Should torture be part of the U.S.’s counterterrorism approach?

By Reuters Staff
June 24, 2009

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The following piece was co-written by Matthew Alexander, Joe Navarro and Lieutenant General Robert Gard (USA-Ret.) They are pictured from left to right.

Matthew Alexander led an interrogations team assigned to a special operations task force in Iraq in 2006. He is the author of “How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq.” He is writing under a pseudonym for security reasons.

Joe Navarro, a former FBI counterintelligence and counterterrorism expert, is an adjunct faculty member at the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.

Lt. Gen. Robert G. Gard, Jr. (USA-Ret.) is president emeritus at the Monterey Institute for International Studies and a senior military fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

The views expressed are their own.

President Obama decided not to release a new group of detainee abuse photographs because he believes they would inflame our enemies and threaten American troops. Indeed, the shocking photos from Abu Ghraib have served as a powerful recruiting tool for al-Qaeda and have sparked outrage across the world.

It is not the release of the photos, however, that would elicit horror and anger. It is their brutal content and the misguided policies they reflect. The controversy surrounding the photos and the president’s release of four Department of Justice memos have brought into sharp focus a debate that has been in the shadows of public discourse for several years: Should the U.S. include torture and cruelty in its counterterrorism arsenal?

Since it has become clear that the U.S. authorized and carried out a torture program, defenders of the policy have repeated half-truths and outright deceptions about its effectiveness. In 2007, CIA officer John Kiriakou appeared on ABC News claiming waterboarding broke senior al Qaeda member Abu Zubaydah in “30, 35 seconds.” Kiriakou’s statements were widely reported and used to portray waterboarding as a harmless procedure despite the fact that he had no first-hand knowledge of Zubaydah’s interrogation—he wasn’t even in the same country when it occurred.

Former FBI agent Ali Soufan contradicted these and other false claims in a Senate hearing on interrogation practices. Experienced interrogators like Soufan prefer to use a technique that relies on “outwitting the detainee by using a combination of interpersonal, cognitive, and emotional strategies to get the information needed.”

Soufan testified that by interrogating Zubaydah using this approach, he obtained valuable intelligence in less than an hour. Further, when another interrogation team introduced harsher techniques, Zubaydah “shut down and stopped talking.” Al Qaeda members, Soufan explained, are trained to withstand torture.

The reality is Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed 183 times. This puts a serious hole in the ‘ticking time bomb’ scenario that advocates of torture repeatedly return to.

As the validity of such justifications is repeatedly dismissed, attempts to rationalize torture are getting increasingly desperate. At last month’s hearing, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) claimed, “one of the reasons these techniques have survived for about 500 years is apparently they work.” To which Ali Soufan responded, “Because, sir, there’s a lot of people who don’t know how to interrogate, and it’s easier to hit somebody than outsmart them.”

Among policymakers and the public, there appears to be a fundamental, widespread misunderstanding of how effective interrogation works. Senator Graham questioned Professor David Luban about exploiting a detainee’s phobia of spiders. The experts—who have spent years interrogating the toughest, most dangerous people in the world—know that smart interrogation is not about terrorizing detainees.

We should be careful not to overlook other forceful reasons for not using torture. The public debate often disregards—to the detriment of the U.S. interests—the profound damage done by violating U.S. law and international legal obligations prohibiting not only torture but even cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Our prestige and power, our respect for the rule of law and respect for the rights of humankind are inextricably tied to preserving America’s ideals.

The most critical aspect of this scandal, especially in terms of immediate implications for our national security, has to do with the international community. Our relationships with long-standing and vital allies have been greatly strained. With the rising influence of non-state actors and an ever-increasing level of interdependence and unpredictability amongst nations, the need for trusted partners has never been greater; this is especially evident with regards to the threat of terrorism and the strength of extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Throughout our history, the values that we protected—respect for our common humanity and the rule of law—set a standard to which the rest of the world aspired. As Senator John McCain said, “[T]his isn’t about who they are. This is about who we are.”

Regaining our moral leadership in the international community is contingent on publicly—and unmistakably—casting aside a policy and strategy that flouts our laws and corrupts our values. We must continue to lead where we want others to follow by demonstrating that our principles and our practices are indistinguishable from one another.

61 comments

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I have no problems limiting much of the photographic evidence from the public eye as long as it is not kept from the eyes of a jury. There is no rational for not prosecuting those who committed illegal acts. All military personnel are trained that water boarding is a violation of U.S.and International law. All military personnel are given instruction as to how to disobey an illegal order.

President Obama and the Congress should not be allowed to have it both ways. A bill is being crafted in Congress to keep the photos secret subsequent to a appellate courts order to release them.

At the very least we should hold accountable to the law those proven beyond a reasonable doubt to have committed such crimes. The only problem with that is the federal justice department is under investigation pursuant to a probe ordered by Judge Sullivan. It appears that Federal prosecutors put liars on the stand to testify against Former Senator Ted Stevens and 12 Guantanamo detainees during their trials.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

Once again more pointless clap trap about torture. This claim that we face a false choice between security and our ideals is laughable, it’s not a false choice. When you deal with enemies like this you have a choice, security or morality and feel free to choose morality but don’t think that this doesn’t lessen your security.
I love the two pronged attempt here in that torture doesn’t work because A) people say anything to avoid it or B) al qaeda members are trained to resist it. Which is it?
Also as to trustworthy allies…LOL who are our trustworthy allies? The Europeans who can’t or won’t do anything substantial? our mid eastern “allies” like who all torture their own people?
Recent polls show a majority of Americans support “enhanced” interrogation, so please don’t act like everyone is fooled by the left’s moral outrage.
Finally, why do we listen to the FBI, who deal with criminals and not religious fanatics when regarding getting information? The two classes of people are completely different.

