Politics Thursday: Support our Troops by rejecting torture

Note to the American Legion: As long as our Administration refuses to support the troops by heeding their sensible advice on important matters like the one below, I will continue to support them by stating the truth as I see it. Hiding my concerns as you demand will not help our troops. Unlike you, I won't be using whatever means necessary to enforce my views.

Legion Update: Instead of trying to silence the majority of Americans who want a course change, please go back to your stance of 1999.

Recently some prewar declassified memos have come out showing that our own military was deeply skeptical of the “coercive interrogation� techniques approved by Alberto Gonzales at the White House Office of Legal Council (OLC). Not only that, but they said that the techniques being proposed would generally been seen as violating international and domestic law. Finally they saw these rules as leading directly to harsh treatment of US soldiers worldwide.

The Federation of American Scientists has provided a link to a Congressional Record extract that contains these declassified memos. Here are the memo headers and a few quotes from each of the services (all bolding is mine.) that to me show that our current Administration supports neither human rights nor our own soldiers. Our troops deserved better than what the OLC gave them:

Department of the Navy,

Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps,

Washington, DC, February 27, 2003.
Memorandum for General Counsel of the Air Force
Subject: Working Group Recommendations on Detainee Interrogations

2. The common thread among our recommendations is concern for servicemembers. OLC does not represent the services; thus, understandably, concern for servicemembers is not reflected in their opinion. Notably, their opinion is silent on the UCMJ and foreign views of international law.
3. We nonetheless recommend that the Working Group product accurately portray the services' concerns that the authorization of aggressive counter-resistance techniques by servicemembers will adversely impact the following:
a. Treatment of U.S. Servicemembers by Captors and compliance with International Law.
b. Criminal and Civil Liability of DOD Military and Civilian Personnel in Domestic, Foreign, and International Forums.
c. U.S. and International Public Support and Respect of U.S. Armed Forces.
d. Pride, Discipline, and Self-Respect within the U.S. Armed Forces.
e. Human Intelligence Exploitation and Surrender of Foreign Enemy Forces, and Cooperation and Support of Friendly Nations.

Kevin M. Sandkuhler,
Brigadier General, USMC, Staff Judge Advocate to CMC.

------------------------------------------------

Department of the Army, Office of the Judge Advocate General,
Washington, DC, March 3, 2003.

MEMORANDUM FOR GENERAL COUNSEL OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE

Subject: Draft Report and Recommendations of the Working Group to Access the Legal, Policy and Operational Issues Related to Interrogation of Detainees Held by the U.S. Armed Forces in the War on Terrorism (U)

4. (U) The OLC opinion states further that customary international law cannot bind the U.S. Executive Branch as it is not part of the federal law. As such, any presidential decision made in the context of the ongoing war on terrorism constitutes a ``controlling'' Executive act; one that immediately and automatically displaces any contrary provision of customary international law. This view runs contrary to the historic position taken by the United States Government concerning such laws and, in our opinion, could adversely impact DOD interests worldwide. On the one hand, such a policy will open us to international criticism that the ``U.S. is a law unto itself.'' On the other, implementation of questionable techniques will very likely establish a new baseline for acceptable practice in this area, putting our service personnel at far greater risk and vitiating many of the POW/detainee safeguards the U.S. has worked hard to establish over the past five decades

Thomas J. Romig,

Major General, U.S. Army, The Judge Advocate General.

-----------------------------------------------------

Department of the Air Force, Office of the Judge Advocate General,
Washington, DC, February 6, 2003.

MEMORANDUM FOR SAF/GC

From: AF/JA
Subject: Comments on Draft Report and Recommendations of the Working Group to Assess the Legal, Policy and Operational Issues Relating to Interrogation of Detainees Held by the U.S. Armed Forces in the War on Terrorism (U)

(U) Several of the exceptional techniques, on their face, amount to violations of domestic criminal law and the UCMJ (e.g., assault). Applying exceptional techniques places interrogators and the chain of command at risk of criminal accusations domestically. Although one or more of the aforementioned defenses to these accusations may apply, it is impossible to be certain that any of these defenses will be successful as the judiciary may interpret the applicable law differently from the interpretation provided herein.

Jack L. Rives,

Major General, USAF,
Deputy Judge Advocate General.

----------------------------------------------------------------

Department of the Navy, Office of the Judge Advocate General,
Washington, DC, February 6, 2003.
Subj: Working Group recommendations relating to interrogation of detainees.

