And Lest We Forget Powell…

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Foreign Policy, Law, The War On Terrorism

We haven’t posted him yet, but I’ve remedied that right now.

General Colin Powell on the torture policy:

Former secretary of state Colin L. Powell said yesterday that he decided to publicly oppose the Bush administration’s proposed rules for the treatment of terrorism suspects in part because the plan would add to growing doubts about whether the United States adheres to its own moral code.

“If you just look at how we are perceived in the world and the kind of criticism we have taken over Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and renditions,” Powell said in an interview, “whether we believe it or not, people are now starting to question whether we’re following our own high standards.”

Indeed.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 19th, 2006 and is filed under Foreign Policy, Law, The War On Terrorism. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

18 Responses to “And Lest We Forget Powell…”

  1. jerry robertson Says:

    Oh yeah….and we’re to believe Mssr Powell to be an honorable man???? After stabbing his President in the back during the Plamegate affair…during a time of war.
    After staying quiet, when knowing the truth for over 3 years..he let his country, his party, his President be demeaned and castigated , when he could have ended it all by stating the truth….

    “Et Tu Brute???”

    He has shown himself to be totally disqualified to hold ANY public office….

    His word is now just a LIE…

    Any honor he had from his previous service, has now been erased……

    He is a traitor of the worst kind……

    Jimmy Carter (America’s worst failed President and now international America hater)…

    Bill Clinton (America’s impeached President and worst defender….as well as proven liar)…

    Collin Powell….a Benedict Arnold of the new century…….

    Yep, I sure do want to hear what ole Colin has to say……hope he puts it in writing…..I’ll save money on toilet paper….

  2. JustAnotherIdjut Says:

    “whether we believe it or not, people are now starting to question whether we’re following our own high standards.�

    I don’t care. American safety trumps world opinion of America.

  3. nykrindc Says:

    Sorry Jerry but if you want to talk about who stabbed who in the back, you should look at what the administration did to Powell first. They sent him in front of the UN to make the case for war against Iraq based on what Tenet and others knew to be bad information. They knew that the only person who had ever corroborated it was a known liar and an unrealiable source called “curveball” and yet they did not tell Powell. He made America’s case, based on that intelligence and his reputation suffered as a result. Even after that, he continued to support and stand by the administration…if anything, he was too loyal for the good of the country.

    Now, he is finally standing up for America’s ideals by stating that in a war such as the one we are fighting, perceptions of how we carry ourselves and conduct this war, matter almost as much, if not more, than how we really carry ourselves. McCain is right in this respect, if we are seen to be reinterpretating the Geneva conventions to suit our purposes, the next time one of our soldiers is captured by another country, they will deem to have the right to do so as well.

    Al Qaeda’s is fighting an insurgency campaign against us. A large part of that effort is directed delegitimizing the current world order, and its leader, the US. Any time they make us look as a power out of control, or a force not indifferent from the many dictators and despots that rule over them, is a victory for them. As an example, every time the president says Water boarding is acceptable, or “i’m not going to talk about the ‘methods’ we use to gain information” to most Muslims it sounds like Hosni Mubarak or the Saudis trying to explain away their death dungeons. Al Qaeda, and others are making that argument against us, and that can only hurt in the future. Keeping true to our ideals is waht allowed us to win against the Soviets (another ideological struggle) because we could point to our country, and the rules we followed as an example of what the Soviet’s were not. In this instance, in a fight against a global insurgency that notion that we stay true to those things which have always made us American, is even more important.

    Partisanship in resolving such an issue won’t help. McCain, Powell, Warner and others are fighting a good fight and protecting a weapon more vital than the information we can gain through the methods the president advocates. What’s more, the whole argument that we can get vital information from tortured suspects in a non argument as this has been proven time and again not to be the case. A person being tortured, will say anything to get the torturer to stop, as such, they usually say what they think the torturer wants them to say whether it is the truth or not.

  4. Monica Says:

    I don’t care about world opinion either. They hate us regardless of what we do. I think we should create our own standards for each type of enemy we face and hold to those standards – screw international courts and their laws.