Posted by Frank Castle | Report as abusive

Food for thought here, perhaps we should reevaluate our treatment of U.S. civilians held in state prisons. We should also examine procedures for admitting evidence. Quite often following court rules interferes with the quest for presenting evidence that can exculpate a charged suspect. I suspect state prosecutors behave no better than the Federal Prosecutors.

We still have way to much violent crime and way to many people locked up. Lawsuits abound where police conspire to frame innocent people. I would submit they are only the few that were caught. There may be several hundred thousand Americans in prison for crimes they did not commit. What ever happened to “Better 10 guilty men go free than one innocent man lose his liberty”.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

Frank,
Consider the two following quotes:

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin

“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants.” William Pitt

Honestly, I’d prefer to defy all hazards liberty and morality intact, rather than succumb to the absurdity of a government inclined to sell the promise of safety.

Posted by jb | Report as abusive

Frank,
“pointless claptrap”?! Wow, how easily you dismiss three people with actual credentials on this issue.

Oh, and, btw, cute pseudonym. Can I suggest reading some nonfiction — Matthew Alexander’s book, or Darius Rajali’s — while you’re waiting for your next issue of The Punisher? Caution: information from the real world will contradict your vigilante fantasies.

Posted by peter parker | Report as abusive

The real key is that people understand that you can’t have both security and morality. You must choose one of the other, I’m sure people in the abstract say they would choose morality, then put them or their families in real danger and you’ll see how quick people are to choose security. It’s all fine and dandy to say in safety that you would choose the high moral ground, but it’s a different situation when you life or the lives of your loved ones are at stake.
The choice is not false, don’t try to act like some how morality will protect you from those without morality or that the “respect” of “allies” matters when those allies are like the French, always there when they need you, means anything to security.
Anyways, it’s easy to be against torture, it’s harder to be realistic about what’s needed to keep a nation safe. Just wait until there’s another attack on American soil and you’ll see what people will choose. It’s amazing how quickly people forget that we are at war and what’s at stake.

Posted by Frank Castle | Report as abusive

Frank Castle,
This gov’ts propoganda has worked perfectly on you. Can’t have morality and security? Absolutely a ridiculous statement, we don’t have to kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqi’s to be secure, we didn’t have to destroy all of Afghanistan to be secure, we don’t have to sell weapons to Israel to be secure, we didn’t need the Vietnam or Korean War for us to be secure. We don’t need to be the #1 arms dealer in the world to be secure, we need border security (don’t have) and we just need to continue building up defense systems.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Touche, the left’s propaganda has worked perfectly on you. You keep believing that morality will somehow protect you from those who view it as a weakness. You keep thinking that our “allies” give a whit about our moral standing, most are just looking for a way to avoid actually doing anything. You keep on thinking that you can have the best of both worlds. I don’t fall for the government’s line, I just know human nature. Morality only impresses those who value it, and those people aren’t the ones you need to worry about. If we actually had real allies and not those who are our allies when they need us, if our enemies had morals then maybe morality would help us stay safe.
You can construct all the strawmen you want to argue against it but none of those things you mentioned matter in the end. If America was so morally sound before 9/11 why did the attacks occur? If America wasn’t morally sound before than what difference does it make now? Guess what even if America was sound before or suddenly becomes sound now do you think it will matter? Will the terrorists suddenly cease their plans to attack us? Will our allies actually do anything? If you believe that you are more deluded than I thought.

Posted by Frank Castle | Report as abusive

Torture is not the best way to get information as many police and FBI interrogators have affirmed. More reliable information is gained through cooperative questioning. Ali Soufan states:
“….Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him (Abu Zubaydah) from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence.
We discovered, for example, that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Abu Zubaydah also told us about Jose Padilla, the so-called dirty bomber. This experience fit what I had found throughout my counterterrorism career: traditional interrogation techniques are successful in identifying operatives, uncovering plots and saving lives.” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/23/opinio n/23soufan.html

Posted by Robert Palmer | Report as abusive

It’s “easy to be against torture” because it doesn’t work; it’s a dangerous overreaction that governments make in times of crisis. It hurt the British badly in Northern Ireland, it hurt the French in Algeria, and it has hurt us badly (which is why so many interrogators with real-world experience have been fighting it since Bush administration officials first proposed using it).

The evidence is there, if only you’ll look past the ticking time bomb fantasies. Read the books I listed above, or “Educing Information,” the December 2006 report published by the National Defense Intelligence College.

In other words, our human rights standards aren’t a handicap; they prevent us from doing stupid things out of fear and anger, when we should do what works. No matter how much you dress it up in hypotheticals, trying to justify torture is like trying to justify lynch mobs.

Posted by peter parker | Report as abusive

Frank–
Your argument is the same threadbare sophistry peddled throughout history as common sense, but whose results are repeatedly and invariably disastrous.

Posted by jb | Report as abusive

I wonder why this common sense approach has been around throughout history? Perhaps because as ugly as it is, it is the truth. The left loves to trot out those who claim torture doesn’t work, yet it continues to be used. It’s because it works on people who have the information. Obviously it gets people who don’t have to info to make up stuff, but to deny it gets info from those that have it is just silly. If the Bush administration had trotted out “experts” to say it works, the same people here who quote the Obama administration’s “experts” (who are simply out to make the demonize the previous administration, not that Bush and his cronies were not evil) would say it was all nonsense.
It’s like I said, there’s all this faux outrage because we haven’t been attacked in 8 years, after another attack on American soil, you watch how quick this fades and people realize that it’s Americans that need protection not our enemies.
I can’t stop laughing over the silly stories of how cookies got info from a fanatic terrorist. Yes, let’s just be nice and simply ask and if they don’t want to talk oh well we need to protect our image in the world community rather than American citizens lives.
To say that you can find a book that says torture doesn’t work means nothing, I can find books that say it works, I can find books that deny evolution, the holocaust etc. Does that mean they didn’t happen or does it mean that there are books that say they didn’t happen?
So when the next attack occurs you remember how much that morality is worth while families grieve. I guess it’s okay as long as it’s not you or you loved ones.

