After years of providing a national platform to moral and intellectual diminutives like Jonah Goldberg, the Tribune editorial board attempts to prove that it can provide its own servings of intellectual and moral malfeasance. With an editorial (Chilling the CIA, August 26) that is both cowardly and dishonest, the Tribune ably demonstrates that ‘yes, it can.’
Right out of the box, the Tribune assumes that after 9/11 all of us were so stricken with mortal fear that we would accept any behavior from our government.
…they expected their government to do everything in its power to prevent another attack, which everyone thought was imminent. …American interrogators had an urgent mission: Extract information from terrorism suspects about future attacks as quickly and effectively as possible.
The 9/11 attacks I recall were a low-tech affair that could have been easily prevented, and subsequently were so, with a straightforward combination of executive leadership (criminally negligent in the months leading up to 9/11) over the nation’s law enforcement and intelligence communities and simple in-flight measures such as providing sky marshals, preventing congregation near the cockpit, and securing cockpit doors. Not to mention that a flying public aware of the possibility of fatal hijacking wasn’t going to sit passively and allow it to happen again. There was no need to unleash thousands of Jack Bauers on the world. There was no need to construct an illegal gulag in Cuba or Afghanistan or anywhere else. There was no need for indefinitely detaining an unknown number of innocent people without trial, torturing most of them and killing quite a few of them.
Was there a real danger to the U.S. following the initial attacks? Yes. Did it require throwing out centuries-old principles of law (i.e. habeas corpus) and the very moral and legal basis of our system of self-government (the U.S. Constitution)? Did it require abandoning our adherence to treaties and accords– such as those that came out of the Nuremberg trials– that we were instrumental in writing? The Tribune editorial board seems to think so.
To be fair, I wonder if the Tribune is really being as dishonest as its seems; it could be that the mortal fear of another attack has triggered an acute case of situational historical ignorance.
Some investigators used techniques such as waterboarding — simulated drowning — that were later judged to be torture.
The U.S. government knew that waterboarding is torture, and that it is therefore illegal. It was deemed worthy of hanging when the Japanese were prosecuted for it after WWII. Any government lawyer who wrote a memo justifying it, any government official who gave orders allowing it, and any field agent who carried it out is culpable and should be held to account.
Among its laundry-list of distortions and convenient omissions, the Tribune fails to mention that the vast majority of people swept up in the Bush administration’s broad ‘anti-terror’ net were innocent. Never mind that in our system of justice, everyone is supposed to be regarded innocent until proven guilty. We are all supposed to set that aside. We are expected to take on faith, even in the face of evidence to the contrary, that the CIA’s behavior is the price of national security. Worse yet, we are supposed to accept this behavior in perpetuity, from an administration led by Obama or anyone else, as long as we can imagine that it keeps us safe. We are all supposed to be self-serving cowards who value nothing more than saving our own skin at any cost. Judging from the comments section following the editorial, it appears that some of my fellow citizens agree with this vile notion. I do not. The Obama administration needs to put a stop to all such illegal practices, no matter when they were initiated. The Obama administration needs to aggressively prosecute these deeds, leaving no stone– no matter how lofty and well-connected– unturned.
It is conceivable that our national status of power and wealth in this world will one day recede to a significant degree. As we approach this point, we will have to rely less on such power and more on our moral strength. The aftermath of 9/11 proved that we as a nation are capable of behaving horribly and inhumanely when we think we can get away with it. The Chicago Tribune, with this editorial, publicly endorses such cowardly, vindictive, and imperial behavior. How will we manage as a nation when we can no longer get away with torturing and murdering innocent foreigners? For what behavior will the Tribune advocate when the U.S. can no longer act internationally with such impunity?