  5. Walrus Says:

    “Our own standards”? By this do you mean sinking to the level of terrorists? You do realize that many victims of torture are entirely innocent, don’t you?

    Besides, I thought due process, open trials, and presumption of innocence were American standards.

  6. Monica Says:

    It’s utter bullshit to say that we are anywhere close to sinking to the level of terrorist. When we start beheading people and targeting civilains THEN we’ll be like the terrorists.

  7. nykrindc Says:

    The point is Monica, that it is a very slippery slope, do you think the Muslim world got to this point overnight? If we can reinterpret the Geneva convention to suit our purposes, what stops, say Iran from doing so if they capture an American soldier? If we walk down this path, nothing. They can just say they are reinterpreting the Convention to safeguard national security, and we would have no real argument against that. Their reinterpretations would likely not be as small as ours, they would likely go to extremes to reinterpret it so that they could torture our people, and if we complain, most of the world will say “while tragic, it was you who first reinterpreted these conventions to suit your purposes.” In addition, how can we then claim to uphold the international order when we ourselves refuse to abide by the terms we, along with our allies, set down after the second world war? We created these standards, and these were agreed by most nations, and now we want to change them to suit our purposes? It’s a narrow minded viewpoint and not one that can aid us in defeating the global insurgency we are currently fighting. Moreover, Walrus is right, in the final analysis this is as much about the war against them, as what it says about the America we are and want to be. If we stand for the rule of law, due process, open trials, and presumption of innocence then why do we want to reneg on them.

    Additionally, as I said earlier, it has been proven time and again that torture does not work and is not an effective weapon to combat an insurgency, unless you are willing to carry out a scorched earth campaign against the enemy and its territories to the point were innocent civilians suffer as much, if not more than the small groups of insurgents we are actually fighting. I doubt this ais a path America can stomach, and given that, torture will not work, because as I stated earlier, tortured criminals, insurgents etc. will always tell you what they think you want to hear, whether true or not, just to get you to stop torturing them.

  8. Jimmy the Dhimmi Says:

    Monica, I’ve been thinking all this criticism over Abu Graib and guntanamo may actually turn out for the better. Don’t expect the administration to send any more terrorists to Gitmo where they will gain 13 pounds, get “belly-slapped” and be forced to listen to “Sir Psycho Sexy.”

    Now we will just send all those we captured to secret prisons in Uzbeckistan and Pakistan where they can have their balls zapped and no one one will ever know. That way, all this will be out-of-sight, out-of-mind, and we get the vital information we need to save innocent lives. Thats all the moral high-ground I need.

  9. Monica Says:

    nykrindc -

    Thanks for such a thoughtful response, I sincerely appreciate a civil and honest discussion. I do understand where you’re coming from, but I am one of those individuals that doesn’t believe that terrorists should even be covered under the Geneva Conventions (the Supreme Court obviously disagrees). They don’t where uniforms and they hide amongst civilians – which means they aren’t soldiers as is defined by the Conventions. That’s why we created the conventions – so that when countries go to war with each other that we would treat each other as honorable soldiers. There is nothing honorable about these thugs and they don’t even represent a country or a government. I for one would prefer to create a whole new set of rules for these thugs – not give them the rights that honorable soldiers are given with the Geneva Conventions.

    If we do go to war with Iran you shouldn’t for a second think they’re going to uphold the conventions – regardless of what we might or might not do. To think so seems a bit naive considering we’re talking about a country that is defying the world and the agreement they signed by pursuing nuclear technology – i.e. weapons.

    I don’t personally agree with torture either – but I don’t believe what the CIA is asking for is torture. So we might disagree on that point. When I think of torture I think of cutting out tongues (Saddam), beheading people (Al Qaeda), gutting soliders in the street (recently happened to 2 US soldiers by terrorists in Iraq), beatng prisoners, killing prisoners, etc. If we caught our soliders doing anything like that I would want to prosecute them to the fullest extent of our laws.

    Regarding your point on Muslims didn’t get to this point overnight…
    from my understanding there has always been brutality and beheadings in Islam. They haven’t had there Englightenment yet that would turn them away from such violence.

    Please excuse me if anything above sounds harsh or combative – it’s not intended that way. I’m about to leave work and am in a bit of a rush.

