Exclusive: Michael Yon on torture

posted at 6:20 pm on March 3, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Last week, I linked to Michael Yon’s post regarding Barack Obama’s statement in his speech to Congress that “the United States does not torture.”  After discovering that only Hot Air linked to his approving response, Yon asked if I’d like to post a longer explanation here of his position.  Given Michael’s courageous work in reporting on both the Iraq and “AfPak” wars and his proximity to the consequences of American policy, I’m pleased to post the first of a three-part series from Michael.

On 24 February 2009, President Barack Obama said during his speech: “The United States of America Does Not Torture.”

The President’s words were cast LIVE, around the globe, and I was literally on the other side of the world, a dozen time zones away watching it on CNN. I made a small entry on the website with a few thoughts, unleashing a torrent of criticism, which was expected; I don’t write to please, but in an attempt to deliver truth about the war.

Anytime I deliver bad news, such as back in 2006 that we were losing the war in Afghanistan while nearly everyone “knew” we were winning, there results an avalanche of criticism and insults, along with a decline in readership and support. But that’s the way it goes. If a writer wants to make money, he should avoid truth and tell people what they want to hear. Yet to win the war, tell the truth.

Today in 2009, we are shipping another 17,000 troops to Afghanistan because we are still losing, and in fact our casualties this year will likely be double what they were last year. But there certainly were a lot of journalists and bloggers out there during 2006 who were making folks feel good about Afghanistan. Those were often the same people who quibbled over the definition of “civil war” in Iraq, even while Iraq was falling apart in 2006. Many people were politically charged to avoid the term “civil war,” and at least partly as a consequence we nearly lost the Iraq war. Today they quibble over the definition of the word “torture,” and probably wonder what in the world happened in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Judging by public commentary and private communications, many people now assume I am a fan of President Obama because I support his anti-torture stand. Yet in fact, during probably dozens of radio interviews last year, I made clear to millions of Americans that I was hoping that Senator McCain would take the Oval Office. McCain demonstrated better understanding of the wars.

Other folks said they have never seen me talk or write about torture, though I have probably done so on dozens of occasions, again to millions of Americans, long before the elections, and probably before I ever knew the name “Obama.”

Had President George Bush, or Secretary Rumsfeld said, “The United States of America Does Not Torture,” bets are on that those same people who reflexively attacked when Obama took an anti-torture stand, would have cheered and agreed had Bush or Rumsfeld delivered the same message. Under Obama they seem to see anti-torture as too soft, though under Bush they might have viewed the same position with great national pride. An unequivocal stand against torture might have been viewed as undeniable evidence of moral rectitude and great internal strength. It is fair to ask, Why, if we did not torture prisoners during the first part of the war (which is just getting started), did we not come out and state, “The United States of America Does Not Torture”?

To be sure, I believe there is one circumstance when the United States should reserve the right to torture, which will be explained later.

While Bush was President, millions of people around the world wanted us to lose the Iraq war, apparently because they hated George Bush. It was also obvious to me, during periods between war stints while travelling inside the United States, Europe and Asia, that many people relished the idea of so many Americans being killed in Iraq, and the idea that Iraqis were dying, because they hated George Bush. Most of the American “anti-war” people were not “anti-war” at all. If they were truly anti-war, they would be protesting the deployment of 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan. They were anti-George Bush. And today we have a similar species of thought, only it’s anti-Obama from some of the very people who previously complained about the anti-Bush reflex.

When it comes to Iraq, AfPak and torture, truth beyond politics is incredibly rare. In fact, last year when I started calling the AfPak war the “AfPak” war, there was a volume of flak for that, yet today the administration has adopted the same term. The fact is, there is no “Afghanistan” war per se. Again, politics eclipses reality. Rock, paper, scissors, POLITICS. Politics covers rock, tosses paper out the window and uses scissors to cut up anyone who stands in the way.

Back during my war reporting of 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and now 2009, one week people would accuse me of being a Bush supporter. Next week people would say I was a Bush-hating liberal. It seemed that most such comments were made after someone read a single dispatch, or perhaps a single sentence in a dispatch, and then decided to comment. This week they say I am an Obama agent and that I have displayed my “true colors.” Bets are on that it won’t be long until I write something from the battlefield that convinces people I am on the Republican payroll. When I talked about my intention to sue Michael Moore for copyright infringement, there were probably thousands of comments on the net that my motivations were coming strictly from a rightwing political agenda, but those comments fail to account that I also stood ground on the same issue with the U.S. Army, TIME Magazine, ABC, and many others. I still intend to file suit against Mr. Moore, and it will be the first lawsuit I have ever filed.

