The so-called torture memos released by the White House were not the only things tortured by what quickly became a crisis. The release tortured logic to a point beyond its endurance. Under that kind of torture, it quickly broke down.
What purpose did releasing the alleged “torture” memos serve? For our country, I mean. It is painfully obvious how it served our enemies. In war, any accurate information the enemy holds is too much information. Logic screams in pain at the arguments advanced by the government – that it intended to project “legal and moral clarity” over the issue of torture.
The most egregious form of torture cited by the memo is the “waterboarding” technique. The memo said that without it, Khalid Sheik Mohammed would never have given up the information that prevented a catastrophic airline attack against Los Angeles.
The U.S. military uses waterboarding against American forces as part of advanced training for certain elite groups. If it isn’t torture when it is applied against America’s defenders as part of their training, how then can one argue it is “torture” when applied to one of America’s enemies as part of national defense?
No matter. It’s out. So is “walling.” Prisoners are slammed against a specially constructed wall that gives way, preventing injury but making a scary noise. No more of that, either.
The White House argues that by releasing the formerly classified documents, we prove we’ve got nothing to hide. Well, we’ve got nothing left to hide, either.
There’s a scene in the mini-series “Band of Brothers” where Lt. Speirs explains why he allowed his company to believe he massacred a group of German POWs on D-Day. They thought he was nuts. But he never had problems with discipline.
Obama’s release of the torture memos dispels any lingering fear the enemy might have of us, and no doubt some think that is a good thing. And it would be. If we weren’t at war.
But since we are at war, logic would seem to suggest that under those circumstances, a little fear might not have been such a bad idea. It seems a better plan than to embolden him.
Obama released the memos saying that it was necessary for America’s legal and moral clarity. Legally, it’s created a firestorm of controversy.
The day he released them, he hurried over to the CIA to assure them that, even though they were all now complicit in torture, he wouldn’t prosecute them for doing their jobs.
Then the next day, he reversed himself. Maybe some people might have to be prosecuted, but only the lawyers. For now.
Only one day after saying the country was interested in looking forward and not backward, the country was buzzing about how long it would take before Obama put Bush on trial for war crimes.
The witch hunt is ongoing in a contextual vacuum. At the time these “enhanced” interrogation techniques took place, America was still reeling from the 9/11 attacks.
The fact that the country is so complacent that Obama feels safe playing politics with Guantanamo, the CIA, the military and the War on Terror without significant public outcry is largely due to the information those enhanced interrogation techniques yielded.
National Intelligence Director Adm. Dennis Blair said of the so-called torture techniques, “High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al-Qaida organization that was attacking this country.” His comments were made in a memo released to his staff.
“I like to think I would not have approved those methods in the past,” he wrote, “but I do not fault those who made the decisions at that time, and I will absolutely defend those who carried out the interrogations within the orders they were given.”
Gen. Michael Hayden, former CIA director under President Bush, told Fox News Sunday “the use of these techniques against these terrorists made us safer. It really did work.” Former Vice President Dick Cheney expressed similar sentiments.
Were they all lying? The answer to that question is self-evident. How many times have we been attacked since Sept. 11?
Let’s summarize the damage done by the torture memos so far. It empowers the enemy with knowledge useful to prosecuting his war against us. It emboldens our critics. It exposes the rest of the U.S. intelligence-gathering apparatus to closer scrutiny. It exposes those who advised the president to prosecution based on the advice they offered.
It paralyzes government advisers and intelligence and military operatives out of fear they may be prosecuted for serving their country. And it exposes the real target, former President Bush, to a potential war crimes trial.
Obama promised that releasing this classified information would benefit the country. In one sense, it does. The very worst thing America did was to scare some terrorists into thinking they were drowning with a technique we use on our own military recruits. Nobody got hurt. Nobody died. Uncounted thousands are alive today because of it.
Maybe we weren’t such a bad country, after all. Before The Change came, I mean.