Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Yes, he means it... and it's the most forceful argument in favor of a Republican President that I've ever seen written by a Democrat.
Along the way, he acknowledges that the "War on Terror" is misnamed -- but that it must be misnamed, and why. He also goes into a bit of the history of the centuries-old Muslim Civil War, of Shi'ite against Sunni, and Shi'ite against Shi'ite, and offers his suspicions as to what the United States is currently doing about it.
It's a long and extremely worthwhile read. Please do have a look.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Today's "Best of the Web" (on the Wall Street Journal website) includes a remarkable letter, written directly to James Taranto of WSJ. (He describes the letter's author only as "an American who asks not to be named".)
Since this letter doesn't appear elsewhere, and free OpinionJournal.com editorials disappear into the pay-only site after seven days, I'm taking the liberty of reprinting Mr. Taranto's excerpt of that letter here:
There's been a lot of discussion back home about the course of the war, the righteousness of our involvement, the clarity of our execution, and what to do about the predicament in which we currently find ourselves. I just wanted to send you my firsthand account of what's happening here.A lot of food for thought here.
First, a little bit about me: I'm stationed slightly northwest of Baghdad in a mixed Sunni/Shia area. I'm a sergeant in the U.S. Army on a human intelligence collection team. I interact with Iraqis on a daily basis and I help put together the intel picture for our area of operations. I have contacts with friends, who are also in my job, in every are of operations in the Fourth Infantry Division footprint, and through our crosstalk I'd say I have a pretty damn good idea of what's going on in and around Baghdad on a micro and intermediary level.
I wrote heavily in favor of this war before I enlisted myself, and I still maintain that going into Iraq was not only the necessary thing to do, but the right thing to do as well.
There have been distinct failures of policy in Iraq. The vast majority of them fall under the category "failure to adapt." Basically U.S. policies have been several steps behind the changing conditions ever since we came into the country. I believe this is (in part) due to our plainly obvious desire to extricate ourselves from Iraq. I know President Bush is preaching "stay the course," but we came over here with a goal of handing over our battlespace to the Iraqis by the end of our tour here.
This breakneck pace with which we're trying to push the responsibility for governing and securing Iraq is irresponsible and suicidal. It's like throwing a brick on a house of cards and hoping it holds up. The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF)--a joint term referring to Iraqi army and Iraqi police--are so rife with corruption, insurgent sympathies and Shia militia members that they have zero effectiveness. Two Iraqi police brigades in Baghdad have been disbanded recently, and the general sentiment in our field is "Why stop there?" I can't tell you how many roadside bombs have been detonated against American forces within sight of ISF checkpoints. Faith in the Iraqi army is only slightly more justified than faith in the police--but even there, the problems of tribal loyalties, desertion, insufficient training, low morale and a failure to properly indoctrinate their soldiers results in a substandard, ineffective military. A lot of the problems are directly related to Arab culture, which traditionally doesn't see nepotism and graft as serious sins. Changing that is going to require a lot more than "benchmarks."
In Shia areas, the militias hold the real control of the city. They have infiltrated, co-opted or intimidated into submission the local police. They are expanding their territories, restricting freedom of movement for Sunnis, forcing mass migrations, spiking ethnic tensions, not to mention the murderous checkpoints, all while U.S. forces do . . . nothing.
For the first six months I was in country, sectarian violence was classified as an "Iraqi on Iraqi" crime. Division didn't want to hear about it. And, in a sense I can understand why. Because division realized that which the Iraqi people have come to realize: The American forces cannot protect them. We are too few in number and our mission is "stability and support." The problem is that there's nothing to give stability and support to. We hollowed out the Baathist regime, and we hastily set up this provisional government, thrusting political responsibility on a host of unknowns, each with his own political agenda, most funded by Iran, and we're seeing the results.
In Germany after World War II, we controlled our sector with approximately 500,000 troops, directly administering the area for 10 years while we rebuilt the country and rebuilt the social and political infrastructure needed to run it. In Iraq, we've got one-third that number of troops dealing with three times the population on a much faster timetable, and we're attempting to unify three distinct ethnic groups with no national interest and at least three outside influences (Saudi Arabian Wahhabists, Iranian mullahs and Syrian Baathists) each eagerly funding various groups in an attempt to see us fail. And we are.
If we continue on as is in Iraq, we will leave here (sooner or later) with a fractured state, a Rwanda-waiting-to-happen. "Stay the course" and refusing to admit that we're screwing things up is already killing a lot of people needlessly. Following through with such inane nonstrategy is going to be the death knell for hundreds of thousands of Sunnis.
