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Torture Question Should Be Bigger

by John on 01/13/2013


Here’s my take on torture in the wake of my review of the film Zero Dark Thirty.

I’m going to sound like Donald Rumsfeld here.  I am against it — except when I am for it.

Idealistically, we should be against it, but in reality, we can’t go to a gunfight with a squirt gun.

In the post 9/11 world, we are fighting an enemy that doesn’t value life.  In other words, they have no problem dying for their cause as a martyr whether it’s in a gunfight with US troops or with a bomb strapped to their bodies in a crowd of innocent people.  We’ve seen them executing people online.  To let these terrorists know that there are drastic consequences when Americans might be at risk is leaving the squirt gun at home.

Sure, there have been atrocities and collateral damage with our response to the post 9/11 world.  And we need to examine them thoroughly.  I applaud activists and the ACLU when they question the Administration and the policy of torture.  We don’t need torture going unchecked.

War is not pretty.  And whether we have troops fighting in a foreign country, we seem to always be at war.

I have a go-to movie scene that has stayed with me for more than 30 years ago.  It’s from the movie, “Missing” with Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek, released in 1982.

Lemmon plays Ed Horman, a US businessman, whose son is a writer/journalist who is kidnapped and killed in the 1973 military coup in Chile.  Spacek plays Lemmon’s daughter-in-law.  Together, they find out what really happened – along with the US involvement in the coup.

In the epic scene, Horman confronts the US Ambassador to Chile.  The Ambassador, in a sober soliloquy of realpolitik, says what the US does in other countries is all designed to make sure the lights go on every night in America for American families who want to maintain the American way of life.

It hit me then.  It still hits me now.  And really not much has changed in the American way of thinking.

Right now, we Americans prefer torture – or the drone war — to sending over more American troops.  Granted, these methods of war are also creating new terrorists over there.  But we, as a country, believe correctly that what we have done to the men and women who are fighting these wars is also a form of torture.  We will be paying for the physical and psychological damage to these Americans for decades to come.  We want to take care of our own.  Who can blame us?  I don’t.

Is this self-centered Americanism?  Yes and it is not pretty.  But I see it with a balanced view – not just from the left or the right.  I believe the majority of the rest of the world wants this American way – along with the not so pretty side.  Look at the billions of new capitalists now emulating the US way of life in places like China, India, and other developing countries.  We’re even seeing countries like Egypt and Libya embracing something akin to what we believe – while rejecting the backwards, some would say a medieval belief against modernity.

But, and here’s a big but, we need to examine a much bigger question – why do we get involved in these wars or why do we create these enemies.

Unfortunately, the reason we’re in this 9/11 war is because of oil and the need to feed the military industrial complex.

Read The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris by Peter Beinert.  This is my take from his book: we go to war to enhance the petroleum and military industries.

Read Bob Baer’s book, “See No Evil.”  Baer, a former CIA operative, explains how the Clinton administration stopped surveillance operations on China and Russia because major oil companies were working deals in those parts of the world.

I hope as America becomes an energy exporter, things will change.  And I think things are changing.  I think we are moving away from torture, but we are moving away slowly and not cold turkey while we try to escape the 20th Century economy.

Your turn.

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