3. Given this unique set of circumstances, I believe policy considerations continue to loom very large. Should service personnel be conducting the interrogations? How will this affect their treatment when incarcerated abroad and our ability to call others to account for their treatment? More broadly, while we may have found a unique situation in GTMO where the protections of the Geneva Conventions, U.S. statutes, and even the Constitution do not apply, will the American people find we have missed the forest for the trees by condoning practices that, while technically legal, are inconsistent with our most fundamental values? How would such perceptions affect our ability to prosecute the Global War on Terrorism?
4. I accept the premise that this group of detainees is different, and that lawyers should identify legal distinctions where they exist. It must be conceded, however, that we are preparing to treat these detainees very differently than we treat any other group, and differently than we permit our own people to be treated either at home or abroad. At a minimum, I recommend that decision-makers be made fully aware of the very narrow set of circumstances--factually and legally--upon which the policy rests. Moreover, I recommend that we consider asking decision-makers directly: is this the ``right thing'' for U.S. military personnel?

Michael F. Lohr,

Rear Admiral, JAGC, U.S. Navy,
Judge Advocate General.

Notice that the Marines, Army, Air Force, and Navy all agreed that taking this course of action was a very bad idea that would result in damage in our troops, promote an atmosphere of abuse, and drag the name of our great nation through the mud. PLUS, make it more difficult to obtain either surrenders or actionable intelligence. They said these things PRIOR to our misguided, premeditated and optional invasion of Iraq. As it did to many experts, the Administration wouldn't listen to them. We have paid the price. The American people deserve accountability for this betrayal of our troops and fundamental values.

Comments

American Legion

I grew up in Legion Hall youth groups and I guess they have turned from concern for liberty and the right to protest... But here's what they said about Operation Allied Force.
[impt. role for librarians...keepingtrack].

Dear Mr. President:

The American Legion, a wartime veterans organization of nearly three-million members, urges the immediate withdrawal of American troops participating in "Operation Allied Force.''

The National Executive Committee of The American Legion, meeting in Indianapolis today, adopted Resolution 44, titled "The American Legion's Statement on Yugoslavia.'' This resolution was debated and adopted unanimously.

Mr. President, the United States Armed Forces should never be committed to wartime operations unless the following conditions are fulfilled:

* That there be a clear statement by the President of why it is in our vital national interests to be engaged in hostilities;

* Guidelines be established for the mission, including a clear exit strategy;

* That there be support of the mission by the U.S. Congress and the American people; and

* That it be made clear that U.S. Forces will be commanded only by U.S. officers whom we acknowledge are superior military leaders.

It is the opinion of The American Legion, which I am sure is shared by the majority of Americans, that three of the above listed conditions have not been met in the current joint operation with NATO ("Operation Allied Force'').

In no case should America commit its Armed Forces in the absence of clearly defined objectives agreed upon by the U.S. Congress in accordance with Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution of the United States.

Sincerely,
Harold L. "Butch'' Miller,
National Commander

American Legion
Letter to President Clinton
May 5, 1999

level the playing field

"On the other, implementation of questionable techniques will very likely establish a new baseline for acceptable practice in this area, putting our service personnel at far greater risk and vitiating many of the POW/detainee safeguards the U.S. has worked hard to establish over the past five decades "

You name me any of the countries we've fought in the last hundred years that treated anyone, let alone POWs, in any way that could be considered acceptable and we'll talk about how the US should treat terrorists and potential suicide bombers.

Re:level the playing field

we'll talk about how the US should treat terrorists and potential suicide bombers.

Like the ostensibly morally superior society that we are?


Nah, try the "he did it first" ploy. Worked in the schoolyard; try it on international stage.


Once you abandon the ethical high ground, it becomes pretty hard to reclaim it.


What's next? Suspending some of our liberties in order to protect our freedom? Taking opressive steps to restore Democracy?
Seems to me that the means becomes bad end unto itself.

Re:level the playing field

Your premise relies on the idea that I think all torture is immoral. I don't. What we do we do for our own interests. What's been done in the past by other countries has been done almost out of some sick sense of fun or arrogance.

Re:level the playing field

Your premise relies on the idea that I think all torture is immoral. I don't.


Well then, that explains a great deal.


They = sick and arrogant. Us = operating for our own interests. Well, at least you're honest, and don't try to cloak your will-to-power behind religiosity or "compassionate conservatism". What disturbs me though, is how rather much what you say sounds like what many of them say when talking about us.


I would argue that, in a world of finite resources, an avarice for "our own interests" is in itself sick and arrogant. Cheap oil, or at least a strong stake in the finite supply that has been supporting an ever-increasing demand, is very obviously one of "our interests". A startlingly high standard of living, compared to world averages is another apparent interest of ours. So much of our interests come at the expense of others' interests. Economists like to imagine that there are no limits to growth, but the most obvious example in the natural world that embodies that particular philosophy is cancer.


