Thursday, April 23, 2009

April 23, 2009

     The United States tortured suspected terrorists during the George W. Bush administration.  This was wrong and shameful.  As an American it makes me ashamed for my country.  The practice has stopped now because President Obama has ordered it stopped.  That's good, of course.
     What we are hearing now is a chorus of demands for an investigation, to go back to those dark days in the torture cells and find out just who did what.  I hope we don't.   We don't need a lot of details;  we don't need a lot of names.  If Sgt. Smith was torturing some suspect, it was because  Lt. Jones told him to. And Jones was carrying out an order from Capt. Miller, who was carrying out an order from Col. Williams, and so on up the chain.  People, I'm sure, mostly did what their superiors told them to do.  If we want to punish someone, we should punish the man at the top of the chain. "The buck stops here," Harry Truman once said of the presidency.  And the blame for torture stops with the man who must have approved it, George W. Bush.
      Did torture work?  Probably not.  Different people say different things, but I've read that one suspect was waterboarded more than a hundred times.  Surely it didn't work with him, or they wouldn't have had to keep trying it.  Today's New York Times has an op ed piece by former FBI man Ali Soufan, who says that Abu Zubaydeh gave him and other questioners  "important actionable intelligence" when questioned by "traditional interrogation methods."   Soufan adds that throughout his intelligence career, these traditional methods worked.
     And torture?  If you're in pain you'll say something, no doubt.  I remember John McCain, who as a POW during the Vietnam war was tortured, saying that when his questioners demanded the names of the other pilots in his squadron, he gave them the names of the Green Bay Packers' offensive line.  Who in Hanoi would have known the difference?
     Anyway, we did it and it's past.  Let's not go back and parcel out blame and accusations.  Let's look ahead and make sure we do better. 

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