Posted by Frank Castle | Report as abusive

Frank,
You’ll have to point me to where I said we were morally secure before 9/11. Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush all either gave Bin Laden money or weapons, our gov’t is the reason for 9/11, no others.

Per usual, you avoid all of my points.

Did we need the Korean War?

Did we need the Vietnam War?

Did we need the War in Iraq?

Do we need to continue nation-building in Afghanistan?

Do we need to continue selling nukes and other weapons to Israel?

Do we need to be the #1 arms dealer?

You truly are the biggest US government apologist I’ve ever spoken to, even party-line voting democrats and republicans aren’t this bad.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Did you see the photo of that USA soldier (or one of them!) who got both hands blown off in Iraq? Would you waterboard someone if you knew it would save his hands? I would, I think. But do you know?

The fact is, the decision of whom to torture and how to judge when they’re telling the truth is being made by the same people who made the concept of “military intelligence” a laughingstock. That young, Canadian victim said he learned to tell them the falsehoods they wanted to hear and they lapped it up. Exactly what anyone would expect.

We are led to torture by instinct, or intuition, in war zones, and many schools, prisons and homes, to name what comes to mind. And how many of those torturers have studied behavioral psychology? Do they know what science knows about what they’re doing, or are they more brute animals? (The most common effect of punishment is to INCREASE the punished behavior.)

Posted by Pete Cann | Report as abusive

-Did we need the Korean War?

Ask South Korea. They were invaded by the North. And the North would have still been supported by the USSR, regardless of whether the UN decided to help the South to survive.

-Did we need the Vietnam War?

Ask Saigon. I recall that America abandoned it, and stuck it’s fingers in it’s ears when the VPA scrapped the peace treaty. Unfortunately, bad people still tend to invade nations, even when good people decide it’s time to call it a day and pull out.

-Do we need Iraq or Afganistan?

Ask the government. They have good reasons for doing what they do. It is just that you don’t share their priorities.

-Do we need to sell nukes to Israel?

I’ll put that under the lie/misrepresentation pile. It’s kind of shot your credibility, assuming it was intentional.

-Do we need to sell weapons to Israel?

Do they still need them? I recall Hamas rockets a few months ago. And Operation Cast Lead put a stop to it. It will be a year or so before Hamas tries anything again, if ever. And Lebenon remains quiet as well.

-Do we need to be the #1 exporter of weapons?

Are you implying that Russia, China, Iran and North Korea will stop exporting weapons if America does? Just because America decides to become isolationist, will not stop other nations from selling weapons to further their own interests. Which is what I would call the fatal flaw in your argument.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

If Mr. Alexander is writing under an assumed name because of security reasons why did you post a picture of him?

Posted by Gordon | Report as abusive

I do admire the people who debate the Mr. Castles of the world. But unfortunately I think you are wasting your time trying to convert them. Some Americans are scared and feeling vulnerable and need to be on the side of the big-boys, who use big weapons and big threats so they can feel protected from whatever fears they have swirling in their heads. The fears are being dosed to us from the corporate media.

Posted by Jon Thompson | Report as abusive

Anon,

1st line.) You’re not seeming to disagree, North Korea is a dictatorship with nukes, so the Korean war was a waste of time money and american lives.

2nd line.) We lost Vietnam War, another waste of life money and time. You don’t seem to be questioning that either.

3rd line.) You’re another person with blind faith in the government’s foreign policy. Our support of Bin Laden and Sadam Hussein miraculously have had zero effect on your confidence in them.

4th line.) Israel has hundreds of nukes, essentially all of them made in America, your credibility of current affairs if you don’t know that is in question.

5th line.)Approving of an American black market in the sale of arms which are instantly put on the genocide fields in AFrica, incredible.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Editor’s note: Gordon, the PR firm working with Matthew Alexander explained that the author feels it is easier to trace his name than his face. He is comfortable with us using his image.

Posted by Leah Eichler | Report as abusive

So the freedoms that the South Koreans enjoy don’t matter, and wars are ok if you win. Interesting ideas. Israeli nukes are made in the USA, hmm who’s being fed a line and falling for it. Arms are tools like any other what use the people put them to is their issue, and as pointed out it’s not like there aren’t other nations who sell arms, but I know only the Great Satan matters right?
It’s a shame that some people feel since the corporate media is untrustworthy, which it is, that makes left leaning blogs and such completely valid. It seems propaganda and bias are only wrong if they don’t agree with your views. Oh well, I find it funny that so many of these folks fell for the change language of the current regime, when all they did is switch which particular special interest has more power. Anyways, looks like not much real change so despite the grand talk we still have Gitmo open, are still “torturing” in Bagram, still have troops in Iraq etc. Looks like despite talk to the contrary this administration knows that talk of morality sells but security is what the nation needs. So you can talk or blog til you’re blue in the face but the fundamentals of national security remain the same. So it seems the Frank Castles of the world have it right. But please don’t let that stop you from thinking that things have changed or will change.

Posted by Frank Castle | Report as abusive

Michael Ham, please provide as many citations of credible evidence as possible to support the contention that the USA has provided nuclear warheads to Israel. I take no position on the point, but it seems very important, and while insults may be (deservedly) comforting, they are not evidence.

