Home » Foreign Forces » Opinion: John McCain, The Senate Torture Report and The Revolutionary War

Opinion: John McCain, The Senate Torture Report and The Revolutionary War

Sen. John McCain, (R-Ariz.)

Sen. John McCain, (R-Ariz.)

Those still searching for their moral compass after being confronted by the repulsive facts in the Senate’s report on torture should take a cue from the one man in Washington who actually knows what it is like to be beaten, humiliated, starved, and isolated — Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

When the controversial report was released Tuesday, McCain broke with his own party and spoke passionately on the Senate floor in favor of the release of the report. McCain said that the use of torture, “did much harm and little practical good,” adding that it “stained our national honor.”

When McCain says that such actions undermine America’s core values and beliefs, he is harking back to the very foundation of America. This is something that many politicians routinely do; often it is just lip service, but in this case it is not.

For example, during the U.S. Revolutionary War— with daily reports of heinous acts being committed by the British and their Hessian allies—John Adams wrote that despite being harrowed “beyond description [by the reports] . . . I know of no policy . . . but this—Piety, Humanity, and Honesty,” David Hackett Fischer cited in his book Washington’s Crossing. That came to be known by America’s Founding Fathers as the “Policy of Humanity.”

George Washington and other “American leaders believed that it was not enough to win the war. They also had to win in a way that was consistent with the values of their society and the principles of their cause. . . . American leaders resolved that the War of Independence would be conducted with respect for human rights, even of the enemy,” wrote Fischer.

That policy set a precedent that continued for decades as a key tenet of the American way of war—at least until 2001. American leaders at that time deviated from that legacy. Many of those policy-makers and practitioners of torture are presently offering their rationale and excuses on national news outlets. In this national conversation, every conscientious American needs to decide whether a policy of torture, or one of humanity is the right fit for America.

Those claiming that torture was the right fit for America in 2001–08 are today claiming the threat was perceived to be so high that extraordinary actions were required to combat an unprecedented threat. Apparently, the moral restraint of our Founding Fathers and subsequent generations who fought the Germans and Japanese in total wars did not apply in 2001, as we sought to bring swift justice to the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. At best the report, and the proponents of the use of torture can claim that “some” collaborating evidence was gained from the effort, but no major plots were foiled. Clearly, now 13 years after the policy was put in place, we can see that al Qaeda was not destroyed as a result of the program. Was it worth the moral damage to American values?

As a point of comparison to the abstract fight against non-state actors in the post 9/11 wars, the Revolutionary War was an existential fight that occurred right here on American soil. Thousands of colonists witnessed or experienced British brutality first hand. Their desire for revenge and mounting hatred for the British is easy to understand. So how did our colonial ancestors treat British prisoners that committed those acts of barbarity? With “Piety, Humanity, and Honesty.”

The policy of humanity required a great deal of restraint on the part of American leaders. Besides being morally correct, the policy had a strategic value that intelligent men like Washington and Adams understood: it dampened the British passion for war with America, especially in Parliament. Great American leaders in subsequent wars also understood the value of the humane treatment of captives. As evidence of the policy’s effect, as did many German soldiers detained in the United States during World War I and World War II, many 18th-century British and Hessian prisoners of war opted to stay in America, or found a way back after the war. They came to win our hearts and minds, but the tables were turned by the power American values.

On the British side of the fight, some leaders, such as British Col. Charles Stuart, lamented “Wherever our armies have marched . . . every species of barbarity has been executed. We planted an irrevocable hatred wherever we went, which neither time nor measure will be able to eradicate,” wrote Fischer. American prisoners were subjected to horrific conditions, the worst of which were floating prison barges. The actions of some British units played right into the Revolutionary Americans’ hands. This begs the question: Who benefited most from the torture policy?

The, British in 1776­­–81 were like the Americans after 9/11, they were fighting an insurgency in a battle for hearts and minds. Each British blunder, or act of brutality, only pushed more Americans to support the revolutionary cause; ergo America’s policies in the past decade were used as al Qaeda propaganda to compel young Muslim men and women to take up the al Qaeda cause.

The U.S. strategic goal in the “Global War on Terrorism” was to eliminate al Qaeda and its associated movements. But did the CIA and the private contractors hired to conduct these actions help or hurt America achieve that objective? Beneath the noise of the current political debate, the only strategically relevant question is this: Did it reduce or increase the ranks of our enemies? A bit of “Piety, Humanity, and Honesty” are required to answer this question—qualities that seem to be lacking from many that are offering their excuses on network news today.

As imperfect as some claim the Senate’s torture report is, it undeniably is based on original records and source documents. No one is claiming that the actions reported are false, rather they are only saying that they “were necessary” or “we thought they were necessary based on the perceived threat.” Whether or not the intelligence gained was of any value is immaterial to the question of the morality of these actions.

McCain and others who say this is contrary to American values are in line with the core values of our founderss and American history. I would suggest that the decision to deviate from the core American values is exactly why the torture policy was a strategic disaster. Lest we forget — this is not who we are.

  • boyle

    While I whole-heartedly agree with your’s and Sen McCain’s sentiment, and do believe America SHOULD strive for “Piety, Humanity, and Honest,” basing your arguement on a myopic view of the founding fathers and the greatest generation, and their conflicts is incorrect. Pre-war terror acts against British tax collectors (such a tarring and feathering) and threats to loyalists, led by some of the founding fathers tend to get overlooked. While the Continental Army may have lived by this policy, you can bet some of the less than regular forces played differently. I’ll pass on anchoring on the slave-owning topic, despite it completely shredding the notion of “Piety, Humanity, and Honesty.”

