Saturday, November 28, 2009

No, torture and war are still not okay

This is a quick, sloppy response to something I've seen floating around the internet for years, but which my cousin just posted to Facebook, prompting me to feel as though a response was necessary while I work on another post with lots of good stuff in it. As this was a quickie, I left out links and sources, but if you want them, just ask.

Are we fighting a war on terror or aren't we? Was it or was it not started by Islamic people who brought it to our shores on September 11, 2001 and have continually threatened to do so since?

The very notion of fighting a military "war on terror" and somehow bombing and torturing the world free of terrorism shows, right of the bat, a complete lack of serious thought or knowledge of the issues surrounding the terrorism that we are supposed to be fighting. And, well, it wasn't started then, actually. The events of September 11, 2001 are merely a culmination of a long history of events that preceded it, including a long history of American military intervention as well as injustices perceived from the United States unequivocal support for Israel in its policies toward Palestine and Lebanon among others. It started long before Sept. 11, 2001 and the notion that it did shows a disturbing lack of historical knowledge for anyone who even wants to speak about such things.

Were people from all over the world, not brutally murdered that day, in downtown Manhattan, across the Potomac from the capitol of the USA and in a field in Pennsylvania ?

Yes they were. Is the proper response to murder not to round up and prosecute those who perpetrated it through widespread policing action? Rather than a global law enforcement effort however, the United States, Canada, and all our NATO allies have been bombing the hell out of a defenseless country, and propping up a government that is no better for the Afghan people than the Taliban was. (And, ironically, increasing popular rural support for the Taliban as an occupation resistance movement.)

Did nearly three thousand men, women and children die a horrible, burning or crushing death that day, or didn't they?

Again, yes they did. How many innocent men, women and children have been killed by NATO action in Afghanistan? Are their lives somehow worth less than those of the lives lost on Sept. 11? Estimates are around 7500 so far. Are we even yet? Killing does not justify more killing. It becomes an endless cycle. They attack, we attack, they attack again in retaliation. It will never result in an end to terrorism or violence of any sort.

And I'm supposed to care that a few Taliban were claiming to be tortured by a justice system of the nation they come from and are fighting against in a brutal insurgency?

The Taliban are a regional political force with little to no involvement in 9/11. They just want to control the AfPak region, more or less. That aside, torture has been shown to be problematic on three fronts: There are many who have been tortured who have nothing to do with terrorism. They were detained and shipped off without evidence or charge for years and years. Innocent people. Assuming that the people captured and subsequently tortured by NATO forces are automatically terrorists again shows a considerable lack of knowledge of how things are actually going. If they really were all terrorists

Which brings me to the second point: Doing this simply inspires more hatred and terrorism. A lot of noise was made about "terrorist recidivism after detainees were released, but there was no evidence they were involved in terror in the first place. As such, it is reasonable to assume it was their mistreatment which led them to becoming involved with terrorist activity. In addition to that, this enhances the view that America/the West is unjust and conducting a war on an entire culture, resulting in others to take up the cause of terrorism as well.

Thirdly, from a strictly strategic point of view, information obtained through torture is rarely, if ever, accurate or useful. As such, it serves no legitimate military/strategic purpose, even if the person captured is a known terrorist.

Oh, also, it's a war crime. That might be worth mentioning too. You know, those principles that were agreed upon by basically the entire world at the end of World War 2? Yeah, they still hold sway, and torture is a direct violation. (And really, do we WANT to lower ourselves to their level in stating that "Well they did horrible stuff to us!")

I'll start caring when Osama bin Laden turns himself in and repents for incinerating all those innocent people on 9/11.

Fun fact: The Taliban government actually offered to hand over bin Laden to a third country if the bombing of Afghanistan was halted and evidence of bin Laden’s involvement in the September 11 attacks was given. This offer was rejected by President Bush because, as he stated in response, "There's no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he's guilty."

I'll care about the Koran when the fanatics in the Middle East start caring about the Holy Bible, the mere belief of which is a crime punishable by beheading in Afghanistan.

