"Torture" isn't a tightly defined or agreed-upon concept. I suspect the reason President Bush refuses to make a statement on torture is that as soon as he does, the left-wing media will immediately campaign to make any kind of interrogation into "torture." If you would, could you tell us what you consider to qualify as torture, and what interrogation methods (although unpleasant) you find to be acceptable? As with almost everything, the devil is in the details.
Michael's Dispatches59 Comments
- Published: Thursday, 26 June 2008 12:05
Last week, I was invited by Dr. Rohan Gunaratna, one of the world’s leading experts on al Qaeda, to speak to a group of about two dozen experts and graduate students at the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore. This was a closed-door talk, and I was speaking alongside a close friend of mine who is an expert on Afghanistan. The room was filled with people from countries like India, Singapore, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. None of these countries enjoy the freedom of speech that we have in America. No writer from any of these countries could dare publish the things that I can freely publish, or that readers can freely publish as comments. Singapore is a great ally of the United States and one of my favorite destinations. The people are well educated, peaceful and diverse. Still, our friends in Singapore do not have freedom of speech. Despite the limits of expression that they live under, this group of experts and graduate students in Singapore asked some of the most well-informed questions I have heard about the war in Iraq. No doubt, there were some who disapproved of America’s involvement in Iraq, but how can we challenge our own views if we do not listen to others who disagree with us? One of the main reasons we made so many mistakes in Iraq was that high officials in the Bush Administration were often afraid of the truth and viewed a serious foreign policy question with ideological blinders. Instead of honestly appraising the facts on the ground, they saw only what they wanted to see. And instead of encouraging candor and even dissent, they ignored or attacked those who disagreed with them.
Groupthink can be deadly. In my book Danger Close I wrote about the Special Forces Qualification Course (Q-Course), which had a land navigation section so difficult that it caused many people to fail the course. I saw Vietnam combat veterans get lost on land navigation. They flunked the course. Sure, it wasn’t easy to make your way through swamps during heavy rains at midnight while freezing and carrying a heavy load. But worse than the physical challenges were the mental hurdles. Soldiers were strictly forbidden to cooperate with each other on this particular section. But they did it anyway, thinking that they would have a better chance as a group. And they were wrong. I saw soldiers form into groups. The most confident soldier would embark on an azimuth and the others would follow behind. They would all get lost because they were following a leader who was wrong. The soldiers who passed the course tended to be those who thought for themselves. Combat veterans get lost on land navigation.
Even though most of us seem to recognize the perils of groupthink, we still constantly fall into its trap. That’s human nature, our herding instinct, perhaps. Yet one thing that makes America so strong is our ability to break from the herd, or even turn it around. Back in 2005 I wrote what no one else dared to say, or didn’t see – even if it was painfully obvious – that Iraq was falling into civil war. During a period of peak casualties in mid-2007, when folks were saying the Surge had failed, I wrote and said on radio that the Surge appeared to be succeeding. In 2006, when I was in Afghanistan reporting that the war was being lost, many readers were angry. Now we have greater casualties in Afghanistan than in Iraq, while we have far fewer troops deployed to Afghanistan. I believe the war in Iraq is nearly over - knock on wood - while the war in Afghanistan is just getting started.
One way to foil groupthink is to listen to others. Really listen. Not just think up counterarguments while waiting for them to run out of breath. Listening to others does not mean we have to agree with their words. But it does mean respecting them enough to take what they say seriously, especially when we disagree with them. Honest and serious people do this. Meanwhile, there is a lot of noise on both ends of the American political spectrum that deserve our attention even if it is biased and wrong. Read the websites of the far-Right and Left-wing. These groups rarely, if ever, give a dissenting voice the chance to speak. Their sites are examples of groupthink run amok. That doesn’t mean the participants are dumb or bad. Often these sites are created by very smart people who got their brains caught in the ideological bear trap. Getting caught in a trap doesn’t make a bear dumb or deserving; traps tend to be well camouflaged. I saw a bear caught in a trap one time. Boy, was that bear mad. And it sure did stink. It crawled into a trap, right behind our tent in Cataloochee up in the mountains. We kids ran out with a flashlight and peered in at the angry bear. The rangers hauled it off the next day, saying they would release it far away. Some of these far-Right and far-Left websites are like bear traps, only we cannot release those people far away. We live with them, and often they are our friends and family, victims of ideology.
Ideologies traffic in received ideas, which give people the illusion of thinking, without actually having to do the hard work of thought. Received ideas, like some religious and cult beliefs, are not challenged, merely accepted, and repeated until they become so important to those who hold them that to challenge these ideas would be to question one’s very identity. People who hold received ideas seem to feel personally threatened by the prospect of being wrong. Instead of reading and listening to possibly change their minds, they seek to reinforce the received ideas they already hold dear. On the Left, one received idea is that the Iraq War is lost. On the Right, one received idea is that torture is acceptable. The Left is wrong. We are winning the war in Iraq. The Right is wrong. Torture is unacceptable.
There is no way to know how many American lives were lost in Iraq due to the tortures we inflicted upon Iraqis at Abu Ghraib and other places. This is no argument of moral equivalence. I have seen the atrocities committed by al Qaeda and other terrorists, and I am not saying that Americans have ever come close to those acts. New Yorkers saw the atrocities of al Qaeda, as did many others.
Yet, when we tortured detainees, we lost something very important, something that America and its allies need in order to prevail against terrorists, not just in Iraq, but all over the world. We scarred our honor.
Torture works. There is no doubt that we can squeeze information from people. A lot of people say that information derived from torture is useless and suspect, and, of course, torture can make someone say anything just to stop the pain. But the fact is, torture does work. That does not mean we should do it. While torture might provide tactical gains, it delivers a strategic blunder. Let’s not argue whether it works or not. Let’s have the hard argument – whether or not it’s consistent with our values. We can obtain short term benefits from using torture, but in the long run we inflict far more pain on ourselves. The scars of torture never heal. Conversely, when detainees are treated with respect, they never forget it. Obviously, there are some hardcore prisoners who should be kept locked away until they die, but there is a much larger part who just want to go back to life without war.
While stationed in Germany with the 10th Special Forces Group, I spoke to many older Germans. I speak German and many of the older Germans did not speak English. These men and women lived through World War II. They often apologized for the younger generation of Germans who did not respect the United States. They told me stories of their days as POWs under American control, and described the honorable and respectful treatment they received. One of my grandfathers was a guard on a ship that brought German prisoners to the United States. My grandfather said they treated the Germans well. When the ship steamed into New York, the Germans were astonished to see the city lights. They had been told that New York City was being bombed and was blacked out. When those young German soldiers were eventually released, they went on to become thousands upon thousands of ambassadors for the United States. It is difficult to convey how good it made me feel when old Germans would tell me that Americans, our grandparents, were honorable people, far more honorable than the Nazis who committed industrial-sized genocide. The Nazis broke all the rules, and we beat them, not only because of our superior resources and fighting abilities, but the strategic advantage of our values. Atrocities occurred on all sides, but at least we considered atrocities to be war crimes, even when committed by our own people. When our soldiers were convicted of rape, they were executed. Still, our “Greatest Generation” harbored ill feelings toward the “Japs.” These feelings lasted long after the war was over. Why? Because, the Japanese had tortured and murdered our people after they were captured. And no doubt partially because of these crimes, we detonated two nuclear weapons over Japanese cities.
