Wednesday, March 12, 2008

More fighting evil

I had considered expanding on my original statement regarding torture, to make my position even more clear. I could still do that, but this exchange with Jerry probably says it as well as needed:

Jerry: I do apologize for this, but I'm not sure I understand why you feel that way?

Would please expound on why our "intelligence" community should decline such implements as you object too?


Good afternoon.

Thanks for writing. We as citizens of the United States are arguably fighting to save the best elements of our way of life from incursion. We cannot do this if we become what we are fighting.

Cruel and unusual punishments are specifically prohibited by Article 8 of the Bill of Rights. President Bush swore an oath to " preserve, protect and defend the Constitution". Torture is clearly a "cruel and unusual punishment".

There are reasons why torture is a poor instrument to extract intelligence, but that is really outside the main issue, which is the legality of torture by the US and proxies: it is clearly illegal, and further, it is immoral, despicable, and worthy of a third-world hellhole, not what was once the proud bastion of the free world.

I am sorry if you feel otherwise. I've killed men, women, and children in the line of duty (messy when combatants with heavy weapons hide behind their families), but I've never tortured anyone.

Jerry: As I also took the oath to obey the orders…. I feel the Constitution is for American Citizens. I get upset when we extend those same freedoms we fight and bleed for to those who want to take them away from us.

Sorry, but we’ll have to disagree on this one.


I do understand your viewpoint.

I can see on an individual scale- sibling/child being kidnapped, for instance- using torture to extract information. I cannot agree with attempted legitimization of torture by our government, even if it's not used against US citizens. Using torture is bad for the torturer, and also gives flawed data, to name two easy reasons why it's not a useful tool.

And it's wrong. The United States is great because it is different. We are the fabled place where absolutely anyone can go to make a new and better life for themself, regardless of the color of their skin or where they're from. We are only great because we are good, and as we become less good, we become less great. That goodness is much more effective than any small gains anyone believes we can make by torturing those we hold captive, even if "they really deserve it".

Jerry: As soldiers we were told not to treat our enemies with the same contempt that they treated us. When we captured them we were to follow set rules to transport them to facilities where “professionals” would take care of them.

I will not in good conscience allow an enemy of the U.S. to profit from our Constitution. While I agree that the U.S. is a great Country I also acknowledge that America became great because of the willingness of people to defend to the death our Constitution. Our politicians are selling us out. They want us to believe the tripe the spew while they line their own nest. We are fighting a just battle. I fear we will be fighting on another front much closer next time if we do not allow experts to perform their duties. Those privileged few who enjoy the extra attention because they have useful information will find a much more obliging host when they willingly provide all information they possess.

While I do not agree with all that President Bush has done I do believe he is vastly superior in his judgment’s than any alternative presented during the last election.



Now, I preferred Bush to other alternatives, especially back at the beginning of the crisis. I'm not certain if I would have charged into Iraq had I been at the helm, but I might have. What I would NOT have done, is to rape the Constitution by forcing through legislation to pseudolegalize unwarranted monitoring of phone calls in the United States. I would not have expanded the definition of "terrorist" to include practically anyone not working for the US government. I would not have played some dodgy little game in which captured combatants might not qualify for the protections they would receive as POWs OR as criminals in the United States, AND I SURE AS HELL WOULD NOT HAVE USED TORTURE.

We as Americans cannot claim the moral high ground as long as this continues. We are becoming evil as a national entity, and in danger of losing our reputation as the home of The Good Things. Governments are necessary evils allowed to exist by the people of their nations, but our government has become something tainted. If it now reflects who the United States truly is, I fear for my country.

8 comments:

Philip said...

I think there is a great deal of moral ambiguity here. I don't want American citizens being wiretapped without a warrant but I find it hard to apply our constitution to non-citizens living outside of the United States. So, that falls under the gray area to me.

I don't condone many forms of torture, I can't condone anything sexual or anything that causes permanent harm. I can't condone torture of our citizens. However, waterboarding a terrorist? That's gray to me as well. Keep in mind this is something that has been done to reporters and even at business seminars so while scary and unpleasant I don't think of it as a great wrong. The argument that it gets faulty data can't be that strong or else we wouldn't be doing it. We are finding out information and preventing attacks apparently so something must be working.

I think the real question is how do you deal with terrorists without becoming a police state and trampling all over our freedoms? To me a big part of that does lie in the distinction of a citizen. If a terrorist happens to be a citizen I think they should be afforded all the rights of our constitution. If they are not however, I feel we are somewhat free to deal with them as needs be.

This reminds me of the situation Israel has had to deal with. As I understand it, at times they released a large number of prisoners violence escalates. How do you deal with these types of people? They wish for future violence, their war is unending. How do you deal with them via the regular court system? I suppose the pragmatic approach is just to lock them up and throw away the key. Another gray...

Asphyxiated Emancipation said...

" I feel the Constitution is for American Citizens. I get upset when we extend those same freedoms we fight and bleed for to those who want to take them away from us. "

So, if a government official spots a foreigner in the street, follows them back home and just casually searches their house, that is ok,because they aren't a citizen? If we grab an illegal alien off the street, can we hook their genitals up to a car battery, to make them tell who else came with them?
Or does the lack of rights only apply to torture in the name of war?
A very slippery slope, indeed.

"However, waterboarding a terrorist? That's gray to me as well. Keep in mind this is something that has been done to reporters and even at business seminars so while scary and unpleasant I don't think of it as a great wrong."

So, would it be ok in a trial of a citizen? Or is it only non citizens that are afforded this treatment?

