The recent release of the OPR report over the torture memos and accompanying commentary, the debate over the underwear bomber and completely bogus criticism from the right that Obama is putting America at risk because he’s killing too many terrorists (the very bizarro world assertion for which the letters ‘WTF?!’ were designed) has reopened the debate over torture. I have to admit I think the whole thing is really disheartening. I mean, the fact that we even have to debate weather it’s ok to drown, electrocute or beat prisoners (or massacre civilians) absolutely leaves me stupefied. And let’s face it, the discussion has now fully become absorbed in the culture wars and so short of torturing conducting an enhanced interrogation in front of a live audience where people can see the brutality of it you just aren’t going to change opinions. So, I’ve just kind of resolved that discussing this issue is a waste of time.
But…before I consign this issue to the dustbin on TwS history, allow me to provide you with this link I picked up in the comments section of the Tom Ricks blog.
‘At What Cost Intelligence? A Case Study of the Consequences of Ethical (and Unethical) Leadership‘ by Major Douglas Pryer is an examination of events at several locations in Iraq in 2003 and what made some of them adopt the practice of torture and prisoner abuse and what made others refrain from it.
I really recommend you read the whole thing. There’s some really engaging writing here and while the unprofessionalism and just plain stupidity of some soldiers (officers -senior officers- and enlisted) will get you frustrated you’ll also find some of the most inspiring arguments for why we shouldn’t debase ourselves by resorting to inhumane tactics and betraying our core principles.
Allow me to quote, at length, from Maj. Nathan Hoepner, the S3 from the 501 MI Battalion in response to an assertion that, detainees needed to be ‘broken’ and that the ‘gloves needed to come off’.
As for ‘the gloves need to come off…we need to take a deep breath and remember who we are…Those gloves are…based on clearly established standards of international law to which we are signatories and in part the originators…something we cannot just put aside when we find it inconvenient…We have taken casualties in every war we have ever fought–that is part of the very nature of war. We also inflict casualties, generally many more than we take. That in no way justifies letting go of our standards. We have NEVER considered our enemies justified in doing such things to us. Casualties are part of war–if you cannot take casualties then you cannot engage in war. Period. BOTTOM LINE: We are American soldiers, heirs of a long tradition of staying on the high ground. We need to stay there.
It’s when I read things like that by one of our officers that I’m really proud to be an American soldier.