When I am actually in Iraq or Afghanistan, hanging by an internet thread, I rarely have an idea what the President is saying, and so have little idea if my words are supporting or undermining the office. War is a full-time job, writing is a full-time job, and photography is a part-time job. So that’s two full-time jobs and a part-time. There is no time to pay attention to what the people at home are saying.

It is perhaps just a matter of time before millions of people, many of them Americans, who previously wanted to win the AfPak and Iraq wars, will want to see those places go sour, because they hate President Obama. Schadenfreude is alive and well.

While in Afghanistan and Iraq this year, I’ll support President Obama in the same fashion that I supported President Bush: Some days in favour, some days not.

Now let’s talk about torture.

We’ll bring Hot Air readers the next two parts of Michael’s essay this week.  Please remember that Michael relies on reader support to fund his reporting from the front.  Visit his website and donate what you can to the effort.


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Comments

So that’s what a real journalist looks like.

RobCon on March 3, 2009 at 6:24 PM

Thanks!!

Spirit of 1776 on March 3, 2009 at 6:25 PM

Thanks for posting Michael Yon’s essay. I look forward to the rest of it.

While I have often disagreed with him, I always do so, knowing that he knows a hell of a lot more about whatever it is than I do, so I figure I’ll probably find out later that I was wrong. And I usually do find that out.

notropis on March 3, 2009 at 6:29 PM

the moonbat noise machine was ONLY about who was being tortured….(why brown folks and not rethuglicans?) and their lack of determining who should get tortured….Ogabe denounces US torture but supports rendition….so as long as it is a Turk or an Egyptian pulling out your fingernails it is all good….and remember Chris Tingle and the donks define the word “Terrorist” a bit differently than most folks.

sven10077 on March 3, 2009 at 6:30 PM

Just as Mr. Yon rightly points out that many people support policies and hope for outcomes based on the party or person responsible for them, I would suggest that definitions of torture are equally maleable. Those who scream for Bush to be tried for warcrimes are silent when the Obama administration kills civilians in airstrikes in a soveriegn country with whom we are not in a declared war. Had Obama been responsible for waterboarding, many of Bush’s most vocal critics would have been silent.

Even I have to admit I felt odd approving of the uptick in predator strikes in the first few weeks of Obama’s administration. It was begrudging approval, but to do otherwise would be intellectually dishonest.

trubble on March 3, 2009 at 6:32 PM

Good stuff, thanks for making it available.

myrenovations on March 3, 2009 at 6:43 PM

I think this is the line from his blog that infuriated so many:

“Thank you President Obama for moving to the high ground.”

That is a condemnation of the past administration, clearly, which raises the problem that if Yon knew about instances of torture, and felt that strongly about it, he should have written about nothing else. Given that Bush often stated “we don’t torture”, Yon’s blog post must mean that he knows about specific cases, or that he views waterboarding as torture. So, let’s quibble about what is is.

FalseProfit on March 3, 2009 at 6:47 PM

Thanks Michael, for everything

Viper1 on March 3, 2009 at 6:48 PM

Absent the next part of the story it will be interesting to see what Yon considers torture. Torture is perhaps the most misused word of the modern age.

I’ll wait to see what Yon says, but I know what I think is torture and I haven’t seen any published reports of it by the US yet.

johnsteele on March 3, 2009 at 6:49 PM

!– @page { size: 8.5in 11in; margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } A:link { color: #006699 } –

Indeed.

/sorry had to.

Free Constitution on March 3, 2009 at 6:51 PM

To be fair, I think part of the reason that people would not be so concerned if President Bush said, “The United States does not torture” is that they would figure that he has a strict definition of torture that doesn’t include things like embarrassing photographs and extreme discomfort in the restricted column.

When President Obama says it, I can’t decide whether it’s just one more thing he’s saying that he doesn’t mean or if he does mean it and terrorists will now be subjected to nothing worse than a tea party.

JadeNYU on March 3, 2009 at 6:53 PM

It is not just party that determines feelings about torture. Right after 9/11 I didn’t much care… Now almost 8 years out. It’s hard to see why it would be necessary.

