President Obama’s decision to name the names of those in the Bush administration who sanctioned the use of torture, including possibly Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and ex-President George W Bush, and authorise the release of hundreds of photos of Guantanamo Bay inmates in various stages of abuse, have generally been greeted with glee by the Obama camp and Obamamites worldwide. Bush was loathed, the war in Iraq generally hated and 2001’s Twin Towers attack is beginning to fade into history so the Democrats' decision to ram home their recent election victory by damning the already wounded and discredited Republian party probably seems like a good idea.
Who cares if the CIA is weakened in the process, or that US and, by extension, the West’s national security is compromised, or that the US government is now so driven by partisan interests that it will endanger its own operatives in pursuit of some Republican scalps? Of course torture is abhorrent, and yes of course the US Government in an ideal world shouldn’t be sanctioning its use. But this is not an ideal world and the US and the West is effectively at war with an ideologically-driven enemy whose long term aim is the total destruction of the West’s way of life, its religions, its beliefs, its democracies and who is prepared to use any means, including nuclear, biological and extreme terrorist acts to achieve them.
No doubt President Obama’s new happy-clappy style of global diplomacy plays well with his supporters, raised at they have been on media driven, West Wing style faux politics in which nicey replaces nasty and a few Kennedy style sound-bites will get Iran, the Taliban, North Korea and the world’s assorted US haters to put flowers in their hair and shout hallelujah. Maybe they will and the world will enter a new golden age of peace and prosperity where torturers and terrorists are just bogey men parents conjure up to frighten naughty children and disputes are settled over tea and biscuits and no one gets hurt anymore. Sounds possible.
Seventy years ago, the world was so fearful of war that appeasement, the condoning and tolerating of national aggression by the likes of Hitler’s Germany, Musslini’s Italy and a resurgent nationalist Japan and a revolutionary Russia, became the new peace corps buzz word; better, in fact, craven servility at any price than war. No doubt Obama’s recent declaration of love for Iran’s loony Presindent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his limp response to North Korea’s resumption of long-range missile tests are pointers to Obama’s new post-Bush, post-torture paradise but, personally, I think that they are seriously naïve miscalculations of very dangerous and cunning enemies.
In a world in which strength and power ultimately rule the Bush administration’s adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan may be viewed more kindly by history than they are now. Equally the US’s use of torture techniques to extract information, whilst unpleasant, may also be seen as the lesser of two evils; the greater evil being a successful terrorist attack on US or European soil. If, in the next four years of the Obama administration, there is a successful terrorist attack on US soil, and I believe that there is a strong chance of this, then Obama’s more conciliatory approach to world diplomacy will be partly to blame, if only for encouraging its enemies into thinking that the US is becoming a soft target again.
I personally doubt if torture has any valid use, but then I’m not a soldier, nor am I at the cutting edge of the fight against Al Quieda, but equally I am well aware that things happen in war and in the quasi-legal world of counter-terrorism which are not nice and which, were I a crusading human rights lawyer, might also breach several statutes. However, if it keeps me and the West safe and if that means looking the other way because someone has spat on the Koran or smacked a possible suicide bomber in the face then so be it. For all Bush’s faults it is important to remember that there has been no terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11, will Obama be able to say that after eight torture-free years in office?
It may be that if, in the future, Obama has to stand amidst the ruins of some much loved part of America, as Bush did after 9/11, and address the nation following a successful terrorist attack, that he and the Democrats may yet rue the day that they brought the world of human rights and political correctness into the shadowy world of counter-terrorism where it has no place and no role.
General Sherman over a hundred years ago pretty well summed it up:
‘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 today than any of you to secure peace”