Posted by Pete Cann | Report as abusive

Frank,
I hope you aren’t trying to lump me into the Obama-supporting MSNBC watching crowd. I’ve never voted democrat, never will, never will turn on MSNBC.

To me a neocon is a neocon, making Republicans and Democrats the same thing, making Fox News and MSNBC lies the same lies.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

I would like to offer a slightly foreign point of view, from Canada. The authors are quite right that the torture scandal has damaged U.S. standing in the eyes of the world. Like most Canadians, I have tended to regard the U.S. as basically trustworthy, albeit somewhat less civilized than Canada. However,the torture scandal, and people like Frank Castle, have exposed a strong strain of outright barbarism in the American population.

Moreover, even the people who oppose torture seem perfectly willing to ignore American treaty obligations under the Convention against Torture, which Reagan signed and which creates a non-discretionary obligation to investigate credible allegations of torture and prosecute every case in which there is evidence to support a prosecution. Your president, your congress, and the overwhelming majority of commentators seem to be willing to just ignore that treaty obligation. This leads necessarily to the conclusion that the United States can no longer be trusted, and no longer has any concern for even the most basic of human rights.

Posted by IamCanadian | Report as abusive

Do people really equate America’s human rights standards to the level of Russia, China or any of those nation’s political allies?

Does America arrest political dissonants, simply for making statements against the government? Does it shoot reporters? Does it kidnap people and chop their heads off in front of cameras? Does it sell cheap weapons to unstable African nations? Does it support terror groups to kill citizens with carbombs? Does it beat and shoot peaceful protestors? Does it arrest you if you don’t comply with strict religious law?

It is groovy to have a strong sense of leftist moral outrage. But you might want to mix it with a pinch of perspective.

Posted by Huh | Report as abusive

Huh: The answer to most of your questions is yes. Your Senator Baucus had 13 people arrested for asking his committee to consider single-payer healthcare. A number of people were recently acquitted after being arrested for reading the names of Iraq war dead in the Senate foyer. There is a trial going on in Italy in which it appears likely that CIA agents will be convicted of kidnapping. (The U.S. does not chop people’s heads off in public, but then neither does any other government I am aware of; neither al Qaeda nor the Taliban is a government.) The U.S. is the world’s number one exporter of weapons, and numbers many unstable African nations among its customers. Peaceful protesters were most recently beaten and tear gassed in the U.S. at the national conventions last summer.

Most important, however, is that you torture people, imprison them without availability of bail, without speedy trials, and without fair trials, claim they are “enemy combatants” and not entitled to the rights of accused criminals, and then deny them the protection of the Geneva Conventions, and completely ignore binding treaty obligations not to do these things.

There is no doubt that there are worse offenders against human rights than the U.S. However, are you happy that your country is merely “not the worst”?

Posted by IamCanadian | Report as abusive

The use of torture by U.S. forces in Iraq and Guantanamo arises primarily from a failure of Strategy. As you note quite correctly, torture is contrary to American identity. This is not debatable or a question of ‘leftist’ opinion, it is a feature of the Constitution which itself is a definitive and unarguable statement of America’s identity.
Strategy starts with identity, before anything else. The first question of strategy, is “Who are we, and what are we trying to do?”. If you cannot get the ‘who’ right, you cannot get the rest of it right.
The difference between the U.S. and countries such as China or Russia should not be merely a matter of degree.

Posted by Jeremy Farshore-Swimwell | Report as abusive

Well I’m here agreeing with Mr Canada. I don’t think Americans can continue to consider themselves the Good-Guys just because of who you are. Good guys do good things. Bad guys do bad things. Torture, kidnapping er… invading foreign countries without provocation, imprisonment without trial.. all these things are bad. Like Mr Canada says, they don’t make you the worst. And you invented the iPod so, you know, there’s some credit in the bank, but when will it get to the point that you think it’s wrong? I mean where’s the line? You are already killing Pakistani civilians pretty much indiscriminately, so what is going to be the limit. Will you stop at mass murder? Genocide? Or would you reclassify that and call it something more palatable. Not genocide exactly, more non-personal executions?

Posted by Jenny Richards | Report as abusive

Oh and Mr Castle, your comments about allies not standing by the U.S. are offensive; particularly to families of the British soldiers who have died and are dying still in Iraq and Afghanistan. British solidiers, incidently, who fought the same wars, against the same enemies WITHOUT RESORTING TO TORTURE.
They are offensive also to the British civilians who died on attacks in London simply because we stood beside our American cousins. You want loyal allies? You’d better start deserving them!

Posted by Jenny Richards | Report as abusive

The writers suggest that one great problem with the brutal and illegal interrogation methods US and British (and other?) forces employed on Al Qaeda suspects is that no one outside of the inner circles of those interrogations ever really knows whether real information was obtained or whether the information was worth the effort or the crime.

Those who devised the techniques were also able to blind themselves perhaps, but certainly they were able to blind any outside observers – especially their critics, from ever being able to learn whether they worked at all. Is it even likely that, even if we have to wait decades, we will ever see the complete record of the interrogation sessions, to know whether they were ever really more than a legitimized and tax payer supported opportunity at some S&M as more than a sex game? There was more than a hint at “kinky” eroticism in the abuse photos from Iraq.

What is very disturbing is that Congress, apparently, doesn’t even have access to that evidence.

Posted by prosa | Report as abusive

Senator Baucus arresting protestors? Oh yeah. Because they were disrupting a senate hearing.

As he said: “I respect the views of everyone here, including everyone in the audience. And that respect, in turn, means listening and not interrupting when others are speaking.”

Something protestors rarely do. They decided instead to disrupt proceedings, and got arrested.