But once we defeated the Axis, we helped rebuild their countries. Our Greatest Generation acted with honor and great wisdom. It was the right thing to do, but also the strategically intelligent thing to do. Now Germany and Japan are stable, prosperous democracies and close allies.
When this war is over in Iraq, we do not want a generation of Iraqis thinking that all we did was invade their country and torture and kill people. We want them to know that, despite whatever mistakes we made, we have no ill-feelings toward Iraqis. A lot of people call this type of thinking “naïve,” but I would argue it is the opposite of naiveté. We recognize that there is good and evil in every man. We seek to fight the evil while nurturing the good. We want the Iraqis to know that Americans are warriors, but not barbarians. They already know that our young folks will fight like wolverines. The Iraqi insurgents learned that lesson the hard way. American soldiers and Marines have died fighting, with great honor, to bring the region a step forward. By contrast, al Qaeda has murdered tens of thousands of Iraqis, and committed atrocities that have turned the people against them. Al Qaeda and other terrorists fight without honor. And simply put, that’s why we’re winning in Iraq. We recaptured the most important strategic territory in guerrilla war – the moral high ground, while never laying down our sword. Wars like Iraq and Afghanistan are fought not over land, but for the will of the people. If it was the land we wanted, and if we lacked goodwill and honor, these wars would have been simple matters. Yet we want something better for these nations and the world, as we did following World War II. Honor is never easy to uphold and savage behavior begets savage behavior. That’s why it’s important to remember that when we give up the moral high ground, we lose a fantastically important battle. And we have defeated ourselves.
Ask Colonel Ricky Gibbs (U.S. Army) about high ground. Colonel Gibbs told me the story of an Iraqi man who brought his sons to American soldiers, saying that he knew justice would be served. After an investigation, Colonel Gibbs kept one son and released the other. I have seen so many instances of Iraqis being relieved that American soldiers were holding their sons and not Iraqis, because Iraqis too often mistreat and even torture prisoners. And so, by the hand of his own father, an insurgent was taken off the streets. To defeat the terrorists, we need intelligence, which the people have and will only provide if they trust us. That father likely would never have turned in his sons if he thought we were dishonorable torturers.
Back in 2003-2004, when we were conducting mass arrests and torturing prisoners, al Qaeda and other enemies grew very strong, and our people suffered at the hands of an enemy that we were at least partially responsible for creating. We locked away huge numbers of Iraqis simply because they were “military aged” males (basically, anyone who had reached puberty) at the wrong place at the wrong time, which could be in their homes in a suspect village. I’ve seen men flex-cuffed without the slightest evidence, thrown to Iraqi “justice” and essentially lost. Now imagine that you or your son or husband or brother were arrested and tortured. You might have been neutral to begin with, but you and your entire family might soon learn to hate. Instead of picking up the phone when you saw an ambush being laid, you might simply call the kids inside and go back to washing dishes. Or you might set an ambush yourself.
That’s why I agree with Joe Galloway. He might be a mean old man, and he might be wrong about some things. Wrong in my mind, at least. But he’s right about torture. Now it’s time that our government make a clear and unambiguous promise to the world that Americans will not torture. If President Bush is concerned about a possible scenario where a terrorist under interrogation has precise knowledge of an imminent catastrophic attack, then he can always offer a presidential pardon to an interrogator who, resorting to torture, got accurate information that led to the thwarting of such an attack. In every other case, American government personnel or contractors who commit torture should be prosecuted under American law. And the President should make that clear. If the President believes torture is okay, then he should put his fingerprints on every approval he signs.
We can win without torture. President Bush saw the strategic advantages of the Surge when many thought the Iraq War was lost. Yet he refuses to categorically condemn and outlaw torture. His unwillingness to do so has put the United States and its allies at strategic disadvantage, one that will take us a long time to overcome. And it has cost American lives.
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This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoHello Michael. I'm not disagreeing with you on the topic of torture, but I'm asking for some further information. You say that on the Right one received idea is that torture is acceptable. Where did you see any respected right-wing journalist, website, or anyone else say that? I try to keep informed, and I haven't seen anyone say go ahead, torture away.
"Torture" isn't a tightly defined or agreed-upon concept. I suspect the reason President Bush refuses to make a statement on torture is that as soon as he does, the left-wing media will immediately campaign to make any kind of interrogation into "torture." If you would, could you tell us what you consider to qualify as torture, and what interrogation methods (although unpleasant) you find to be acceptable? As with almost everything, the devil is in the details.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoTo me Joe Galloway doesnƒ??t just disagree with President Bush, but he hates him, and any one who works for him or with him. We get his weekly column in our local paper, Columbus, Georgia, and they all have the same underlying message: ƒ??I hate George Bush, I hate everything he stands for, and anyone who agrees with him should rot in hell with himƒ?. I am normally unable to finish his column.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoIn your book ƒ??Moment of Truth In Iraqƒ? you wrote of Al-Qaeda being adept at manipulating the ƒ??media battle spaceƒ?. While I in no way support torture as a general rule of thumb, I realize that even if we donƒ??t torture, they will say we did ƒ?? itƒ??s good use of the ƒ??media battle spaceƒ?.
By the way, you are totally correct in asserting the effects of group think in isolation of opposing views. I myself used to be a flaming liberal. Of course that was before a serious brain injury resulted from my living in the fast lane. However, after the brain injury I became a pretty strong conservative with liberal friends ƒ?? I like it that way.
As to Joe Galloway, he has very little credibility to me because of his gross exaggerations. When writing about water boarding he spoke of lungs filling with water and obviously expected his readers to not know what the definition and result of drowning is. Exaggerate to prove a point sure... but donƒ??t do it in a way that insults my intelligence. Unfortunately, Mr. Galloway prefers the later.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoMike, this amongst your finest articles. On Abu Grhaib, wasn't it the military itself that initally found out about the mistreatment, and was dealing with the perpertrators appropriatly, before the NY TIMES made it a four month worlfd wide story?
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoPersonally I don't know a lot about Mr Galloway, but I do find it strange that many people here are more concerned about attacking a journalist's views than demanding to know why acts of torture have been perpetrated in their name.
I don't think it matters if bush knew about the the torture being used in the first place by not comdeming torture he has given it his tacit approval. Bush's silence on the matter only damages the reputation of the states more as he either actively supports these methods or he doesn't have have the guts to take responsibility for the actions of his subordinates.