  10. Meredith Says:

    In case no one has noticed, it has been a while since we have had a war where each side wears a uniform and lines up in battle formation to face each other. The reason Vietnam didn’t work out real well is because the enemy adjusted their game plan. Why? Because they realized they would lose if they played the same game. Really – we’re going to require the wearing of uniforms in order for people to receive rights guaranteed under the Geneva Conventions?

    BTW – The Geneva Conventions are not the only rules that govern here. Even if you believe they don’t apply to the current situation, there are other international treaties which require that basic human rights be observed, no matter what the enemy decides to wear. Even if you scoff at those other international treaties, there are still human rights. That’s because we are all humans.

    This country simply CANNOT throw out the observance of basic human rights. Just because extremists are torturing people does not mean that we should just go ahead and do it to. The reason we go into other countries (including Iraq, right?) is because we will not allow governments to abuse and torture people. If we want respect, we will have to earn it. Regardless of how much respect you think we had prior to the invasion of Iraq, that respect has been decreased to the “little to none” category in the last 4 years or so. We have to earn it back, and it will take a while. We should start earning it back right now.

    Cheers to Colin Powell, John McCain, Mark Warner, and all politicians who are standing up to this administration on this issue. I’m not Christian now, but I was raised to be (spent 16 years in Catholic school), and I think it’s a safe assumption that Jesus would not be cool with our treatment of detainees. WWJD?

  11. nykrindc Says:

    Monica,

    I too appreciate an honest debate on the issues. :)

    I do understand where you’re coming from, but I am one of those individuals that doesn’t believe that terrorists should even be covered under the Geneva Conventions

    I would agree with you if this was a one time deal with no consequences outside of how we treat terrorists, however, our actions do not happen in a bubble, they affect every other aspect of our foreign relations with other countries. That is, while defining new rules for terrorists, other countries will perceive it as another American attempt to undermine the system we helped to create. The very system we claim to be upholding or as Bush puts it “a fight for civilization.”

    If we do this, any country will consider it legitimate to reinterpret the Geneva convention as they see fit be it against America or anyone else. In so doing, undermining the system that we nurtured for the better part of the last century in the hope of reducing the types of actions that happen daily outside of globalization’s core.

    If we do go to war with Iran you shouldn’t for a second think they’re going to uphold the conventions – regardless of what we might or might not do.

    I agree that Iran likely wouldn’t uphold the Geneva convention to the fullest extent as we would, but this has never been about what other countries do, it’s about who we are as Americans and the type of system that we are seeking to uphold. That is what McCain is talking about when he says that when he was a POW in Vietnam, and was being tortured, part of what kept him going was knowing that we Americans were not like them.

    I don’t personally agree with torture either – but I don’t believe what the CIA is asking for is torture.

    Yeah, but the matter in which this debate has been shaped, it has become about torture. The president was asked about water-boarding (which is illegal under the Geneva convention) and he all but agreed that it had happened even while saying that he would not talk about what methods were used. Not once, did he affirm that we weren’t torturing prisoners.

    As for what the CIA is asking, if they are asking for clarification of what an international convention means, then we must clarify that in an international fora. This would avoid the perception that America (or any country) could reinterpret the convention through national law to its liking. It would also bring us closer to our friends internationally (the rest of the Core, particularly Europe) and it would make the treatment of non-state combatants an issue in which all of our interests are vested, and take it away from being the sole responsibility of the US.

    In this long war, not only do we have to come up with an institutional solution to processing states from the Gap to the Core, but also for processing non-state combatants such that we aren’t the only ones holding the bag. In short, we have to make this the world’s problem, or at least Europe’s problem as much as it is our own. The impetus is already there with NATO having to fight non-state combatants in Afghanistan trying to come up with a system for processing them that is both transparent and legitimate.

    When I think of torture I think of cutting out tongues (Saddam), beheading people (Al Qaeda), gutting soldiers in the street (recently happened to 2 US soldiers by terrorists in Iraq), beating prisoners, killing prisoners, etc. If we caught our soldiers doing anything like that I would want to prosecute them to the fullest extent of our laws.