I can see why, in the face of a zero-sum game, "our interests" might seem to trump every other consideration. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if they had a GregS* who is thinking the exact same thing.

Re:level the playing field

Oh, for my own edification, what kind of torture is NOT immoral, and why? Or perhaps, when is torture a moral action? What is it that imbues the act with moral justification?


I ask because I understand torture to be a deliberate act, wholly removed from any threat to the torturer, and therefore not an act of self-defense.


I have a lot of thoughts about this, but I won't put words into your mouth. I want to know how you see it.

Our standards must be different

As a constitutional republic whose leaders are almost exclusively professed Christians, our proper standards are our Constitution and the Gospel of Christ. There is no room for torture or mistreatment of prisoners in either document.

Re:Our standards must be different

Not big on the idea of Hell then huh?

Re:level the playing field

When its 'non-creative', doesn't cause permanent damage, and is used for a specific purpose.
Lt. Col West
saved lives using what some would consider torture methods in interrogation. I think he did the right thing.

Hell, yes.

Hell is run by demons, not humankind. There is no place for humans to torture/seriously mistreat one another in either the Gospels or the US Constitution.While I think there is uncertainty about the details of Hell, I am convinced it exists.And I couldn't resist the chance to use the title I used.Getting away from the narrow issue of whether it's ok for us to shackle folks naked on the cell floor for days at a time because Zarqawi's folks multilate and behead folks unlucky enough to fall into their hands, what do you think of the General's other assertions (Harder to get future intel, surrenders, etc)?

Re:Hell, yes.

No no no no. Now who's reading minds? I didn't say it was okay *because* of what Zarqawi does, I don't think anybody has. Its simply putting a little perspective on it. As for information, I referenced Lt. Col West in another post who managed to get the information he needed. There is a good chance it dfoesn't work on hardliners, not so the middle man. Surrenders? As in "they will be less willing to"? They don't paint a nice portrait of us anymore then we paint a nice portrait of them. I'm sure a lot of them already thought we would do horrible things to them and that we plan to take over the whole world. People surrender because they don't want to die right that moment, not because they think they are going to have the good life in Club Gitmo.

Re:Hell, yes.

As for information, I referenced Lt. Col West in another post who managed to get the information he needed.

Whether or not torture like practices get results once in awhile doesn't make it right.Cheating on exams is a widespread practice that benefits many, but isn't moral.Enron's accounting practices benefitted them for YEARS, but that didn't make it right.The House Democrats benefited from using the House post office as their personal piggy-bank for DECADES, but that didn't make it right.Ends do not justify means. Not according to God. The practices that the Adminstration proposed and the generals I cited opposed definitely violated our treaty agreements and likely violate both federal statute and Constitution, though that's likely a matter for the courts.You can have our current Constitution and our Christian heiritage, or you can have "any means neccessary" and "non-creative" torture-like interrogation methods. Embracing one necessarily rejects the other.I believe in both Constitutional and Gospel values and I'd rather die for them than have my life preserved by throwing them away, as I believe our government is starting to do.

Re:Hell, yes.

Considering the arguement is about whether or not torture is or is not moral, using other things that areplainly immoral doesn't help your case. The point about the Lt. Col. was directly against the arguement that torture is not effective, an arguement you used, and according to your own logic, shouldn't have been relevant in the first place.

There's nothing in the Constitution about torture other then the concept of cruel and unusal punishment. I don't see the examples I've given as cruel and unusual.

You keep talking about God. God told a man he would have to kill his own son in order to follow him and the man almost did it before God intervened. He turned a woman into a pillar of salt. He took away the common language and sent thousands of people wandering around the globe. He forced thousands of people to wander the desert for forty years. He flooded the earth. He let his own son be crucified. And hell may be staffed by demons but God made them.

I believe in God, I believe God is a loving God, but I don't believe its safe to piss him off. And since we were made in his image I believe the same applies to us. We should work for peace but be ready for war, look for a bloodless solution but draw blood when necessary.

Christ set the example

You keep talking about God. God told a man he would have to kill his own son in order to follow him and the man almost did it before God intervened. He turned a woman into a pillar of salt. He took away the common language and sent thousands of people wandering around the globe. He forced thousands of people to wander the desert for forty years. He flooded the earth. He let his own son be crucified. And hell may be staffed by demons but God made them.