We need to backtrack. We need to publicly admit we're backtracking. This is the opening battle of the ideological struggle of the 21st century. We cannot afford to lose it because of political inconveniences. Reassert direct administration, put 400,000 to 500,000 American troops on the ground, disband most of the current Iraqi police and retrain and reindoctrinate the Iraqi army until it becomes a military that's fighting for a nation, not simply some sect or faction. Reassure the Iraqi people that we're going to provide them security and then follow through. Disarm the nation: Sunnis, Shias, militia groups, everyone. Issue national ID cards to everyone and control the movement of the population.
If these three things are done, you can actually start the Iraqi economy again. Once people have a sense of security, they'll be able to leave their houses to go to work. Tell your American commanders that it's OK to pass up bad news--because part of the problem is that these issues are not reaching above the battalion or brigade level due to the can-do, make-it-happen culture indoctrinated into our U.S. officers. While the attitude is admirable, it also creates barriers to recognizing and dealing with on-the-ground realities.
James, there's a lot more to this than I've written here. The short of it is, the situation is salvageable, but not with "stay the course" and certainly not with cut and run. However, the commitment required to save it is something I doubt the American public is willing to swallow. I just don't see the current administration with the political capital remaining in order to properly motivate and convince the American public (or the West in general) of the necessity of these actions.
At the same time, failure in Iraq would be worse than a dozen Somalias, and would render us as impotent and emasculated as we were in the days after Vietnam. There is a global cultural-ideological struggle being waged, and abdication from Iraq is tantamount to concession.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Joe Lieberman in Trouble?
Well, some people say he is:
Joe Lieberman has a new campaign finance problem, a "petty cash" one. We may never know what he bought with nearly $400,000 in petty cash, but it sure purchased increased cynicism in the political process. Some say these are the kinds of problems that occur when an Enron Lobbyist is your former Chief of Staff.Hmm. So he has money unaccounted for... which, we are expected to assume, was spent illegally and for purposes nefarious and evil.
Yep, Joe Lieberman's in trouble, all right. His former supporters are treating him the way they treat Republicans. (hat tip: Solomonia)
In other news, I'm glad to see that there are some things CNN just won't do --
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Major U.S. news outlets CNN and National Public Radio will not air paid ads or sponsor announcements for a controversial movie depicting the assassination of President George W. Bush, citing the film's content, network spokeswomen said on Tuesday.I'm not sure what led to this decision, but I applaud it.
The movie, "Death of a President," caused a stir at the Toronto Film Festival in September where it debuted, and two major U.S. theater chains have declined to screen the movie when it debuts in the United States on Friday.
"CNN has decided not to take the ad because of the extreme nature of the movie's subject matter," the cable television network said in a statement.
This is a time for uplifting people, for appealing to our better natures, for encouraging us to find the best parts of ourselves. We need as much of that as we can get; we need to believe in heroes, and to think we can aspire to be like them. Appealing instead to our blood-lust, by portraying the extreme left's fantasy of a President Bush gunned down in cold blood, will do us no good -- and CNN is right to choose not to take part in this. They can find plenty of other advertisers elsewhere.
Monday, October 23, 2006
News Flash: NYT Apologizes
I'm trying to come up with something even lamer than this. But I'm having a hard time.
Okay, so the New York Times finds out about a top-secret NSA program to track down terrorists by following their finances, via SWIFT international bank transfers -- and, in spite of strong government pleas (pleas???) not to publish, including appeals (appeals???) from high ranking Democratic members of the 9/11 Committee -- the New York Times does it anyway, splashing the story on its front page and keeping it there for months.
It becomes abundantly clear, immediately thereafter, that (a) this harms America's reputation, and ability to conduct law-enforcement operations, in the world at large (because worldwide financial institutions counted on the United States to keep a secret, which we apparently can't do); and that (b) this harms America's ability to find the terrorists taking aim at us, because they will now avoid using SWIFT transactions.
(To the best of my knowledge, by the way, we've been able to deal with the former problem; somehow relations with the financial world and with other law-enforcement communities were repaired. But there's nothing we can do about the latter problem. Even if some terrorists suspected that SWIFT transactions were monitored, not all did, and enough used SWIFT to give us data we could use. Now a terrorist would have to be a drooling idiot to use SWIFT for any purpose at all -- and a valuable data-source for the terrorist-hunters has, I'm sure, dried up considerably.)