Whoever is elected as the next president is going to have a bloody mountain to climb to restore America's reputation.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoThis is the best explanation of why torture is wrong and should not be used by the US govt or its agents. However, the devil is in the details. President Bush and his administration have stated many times that torture is not a part of what the US does when interrogating detainees. The specific practices used to "break" an individual on a specific topic during interrogation is where the term "torture" gets thrown around more loosely. If you think "waterboarding" is torture, then its use by the US is violating international law and the "moral high ground". If you don't think waterboarding is torture, then you believe we should reserve the right to use it for the "extreme" cases under very controlled circumstances. Classifying these tactics as "allowable" or not is the crux of the arguments, along with who authorized the use of these tactics. Unfortunately, the politics of Republican vs Democrat seem to be more in play in many circles than the bottom line of the US governments position on specific practices. If we could come to an agreement on what is allowed and what is not, then put that into writing and move on, we would all be better off.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoMichael,
Thank you for the response to your readers.
You say that the Right says "torture is acceptable". I don't hear that from the Right at all. Instead, I hear disagreement on what constitutes "torture", which is an important and different question. Loud music, hooding, long periods of standing, sleep deprivation; these were techniques that were authorized by the Pentagon. Is it your belief that any technique that is uncomfortable physically or mentally surrenders the moral high ground as much as any heinous act the interrogators in Saddam's prisons used? As a previous responder mentioned, the devil is in the details. By arrogating to the Right a philosophy of "torture is acceptable", you are falling into a trap yourself; using hyperbole to ascribe a lack of honor on those who have reasonable disagreement with your perspective of where exactly the line should be drawn.
My reaction to Joe Galloway's article is not because I believe torture is acceptable or because I think Abu Ghraib was much ado about nothing. There is no excuse for the lax leadership and abuse that occurred at Abu Ghraib. However, Joe Galloway takes this a step further, as has General Taguba in more recent years, alleging that the abuse that occurred was condoned and authorized by our President or Sec. Rumsfeld. That is an outrageous accusation, and it is one that is not supported by the facts revealed during the investigations.
I am not unwilling to accept perspectives that are unflattering to our country if they are based on an honest and good faith presentation of the available facts. I read your works because when the facts are painful, you don't hide them, but you also don't revel in portraying our countrymen or leaders as fools or evil; you are fair and evenhanded. Joe Galloway's screeds are quite the opposite. They are offensive because they are accusations maligning our leaders with a clear bias, supported with conjecture, and they ignore any facts that don't fit the story. They have no journalistic value, serving only to inflame those who won't delve deeper and learn just how little truth is laced within these rants. Lending these diatribes credibility by posting them on your website is not to your credit.
If you must continue supporting such unfounded screeds, at the very least please put more emphasis on the byline. I'll certainly continue reading your works and recommending your book to friends, but I'll be skipping Mr. Galloway's poor faith partisan writings.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoMichael:
Your response to your readers neatly, if inadvertently, points out the difference between you and Joe Galloway.
You deal in facts and reasoned argument. Galloway, even when he is right, (not often IMAO) deals in spleen and bile. His columns are, by and large, one long tantrum. At best he's out to score rhetorical points and most of the time he's simply venting.
You're quite right that you can learn a lot from people with opposing views, but only if they have something substantive to say. There are such people who are critical of the Iraq war. Galloway is not one of them.
That is why his columns are a complete waste of time.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoI appreciate your clarification on this topic, Mr. Yon. While I don't agree with Joe Galloway or his diatribe, I do agree with you that this war can be won without torture. I'm glad that you continue to post according to your conscience and I look forward to reading your dispatches. We may not see eye to eye on a few issues, but I respect your calling and your dedication. Thank you for continuing to do what you are doing.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoYour posting today was exceptional and that is why I support you and this web site. As you have aplty demonstrated, your article, while an opinion, is well reasoned, thought provoking and respectful to your readership. I stand by my initial comments in that you need not post an article that fails in all of these respects but rather resorts to un-truths or supposed truths in a screeching fashion, all toward the end game being it is all "Bush's fault".
I frequent many web-sites and support those I feel provide sincere and unwavering support for our men at war, as yours truly does, with your own boots on the ground. I can look elsewhere for nuanced editorials and fevered sentiments against war. Respectfully submitted to you and continued safe journeys.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoYes, torture is wrong and already illegal in the US. The only question is: what is torture? Is water-boarding torture? The subject is not physically harmed, i.e. being beaten, burned or starved. Is it torture to subject a prisoner to physical discomfort (turn the AC up and make the room cold, play annoying music, etc.)? The real problem here is that our politicians prefer to grandstand on the issue without actually passing a law to clearly define what is torture and therefore illegal. While John McCain has a unique perspective on this issue, he is one of the worst offenders in that as a prominent Senator he has failed to back-up his words with the deed of passing a law to make illegal the practice of water-boarding.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoMy reaction to Joe Galloway is much the same as some of the other commenters have expressed. His writing does nothing to persuade me. I'm eager to hear his thoughts and ideas if he has something constructive to say. Ad hominem attacks on the people who have been entrusted with the power of the United States and the responsibility that goes with it do nothing to increase my knowledge or allow me to make an informed decision. I have tried reading the last several columns of his that you have posted, and end up skimming after the first few paragraphs and dismissing him as a raging malcontent. This post of yours is precisely the type of reasoned, polite argument that can be persuasive.
I have often been willing to give President Bush the benefit of the doubt, particularly when the attacks on him are the same refrains repeated over and over without tying them back to their justification. This is why I appreciate your criticism of the administration while dismissing Mr. Galloway. I do not know how well reasoned his opinions are, because he never shares his reason, only his browbeating conclusions. I dismiss him not because I disagree with him, but because he can't seem to explain himself in civil fashion--or won't. I don't mind hearing criticism of the administration. I want to know about mistakes that have been made. As a citizen and a voter, I consider it my responsibility to be informed on these matters.
You express information and some opinions. He expresses anger and not much else.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoMichael,
Thank you for posting your clarification. I hope that readers will comment on your posting of Galloway's article in light of your thoughts. You present very valid points - and very rationally.
I agree that it is important to be exposed to, and consider, alternative points of view. Some of the previous posters on the article appeared to be unwilling to discuss why they disagreed with Galloway with any rational discussion. I didn't enjoy reading the article because of the tone. However, the topic is due for serious thought.
The use of torture is a very complicated topic. To pretend that it is something that can be either supported or rejected simply and out of hand is naive and ignorant. I respect your thoughts, and appreciate the fact that you think for yourself. Thank you for challenging us to do the same.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoThese laws and conventions on how prisoners should be treated and interrogated were and are deliberately vague. They were made vague because the authors were rightly concerned that spelling out every single practice to be banned in a specific manner, would only encourage torturers to come up with new and creative ways around the ban. Similar to the way that assault weapon manufacturers make token changes to banned "assault weapons" and remarket the same weapon under a new name and turn the "assault weapons" ban into a farce.