You forgot to mention divinely mandated genocide against women and children whose sole crime was to be born to the wrong tribe. :-)Funny that while my prior posts on this thread specificly mentioned the Gospels, you were unable to provide one example of cruelty from the life of Christ, except for one He did not perpetrate.However, your Biblical examples do deserve a few other comments:

And hell may be staffed by demons but God made them.

God did not create them AS demons. He created angels who rebelled against Him. Their chief, Satan, was determined to be God, believing that he had greater knowledge and power than God Himself. God is the one who confines them to Hell, but how they organize themselves is likely their own affair as part of their continuing rebellion against the Almighty.

He let his own son be crucified.

And if there was ever an act by humankind that cried out for the vengence of God, this would be it. Although Jesus was destined to be crucified, that did not absolve his torturers and killers of guilt.And yet, what happened? Judas committed suicide, but Jerusalem and the Roman occupational gov't were spared. Not a flicker of lightening from the sky. If God can hold back the fire from Heaven over His own Son's death by torture, maybe that should tell us something.Anyway, back to why I specifically said Gospel and not Bible. While it's true that we Christians have the books of both the old and new Testaments, because we are Christians, we are especially bound by the teachings and examples of Christ.In my readings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Acts, the epistles, and even the book of Revelation, I find no examples of human followers of Christ torturing their fellow human beings, or even being advised to thrash and humililate their enemies if the Believers really needed to preserve their safety. In fact, the one disciple who takes up arms in Christ's defense is rebuked and the victim's ear restored.That is why I say that you can embrace the Gospel of Christ or "anything goes", but not both. If Christ wanted us to follow a different example, he would have given us one in His life or teachings.

Re:Christ set the example

I agree with all the first part Daniel, I just don't consider what torture I've discussed to date as inhumane.

I haven't used the Bible to justify anything, I'm simply arguing the points you bring up. You keep bringing up the Bible so I keep arguing about it but I can't afford to be the one to bring it up, pro or con. I'm a Republican and Republicans quoting scripture are usually ignored.

As to what the Bible is used for and how its used, faith should be a factor in everything and it can be used legitematly for political discussion. But its a big book with smaller books and chapters and verses in it. Pointing to any one bit and saying this is absolute proof of something isn't believeable.

"If it's really true that "the practised minister can make whatever arguement he wants, cherry-picking whatever verses he needs to make his case," why bother with a Bible at all?"

Because its a book, The Book. Its not a quote generator or a fortune cookie printer. Before I said a practised minister but a good minister will understand the difference.

eye for an eyeRe:Christ set the example

Who says an eye for an eye is justice as 'vengeful retritbution'? I don't think that. Do I think an eye for an eye can be justice? Yes. Is it always? No. Taking a rapist out in the center of town and shoving a large object up his behind might be a good lesson in how not to treat women and would certainly get the point across better then letting him sit in jail for 1-2 years bragging about the rape to his fellow inmates. However the same might not work with a pedophile and permanent lock-up might be necessary.

I don't know where the slavery thing is coming from. It still exists and if the tech world suddenly folded you'd see a lot more of it pretty fast.

I completely disagree with your last statement. The greatest minds, the inventors, the writers, the artists of world history could not have accomplished in today's world what they did in their own. There's too much noise and interference. There are still great things today but they are unique to today. But even so we are no greater then those in Shakespeare's day or Socrates' or any other time.

Re:Christ set the example

"God did not create them AS demons. He created angels who rebelled against Him. Their chief, Satan, was determined to be God, believing that he had greater knowledge and power than God Himself. God is the one who confines them to Hell, but how they organize themselves is likely their own affair as part of their continuing rebellion against the Almighty."

There's a Middle East comparison in there I'm sure of it. Bottom line is if God is all powerful then Hell doesn't have to exist. And after browsing through the Gospels its pretty obvious that Jesus has no problem saying some will in fact go there.

And no, no lightning on Christ's death, the temple breaks in I believe three books and there was an earthequake in Matthew, but no, no lighting.

Here's what I believe: the Old Testament is for society treats us, New Testament is for how we treat each other. What we can and must do as a government and as a person are always two different things.

Re:Christ set the example

Here's what I believe: the Old Testament is for society treats us, New Testament is for how we treat each other. What we can and must do as a government and as a person are always two different things.

