Sen. Diane Feinstein, on her last day as chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, did a grave disservice to our national interests by dumping a report on alleged torture techniques employed by the Bush administration in the aftermath of 9/11. Some would argue that the people have a right to know if the CIA was breaking the law, but there is so much more to this story.
Do you know that certain leaders of the House and Senate, including Ms. Feinstein, are allowed to meet in private over matters of national security receiving many of the same briefings as the president? In other words, if Ms. Feinstein believed the CIA was breaking the law, she could have objected behind closed doors instead of giving our enemies propaganda fodder for their pogrom.
It is true the CIA may have gone overboard in some circumstances. I certainly do not condone torturing anybody, because I too believe that is beneath us as a civilized country. Having said that, I care not one whit about the temporary discomfort of terrorists if it has the potential to save lives.
With respect to whether or not the enhanced interrogation techniques qualify as bonafide torture, in violation of international laws such as the Geneva Conventions, we need to understand that terrorists, by definition, do not wear uniforms, they do not represent a recognized nation state, and therefore they are not protected by the Geneva Conventions.
President Obama for his part has shown no qualms in killing suspected terrorists and others by drone strikes, including innocent civilians euphemistically referred to as collateral damage. Mr. Obama has even permitted killing American citizens. How can Mr. Obama issue such kill orders while pretending to take the moral high ground by piling on the Bush administration for nonlethal interrogation techniques? How can we reconcile any competing narratives that would have us believe it is OK to kill, but not harm, an enemy combatant who might have information vital to our national security?
Did you know that many of these techniques were developed and imposed on our own people to harden them against the same if they were ever captured? We learned them as a result of their being used against American POWs in Korea and Japan. I have a friend, retired from the CIA, who was waterboarded as part of his training.
I would argue that there is a huge difference between torture and enhanced interrogation techniques, the main distinction being whether the harm is permanent and physical versus primarily temporary and mental/emotional. Pulling out someone’s fingernails or subjecting them to electrical shock is definitely torture. But depriving sleep to a terrorist, while certainly debilitating, has but temporary effects with the primary impact upon the psyche.
This debate reminds me of the Abu Ghraib prison controversy. While we were taking umbrage over the fact that our prison guards were humiliating prisoners by putting underwear on their heads, our enemies were beheading Americans and dragging their dead bodies through the streets.
It is not easy fighting a wicked culture and creed intermingled among so many civilians who are not altogether innocents themselves. The masterminds of 9/11 and the current leaders of ISIS are cold-blooded genocidal mass murderers, the likes of which the world has not seen since the days of Hitler and the SS. Such uncivilized ilk are typically governed by brutal despots but not by accident of fate. Why? Because, as hard as it is for us to us to fathom, it can be otherwise impossible to establish peace among modern-day barbarians who are content slaughtering children, raping and enslaving women, and crucifying their opposition.
First published in the Santa Barbara News Press.
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