Playing Into the Enemy’s Hands

September 21, 2006

Why do politicians who know better portray certain CIA interrogation techniques used to extract life-saving information from enemy detainees as torture?

A cottage industry has developed among disgruntled politicians to suggest America is as barbaric as Islamic extremists. I’m not referring to Rosie O’Donnell, who is not a politician and who limited her criticisms to Christian fundamentalists, as if she has an earthly clue of which or whom she speaks.

I’m talking about former President Clinton, Sens. McCain, Graham and Warner, and many Democrats who are feeding into this third-world hate frenzy against the United States. Is it truly their intention to play into the hands of America-despising tyrants like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

On National Public Radio, Clinton said it would be unnecessary and wrong to give broad approval to torture. Well, yes, Mr. Clinton, but since no one in the Bush administration or Congress is considering that, why do you insist on framing the debate in those terms?

Clinton, who is widely reputed to have a large, discriminating mind, knows that President Bush’s effort to obtain congressional clarification of the interrogation practices permitted under language contained in Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions is not giving broad approval to torture.

Indeed, Mr. Bush believes these interrogation practices are already authorized by the Conventions but wants Congress expressly to concur with his opinion. Bush has warned that in the absence of such clarification, the program might have to be terminated because interrogators dedicated to saving American lives are at risk of liability.

Given the semantic games Clinton and other war critics play, who could reasonably argue that clarification isn’t needed, especially given the regrettable Supreme Court decision that the Geneva Conventions apply to our terrorist enemies? But opponents of the measure, like Sens. McCain and Graham, insist that it would be a dangerous precedent to tinker with the language, which supposedly hasn’t been modified in decades.

If we dare to take such action, just imagine what our present or future enemies might do to our prisoners of war! They would be free to reinterpret the language to mistreat our prisoners, who they would otherwise doubtlessly pamper.

Sen. Graham also expressed concern that if the United States conducts secret military trials and doesn’t show the terrorist-defendants all the evidence used against them, our enemies’ tribunals might do likewise in the future, which would cause great outrage in the United States.

It’s hard to take Sen. Graham seriously here if he really believes our enemies — terrorists, North Koreans and other totalitarian states — will even bother with trials for American soldiers they capture. Besides, if they did conduct sham trials, what difference would it make if they didn’t show the soldiers and their fake attorneys the fake evidence they would use to convict them of fake war crimes in fake show-trials before actually beheading them?

Sen. Graham can be so refreshingly sober sometimes, but what in the world is wrong with his thinking on this? Perhaps he’s once again under the spell of John McCain, whose credibility on the war took a dramatic nosedive a few weeks ago when he falsely accused President Bush of having misrepresented the costs and duration of the war in Iraq. Nothing could explain such a gratuitous stab in the back other than McCain’s insatiable quest for mainstream media adulation and the office of the presidency, or, perhaps, revenge.

It is outrageous and damaging to the national interest for these “maverick” Republicans to align with Democrats in equating American interrogation practices designed to save innocent lives to the conduct of terrorists who target innocent lives.

The interrogation practices, which are not torture and which have already yielded life-saving fruit, are — in the words of President Bush — essential to winning the war on terror. In case the interrogation opponents haven’t yet figured it out, we cannot successfully prosecute this war without maximizing our intelligence efforts, including these tough interrogation practices. Why must some politicians insist on tying our hands in this war, all on the false premise that by so doing we’ll fare better in world popularity contests and thereby spawn fewer terrorists? Their recklessness is breathtaking.

Shame on those politicians and their mainstream media echo chambers for playing into the hands of our enemies.