So it just doesn’t seem that Obama showed much courage or conviction in making that statement. It seemed like petty pandering to me.

If some unforseen kind of event like 9/11 happens again…Obama is on the record. Americans will die rather than torture an enemy for information, maybe a city full of Americans will die next time. But no waterboarding!

I think in this situation I’m glad I know you can’t trust anything Obama says. He will change his mind with the circumstances.

You hear that bad guys? Americans know we can’t trust anything Obama says…neither can you!

petunia on March 3, 2009 at 6:55 PM

I support Obama’s actions in Afghanistan. (Although I reserve the right to ding leftists for now supporting the invasion of another country’s sovereignity and wanton war crimes, but I digress).

The torture aspect is a little trickier. None of us (I’d like to think) really support torture. And yet, when Bush said it, he told the truth and when Obama said it, he lied. Because the US will always torture when push comes to shove, just not as a matter of policy.

That is to say, legally it’s always wrong.. but there are extreme times where it will be allowed and happen off the books and those doing the investigating will judge it right and carry the secret or blow the whistle. But it’s a hair trigger action that the government can ALWAYS smash down on if it comes to light.

I think that’s where Bush ultimately went astray…by trying to codify it in law (as part of an OPEN government I point out) he opened a huge can of worms about what nations should/should not be allowed to do to its people in the name of information gathering.

Can we get it back in the box and restore our name? Sure. The Japanese Americans seem to have forgiven us for far worse transgressions on their civil liberties in WW2. African Americans? Not so much.

Skywise on March 3, 2009 at 6:59 PM

Skywise on March 3, 2009 at 6:59 PM

But does it not matter what constitutes torture, or is it merely enough to accuse someone of some nebulous “torture” charge and then flog them unmercifully — which is what has happened to Bush et al.

IMHO “waterboarding” is not torture — we use it in our military training; loud cr*ppy rap music, while detestable, is not torture. An electric drill in the knee cap, as Al Queda does, is torture.

Media people have volunteered for “waterboarding.” In my mind one way to measure if something is torture is will someone voluntarily undergo it. I seriously doubt if Katie Couric would volunteer to have an electric drill used on her kneecap.

The most misused word of the modern age.

johnsteele on March 3, 2009 at 7:08 PM

Can I skip to part 2?

unclesmrgol on March 3, 2009 at 7:14 PM

I can tell you what torture is. It is spending the time reading what all you armchair generals with your world renown knowledge of torture think it is. For hundreds, if not thousands, of years, it was having your guts pulled out using dull iron implements. It was being thrown to the eels. It was having Saxon, Viking, Saracen, warring Christians, Mongol, etc., come through your village and beat your babies heads against the lodgepole or roast you over a fire. Torture, Chicago style, is sleeping with the fishes before you are dead; or marxist style is having your genitals electrocuted or freezing to death in a gulag.

Now we worry about waterboarding and the niceties of reading miranda rights to the people who commonly do the above. You pharisees absolutely amaze me with your attention to pettifogging and the inane.

Old Country Boy on March 3, 2009 at 7:18 PM

But does it not matter what constitutes torture, or is it merely enough to accuse someone of some nebulous “torture” charge and then flog them unmercifully — which is what has happened to Bush et al.

IMHO “waterboarding” is not torture — we use it in our military training; loud cr*ppy rap music, while detestable, is not torture. An electric drill in the knee cap, as Al Queda does, is torture.

johnsteele on March 3, 2009 at 7:08 PM

I agree. But the point wasn’t that waterboarding was/was not torture.

It was that we were going to codify, into law, active physical punishment as a means of coercing information. It’s one thing to leave the lights on, or turn the temperature down to 60 degrees. That’s “passive punishment” and most people think that’s probably ok for a prisoner. Even the Geneva convention. (And some people would argue that’s torture too). But when you start having a PUBLIC discourse about saying waterboarding will be an approved method for “enhanced interrogations”, how long before it’s used on the populace in general with the approval of the courts?
(Not that it doesn’t happen already… if our civil police can beat 15 year old girls up for kicking a shoe what do you think happens to the harder criminals?)
Would I support torture in an life or death crisis? Absolutely.
We’re arguing legal goal posts and “perceptions” here, which is where I think Yon is going. But I think its a weak argument given what kind of physical torture going on in our civil penal system right now.

Otherwise, yeah I agree with you.

