Surrealpolitic for surreal times.: President Bush: "Stop me before I kill again!"

10.26.2006

President Bush: "Stop me before I kill again!"

Torture, like prostitution, has been around for probably the same amount of time and when you think about it, there are some striking similarities. For one, it takes a qualified specialist to to both jobs well. It involves shady exchanges of money and clandestine rooms where very personal things happen. However, one has a happy ending while the other, not so. Unless of course you are one of the torturers or transporters of prisoners. According to the Guardian, "On one occasion, CIA pilots and crew lived it up in Majorca after rendering Benyam Mohammed, an Ethiopian brought up in Notting Hill, west London, to Afghanistan where he was tortured." It's nice to know that while our boys are destroying the faith and morality of an entire civilization, they can blow off some steam.

But is torture even debatable in a civilized, post-industrial nation? Is there an argument for its use? Can a country call itself advanced and still attempt to obtain information by means of physical and psychological coercion? According to President Bush in a statement on June 2003, "The United States is committed to the world-wide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example. I call on all governments to join with the United States and the community of law-abiding nations in prohibiting, investigating, and prosecuting all acts of torture and in undertaking to prevent other cruel and unusual punishment." Did someone tell our President that we have illegal detention centers at Guantanimo Bay? Has he seen the photographs from Abu Ghraib? Is he aware that everyone now knows from first hand accounts that the C.I.A. has been kidnapping suspected terrorists, flying them in Air America planes to third party nations torturing and, in some cases murdering them? I suppose this is what happens when you elect a President who openly admits to not reading newspapers.

Perhaps I am being too glib? After all, President Bush is enacting (and no matter what he says he knows about the torture) policies of torture so that America can stop nascent terrorist strikes. In his press conference on September 15th, 2006, President Bush claimed that: "The information that the Central Intelligence Agency has obtained by questioning men like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has provided valuable information and has helped disrupt terrorist plots, including strikes within the United States." Yet there is absolutely no evidence of this, and if they think I'm falling for the whole "don't worry, trust us" routine after wmds, they are sadly mistaken. When it comes down to it, torturing people gives governments the illusion of safety. Anyone who works in intelligence will tell you that information obtained by torture is almost always inaccurate. When you physically abuse anyone for information, their prime objective is not to help you but to get you to stop hurting them and sometimes that means telling you anything you want to hear. Here are some other situations and qualified experts that illustrate how torture is not only morally wrong but strategically ineffective.

-Maher Arar, a Canadian wireless technology consultant, who was snatched by U.S. agents at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City and transported to Syria, where, for ten months, he was kept in a six-foot by three-foot cell, before being transferred to a collective cell. Under torture, he confessed to being an Islamist extremist who attended a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan. In reality, not only was Arar not an Islamist terrorist, but he had never even been to Afghanistan. He was ultimately released without charge and the Canadian commission affirmed that he was completely innocent.
-Retired Marine Maj. Gen. Fred E. Haynes, a veteran of WWII, Korea and Vietnam, a man who knows more about war, prisoners and extracting information than I'll bet does Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld said "... by treating an individual decently you are much more likely to get any information you might want - and it's more likely to be correct."
-Retired Brig. Gen. James P. Cullen and at one time chief judge of the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals believes the average American soldier thinks that torture policies have undermined the military. They also are upset that these policies were mostly formulated by men, like Bush, who have not seen combat. "[Vice President Dick] Cheney made mention in the days after 9/11 that he wanted to operate sort of on the dark side," Cullen said. "Here was a guy who never served, and now something terrible had happened, and he wanted to show that he was a tough guy... So he's going to operate outside the rules of law. Bad message."
-Let us not forget that the plot to blow up nearly ten airliners traveling from Britain to the United States was exposed not using torture, but police work and surveillance.

In the end, balancing the safety of a nation against the methods employed to guarantee those safeties is always tricky. President Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War and history looks upon that act with more or less a kindly eye. The man, after all did preserve the union. But Mr. Bush you are no Abraham Lincoln and imprisoning reporters during the secession of half your nation is a little different than secretly torturing people without any evidence of their wrong doing for ends that ultimately serve no one. This shameful episode will come home to roost when tales of captured G.I.s (or worse, our citizens) and their torture start to circulate and we as a nation must sit and take it for we will have no leg with which to stand.

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