I can not honestly fathom how hard the job of the President of the United States must be. Since being elected President Obama looks tired, older and more grizzled than he did just five months ago. Sure he still has his charismatic demeanor but it is obvious that the job itself is weighing on him. Of course there is a lot of work for him to handle, including getting the economy back on track, managing a war he inherited, and bringing more accountability to not just his office but to government in general, amongst a host of other things. I feel for him but he asked for this job and the majority of Americans gave it to him so he has to deal with the consequences of it and maybe some of the truths of our country as well.
Another person who asked for the job was former President George W. Bush. A lot of you are probably saying that you didn’t give it to him or want him to ever have it but be that as it may the fact remains that he was our President for eight years and during those eight years he did what he felt was best for this country, even if he came off looking like the back side of the Democratic mascot while doing it. It’s quite easy to vilify the former President now-a-days and quite trendy as well. The most current way to vilify him is to call him out as a war criminal and urge for the Obama administration to prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law. One of my favorite bloggers (even if we don’t get along on a political level) went so far as to say he would be pleased if former President Bush were sentanced to 15 years of hard labor for his crimes.
At the heart of the current vilification process of the former administration is the torture debate. As a matter of rule, we Americans like to believe we are better than everyone else and as such we impose our morality on the rest of the world. We are the first to step up when atrocities, at least what we deem as atrocities, in the rest of the world are taking place. The United States is the self-proclaimed worldwide police force so it should go without saying that we wouldn’t want our own government to use the tactics of those we have spoken out against.
However something changed on September 11, 2001 that changed how we as Americans think. We were attacked on our own soil. All of a sudden a bloodlust for revenge sprang up. Mild mannered citizens who wouldn’t speak a word of ill will towards a pillaging gopher on their lawn were calling for the Middle East to be turned into a parking lot. In the days immediately following the 9/11 attacks I heard the words “nuclear bomb” or its contemporaries thrown around more than I’ve ever heard of it in the movies (and as you know I watch a lot of movies). Americans were actually OK with us dropping a nuke on these people, even if it meant thousands upon thousands, maybe even millions upon millions would perish for our revenge. And while the talk of turning the Middle East into a cement jungle eventually subsided we did settle into a focus of ridding the world of terrorism at any cost.
The topic of torture is a tricky one to approach. On one hand we have terrorists who work outside the boundaries of normal war combatants, yet we are supposed to hold ourselves to the standard conventions of war. The brand of torture the American government used is called waterboarding (watch a controlled waterboarding experiment here), according to the Bush administration it is not torture but a “harsh” interrogation tactic. I’m not going to sit here and try to convince you otherwise because I honestly don’t think there is much debate, waterboarding is torture.
But here are some surprising numbers for you: 71% of Americans think that waterboarding is torture (probably not a surprise). Out of that 71%, 40% feel that it’s use is sometimes justified while 74% of those who don’t believe it to be torture believe it to be sometimes justified. What all these numbers mean is that slightly more people (roughly 50%) than voted for John McCain (46%) and slightly less than those that voted for Barack Obama (53%) believe that waterboarding is justified.
Roughly half of America feels using waterboarding as an interrogation method is justified yet here we stand debating whether or not the previous administration should be investigated and possibly prosecuted criminally over the use of waterboarding as an interrogation device. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has recently been using an offensive defense in regards to presenting his point of view of the whole issue, it is not surprising considering that he was so integral in the shaping of both the Iraq War and the policies used in conjunction with terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay. Former Secretary of State Condelezza Rice has also been making headlines by providing her side of the story, probably because Cheney is about as liked as foot fungus and gives off a bad odor whenever he talks. There are obviously two sides of the fence here and the democrats in congress are certainly pushing for an investigation to happen but what I do not hear a lot of is a major cry from the American public to have this happen. You would think with the amount of Bush protesters that there would be a large majority that want this investigated. However that is not the case.
62% of Americans feel that Congress should not investigate the Bush administration’s treatment of detainees. When looked at even more closely the breakdown is even more revealing with a majority of Democrats (51%), Republicans (89%) and Independents (60%) opposing having congress look into Bush era policies and tactics in regards to the treatment of terror suspects. Why do you think that over 60% of Americans are against investigating the former administration, an administration that was very much hated and left office with the lowest approval ratings ever?
My thoughts are that maybe the American public is starting to wise up. That may seem a little contradictory being as it seems the majority of Americans want to sweep the issue under the rug but I think it may very well be the case. I am of a mind that George Bush and co. were not the first administration in the history of the United States (or other civilized, read “good”, countries for that matter)to use torture. I fully believe that shady unethical practices go on behind our backs including torture etc… but it was not until Guantanamo Bay that it became something the main republic became aware of and it crossed the line we have been told that we can’t cross. However Bush and Cheney were not smart enough to open the old torture handbook and come up with waterboarding as their means of interrogation on their very own. Someone(s) in the government advised them on the most successful and most PR friendly (read acceptable) means of torture. Of course this is something that idealist will say never happened but I tend to lean the other way even if I have no proof of it, common sense just dictates that it has happened before and we didn’t know about it. You can’t walk around calling two leaders as buffoons for eight years and then claim they came up with the idea to torture in this way on their own, it just doesn’t make sense.