And now, several months after the barn door was swung open and the secret let loose on the world, the New York Times apologizes. Well, no, it's not the New York Times as a whole; it's just the ombudsman. And he isn't really apologizing, for jeopardizing national security or anything else; he's simply admitting that, months after the fact, he has changed his mind, and believes that a mistake was made.
But no, it's even lamer than that. Did Barney Calame run a front-page column for this? No, his change of heart appears in the Opinions section of yesterday's Sunday Times -- and it's buried in the bottom of a column on something else entirely (titled "Can ‘Magazines’ of The Times Subsidize News Coverage?", with a lead paragraph that deals with perfume critics, fer Gossake).
And we're not done; it's even lamer than that. I quote verbatim, from paragraph 16 (and onwards) of the column:
Banking Data: A Mea CulpaSo, let's see if I have this straight:
Since the job of public editor requires me to probe and question the published work and wisdom of Times journalists, there’s a special responsibility for me to acknowledge my own flawed assessments.
My July 2 column strongly supported The Times’s decision to publish its June 23 article on a once-secret banking-data surveillance program. After pondering for several months, I have decided I was off base. There were reasons to publish the controversial article, but they were slightly outweighed by two factors to which I gave too little emphasis. While it’s a close call now, as it was then, I don’t think the article should have been published.
Those two factors are really what bring me to this corrective commentary: the apparent legality of the program in the United States, and the absence of any evidence that anyone’s private data had actually been misused. I had mentioned both as being part of “the most substantial argument against running the story,” but that reference was relegated to the bottom of my column.
The source of the data, as my column noted, was the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or Swift. That Belgium-based consortium said it had honored administrative subpoenas from the American government because it has a subsidiary in this country.
I haven’t found any evidence in the intervening months that the surveillance program was illegal under United States laws. Although data-protection authorities in Europe have complained that the formerly secret program violated their rules on privacy, there have been no Times reports of legal action being taken. Data-protection rules are often stricter in Europe than in America, and have been a frequent source of friction.
Also, there still haven’t been any abuses of private data linked to the program, which apparently has continued to function. That, plus the legality issue, has left me wondering what harm actually was avoided when The Times and two other newspapers disclosed the program. The lack of appropriate oversight — to catch any abuses in the absence of media attention — was a key reason I originally supported publication. I think, however, that I gave it too much weight.
In addition, I became embarrassed by the how-secret-is-it issue, although that isn’t a cause of my altered conclusion. My original support for the article rested heavily on the fact that so many people already knew about the program that serious terrorists also must have been aware of it. But critical, and clever, readers were quick to point to a contradiction: the Times article and headline had both emphasized that a “secret” program was being exposed. (If one sentence down in the article had acknowledged that a number of people were probably aware of the program, both the newsroom and I would have been better able to address that wave of criticism.)
What kept me from seeing these matters more clearly earlier in what admittedly was a close call? I fear I allowed the vicious criticism of The Times by the Bush administration to trigger my instinctive affinity for the underdog and enduring faith in a free press — two traits that I warned readers about in my first column.
Mr. Calame now disagrees with the need to blow the whistle on this program, because it was (a) legal, and (b) has not been abused vis-a-vis the private data of American citizens. (Gee whiz, couldn't you have figured that out before going public?)
He says it is still "a close call" -- and continues to call it that, while simultaneously demolishing any valid reasons for publishing it in the first place. (If a top-secret government program, during wartime, is producing positive results, is legal, is not adversely affecting American citizens or their civil liberties, and is under wraps, with government officials from the Cabinet on down begging that the story stay secret -- then why on Earth should the decision to publish be a "close call"? What rationale remains for publishing it at all, other than the NYT's falling ratings and political bias?)
Oh, and just for good measure, we have a full complement of weasel-worded phrases here. He calls it "a once-secret program", but doesn't mention that it's no longer secret because of the organization he works for. He also laments that a particular sentence in the original article could have been phrased better, so that the NYT could have handled the criticism more easily -- which, of course, has nothing at all to do with whether or not it was a good idea to run the story.
Then he cites his "embarrassment" as a factor. (Hmm, I have to wonder -- if a terrorist attack is not averted when it could have been, because the NYT spilled the beans, will Mr. Calame still be embarrassed?)
And finally, just to make it even lamer, Mr. Calame blames "the vicious criticism of the Times by the Bush Administration" for coloring his judgement and causing him to behave unprofessionally. (As many others have noted, just what does the Bush Administration, no less, have to say to the NYT, no less, to be called "vicious"? Presumably it would have to be at least as bad as what the NYT has been saying about the Bush Administration for the past five years.)
