You Know...

Tagged as: cheney dick memo torture

You know, one has to wonder if the jig is up. As the land of promises we have promised a chance at a new life and a beggining for anyone willing to work hard and abide by our laws. We have been seen as a land of justice standing against oppression within our own borders, and holding hope for those outside of them. We provided a voice for those without one around the world and where we could we helped. Well I suppose the jig isn't quite up as we are mostly still that.

You Know...

No country can keep all their promises and we have not always kept ours. But, we have managed to uphold an image for freedom. Somehow more often than not we have ended up in a position we believed was closer to right than wrong. At least, we've always hoped it was.

Whatever the bent of any particular administration the will of most of the people dictated intervention was done with good intentions; that acts of war were fueled by a need for defense of self or others; and that any changes in foreign policy were weighted with the best of intentions for our self preservation or the stability of our global interests. Although that can be a naive and presumptuous view, Americans have always hoped we were doing the right thing. When it turned out otherwise most of us called for the situation to be corrected.

So here we are - the ACLU filed an action to have documents regarding the treatment of POW's held by our government, known as the torture memo's, released and the Obama administration has obliged. The memos outline the Bush administration's efforts to expand the definitions of what torture is according to the United States of America. They specifically state their efforts to circumvent and even ignore our obligations to international standards held by the Geneva conventions. The memos laid out the path the administration attempted to travel in order to allow practices reviled for centuries. Some are practices for which our own soldiers were prosecuted during the Vietnam War and for which Japanese soldiers were prosecuted during the Tokyo War Crimes Trials following World War II.

There are many pro-torture arguments and we're hearing many of them today. Some people believe reliable information can be extracted. Some people belive we have an obligation to try everything possible to extract information in the hope something sticks. Some belive the display of force will help dissuade anyone thinking of attacking our nation or its interests. Some claim after 9/11 we need all the information we can get, believing if we had it then perhaps the attacks would have been prevented.

The problem with the first argument is there are just as many experts saying torture produces unreliable information as people under severe pain and psychological stress may say anything just to have it end. Disintegrating the limits of what we will or won't do to feel more secure simply walks us into a position where those things we feel willing to do to others "just in case" could become arguments to use them against our own citizens some day. They also weaken our objections to having them used on us by our enemies. Openly displaying a new bloodthirsty ruthlessness so that all will be scared to mess with us is the first drop of blood in the water for a great society. It's a signal of weakness to the sharks you're terrorized. It openly displays just how desperate you've become, how scared you are and how little confidence you have in your ability to defend yourself. It's a sign a great civilization might be starting to fall.

When looking back on 9/11 it never ceases to amaze me when people claim we need torture because among other things when we weren't using it we had insufficient evidence. For one thing most if not all the 9/11 hijackers were known to be here illegally by officials. An instructor at a flight school in Florida reported his suspicions. There had even been concerns raised within law enforcement that some of these men were dangerous and were known to have been so when they entered the country.

Then there were the numerous unheeded warnings from chief counter-terrorism adviser on the U.S. National Security Council at the time, Richard Clarke, to the Bush administration of impending attacks. There was the pre-9/11 document presented to the Bush administration entitled "Bin Laden determined to attack inside the U.S." This document outlined what the FBI called "patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings." Richard Clarke himself said the Bush administration "did not consider terrorism to be an urgent problem" and cut off his access to the cabinet just previous to the attacks.

Of all the people within the administration what was the vice president who spent much of his time closely tied to defense and the department of defense thinking? Why was he not more concerned with the which documents he himself chose to ignore. The info was mostly gathered through traditional means and was unsuccessful in thwarting the attacks mostly because it was yawned at by the Bush administration. Why does he suddenly feel we need to drive people insane and bring them to the brink of drowning over 100 times in one month to get info which may or may not be there. We didn't need it previous to 9/11.

In the end no steps were taken. That was not because we weren't waterboarding. It was not because we weren't implementing multiple physical and psychological forms of abuse to force information which may or may not be reliable. It was not because we weren't drugging people. We had information which as it turned out was correct and it was treated with less regard than scrap paper. The Bush administration and the experts like Cheney sat on it. Torturing people now won't make up for that. More resources to get the kinds of info we had then and share it now would help.

We can't allow ourselves to become something we are not because some public officials wish to hide the fact they were asleep at the wheel. Nor can we allow public officials especially those who have been in government for decades to say, "hey I did the best I could what would you have done?" The rest of us are not elected government officials for a reason. If an engineer or architect designs a faulty building we don't simply allow them to say "hey I did my best" and let it be that.

If we are negligent at our jobs we don't start saying oh well others would have done the same. There has to be accountability. Are there two standards now - one for public officials and the well connected and those for the rest of us slobs? Can anyone else accused of a crime have a truth and reconciliation committee to deal with their crime? Sure would save on incarceration costs. Could be good for the economy.

In the end it was not a lack of torture which got us attacked. We needed officials who were paying attention to the information and warnings in front of them. We could have used better interagency coordination. We could have used lawmakers who were keeping their eyes on the ball. What's sad is that the methods outlined in the the recently released memos ended up being a distraction to keep our minds off of what was not done. You know, torture simply would not have made us more safe on 9/11. It's better leadership which would have.

To read about my inspiration for this article go to

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