Skywise on March 3, 2009 at 7:25 PM

As a veteran, I have always found it interesting how these United States have always gone out of our way to accord the Geneva Convention principles to our enemies, even to the point of endangering our own forces, or causing us excess expenditures, whereas not a single one of our enemies has ever honoured those same accords, even when that country was a signatory to them.

We see the most barbaric treatment of captives by Islamists, to include torture with power tools, electric shock, burning alive, beheading and the desecration of the dead. Yet when there is the slightest, unfounded claim of the most minute transgression, of, say, the desecration of a koran, then it’s a crime of unspeakable horror, and Americans are chastised as wanton criminals.

None of those we are currently fighting can honestly claim any protections from the Geneva Conventions. Our enemies are not only NOT signatories to those articles, but do not meet even the most rudimentary of the requirements to be considered as eligible for said protections.

There’s an obvious solution to the problem if we have the courage to implement it.

Respects,

AW1 Tim on March 3, 2009 at 7:28 PM

We see the most barbaric treatment of captives by Islamists, to include torture with power tools, electric shock, burning alive, beheading and the desecration of the dead. Yet when there is the slightest, unfounded claim of the most minute transgression, of, say, the desecration of a koran, then it’s a crime of unspeakable horror, and Americans are chastised as wanton criminals.

AW1 Tim on March 3, 2009 at 7:28 PM

And when Al-Qaeda tried to apply those same tatics to the population of Iraqi, Anbar woke up and insurgents who were shooting at Americans joined forces with Americans and, started shooting at Al-Qaeda.

F15Mech on March 3, 2009 at 7:47 PM

I agree with Michael Yon 100% on this.

George Bush’s “aggressive interrogation” policy was the biggest mistake he made (and that is saying a lot).

Many conservatives argue very persuasively that waterboarding is not really torture but they are missing the point. No matter how cleverly you justify the policy as a tactic it was a monumental mistake on a strategic level. It turned the whole civilized world against the United States. Soft power may be overrated, but sometimes it is the only usable power a country can exert in certain situations (see Korea, Iran etc.).

TrueNorth on March 3, 2009 at 8:06 PM

Oh Michael,

I hate the term “torture,” because there are too many immature children commenting about it with no real definition of the word.
So answer these questions, Michael Yon, and please don’t give away any secrets about interroagtion techniques that our enemies shouldn’t know about.
Now, I know that John Kerry cut off ears and electrocuted North Vietnamese, but do we currently, as Americans,

(1) cut off ears, fingers, or toes?
(2) shock with electricity?
(3) put reeds under fingernails?
(4) break any bones?
(5) burn with fire or acid?
(6) cut out tongues or eye balls?

I want some damn answers from you Michael!!

apco on March 3, 2009 at 8:20 PM

George Bush said on several occasions that the United States does not torture. My feelings on the matter haven’t changed. I agree with both Bush and Obama that we do not. Neither waterboarding nor Obama’s even harsher methods of interrogation are torture.

JohnJ on March 3, 2009 at 8:27 PM

Many conservatives argue very persuasively that waterboarding is not really torture but they are missing the point. No matter how cleverly you justify the policy as a tactic it was a monumental mistake on a strategic level. It turned the whole civilized world against the United States. Soft power may be overrated, but sometimes it is the only usable power a country can exert in certain situations (see Korea, Iran etc.).

TrueNorth on March 3, 2009 at 8:06 PM

I hate this argument. It ignores the point that people who hate America will hate America no matter what we do, just as Democrats will always hate Republicans. If it had not been waterboarding, it would have been that we were too rude when we asked questions, or the cuffs were too tight, or they weren’t being fed enough. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that we can ever do to make those who hate us not hate us. It is not our fault, any more than it is ever a woman’s fault for being raped. We could even refrain from using acid baths or rape rooms for interrogation. We could use comparatively benign techniques, such as waterboarding, and those who hate us will still hate us. Much like you do, TrueNorth. Because there is no reason for that kind of hatred. It is not a hatred we have brought onto ourselves. It is not our fault they hate us. Claiming that we have to be perfect or we are responsible for everything that anyone does to us is ignorant. We can’t pretend that we are responsible for the hatred of others because we are not perfect. Why aren’t they perfect? Why are only our imperfections ever considered? We don’t have to be perfect to be better than they are. And we are better.

If you think they’re better than we are, you are free to move there. And let’s see how long you last before they decide to torture you.

JohnJ on March 3, 2009 at 8:42 PM

Thanks Ed, Michael. Good Stuff for sure.

Zorro on March 3, 2009 at 8:44 PM

Michael, it is unfortunate that so many let partisanship obscure reality, but as you acknowledge, that is the nature of the beast. I will be surprised, however, if you see as widespread hoping that Obama will fail in mitigating international hostilities as one saw when GW Bush was President. As flawed as the right may be, as petty as they may act and speak, the preponderance still adheres to the philosophy that politics end at waters edge.

I am looking forward to the two remaining parts, for I have long held that the problem with the debate over “torture” is not as much philosophical, rather semantics. In arguing with my three combat tour veteran father, it is clear that the definitions he uses are irreconcilable with the definitions I use. I know we are not that far apart, yet he insists that I use his ‘labels’, laden with the deleterious subtext he desires.

You are an impeccable source, IMO, and I look forward to your next installments.

bains on March 3, 2009 at 8:53 PM

<blockquoteAnd today we have a similar species of thought, only it’s anti-Obama from some of the very people who previously complained about the anti-Bush reflex.
Hypocrisy never fails to attract bipartisan support.

hicsuget on March 3, 2009 at 9:04 PM

JohnJ on March 3, 2009 at 8:42 PM

Agree to a point

Abu-ghraib was a mistake. (However that was not a US policy mistake, just some stupid people on the ground IMO).

It was only after Al-Qaeda started to cut off citizens fingers who smoke, (when they smoked) killed people for drinking when they drank, poured gasoline on a kids and set them on fire just because, did the Iraqi people wake up and start to fight back.

Simply put any actions we take, must include making the citizens of Afghanistan/Iraq safer and more free then they currently are. If they think we are going to put them in prison they will fight back, if they think we are an invading Army not a liberating Army they will fight back.

Water board any HVT you want but I can’t believe this picture CONTENT WARNING while certainly less abusive then cutting off someone head, provided any sort of real intellegence.

F15Mech on March 3, 2009 at 9:06 PM

Michael: Thanks for doing what you do. You really are the Ernie Pyle of this generation.

F15Mech on March 3, 2009 at 9:09 PM

I like and respect Michael’s work, but to pretend that he has the answer to everything is a stupid as claiming he is a hack for this or that political party. Yes, he has great experience and deep knowledge that many cannot have without going where he goes and doing what he does, and I’m very happy that he shares that with us. And he calls ’em like he sees ’em. But he isn’t always right. Just sayin’

VolMagic on March 3, 2009 at 9:27 PM

It turned the whole civilized world against the United States. — True North.

The world is not civilized! I am assuming the world you consider to be civilized eats arugula and drinks French wine. Actually, your civilized world would exterminate Jews, enslave women, keep women uneducated, blow up innocent children, restrict the freedoms we hold so dear – speech, religion. Your civilized world sells the makings of weapons of mass destruction to madmen. Your civilized world sacrifices their troops in battle with teabags and nice feelings, and hyper restrictive ROEs instead of bullets and bayonets. The most civilized countries of your civilized world rape children in Africa, instead of protecting and feeding them. Don’t inflict me with your civilized world. I don’t care what your civilized world thinks.

Old Country Boy on March 3, 2009 at 9:48 PM

Mike Yon continues to call it like he sees it and continues to impress me. If only some of our politicians had this kind of integrity and strength of conviction.

I’ll be hitting the tip jar over at his blog.

Keep up the good work, Mike!

MikeZero on March 3, 2009 at 10:07 PM

Did I miss something, or did he say absolutely nothing in Part I . . . except to be really self-absorbed.

Honestly!

What the heck did he say???

seanrobins on March 3, 2009 at 10:26 PM

The lack of clearly discussing and showing the enemies’ methods… sawing live peoples’ heads off with kitchen knives and videotaping such bestial monstrosities, and worse… makes the entire accusation machine about U.S.’s “torture” methods insufferably silly and suicidally stupid.

It is a political and “moral” game by those out to weaken America.

Little else.

profitsbeard on March 3, 2009 at 10:35 PM

It is fair to ask, Why, if we did not torture prisoners during the first part of the war (which is just getting started), did we not come out and state, “The United States of America Does Not Torture”?

It sure is. It is also fair to ask you:
When President Bush said, “This government does not torture people” are you saying that you didn’t know he said that, that he should have literally said “The United States of America” instead of “This government”, or are you saying that Bush should’ve said it earlier?

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21148801/

Lemme know, because I’m very interested.

apollyonbob on March 4, 2009 at 12:46 AM

Thank you for your reports.

Mr. Joe on March 4, 2009 at 1:01 AM

Did I miss something, or did he say absolutely nothing in Part I . . . except to be really self-absorbed.

Honestly!

What the heck did he say???

seanrobins on March 3, 2009 at 10:26 PM

What a shocker.

The thought that a writer/journalist would start a series by letting a person his position is unheard of.

I lost my tingle down my leg.

F15Mech on March 4, 2009 at 1:03 AM

letting a person his position

should be …letting a person know his position…

F15Mech on March 4, 2009 at 1:06 AM

Jeff Goldstein and the crew disagree. I have been arguing otherwise for them to reconsider, but not much luck. Perhaps you can change their minds.

Then again Hugh Hewitt did a great interview with Col. Herrington on the subject, but later pulled it. Too bad. Hugh should have kept it available on his site. Now you can only find parts of it on BeliefNet.

Mr. Joe on March 4, 2009 at 2:07 AM

[…]http://proteinwisdom.com/?p=14443[…]

Mr. Joe on March 4, 2009 at 2:08 AM

Seriously, Micheal feels we all need to know his personal views on torture?

When did his personal commentary become more important than actual war reportage?

Micheal, get back into the field and report from the front lines or retire because that’s the only thing that distinguishes you from thousands and thousands of other mediocre stateside “journalists”.

13times on March 4, 2009 at 3:51 AM

Did I miss something, or did he say absolutely nothing in Part I . . . except to be really self-absorbed.

Honestly!

What the heck did he say???

seanrobins on March 3, 2009 at 10:26 PM

.
Bingo!
.
Started reading Mike Yon’s theater reports back in his Deuce-4 days. Found his written insights and blow by blow accounts to be thoughtful, respectful, and honest–an enlightening read which jumped off the page, informed the readers critical eye, and lodged in the guts, if not the heart!
.
I’ve read much of his stuff since, but it oftentimes feels more like swimming in mud. Not exactly sure why? Nowadays I seem to leave his pages, with the feeling that I was waterboarded, or maybe just forced to swallow too much political manure? Anyway, just don’t feel compelled to search for clarification within what seems more like a haystack of borderline sophmoric whining, manipulation, and finger pointing. IMHO, he may need to take some well earned leave-time and cool his jets for a while–maybe I should too?
.
“Let’s Roll”

On Watch on March 4, 2009 at 4:06 AM

This is what happens when someone starts out to do a good and noble thing, has his ego stoked and starts to believe his own PR. He starts thinking his policy opinions matter.
They don’t.
BTW, Mr. Yon, be very careful of what you believe that comes from Ogabe’s mouth. Every word has a short shelf life.

SKYFOX on March 4, 2009 at 5:25 AM

OUTSTANDING

SUGGESTION:
Ya can’t pay Yon, but he’s perhaps one of the handful of “guest writers” that Hot Air should have regularly.

Dead nuts on the money Yon!

scottm on March 4, 2009 at 6:52 AM

At least Bush told the truth! Yon is naive about what comes out of the great one’s mouth.

Neither should we take any other nation’s opinion on what we do for our security!

I wish we would treat a baby in the womb with a portion of what we give to enemy combatants! We will be held accountable in both cases.

Easydoesit on March 4, 2009 at 7:44 AM

I have followed Yon and supported him from his initial reporting. Unfortunately, he has set himself up for the attacks in the comments; how quickly some turn on someone they supposedly liked and respected. The “no more torture” statement is the culprit. I know he has condemned some of the outlandish actions taken that were less than torture and I do not remember him reporting situations where Americans were practicing torture. He may be referring to rendition, which kept our hands clean, but which most likely involved our allies torturing captives with our knowledge. I am glad he has chosen to clear the air.

I agree with some who say President Obama has said one thing but will do another as with rendition now still being used. And I also agree with the many commenters that water boarding and other actions outlawed in the Army Field Manual are not torture, especially since they are apparently used during training by some US military organizations. IMHO they should not be allowed by field forces as the manual requires. I can however understand but not necessarily condone “illegal” threats and physical abuse in the heat of battle when Americans lives are immediately at stake, but planned actions such as water boarding should be performed by the CIA with written approval from the executive branch; not to become a routine practice; that starts us down a slippery slope to make such actions routine.