I would argue that much of the debate over torture has been hysterical and completely lacking in overall context. Throwing a prisoner into a cell with the air conditioner turned up to full blast is not even close to torture. Waking a guy up so he doesn't get 9 hours of REM sleep is not torture. Making a guy kneel for a few hours, then stand for a few hours, or hold their hands out at their sides, is not torture. It's uncomfortable, but it's not torture. Long interrogation sessions are not torture.
What IS torture are the blatant sadistic abuses at Abu Ghraib. Bush's biggest mistake of his presidency was not accepting Rumsfeld's offer to resign when the pictures surfaced. He should have accepted the resignation right there and then. It would have showed accountability still mattered. And it would have allowed the Army to recommend putting more Soldiers into Iraq and possibly to change strategy more quickly than actually happened. Rumsfeld was absolutely obsessed with winning wars with as few bodies on the ground as humanly possible. He allowed his fascination with a "light footprint" to get in the way of sound military counterinsurgency strategy. And sadly, the apparent early success in Afghanistan -- where a few thousand Special Forces and 10th Mountain Division forces routed the Taliban in a few months -- provided Rumsfeld with a potent cudgel to beat down all the suggestions from the Army that more Soldiers were needed in Iraq to protect the population from terrorist intimidation.
Personally, I think water boarding is probably torture. But waterboarding three people is not the end of the universe. It doesn't even come close to surrendering the moral high ground. Anti-war and anti-Bush critics are so desperate to discredit everything about their political opponents that they have turned what should have been a PR blunder, into a self-inflicted PR disaster.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoI assume that waterboarding is considered torture for the sake of this argument.
I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility that waterboarding a detainee might result in intelligence which could prevent the deaths of innocent civilians - Civilians which could very well be living in the warzone, and would have otherwise been subjected to collateral damage.
So... Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?
Frankly, waterboarding seems like the path of least resistance in some cases. It gets the job done, quickly, with a minimum of discomfort, and no lasting damage. It's clearly not something you would use as a matter of course, but in some circumstances it seems like the most sensible option.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agonobody that I've seen has argued against open and rational debate. However to present Galloway as the face of this, or even a participant in it is at best misleading. You couldn't have picked a more irrational presenter. In that I am disappointed.
In addition, I've not seen anything from Abu that I would classify as torture - we have fraternity hazing that is more severe and painful that what those prisoners endured. And our treatment of captures is generally far superior to that that the German's experienced. However, what we face today is a risk far greater than that of the Germans. And while you say you've no idea of how many American lives were lost due to AG, you neglected to mention you have no idea how many American lives have been saved by more intense interrogation techniques. Playing Metallica for 48 hours straight just does not rise to the level of torture in my book, I don't care what some of the Gitmo defense attorneys say.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoYour writing is appreciated. I understand more now and I thank you. However, I do have a couple of questions. Is it possible that we have lost lives because "torture" has not been truly defined AND because of the day-in and day-out propoganda by the mainstream media about the so-called torture at AG (not saying there wasn't any) and the media's attempt to destroy President Bush and his administration from day one? Isn't the media to blame for some of the lost lives? Bush should have acted differently when the news broke about AG, but I put a lot more blame on those who are so hateful of Bush that their main focus is bringing him down instead of supporting those who aren't doing the torturing. If there wasn't so much hatred of Bush, I think more in the media would have approached this a lot differently, asked all the right questions, pushed for results and then maybe, just maybe, less precious lives would have been lost.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoMichael, I'm going to have to disagree with you here. I don't think waterboarding it torture. It may be scary, even terrifying and some of the other techniques that have been used may be as well. They don't however, compare to ripping off fingernails or implanting bamboo splinters under the nails or confining to tiny cages in the hot sun. All the techniques I've heard about may scare the prisoner or weaken them physically but they don't do long lasting physical, or even mental, harm to the subject.
Also, we're not dealing with civilized, honorable prisoners who believe in the rules of war. We're dealing with people who believe its stupendous to strap a bomb on a retarded kid and send them into a crowd to kill innocent civilians. We're dealing with radical, ideologically motivated people who think anyone who doesn't agree with them deserves immediate execution and a quick trip to hell. We're never going to win a single devoted terrorist over to our side by treating them like we'd treat prisoners from a nation's authorized armed forces. We treat them well and they believe it shows weakness.
I don't think its right to do physical damage to any prisoner but I don't causing them mental anguish is any problem at all. I think we need to be very careful what we consider torture and what we do not.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoThe United States military has many people who have volunteered for, or more correctly fought for, the opportunity to earn positions (pilot, special forces etc.) that they knew beforehand would require them to undergo waterboarding as part of their training. CIA agents who conducted waterboarding on KSM and others had themselves been subjected to waterboarding. Journalists (Fox's Steve Harrigan for one) have volunteered to be waterboarded. Are these people idiots for volunteering to be "tortured" or is waterboarding simply not torture?
Any procedure (regardless of the discomfort it causes) that causes no lasting physical damage and that so many Americans have actually volunteered to undergo cannot be classified as torture.
And since waterboarding fails to meet the definition of torture, the entire "Bush supports torture" accusation has no basis in fact.
As for Galloway and his fighting alongside American troops: Hurray for him! His bravery is to be commended. And yet brave, heroic men have in later life been guilty of terrible crimes and have been punished for them. Now Galloway's writing isn't exactly a crime (though there may be grounds for libel and slander) but to give him a pass for the rest of his life based on his fighting "side by side" with American troops makes as much since as letting a MOH winner go if he were later accused of a crime. Galloways actions in the Ia Drang valley do not give him license to do and say anything he pleases for the remainder of his life. His present day writings should be judged on their own merits, or lack thereof. And on that count I find his columns to be sorely lacking.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoFrom the tenor of the comments, it's clear that the received messages are just as you say. If you are right and the war in Iraq is all but over, I hope it can be won by the end of the year. The received messages sent by the Obama administration to the American military in the Middle East are going to be real different from the current set.
Even with the casualties inflicted, it may be that we have brought the Iraqis a great gift of freedom but if things work out wonderfully for them in the future, I do not believe we will be regarded as friends by them. I do not believe they think we are there because of a deep seated desire to spread the joys of democracy and freedom to our Arab brothers. I do not blame them. I do not know a single American who believes that or pretends to believe that. Do you?
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoMichael, you say:
"...due to the tortures we inflicted upon Iraqis at Abu Ghraib..."
THAT was not torture and you saying so invalidates anything that follows. You fall into your own rhetorical trap. Also, making a statement that the Right believes torture is okay as a blanket is just plain dishonest.
I bought your book, support your efforts but if you are reverting to a type with anti-conservative rhetoric then you will have lost me and a lot of those who have supported you and your work.