    I don’t have as much knowledge as I should to argue against our treatment of POWs during WWII, I am willing to bet a buck that in a war that large and against ideologically motivated enemies (especially culturally different enemies as in the Pacific) that enhanced interrogation techniques were used.

    Torture is wrong, unless the its the message you mean to send. That message being your (enemy’s) life and rights means little. Americans don’t (typically) like that message. America SHOULD NOT torture because it goes against the principles of individual rights, because we wouldn’t want our POWs tortured, AND because it typically provides no actionable intellegence, not because we believe that our founding fathers would object.

    • The_Universal_Curmudgeon

      “Enhanced interrogation techniques” were, in fact, used during WWII.

      The US government deemed them to be “war crimes” and executed the Japanese soldiers/officers who participated in them (and this included “waterboarding” American POWs).

      On the other hand, the US government granted full immunity to the Japanese soldiers/officers who were conducting biological and chemical warfare experiments on American POWs (on the condition that all the results of those experiments be turned over to the US government [which they were {and they proved to be totally useless}]) – so I guess that it’s sort of optional as to what constitutes a “war crime” depending on whether the government thinks that it can gain anything out of the other guy’s actions.

      • PavlosX

        More concocted “facts” spewed by a liberal, to be posed as truth.
        The term waterboarding didn’t exist until the CIA used it on our enemies. The one way you can get a liberal to shut up is challenge him to cite a source for his “facts”. So, cite your source, for a Japanese being executed for “waterboarding” American POWs.

        • The_Universal_Curmudgeon

          My apologies, they sentence was 15 years imprisonment (ref Yukio Asano).

          I suppose that the same sentence would be appropriate for any and all CIA (or other) personnel who “waterboarded” “detainees” – but I’m not sure how much longer those who ordered it should receive or how rapidly any lawyer who produced the “legal opinion” that it wasn’t “torture” (because they were calling it “Enhanced Interrogation” and “torture” only has seven letters in it while “Enhanced Interrogation” has twenty one letters in it and everyone knows that seven and twenty one are not the same) should be disbarred for life in all areas under the jurisdiction of the US government (plus being made to pay back any money which they received related to producing that “legal opinion”.

          PS – Before the invention of the English language there wasn’t a single known case of “murder” – although there were a whole lot of known cases of actions which looked a lot like “murder” but weren’t “murder” because the word “murder” hadn’t been invented yet.

          PPS – Several Japanese were executed for “beating prisoners to death”. How many Americans were executed for “unwarranted and unauthorized actions resulting in detainees receiving bodily trauma of a fatal nature”? You do see the difference between “beating prisoners to death” and “unwarranted and unauthorized actions resulting in detainees receiving bodily trauma of a fatal nature” don’t you? Well, if you don’t, I’ll explain it. “Beating prisoners to death” results in the people convicted of it being executed while “unwarranted and unauthorized actions resulting in detainees receiving bodily trauma of a fatal nature” does not.

          PPPS – I seriously doubt that you would recognize a “liberal” if you met one. [You do realize that, not only were the Founding Fathers “liberals” but they were “radicals” – and “left-wing radicals” at that.]

          • PavlosX

            Since you are so good at defining, I guess I need to refine today’s liberal, as a liberal hijacked by marxist progressivism. Today’s liberal is nothing like the liberal of 200+ years ago. Then liberals were nation builders. Today they are nation destroyers. Big difference. I can usually recognize a liberal by bicycle racks on cars and obama bumper stickers. They excel at poetry, knitting, and buggery and little else.

            You can further define “war criminals” as those from the losing side only in total war. Do you think there was not brutality during the invasion of Tarawa? What is the difference between burning a man alive with a flamethrower and beating a man to death with a club? Difference is the burning was done in battle and the battering was done to a helpless prisoner.

            I suspect that the intent of the Japanese was to kill the prisoner by battering, whereby any beating done during interrogation was not with the intent to kill, but to frighten and force the prisoner to submit. That is, the death was not intentional. Big difference.

            I would also define a liberal as a husband whose wife was kidnapped and buried with a limited amount of oxygen, and when confronted by the one man who knows where his wife is buried will not gouge out his eyes with a screwdriver to extract the information as to where she is located. But then most liberal women are ugly, so that may not be a good scenario.

          • The_Universal_Curmudgeon

            “I guess I need to refine today’s liberal, as a liberal hijacked by marxist progressivism.”

            OK, so that is what you mean when you use the word “liberal” – now, what does it mean in the real world and excactly how does “Marxist progressivism” differ from regular old progressiveness?

            “You can further define “war criminals” as those from the losing side only in total war.”

            Indeed you can. That doesn’t mean that that is actually what the term means, but you could – especially if “your side” was the winning side and you didn’t want to admit that “your side” had committed war crimes.

            “I suspect that the intent of the Japanese was to kill the prisoner by battering, whereby any beating done during interrogation was not with the intent to kill, but to frighten and force the prisoner to submit.”

            Suspicions, especially incorrect ones don’t really have any evidentiary value. One of the “reasons” why the Japanese beat prisoners to death was because they didn’t acknowledge that they were “fully human” and “entitled to humane treatment” because the prisoners didn’t subscribe to the same belief set as their captors did.

            This, of course is completely different than the attitude shown towards Muslim “detainees” who don’t subscribe to the same belief set as their captors do so it really doesn’t matter if they get beaten to death “sort of accidentally” and because no one really cares if they get beaten to death.

