So this is going to be the Year of the Torturer. At home and abroad, we are again and again held in contempt for supposed torture of all those poor suffering terrorists we've captured in places such as Fallujah and Tora Bora. There is at least one more major investigation going on, and the outcry at its findings will again obscure the real effect of this propaganda campaign. It is limiting what our interrogators are doing -- lawfully under both U.S. and international law -- in interrogating prisoners. Of necessity, they treat these people differently than the FBI treats dangerous criminals such as Martha Stewart.
Does anyone remember the description aptly tagged to the inmates of Gitmo by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers about three years ago? He said, as I recall, that these guys were so crazily determined to kill Americans that they'd chew through the hydraulic lines of an aircraft they rode in simply to make it crash. Take your choice. You can believe General Myers or you can believe the Aunt Pittypats of Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the BBC?
HRW, purportedly the largest U.S.-based human rights organization, said last week that America can no longer claim to be a defender of human rights because it abuses those rights itself. What's more, according to HRW, by our lawlessness in handling terrorist prisoners, we're enabling real human rights abusers such as Egypt to escape blame by pointing to our example. This nonsense is just another part of the continued assault on the way we fight by people who should concern themselves instead with those who hack the heads off hostages.
Announcing the group's pretentious "annual world survey" on human rights, HRW's executive director Kenneth Roth said, "the U.S. government's systematic use of coercive interrogation has weakened a pillar of international human rights law -- the requirement that governments should never subject detainees to torture or other mistreatment, even in the face of war or other serious threat." The fact that there is no such law never slows those such as Roth. They pant and rant against America because here they can be heard, if not taken seriously. And they reflect the EUnuchs almost perfectly.
Last week, yours truly was subjected to a hostile cross-examination on BBC radio. My three interlocutors, joined by dozens of others asking questions by instant e-mail messages to the moderator, all took the same line. They wanted to know how ashamed I was of the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and pretty much everywhere else we've interrogated suspected terrorists. They were shocked when I told them I found their questions ill-informed, legally wrong, and offensive. They were simply aghast. But the show's producer called me later to say almost half the e-mails were agreeing with me, saying America was fighting terrorism for everyone's sake, and it shouldn't be bashed by the usual lib suspects.
HRW and their ilk peddle the idea that America cannot be a defender of freedom unless it places itself under the control of the full panoply of "human rights" measures the international community wants to impose. As HRW said, "It is one thing to declare oneself opposed to terrorism, quite another to embrace the body of international human rights and humanitarian law that enshrines the values that reject terrorism." Yes, and it is one thing to declare oneself a pious defender of human rights as Jimmy Carter did, and quite another to actually go beyond sanctimonious pronouncements and fight terrorism as George W. Bush has done.
Start with the beginning. America is a signatory of the U.N.'s international Convention Against Torture. But -- and this is the important "but" -- we refused to sign Protocol 1 to the CAT because it extended the definition of torture beyond that stated in U.S. law, and beyond what the Geneva Conventions require, to a fuzzily utopian vision of "human rights." U.S. law defines torture with reasonable clarity, but it neither prohibits every form of harsh treatment of prisoners nor endorses real torture in any form. What the HRW clowns and BBC exasperators refuse to understand is that our policy -- and our law -- neither permits torturing prisoners nor ignores it when it happens. Ask Army Specialist Charles Graner, who was sentenced to ten years in prison last week for prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.
And precisely who -- other than useful idiots such as HRW -- agrees with the likes of Egypt, Malaysia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and North Korea when they say no one can complain about their horrific practices because America does what they do? Do we even need to debate that point?
Over the past several weeks, one report after another has come to me saying that because our interrogators no longer know what the limits are, they are backing off just about every interrogation technique that places anything more burdensome than the Miranda warnings on these prisoners. One credible source told me that to poke a prisoner in the chest with a finger to get his attention now had to be approved by someone at least two levels up in the chain of command. In short, our interrogators are tied in knots, and information that may save dozens or thousands of lives remains in the heads of captured terrorists.
What to do? Tune in next week for the answer. HRW and the BBC surely won't like it, but there's a large dose of reality coming.
TAS Contributing Editor Jed Babbin is the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think (Regnery Publishing).
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