Oh, and then Mr. Calame has the audacity to blame his readers -- by insisting that he told them about his bias "for the underdog" in his very first column. So, you see, we really couldn't have expected any better of him -- because he warned us.
How lame. How incredibly, incredibly lame. (How does that guy pronounce his last name, I wonder?)
The blogosphere is all over this. Michelle Malkin digs a bit deeper into what, exactly, Mr. Calame could have meant by "vicious criticism". Powerline has more. Glenn Reynolds says: "So the New York Times damaged national security by tipping terrorists off to the existence and nature of a legal program that was not being abused. Remember that the next time they declare their own fitness to be trusted with national security decisions." The Squiggler has a link-rich roundup.
Many people (Ms. Malkin among others) are calling for Calame's resignation. I disagree, on two counts. First, I don't think he should lose his job, just for being the only person at the NYT to show even a modest amount of integrity on this issue. Heck, if he's showing higher ethical standards than the NYT general editor -- albeit not by much -- then perhaps he should be promoted.
Second, if this is the best that the NYT has to offer, then by all means, let him stay in place. He's a better advertisement for the Republican Party than he knows.
By the way: while writing my closing paragraphs, above, I wanted to look up the contact info for the head honchos at the New York Times. To my surprise, they don't want to publish that information -- and they provide more weasel-words to justify themselves:
Unfortunately, because of the volume of mail from readers, we cannot do research for the public or provide general contact information. You can find the e-mail addresses for many reporters, editors and departments by sending a request to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Readers are welcome to send reports of errors that warrant correction directly to the newsroom at firstname.lastname@example.org, but such e-mails may also be sent to the public editor's e-mail address below.Translation: "our editorial staff receives too much e-mail, so we don't want to publish their contact information. Ask us for it nicely, and we'll provide it to you privately, if we feel like it".
Now that's what I call a responsive newspaper.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
al-Dura Lives On: Philippe Karsenty Found Guilty
Well, the verdict is in, for what is concisely misnamed "the al-Dura trial" -- in which Philippe Karsenty, the modern-day Emile Zola who accused French TV of fabricating the al-Dura myth and promoting it, and was sued for "being insulting" -- Mr. Karsenty has been found guilty, and ordered to pay a fine and court costs. Mr. Karsenty has vowed to appeal the decision.
I can't possibly do this story justice. Please check out Prof. Richard Landes, who testified at the trial and has been covering this extensively at his blog, The Augean Stables. (In the case of this story, it's unfortunate how extremely apt that name is.) Initial coverage is here and here; no doubt there will be more, lots more, in days to come.
Please don't miss Prof. Landes' seminal work at www.SecondDraft.org; his original video clip, Pallywood, along with a new follow-up on the al-Dura case, can be found here.
For those who have not yet heard what this case is about -- in the unlikely event that I have such a reader -- Mohammed al-Dura was photographed, supposedly being shot and dying in the arms of his father, at the scene of a confrontation between Palestinians and Israelis. It has become a cause celebre, and was one of the justifications for starting the Palestinian al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000 -- which makes it all the more important to determine if, as seems increasingly likely, the whole thing was a hoax from start to finish. A hoax, in fact, that has claimed several hundred lives so far, and may well claim more.
It is understandable, if perhaps not excusable, that the French journalist who produced the al-Dura footage -- and the Palestinian cameraman who filmed it -- want to defend their work against any accusations of fakery. (Their vigorous defense is even more understandable, given that they must know it was faked.) But that a French court would side with them, and fine a journalist for the "crime" of insulting another journalist, in unconscionable. (Roger Simon put it well when he suggested that perhaps he should move to France, where he can now sue the people who insult him.)
al-Dura was not the first case of Palestinians attempting to perpetrate an outright hoax on an unsuspecting press and the world; nor has it been the last, nor even the most outrageous. It is, however, quite possibly the hoax that has killed more people than any other in recent Mideast history.
UPDATE: Neo-neocon is in France, where she will be watching the second al-Dura trial. Stay tuned.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
I've only just heard about this, but I must say, the details sound horrifying.
Two thoughts come to mind. One: as bad as it sounds, I do not approve of the copious details that have apparently been leaked to the press. The soldiers in question have only had a hearing; their court-martial, which will determine if they are guilty (and, if so, what punishment is merited), has yet to be held. Releasing details from their hearing, before the trial, constitutes a trial -- and conviction -- in the court of public opinion, and that's not how our justice system works, nor should it.
