Honor and the Torturer: PART ONE

Posted: December 12, 2014 in Honor
Tags: , , ,

We’ve all seen responses to the recent (Dec 2014) release of the US Senate’s Report concerning the CIA’s use of torture during the ongoing Global War on Terror. Some claim to be sickened that their republic would stoop to such measures, but to me, the cries seem shallow, hollow, or simply false. We’ve all known for ten years this was happening. It happened under President Bush, and most of the reaction is coming from people who are simply so excited about another chance to talk about Bush that they are about to pee.

Liberal outrage comes and goes like hashtag crusades against #Kony or #HobbyLobby. There was no substance to the voiced outrage then and there is no substance to the voiced outrage now.

But that outrage has given certain conservative elements of our culture an excuse to parade their patriotism and righteous indignation about the liberals’s righteous indignation. And these “conservative” sentiments seem perfectly sincere.

I’m not going to address the report’s conclusion that, in the end, torture yielded no benefit whatsoever. Only the very naive cling to some notion that interrogators are too stupid to know when a subject is lying to save his skin. Torture works. That it works is a poor excuse for using it.

On FaceBook, I saw a photograph of a man falling from one of the twin towers and the caption around this tragic death turned social media meme read that “This is why I don’t give a shit how we gathered information from terrorists.”

My FaceBook friend list is dominated by people I deployed to Iraq or A-stan with. Good men all, and many of them agreed with that sentiment. Those deaths and the many that followed and the possibility of preventing other such murders were all the justification we needed for torture.

On the surface, its hard to argue with. What is more important; my sons’s lives and safety or the way a terrorist is treated?

If the bad guys need killing, why does it matter how we identified them or how we found them?

It matters because we are the good guys and they are the bad guys. I’m not weak. I’m not squeamish. But our entire cause rests on the idea that human beings are obligated to treat each other with a modicum of benevolence.

It doesn’t matter how the terrorists are treated. It matters what we do. It matters how we conduct ourselves. It matters what deeds we commit and what deeds we even tolerate in our presence.

The GWOT began when Al Qaeda murdered thousands of non-combatants. They behaved worse than any rabid beast and in that attack, they demonstrated there was no possibility of peace or co-existence with the culture of Radical/Extremist Islam. They proved it was necessary to annihilate that culture. Those men must be killed and their way of thinking exterminated.

These facts were undeniable. Radical/Extremist Islam must be eradicated.

The only questions that remained concerned logistics.

And how to stare into the abyss, fight monsters, and not become monsters ourselves.

Its easy to suggest that we’re the good guys because we were attacked and its easy to cite the countless heroic deeds done to protect the innocent as we waged this just, necessary cultural genocide. We give candy to children, build schools for girls, wells for villages, and we put our bodies between murderous dogs and their intended innocent victims.

But then we piss on the corpses of their dead. We humiliate the prisoner without any expectation outside the moment’s amusement.

And in the names of justice and efficiency, we tortured.

When we stared into that abyss, it stared back and we crumbled.

The test of whether we are good and honorable men doesn’t come when we are defending what we love and cherish. It doesn’t come when the innocent cry out for aid. Those cries are easy to answer.

The test comes when the evil-doer has fallen into your hands and you now face the same temptation they faced. “I hate, therefore I will hurt.” When we faced that temptation to hurt and we yielded to it, some of that evil crept into us.

That they have done evil, that they have killed innocents, that they have tortured cannot be the guide we use to determine what is moral and honorable in our conduct. It doesn’t work. We cannot follow the thoughts and inclinations and deeds of evil men and hope we somehow come to some place other than that desperate darkness they found. Good men cannot allow evil men to provoke them into committing evil deeds.

It is sometimes necessary to put down a mad dog.

What makes us different from the terrorist is that we do not kick that dog first.

In pursuit of their warped vision of what is Good, the terrorists have yielded their humanity to the Adversary. If we follow and commit the atrocities they embraced, no matter how loudly we voice our reluctance, we too sink into the abyss and serve the Adversary.

To argue that we serve a greater good, that we need to commit torture because the benefits of expediency and information and the possibility of saved lives justifies it, only commits us more completely to the path that the terrorists took as they started down the road to suicide bombs and public beheadings.

I do not ask myself if I would commit torture to save my sons. I am weak. My answer might shine light into parts of my soul I am not ready to examine.

But I ask if I would want my sons to carry the taint of having tortured another human being, no matter how monstrous, and I know what is right.

Good men do not torture nor do they allow torture to be conducted on their behalf.

Honor First.

PART ONE has been my commentary as a warrior and a veteran to revelations concerning activities by the United States during the GWOT.
PART TWO will concern the perception of torture among the Norse and some Native American tribes.

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  1. […] Honor and the Torturer: PART ONE […]

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