Two questions.1) On what basis do you believe this? I realize you are far from alone in this view, but I've never figured out how righteous behavior at the personal level can translate into deceit and organized offensive violence at the national level. There's a quantum disconnect somewhere.2) If the Old Testament really is for how society treats us, how do you feel about the following texts:a) Exodus 23:9 - "You shall not oppress an alien; you well know how it feels to be an alien, since you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt." - No distinction between documented and undocumented here.b) Exodus 23:11 - "But the seventh year you shall let the land lie untilled and unharvested, that the poor among you may eat of it and the beasts of the field may eat what the poor leave. So also shall you do in regard to your vineyard and your olive grove."c) Leviticus 25:10 - "This fiftieth year you shall make sacred by proclaiming liberty in the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when every one of you shall return to his own property, every one to his own family estate." The rest of Leviticus 25 makes it clear this is a restoration of property and property cannot be permanently sold.d) Leviticus 25:36-37 - "Do not exact interest from your countryman either in money or in kind, but out of fear of God let him live with you. You are to lend him neither money at interest nor food at a profit."

Re:Christ set the example

1) I base it on the simple idea that if a convicted criminal asks forgiveness and I believe he's sincere then I have to forgive. But he can't simply be let out of jail because *I* might think he's sincere. Its a contradiction but a logical one.

I also base it on the focus of each section. The New Testament is obviously a very personal interaction with individuals and within the church. The Old Testament is the story of an entire people. That's not to say there isn't some crossover, you can't really ignore the Book of Job after all.

I'm just going to ignore the deceit rant.

2)a) you're right there is no distinction between legal and illegal. Last I knew the Bible still expects people to follow the laws of the country they're in.

b)if you think it will work feel free to push for it but notice it requires the poor to grow the food themselves.

c) you're going to have to explain to me how they got the land in the first place then.

d)Probably good advice. If you're not going to make money on it your less likely to loan it to someone you don't trust. I do remember a parable Jesus told about a rich man who gave money to 3 servants. Two of the servants used the money to make more and gave back to the rich man. 1 was afraid of losing it and buried it. The rich man yelled at the 1 for not at least putting it in the bank to gain interest (Luke 19:11-27)

Keep in mind rules change. The structure of society changes. Some laws change. Concepts of morality and justice do not and you have to take that into account when approaching any of these individual issues and not look at them as Aha! moments.

Also keep in mind that I'm not God and the practised minister can make whatever arguement he wants, cherry-picking whatever verses he needs to make his case. I would no more base all my beliefs on individual Bible versuses then I would trust someone who argued only with the same.

Re:Christ set the example

Some laws change. Concepts of morality and justice do not


Hammurabi's code (an eye for an eye...) expresses a concept of justice as vengeful retribution. Is that still justice today? I'm not asking what the law says about it. Do YOU think that is justice? I might presume that you support the death penalty, which could be considered the most extreme example of this concept of justice. Aside from that case, is vengeful retribution justice?


Slavery has often been considered morally acceptable. Heck, even morally preferable by those who were certain that their chattel was something less than human, and in need of stewardship. This has been the case in this country's history AND in the history described by the Old Testament.


I am not advocating moral relativity. In fact, I might say that moral relativity is one of the things that allowed the perpetrators of enslavement to live with themselves.


I believe that morality is something that DOES change; that grows over time. As humankind grows in its understanding of the world... As science explains more and more... Our human ability to love grows, as does our ability to discern the moral Truth in the things we understand. How connected we are to our fellow humans. And how responsible we are to (and for) them.

Re:Christ set the example

Keep in mind rules change. The structure of society changes. Some laws change. Concepts of morality and justice do not and you have to take that into account when approaching any of these individual issues and not look at them as Aha! moments.

Absolutely, Some laws change. Concepts of morality and justice do not. This circles right back to my assertion that what a reasonable person would consider torture is immoral and contrary to the laws of God. There are individual instances of cruel treatment in the Bible, but the general sweep of the law, prophets and New Testament is that human beings are made in the image of God and must be respected as such. This doesn't mean NOT restraining people who wish to hurt us, but it does mean that we are limited to means that we would be willing to inflict on ourselves. And allowing for inhumane treatment and indefinite detention without charge are not things I think any American wishes for themselves, regardless of the circumstances.

Also keep in mind that I'm not God and the practised minister can make whatever arguement he wants, cherry-picking whatever verses he needs to make his case. I would no more base all my beliefs on individual Bible versuses then I would trust someone who argued only with the same.

What I seem to be hearing here is that using the Bible to justify government conduct -- even when that conduct is indistinguishable from non-Christian states - is good, but claiming to point out where government conduct deviates from our faith is bad.I'm also hearing something to the effect of "God is on America's side 100% of the time (except on abortion) and no amount of scripture will make me question that."If it's really true that "the practised minister can make whatever arguement he wants, cherry-picking whatever verses he needs to make his case," why bother with a Bible at all?

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