The idea that the Taliban represents mainstream Islamic belief shows a severe understanding of not only Islam but basic common sense: There are a billion and a half Muslims in the world. Most of them have no desire to decapitate Christians or anyone else for that matter. In fact, the anti-Islam sentiment that blames all of the Muslim religion for all the world's problems is no better than the anti-Semitism that blamed the Jews for all the world's problems.

I'll care when these thugs tell the world they are sorry for hacking off Nick Berg's head while Berg screamed through his gurgling slashed throat.

Another horrible crime that should be handled with an international policing response rather than bombing the hell out of more Afghan villages and then torturing whoever is captured even when there is no actual evidence against them.

I'll care when the cowardly so-called 'insurgents' in Afghanistan come out and fight like men instead of disrespecting their own religion by hiding in mosques and behind women and children.

Afghanistan has a long and rich history of fighting off occupying forces (the Soviets, the British, etc.). This notion that they must be fighting unfairly to have been able to withstand the onslaught of NATO forces is quite ill informed at best. (And almost reeks of an attempt to justify or at least shift blame for the death of innocents that might have been pushed into the way by insurgent forces.

I'll care when the mindless zealots who blow themselves up in search of nirvana care about the innocent children within range of their suicide bombs.

Refer to my response to #4 about the issues relating to torture. In the meantime, it's also important to understand why these bombings take place. They indeed believe that martyrdom is a great honour for them, but we have to figure out what is it about their situation that makes them feel as though martyrdom and indiscriminate killing is necessary. Until we understand WHY we will never be able to successfully combat the problem. Understanding is not justifying, I should add. As a point of example, taking painkillers for a chronic pain you don't know the source of will not solve the problem, and will likely allow the source of the pain to become worse. As simplistic an analogy as that seems, it is more or less the way we should approach all problems. Treat the cause, not just the symptoms.

I'll care when the Canadian media stops pretending that their freedom of speech on stories is more important than the lives of the soldiers on the ground or their families waiting at home to hear about them when something happens.

Isn't freedom of speech one of those freedoms that soldiers are allegedly fighting for? I mean, that's what I have gathered, troops are always, no matter the nature of the conflict, fighting for our freedoms. And the freedom of the press to cover all aspects of a story, even, yes, the war in Afghanistan, is a necessity to a truly free and democratic society. Never mind that this a completely false dichotomy and freedom of speech in Canada has little bearing on the survival of troops. (In fact a proper discussion might result in ensuring their survival by bringing them home.)

In the meantime, when I hear a story about a CANADIAN soldier roughing up an Insurgent terrorist to obtain information, know this:

I don't care.

Well, again, what if the person they are "roughing up" (if you consider things like slicing a detainee's genitals with a scalpel to be "roughing up") is not in fact a terrorist? (As many of them show no evidence of being.) Do you care then? What if the roles were reversed and they took innocents with no evidence, held them for years without charge and tortured them. You would be appalled. And, I reiterate, the information actually gained through torture is rarely useful or accurate.

When I see a wounded terrorist get shot in the head when he is told not to move because he might be booby-trapped, you can take it to the bank:

I don't care.

Again, is there significant evidence to suggest this hypothetical person is a terrorist and might be strapped with explosives? Again, what if the roles were reversed? Would you care then? And ultimately, as I said above, we need to understand that if this person WAS in fact strapped with explosives, that he probably would not be if he was not trying to fight off an occupying force in his country. The mere presence of an occupying force is historically consistent in resulting in insurgent violence using tactics that are quite crude when there is no real military they can avail of to fight the occupier.

When I hear that a prisoner, who was issued a Koran and a prayer mat, and fed 'special' food that is paid for by my tax dollars, is complaining that his holy book is being 'mishandled,' you can absolutely believe in your heart of hearts:

I don't care.

Once again (I feel like a broken record here) the detainees held are more often than not being held without charge or evidence. They are, as far as we know, victims of circumstance and undeserving of any mistreatment. Once again, I have to wonder what the reaction would be if the roles were reversed. (And really, I don't have to use my imagination to know.) On top of that, don't think that having "special" food and religious texts in any way shape or form makes a military prison Club Med.

And oh, by the way, I've noticed that sometimes it's spelled 'Koran' and other times 'Quran.' Well, Jimmy Crack Corn you guessed it,

I don't care!

Both are legitimate spellings. No issue here.