Ditto with the protestors reading out the Iraq list. They were *not* arrested for political dissent as you claim. They were arrested for trespass and disrupting the senate. It wouldn’t have mattered what they were saying.

Peaceful protesters beaten at conventions? I recall several convention delegates being attacked prior to the police actions. And some destruction of private property by black bloc protestors. Which fits your definition of ‘peaceful’, I would expect.

And the US might be the number one exporter of weapons. But while we like to pretend that they are responsible for all the ills of the world, the truth is that countries such as Russia and China are far less picky about who gets their guns.

Whether or not America is an exemplar of goodness is fairly moot. Let’s imagine a world where America does no wrong, and represents a paragon of utopic society.

Do you think for one second that the other nations who violate human rights will suddenly change their way? And go “Oh, America is a perfect nation which respects human rights. Let’s stop executing political prisoners. Let’s stop being a brutal theocracy”.

It is a real shame that the left wing can’t go to places like Russia, China, Iran or Zimbabwe and protest there. But the sad truth is that the left wing has no power to go to those nations and make them better. No power at all. So they confine their protests to the nice, safe countries that least deserve it.

Posted by Huh | Report as abusive

Huh,
It’s sad that we’ve stooped so low to start comparing our human rights to China and Russia to feel better about ourselves. Imagine if we did that 10 or 20 years ago, who will we have to compare ourselves to in 50 years with this daily decline in expectations?

When you’re giving about 30% of your income to the US gov’t I would hope that people would hold them to a little higher standard rather than, oh just be better than China and Russia.

We’ve come to a point where we’re replacing rational thought with “patriotism”, however I find nothing patriotic about supporting the US gov’t which is essentially a modern version of the British gov’t ruling the US prior to the revolution.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Well it’s interesting to see those who would choose false moral superiority to real security. Fortunately, the majority of people don’t hold to these unrealistic and unattainable “principles” when they face real danger. It’s easy to talk about this when there hasn’t been an attack on our soil in years. A poll already shows that the majority accepts the needs for “torture” at the present, one more major attack on US soil and you’ll see which “false” choice people will take.
It’s all well and good to strive for principle, but to think you can have security and these “principles” you are sadly mistaken. If you choose principle, that’s admirable, but it is a choice. Many people want to be deluded that you can have both and many “experts” are willing to lie to people because they engage in the same fantasy.
I know it’s a shock to some people’s system to see someone who doesn’t fall for the magical fantasy that principle will make you secure, if that’s true why are there so many unprincipled regimes extant?

Posted by Frank Castle | Report as abusive

Huh, you are (deliberately, I suspect) missing the point. The Bush II policies that are now being followed or at least defended by Obama have done enormous damage to the U.S.’s international reputation as a defender of human rights. The U.S. used to be seen as a leader in the field, but has now slid down to “not quite the worst”. Are you happy with this?

Canada has become one of the world leaders in human rights, but is still far from perfect, and I keep pressuring my government to do better. Do you do the same?

Finally, I do not have a left-wing perspective. The question of torture prosecutions is first a matter of mandatory treaty obligations and second a law-and-order issue. Do you believe that self-confessed criminals should be prosecuted, or not? Do you believe your country should live up to its freely accepted treaty obligations, or not? The more general human rights issue is where my libertarian leanings take over. Detention without trial, etc. are typically Stalinist, which is to say left-wing, and I oppose them utterly.

Posted by IamCanadian | Report as abusive

Frank: I believe it was an American who said words to the effect that “those who would give up a little liberty in order to gain a little security will end up with neither”. That American was talking about you, Frank.

Posted by IamCanadian | Report as abusive

Hullo, Mr Ham.

Have you got some credible evidence that America has been selling nuclear weapons to Israel yet?

It was quite a claim you made a few days ago. Time to back it up. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t insist. But I think the matter is relevent to your general credibility.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

Ah Canada, still leading the world in being north of America. Wow, Canada’s a leader in human rights, who give a rat’s anus? Who besides Canadians cares about what Canada does or says? Unless it has something to do with hockey or beer no one cares. It’s nice that a country that lives under the umbrella of America’s protection has the nerve to discuss security. What does Canada do to secure itself? What role in the larger world does Canada have? It’s easy to criticize when no one cares about you. Are people lining up to attack Canada, is Canada out there intervening to protect human rights anywhere? Or is it just a lot of talk and finger pointing from a nation that no one outside of North America even considers. When Canada gets attacked and actually needs to protect itself then you can talk, other wise honestly what do you have to add to the debate?

Posted by Frank Castle | Report as abusive

Good tactics, Frank. When your own position is completely indefensible, muddy the waters by attacking the other guy. (It doesn’t work; you can’t make yourself look better by trying to make the other guy look worse.) Take a look at my post of 3:17 p.m. on June 29 and try to honestly answer the questions in it.

Posted by IamCanadian | Report as abusive

Anon,
I may be wrong about the nukes, I thought that was the case but I haven’t really looked it up, it’s not a big deal we give all the weapons Israel actually uses to mass murder. F-16′s, bombs, etc. If I’m wrong I’m wrong and I apologize.

IamCanadian,
I think it helps you being Canadian, the majority of people in this country are wildly biased because they’re either Republican or Democrat party line voters. Idealogy and thought process have been replaced with siding with your party at all costs and pointing the finger at the other party at all costs, putting accountability on our bureaucrats is dead.

