Congress who raised no objections to the various enhanced interrogation techniques and even funded their implementation as Former CIA director Porter Goss reminded us in The Washington Post this weekend.

Many on the left have attributed the most sinister, wicked and evil intentions possible to those in the Bush administration tasked with keeping the country safe, while ignoring Democrats in Congress and elsewhere who wholeheartedly supported and funded the use of the same interrogation techniques.  I can’t help but wonder if those responsible for prosecuting (if it ever goes that far) would spare them as well.  I also wonder how much patience Americans would have with a process that revealed more and more information to our enemies as it unfolded, making us less safe with each new revelation.

Americans are a decent people.  When we engage in war we do not target the innocent and we take measures to reduce or prevent casualties.  Our soldiers do not hide in schools full of children.  Instead we rebuild schools and hospitals.   We do not condone beheading our enemies, or raping women while forcing their loved ones to watch, or strapping bombs to children and brainwashing them to blow themselves up in the service of jihad.  Unfortunately the same cannot be said for some of those who have declared war on us. Hopefully before we further handcuff those in charge of keeping us safe, Americans will remember the evil we are battling.

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