Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lessons of History

It would seem to be the simplest test to determine someone’s moral character. When questioning a person, could applying a technique used by the Spanish Inquisition and Nazi Germany’s Gestapo be called torture? Would this technique called water boarding be illegal? Not exactly trick questions, given it is historical fact that the U.S. prosecuted people for doing just that.

It’s a no-brainer for most of us decent, regular type Americans. Unfortunately, it’s a harsh reflection on us when we elect politicians who show such calculated moral relativism and cold indifference to human suffering.

At least that’s what most of the Senate Judiciary Committee members displayed, to their eternal shame, when they approved Michael Mukasey as Attorney General. The man would not call water boarding illegal or torture. He did, however, admit later if it was done to him, it would “feel like torture.” Something tells me he would prosecute the hell out of the person who did it to him as well. Embracing double standards is obviously a requirement to get a job in the Bush administration.

Now we get the political side show, featuring assorted scoundrels scrambling to cover their boss’s and their own behinds by destroying videotapes of this “legal” interrogation method.

But, let’s not fly off the handle and compare the Bush Administration with the Inquisition and the Gestapo. We’ll leave that to the innocent victims of Bush’s “extraordinary rendition” program and their other cruel methods of kidnapping and detention.

One of those unfortunate souls is a Canadian software engineer from Ottawa named Maher Arar. He was on his way home from a vacation in the Middle East in 2002 when he was arrested as he changed planes at JFK Airport in New York.

He was accused of being an al-Qaeda member and was deported by US officials to Syria where he claims he was tortured.

An inquiry later absolved Mr Arar of any suspicion of terrorist activities and urged the Canadian government to compensate him financially.

Justice Dennis O'Connor definitely concluded that Mr Arar was an innocent victim, stating, "I am able to say categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr Arar has committed any offence or that his activities constitute a threat to the security of Canada."

The US courts claim protection of state secrets to deny him compensation.

But, again, let’s not compare the Bush Administration to the Gestapo. Instead, let’s compare them to the German Luftwaffe.

There’s an interesting article in the March, 2008 issue of World War II magazine. It’s written by retired U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Colonel James Corum. He served in Iraq and is now a professor at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.

In his article titled “We Have Ways of Making You Talk” he explains how the Luftwaffe successfully interrogated American fliers who were captured after being shot down over Germany.

I was surprised to learn that the Germans generally followed the rules of the Geneva Convention. They learned that the best way to get information was to apply what they called the “psychological approach,” which was to exploit the human need to talk, to be understood, and be treated with respect.

They took the newly captured airmen to an evaluation center and provided food and medical care. Then they would just sit with them and talk, sometimes for hours at a time and about any subject. The airmen would offer information without even being aware that it was what the Germans were seeking.

The Germans were also smart enough to know that mistreating our airmen could result in reprisals against their own.

So, why can’t our leaders understand that?


Anonymous said...

Our leaders understand it well, Dave. They don't care if it happens to our people. They would consider it a god-send. They would use it for more fear-mongering, and justification for more brutal war.

We have a sick bunch of leaders with schoolyard bully mentalities. Give them their way, or there will be hell to pay.

When the American populace finally awakens, it will be too late. The world will eventually band together and do the job Americans have been too apathetic and complacent to do. This is in it's early stages right now. It is not gonna be pretty.

TomCat said...

Dave, the end of this article leads necessarily to a shocking conclusion. I have been incorrect to compare Bush and the GOP with Nazis. When viewed in this light, I have been unfair to the Nazis.

TomCat said...

One more thing. This is not moral relativism. It's moral absolutism in that it stems from their absolute belief that being "right" justifies any lie, no matter how twisted, and any crime, no matter how perverse.

Dave Dubya said...

Come to think of it, while congress is infected with its moral relativism, you are right, the term for the administration is absolutism. Period. Nothing moral about it.

I used to think they were amoral, but even that falls short. It is purely sociopathic evil. What else can you call people who lie, cheat, steal, and kill like that?