What were your thoughts on Galloway being banned from Canada? Governments are being so stupid these days, Britain banning Savage, it’s out of control.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Frank Castle, clearly reading is not one of your past times. It is evident you have not had the opportunity to travel and see the the continent for yourself. Here is something to read to get you started……

“Those who would trade essential liberty for a security deserve neither liberty or security”. Benjamin Franklin

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

Anon, have you heard of Mordecai Vinnunu? He is the former IDF employee that spilled the beans to the world two decades ago about Israel’s Nuclear arms. He worked in the Israeli nuclear arms industry. He was kidnapped by Mosad in Italy and tried in secrecy in Israel. Subsequently he was sentenced to solitary confinement for almost two decades. Pressure from the international community influenced Israel to release him.

There have been a number of documentaries down in Israel by Israelis presenting the terrible treatment by the Israeli government. When defense employees get sick because of there exposure to high tritium they are terminated along with health benefits or any ability to file a workmans comp claim. that is because Israel has no such industry.

The U.S uses it’s veto power in the U.N Security Council to block any IAEA inspections of Israel. I am surprised you are unaware of these facts. Have you no rebuttal?

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

So basically we shouldn’t have any police or intelligence community as they intrude on our liberties as well. I guess we can just be virtuous and no one will harm us. Sounds like a good plan to me, who needs security I say let’s have anarchy. I’m sure that no one would dare to do anything unpleasant to people of high moral rectitude. You’ve convinced me, I’m moving to Canada where all is right in the world and I can rely on my neighbor to the south to protect me and deal with all the problems that come with it. I will sit on the sidelines and point out how awful those terrible Americans are and how no other nation in the world ever does anything wrong, or if they do it’s America’s fault anyway, or they are excused because it’s well America’s fault, or Israel or old school Europe’s ( because the new hide under the blankets welfare state Europe is awesome) fault. Or you can argue that America shouldn’t be judged compared to other nations but to some mythical normative model. The self hate or victim mentality allows no other possible answer.
Perhaps if people read current events instead of Noam Chomsky’s drek we wouldn’t be having this debate. Anyways I await more attacks and out of context quotes.

Posted by Frank Castle | Report as abusive

Frank,
If you think the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were necessary to be secure what do you think of our past support of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden?

Since we supported them in the past what makes you think we aren’t supporting the future Osama Bin Laden’s and Saddam Husseins of the world currently?

Even most of your Republican hero’s admit the War in Iraq was a mistake, how many mulligans you gonna give our foreign policy bureaucrats?

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”

If we are going to quote this gospel ad nausium, and nod solemly each time it is said, let’s keep it in context.

Let us assume that America gives up some liberty for some security. Lets give it the Benny Treatment:

First, Ben says we should not give up ‘essential’ liberty. Not all liberty is essential, if you bother to check your laws. So the first question is: “Can we consider the liberty traded to be ‘essential’, or is it just a luxury for good times?”

Having established the liberty traded *was* ‘essential’, we move on to the next step.

Ben says we shouldn’t trade essential liberty for ‘a little temporary safety’. So it holds that if we achieve a *large* amount of safety, and/or a *long term* safety, then the trade is still allowable.

Now lets assume for argument that the liberty we traded *was* essential, and the safety gained as a result *was* both little and temporary.

According to Ben this means we no longer “deserve” safety or liberty. And that does not mean much in practical terms. We will still gain safety. It just won’t be deserved, whatever people decide that may mean.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

Michael Ham: I thought the banning of Galloway was idiocy, and so informed the foreign minister. All that Galloway wanted to do was talk, and talk can never be a threat to the national security of a free society.

Posted by IamCanadian | Report as abusive

Who ever said I supported those wars? Who said I support Republicans, I support America, which seems to be a lonely job here. I support the notion that the choice between security and morality is not a false choice. It’s fine if you choose morality but don’t imagine you can have both in the real world. Also don’t imagine that somehow America can act in a “moral” fashion in an amoral world. That just makes you a sucker, now again if you’d choose morality that’s great for you. Be proud, you are a better person than me, but good luck living that way in the real world.
You can quote whoever or cite whatever, the real deal is nothing you or I say will change anything in reality, but reality is far closer in line with my views than yours.

Posted by Frank Castle | Report as abusive

Anon, the administrations over time have eroded liberty and freedoms but the last one did it in a very vulgar and obvious way and why the people of this nation are not yelling for their heads is beyond me. I do not bow to fear mongering. Yes there is an element of risk living in a free society but I would not trade that freedom for any amount of false security laid in front of me by an administration’s attempt to usurp this nation’s liberty. Bang the drums but our boys are not in Iraq securing this nation’s freedom. They have secured something but it sure wasn’t your or my freedom or security. If you want to secure our freedom secure our boarders, allow the citizens of this nation to defend themselves and the ability to protect life and property without worry of frivolous prosecution or civil suits, work at eliminating the black markets and put democracy back into power and we just may get back our freedoms and our liberty. But do not think you know what Benjamin Franklin meant by that comment or Washington warning us of those that would usurp our rights or Eisenhower who warned us of the Military Industrial Complex because the warnings are all the same. There are those that will manipulate what ever it takes, they will lie, cheat, steal and murder to obtain Power and Wealth. We the People need to be ever vigilant against these forces. In my opinion we have done a very poor job. We allowed ourselves to be diverted from our mission of crushing al Qaida and bringing to justice those that were behind 9/11. And how was that done? We were told that a greater threat existed in Iraq where the leader was in league with Bin Laden and there were WMDs at his disposal. And we believed them. And we were taken for a ride. And Bin Laden is still free. Al Qaida still exists. And we are no safer today than before 9/11.

Frank! My God Man!

