New Yorker writer Jane Mayer has a new piece on President Obama;s thinking on torture. A vignette that stands out (and was highlighted by Swampland, the Time political blog) show how deeply our military abhors torture.
Not only is this important for the right to understand; the left, which has a knee-jerk reaction to anything in uniform, should take note.
Protests against sites like the School of the Americas — with its admittedly shameful past of supporting and teaching torture — fail to take into account the fact that THINGS HAVE CHANGED. Today, our best arguments against torture come from the men and women who might face it as part of their commitment to serving our country. As long as they teach against torture, as they currently do, the School of the Americas should be supported and expanded.
So I disagree with groups like School of the Americas Watch, which advocate for the closure of one of the main military facilities that instructs other militaries. There is no better way to teach foreign militaries that torture is wrong and counterproductive
Here’s is Mayer’s take, with Obama victorious at the Iowa caucuses:
Obama was “very excited” that day in Iowa, one participant in the off-the-record meeting recalled, “because he had just gotten polls showing that he was ahead,” but he didn’t seem particularly “comfortable” with the military delegation. The group of military men, which included retired four-star Generals Dave Maddox and Joseph Hoar, lectured Obama about the importance of being Commander-in-Chief. In particular, they warned him that every word he uttered would be taken as an order by the highest-ranking officers as well as the lowliest private. Any wiggle room for abusive interrogations, they emphasized, would be construed as permission… (Obama) asked smart questions, but didn’t seem inspired by it. He totally understood the effect that Abu Ghraib had on America’s reputation,” said the participant. But in general, “he was very businesslike. He didn’t flatter the officers,” as most of the other candidates had. In addition, Obama’s staff, the participant said, approached the meeting with the retired officers with less urgency than some of the other campaigns. “But,” in retrospect, the participant said, “it started an education process.” Last month, several members of the same group met with both (Greg) Craig, who by then was slated to become Obama’s top legal adviser, and Attorney General-designate Eric Holder. The two future Obama Administration lawyers were particularly taken with a retired four-star Marine General and conservative Republican named Charles “Chuck” Krulak. Krulak insisted that ending the Bush Administration’s coercive interrogation and detention regime was “right for America and right for the world,” a participant recalled, and promised that if the Obama Administration did what he described as “the right thing,” which he acknowledged wouldn’t be politically easy, he would personally “fly cover” for them. Last week, as Obama signed the executive order, sixteen retired generals and flag officers from the same group did just that. Told on Monday that they were needed at the White House, they flew to the capital from as far away as California, a phalanx of square-jawed certified patriots providing cover to Obama’s announcement. Shortly before the signing ceremony, Craig said, Obama met with the officers in the Roosevelt Room, along with Vice President Biden and several other top administration officials. “It was hugely important to the president to have the input from these military people,” Craig said, “not only because of their proven concern for protecting the American people—they’d dedicated their lives to it—but also because some had their own experience they could speak from.” Two of the officers had sons serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of them, retired Major General Paul Eaton, stressed that, as he put it later that day, “torture is the tool of the lazy, the stupid, and the pseudo-tough. It’s also perhaps the greatest recruiting tool that the terrorists have.” The feeling in the room, as retired Rear Admiral John Hutson later put it, “was joy, perhaps, that the country was getting back on track.”