Monday, November 05, 2007

America's Double Message On Torture

Joan Walsh over at Salon has video of George H.W. Bush breaking into tears while recalling the dignified treatment our soldiers gave to Iraqi combatants during Gulf War 1. The title of her post asks "Why is this man crying?".

America has come a long way since the halcyon days of President Bush the 1st, when our commitment to human rights and the dignity of war time captives was never in doubt. These days, the administration of Bush the 2nd is sending a double message to the world. This double message was succinctly delineated by the N.Y. Times: "In effect, officials want Al Qaeda to believe that the United States does torture, while convincing the rest of the world that it does not."

To be sure, there are many right wing torture apologists who would discount that conclusion simply because it can be read in the N.Y. Times. So here is a quote by the head of U.S. Intelligence Mike McConnel that should (but probably will not) persuade these doubters as to the truth of the double message being given by the United States:
"[T]his is a program where we capture someone known to be a terrorist, we need information that they possess, and it has saved countless lives. Because, because they believe these techniques might involve torture and they don’t understand them, they tend to speak to us, talk to us in very—a very candid way."
The fact that the leader of U.S. Intelligence is telling the world that it is good that Al Qaeda members think we will torture them tells us all we really need to know about the issue.

I've already written a post detailing how American efforts to make suspected Al Qaeda detainees believe they will be tortured is itself a form of psychological torture that unacceptably stains American honor. But the tape of Bush Senior breaking down when he recalls the treatment of Iraqi captives in Gulf 1 presents the perfect opportunity to explain another reason it may not be such a swell idea.

Who in their right minds would ever surrender to us if they are convinced that they will be tortured as a result? The reason we had miles long lines of surrendering Iraqi soldiers is because they knew they would be well treated when they fell into our hands. It's hard enough trying to capture Al Qaeda members when they have it ingrained into every fibre of their being that it is glorious to martyr themselves in battle with us. If they are not sufficiently determined to die before being captured because of that twisted martyrdom complex, they will be certain to fight us to the death out of fear of the torture that we hope they believe awaits them if they fall into our hands.

The hundreds of thousands of Iraqi's who willingly gave themselves over to captivity would never have done so if we had actively tried to foster a belief in their ranks that they would be tortured if taken alive. The example provided by Bush 1 stands in stark contrast to the example of his son. I can not help but feel that the father knows what shame his sons endorsement of torture has brought to America, and that may well explain a small part of the anguish displayed by the ex President.

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