Harsh interrogation is not torture. Torture leaves lasting physical damage. And you know it. If the perpetually aggrieved in the world are to be believed then anything that makes them the slightest bit uncomfortable is torture. They consider pleasure to be our screams of pain as they saw our heads off.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoMike, I have been a huge fan of yours from the very beginning. I take every opportunity I can to point people toward you as a no B.S. source for honest and no-holds-barred reporting about our war zones. That being said....I could not more fully disagree with you about "toture" Ab Grahib was a JOKE!! My Shellback iniation in the Navy was more grueling than what those TERRORIST went through there. Give me a break! And you know what? I don't CARE what they do to those detainees Mike! Those people want to come to this country and cut my 4 year old son's head off JUST BECAUSE he is American and Christain! They can all go to hell! I don't much care what the rest of the world thinks either! I would frankly prefer that they all have a good healthy FEAR of the United States than to be all warm and cuddly with them! We are at war Mike! With an enemy that is driven by visceral and animated HATE for everything we hold dear. I just can't muster up much give-a-shit for them. Kill them in battle...in an excessively and brutally effective manner! War is a horrible, ugly thing, but THEY invited it on themselves. Prisoners? Get all you can out of them, by any means neccessary, then shoot them! I DON'T CARE ABOUT THEM!! I care about the widows and orphans left behind by brave and capable American fighting men and women who have had to fight with thier hands tied behind them because of this sick and dangerous adherence to a P.C. notion of warfare! If we are going to ask our Warriors to fight for us, then take them off the leash and LET THEM WIN!! This whole Iraq thing should have been done and over with years ago! We should have been in it to WIN IT, not to play some surreal game! What in the hell is so wrong with VICTORY?!?!
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoYour writing is back to your original style however, that still does not excuse the fabrications and accusations that you made without presenting proof as you used to do. From this writing I still get the impression that you are being guided and influenced by others and not presenting the independent thinking and writing of your previous dispatches from Iraq. Since you have returned to America I see an erosion of your support and confidence in our troops. Galloway has no relevance here; Iƒ??m looking squarely at you.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoIt always goes back to politics... Funny. Torture's not left or right. Pun intended... Frankly, I'm grateful for any writer who will acknowledge an idea that doesn't necessarily fall in line with others of his/her stated ideas. Too many get so hung up on ensuring the Left or Right perspectives are covered, that their work becomes part of the 'groupthink.' If Michael Yon has to write conservatively or liberally to keep an audience... Well, you're probably reading the wrong blog. 'Honesty' and 'calling it as one sees it' don't have political slants: Sorta defeats the purpose, dontcha think?
Thank you, again, Michael. Am in my second assignment to Germany, and I'm about to head back to Iraq. I was in Anbar from September '03 to September '04, and I clearly recall how violence ratcheted up yet again after actions at AG became public. I'll be in MND-N this time. Last time, I got to help rebuild a school, as well as help employ local nationals on our FOB. But before we left, as Anbar was building hard and fast toward November '04, we didn't get to our school for over two months, and we don't know if it even survived. As a near-certified Fobbit this time around, doesn't sound like we'll get to do any civil missions, but a few of us aren't going to let it rest; working with Iraqis was too valuable an experience, and yes, Friends, some of them do appreciate us. MTF. Please take care of yourself, Michael. If I can help you out in MND-N for the next, oh, whole-freaking-bunch-of-months, let me know.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoIt is funny how this issue always fires everyone up. I don't know about everyone else but when I read this article, it was pretty clear. No where is Michael attempting to give a definition of torture, he is simply saying lets call it for what it is. This is what i'm getting from Mike:
Does torture work? Yep
Does it work well? Yep
Have our forces done it? Yep
Has the enemy done it? Yep
Is it a "global" public lose/lose issue by using it? Yep
If your going to torture, call it that. Don't candy coat it.
I think that as a former Special Forces Soldier Michael understands all to the clear the appropriate application of torture. However, I think that he is saying in this application, the negative impact that torture has, far outweighs any information you might get from using it.
I think that in the correct environment torture is effective and a useful tactic, with the correct application of torture people WILL tell you the truth. However, using a tactic like torture can cost you everything strategically.
Generally saying I think that if you have to pause for a moment and ask yourself if something is torture or not----- Well you know the rest.
Ref: GreggS-- WTF are you talking about, keep up dude, Michael is back over seas and has been nothing but supportive for our warriors.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoMike,
I enjoy your dispatches. My youngest went to the big sandbox. His unit will return there or to Afghanistan this coming year. He's USAR after 5 years in the USMC.
I wish I could agree with your position.
Unfortunately, every time this enemy has captured one of our guys, the poor troop ends up in pieces.
The rules of war to do not apply to terrorists.
We apply them, anyway, because we are better than they are. However, like the LTC that pulled the 9mm on the Iraqi and fired a shot to shock him into spilling his guts to prevent U.S. troops from walking into an ambush, whatever it takes, within reason, and as the situation dictates.
What we do is not torture. Torture leaves scars, inflicts pain, and is a violation of human rights. That's what they do. What we do is play psychological games with sleep deprivation, time disorientation, and play upon their paranoia. That is not torture, that is interrogation.
If the issue is time sensitive, then water boarding is justified.
I don't recall Al Qaeda personnel being dismembered as a lesson to the infidel for sullying the Dawa of Islam.
Keep up the good work.
Even though I disagree with you, I understand what you are getting at.
It is just that this is an enemy that is fanatic and has no compunction about doing whatever it takes to win.
Ask a veteren of Guadalcanal what happened to the Japanese prisoners?
Or, the Fallschirmjaeger captured at Monte Casino by the Brits?
In 1970, I went to Austria as part of the Civil Air Patrol's International Air Cadet Exchange Program. We were hosted by the Austrian Aero Club. The secretary general of which was one Joseph Fozo (umlats over the Os) and a former Luftwaffe MAJ, a veteran of the Battle of Britain and a member of the Condor Legion in Spain. (I actuall wrestled this guy, who was 56 at the time--I won, but, man, could he fly a Zlin 526!) He was one of many ex-Luftwaffe fighter pilots we met, who were also ex-Condor Legion, and who all were appreciative and highly complimentary regarding their treatment in captivity, whether it was in the U.S. or Canada. However, they also showed us where the U.S. bombed. They were definitely thankful that they had been captured by the western allies and not the Russians. They abhored the Russians as nature abhors a vacuum.
There is a place for treating the enemy with respect, and there is a place of necessity where the needs of the moment dictate getting the information however it necessary.
God Bless, be safe and I look forward to reading more from you.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years ago"Any procedure (regardless of the discomfort it causes) that causes no lasting physical damage and that so many Americans have actually volunteered to undergo cannot be classified as torture.
And since waterboarding fails to meet the definition of torture, the entire "Bush supports torture" accusation has no basis in fact."
That is total crap, by that definition electrical methods of torture doesn't count, sensory deprivation techniques doesn't count, subject a child to waterbording to force its parents to talk is, by your definition, perfectly acceptable... Its hiding behind pathetic excuses, its torture if your going to support it man up and admit it. To be honest I can't think of the words to describe the level of disgust I feel towards people who can somehow justify torture and treat it as acceptable behaviour.
And there is great big difference between a journalist volunteering to undergo waterboarding in a control environment as publicity stunt, compared to someone who has been dragged out of a cell (by people that they have been indoctrinated to believe are the devil incarnate) in place, they believe, anything can be done to them.