            “I would also define a liberal as a husband whose …”

            Yes I am sure that you would.

          • Cougar90210

            “[You] can usually recognize a liberal by bicycle racks on cars and obama bumper stickers. They excel at poetry, knitting, and buggery and little else.”

            Well, that indicates a comprehensive and unarguable assessment of what a so-called “liberal” is – bicycle racks and all. I’m wondering, however, about your intimate knowledge of the “liberal” penchant for “buggery.” Takes one to know one, they say.

        • tnlib

          Once you and others here bring “liberal” into the discussion with obvious venom dripping from your mouths, you have lost all credibility. We are all Americans here and belonging to one party or another has no bearing on the subject at hand.

      • Adrian

        The current revelations will do harm to all CIA agents whether they were guilty of torture or not. This is called “snipping the nose to spite the face”. American adversaries like the ISIS, North Korea, Russia et al are laughing their guts out.

        • The_Universal_Curmudgeon

          “The current revelations will do harm to all CIA agents whether they were guilty of torture or not.”

          Indeed, now which was worse “doing the deed” or “getting caught doing the deed”?

          “American adversaries like the ISIS, North Korea, Russia et al are laughing their guts out.”

          Very likely. Of course the odds are highly in favour of them laughing their guts out because of the fact that some Americans think that they didn’t know what was going on and are panicking over these “disclosures” – which don’t come as anything even remotely resembling news to anyone who doesn’t stick solely to American information sources.

      • Sandy

        no…first, is “water-boarding torture”? no, it isn’t – it is a physical pressure, and no, Japanese soldiers were not executed for this – it was but one charge, but they committed much more heinous crimes for which they were executed. I think it prudent here to remind everyone that only three terrorists were “water-boarded”….THREE….all the rest were subjected to the same types of interrogation that one finds in a police station. Those three had been TRAINED IN RESISTANCE TECHNIQUES. TWO OF THEM, ZUBAYDA AND KSM, THANKED US for taking them to their limits of duty under Islam, and then they sang like songbirds….what SEN McCain experienced in the Hanoi Hilton and the Plantation was torture – that which physically maims – does SEN McCain want to ask those who had no choice on 9/11 – they were going to die, it was only how – burn to death, jump, or be crushed. A little water up the nose is not torture – so why do we do it to our own people?

        • The_Universal_Curmudgeon

          “.first, is “water-boarding torture”? no, it isn’t – it is a physical pressure,”

          Gee, does that mean that flogging and or branding and or pouring melted lead into bodily orifices are only “physical pressure”?

          “no, Japanese soldiers were not executed for this”

          Please see my response of three days ago.

          “I think it prudent here to remind everyone that only three terrorists were “water-boarded””

          Would you like to bet the rent on that one?

          “… and then they sang like songbirds …”

          And then they later admitted that they were lying simply to get their “interrogators” to stop.

    • Danger_Dan

      Boyle, thank you for you thoughtful comments. I rarely reply direct to my readers, but I think this point deserves a little clarification. By discussing the founding fathers I was only attempting to get to the very foundation of American values. The point to be made here is that our national policy at the highest levels was always one of humane treatment of our enemies, at least until the torture policy post 9-11.
      Throughout the many wars in our nations history there were countless offenses at the “tactical” level by individuals or units, such as the shooting of captured concentration camp guards during WW-2, but these actions were contrary to national policy (FDR was not sanctioning the action). That is the main point of distinction when considering this case.

      • PavlosX

        Washington would hang any Tory or redcoat spy turned over to him, immediately and without any trial. He treated his uniformed and surrendered POWs with respect and kindness, but the enemy out of uniform was despicable and immediately eliminated at the end of a rope. Now tell me how many of the al Qaeda or Taliban were in uniform, adhering in their actions to the rules of war and Geneva Convention? None of them. At least we didn’t hang them, and I would say the enhanced interrogation was nothing more than we subject our own special forces to during training. Typical liberal hogwash, this whole report affair, and this liberal hand wringing over values, long after the fact.

      • Sandy

        ‘scuse me, Dan….not one person at the CIA was interviewed…NOT ONE….this report is neither from the Senate nor is it true…it is a partisan staffer hack job….and I have said below, define “torture”…every knucklehead here seems to think “water-boarding” is “torture”…it isn’t. One can go down the rabbit-hole of what “torture” is for days. I’ve been water-boarded in SERE school….no biggie for me…other things may have made me “comply”..EVERYONE has a breaking point…..As for the intelligence, IT WORKED….17 operatives were wrapped up on a plot in progress on the West Coast as ONE EXAMPLE….do you use water-boarding on everyone? – NO…95 percent of the guys interrogated sang loudly after having a cup of tea and a cigarette, The three…only THREE…idiots that were water-boarded had been TRAINED in resistance techniques, gave us a truckload of actionable intelligence, and THANKED US for taking them to their limits before they gave up the info….

      • The_Universal_Curmudgeon

        Danger_Dan, you say “our national policy at the highest levels was always one of humane
        treatment of our captured enemies, at least until the torture policy
        post 9-11”.

        However I suspect that you have overlooked the way that the US government treated those people whose land it wanted to take away from them (after guaranteeing them that it would not do so) in order to give that land away to “White” people.

        It is an incredible stretch to call the US government’s treatment of the Native Americans “humane”. It’s also a real stretch to call the conditions in the Prisoner of War camps during the American Civil War “humane”.

