Let me get a couple things out of the way before weighing in on the hottest issue in the U.S. Capitol today.
- I don’t like Alberto Gonzales. I think he’s a sellout. I don’t think he’ll be a very good attorney general. I don’t like his belief in a “living” Constitution. I think he’s soft on abortion. He’s not what this country needs in a top law enforcement officer. But he’s what you would expect from the Bush administration.
- I was never too upset about the pictures I saw of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. I haven’t lost a minute of sleep about the so-called abuses there. I’ve seen worse examples of “torture” in university fraternity hazing practices.
With that said, clearly I look at the Senate confirmation hearings on Gonzales’ nomination a little differently than most Republicans and most Democrats.
While I don’t care too much about the fate of the Gonzales nomination, there is a bigger issue at stake in this public exhibition – whether we as a nation have the resolve and intestinal fortitude to win the global war against the Islamic terrorists who attacked us Sept. 11, 2001, and who are planning future and more deadly attacks against as right now.
To win this war, it’s going to be necessary to get our hands dirty. It is going to require extreme sacrifice and gut-checking commitment. We’re going to have to do things in this war that you don’t do at Georgetown cocktail parties. We’re going to have to give our troops and our intelligence agents tools to work with and we’re going to have to back them when they make tough calls in the name of saving lives.
Here’s what I can tell you with certainty as someone with a few contacts on the front lines of this war: Since the Abu Ghraib scandal – that tempest in a teapot – U.S. interrogators have gotten next to nothing out of prisoners in Iraq.
Because those prisoners, many of them hardened terrorists with information about future attacks on our troops, maybe even on U.S. civilians, know the interrogators are playing with one hand tied behind their back. The rules on grilling have gotten much tougher. We have to be nice to the prisoners now – even if it means getting nothing out of them and losing more American lives as a result.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I think that’s wrong. I think that’s stupid. I think that kind of attitude virtually ensures this war will be longer and bloodier than any of us wish.
Do you believe in torture?
Most people would say no.
But what is torture? Interrogators are trained to use tough methods to extract information, but not to cross certain lines. Now those lines are increasingly moving and getting blurrier all the time because of criticism from arm-chair generals like Teddy Kennedy.
Before you answer the question as to whether you believe in torture under any circumstances, I urge you to rent the movie “Man on Fire,” directed by Tony Scott and starring Denzel Washington. This is not a movie about war, but it might as well be. A little girl is kidnapped, and her bodyguard has to resort to some unusual tactics to find out who is responsible. See it and tell me if the extreme actions of this bodyguard are not morally justifiable.
There’s another movie you might want to see along these lines – “Rules of Engagement,” starring Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson. A Vietnam platoon commander has to make some tough calls when his friend’s platoon is ambushed. It even involves killing an enemy prisoner in cold blood.
It’s easy to condemn these kinds of actions as we sit back in our easy chairs here in the United States. But it is a mistake to tie the hands of the men we send to war to do our dirty work.
If we don’t have the stomach for war, we have no business sending troops to fight them. If we don’t intend to do everything necessary to win the war, we should never start one in the first place. If we don’t back our troops with consistent support and the tools they need to minimize death, we might as well sue for peace right now. If we don’t stop micromanaging this war from Washington, we will indeed find ourselves in another Vietnam.