“don’t imagine that somehow America can act in a “moral” fashion in an amoral world. That just makes you a sucker”

No sir! That is called Character. To stand up for what is right even in the face of adversity is not being a sucker. It is being an AMERICAN! Some of us have just forgotten that. Once upon a time we were the good guys. We stood up for the Geneva Convention and didn’t try to use slippery lawyers to get around what is right just to achieve the ends we desired. The last administration used every trick, every deception to achieve their ends and what happened? They failed. Some of us remember WWII. We remember that the ends do not justify the means no matter how noble those ends are. Torture is wrong and no ends can justify it. If that is being a sucker then the Nazis should have won because we Americans were a bunch of suckers.

Posted by B. Free | Report as abusive

Well Frank you’re going to have to include reality with security, if you don’t support the 2 wars then what part of “security” in the real world that you believe our bureaucrats give you do you support?

Here in reality, the US Gov’t tells us we need these 2 wars to be secure, which is an obvious lie but that’s what they say. So you don’t support the 2 wars but you support the US version of security in lieu of morality?

I’m still no understanding why we can’t have morality and security. You’ll have to explain that to me rather than just speaking in generalities. I went through step by step and tried to analyze what part of our immoral foreign policy and military policy we need to keep in order to be secure and i found no instance of such.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Oh and Frank one other thing we’ve talked about this before you’ll have to remember I love America and show it by hating this anti-american gov’t that runs this country. You include country and gov’t so if someone is against the gov’t you bunch that in with being against our country, and I’ve never heard any libertarian talk like that.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

NO. Not under any circumstances.

If I have to explain it to you, you’ll never get it. Again I support those who would be suckers in the name of false morality. Thankfully you people don’t make the decisions that matter. If you can’t grasp how being “moral” when everyone else around you is at best amoral then you don’t deserve security or liberty either. I never said it was wrong to choose “morality” just that you can’t be secure when you do. It’s admirable I guess, just unrealistic, but then again it’s rare that reality is addressed by those who would choose “morality”, they’d prefer to live in a fantasy world where everyone thinks like them.

Posted by Frank Castle | Report as abusive

Frank, please do, please explain it to me. I want to know what we do that’s immoral that we must continue to do in order to be secure, it’s not as intellectual as you make it sound to me.

Do we need the War in Afghanistan?

Do we need the War in Iraq?

Do we need to be the #1 arms dealer?

Do we need extraordinary rendition?

Do we need a 650 billion military budget for 2009?

All I’m asking for are examples of the current military conduct/security the US gov’t imposes and why it needs to be continued in order to remain secure, I’m not trying to be a jerk but it’s a pretty simple question.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Why do we need those things?

Because they achieve America’s interests. Because they help achieve America’s short and long term political goals.

The world is a zero sum game. If America does not enforce it’s interests in the world, another nation or political entity will do so instead.

If America neglect it’s political interests, sooner or later it’s security will suffer as a result. Because groups unfriendly to America will increase their interests and their strength.

Isolationism might keep some of your fringe population happy, but in reality all it does is benefit your international rivals.

Afganistan was a haven for the Taliban. America took advantage of the fact that it was used to base an attack on America, to respond militarily.

If we fail to ensure that Afganistan remains free, it will fall to the Taliban. The region will then be used as a base from which to spread terrorism to Pakistan (a BIG issue) and also into Northern Europe.

Iraq was mainly about teaching Saddam a lesson. It was also based on WMD’s (which were ultimately not found, even if there is documented proof that Saddam *did* have and use them previously).

Iraq was also to show that America and the West would not allow itself to be deadlocked by the UN security council (Russia and China). It also proved a chilling display of American firepower, which has the capacity to utterly defeat an entire nation within three weeks.

And of course, Iran is posing a problem now. It continues to work on a nuclear industry, with the inherent risk of nuclear weapons. America is now in the position to respond militarily if needed.

After that, the main military powers in the middle east are essentially kaput. With the additional benefit that those powers will no longer be able to fund anti-west or anti-Israel groups in other nations.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

Anon,
We supported the Taliban and Bin Laden, so again i’m not sure why you’re confident that we’re supporting the right people now.

Yeah and it’s too bad I’m in a fringe group and everyone has gotten such low standards for our gov’t and so willing to pay outrageous taxes to support our empire expansion (which does nothing for the middle class family).

Iraq was teaching Saddam a lesson? Did the 130,000 Iraqi civilians and thousands of young american soldiers deserve that lesson? What about the millions of refugees? What was that lesson to Saddam anyway? Not to accept blank checks America wrote him? Not to take our bombs and biological weapons? Not to shake hands with Donald Rumsfeld?

Iran is no problem, every intelligence agency that’s inspected Iran’s facilities has found nothing to suspect them of trying to get a nuclear weapon, this is just a perfect example of modern-day American fearmongering on it’s citizens.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

“We supported the Taliban and Bin Laden, so again i’m not sure why you’re confident that we’re supporting the right people now.”

We supported them when they were our allies, and when they worked in line with our interests. Then later, they tried to act in a way which was hostile to American interests. So they were taken out.

That isn’t so hard to understand, is it?

“Did the 130,000 Iraqi civilians and thousands of young american soldiers deserve that lesson? What about the millions of refugees?”

That depends. How many of those deaths and refugees were actually because of *insurgent actions*, as opposed to the direct actions of the American military? You know, all the kidnappings, murder, carbombs and IEDs?

For some reason, most of the “anti-war death surveys” don’t like to dwell on that particular issue.

“Iran is no problem, every intelligence agency that’s inspected Iran’s facilities has found nothing to suspect them of trying to get a nuclear weapon”

Yep. In one breath you can absolve Iran of all suspicion of nuclear weapons. Yet in the next breath you can tell without a doubt that Israel does have them, and even go so far as to accuse the US of selling nukes to them.