        If you’ll agree to “our national policy at the highest levels was ALMOST always one of humane
        treatment of our captured enemies PROVIDED THAT THEY WERE WHITE AND THAT DIDN’T COST TOO MUCH, at least until the torture policy
        post 9-11” there would be no disputing it.

  • The_Universal_Curmudgeon

    The defenders of the official American policy are stressing that it did SOME good and resulted in SOME information being produced.

    They are ignoring the fact that it didn’t do MUCH good or result in MUCH information being produced while also producing many more negative results than positive results.

    Of course, there is also the “minor” matter that many of those defending the official American policy would likely be the ones facing the “war crimes” charges if the US government decides to treat the actions of Americans towards non-Americans as it has treated the actions of non-Americans towards Americans in the past.

    I mean, face it, how can anyone expect people to obey ‘questionable” orders if they know that they will not receive the full backing (and retroactive pardons) of their government should anyone find out about what they did?

    • Poetrooper

      One has to wonder how many of you commenting here with so much self assurance that torture never produces actionable and valuable information has ever engaged in ground combat with a totally ruthless and deadly enemy. I rather suspect that if this site had more commenters who had served as combat infantry you might hear some guffaws as to your smug assertions that torture doesn’t work.

      In my war a half century ago, I saw Viet Cong and NVA prisoners very harshly interrogated during combat operations, usually by our South Vietnamese and South Korean allies, but occasionally by American troops as well. When there was an immediate need for tactical intelligence such as enemy troop dispositions in an ongoing battle, where such information could save friendly lives, there was little regard for such niceties as many of you here, including the author, seem to favor.

      When you are in the midst of battle, engaged with an enemy force of unknown size and disposition, a captured fighter may be able to provide you with vital information. Those of you here who so smugly claim otherwise simply have no idea how wrong you are. And I have no doubts that the same holds true for earlier wars in which American forces had an immediate and imperative need for tactical intelligence.

      • FourThree

        When prisoners move from the battlefield to some unknown dark hole, kept from even its own justice system, then what remains is just one question. What are you fighting for?

        • The_Universal_Curmudgeon

          You have to remember that it is necessary to impose brutal totalitarianism in order to preserve freedom and liberty.

  • On Dre

    Remember how we said “Lets not give the terrorist to the federal criminal courts. They will only screw everything up. Lets give them to the CIA and DoD because they know how to handle these situations”
    The fact this rational was spouted by people who believe in small and transparent government just adds to the irony.
    Nice going Bush Admin.

    • PavlosX

      Horse feathers. A typical mishmash of liberal distortion and lies. Spoken out of the side of the mouth like fact, much as a snake will hiss.

  • TrustbutVerify

    The Commander and the rest of you are as guilty of having a romantic notion of warfare as you accuse the “chicken hawks” and “warmongers” of being. We broke with that silliness here in the Civil War and General Sherman was our guidepost to the modern state of warfare (it took Europe until after WWI). It is best captured in his letter to the Mayor and City Councilors of Atlanta:

    Gentleman: I have your letter of the 11th, in the nature of a petition
    to revoke my orders removing all the inhabitants from Atlanta. I have
    read it carefully, and give full credit to your statements of distress
    that will be occasioned, and yet shall not revoke my orders, because
    they were not designed to meet the humanities of the cause, but to
    prepare for the future struggles in which millions of good people
    outside of Atlanta have a deep interest. We must have peace, not
    only at Atlanta, but in all America. To secure this, we must stop the
    war that now desolates our once happy and favored country. To stop war,
    we must defeat the rebel armies which are arrayed against the laws and
    Constitution that all must respect and obey. To defeat those armies, we
    must prepare the way to reach them in their recesses, provided with the
    arms and instruments which enable us to accomplish our purpose. Now, I
    know the vindictive nature of our enemy, that we may have many years of
    military operations from this quarter; and, therefore, deem it wise and
    prudent to prepare in time. The use of Atlanta for warlike purposes in
    inconsistent with its character as a home for families. There will be
    no manufacturers, commerce, or agriculture here, for the maintenance of
    families, and sooner or later want will compel the inhabitants to go.
    Why not go now, when all the arrangements are completed for the
    transfer, instead of waiting till the plunging shot of contending armies
    will renew the scenes of the past month? Of course, I do not apprehend
    any such things at this moment, but you do not suppose this army will
    be here until the war is over. I cannot discuss this subject with you
    fairly, because I cannot impart to you what we propose to do, but I
    assert that our military plans make it necessary for the inhabitants to
    go away, and I can only renew my offer of services to make their exodus
    in any direction as easy and comfortable as possible.

    You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty,
    and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country
    deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I
    had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices
    to-day than any of you to secure peace. But you cannot have peace and a
    division of our country. If the United States submits to a division
    now, it will not stop, but will go on until we reap the fate of Mexico,
    which is eternal war. The United States does and must assert its
    authority, wherever it once had power; for, if it relaxes one bit to
    pressure, it is gone, and I believe that such is the national feeling.
    This feeling assumes various shapes, but always comes back to that of
    Union. Once admit the Union, once more acknowledge the authority of the
    national Government, and, instead of devoting your houses and streets
    and roads to the dread uses of war, I and this army become at once your
    protectors and supporters, shielding you from danger, let it come from
    what quarter it may. I know that a few individuals cannot resist a
    torrent of error and passion, such as swept the South into rebellion,
    but you can point out, so that we may know those who desire a
    government, and those who insist on war and its desolation.

