A tale of three Georges.
In the beginning there were two: George Washington and King George lll of England. George lll allowed his Red Coats to torture the captured freedom fighters of the colonies, but George Washington was more than the prospective father of his country, he was also over 230 years ahead of his time. He refused to allow his soldiers to follow suit, because he knew even back then, that (what was to become the United States of America) had to care more for the individual's freedom and dignity than a king did, so for the next 225 years, the USA led the world in it's treatment of captured enemy combatants. And then the third George showed up, and he threw history and tradition out of the White House window.
You may have heard recently that former members of George W. BuSh's administration have been making the circuit complaining that without torture (my word, not their euphemisms) we could not have stayed safe after 911. Do they forget that until George W was president, we did pretty well? We won the first and second World Wars, the Revolutionary War, The War of 1812, the Spanish American War, and quite a few other wars without torture. And as far as the remarks being made that George W kept us save after 911 (using torture), didn't Bill Clinton keep the homeland safe after the February 1993 WTC bombing without torture and he “kept us safe” for seven more months than BuSh “kept us safe”?
Well, what is all the fuss about?
It seems that around the time of 911, King George the W decided that he needed information. Some think it was to protect the country from another 911, although others think it was a need to trick the American public into authorizing an invasion of Iraq. Either way, the orders came down from the White House that we need intel (short for that oxymoron “military intelligence”). So some big brains in the White House decided to have a group of patriots (who at the time were running a program to teach US Servicemen how to withstand torture), to devise a set of protocols for getting intel. The only problem was that these patriots had studied the methods used by the Red Chinese, the North Koreans and the Soviet Union for getting captured soldiers to confess to lies. The US Military personnel could then be put on trial where their confessions to fabrications would embarrass the USA.
The program succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams. Our interrogators were able to torture lies and fabrications at will from anyone turned over to them. Of course there were some embarrassing cases. There was one Al Quiada operative who was interrogated by experienced FBI interrogators using conventional tactics (based on guile, empathy and persuasion), who talked so much that the agents could not keep up with him. Then one day, the CIA came along, took away that prisoner based on jurisdictional rights, and then tortured him. When torture didn't work, they got permission to use more force and more invasive methods. Sometimes torture led to death, but as long as death was not the objective, it wasn't the torturer's fault. Right?
Of course it was right. Because a group of lawyers with no background in interrogation methods working out of the White House and in the Department of Justice wrote legal memo's to explain what torture wasn't. And they said it was ok as long as the interrogators weren't trying to kill him. At a seminar, they gained much of their knowledge of interrogation techniques because they were led by a man who was infatuated with Jack Bauer of “24”, a TV show who's main character, Jack tortures people all the time and always saves the day with the intel garnered. Whether Jack's reluctant informant survived or not, is never seen as being important.
Lest some people think that charging BuSh administration officials with crimes is just a squabble over a difference in philosophy between Conservatives and Liberals, there were many Conservative Republicans who worked in the White House and the DOJ who objected to the memos allowing torture. Many resigned in protest. Some fought the good fight, but eventually gave in and some were able to reverse the course after many years of sinking to levels that would have made George Washington sick. However, the White House never returned to the color it was before the administration of George the W moved in.
On another note, the Supreme Court has taken up a case of a law suit by a 13 year old female honor student who was strip-searched because of a rumor that she was dispensing Ibuprofen pills. The school in it's defense alleges that they would not be able to keep the students safe unless they have the right to the extremely controversial and invasive procedure. What do these two topics have in common?
Many might remember the logic of Spock (an emotionless Vulcan in the Star-Trek TV series and movies who only uses logic to make decisions) saying, “Were I to invoke logic, however, logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
Well, Mr. Spock, there is a hole in your logic. You see when we use the argument that the rights or safety of society (or the student body) is more important than the individual's rights, we make a glaring mistake. Because society is a large mass of individuals (just as a student body is a large mass of students) and as long as each individual's rights are less than those of the society's, then the society has no rights either. Taking away from one individual means potentially taking from every individual. Not protecting one student (from another student or from the unbridled power of the school) leaves all students defenseless.
So why do some people say that we must protect the student body at the expense of an individual student or why do many people think that the only way to protect the US homeland (society) is by torture and if torture is the only way, then why not torture (an individual)?
Is it because they invoke Mr. Spock's logic, “Were I to invoke logic, however, logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” without realizing that “the many” are just a large group of “the few(s)”?
No! I think that the reason is cowardice.
That is why we will have to change the words of the “Star Spangled Banner”. All four verses now end with “O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave”. We can no longer say “the home of the brave” because we have become such cowards that we are afraid of our own children and afraid of a band of terrorists with no ability to destroy us and only the ability to watch us harm ourselves.
And we can no longer say “the land of the free” because once we start strip searching our children and torturing those we suspect of crimes, then no one is free.