Getting OBL: Embracing Killing and Torture
Soon After Crowds Cheer The Death Of A Superstar Terrorist, Republicans Credit Torture And A Football Player Becomes A Lightning Rod
A protest against waterboarding in Iceland in 2008. Image by Karl Gunnarsson and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
By John Guzzon
Modern Times Magazine .com
May 10, 2011 — Few Americans can deny happiness when they first heard Osama Bin Laden was out of the picture. Captured or killed, the moment was relief to a national nightmare that had lingered in frustration for nearly a decade. A grateful nation smiled in unison on a spring Sunday night.
As the initial euphoria passed, the disparate views of a reflective America began to be heard. This emotional release incited Americans to finally contemplate the true cost of 9/11 and what our nation has done in the name of justice over the past decade.
By Tuesday, the national debate began.
Republicans, eager to stay on course as the “anti-terrorism party,” began to tout that it was “enhanced interrogation” techniques that led to the information which enabled Bin Laden’s hideout to be revealed. The most memorable of these comments did not come only from conservative talking heads like Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, but from the mouths of the best themsleves: Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. The talking points were repeated by Rep. Steve King of Iowa and New York Rep. Peter King. These were the republican talking points in the initial days after VT day (Victory over Terrorism).
As White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in response to questions as to the effectiveness of enhance interrogation techniques like waterboarding, there is simply no single aspect of what happened that can be credited as the “a-ha” moment. Others even claimed that techniques like waterboarding actually made the hunt for Bin Laden harder, not easier.
Former military interrogator Matthew Alexander, who is now a fellow at UCLA’s Burkle Center for International Relations, told Democracy Now! that he never used enhanced techniques simply because it doesn’t work.
“One of the things that people aren’t talking about is the fact that one of the people that was confronted with this information that bin Laden had a courier is Skaykh al-Libi, who was held in a CIA secret prison and was tortured and who gave his CIA interrogators the name of the courier as being Maulawi Jan. And the CIA chased down that information and found out that person didn’t exist, that al-Libi had lied. And nobody is talking about the fact that al-Libi caused us to waste resources and time by chasing a false lead because he was tortured,” Alexander told Demcracy Now! “The other thing that’s being left out of this conversation is the fact that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed certainly knew the real name of the courier, whose nom de guerre or nickname was Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. But Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had to have known his real name or at least how to find him, a location that we might look, but he never gave up that information. And so, what we’re seeing is that waterboarding and enhanced interrogation techniques, just like professional interrogators have been saying for years, always result in either limited information, false information or no information.”
Same on them. Numerous studies have proven that torture produces lies, for the most part. Would you trust anyone that did that to you?
The other side of the coin was also revealed Monday as Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall put his foot in his mouth on Twitter.
“What kind of person celebrates death? It's amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We've only heard one side..." Mendenhall tweeted.
One side? Dude, at a time when America is seeing something from one side alone, it is not good to tell them there is another side. By Wednesday, Mendenhall was the talk of the country.
There surely many people who were happy that Osama Bin Laden would no longer serve as the leader of al Qaeda and terror in the modern world, that would not chant U-S-A because of a man’s death. But he lost most of America when he called on them to see the “other side” and when he doubted that the twin towers was taken down by the planes alone. Why? because “this side” only saw what the “other side” did to them.
“We'll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style," he later tweeted.
Uh, that was what happened.
But perhaps the most crucial evolution that both Mendenhall and people like Alexander brought to the American consciousness was debating where killing and torture belonged on the American moral compass. And oddly, the morality based arguments came from progressives — those that don’t get much credit for the moral high ground.
Jesus of Nazareth preached non-violence, as did Mohammad, but somewhere along the line, those ideals were amended with a variety of “unless” situations. You know, like unless 3,000 people are killed in a terrorist act, or unless an occupying army kills ten of thousands of civilians.
Mendenhall actually addressed this fairly well himself when he issued a full explanation on a blog page: “This controversial statement was something I said in response to the amount of joy I saw in the event of a murder. I don’t believe that this is an issue of politics or American pride; but one of religion, morality, and human ethics. In the bible, Ezekiel 33:11 states, “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!...”. I wasn’t questioning Bin Laden’s evil acts. I believe that he will have to face God for what he has done. I was reflecting on our own hypocrisy. During 9/11 we watched in horror as parts of the world celebrated death on our soil. Earlier this week, parts of the world watched us in horror celebrating a man’s death. Nothing I said was meant to stir up controversy. It was my way to generate conversation.”
Good points, to be sure, but it would have been much more effective without the wacky conspiracy theory. Next time, Rashard, stick with the facts if you want to maintain the moral high ground.
But thanks for being the lightning rod that sparked the morality debate on killing and torture.
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