In an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, Jameel Jaffer (ACLU deputy legal director) and Larry Siems (Director of the Freedom to Write progam) sing the praises of unsung heroes, but they shy from taking their argument far enough I think. After perfunctory praise of the young soldier who, thankfully, made Army officials aware of the abuses that were going on at Abu Ghraib, they get down to the real agenda regarding what used to be called the War on Terror:
Throughout the military, and throughout the government, brave men and women reported abuse, challenged interrogation directives that permitted abuse, and refused to participate in an interrogation and detention program that they believed to be unwise, unlawful and immoral. The Bush administration’s most senior officials expressly approved the torture of prisoners, but there was dissent in every agency, and at every level.
The use of stress positions, cold temperatures, strobe lights, loud music, and other enhanced interrogation techniques constitute torture in the authors’ opinion. That sort of “abuse” according to Jaffer and Siems, “…violated basic religious precepts of human dignity.”
One wonders how well the religious precepts of human dignity survive being trapped in a steel tube, airborne, and hurtling hundreds of miles an hour into a building? For that matter, how does human dignity or human anything else survive a jump of several hundred feet from a burning building? Paltry details, of course. After all, what are three thousand slaughtered people when compared with the horrors of strobe lights and loud music? A truly enlightened conscience prefers an incinerated city and a mountain of corpses to an uncomfortable terrorist any day. The precepts of human dignity will countenance no less!
Accordingly, those who declined to use approved methods for gleaning intelligence, “…stayed true to our values and stood up against cruelty,” say the authors, and, “are worthy of a wide range of civilian and military commendations, up to and including the Presidential Medal of Freedom.” But Jaffer and Siems should follow this through to its logical conclusion.
We know from the Washington Post, for example, that enhanced interrogation methods prevented what Khalid Sheik Mohammed described as a“second wave,” of attacks. These attacks included an airliner attack on Los Angeles. It was only after the employment of precept-violating techniques that we learned of this attack, thereby saving thousands of lives. And the only reason we had KSM’s precepts around to violate was because we had previously absconded the precepts of one Abu Zubaydah, who helped us find KSM in the first place. According to the CIA, a precept-free KSM yielded a ton of information. They couldn’t shut him up! His statements alone accounted for over 6,000 intelligence reports on Al Qaeda’s activities, including planned attacks in America and over seas.
This business of doing whatever it takes to save innocent Americans is intolerable and we must make amends. It will take more than bowing to despots this time around. If you’re going to award medals to people who couldn’t bring themselves to assist in work that saved lives, shouldn’t you penalize the people, structures, or even cities who would otherwise not be here if we had not resorted to such measures in the first place? The tallest building on the west coast, the Library Tower, stands today precisely because KSM came down with a case of soggy sinuses, blew his nose and then blew the cover off the second wave operation. Should we knock it down? Attacks on the Brooklyn Bridge, London’s Heathrow Airport, among others, were thwarted thanks to information gleaned through harsh interrogation. If we’re not going to destroy them outright, why not let the UN manage them? It would accomplish the same thing.
And since the Obama Administration has renounced the use of these techniques regardless of their effectiveness, there will be no future need to honor the heroism of individuals who would sacrifice their fellow citizens on the alter of an enlightened conscience, it having become official policy instead. So rather than purchase medals for future use, perhaps we can funnel some more stimulus money to the maker of those little American Recession Re-entrenchment Act signs and ask him to make some signs to place at the smoking holes left from future attacks. They could read, “This Monument to the Religious Precepts of Human Dignity brought to you by the ACLU and the Obama Administration, who remind you to be Earth Friendly and recycle.”