Boy, did that resonate with me when I read those words in the New York Times op-ed by Morris Davis, an Air Force colonel and the chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, from 2005 to 2007.
“We don’t do stuff like that.”
Morris Davis was writing about Tom Ahern, an American held hostage by Iran twenty-seven years ago. The last time that Ahern faced the principal interrogator for the last time, the interrogator said:
“…the abuse Mr. Ahern had suffered was inconsistent with his own personal values and with the values of Islam and, as if to wipe the slate clean, he offered Mr. Ahern a chance to abuse him just as he had abused the hostages. Mr. Ahern looked the interrogator in the eyes and said, ‘We don’t do stuff like that.’”
YES. That’s MY country. WE are the good guys! We DONT’T do that. Which is what gives us the moral authority and relative safety when WE travel around the world – people know that we’re the good guys.
Until recently. Yuck.
Davis goes to say that now that we’d have to say,
“‘We don’t do stuff like that very often.’ Or, ‘We generally don’t do stuff like that.’ That is a shame. Virtues requiring caveats are not virtues. Saying a man is honest is a compliment. Saying a man is ‘generally’ honest or honest ‘quite often’ means he lies. The mistreatment of detainees, like honesty, is all or nothing: We either do stuff like that or we do not.”
And then he makes the point that,
“It is in our national interest to restore our reputation for the latter.“
What a relief to see that it’s a military guy who is saying these words! Note – it’s not one of the Blackwater mercenaries, which I believe is one of the big differences between the military and the mercenaries – principles vs pay.
So, morally speaking, the use of torture, in-person or out-sourced, was the wrong way to go.
But even practically speaking, the torture they’ve been practicing in Abu Graib or outsourced to Egypt and other locations, has not been worth it. Even if they got some actionable information, they’ve put so many other people at risk by losing the high ground, it’s been a harmful strategy.
Plus the humiliation strategy is just short-sighted. How long will it take for those people and their families to get over it? How long would it take for you?
So here’s a military guy, former chief prosecutor, saying that any evidence obtained using torture should be inadmissable.
It was disappointing to learn that McCain caved in on the bill which curtailed the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation techniques (uh, would that be torture?). McCain says that he thinks waterboarding should be illegal for all, including the CIA. But he wants to leave open the possibility for the CIA to use other approved techniques that are not enumerated in the Field Service Manual. Why does the CIA use techniques that military personnel can’t? It can’t be a training issue? What is it.
And this brings us back to the election. I heard on conservative talk radio that they think Democrats are fired-up about this election because of the woman/black thing. They are missing the point. Sure, democrats are glad about it.
But what’s got us all fired up is that we sense the possiblility that this shameful period in our history, which happened on our watch, will finally be over. The redemption of America will begin with this election.
This is not to say that we stop being vigilant. There are people in the world who want to harm us and yes, of course, we have to defend ourselves, just as we do against our own home-grown criminals.
But the world doesn’t end, and the constitution isn’t suspended, because of crime.
We don’t do stuff like that.