    You might as well appeal against the thunder-storm as against these
    terrible hardships of war. They are inevitable, and the only way the
    people of Atlanta can hope once more to live in peace and quiet at home,
    is to stop the war, which can only be done by admitting that it began
    in error and is perpetuated in pride.

    We don’t want your Negroes, or your horses, or your lands, or any thing
    you have, but we do want and will have a just obedience to the laws of
    the United States. That we will have, and if it involved the
    destruction of your improvements, we cannot help it.

    You have heretofore read public sentiment in your newspapers, that live
    by falsehood and excitement; and the quicker you seek for truth in other
    quarters, the better. I repeat then that, bu the original compact of
    government, the United States had certain rights in Georgia, which have
    never been relinquished and never will be; that the South began the war
    by seizing forts, arsenals, mints, custom-houses, etc., etc., long
    before Mr. Lincoln was installed, and before the South had one jot or
    title of provocation. I myself have seen in Missouri, Kentucky,
    Tennessee, and Mississippi, hundreds and thousands of women and children
    fleeing from your armies and desperadoes, hungry and with bleeding
    feet. In Memphis, Vicksburg, and Mississippi, we fed thousands and
    thousands of the families of rebel soldiers left on our hands, and whom
    we could not see starve. Now that war comes to you, you feel very
    different. You deprecate its horrors, but did not feel them when you
    sent car-loads of soldiers and ammunition, and moulded shells and shot,
    to carry war into Kentucky and Tennessee, to desolate the homes of
    hundreds and thousands of good people who only asked to live in peace at
    their old homes, and under the Government of their inheritance. But
    these comparisons are idle. I want peace, and believe it can only be
    reached through union and war, and I will ever conduct war with a view
    to perfect an early success.

    But, my dear sirs, when peace does come, you may call on me for any
    thing. Then will I share with you the last cracker, and watch with you
    to shield your homes and families against danger from every quarter.

    Now you must go, and take with you the old and feeble, feed and nurse
    them, and build for them, in more quiet places, proper habitations to
    shield them against the weather until the mad passions of men cool down,
    and allow the Union and peace once more to settle over your old homes
    in Atlanta. Yours in haste,

    W.T. Sherman, Major-General commanding

    • cjakobsson

      You could make a persuasive case that the punitive excesses that were perpetrated in General Sherman’s march to the sea were a major factor in creating the conditions that led to the creation of the Ku Klux Klan in the post Civil War South. It was necessary to win the Civil War, but if the means that are used to win the war cause the loss of the peace later on, that is just as bad as losing the war.
      When it comes to the American Civil War, the history books tell us that that war ended with the surrender of confederate military forces in the spring of 1865. However, it was not until the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – 100 years after the surrender of confederate military forces – that the states that had once been part of the old confederacy were fully integrated into the rest of the United States.
      The lesson there is just as valid now as it was then. If you have to fight a war, do what it takes to win it. But if you fight the war in such a way that you lose the peace later on, that will have the same effect as losing the war.

      • TrustbutVerify

        No, the same effect as losing the war is a totally separate country and – more than likely – future wars between the states. That is not at all like reintegrating the South back into the Union. Your argument is basically along the same lines as McCain – if we do it to them, they’ll do it to our guys! Guess what? The Islamic Radicals will torture our guys anyway – in much, much worse ways and just for the enjoyment. Along the same lines, you’re saying if we just have a “nicer” war policy we won’t have all that hatred and terrorism and guerrilla warfare! Guess what? The Islamic Radicals hated us before any of this happened (see “9/11” or any of the previous attacks in the 1990s). They declared war long ago….it has just taken awhile for us to wake up and get around to fighting a war. Now Obama and his cohorts want to go back to sleep, just be nice and everyone will love us…NOT. We had the relative peace and stability that we did after WWII because of the twin lessons of what happened to Japan and Germany. Now a resurgent Russia and China wish to step up since we have forgotten our will and have abdicated our place in the world as a nation. We will reap a whirlwind from what this “President” has wrought. There is a stable peace that only lies on the other side of war.

    • The_Universal_Curmudgeon

      FYI, the latest research has shown that the Southron myth of a completely barbaric and brutal campaign being waged by Gen. Sherman is just that – a myth.

      • MrInvestor

        Please supply citations of the “latest research” you are referencing.

        • The_Universal_Curmudgeon

          Feel free to start with Anne J. Bailey.
          War and Ruin: William T. Sherman and the Savannah Campaign.
          Wilmington: Scholarly Resources, 2003. xv + 152 pp. ISBN 978-0-8420-2851-6

          You are also free to peruse Mark Grimsley’s, The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy toward Southern Civilians, 1861-1865, or Lee Kennett’s, Marching through Georgia: The Story of Soldiers and Civilians during Sherman’s Campaign, or even Mark E. Neely Jr.’s article “Was the Civil War a Total War?” – all of which I am sure you can find without any further help from me.

          • MrInvestor

            Thanks, I will, in fact seek these out. I am always interested in getting different perspectives on history.

          • The_Universal_Curmudgeon

            The history written by the losers is frequently as unreliable as the history written by the winners. Waiting a century or so sometimes improves the view of the “real facts”.

      • TrustbutVerify

        I tend to agree that the South, at the time of his march and after the war, embellished greatly on Gen. Sherman’s deeds to make him seem a monster for propaganda purposes. For our purposes though, we are merely taking him at his word as to the breadth, scope, and reality of war from his first hand experiences.

