Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Giving Up the High Ground in the War on Terror

The recent Senate committee investigation of the use of torture on prisoners in the "war on terror" has confirmed what seemed obviously to be the case several years ago:  the USA has been using terrorist methods on their prisoners.  The Senate investigation concluded that little or nothing was gained in terms of useful information by resorting to torture, so the only substantial outcome of the process has been the validation of terrorist claims that the USA is an immoral international bully.

I've repeatedly said that violence only leads to more violence, and that terrorism is a tactic resorted to primarily by militarily weak opponents, who can't possibly win a "set piece" military confrontation.  The terrorists can't hope to win a purely military victory, so they're smart enough not even to try to do so, but if they can instill fear in us and use that fear to cause us to adopt fascist tactics to fight terrorism (e.g., giving up personal freedom in the name of security), then they'll have succeeded in their limited aims.  By giving up the moral high ground in this battle between some fanatic religious sects and a world superpower, we hand them a cheap victory.  We confirm their "great satan" claims about us, and expend our resources in a vain effort to kill enough of the terrorists to get them to stop their actions.  Can we not see that religious fanatics will never give up?  Can we not see that for each one we kill, making them into martyrs, we only create more terrorists?  Can we not see that "collateral damage" to noncombatant citizens from our war on terror makes new terrorists every day?  Can we not see that the primary beneficiaries of our massive military expenditures are the big defense corporations?  Are we not smart enough to see that a purely military victory is impossible?

I know there are many Americans out there who advocate giving the terrorists a taste of their own methods.  There are many Americans who say that terrorists have no rights and deserve whatever pain we can inflict on them, by whatever means.  Clearly, many Americans prefer vengeance over morality, despite their "christian" upbringing.  Treating our enemies in the way they treat us removes any substantive difference between us and them!  Do many Americans fail to see this?  Evidently so.

This nation was founded on the basis of high moral principles:  freedom and justice for all, in particular.  Due process.  Probable cause.  Innocent until proven guilty.  Everyone entitled to legal representation.  Habeas corpus.   Speedy trials by jury.  Humane treatment while in prison.  Cruel and unusual punishment forbidden.  If the GWB administration was so certain about the correctness of their actions in employing torture on prisoners, then why did they feel compelled to lie about it?  When someone says one thing and does the opposite, that's generally called hypocrisy.  And, as often observed by my friend R.J. Evans, the hypocrisy always reveals the lie.  Americans like to point to themselves as the standard bearers for freedom and justice in the world, but the facts lately seem to contradict that claimed status.  Many people in the world have reason to see us a bullies, using our military might to serve mostly selfish ends (like "protecting" oil for the big energy corporations to enrich themselves and use the wealth to influence the political process), paying lip service to our ideals.

It's hard to live up to those lofty ideals, it seems.  Many Americans apparently are all too ready to discard those ideals in order to wreak vengeance on our terrorist enemies.  They simply can't see that such actions ultimately reveal that we don't have enough faith in our own ideals to defend our moral high ground simply by resisting the temptation to resort to tactics like torture.  We should show the world by our example that it's not us but the terrorists who are immoral, violently evil fanatics, willing to do anything to advance their political/religious cause.  We should re-confirm our claims that our nation is the embodiment of high ideals for the world to emulate rather than descending into the same slime pit the terrorists occupy.  We should defend personal freedoms and personal justice for all (even accused terrorists) even more vigorously, rather than giving them up in the forlorn hope of defeating terrorism by rooting terrorists out and killing them.

I have no love for terrorists.  I don't mourn the deaths of their leaders (but neither do I celebrate their deaths).  They are evil fanatics!  But I maintain we can't "win" a military victory over terrorism.  The "security" we've gained by sacrificing our rights as human beings in this war on terror is an illusion.  Terrorists will always be able to find holes in that security - no security plan is impenetrable.  Not only is that security ultimately ineffective against terrorism, but it's expensive!  We're bankrupting ourselves with our tactics, including fighting unwinnable wars on foreign soil and maintaining the very same military-industrial complex about which outgoing President Eisenhower warned us.  Can most Americans not see this?  Evidently not.  That just plays into the terrorists' hand.

What we can do to limit the effectiveness of terror is stay true to our principles and show that they're wrong about us and our ideals, thereby marginalizing them and limiting their power of fear over us by restoring our lost freedoms and once again supporting justice for all

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