Friday, December 16, 2005

The Terrorists' Bill of Rights

You've got to scratch you're head and wonder what John McCain and a bunch of GOP Senators are thinking when in the middle of the War on Terror, they want to dilute our intelligence gathering capabilities by assuring terrorists that if we catch them, we won't do anything "cruel, inhuman, or degrading to them" (what exactly does that mean, anyway -- that's a pretty broad statement).

The media constantly refers to this debate over when or not to use "torture". For instance, the Washington Post headline "President Relents, Backs Torture Ban".

Torture was never the issue in question! The US official policy is that we NEVER engage in torture. We don't hang people by their toes, scrape their fingernails off, electrocute their genitals, or anything of the sort.

Further, we do not use any rough tactics on normal prisoners, just for the heck of it. In fact, we give prisoners at Guantanamo Bay a Muslim diet, calls to prayer, and copies of the Koran (why we're not putting them all through an extensive program designed to calm down their extreme fundamentalism, instead of fueling it, is beyond me).

The issue in question is how far to go in interrogating high value terrorist detainees. For example, we captured Al-Qaeda's number 3 man and principal architect of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, in 2003. We knew that he had knowledge of future planned attacks, so we interrogated him. Rumor is that he wouldn't talk for a while, but when we used waterboarding (a technique where the interrogatee is plunged under water and given the feeling of drowning), he started talking pretty quick, and we received valuable intelligence about, and were able to disrupt, several planned attacks.

So, again, you have to scratch your head when John McCain and a majority of Senators want to ban all "cruel, inhuman, or degrading" techniques. They say they want to "clarify" our policy so both our interrogators have a clear definition of what they are allowed to do, and so that our "image" in the World might be repaired after the Abu Ghraib scandal (even though the world, especially the Muslim world, will continue to think what it wants since it is already so far detached from reality -- e.g., Holocaust didn't happen, the U.S. staged 9/11 so it would have justification to come take Arab oil).

I say anything that makes it harder for our intelligence service to obtain valuable information that saves American lives is foolish, and the President ought to veto it.

Further, "cruel" and "degrading" could be defined to mean about anything. A true clarification would be to define on a technique by technique basis what is ok for normal treatment of prisoners, what is OK for interrogating someone we think might have information, and what is OK for interrogating someone we know has valuable information. Plus, for effective interrogation, don't we want terrorists to think the worst might happen to them?

We are in the middle of a war. War is ugly. In WWII, enemy combatants without uniforms were never detained, but were shot on sight. There was a general consensus that those who fought in a war and did not follow the rules of war were not allowed the protections of the Geneva Convention. I bring this up just to highlight the differences between then and now.

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