  • 2IDSGT

    It’s late-2001/early 2002 and you start capturing cocky, self-righteous, unapologetic mohomedian terrorists……. what would you, dear reader, do? (be honest with yourself). These guys don’t give a flying f*** what you can do militarily, they don’t care how many innocents might be killed (the more, the better in their opinion). I’m fully aware that torture is unproductive (aside from being reprehensible), but I’d wanna see a muzzy a$$hole cry; I’d wanna see terror in his eyes for a change. It isn’t about information, it’s about anger, it’s about punishment, it’s about desperation in the face of mindless hate.

    • Lisa Cooke Dobecki

      I guess I expected better of you. It was wrong. It was acts carried out like barbarians that showed no act of valor. No badge of honor. No American values. This is not who we are no matter what our enemy does, we are not like this.period.

  • loupgarous

    This is revisionist history at its worst. It ignores what Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys and the Sons of Liberty did with British captives to paint a shining and unrealistic picture of both parties’ conduct during the Revolutionary War.

  • MrInvestor

    It is easy for armchair moralists to judge after the fact the necessity of acts of war. We are not the aggressors here. Please feel free to moralize about flame throwers, drone strikes, SEAL and CIA operations, fire bombing Dresden, dropping nucs on civilian cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, keeping a nuclear deterrent that we will actually use…the list goes on…all you wish. That debate will not slow down the bad guys. In the real world the practical realities of stopping evil are implemented for the purpose of protecting the innocent from unbridled violence, sometimes a less than pleasant, or morally simple, business. You should be thankful there are those that will stand up and be counted when these extremely difficult judgements must be made. Some of those judgements will be wrong. The vast majority of people on the front lines do their best to get them right. Again I say, we are not the aggressors here. I am against torture. I am for getting time sensitive Intel so objectives can be achieved with least loss of life on both sides. Reconciliation of those two beliefs is sometimes exceptionally difficult. That is the reality of it.

    • Jay

      So torture was necessary? And you’re not the aggressor, so it’s OK? Wow. There’s so much stupid and disgusting in your post, I don’t know where to start. if you knew ANYTHING about obtaining quality, timely intelligence from interrogations, you’d know that torture, (indeed, use of any harsh measures) does not work. However, it may produce false declarations on which to base unnecessary wars — like the invasion and destruction of Iraq. None of the folks who authored and authorised the policy of torture served on the “front lines”, that is laughable. I’m not “thankful” for people who pervert decent human values. We’re not the “aggressors”? A hundred years of America’s actions in the world tell a different story. And if the objective is to “slow down the bad guys”, torture certainly has not and will not do it. On the contrary, read the article again and the news. Torture and invasion based on false premises has created the ultimate self-licking ice cream cone for the military-intelligence budget. America “stops evil”? America did this. Own it. And to think, DoD “activities” and drone strikes aren’t even covered.

      • MrInvestor

        You are entitled to your opinion Jay. My military and post-military experience has led me to the opinion I expressed. To correct one of your many mis-impressions, there are a lot of people “on the front line” you cannot see, and they are taking risks to protect you. I said these judgements are very hard. I also said armchair moralists have it easy, no responsibility with strong opinions. You proved my point.

    • The_Universal_Curmudgeon

      Quite right, the US government’s response to the invasion of the United States of America by the combined armed forces of Afghanistan and Iraq is both measured and completely within the ambit of the laws of war. Not only that, but it is well established under international law that engaging in preventive war is completely legal. The United States of America has total freedom to protect itself by sending its military into any country which might, at some point in the future possibly develop the theoretical capacity to threaten the USA.

      [Pick out the nine legal and logical flaws in the above.]

      • MrInvestor

        It appears fortunate that we were not dependent on you to come up with an effective response to the attack on the U.S. on 9/11, as well as subsequent attempts that have been thwarted. Sarcastic banter is misplaced in a discussion of this gravity.

        • The_Universal_Curmudgeon

          Well, since the US government did NOT come up with an effective response to the WTC/Pentagon mass murders – maybe some other source of military planning might have helped.

          So far NONE of the subsequent attempts have been thwarted through the use of “Enhanced Interrogation Measures”, They have been thwarted through good, old fashioned, counterintelligence techniques (aided a bit by the fact that the US government has decided that no American is actually entitled to any privacy).

          You are aware of the reciprocal arrangements between Canada and the United States of America for sharing intelligence – aren’t you? You do know that the Canadians are prohibited by Canadian law from spying on Canadians but there is no Canadian law that prohibits them from spying on Americans and you also know that the Americans are prohibited by America law from spying on Americans but there is no American law which prohibits them from spying on Canadians – aren’t you?

  • Weader

    If we talk the moral high ground without walking it we are worse than hyprocrits.

  • Ctrot

    To the moderator: Twice I have tried to post quotes from 3 of McCains contemporaries who have voice support for enhanced interrogation. Twice my posts have been ignored or deleted. What gives?

  • Danny Lewis

    My father was a career Marine from the time he enlisted in 1938 to his retirement 27 years later in 1965. From the time I old enough to understand certain things my Mother told my younger brother and I to never ask my Father anything about WW2. Once we were watching a war movie on TV and my Father became disgusted with the way the fight was being portrayed he opened up and stated, “that’s not how we had to fight, we had to bring ourselves to return the fight in the same manner as it was brought to us”. Savage hand to hand combat was the norm considering where he was in the Pacific Theatre. Not until the final years of his life did he open up to my Mother about what he had gone through since she had never asked him. He told her where he had fought, Bloody Ridge on Guadacanal, Bouganville, Saipan and Okinawa. He retained vivid memories of the war, but never revealed them until before he passed away. So to answer Senator McCain, this I can only say, despite the morals of the great nation, when war is pressed against us, you, we and I must fight an enemy in the best and quickest way in order to defeat such enemy as to preserve the nation and it’s people. At times one must remove the kids gloves and fight with any means available for this enemy knows no boundaries and is as sadistic as any enemy we have ever faced. This is a war of survival, not a war of morality. For anyone to say otherwise, let me know what you will say when this enemy is beating down your front door to kill you because you didn’t want to hurt their feelings.