Sure there will be hard-line elements that will never back down and will always wish to destroy us by any means possible. They may be scum but that doesn't give us the right to fall to there level and fear doesn't give us an excuse.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoMichael, I'm a retired university professor. Our students came to our university completely and deeply trained, from kindergarten, in groupthink. We were never able to break them of the habit. It is no wonder they resorted to groupthink.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoMicahel, I don't know what uninformed blogs you've been reading that you've attributed to the "far right", but I'm a solid member of that ideology which you hold in such disdain, and I've never, never, NEVER come across a single right-winger that believes that torture is ok. Not one.
What you may have read and misinterpreted is that we believe that there are some non-torture methods that can and should (sparingly) be used to extract life-saving intelligence.
I've been reading you for a couple of years now, and I've seen you repeatedly misunderstand what the right has been saying since the beginning of the war, then attack the right for what you have misinterpreted that we think.
Your war correspondence is the best since WWII, but your political rhetoric is incredibly naive and reeks of the groupthink that you rightfully criticize. You state that we should listen to others more and seriously consider their arguments before proceeding with our own, but you clearly have formulated an opinion of the far right based on what the far left publishes in the MSM.
But anyway...your article is spot on and I think you should continue mentioning the astonshing job that Gen. Petraeus has done in turning around the war from a hopeless case of Vietnamism to an undeniable path to victory. When this period in history has passed, Gen. Petraeus will stand out as the clear hero of our generation, at least one building at USMC will bear his name, and he will have a monument in D.C.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoI have been lurking around your blog for about a month and after reading this, I am finally confident that your assessments of Iraq must be as objective as is possible since this piece was free of the crippling partisan "groupthink" that permeates most of the dialog concerning the two current wars. You just got yourself another reader of your book.
To the people who want to debate the niceties of what is torture and what is not torture: if you have to ask the question, the technique in question is wrong. America should not be quibbling over the "acceptable" level of mental and/or physical humiliation and pain that we can PURPOSEFULLY subject another human being to who is in our custody. The answer is there is NO acceptable level. America's ethics on this matter are not morally relative.
It is of no matter what they do to us, we have the courage of our convictions and will not bend them out of anger or revenge. Nor will we lay our convictions down for the perceived purpose of saving innocent lives because, I for one, believe saving my biological life is less important than saving the moral foundation that I base and orient that life around. To save the fact of our existence through disregarding the meaning of our existence is to save merely matter while ignoring the much more important substance.
I think we all do well to adapt the saying of one of my favorite [albeit fake] cultures: "A Klingon's honor means more to him than his life!"
Of course this is just my opinion of how America should conduct herself. But I think esteeming honor and ethics above ALL else is a very American concept.
Anyway Michael, thank you for keeping your head above the flood of emotion and partisanship that seems to drown out nearly all attempts at a reasonably unbiased and humanist view of Iraq and the war in terrorism in general. As soon as I'm done with my current book, I will pick up yours to help with my continuing education on Iraq. Thanks for your woefully unique services and keep up the good work!
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoThanks, Michael, for a well thought out examination of groupthink and its shortcomings.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoIn my previous post, I did not mention Moment of Truth...great book. Actually, all your writing is excellent. Regarding your post above, I won't argue on the torture issue, your point and others is being digested.
But I feel that Mr. Galloway is giving his views as a member of the "far left" and you said we should listen to those that live amongst us , even when we disagree. Point taken.
Question: since I consider you fair and balanced...(can I say truthful), when do we get to read some article written by the "far right"?
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoQuite frankly, as an old observer, I anticipate the corruption of a few.
But to the courageous and tenacious - from Bush to Rumsfeld to Gates to Petraeus to Michael Yon to all the good military, our Iraqi allies,
and the soldier I know best -
You have my utmost respect.
And I am sure that this conflict is historical in its nature -
that something so incredible is happening,
no one can really take it in.
God bless you all and your friends and your allies.
You are human, but you are great.
a soldier's mom
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoA few years ago, I had the opportunity to work with a few Army interrogators who had just returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. This was around the time the Abu Ghraib story broke. I was disgusted and disappointed and went to one of the sergeants to ask him exactly what went on back there. He told me flat-out that none of the detainees he questioned was ever mistreated (either by hazing, or by using any of the waterboarding/sleep deprivation/stress positions that later made news). He also referred me to a book about the former Luftwaffe interrogator Hanns Scharff, who was so effective at his job that the American pilots he questioned never knew exactly what intelligence they had given him (but they knew he got what he needed).
Does waterboarding, etc, constitute torture? I'm not sure, but I don't like the idea of us resorting to those techniques. I'd like to think we have more Hanns Scharffs in our ranks... well-trained, moral Americans who don't have to toe that line to get the job done. Our enemies will manipulate the truth regardless of our behavior; we can't afford to give them any extra ammunition.
As for Mr. Galloway's article: as a former journalist, I consider it irresponsible journalism at best, borderline libelous at worst. But thank God we live in a country in which all of these issues are open for debate.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoI understand Major Kyndra Rotunda JAG Officer in the U.S. Army Individual Ready Reserve expounds in her book "Honor Bound," about terrorism, terrorists and how our military deals with captured enemy combatants. As of yet, I've only heard one interview with her however haven't read her book; it might be interesting to get perspective from a military officer (now in reserves) who has experienced directly the procedures in which the military handles enemy combatants.
From what I gathered in the brief interview I she offered excellent counter arguments to questions with were formulated entirely upon the news media's perspective; just from her responses the listener could immediately gather she had her facts and details together.
I cannot help but notice that throught the war in Iraq there has been a real drive by the majority journalists to prove the American military is doing things worthy of condemation yet after all these years the only instance that has received overwelming attention was Abu Graib (I believe it has already been pointed out that the military was already taking action months before the NY TImes took notice)
My point is; I am left with an impression that one event, which the military was already addressing long before media endlessly plastered it in every American's mind several months after CENTCOM gave a press conference in January (I remember watching that press conference) seems to be the exception to the rule yet media portrays as the rule not the exception.
I heard Bush condemn torture numerous times and as for GITMO I plan on reading Major Rotunda's, she really offered detailed counter-arguments to the populist impression.
Lastly, since Sept 2001 I have been tracking events (I read about four to five hours a day) and I don't recall instances in which the right side has encouraged torture, there has been a healthy debate over the use of waterboarding and whether it is constituted as torture. As for Abu Graib, from a civilian my perspective much of what occured there was more along the lines of humiliation particulairly when a lot of that stuff is actually done in various sado-masochist clubs across America. If you want to discusss whether Americans are involved in creepy freaky chains, cages, dungeons, crapping in peoples faces, whipping, beating, electro-shock(seriously there people who hook other people up to car batteries to shock their gentials) perhaps Mr. Galloway could do an expose about that form of 'American torture'
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoIn reading your post regarding Joe Gallaway and the following comments, I came to Larry Wood's comment. Read it. Re-read it. Went on reading more comments, but only got a couple of comments further down the line. Why bother going on. Larry summed up my feelings on the issue with simple eloquence. Of course all of this is opinion. However, I feel opinion forms policy.
