For at least the last 48 hours, we have been engaged in a self-flagellating national conversation aimed at relitigating the debate over the morality and efficacy of the Bush-era CIA’s enhanced interrogation practices. This is an important and productive conversation to have. Everyone who is interested in prosecuting the War on Terror effectively should be concerned about whether those techniques are operationally valuable or if they are ultimately counterproductive.
In the process of having this conversation, however, some familiar excesses have emerged. Most notably, the revived push in the media to close the Guantanamo Bay prison facility.
On Thursday, Meet the Press published a video in which two national security experts make the case for why the prison should be shuttered. The counterargument for why it should remain open, a position presumably shared by the president, was not represented.
At the same time, CNN published a report featuring the claims of Samir Naji, a former Guantanamo inmate accused of serving on Osama bin Laden’s security detail. In that report, the former prisoner lectured the United States about how his treatment shamed the American flag. Why? In order to soften him up for interrogation, he was kept cold and wet, forced to look at pornography, and twice, according to Naji’s own recounting, was made to salute that flag of which we should be so ashamed.
What barbarians we have become.
So, while we’re diving right into the abyss of absurdity – as is always the case when the press embarks on periods of introspection and national self-criticism – it is worth recalling that we are both still at war and the people with whom we are engaged in combat are brutish, uncivilized thugs.
According to BuzzFeed foreign correspondent Mike Giglio, ISIS is actively trying to find a buyer who will purchase the decapitated body of journalist James Foley for $1 million.
Three sources in contact with ISIS or its associates told BuzzFeed News that it wants to sell the remains of James Foley, the U.S. journalist whose August death was the first in a series of high-profile executions of Western hostages by ISIS hands.
They said ISIS wants $1 million for Foley’s body, which it would deliver across the border to Turkey, and that the group was willing to provide a DNA sample to facilitate a deal.
If true, the attempted sale would highlight the ruthlessness behind the hostage-taking enterprise that has provided ISIS with deep reservoirs of funds and publicity — as well as the group’s cold calculation as it works to raise more cash.
ISIS has been decapitating Western hostages with gruesome regularity for weeks. There are more macabre memorabilia from the Islamic State’s campaign of terrors where that came from. And there are plenty of disreputable intermediaries in the region who would gladly help facilitate the sale of headless bodies to prospective buyers in the West. “This is business,” one coldly told Giglio.
So, while we’re engaged in a national course correction relating to the prosecution of the War on Terror, let’s just keep in mind exactly who the enemy is. More than a handful of commentators have lamented that the Senate intelligence Committee’s “torture” report is valuable because will prevent us from becoming exactly what we are fighting. That does not give Americans nearly enough credit. Even if we tried, we would never become this.