By Albert Sproule
Note: Appeared in The Morning Call, Friday, October 6, 2006, as "Use liberty, freedom to fight terrorism."
The president said the other day that the CIA's "program" of interrogation of terrorist suspects is the most potent weapon the United States has in the fight against terrorism. No, Mr. President, the most potent weapon we have in our fight against terrorism is our adherence to ideas of freedom and liberty.
It is the ultimate irony that what the President touts as our best weapon against terrorism is akin to things we as a people despise about terrorists. We do not like their murderous and inhumane treatment of people. We do not like the fact that due process is a non issue for them and we do not like it when the rule of law is replaced by the rule of man. In the end, the CIA's interrogation "program" is about torture; what it is and what it is not.
What is torture? Most people would say making a person suffer by strapping them to a board, repeatedly putting them under water, and making them think they are drowning, is torture. Most people would say that shackling someone naked and wet in cold temperatures for long periods of time is torture. Most people would also agree that hanging prisoners, for hours at a time, in a position that is extremely painful to body joints, is torture. Regrettably, these are not just the tools of terrorists. They are promoted as necessary tools for the United States to use in the interrogation of enemies. Unfortunately, many advisors of the President in the White House, the Department of Justice, and the Pentagon have been comfortable with the concept that torture is only torture if organ failure occurs or death is imminent. Perhaps it would be good policy to limit "techniques" of interrogation to what these high officials would personally be willing to do themselves.
That brings us to those who do the CIA's interrogations. Who carries out the CIA's "program?" It has been reported that some interrogators involved with the "program" have refused to continue their efforts until they are assured no criminal prosecution would result. Just this hesitation should give pause as to what is going on. By the way, are these people volunteers? Let's hope so. No conscript should be made to watch people suffer as a condition of their employment. In fact, it might not be a bad idea to keep a record of who is doing what to whom. Can anyone deny the clear connection between cruelty and criminal behavior?
What about the value of the CIA's" program" of interrogations? It would be wise for those who have Congressional oversight to make sure positive results reported from the CIA's "program" actually resulted from the interrogation methods credited as successful. Classic government practice too often casually reports results that suit an agenda and not the truth. It makes things a lot simpler that way. Maybe Congressional committees with oversight could have hearings with sworn testimony from the "interrogators." That way the policy makers and politicians would be somewhat removed from the process and no question about fudging the facts or cooking the books would be a concern.
The tragedy of this whole discussion is embodied in a statement of former Secretary of State and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell. He said recently: "The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism." This is sad. We are a great nation and although not immune to mistakes, we have never lacked clarity in matters such as this where our values were concerned. It is time to heed Colin Powell's words of caution and once again be a role model in a world desperately in need of one.
Back in March of 2005, Thomas Friedman wrote an OP-ED piece and referenced a book called "An American Way of War," by David Hackett Fischer. Fischer writes about our country's beginnings and tells how George Washington, his soldiers, and the citizens who fought with them, chose "a policy of humanity that aligned the conduct of the war with the values of the Revolution. They set a high example, and we have much to learn from them." Apparently we do!
Albert Sproule, assistant professor of criminal justice at DeSales University, is a former FBI agent and also served in the United States Marine Corps.
Press Release: Torture and Terrorism By Albert Sproule | Posted on: 9/28/2006
For more info:
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