There seems to be a vast group of folks like Larry, and I humbly include myself, that go through life with a handle on things based in reality and common sense. Not just ideology and legality. And we are never heard or presented with the opportunity to be represented. Perhaps this will change in time.
Michael, keep up the great work. I may not agree with all you write. However, it is appreciated that you write it.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoMichael,
A quote from your article, "On the Right, one received idea is that torture is acceptable." I would like to see some references ......
I first encountered you and your mission either through references in National Review or the Wall Street Journal, visited your web site & read your dispatches. Until your dispatches from Basra.
I was an avid fan of Steven Vincent's dispatches from Iraq. His early criticism of Britain's interpretation of their troop's mission and effectiveness alarmed me at the time. His vicious and untimely death placed an exclamation point to those dispatches.
I hesitated in supporting you or in ordering your books after reading your dispatches from Basra. While I cannot find fault with your praise of the British troops, your lack of insight into their effectiveness disturbed me.
Despite that hesitancy, I ordered your recent book - directly from you - in the interest of supporting your activities. However, I am still choking on the first two chapters of your book where you vacillate between American troop's effectiveness and our early errors (at all levels) while keeping the reader informed of your origins and high purpose. By page 2 I became outraged by your reference to ".... rape and torture of the prisoners. We did all that by ourselves."
Your (& Galloway's) continued reference to the abuse & humiliation of prisoners at Abu Graib interferes with America's understanding of our progress (Strategically & Tactically) and effectiveness in the conduct of the war on terror within our multiple theaters.
I will finish your book & pass it on to others. However, I really do not know how long I can stomach the smears, like my initial quote and your respect for Galloway.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoMichael,
I have been reading your dispatches since 2005 and find your insight most illuminating. Your book "Moment of Truth" is a masterpiece which should be read by every citizen in the country.
I always say that there a three sides to every story and the truth is somewhere in the middle and strive to find the truth. That is how I found your dispatches.
I hope you are not falling into the same propaganda trap as the rest of our country. As far as I can tell, President Bush has on repeated occasions condemned torture.
Was Abu Ghraib disgraceful and disgusting? Absolutely. There is no excuse for our soldiers behaving in such a manner. These abuses occurred in 2004 and were under investigation at the time the story broke. Yet we still hear about it every day. How can a scab heal if you keep picking at it all the time?
Waterboarding may, or may not be, torture. But the US actually only used this method times between 2001 and 2003 when it's use was discontinued. However, due to our news media most people think we still use this as an interrogation technique.
Is Sleep Deprivation torture? If so, every mother in the world has been tortured after the birth of their children.
Is loud music torture? I certainly think so, especially if it is Led Zepplin :-) My husband, who only plays the radio at Spinal Tap levels, disagrees.
Seven out of eight Marines have been acquitted in the so-called "Haditha Massacres". Do most people in the US or the world know this? Of course not. Headline: Marines massacre civilians. Truth: Not important enough to print.
Our Congress just held it's 60th hearing into detainee treatment! Who is actually served by this other than the people who want us to lose this war which include most of the media who refuse to cover it properly.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoI don't give a hairy rat's ass what any country thinks about the U. S. No country has the moral high ground to stand judgment on the U. S., that much is clear to anyone who reads. The entire subject was dreamed up by the dhimmi's to undermine "W." The MSM subsequently brandished the very same dhimmi spin for reasons that by now can no longer be conceptualized. In the meantime, whatever actions are necessary to maintain the safety and sovereign strength of the U. S. should be taken.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoI have debated this issue for quite some time and I respect your view Mike. But let me ask you a question. Just how frequent is is? If the left had their way it would seem it is a common daily occurence. It's healthy we have this deabte, but what should matter is the facts and this seems to be a rarity with this particular subject. In extreme cases waterboarding is the tool needed but from what I have read it has been used only times. So what precisely are we arguing about? Clarity would help truly define this argument. Specualtion fuels the fire.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoI would hope that we are not indescrimately cutting peoples fingers off bit by bit, drilling into the heads and body or other such unmentionable acts.
I would hope that if we are pushing the line of what is torture it because we have very compelling reasons to believe that the person has timely information that can be used to disrupt a deadly operation or gain access to deadly individuals.
Using heavy pressure as part of a dragnet to see what we might come up with is wrong. Vengeful acts are wrong. There must be accountability.
But let's not kid ourselves, we are blowing things up and killing people in Iraq to protect our freedom. Some of those people are innocent. Innocent people will put up with the destruction and pay to repair a large part of it.
Keep up the good work.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years ago"Joe thinks weƒ??re losing the Iraq War..."
Joe needs to get up close and personal with Iraq war veterans, or maybe even visit Iraq himself. What is he? A Harry Reid democrat?
As for torture: If Joe thinks Iƒ??m going to lose sleep over the ƒ??tortureƒ? of a terrorist scumbag to extract information that will save American lives, he's nuts.
BLUF: Stop taking prisoners.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoI can't help to think if the administration made a large point to speak out about torture Joe Galloway would be pro-torture. He simply hates the president. I'm sorry Michael, I think you are one of the most honorable men I have ever known of, but I can't say the same for Galloway anymore. He is blinded by his dislike for the admin.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoIt's amazing the amount of people who think by saying, "I'm against torture, but what we're doing isn't torture" or "Our enemy is dishonourable and ruthless, it therefore makes whatever we do ok" they can just eliminate the problem in their mind. Then they attack your George Galloway reference, for bringing up the left wing lunatic in your blog. I honestly despair at how much some people utterly miss the point.
The idea Michael is clearly trying to espouse is that our enemy may be ruthless, he may break all the rules, but one of the ways we beat him is simply by being better than him. On the other point, Michael stated himself that his mention of Galloway's name is an example of how even the people stuck in the wrong and at the wrong end of the spectrum can be sometimes correct and have useful ideas. Unfortunately we are too stuck in groupthink and automatically write them off (hint to several responders here). We'll destroy a good idea in our heads, because we simply don't like the source, it's someone we won't allow ourselves to listen to.
As for the people who reply "Where is the evidence of people defending the use of torture?", I'd reply to look at the several replies that support the use of waterboarding.
"Through forced suffocation and inhalation of water, the subject experiences the process of drowning and is made to believe that death is imminent. In contrast to merely submerging the head face-forward, waterboarding almost immediately elicits the gag reflex. Although waterboarding does not always cause lasting physical damage, it carries the risks of extreme pain, damage to the lungs, brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation, injuries (including broken bones) due to struggling against restraints, and even death. The psychological effects on victims of waterboarding can last for years after the procedure."
So if I did that to you, it'd be ok then because it isn't torture? Because we're not pulling fingernails out, it makes us better than those torturers who were?
