May 27, 2009
Our Values and Terrorist IncentivesBy Randall Hoven
It has become fashionable to condemn President Bush not only for violating "our values", but also for spawning anti-US terrorists. These thoughts only make sense if you ignore all US history through 2007.
In his speech to the 2009 graduating class of the US Naval Academy, President Obama used the word "values" nine times. Specifically, he said,
What were "our values" before Bush? I assume we could infer such values from the actions of Democrat Presidents. Let's look at some.
The above litany is all from the 20th century. If we go back to the 19th century, we could list what various Democrats from Andrew Jackson to James Buchanan did for Native Americans and black slaves. Hints are Trail of Tears and Dred Scott, all occurring before a Republican was ever elected President.
I recall this history not to condemn it, or to condemn Democrats of the past, but to condemn those today who twist that history beyond recognition to pursue their own agendas.
The post-WWII period is now known as the time the US enjoyed the most international support and influence. Funny, isn't it, that that occurred just after the US dropped two atomic bombs on cities full of civilians?
And what of this notion that when we stray from our "values", it "energizes our adversaries"? (Note that we do not have "enemies" now, only "adversaries.") Others have been more specific about when we strayed from our values; they mean Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo abuses, and waterboarding.
The Abu Ghraib abuses and photos became public in April of 2004. Newsweek published (and later retracted) its "flushed Koran" story about Gitmo in 2005 . The public became aware that the CIA used waterboarding in 2007.
Let me recount some terrorist activities that happened prior to 2004.
April and November of 2004 were the bloodiest months in Iraq, with 135 and 137 US fatalities, respectively. These dates were well before the Gitmo "flushed Koran" or waterboarding stories became public.
All it takes is a belief in the principle of causality (effect cannot precede cause) to see that Abu Ghraib, Gitmo abuses, and waterboarding were not what instigated anti-US violence by Islamic extremists.
Not to mention, we are talking about a group of people who can find excuses to kill innocents because of a Danish cartoon or movie . Their answer to "why are you killing?" is straight out of the move The Wild One: "whaddya got?" Abu Ghraib will do. So will a cartoon of Mohammed. So will girls attending school.
Upholding Our Values
Despite our history, and despite what it takes to recruit jihadis, did we stray from our values in recent years?
Concerning Abu Ghraib, Gitmo and waterboarding:
"Our values" were indeed upheld. The Constitution was followed. The law was followed. When violations were discovered, there was investigation, trial and sentencing. Accusations to the contrary do not constitute proof, no matter how often repeated.
Try this multiple-choice question:
A global network of highly zealous and violent men have declared war on the US via fatwa and conducted multiple attacks on American interests resulting in dozens of dead Americans, culminating in a highly coordinated attack on New York City and Washington, DC, that killed 3,000. They seek WMD. What should the President do?
(a) Everything possible.
(b) Everything possible within the constraints of the law and the Constitution, perhaps even testing those limits in court.
(c) Little more than his predecessor, treating global terrorism as any other criminal activity and going nowhere near constitutional limits.
(d) Whatever the ACLU requests.
President Bush chose (b). I agree with that choice and think any reasonable person would. It was not a "false" choice.
If you think Bush chose (a), please tell us where he exceeded his constitutional authority. And please, be specific. Credible claims have already been investigated and some have gone to court. In most cases, the courts upheld the President's position. In those few where they did not, procedures were changed to conform to court rulings. If you can identify any innocent people who suffered only due to procedures later ruled unconstitutional, please let me know.
Where I think we did not uphold our values was in providing classified information on exactly how we interrogate those trying to kill us. Every enemy of the US now knows we will never harm him in any way, once detained. He knows every threat is a bluff. He knows every apparent act against him is carefully calibrated to do him no physical or mental harm.
We had never disclosed such information to our enemies in over 200 years in existence as a country. It would have been considered treasonous in any previous time.
In short, Bush upheld our values; Obama did not.
The man does have a gift for ignoring history, defying logic, imposing his agenda and blaming Bush with such economy of language.