My second thought relates to the death penalty, which the murderers and rapists could face if found guilty. To which I reply: good. If they are found guilty of the crimes for which they stand accused, I want them to fry.
I believe strongly, you see, that soldiers on occupation duty have high standards to maintain -- much higher than in other situations. Offenses that might get an American soldier a slap on the wrist, or a night in the brig, if they happened Stateside, could cause an international incident if they happened in Iraq. Even a relatively minor offense -- stealing, say, or extortion -- would reflect badly not just on the soldier committing the offense, but also on the soldier's unit, on the U.S. military as a whole, and even on the entire United States. The punishments resulting from such crimes should reflect that.
And it is hard to imagine a more horrific crime, on a personal level, than the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl (and the murder of her family and the desecration of the bodies). It is part of the military's job to protect little girls.
I could almost wish that, were Spec. James P. Barker, Sgt. Paul Cortez, Pfc. Steven D. Green, Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman, and Pfc. Bryan L. Howard to be found guilty, that they would be turned over to the Iraqi criminal justice system. But that will not happen, nor should it. The U.S. Army bears responsibility for all of the actions of all of its men and women in uniform, and must shoulder the burden of finding out what happened -- and of punishing the guilty. These obligations cannot be handed off to someone else.
I also regret that, from the sound of it, Steven Green -- since he was discharged from the Army in May due to an "anti-social personality disorder" -- will be facing criminal charges in a civilian court. (He is currently under arrest in a Kentucky jail.) Somehow, I suspect that he may wind up with a much lighter sentence than his alleged partners-in-crime -- which is a damn shame, since he seems to have been one of the ringleaders.
But again, I do not want to pass judgement without the facts -- and the facts will be determined at the courts-martial (and at Green's trial), not at the preliminary hearing. It is not up to us to decide their guilt or innocence, and it's emphatically not up to the press. The courts will decide -- and, if the evidence points to their guilt, I have no doubt whatsoever that the Army will waste no time with kid gloves.
I don't think there's any need to hope for justice; I'm confident that justice will be done. Instead, let us pray for Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, whose all-too-short life ended in a most horrible way, allegedly at the hands of soldiers who should have been protecting her.
UPDATE: Blackfive points out that there are important reasons, other than the report above, to have issues with CNN.
When CNN reprints a story that has been covered worldwide, by al-Jazeera among others -- it's not clear to me where the story broke first -- then the ethical issues can seem cloudy. (Does it make sense to spike a story such as this, on the theory that the soldiers do not deserve to be pilloried in the press before their trial, if the story is covered by everyone else anyway? Reasonable minds may well differ.)
But running a story from the perspective of the terrorists -- while they are actively shooting at American troops, no less! -- is, or should be, beyond the pale for an American news organization. (Whether they like it or not, CNN is an American news organization. They are based in Atlanta, as they always have been -- and it is the laws and society of the United States that enabled CNN to be founded and thrive in the first place.)
Terrorism cannot thrive -- indeed, it cannot survive -- without the press. Without press coverage, a terrorist attack cannot cause terror in the general population, because the general population simply doesn't find out about it. When CNN disseminates the terrorists' press releases and talking points, they are doing more than assisting terror -- they are participating in terror.
On a less theoretical subject, I'd very much like to hear how U.S. soldiers respond -- the same soldiers, perhaps, who were targeted by terrorist snipers in the film CNN so carefully aired -- when next CNN demands military protection.
Monday, October 16, 2006
This one isn't about Lebanon, or Tel Aviv. (Well, maybe just a little.) No, this is Mr. Totten writing about his drive westward, his fascination with Chicago, and a somewhat morbid look at Kansas.
The pictures are gorgeous. But the writing is worth your while as well:
They say the three most important considerations when purchasing real estate are location, location, and location. The middle of Kansas sucks at all three.He makes it clear that it's nothing personal. But when a state is eager -- even anxious -- to give away free land, just to get people to move in, that's not a good sign.
Go ahead, have a look -- and keep scrolling!
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Self-Contradiction at the AP
I wasn't intending to post today -- I've been busy lately. But this just made me laugh:
RICHMOND, Virginia (AP) -- Democrat Mark R. Warner, the former governor of Virginia, has decided not to run for president in 2008, Democratic officials said Thursday.This is so self-parodying, I'm not sure where to begin. Is it not obvious that these two nameless "officials" are upstaging Gov. Warner by spilling the beans early? What was their reason for remaining anonymous, then?