  • Mike Holman

    The President Should Order Waterboarding in Extreme Circumstances

    ISIS and other Radical Islamic groups want to destroy America. These groups are true believers, who face Mecca and pray five times a day, 365 days a year. They are hard, tough, dedicated men. Death to America, the Great Satan, is their war cry. If they have the opportunity, they will attack major American cities with weapons of mass destruction. If they do not already have that capability, they will that capability some day in the not to distant future.

    Assume we have reliable intelligence that ISIS has a nuclear weapon and is planning an attack on a major American city. If ISIS is successful, over a million Americans could be killed and the American way of life as we know it would cease to exist. If a nuclear weapon were detonated in New York City, a million Americans could be killed, more injured, and the city we depend upon as the center of our economy would be devastated. With New York devastated, the American economy and our way of life as we know it would cease to exist.

    What would you do if you were President of the United States, you had reliable intelligence that ISIS is planning such an attack, and we captured two members of ISIS on American soil. The CIA tells you these men have information about the attack. Would you have these men read their Miranda rights, given cups of coffee, and then asked about their mission? Or would you order them waterboarded under medical supervision and interrogated by a skilled CIA interrogator?

    Maybe you believe that waterboarding does not produce good intelligence. According to Senator McCain, under physical distress you will talk. You will say anything to avoid the physical distress, but what you say will not be accurate. It will be a lie, i.e. misinformation.

    For the person interrogating a terrorist, the critical issue is whether she can distinguish between misinformation and reliable information.

    With high value targets, a skilled interrogator has a large quantity of reliable information. To prepare for the interrogation of a high value target, the interrogation team will gather information about the target and the plot from multiple sources, including but not limited to other interrogations, telephone conversations, captured documents, etc. The team will build a complex information matrix, but there will be information holes that still need to be filled.

    The interrogator, therefore, will start with a lot of reliable information. The terrorist will not know what the interrogator knows. If the terrorist gives misinformation and the interrogator knows the answer is false, the response will be quick – waterboarding or the threat of waterboarding. Since the terrorist cannot predict what the interrogator knows, the terrorist will give up critical bits of information to avoid further waterboarding. The new information will be added to the information matrix and used in other interrogations. The system is not perfect but it works.

    For a fictional account of how this type of interrogation works, read “I am Pilgrim,” perhaps the best thriller of the year.

    Will “humane” interrogation, i.e., a police type interrogation, work with hardened terrorists? The Senate Democratic “Torture” Report concludes that the enhanced interrogation methods were ineffective and what little information that they did produce could have been gathered through humane, legal methods.

    Hardened terrorists are not cupcakes. They are not like the Harvard law students who are too stressed out to take their final exams because of the recent demonstrations. These terrorists are hard, tough men, many of whom have been trained to resist interrogation. Think about interrogating a Navy Seal. How do you think the Navy Seal would respond to a Police or FBI type of interrogation. How about Senator McCain? Do you think he would have said anything to his North Vietnamese interrogators if they had read him his Miranda rights, given him a cup of coffee, and asked him about his mission? He would have told them his name, rank, and serial number, nothing more. So would you.

    In the real world, terrorists are not latte drinking prima donnas. They are men, who are prepared to die for their cause. If you are going to get them to talk, you need to use tough, hard interrogation measures, just as we did in a few limited circumstances under medical supervision when we thought another 9/11 type of attack was imminent.

    We need a President who will order waterboarding under medical supervision in extreme circumstances to protect America. That is the President’s duty under the Constitution.

    • James B.

      If the stakes were as high as you hypothesize, and the time that tight, a terrorist would tell you anything to make torture stop, but he would give you nothing to verify what he said under torture. When someone has a goal to fight for, that they are willing to die for, abusing them won’t help. Charm won’t either, but trickery might.

      Your premise on torture assumes that self-preservation is a universal motive, which is simplistic at best.

    • Jay

      “Assume”? You know the conventional wisdom there, dude. Amerika has turned into a nation of pants shitters. That’s what happens when dickies Draft Dodgers are in charge. You should continue to hide under the bed and watch Fox.

      • Secundius

        @ Jay.

        What am I going to learn from FOX, they don’t even “fact check” their own new’s.

  • Michael

    I think the writer might do well to look at the American and Japanese record regarding violations of the Laws of Armed Conflict during World War II. Then, as someone else noted below, look at the record of human rights violations during the American Civil War.

  • Jay

    Great article, thank you. 8th Amendment to the Constitution. All the Tea Partiers and Fox News hounds never get that far in their reading.

  • Sam Riddle

    No where in this article does it prove that the CIA endorsed torture as an interrogation technique.

    CIA went to the department of justice and got PRE APPROVAL to the techniques they intended to use. Additionally, DOJ has chosen NOT to prosecute anyone involved (and believe me, they would if they could, for political benefit since they don’t waste any time disclosing classified information when it’s politically beneficial to their agenda).

