John McCain : restoring our nation’s honor; Dick Cheney : not his best moment at all
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Senator John McCain summed the torture mess up : torture is not who we are; we cannot do what the enemy does because we are not like them, we are better than that.
McCain was a victim of torture himself. He knows that tortured men will say whatever their torturers want to hear. He knows that the intelligence gained by torture is no intelligence at all. He also knows that it violates laws our nation has enacted, treaties we have signed, conventions we have committed to. He knows that it breaks our nation’s word.
He passionately supports the release of the “torture report”: by the senate ihtelligtrnce Committee. So do I. The timing has political implications, perhaps, but to me, any time is a good time for our nation to hold a kind of “truth and reconciliation” conversation. Because as the report makes clear, for the years that torture ruled, we had no honor. And without honor, who are we ? No different, no better, than our enemies.
McCain asked, “you tie a man to the floor until he freezes to death and you don’t think that’s torture ?”
All this, we know. You know it, I know it. So let the nation’s soul. searching begin. Build a legacy of apology, of “never again.” And what next ? How do we gain the intelligence that we need to fight wars against terrorists ? If not to squeeze and frighten captives, what is the CIA tasked to do ? Here’s my answer :
1 .Intelligence for war is a military matter. It should be conducted by the Army, the Air Force, the Navy, the Marines. By SEALS. By Rangers. By judge advocate corpspeople. That’s how it was done in World War 2 and in Korea. If America calls upon our armed forces, it is armed forces that we should task to do “intel.”
Our armed forces obey the rules, treaties, laws, and conventions, if only because they know that if we do not treat captives as we have promised, our foes won’t treat our people properly either. Even then, there are abuses. can we forget Abu Ghraib ? But Abu Ghraib happened in a time when we “took the gloves off.” The message was sent, and our troops dearly paid the price.
Military interrogators have a superb record of gaining “intel.” The success of military campaigns depends on their doing it the right way. Can’t we let the military do its job and not have bureaucrats do its job for it ?
2. The CIA has no business operating in military mode. it has no business operating prisons or sending war captives to other nations’ prisons. The CIA’s mission, at founding, was to gather “human intel.” The CIA is tasked to recruit informants, behind enemy lines or in terrorist havens, to tell us, of their own observation, what is going on in the enemy camp.
Perforce much of what such agents tell us is mistaken, or half mistaken. It’s up to CIA specialists to assess the “intel” thus gathered.
As we have learnbed from the report, the most effective “intel” gained by the CIA was old-fashioned human intelligence. Couldn’t they see that ?
Just as the CIA should not be doing the work of our military, so it should not be doing the work of our State Department. The CIA has no business engaging in political games overseas, no business undermining foreign governments, no business hanky-pankying with black marketeers or arms dealers.
No military man, no matter how capable, should ever be appointed CIA director. The CIA must never be even slightly militarized.
A man whom I admire highly tells me that he knows great people in the CIA. I believe him. The problem is not that many CIA people are highly thought of, it’s what the CIA directors task them to do.
Lastly, no executive officer, not even at the highest level, should ever be allowed to misuse the CIA as Vice President Cheney evidently did, in those horrible days after 9/11, when much of our government lost sight of its strength and fell into the fear trap that we are now exiting. If one can believe what is being reported, the President himself was not informed of all the actions commanded by Cheney. If that is true, it was an impeachable offense, and Cheney should even now be censured for it.
In the wake of Cheney’s commands, superficially authorized by the President, government lawyers drew up exculpatory memos that violate all kinds of oaths lawyers are supposed to swear to, not to mention subverting the nation’s honor and making it harder by far to win the war. For which, these lawyers should be strongly censured too.
Some who feel as I do have called or prosecution of the people responsible for ordering these acts. I disagree. The nation needs to recover its honor, not lash out. The torture report and the reforms I suggest fully heal our soul.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere