The Bush Torture Regime, Biased Covering Of Protests, and The Moral Dilemmas Bush Left Behind In Afghanistan
Several articles in today's Times and a report on NPR set my bloggy antennae all a-quiver.
No one should be surprised at the report that Abu Zabaydah and KSM were waterboarded 266 times by the Bush administration . But NPR reported this today like this, and I'm paraphrasing:
[PARAPHRASE OF ORAL REPORT] It's one thing to be waterboarded once, quite another to be waterboarded 83 times [as Zubaydah was].What NPR clearly meant was that while it's debatable whether one waterboarding is torture, clearly 83 times is beyond the pale. Indeed, eighty-three waterboadings is beyond the pale, but... so is one. Waterboarding is torture, period. A little torture is still torture and as unconscionable as a lot of torture. The men and women who justified and authorized and who ordered torture simply must stand trial for their crimes.
One more point: Only Bush and his gang of thugs could thoroughly botch the treatment of al Qaeda members, including the mastermind who planned 9/11, so as to provoke pity for them. KSM is a monster; nevertheless, the state had, and has, no right to torture him or anyone else.
In the Business section was a column about the tea baggers. It was not complimentary, but that's not the point: any publicity, even bad, is good publicity. Then I noticed this:
The burden being placed on the American economy and future generations is a significant issue — according to fivethirtyeight.com, more than 300,000 people attended rallies in 346 cities...Golly. More than 300,000 people spread over 346 cities. Nearly 1,000 protestors per city. Man, that's significant. And although I didn't watch, I'll bet even money the tea baggers got even more free publicity from the Sunday gasbags. So you could be forgiven, if you don't follow politics that closely, into thinking that teabagging is an important mass movement that Serious People should carefully attend to.
Nevermind that the entire teabag protest was less than 10% of the number of Americans who protested the Bush/Iraq war in February of '03. Nevermind that Stephanopolous, if not others, covered the international protests in '03 but deliberately ignored the huge domestic rallies. Nevermind that there was no followup from the mainstream media of any kind on these protests except to systematically minimize the number of attendees until they shrank to what Bush described as a few guys from Berkeley. While the lunatic, hapless, teabaggers are significant, the far larger segment of the American people who opposed Bushism when it mattered (and whose opposition was intelligent and prescient) were invisible. And still are, for the most part, when it comes to the mainstream media.
Finally, a heartbreaking plea for the women in Afghanistan, who are the victims of repression from the increasingly virulent Islamism there, an Islamism that has gained more and more official support from the Karzai government. The moral dilemmas Bush's failed policies left the US with are wrenching.
On the face of it, we have both responsibilities and interests in Afghanistan. The latter is simple. We have a compelling national interest to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven for al Qaeda ever again.
Our responsibilities also seem simple. Given that Bush gullibly swallowed bin Laden's bait, overran the country, and installed a corrupt, ineffectual puppet while failing to capture or kill bin Laden, it seems obvious that the US owes the people of Afghanistan a working, stable, government that honors human rights.*
But at what cost? Are the rights of Afghanistan's women worth the life of American soldiers? Are those rights worth the expenditure of tens, if not hundreds, of billions we can ill afford? What moral responsibility does Obama reasonably carry given that his corrupt and inept predecessor, not he, created the situation we now face?
I don't think the answers to these questions are obvious but I'll take a stab. We have no business risking American soldiers' lives for anything other than the protection of American citizens from existential threats. To that extent, our military mission in Afghanistan and the borderlands must be constrained to one goal only: bringing bin Laden and his henchmen to justice. However, we have a moral duty to expend whatever it takes, and to help however we can (short of military involvement) to create a stable Afghan government that abuses no Afghan's rights. The situation is fiendishly complex, and dangerously susceptible for even the best of intentions to go murderously awry. Yet, morally and strategically,I think we must try.
No doubt some of you disagree. Have at it. I'm willing to be convinced otherwise.
*Back in 2001, I believed that while the invasion of Afghanistan was inevitable, given American politics at the time, it was a stupid thing to do. There were plenty of alternative responses to the 9/11 attacks that didn't require invading and occupying a country the United States knew virtually nothing about (for example, surgical strikes on bin Laden and al Qaeda). Besides, an American invasion was clearly intended by bin Laden rules as a consequence of 9/11 and rule #1 of successful warfare is never, ever play by a mortal enemy's rules. Future events have borne all this out.