Quote of the Day – Repugnant Edition

“For those most committed to the ridiculous crusade for terrorist rights, ‘enhanced interrogation’ is not only immoral and illegal, it’s ineffective. That argument, like Khalid Sheik Mohamed, doesn’t hold water.” – Michael Goldfarb

One wonders what John McCain, who suffered torture for five years as a guest of the North Vietnamese and whose campaign employed Goldfarb as deputy communications director, thinks of this sneering trivialization.   Here’s what McCain said from the Senate floor in 2005:

Our enemies did not adhere to the Geneva Convention. Many of my comrades were subjected to very cruel, very inhumane, and degrading treatment, a few of them even unto death. But every single one of us knew and took great strength from the belief that we were different from our enemies, that we were better than them, that if the roles were reversed, we would not disgrace ourselves by committing or countenancing such mistreatment of them. That faith was indispensable not only to our survival but to our attempts to return home with honor. Many of the men I served with would have preferred death to such dishonor.

The enemies we fight today hold such liberal notions in contempt as they hold in contempt the international conventions that enshrine them, such as the Geneva Conventions and the Treaty on Torture. I know that. But we are better than them, and we are stronger for our faith, and we will prevail.

I submit to my colleagues that it is indispensable to our success in this war that our service men and women know that in the discharge of their dangerous responsibilities to their country they are never expected to forget that they are Americans and the valiant defenders of a sacred idea of how nations should govern their own affairs and their relations with others, even our enemies.

FILED UNDER: Intelligence, Terrorism, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. sam says:

    On April 6, 2004, the Second Battalion, Fourth Marines lost whatever innocence it may have had about its task in the city of Ramadi, Iraq:

    [Despite] our daily kindness, despite the relief projects, the money, the aid we had already poured in the hospitals, despite the fact that we routinely altered our missions to make ourselves less safe in order to avoid offending them, the citizens of Ramadi had come out of their houses and actively tried to kill us….

    So on April 6, 2004, the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment flipped the switch of its default settings and settled firmly on kill….

    But though we stopped believing in open kindness as a sufficient condition for mission success, we never eschewed basic morality. No matter how much we despised our opponents for killing the weak or terrorizing the defenseless, and no matter how well their methods seemed to work, we could not and would not emulate them. We wouldn’t fire artillary indiscriminately into the city (indeed, during our entire time in Ramadi, we never used this most devastating of weapons), or use our tanks and jets to level buildings hiding suspected insurgents and civilians alike. Even if it meant more risk, we’d go in and get them ourselves, using only whatever we could carry. We wouldn’t beat or torture our prisoners, or routinely threaten uncooperative local families. We wouldn’t descend to the level of Abu Ghraib.

    Donavan Campbell, Joker One: A Marine Platoon’s Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood, pp. 188-189

  2. I’ve had dealings with Mr. Goldfarb. That a man who will take 100% credit for another blogger’s work and accuse another blogger of having no standards and say what he did above, don’t surprise me.

  3. Mithras says:

    And in 2008, McCain voted against the ban on waterboarding. So he probably agrees with his former staffer.

  4. Bithead says:

    @Mithras:

    Correct, he does. It’s one of the few things I can support him on. And James, I think if you will look you will find the topic wasn’t waterboarding, per se’ but AbuGirabe, which is a totally disconnetced matter.

    I’m with Goldbfarb, who also says:

    The left will probably get their show-trial out of all this, and not because the Obama administration has any deep conviction on this issue. They seem to have bungled the thing so badly as to have completely lost control. Now the American people will get to see what national security means to the Obama administration: the prosecution of Bush administration officials who kept this country safe, and the release of detainees who tried to destroy our way of life.

    Indeed.

  5. Mithras says:

    Oh, and McCain thinks prosecuting people who offered legal justifications for torture would constitute a “witch hunt” and smack of the actions of a “banana republic”.

    Rule of law!

  6. FranklinTest says:

    Huh? This isn’t just a disagreement with a former administration, as this ridiculous “banana republic” argument claims. It’s plainly illegal, and the AG is required to prosecute it.

    And now I’ll go ad hominem on Goldfarb – sure looks like someone tortured him with an ugly stick.

  7. cian says:

    Important to note too, James, that McCain was not alone in this. The Army, the Air Force, the Marines, the Navy and the FBI all informed the Department of Defense that in their view most of Category 2 and all of category 3 would be considered torture. In the case of the FBI, such was their concern, that their officers were ordered out of the interrogation rooms. Further, all five branches concur that torture does not work, unless of course used to extract pre-ordained confessions (See: North Korea, Vietnam, Salem).

  8. James Joyner says:

    A long discussion of McCain’s vote on the torture bill: “U.S. Senate Narrowly Bans Torture by CIA.”

    McCain has consistently said waterboarding should be illegal.

  9. And James, I think if you will look you will find the topic wasn’t waterboarding, per se’ but AbuGirabe, which is a totally disconnetced matter.

    Huh?

    How is the specific application at Abu Ghraib of a systematic policy of torture “totally disconnected”?

    If you condemn what happened at abu Ghriab, you have to condemn the use of the same tactics elsewhere, no?

  10. Bithead says:

    Ah, so this is ‘burning straw man 2009’?

    How is the specific application at Abu Ghraib of a systematic policy of torture “totally disconnected”?