From what I know from talking to fellow veterans who were in combat, we are fighting this war more humanely in this regard than we ever did during Vietnam or the war in the Pacific during WWII. For that we can be proud, for very few countries would even have the discussion we are having inside and outside of the military.

amr on March 4, 2009 at 8:25 AM

who previously wanted to win the AfPak and Iraq wars, will want to see those places go sour, because they hate President Obama.

I would, sincerely hope that we would find no such individuals here or in other conservative circles. Unfortunately, I know they exist and they ought to be ashamed. Anyone who would hold such a position, is not a true conservative nor a patriot. “Summer soldiers” are disgusting, IMO.
While I don’t always agree with Yon (and in those times, I am, frequently, wrong and he is right), his insights and reporting is incredibly valuable. His front-line no bones about it perspective is needed. I’ve put money his way and encourage everyone to read his reports and consider doing the same.

batter on March 4, 2009 at 9:33 AM

It is perhaps just a matter of time before millions of people, many of them Americans, who previously wanted to win the AfPak and Iraq wars, will want to see those places go sour, because they hate President Obama. Schadenfreude is alive and well.

They are not Americans at all then. F them.

Yakko77 on March 4, 2009 at 12:28 PM

It is perhaps just a matter of time before millions of people, many of them Americans, who previously wanted to win the AfPak and Iraq wars, will want to see those places go sour, because they hate President Obama. Schadenfreude is alive and well.
.
I strongly disagree. Mass political hatred is largely a creation and a weapon of the left, and particularly when combined with the wish to have your country defeated. That’s an old Bolshevik tactic, in hopes of such social upheaval that their revolution might succeed.
.
And so it has been with the extreme left in the US. With the additional weapon of the MSM, which in its loathing of President Bush took the strongest measures it could to show the Iraq war (remember, entered under massive approval of both parties in Congress) as a disaster and the Bush administration as a nest of vipers. When the only means of a citizen’s exposure to current events is as viciously biased as that, it’s no wonder that the MSM’s promotion of the impossibly glowing Obama, the anti-Bush, succeeded so well.
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But there will be no similar campaign of such hatred against Obama, particularly without the concerted push of the MSM. There are plenty of reasons to disapprove of his policies (anyone with a 401k will immediately understand, and likewise anyone running a business), and he will certainly generate some intense dislike. But it will not extend to the desire that the US lose the soldiers and the war in AfPak, because it’s not the “anti-war” (the anti-US, to be candid) crowd of educators, MSM and entertainment purveyors that will turn against Obama any time soon.

Insufficiently Sensitive on March 4, 2009 at 12:36 PM

To be sure, I believe there is one circumstance when the United States should reserve the right to torture, which will be explained later.

I am looking very forward to hearing this explanation. Not because I disagree with it but because it is a direct contradiction to cheering Bush and Obama’s statement that “The United States does not torture.” That is to say that I am very skeptical about the possibility of ever being able to justify that contradiction. It is akin to saying, “Read my lips, no new taxes” only to raise taxes. It is akin to professing the words “I do take this woman to be my wife, to … poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part. …” only later to abandon her when she is diagnosed with cancer.

Why don’t we have the guts to say it like it is? When George Bush made clear his position that the United States government does not condone the use of torture, I honestly referred to that position as idiotic. I do not waiver on that belief depending upon who and what party resides in the Oval Office. Naturally then, I believe Obama’s position on torture is one of idiocy as well.

If under any circumstances the use of torture can be justified. Any circumstances at all, no matter how unlikely or last resort you believe them to be. Then, say it with me, ipso facto, YOU ARE FOR TORTURE. I might be nice to say, “I am against torture” only to add a little disclaimer at the end. You might avoid a few attacks from both sides of the isles by saying it that way. You may be more pleasing to read by the majority if you say it that way. But that is the intellectually dishonest way out.