(More details at http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/04/06/usdom13130.htm)
Anyway, I initially came on just to say great post Michael, I agree 100% and was shocked at some of the replies you received. Good on you for having the courage to break the group ethic and say when something is plain wrong. Keep up the good work.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoWell said Michael. A friend of mine ones said to me that opinions and views that greatly oppose your own should be heard, even if you don't agree with them. Those views sometimes hold truths or elements of truths that we should temper our own views with.
The danger here, in forums such as these and others that opposing views may be censured and possibly censored. This will eventually lead to one point of view that could be extremist. This is how the likes of Al Qaeda spread their teachings, by teaching to the uneducated and not allowing opposing views to be heard.
We who live is a well-educated, free-thinking society must listen to opposing voices, if not to change our opinions, but to see a different point of view, then to reflect on, intelligently discuss and debate the issues. I appauld Michael for posting Joe Gallaway's views, even if I do not agree with them. And I applaud the people who post comments here for not insulting, abusing and dismissive of other people's opinions. There is too much of that in other forums.
As for torture, with all the symantics being thown around, I prefer a different litmus test found in ancient teachings:
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoGood evening Michael,
A very powerful argument.
However, I believe torture - both soft and hard - should definitely remain an option, and should definitely NOT be banned by the USA or its allies.
I am not convinced that the "torture option" is ALWAYS worse than than the no-torture option, regardless of context or circumstances.
What you've most eloquently spelled out (and argued in the manner of a truly honorable American) however, is that the "torture option" has consequences.
It may assist in winning part of a War, but it can also make it that much harder - after the War is won - to develop the sort of friendship and harmony that prevents further Wars. On this, I agree.
However, just as the decision to assassinate an enemy is not carried out willy-nilly - it requires evidence, clearly spelled out goals, clearly defined limitations on what is being done and what is not to be done, a thorough understanding and taking of responsibility of short, medium, and long-term consequences, etc. - so, should a deliberate decision to employ a particular mode of torture of a clearly defined degree on a particular individual or group of individuals be defined and limited.
The "torture option" - like any and every other military option - should not be treated in any sort of arbitrary manner. For public servants, police officers, and soldiers, ALL arbitrary actions are ALWAYS illegal. That includes everything from spying to detaining a suspect, from handing out a speeding ticket to nuking a city, from how you treat your subordinates to how you might employ torture upon a captive.
The scope for justifiably employing some degree of some types of torture in some limited instances is, however, quite tiny in my view.
All the Way with the USA,
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoI started making a list of the tortures inflicted upon WWII American, British and Filipino troops by the Japanese just to remind your readers what torture is, but the tale got so lengthy as to take up three pages. What American or Filipino at the Bataan Death March would not have begged for the ƒ??tortureƒ? of Abu Ghraib? Iƒ??ve read and viewed the Abu Ghraib files at Salon.com. The abuse is sickening but is it torture? I do not believe anything in those reports constitute classic torture such as endured by Allied troops. While certainly disgusting and possibly dishonorable, are homoerotic imagery, use of fear, dog barks, truth agents, embarrassment, waterboarding, loud music, being made to stand for hours, and sleep deprivation really torture? But just how indiscriminate were these tactics? Was every single prisoner at Abu Ghraib subjected to the same treatment? Since we know that only a few personnel at Abu Ghraib participated in these tactics, can we conclude that it was unusual? U.S. history shows that government has supported some pretty terrible incidents, and so perhaps I should be a bit more skeptical of present leadership. But was torture really ordered from higher-ups such as Rumsfeld and the President? Those who hate them and believe they are evil, corrupt and without conscience will say yes. Those who do not hate them will probably not believe it. Isnƒ??t it more likely that things got out of hand at Abu Ghraib because there were some seriously disturbed personnel at that prison and the commandant didnƒ??t care to check into it? Perhaps Iƒ??m merely a woman who has never seen combat; however, I am a student of history. This, in my opinion and according to history, was not torture.
Your article indicates that you want us to look at both sides and choose the most fitting conclusion. Well, I've been on both sides, very far left, and now much more conservative. I can tell you that no conservative friend or acquaintance ever has expressed a tolerance for torture nor have I read any respected writers who have expressed that. However, I have heard terrible, unreasoning hatred from my leftist friends and read such from "respected"writers of the Left. Your statement: "That father likely would never have turned in his sons if he thought we were dishonorable torturers" indicates that Iraqis know that their perception of Abu Ghraib as a torture chamber was not well-founded. You say that those "tortured" came out of prison and took revenge by joining terrorists. Could it be rather that the detainees were terrorists going in and coming out? How do we know they weren't? You say that many American lives were taken because of Abu Ghraib. How many? 4000? 100? 5? Prove it.
Our nation's honor has not been impugned by actions of American military personnel or our President. It has been impugned by the likes of Galloway and his leftist friends. Remember that proverbial pointed one finger with three pointing back is still apt, Michael.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoI have tons to say to this article. I think it was extremely well expressed. My thoughts about the torture stuff have probably been touched on by a few others; so, I'll move on to another aspect of the article. There may very well be truth that "group think" brought on by ideology played a large formative role in the admin's decision making, especially early on. I do not claim to have followed the various journaling of the insiders to know for sure, but it seems to me that there is another elephant in the room that is not getting much attention. In organizations like the defense department and the Pentagon, there are long standing personnel whose own personal ideological agendas and allegiances on any given number of foreign policy questions will quite possibly affect their own convictions about the direction that the government should take and who continue to be in those positions throughout many different administrations. With the U.S. as basically the only world superpower, each of those people hold an amazing amount of power in their hands, and ANY admin knows it. These people are just as capable, if not more so, of putting out disinformation to try to cause their agenda to win out the day, as any administration. The admin knows this too. Knowing this, how is it possible for any given admin, even one who carefully weighs all intel and info and comes to a judgment that is right and true, to not ignore and even try to tell some analysts to shut up in any given foreign policy decision that is as weighty as Iraq? Kind of long, but I hope coherent.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoThe problem I have with Joe Galloway being posted here is that his writing is poorly substantiated, if at all, and is nothing more than vitriol. If you want to have a rational conversation with me, you are not going to tell me my mother is a whore. And if you want to convince me of your political opinion, you aren't going to tell me that my leader is an idiot. This kind of language is only used to start a fight and that is all Galloway seems to be interested in.
In my opinion, reading a Galloway article should fall under the list of banned forms of torture. If fighiting in "pitched combat side by side with our troops" is the only criteria for receiving respect, then we need to rethink our historical position on Benedict Arnold.
When Joe Galloway begins to present argument based in fact over opinion, I will consider giving him credibility and respect. Until then, I think printing his diatribes on an otherwise noble web blog is a waste of good bandwidth.
This commment is unpublished.· 12 years agoI read Galloway's article. It's all just insinuation that Bush knew and directed torture at Abu Ghraib. It's not a well thought out piece. He's a one trick pony. I should respect his history, but I'm sorry, it's getting hard if not impossible. It doesn't give him lifetime immunity from being criticized as a moron, when he writes like a moron.