May 13, 2004

Tipping Point

I think we're at one of those points where things could slide quickly in one of two directions - which one, I don't think anyone knows.

The The New York Times > Washington > NYTimes reports the CIA used some "coercive interrogation methods" in interrogating senior Al Quaeda prisoners who were involved in the 9/11 attacks:

In the case of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a high-level detainee who is believed to have helped plan the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, C.I.A. interrogators used graduated levels of force, including a technique known as "water boarding," in which a prisoner is strapped down, forcibly pushed under water and made to believe he might drown.

These techniques were authorized by a set of secret rules for the interrogation of high-level Qaeda prisoners, none known to be housed in Iraq, that were endorsed by the Justice Department and the C.I.A. The rules were among the first adopted by the Bush administration after the Sept. 11 attacks for handling detainees and may have helped establish a new understanding throughout the government that officials would have greater freedom to deal harshly with detainees.

The reactions from both sides are predictable.

Jonah Goldberg:

"My response? Good. I would be far more upset to learn the CIA was being prevented from using coercive techniques against these people. Now, I don't want permanent, cruel physical torture to be used -- unless truly absolutely necessary (ticking bombs and all that) -- but if Khalid Shaikh Mohammed finds his stay with the CIA to be the worst thing that ever happened to him, I say "Wahoo! look at my tax dollars at work!"
Mark Kleiman:
What makes me sick is that some of the CIA officers may get hung out to dry, but there's no probability whatever that the lawyers safe in their Washington offices who approved all this garbage -- in your name and mine -- will ever be called to account.

There's a simple principle that applies here. No human being, or small group, is fit to be trusted with absolute and unreviewed power over another human being.

What do I think about this? Who cares.

The real question is, what will the American people think?

It's a lock that the media will get it wrong: although I noted two days ago that the media refers to a "Drumbeat" against Donald Rumsfeld, seven in ten Americans support the Secretary of Defense even in light of the Abu Ghraib Kerry Campaign Spots scandal.

Like I said - this could tip one of two directions:

  1. The media could lead the public by the nose to the conclusion they want - that the Bush Administration is condoning torture, and are morally base and out of control.
  2. The media is out of control and morally incontinent, ignoring the real atrocities that Islamofascist regimes worldwide practice daily that make the abuses in Abu Ghraib, vile as they were, look like fraternity hazing. And they don't mind the notion of a Khalid Mohammed, who is a terrorist and not covered by the Geneva Convention, getting shaken down hard for more info. Captain Ed is right in pointing out:
    They are non-state actors, meaning they officially represent no government, which in Geneva Convention terms makes them about the same level as spies. They are not POWs -- POWs must wear the appropriate insignia of a government when captured in battle. The reason for this distinction in the Geneva Convention is precisely to prevent non-state actors from taking up arms against a nation, for the precise reasons we see today: they act as a terribly destabilizing force throughout regions in which they operate and hold civilian populations hostage when using them as screens for their attacks.
    Screw him.
Which way do I the people will break on this? Depends on how confident I feel in the knowledge and maturity of the American public.

Most unthinking leftists of the Democrat Underground stripe made up their minds in December of 2000. If Bush called the sky "blue", they'd say Blue is a neocon conspiracy.

I'd like to hope for better.

Posted by Mitch at May 13, 2004 08:26 AM