Here is the honest truth, I hope to god our President’s are lying to us in the name of political cover when the use the phrase “the United States does not torture.” Here is my position. If I were POTUS I would stand before the American people and tell them the United States will stop at nothing when it comes to protecting American citizens. We will do what works. Period. Dropping bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki may have been horrific acts but they entirely justifiable and we have nothing at all to apologize for. The simple fact remains, those bombs saved lives. They brought to the end a bloody war with no other end in sight. If not for those bombs millions of lives would have been lost both American and Japanese in the years following. To this day I will never say I’m against dropping bombs. No. I am for dropping bombs when necessary. They have a purpose. Torture, though horrific, is no different. It saves lives. Some people refer to waterboarding as torture, I don’t, but for the sake of argument I will proceed with their definition of torture. We waterboarded KSM in order to extract a “treasuretrove” of information which, without question, was used to save American lives. How can any reasonable American be against that? To be against that is to hold the position that you are FOR the loss of American lives in order to “protect” the likes of KSM. That position strikes me as utterly insane. It is the equivalent of being for the deaths of millions of American and Japanese lives in order to “protect” the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Only difference being, torturing the likes of KSM is far more justifiable than the mass killing of innocent foreign population centers.

I will never apologize for being in favor of the use of torture.

Zetterson on March 4, 2009 at 1:19 PM

Many conservatives argue very persuasively that waterboarding is not really torture but they are missing the point. No matter how cleverly you justify the policy as a tactic it was a monumental mistake on a strategic level. It turned the whole civilized world against the United States. Soft power may be overrated, but sometimes it is the only usable power a country can exert in certain situations (see Korea, Iran etc.).

TrueNorth on March 3, 2009 at 8:06 PM

Are you saying that you think we would be better off had we not extracted a “treasuretrove” of intelligence information from KSM? Information that, without question, saved American lives. All because of your false assumption that other countries would like us more? They wouldn’t be so mad at us? They would think we’re a nice country? I’ll take the information that saves American lives thank you very much.

Zetterson on March 4, 2009 at 1:36 PM

Many conservatives argue very persuasively that waterboarding is not really torture but they are missing the point. No matter how cleverly you justify the policy as a tactic it was a monumental mistake on a strategic level. It turned the whole civilized world against the United States. Soft power may be overrated, but sometimes it is the only usable power a country can exert in certain situations (see Korea, Iran etc.).

TrueNorth on March 3, 2009 at 8:06 PM

And your examples are crazy if you don’t mind my saying. NKorea? Iran? You hold these up as examples of diplomatic success stories? Last I checked President Obama just went crawling to Vladamir Putin for help vis-a-vis Iran only to get his face spat in. Last I checked that nutty little Iranian president continues, by the day, to march cheerfully on to acquiring/developing a nuclear arsenal.

Zetterson on March 4, 2009 at 1:42 PM

Many conservatives argue very persuasively that waterboarding is not really torture but they are missing the point. No matter how cleverly you justify the policy as a tactic it was a monumental mistake on a strategic level. It turned the whole civilized world against the United States.

No it didn’t. The actions of a few at Abu Ghraib being misrepresented as an example of “America’s policy of torture” by the America-hating media of the world is what set it off, not to mention the nice little bogus Newspuke story claiming Gitmo soldiers were putting Korans in the toilet. They saw an opportunity and grabbed it, and the usual suspects, including you, fell right into place.

I think it’s quite laughable to believe we should be so concerned about being judged by the rest of the so-called “civilized” world anyway, considering many of them do worse things than waterboard to their own citizens. But according to you, if the rest of the “civilized” world considers serving tea in a plastic cup torture, we should abandon all sanity and kowtow to their demands.

Yeah, to hell with that.

xblade on March 4, 2009 at 3:51 PM

JohnJ said

I hate this argument. It ignores the point that people who hate America will hate America no matter what we do, just as Democrats will always hate Republicans. If it had not been waterboarding, it would have been that we were too rude when we asked questions, or the cuffs were too tight, or they weren’t being fed enough. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that we can ever do to make those who hate us not hate us.

That’s true, but there are many people around the world who do not hate America, and in fact look up to America as that “shining city on a hill” that Ronald Reagan talked about. I am one of them (I’m a Canadian).

I supported the United States in the Cold War precisely because of it’s ideals. We knew about the Soviet Gulag and the KGB’s notorious Lubyanka prison and that was the overriding reason for favoring the United States – because it did not torture. Human rights mattered. You should be proud of that. I agree that George Bush’s interrogation regime was nothing like as bad as the Soviet Union’s or even Cuba’s – which is why it was so maddening having to fight a rearguard action defending America on an issue about which there should have been absolutely no discussion required.

TrueNorth on March 4, 2009 at 8:49 PM