    It wouldn’t be, were that the case… Then again, neither was Abu Girab a result of a systematic policy of torture, but rather a few rouges. Are you really prepared to suggest that Lindy what’s her name was operating under orders?

  11. Then again, neither was Abu Girab a result of a systematic policy of torture, but rather a few rouges

    Okay… so basically you have not bothered to read any of the released documents, extensive reporting in the media, or the reports of congressional committees and international organizations. Good to know. Ignorance is bliss, eh Bit?

  12. Bithead says:

    Nice try, Bernard.
    (Not.)
    Answer the question I asked. If you can’t answer in the affirmative, then you’re dealing with politics not fact.

  13. anjin-san says:

    but rather a few rouges.

    Ah yes, the “few bad apples” theory.

    Actually there is truth to this premise. Except that the bad apples were named Cheney, Rumsfeld and so on….

    Answer the question I asked. If you can’t answer in the affirmative

    As a lad, bit must have been the absolute king of “the dog ate my homework” excuses…

    “Can you prove that the dog DID NOT eat my homework? If you can’t answer in the affirmative…

  14. anjin-san says:

    Answer the question I asked.

    Bit, who is the hero of “Atlas Shrugged”? If you can’t answer, we are dealing with the fact that you don’t know…

  15. Bit… seriously, have you read Jane Mayer’s book, The Dark Side?

    And I don’t know if Lindy English was under orders. She didn’t commit all the abuse herself. And we do know that soldiers at Abu Ghraib were ordered to soften up the detainees. We also know that the techniques used: hooding, stress positions, threats with dogs, and sexual humiliation were explicitly authorized at the very highest levels of the Administration. They appear in the “torture memos.” They were briefed to Condi and the other members of the Principles Committee as early as 2002. They were used at Abu Ghraib. They were used at Bagram. They were used at Guantanamo. They were used in “black sites” elsewhere.

    None of this actually is even disputed anymore. What people like Cheney, et al, are arguing now is that the techniques were necessary and that they worked.

    So not only don’t you seem to know the facts of the case, you’re not even current with wingnut talking points.

  16. glasnost says:

    Bithead,

    To dispense with the ad hominem for once, you’re simply incorrect. Moreover, the inaccuracy of your statements has been demonstrated in such thorough and explicit detail that the more informed folks of your general mindset aren’t really trying those lines anymore.

    I suggest you spend sometime with this report.

    http://armed-services.senate.gov/Publications/Detainee%20Report%20Final_April%2022%202009.pdf

    Not literally everything that happened in Abu Ghirab, to be fair, was specifically authorized – only about 50%. Another 40% was non-specifically encouraged, along the lines of general demands to “get tough”. Another 10-20% was genuinely non-institutional personal fun for the guards.

  17. Tlaloc says:

    It’d be very interesting to see who all has been tortured. Contemptible as it is a number of people will defend torturing KSM under some idea that human rights only apply to people we like. My guess is they’ll have a harder time rationalizing the torture of random afghani shepherds detained for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or other innocents sold to us by headhunters seeking a bounty on terrorists (as occurred in Afghanistan).

    Maybe we’d even find Padilla’s name on that list. That might open a few eyes…

  18. Bithead says:

    And I don’t know if Lindy English was under orders. She didn’t commit all the abuse herself.

    Fine.
    When I start tossing charges around the usual thing that bounces back (And this isn’t just directed at you, Bernard) is an appeal to some authorityor another. So, let’s see, here. Do we have anyone else we might point at, bar the few individuals brought to trial? No?

    Well, then the appeal to authority doesn’t seem to back the case that this was systemic abuse at AG, does it?

    To dispense with the ad hominem for once

    ,

    A nice change.

    …you’re simply incorrect.

    And yet you provide nothing to back the statement with… and this is shown clearly when you’re forced to admit:

    Not literally everything that happened in Abu Ghirab, to be fair, was specifically authorized – only about 50%

    That 50% figure seems pretty generous to your argument. And let’s remember the political environment in which that whole investigation was run, shall we?

    I’ll close with a comment I left Clariece Feldman a bit ago, that goes directly to the basis of these discussions:

    Somehow, the willingly chancing the lives of millions as opposed to pouring water on the face of a few to save those millions, doesn’t strike me as very moral.

  19. sam says:

    Here’s an interesting thought:

    How many times do you think we’d have to waterboard Bithead to get him to confess that waterboarding is torture?

  20. Tlaloc says:

    How many times do you think we’d have to waterboard Bithead to get him to confess that waterboarding is torture?

    Oh, SNAP!

  21. anjin-san says:

    How many times do you think we’d have to waterboard Bithead to get him to confess that waterboarding is torture?

    Well guys, bithead has to go through life as… bithead. Don’t you think his pain threshold is pretty darned high?

  22. An Interested Party says:

    How fascinating that some of the same people who profess to love our country so much, who claim to be so very proud of it, who claim that it is unique and special, also have no problem with our government using the same vile methods practiced by some of modern history’s nastiest despots and two-bit, flea-bitten, tinpot dictators…I am well aware that 9/11 scared the shit out of some people, but, as time goes on, we see exactly how that fear has caused some people to lose their humanity, assuming they ever had much of it in the first place…

  23. Eric says:

    Here’s an interesting thought:

    How many times do you think we’d have to waterboard Bithead to get him to confess that waterboarding is torture?

    Uh-uh, Sam. No you di’in’! No you di’int! Aw, BAM!!