    Also, the American Continental Army never invaded Great Britain & murdered 3000 of their British Citizens. No where in this article does it identify that the CIA misled Congress, on the contrary, they were all briefed and they asked why they WERE NOT DOING MORE, to get intelligence on Al Qaida, in fact there was no backlash until it was clear that America was not facing the immediate danger of a dirty nuke or contaminated drinking water or more anthrax attacks.

    It’s real easy to decide what your argument is going to be, write a $4 million report on it proving your argument while at the same time refusing to question the actual people involved to put the 6 million documents into context. Nor did the republican party endorse this so called report claiming there was torture, ONLY JOHN McCAIN! It is a sad state of affairs when Americans believe one sided reports rather than hearing BOTH SIDES of the ARGUMENT in the light of day!

    If you were being tried in the court of public opinion wouldn’t you want even a minimum of opportunity to defend yourself from UNPROVEN ACCUSATIONS?

    Spending $40 million dollars on a partisan one sided report endorsed by JOHN MCCAIN doesn’t make it so!

    Sorry but I choose to be part of the %51 of Americans that happen to agree with the CIA AND the Bush Administration!

    • The_Universal_Curmudgeon

      Sam, you say:

      [1] “No where in this article does it prove that the CIA endorsed torture as an interrogation technique.” – Indeed, on the other hand “approved”, “condoned”, “allowed”, and “used” appear frequently.

      [2] “CIA went to the department of justice and got PRE APPROVAL to the techniques they intended to use.” – True, what they got was a “legal opinion” and for enough money you can get a “legal opinion” that says whatever you want it to say (ask the people who are suing the company that manufactured the gun which a recent multiple murderer had in his car but didn’t use to commit the murders for being an “accessory” to the murders).

      [3] “Additionally, DOJ has chosen NOT to prosecute anyone involved (and believe me, they would if they could” – This is not quite correct. The DOJ knows that there is absolutely zero chance of gaining any convictions since all of the evidence is secret and cannot be revealed in court for “national security reasons”. The DOJ doesn’t launch prosecutions where there is ZERO chance of success and where the case will be tossed out of court within days of any indictments being laid.

      [4] “Also, the American Continental Army never invaded Great Britain & murdered 3000 of their British Citizens.” – True. Of course you have to wonder who those people wearing American uniforms in 1775 that invaded the Province of Canada and killed 0.22% of the total Canadian population (the WTC/Pentagon mass murders killed 0.0007% of the American population) were.

      [5] “It’s real easy to decide what your argument is going to be, write a $4
      million report on it proving your argument while at the same time
      refusing to question the actual people involved to put the 6 million
      documents into context.” – True (except for the “refusing to question the actual people involved bit” [the CIA REFUSED to allow any of its people to testify and PROHIBITED them from doing so voluntarily]). After all, we all know all about those “vast stockpiles of WMD” – don’t we?

      [6] “f you were being tried in the court of public opinion wouldn’t you want
      even a minimum of opportunity to defend yourself from UNPROVEN
      ACCUSATIONS?” – I’m sorry but that simply isn’t the way it works. In “the court of public opinion” the sequence is (a) unfounded accusation, (b) verdict, (c) sentence, (d) trial, and (e) retraction – or haven’;t you been watching FOX News lately?

      [7] “Sorry but I choose to be part of the %51 of Americans that happen to agree with the CIA AND the Bush Administration!” – And are you also a part of the 22% of Americans who think that Saddam Hussein was the mastermind behind 9/11?

      Please feel free to “believe” anything you want to believe – just don’t ask anyone who has any actual knowledge of the facts to take that belief seriously.

      • Sam Riddle

        Nice try but I stand by my argument, there is NO justification for disclosing classified military information solely for political benefit that jeopardizes military personnel forward deployed as well as CIA assets in the field just to make the previous White House Administration look bad. We could argue about this till eternity, either you agree with this disappointing excuse of a so called report or you don’t, and I certainly do not agree with it!

  • Ctrot

    I would really like an explanation for the comment censorship that is taking place in the comments section of this particular article. That is if this comment isn’t also censored.

  • Dwight Hughes

    The points of Cmdr. Dolan’s article are important but the comparison is not as pat as stated. Americans and British shared a moral framework; indeed, Americans were British. It is to be expected that pious, humane, and honest actions on one side—or their opposites—would generate similar sentiments on the other. Not true with the current enemy, as it was not true with opponents of the last century. It is naive to the point of stupidity to expect that right actions on our part will influence positive reactions on theirs, particularly in their propaganda and recruiting methods. That is not a reason for not doing the right thing, but no reciprocation should be expected. Piety, humanity, and honesty are entirely different constructs on the two sides, and therefore will produce different, often opposite, results. Whether U.S. actions with respect to captured personnel reduced or increased enemy ranks is not the only strategically relevant question, or even a very important one. The real question is: how do we achieve extremely ambiguous proportionality between moral sense and the requirement to defend ourselves from a brutal enemy that does not share that morality. Western civilization and concepts of governance were not endangered by the American Revolution, however it might have turned out. They are now.

  • Dennis

    Every generation in every country of the world has engaged in torture of some kind or another. It works or it would have gone away generations ago. Being meek does not work. It is practiced only by weak, or perceived weak, countries and they are quickly absorbed or destroyed. Cowardly, thugs, who do not read their own scriptures, behead Westerners, just because they are Westerners. If you believe these insects should have human rights and should be able to live among us, then I pity you. You will remain on your knees all of your sorry life.