The administration and those photos
"There were young knights among them who had never been present at a stricken field. Some could not look upon it and some could not speak and they held themselves apart from the others who were cutting down the prisoners at My Lord's orders, for the prisoners were a body too numerous to be guarded by those of us who were left. Then Jean de Rye, an aged knight of Burgundy who had been sore wounded in the battle, rode up to the group of young knights and said: 'Are ye maidens with your downcast eyes? Look well upon it. See all of it. Close your eyes to nothing. For a battle is fought to be won. And it is this that happens if you lose."
Froissart’s Chronicles, 14th century
President Obama, announced he would authorize release of photos showing prisoners undergoing “enhanced interrogation.” Right-wingers announced the imminent downfall of the American republic.
Then he changed position and said he wouldn't. Left-wingers announced the imminent downfall of the American republic.
Reportedly, top US commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan personally told the President they opposed release, arguing it would make the US mission more difficult.
Most of the controversy concerns “waterboarding,” a technique used on three terrorists a total of six-and-a-half minutes. It's also routinely used on U.S. military personnel training to resist interrogation.
One of the terrorists the CIA is known to have waterboarded is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
The 9/11 Commission claims Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was “the principle architect of the 9/11 attacks.” Under questioning he boasted, “I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew Daniel Pearl, in the City of Karachi, Pakistan.”
Pearl's body was found cut into ten pieces in a shallow grave in the outskirts of Karachi in 2002. A video of Pearl's last minutes was posted on the Internet, and featured on snuff-DVDs sold as light entertainment in parts of the Middle East where they don't like us much.
The arguments about “enhanced interrogation” concern whether the techniques used are, or are not torture. And given they are, is torture ever justified?
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said the CIA didn't tell her they would actually go out and do what they described in the briefings she attended. The minutes of the meetings show, to put it bluntly, that she's lying her head off.
Anyone who says they'd never use torture under any circumstances is lying their head off. Tell anyone that someone they love more than their own life is in the hands of Khalid's buddies, and watch them join the “waterboarding is for sissies” camp in two seconds.
The question is, how far can we go before what we do destroys us and the ideals that define us as a civilization? Is there too high a price to pay for survival?
Maybe – but you have to survive to have that discussion.
We are justifiably proud of the progress we've made since the not-so-long-gone days torture was acceptable legal practice, and executions and bear baiting were public entertainment. What we too-often fail to realize is, that progress has not been evenly distributed across the globe.
Our enemies come from a culture which holds public beheadings - and parents bring their children and let them kick the head around like a soccer ball. Where to murder someone who insults you, your clan, or your religion is praiseworthy. Where mothers teach sons if their wife, daughter, or sister is raped, their duty is to murder her.
Our enemies think we are soft, and their ruthlessness will overcome our power. Whether they are right or not, is a still-open question.
So Mr. President, I'd say go ahead and release those photos. If we allow these things in our name, we ought to be willing to look at them.
But if we do, let's look at that Danny Pearl video too.