And who’s word do you take? The IAEA? A walking joke if there ever was one. The only way they will ever detect a secret nuclear program is:

1. They get rung up by a nation who says “We’re making nuclear bombs. Did you know that?”, or

2. Israel suddenly blows up a building in another nation for no reason, the crater of which later turns out to have uranium particles in it.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

Anon,
Our support of Bin Laden and the Taliban resulted in 9/11, if that won’t force some kind of accountability between you and our gov’t nothing will. You’ll support the idiots in Washington no matter what.

Well done dancing around the US’s support of Saddam and us giving him the weapons and biological weapons that grew him into the full monster he could become. Your heros Reagan and Rumsfeld were the button-pushers during those unforgiveable acts.

I admitted error in where Israel’s nukes come from, not really anyone with any credibility disputes they have them.

I don’t take any media outlet or bureaucracy’s words as fact, but I won’t take one word the US gov’t says as fact when they were 100% sure Iraq had WMD’s and used that lie to ruin the lives of millions and make profits in the billions.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Just because America supported the taliban against the Soviets does not mean America is to blame for 9/11.

If you give money to your friend, and he uses it to murder you, it must be your fault. After all, you gave him the means to kill you, right? So lets take you out of the coffin and prosecute you for your own murder. At least, that is what your logic claims.

The fact that those entities were supported by America, only to later turn against America, is the exact reason why America went to the effort to bring them down hard.

The only person dodging the issues is you.

The truth is that the majority of deaths in Iraq and Afganistan are due to insurgent action, who deliberately target civilians.

Which only proves that America is protecting those nations from repression by violent minority terror groups, who will stop at nothing to gain power over innocent people.

And for the record, while everyone and his dog may ‘know’ that Israel has nukes, nobody with any credibility can ‘prove’ it.

Just like they can’t ‘prove’ that the Iraq war was illegal, or ‘prove’ the war was about oil, or ‘prove’ that Israel committed war crimes in Gaza.

They just say what they ‘know’ and repeat what they ‘know’, until it is accepted as ‘fact’ and the need for ‘proof’ becomes irrelevent.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

Anon,
Your money analogy was incorrect, the better comparison would be that I give a medically insane serial killer a bomb and he kills 100 people with it, yes that would be my fault.

Anon Israel has had nukes for 50 years, here’s the Federation of American Scientist’s detailed breakdown of the history and quantity of their nukes.

http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/israel/nuk e/

Here’s one example of war crimes in the first war in Iraq after Saddam left Kuwait.

http://deoxy.org/wc/warcrime.htm

Here’s a breakdown of the current war crimes in the current War in Iraq.

http://consumersforpeace.org/pdf/war_cri mes_iraq_101006.pdf

“There have been numerous other UN and NGO reports of widespread withholding of food and
water as well as rampant malnutrition of Iraqi civilians, in particular, the children.”

“The UN expert human rights body was so
shocked at the blatant disregard for the continued military operations against the medical
infrastructure in Iraq that it issued Resolution 2005/ 2: Prohibition of military operations directed at medical facilities, transport and personnel entitled to protection during armed conflict.”

“A February 2006 report by The Association of
Psychologists of Iraq noted that children in Iraq especially fear kidnapping and explosions.
The Association surveyed over 1,000 children across and found that “92% of the children
examined [had] learning impediments, largely attributable to the current climate of fear and
insecurity.”

The more you read and learn about the US Gov’t the harder it is to wipe away all the shame from your mind.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Thanks, Mr Ham.

Though I fail to see the relevence of what your references prove. Or why you bothered to include them. The moment I looked at them, I knew they would be half-truths.

The FAS site? Only proves what I have already told you. While many people ‘know’ Israel has bombs based on various snips of evidence, it has not been proven conclusively. As you have no doubt read your own references, you already know that.

The highway of death? Nice agitprop for anti-american americans. It is true that soldiers ‘out of combat’ are protected under UN law.

But those Iraqi soldiers were not ‘out of combat’. The term ‘out of combat’ implies:

(1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed ‘hors de combat’ by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause.

This does NOT include enemy forces at arms who are merely withdrawing from an area due to orders. Such soldiers remain capable of combat, remain in a state of war, and can easily be reconsolidated.

You can’t stop a war by simply saying “I am withdrawing my forces”. Combat continues until international mediation, negotiation between the parties, or those soldiers decide to surrender.

And the use of incidiary weapons? International law does not prohibit the use of napalm or incendiary weapons against military targets, unless a particular nation agrees to be bound by such prohibition.

Funny how your deoxys report doesn’t mention any of that. It would detract from the outrage, I expect.

And once again I repeat: The majority of civilian deaths in Iraq are being currently caused by militant actions and terrorist attacks directed against civilians. Not the actions of the American military. You reference does nothing to disprove this.

That’s the problem with references. Easy to accept at face value as fact. Except when you look deeper.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

Anon,
Let’s be honest, the sources don’t do any good both ways.

I won’t believe a source if you gave one from Fox News saying how great our military was doing and they’ve never broken any UN war regulations. You won’t believe any source I give you perceive as anti-war.

I’m not arguing your view on the attacks and the deaths, but those are attacks influenced by our occupation. We’ve found a way to make a terrible situation in Iraq under a brutal dictator even worse, that’s hard to do.

That’s about where the debate ends, you have your view and i have mine and i think we’re both about stuck in our perspectives. Thanks for taking Frank’s spot though, he always seems to leave the discussion when i ask for non-generalities lol.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Agreed.

Blanket statements and regurgitated perspectives are boring. If people want to debate, it should be over the finer details.

I have already had several arguments on economic protectionism with Frank, so I have been there too.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

I could care less what reasoning and argument any author uses to justify mistreating people. We’re Americans, we’re not supposed to do that kind of thing.

PERIOD

Posted by Randy Cunningham | Report as abusive