If it were to come out in an investigation that this country has been using these tactics for years it would further damage our nationwide psyche. It stands to reason that we Americans don’t want our little glass castle to crumble, after all it already has cracks and people can only take so much.
I on the other hand welcome an investigation. Obama has said he wants government accountability and transparency. Then give it to me, prove to me that you want the government to be accountable and you want us to see what is going on behind the scenes. Show me the dirty shit. Let’s not sweep this under the rug and forget that it ever happened. I want it all laid out on the line here. Americans need to stop dreaming that everything can be viewed in absolutes. Good vs. evil, black vs. white, right vs. wrong is the ideal but not the reality. The world operates in shades of gray.
It is pretty naive to believe that this country has never committed “crimes” in the name of our national security before, be it “harsh” interrogation tactics (torture), assisting in coups (either militarily or monetarily), or even outright assassination, it has all happened even if we have never been told about it. The image of us being so pristine as a nation is a naive one at best. The United States of America is shiny on the outside but we are pretty dirty underneath to think otherwise is simply idealistic and not realistic.
I am disappointed in how both sides of the political spectrum have been handling the subject. Instead of taking it seriously they making it into a he said she said partisan war of words, implicating high level officials on both side of the fence. So what if Nancy Pelosi knew about it? Personally I think the Republicans should be saying, “Yeah we tortured these dirtbags and guess what all of you asshats helped. Bring on the inquisition and by the way here is the intel we pulled from these fuckers, you’re welcome.” They should be like the people who want gay marriage to be legal, be loud and proud about it. Don’t lie now because some people don’t agree with what you did in the name of protecting our country. I don’t think anyone who supported what happened, be it Republicans or Democrats, should feel the need to defend their actions they did what they needed to to keep this country safe and it is no different than what our country has been doing behind our backs for years.
The fact that now that it is out in the open bruises our hypocritical psyche. We as Americans need to get over that. We live in a world where anything goes and the “good” guys are still intent on playing by an arbitrary set of rules that the “bad” guys ignore. The system is broken. The “bad” guys (terrorists, criminals) are playing with a different set of rules. There is no wrong. There is no right. It is all perceived bullshit that we put together to make ourselves feel better. The real truth is that the world, as well as our government, operates in shades of gray. With all due respect to Shepard Smith, we do fucking torture, sorry to shatter your pristine image of our nation.
I’m of the thought that under certain circumstances torture should be used. I’m also not in the minority (or at least the vast minority) as 49.9% of people believe waterboarding is justified under certain circumstances. 71% of people believe waterboarding and other such interrogation techniques are torture. Out of those 71%, 40% believe that that in certain situations the use of waterboarding is justified. Out of the remaining people who don’t belive waterboarding is torture, 74% believe that its use is justified.
The adage goes that we should not stoop to the level of our enemy, we must aspire to be better than them because by doing the “right” thing we will encourage others to be more like us. It’s a nice, ideal thought but it is a crock of bullshit. I value our nationalistic integrity but sometimes I don’t think it is necessarily affordable. So does torture work? Well does a pig squeal? Of course it does. Experts are going to say that we get more useful information out of suspects who have been interrogated in a more civilized manner. For starters I’d like to know how they got their data being as we supposedly don’t torture anyone so how are they making comparrisons but I digress… Here’s the thing, sometimes being nice and civilized works, some people are receptive to that. Other times things need to be stepped up a notch.
I’m not sure about most of you but I’m old enough to to remember when my mom would give me a good whalloping. She had this long, two inch thick piece of leather that my grandfather had given her and it was called the “strap”. Sometimes she would use that thing as a last resort interrogation device and let me tell you this, she always got her answers. If a parent were to try discipline like that today, they would probably end up in jail but at the time I respected and feared my mother and the “strap”. Respect and fear are two things that we as a country have lost. We don’t have the respect of our enemies (the attacks on 9/11 proved that) and they certainly don’t fear us and honestly why would they? Before 9/11 our ideals stated that we should treat terrorists the same way we do any other criminal. “We’ll treat you Mr. Suicide Bomber the same way we do Junkie Joe. Welcome to jail where we will give you three hots and a cot, its probably a step up from the schlop you had been living in. We’ll get to you in due time.” Really this is how we should treat these people?
Do you know what they do to us when they catch us? They grab a camcorder, a machete and chop off our heads. There is a fine line between playing by the rules and being stupid. Mr. Suicide Bomber isn’t going to talk to you in a civilized setting, after all the guy was going to blow himself up. So how does one handle that? You show him that there is a fate worse than death and that the longer he holds out the longer he is going to have to endure it. Does it produce false leads and information? I’m sure it does but probably no more so that offering them a cupcake. Will it result in the convictions of innocents? Probably but we do that to our own citizens as it is. The justice system has its flaws and people do get wrongly convicted. Is not sending a man to jail for 19 years for a crime he didn’t commit torture?
In anycase I’ve babbled on far too long, run off on one or two, too many tangents and honestly, I’ve been debating this issue for the past 18 hours, I’m tired and I’ve come to the conclusion that neither side is going to give an inch in this matter. All I really want is for people to take responsibility for their actions and decisions and stop pointing fingers at everyone but themselves. Stop lying to me, just tell me the truth. I swear, I can handle it.