May 27, 2009
Our Values and Terrorist Incentives
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,
"We uphold our fundamental principles and values not just because we choose to, but because we swear to; not because they feel good, but because they help keep us safe and keep us true to who we are. Because when America strays from our values, it not only undermines the rule of law, it alienates us from our allies, it energizes our adversaries, and it endangers our national security and the lives of our troops. So as Americans, we reject the false choice between our security and our ideals. We can and we must and we will protect both."
What were "our values" before Bush? I assume we could infer such values from the actions of Democrat Presidents. Let's look at some.
- President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ordered the internment of over 110,000 Americans of Japanese descent during World War II, most of whom were US citizens, over half being women and children. These people lost their homes, property and liberty without due process - no trials, no tribunals.
- In 1942, six men who had lived in the US prior to the war were caught on US soil suspected of intending to bomb various US infrastructure sites. They had not done any actual bombing when they were caught. President Roosevelt ordered a special military tribunal consisting of seven generals (not a civilian trial). While none of the Germans was waterboarded, as far as we know, six of them were executed by electric chair.
- President Harry Truman decided to drop two nuclear bombs on Japanese cities - civilian population centers, not military complexes. The civilian death count at Hiroshima alone may have exceeded 200,000 . (The estimated Iraqi civilian death count is about 100,000 to date, none of which were targeted as civilians and almost all of which were due to the actions of other Iraqis or foreign jihadis.)
- In 1961, President John F. Kennedy authorized the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in an attempt to overthrow the Castro regime. The US had not declared war on Cuba, nor had Congress passed any authorization of the use of force.
- In 1962, JFK increased the number US military advisors in Vietnam from 700 to 12,000. At that time there was neither a declaration of war nor a congressional authorization of the use of force.
- JFK's successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson, asked for and received from Congress an authorization for the use of force in Vietnam. (The vote was unanimous in the House, and received only two No votes in the Senate, all under Democrat majorities.) By 1968 there were 540,000 US troops in Vietnam. (At the height of the "surge" in Iraq, there were 177,000 US troops in Iraq.)
- US fatalities peaked in 1968, with the cumulative total being 36,152 through 1968. In that year, America's anchorman, Walter Cronkite claimed, "It seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate." Yes, boys and girls, Vietnam went from 700 US military advisors and 9 US fatalities to 540,000 US troops, 36,152 US fatalities, and a "stalemate", all under Democrat Presidents and Congresses, before Richard Nixon ever took a seat in the Oval Office. (Total US military deaths in Iraq to date number 4,300.)
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.
- The World Trade Center was bombed by Islamists in 1993, killing six and injuring 1,042. The intention was to topple the tower and kill thousands.
- US Special Ops forces in Mogadishu suffered 18 fatalities while fighting Islamist allies of Osama bin Laden in 1993.
- Osama bin Laden declared war against the U.S. in his fatwa of 1996.
- The Khobar Towers used to house our servicemen in Saudi Arabia were bombed by Islamists in 1996, killing 19 US servicemen.
- Our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya were bombed in 1998 by bin Laden supported Islamists, killing at least 223 and injuring thousands.
- The USS Cole was bombed in 2000 by Islamists, killing 17 US sailors.
- In 2001, Islamic terrorists highjacked four commercial airliners and flew them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and crashed one in Pennsylvania, killing almost 3,000 - more than died at Pearl Harbor.
- The insurgency in Iraq began prior to April 2004. From May of 2003 (after the fall of Baghdad) through March of 2004, 466 US troops were killed in Iraq.
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:
- Abuses at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo did not result from directives from Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld or any other high authority. They were investigated, the guilty punished, and reformed procedures installed. The "flushed Koran" story was not even true.
- Waterboarding was conducted on three men not long after 9/11, all of whom had time-critical information that could save thousands of lives. It was not attempted until all other techniques failed. The technique, never outlawed by Congress, was vetted by multiple attorneys, briefed up the chain of command and briefed to legislators, including Nancy Pelosi, before being used.
- The waterboarding procedures were carefully calibrated (so many ounces per pour, so many pours per minute, so much time between pours, so many times a day, etc.), and conducted under the watch of both a physician and a psychologist, in order to prevent crossing the line into "torture."
"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.
"So as Americans, we reject the false choice between our security and our ideals," said President Obama.
The man does have a gift for ignoring history, defying logic, imposing his agenda and blaming Bush with such economy of language.
Randall Hoven can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or via his web site, kulak.worldbreak.com.