The Senate Intelligence Committee, led until January by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D., CA) issued a majority report on a two-year staff investigation of enhanced interrogation techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the War on Terror.
A majority report implies that there’s a policy difference between the Democrats and the Republicans on a committee. That could not be truer than in this case.
Senator Feinstein wants to score some points here. She watched with horror as her national party, led by her president, fumbled away a solid Senate majority last month. In the new Congress, she will become the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee, losing a large, dedicated political staff, a top-notch Capitol building office, and the resources to fund whatever battles she’d like to fight. Typically, those battles involve topics that would keep the senator in front of national television audiences.
This case was personal, though. The intelligence community has been squarely in Diane Feinstein’s crosshairs since she first embarked on this witch hunt, initially designed to bring further public disfavor on the administration of former President George W. Bush. While her committee staff was compiling the evidence that would become this report, rumors circulated that the CIA was spying on the committee staff through the Internet.
Senator Feinstein was bound and determined to exact her revenge.
The executive summary of the 6,000-page report totals more than 500 pages. It reconstructs harrowing details of all manner of stress, pain and humiliation perpetrated on detainees suspected of participation in planning or executing acts of terror against the U.S. homeland, or our interests abroad.
It really doesn’t matter what you consider your core political beliefs. No one is truly comfortable with water-boarding (essentially simulated drowning), anal rehydration (a feeding tube forcibly inserted in the rectum), or joint locks applied over extended periods of time. No one other than a sadistic psychopath, that is.
Were these measures, along with practices designed to wear down the resistance of a prisoner like loud music, sleep deprivation and behavioral modification, an abdication of America’s core values? Sen. John McCain (R., AZ), a Vietnam-era prisoner of war and presidential nominee in 2008, held forth on the Senate floor recently to defend the release of the report and rally outrage against any form of torture on a prisoner of war or armed conflict.
Several times during his speech, Senator McCain referred to American values and the Geneva Conventions. The latter is a set of common principles for dealing with prisoners of war, adopted in Switzerland following World War II. The idea was that nations should hold themselves to humane treatment standards, if for no other reason than to protect their own people if captured and held during wartime.
It’s a little difficult to question Senator McCain on this topic.
His once-broken jaw juts out at an odd angle. His thrice-broken arms, and a broken shoulder blade, don’t allow him to lift his arm above his torso. These life-long infirmities come thanks to the brutality of his North Vietnamese captors. Who better than he to speak to the concerns of future detainees?
Unfortunately, suffering brutality at the hands of a declared enemy during Vietnam is NOT the sole qualifier for passing value judgments on how we handle prisoners in the War on Terror.
First of all, this is not a declared war against a nation-state. There is no country we can point to as the specific enemy. In spite of 12 years of armed conflict spread across Iraq, Afghanistan and other Mideast hot spots, the Taliban, al Qaeda, and now a whole new mélange of radical fundamentalists are inspired to engage American, Israeli and European interests with both bombs and bullets.
When Senator McCain talks about his core values of humanity and decency, he suggests that these are values shared by enough of the world to justify more humane prisoner treatment standards. Wonder where those values were aboard the commercial aircraft that flew into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and a field in western Pennsylvania? Where are those values with lone terrorists who walk into crowded markets, pubs and hotels across the world with explosive devices strapped to their bodies?
Nations at war are fully responsible for the enemy combatants they hold during a time of war. No one can dispute that fact.
When your enemy is a loosely organized band of zealots, sprung from a radical theology that teaches the most effective form of missionary work is to kill those who don’t share that theology, this whole concept of humanity and humane treatment seems in conflict.
Does Senator McCain see a parallel between the CIA pouring water over Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to get him to give up his command and control to stop another mass casualty event and the western journalists and nonprofit aid workers beheaded on video by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIL)?
Senator Feinstein is aided and abetted in her political hatchet job on the CIA and the Bush Administration by the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. As he’s done since he took office, President Barack Obama never misses a chance to bash George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney.
This report, including Mr. Cheney’s shadow role in pursuing these policies, was just too tempting to avoid. It’s almost as if President Obama sees this as an opportunity to cover his own lack of competence by reminding us of the actions of his predecessor.
Doesn’t seem to be working so well based on the recent election.
The biggest curiosity is the fact that President Obama, Senator Feinstein, and the rest of the Democrat establishment seem to have embraced a strategy of relying on remotely piloted drones to hunt-and-kill terrorists. I suppose if you take them out with a drone, you needn’t worry about humiliating them while in prison.
The problem with this strategy is that you never get to develop any intelligence from them, as they’re inconveniently deceased. Senator Feinstein’s report says there’s no firm evidence that the U.S. avoided another terror attack using enhanced interrogation in spite of several CIA directors-past who claim the opposite. It’s solid-lock guaranty that President Obama’s strategy won’t yield any actionable intelligence, though!
One other inconvenient problem with the president and Ms. Feinstein’s drone versus torture plan. In addition to wiping out the terror suspects, these drones are literally murdering hundreds of innocents. People asleep in their beds are killed or maimed when a bomb drops on the hovel next door, home to a suspected ISIL leader. Our visionary leaders reject the idea of pouring water up the nose of the guy they believe is planning future acts of terror, but are perfectly comfortable dropping bombs remotely to kill that guy and anyone unlucky enough to be in the same place he is.
And that, my friends, is a curiously idiotic position.