Saturday, September 23, 2006

Joe Galloway: "We've Sunk to Osama's Level"

A patriotic interlude at an evening worship event co-sponsored by the Ohio Restoration Project, September 10, 2006.

I've cross-posted this from my "professional" blog, which deals with military history and national security affairs. Its author, LTC Robert Bateman, is a career Army officer who returned in March from a posting in Baghdad and is currently assigned to the Pentagon. It introduces a recent column by the distinguished -- and far from liberal -- military correspondent, Joe Galloway. Together with Gen. Hal Moore, Galloway co-authored the bestselling We Were Soldiers Once . . . And Young, that was later made into the film, We Were Soldiers.

I met Galloway a few months before the 2004 presidential election. Although decidedly cool about John Kerry, he said he was going to grit his teeth and vote for Kerry anyway because of the abysmal way the Bush administration had conducted the occupation of Iraq. His detestation of the administration, particularly Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, has only deepened over time. Galloway's September 20 column excoriates the Bush administration's recent attempt to rewrite our Geneva Convention obligations so as to permit the torture of detainees.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a sort of half-worship service, half-political rally organized by the Ohio Restoration Project and two other conservative evangelical organizations. I may write about that some other time, but for the present I just want to note that at one point the service involved a polished multimedia salute to the armed forces. I would be willing to bet real money that nobody in the ORP harbors any doubts about the moral rectitude of water-boarding prisoners or the way in which the Bush administration's explicit embrace of such measures harms the United States and endangers its service personnel. Let Colonel Bateman and Joe Galloway explain:

Joe Galloway's September 20 column, with which I heartily concur, and to which I would add that it's not just the moral side. . . torture is freaking stupid. We never get good intel from it, and indeed I myself was taught in several settings (because since Vietnam we've assumed that we would be tortured) that under torture the proper method of resistance was to make up lies. Make up simple ones, so you could be consistent and maintain them, and use things that you knew, but lie at will to end the torture of your body, because they will keep torturing you until you tell them something, and usually your persecutor is not educated enough about the niceties of your culture to understand what you've told him is a lie. McCain, a man who cannot lift his arms above his shoulders because of repeated and sustained torture at the hands of a nation which refused to acknowledge his status as a "lawful combatant" and therefore said that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to him, apparently once told the North Vietnamese, when pressed for the names of the men in his squadron, the entire starting lineup of the previous year's Green Bay Packers. (He was never caught in this lie either.)

I have heard (but cannot substantiate) that during Desert Storm one of our captured pilots told the Iraqis (who tortured him) that the man commanding his squadron was "Lieutenant Commander Homer Simpson." I believe this because the Iraqis were so ignorant of OUR culture that one of their attempts at pyschological operations to demoralize our troops before the war...was leaflets telling our troops that the "guy back home" was sleeping with his wife/girlfriend. Now, this plays upon a fear all deployed soldiers have, but the Iraqis completely achieved the OPPOSITE effect when they identified the "guy back home" as Bart Simpson. (No joke).

So, even if you USE torture, you get crap. Enough of my opinion though, here's Joe:

"The torture of prisoners is not only illegal under American and international law it is, put simply, immoral and unjust. It is also un-American.

"It is amazing that we are still hung up in a debate over President Bush's insistence that we bend and break our laws and the Geneva Conventions so that our agents can do everything short of murder to make a man talk.

"The president's bill -- blocked in the Senate by three Republicans who know war and know the law and know what's right -- would allow Central Intelligence Agency operatives to subject prisoners to water-boarding, or near-death by drowning; to being forced to stand for 40 hours at a time; to sleep deprivation; to being tossed naked into a freezing cold cell for days at a time."

Full article

Note: Both LTC Bateman and Galloway wrote prior to the accord reached late on the 21st between President Bush and the senators. To my mind, the new development doesn't blunt the thrust of their views. In fact, the more I've read of it, the less clear it is to me that the senators came away with any concession of consequence.


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