Updated: June 18, 2015
Dianne Feinstein made a good point during her interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN: There is no good time to bring up the topic of torture. However, it was something that needed to be addressed.
I want to stress that the torture report conducted by the Senate Intelligence Committee was not designed to damage the Republicans or punish the CIA operatives that carried out these acts, as some people have argued. Rather, this investigation was conducted to demonstrate America’s willingness to confront its past and show that we as a nation are not afraid to admit our mistakes.
What this report showed is that yes, we did in fact torture terror suspects in the wake of 9/11, and mistakes were made in how we conducted our “enhanced interrogation” program. But that’s not really the heart of the debate here. The question now facing the United States is “Was this justified?” I’m here to argue in the affirmative. I realize that this is not a popular opinion, but that has not always been the case. Many Americans have forgotten what the mood was like in the initial months and years following the attacks.
I have a creeping suspicion that what I write here may come back to haunt me later in my professional career, but I will not allow popular opinion to silence my views. Just as Murrow stood up to McCarthy when the rest of the nation dared not speak a word for fear of being labeled a communist, I am here to give voice to those who share my view but are too afraid to speak for fear of being labeled un-American.
The first thing to remember is we are not fighting enemy combatants, we’re fighting terrorists. If we were taking about members of a foreign country’s military then of course torture would not be justified. But the men and women in question do not give a damn about the Geneva Conventions. They fly no country’s flag, they don no uniform, and they kill indiscriminately. I realize that 9/11 was 13 years ago, but isn’t our slogan Never Forget? We should not adopt a softer stance on terrorism simply because no one has flown planes into New York skyscrapers recently.
Let me take a moment to address the arguments that some of my critics would likely bring up. Yes, the investigation into these torture cases showed that we did not obtain enough information from the suspects to prevent any one terrorist attack. But let me ask you this: If there was even the slightest chance of preventing another 9/11 at the hands of amoral psychopaths, isn’t it our sworn duty to protect the lives of the many at the expense of the few by any means necessary? It’s not an easy question to answer, but I stand resolute in saying yes. In the words of Major General Larry K. Arnold in the midst of the 9/11 attacks: “We will take lives in the air to save lives on the ground.”
The second issue is the men who were tortured by the CIA were “suspects” i.e. they were never charged with anything. I admit that this does look bad to the international community, but what so many people fail to realize is that these men are not American citizens, and therefore not protected by the U.S. Constitution (in this case the amendments outlawing cruel and unusual punishment and the right to due process.) And as far as I’m concerned, the few Americans who were alledgedly tortured by the government for acts of terrorism, most prominently Jose Padilla, waved their citizenship rights as soon as they conspired to kill masses of innocent people outside of a war zone.But what about the Geneva Conventions I mentioned earlier? Didn’t the United States violate them just like the terrorists did? Yes. Yes we did.
Torture is strictly outlawed by the Geneva Conventions, but again, these men and women waived their right to the protection of international law the second they decided to commit atrocious war crimes. While it’s true that many people believe that two wrongs don’t make a right, you would be childish to think that such black and white morality applies in extraordinary circumstances such as these. If playing dirty is what it takes to keep this country safe, then I see no problem in leveling the playing field. Doing so does not make us as bad as the terrorists because it is terrorists that we are targeting, not helpless innocents. Normally I don’t agree with the notion that peace can be obtained with both the olive branch and the arrow, but these radical groups have left us no alternative.
Unlike most journalism, topics like this are purely subjective, not objective. So my purpose here was not to inform, but to persuade. I realize that I won’t win over everyone with this article, but I wrote this piece to show that everyone has the right to voice their opinion, no matter how unpopular it may be. If we all speak up for our views, no matter how guarded, we may find that many others share the same beliefs. Once that happens, we can have a proper dialogue about the merits of our actions as opposed to keeping silent for fear of being condemned.
I’m reminded of a political comic I read awhile back that depicted a mushroom cloud towering over the National Mall. The speech bubble in the background read: “For the last time, if you don’t tell us where the bomb is, we’ll be forced to get you a lawyer.”
Photo credit to: aei.org