How about this, for both commenters... You go on a trip somewhere. Say, Germany. While there, you happen to be caught as the police search for a man matching your description. That man committed some violent crime, maybe robbery, maybe kidnapping or rape. I don't know, but it was bad. Is it ok for them to waterboard you to obtain a confession? After all, you aren't a citizen. And it isn't "a great wrong", while I would certainly consider a rapist to be a"terrorist", at least to that one woman. Perhaps stretching it a bit, but you see my meaning, I am sure.
The US has been the greatest country in the world because of what we wouldn't do, not what we did. We could have used our overwhelming military might, particularly prior to the cold war, to crush those we disagreed with.


Whom is more worthy of respect, A cop who plays by the rules and sometimes doesn't get his man, or one who fabricates evidence and pulls dirty tricks to get the convictions he wants?


Just sayin....

Philip said...

I do not feel this is a cut and dry situation. I can't and won't defend either extreme, the mentality which says we should treat terrorists with privilege or the side that says we should do anything to extract information.

What was going on in Abu Ghraib is inexcusable and indefensible. What some countries have done in releasing known terrorists because they couldn't/wouldn't prove a criminal case is inexcusable as well. To me, the resolution to this dilemma lies in the middle.

How many of our freedoms do we have to sacrifice to protect ourselves from terrorists? We all would like to live our lives with some semblance of normalcy. If we distinguish between citizens and non-citizens this provides one chance for us to do that.

I lived in Germany and was subject to their laws. That's part of living abroad or going abroad, you have to accept their rules. However I never suggested that waterboarding be used to get confessions, what good would that do? We have acquired valuable information via waterboarding. If the German government had solid intel that I was involved with terrorists I prefer they use a method like waterboarding to extract information from me over other options. I would not be subject to real harm nor could I provide real intel on something I had no knowledge of. Our court system is built around guilty or innocent, confessions and the like. Preventing terrorism requires information. Confessions are of little use.

We have a great dilemma in dealing with zealots who have no problems with using mentally handicapped people, pregnant women or killing hundreds or thousands of innocent people to accomplish their goals. The criminal system is set up to act after the crime, however how does one deal with terrorists? I think it is a great conundrum that is dealt best with trying to bring about change within the Middle East but that does not provide for the short term. Some tough choices have to be made.

Assrot said...

I do feel this is a cut and dry situation. If you act like the devil and do as the devil does then you become the devil and have no moral right to fight him any longer.

We are trying to save American freedom, justice and our way of life. If we act like the demons we are fighting we become the demon and no longer have anything to fight about beause we have become one and the same.

Joe

Philip said...

If it is cut and dry then what is the cut and dry resolution? How do you deal with people when the most important thing to them is to enable the destruction of your society? I have heard suggestions such as lock them up and throw away the key or kill them but to pretend that is somehow the humane way of doing things is a bit absurd to me.

Making up rules and following them just for the sake of doing so never assures you of the moral high ground. You have to be willing to analyze the situation and decide what is in the the most effective and humane way of dealing with the problem.

I do not and will not condone a myriad of what I see as inhumane and brutal treatments. I do not justify what I see as torture in almost every possible scenario. However, I think it is very important in dealing with this rather unique situation to come up with unique solutions. When one starts trying to over simplify the matter with things like "He said water boarding is a gray area and water boarding is torture so he must be pro-torture and torture is always bad" then what did you just accomplish besides a few consecutive leaps?

It is always easier to argue against something. It is much more difficult to be the one who has to come up with the resolution. I think we should be able to come up with a solution that is as humane as possible to everyone involved, protects our civil rights as citizens and lets us live a relatively safe life as well. I do not think we can do this without a willingness to make tough choices and a ability for non-linear thought.

Roberta X said...

What if we accept that life's not fair or safe, count kidnap victions as dead from the moment they are taken and simply shoot "non-uniformed combatants" in war zones.

Our government is constitutionally limited from applying cruel and unusual punishments -- to anyone. Yeah, even to villians. Sometimes bein' the Good Guys sucks.

Byron said...

I have no particular moral qualms about using torture as an individual. If you hurt my friends or my relatives, it would definitely be better to commit harikari if the choice was between trying to disembowel yourself or to fall into my hands.

A couple of things to consider though...the first is that the Constitution does not grant rights. Nor does the Bill of Rights. Rather both documents enumerate rights that our Founding Fathers believed were the common natural birthright of all human beings. To deny that is to deny them. Which I refuse to do.

I was OK with our government using torture until I read 'Washington's Crossing' by David Hackett Fisher. It is the tale of General George Washington's New Jersey campaign during the Revolution. In this narrative, Fisher notes the many times the British shot dead, American soldiers who had surrendered. He also noted how General Washington refused to respond in kind to atrocities and why he refused...because to do so was to refute the ideals for which the nascent republic was fighting.

I believe our nation should cleave to that tradition as it has served us well. That tradiition was forged when the fight couldn't get any closer than it was and the opponent was the strongest military in world. The stakes were at least as high as the stakes in the war on terror. I believe the stakes were much higher then than they are now. Be that as it may, if I am acting as a representative of the US, then my actions will be guided by the tradition set by George Washington in the darkest days of the Revolution. To do otherwise is to repudiate his example. I will not do so.

Dedicated_Dad said...

Sadly, I agree.

I've said it many, many times in the last 7 years, ever since the travesty so ironically named "the patriot act."

More people died while driving to work on 9/11 than perished in the attacks.

I'm Far -- **FAR** -- more worried about -- NAY -- AFRAID OF -- the evil men in DC than I am of those in the middle east.

Who watches the watchers?

The last 7 years' Administration has done more to destroy this republic than the previous 230, with the possible exception of Lincoln -- another example of "right ends, wrong means."

I fear we'll not recover, this time...

DD


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