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January 04, 2015

A (Qualified) Argument Against Torture (CBD)

No less an authority than George Washington spoke unequivocally against torture.

"Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any [prisoner]. . . I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportional to its guilt at such a time and in such a cause...for by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country."

-- George Washington, charge to the Northern Expeditionary Force, Sept. 14, 1775

Yet he also supported total warfare against the enemies of his new country, unrestricted by our current insane rules of engagement.


Is it possible to adhere to Washington's restrictions on any abusive or coercive treatment of the enemy and abide by rules of engagement that signal clearly to our enemies that they have a free hand, but that we are bound by contradictory and overly restrictive rules that very obviously constrain our ability to kill the enemy and degrade his infrastructure?

I suggest that the answer is: No.

If unrestricted American military might were directed at the terrorists and the countries that support them, we would have much less need for the intelligence that is gathered via "coercive interrogation techniques," or torture or whatever one wishes to call it.

Imagine a world in which Iranian ships are destroyed as soon as they are identified as carrying weapons, where American marines do what they do best....kill people and break things, where all encounters with the enemy are met with immediate and overwhelming firepower.

Yes, there would still be instances in which torture might be necessary. And perhaps a legal structure could be created to satisfy the infrequent demands for immediate information.

By limiting the ability of our armed forces to conduct war against our enemies, we have emboldened them, we have made criminals out of our soldiers, we have had to create shadow armies that act outside of the strictures placed on our military, and we have coarsened the honorable traditions of the greatest military in history.

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posted by Open Blogger at 03:06 PM

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