Warner, 51, scheduled a late morning news conference in Richmond to make the announcement, according to two Democratic officials who refused to be identified because they did not want to upstage Warner's announcement.
It's well-nigh unbelievable that anyone would say such a thing. My officemate, the long-suffering Daniel T., suggests that perhaps the two "officials" remained anonymous for the usual reasons -- so as not to get into trouble for leaking information they had no business leaking -- and that it was the AP reporter who invented the "upstaging" reason. If so, however, it seems that some journalists, anxious to avoid saying anything negative about Democrats (or anything positive about Republicans), are going to absurd extremes. (Call it Journalistic Objectivity, 21st-century style.)
Or perhaps the leakers in question explicitly asked that the news not be released before Gov. Warner's press conference... and later insisted that, if the information was to be published, that their identities be withheld. (I could then see a reporter cheerfully filing the story anyway, and thinking "hmm, they seem reluctant to upstage Warner; let me say something about that too".)
I'm not sure who is less responsible here -- the people who leaked the information, or the journalists who published it. Frankly, I'm not overly confident of either at this point, even though the information is pretty trivial.
But isn't that the point of integrity -- to maintain high standards, even when the results aren't important? If you try to maintain standards for the important stuff, while allowing yourself to get lazy for the small stuff, then where do you draw the line -- and how do you know you've drawn it in the right place?
Sunday, October 08, 2006
The conservative political cartoonists Cox & Forkum noticed the Iranian Holocaust-denial cartoon contest back in February, and wasted no time drawing their own concept of Holocaust denial:
That cartoon, of course, was rejected by the Iranian contest administrators.
But it turns out that C&F entered a second time -- and this entry was accepted:
As C&F point out, there's more here than meets the eye. Try to figure it out yourself... or click here to read the whole story.
There's also a wealth of links and background, from the Mohammed cartoons -- which, at least in theory, started it all -- to examples of Iranian censorship, demonstrating clearly just how the Iranian regime feels about free speech. As C&F point out, the director of the Iranian contest openly admitted that he would refuse "insulting" cartoons. The cartoon below, however -- by Sriramoju Ganesh of India -- was accepted, so presumably it is not considered "insulting" --
Cox & Forkum's extended entry reprints several more contest finalists. The complete list can be found here.
My hat's off to C&F for trying!
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Dean Barnett, once known primarily for Soxblog and now a regular guest-blogger at HughHewitt.com, has published a folksy FAQ on the subject of "torture", a topic that's gotten a lot of press lately.
I read it with interest... and found very little to disagree with:
Let me say what I do support: When it comes to high value targets in the war on terror, wannabe evil-doers who possess or might possess important information, I support any measures necessary to extract that information.Indeed.
It seems to me that there are two primary kinds of objections to this that we hear these days. One: aren't you afraid that such evil techniques might be used against American citizens, for trivial reasons or no reasons whatsoever? (Yes, I do worry about that. But I worry more about terrorists with immediate plans to kill large numbers of people. It's a long-standing dilemma for intelligence personnel, and it comes up a lot more often than you might think: you have a captive, and he knows something about an attack that hasn't happened yet. He doesn't want to talk about it -- but if he can be persuaded to talk, a great many lives may be saved. Given that the captive is, at minimum, a terror sympathizer and abetter, if not an actual perpetrator, I don't have many qualms about getting him to talk -- particularly if it can be done without inflicting serious damage. More on that in a minute.)
The second objection to this sort of thing rests on what the guys at Power Line have been calling "terrorist's rights". And, as I indicated above, I'm not a big fan of terrorist's rights. Terrorists, remember, are the people who assert the "right" to blow up airliners full of people; who hide in civilian populations, callously risking civilian casualties so that their victims can be made to feel guilty for fighting back; who boast about violating every rule of civilized behavior known. And yet, when they are arrested or detained, they scream loudly about the violation of their civil liberties -- or get others to scream loudly on their behalf.
No, I don't like torture; who does? But I believe there are things worse than torture... and sometimes, a person has to make a choice, and take responsibility for the consequences of that choice.
I don't want hundreds, or thousands, or tens of thousands, to die in a terrorist attack, when we could have prevented it using information within our grasp. On the other hand, I also don't want our troops to torture prisoners routinely; or, perhaps more importantly, I don't want our troops -- or anyone! -- to be immune from the consequences of what they do.