    Our guys were already caught beating prisoners to death and using other equally unsavory tactics to gain information. Like I said earlier, how much and how far do we condone this? Particularly when it becomes an argument on semantics.

    The main question you have to ask is “does it further our efforts in this war on terror? (i.e does it provide vital information to stop terrorist attacks that outweighs the damage we will cause to an international institution that we created and helped us defeat Communism due to our superior treatment of not only prisoners, but also dissidents that appealed more to the people living under our enemies, than the system they lived under) Does it actually work? Most experts will tell you that torture never works, except in getting prisoners to tell you what you want to hear.

    Regarding your point on Muslims didn’t get to this point overnight…
    from my understanding there has always been brutality and beheadings in Islam.

    They were not always like this. During our own Middle Ages (the Dark Ages) while our ancestors in Europe were engaged in pogroms and persecution of non-Christian minorities, Muslims welcomed Jews to the Ummah. Many did very well under the Muslim rulers, in commerce, diplomacy and other ventures. While Spain was forcing Jews to convert to Islam, Muslims were accepting them as Jews and providing them with opportunities to move up the economic ladder.

    At its zenith, Islamic civilization was the most tolerant and advanced of all civilizations. It was partly through them that we recovered our own past, through the works of the Greek philosophers that they preserved and passed on to us, it can be argued, rekindling our own Enlightment period to some extent.

    As Anwaar Hussein (whom I hardly ever agree with, except in this limited instance) has argued Madrasas were once “a bastion of knowledge and a guiding light to the world. When Islam was at its pinnacle, every order of learning from mathematics to science, from medicine to astronomy, from philosophy to jurisprudence were taught at these institutions.

    Great Muslim luminaries such as Al-Beruni, Ibn-e-Sina and Ibn-e-Khuldoon were the products of these same very madaris. Sects and different schools of thought in Islam have existed side by side since long. There was nothing wrong with intellectual differences flowing from freedom of thought as long as such differences remained confined to academic debates. Embedded in the walls of these madaris are echoes of great scholarly dialogue between various luminaries of the time.”

    In short, Islam has had periods of great tolerance which have been destroyed little by little through either bad governance or bad choices. We are confronted with similar situations now, and the decisions we make now will have a lasting impact on how we eventually win this war on terror. If we win by becoming a country where torture is valid, and oppression an everyday thing, then our victory will ultimately be a Pyrrhic one.

  12. Jimmy the Dhimmi Says:

    Wow Nykrindc, you make living as Dhimmis under the banner of Islam sound so nice. Perhaps we should let the armies of Islam conquer our society so that we could experience that golden age again. Remember, in order to get to that point, the House of Islam brutally and ruthlessly conquered all of Byzantium, Asia minor, all the way to Persia in less than a century after Mohammad’s death.

    There were never any conflicts in Yathrib after Mohammad ethnically cleansed the city of Jews and changed the name to Medina. It was only then that it became the “bastion of knowledge and a guiding light to the world” that it was in the middle ages. Its a great way to achieve enlightenment and peace: crush your rivals until they are a harmless minority under your political control.

    Wear you zonars with pride fellow dhimmis!

  13. Kevin Says:

    Jimmy, Since you decided to misinterpret Nykrindc’s post for your own enjoyment I’m going to rewrite yours for mine.

    Wow Nykrindc, you make living as an American sound so nice. Perhaps we should let the armies of America conquer our society so that we could experience that golden age again. Remember, in order to get to that point, the United States brutally and ruthlessly conquered all of the Native tribes in the continental US, all the way to the Pacific Ocean in less than a century after the Declaration of Independence.

    There were never any conflicts in the Midwest after the US army ethnically cleansed the region of Native Americans and changed the name to South Dakota, Colorado, etc. It was only then that it became the “breadbasket of the world” that it was in the 20th century. Its a great way to achieve prosperity and peace: crush your rivals until they are a harmless minority under your political control.

    I cant come up with a cool closing line to put here

  14. Jimmy the Dhimmi Says:

    Awesome. I see how the modern Islamic world ended up just like America did. The difference is that we are constantly looking towards the future and learning from the past.

    The Muslim world is preparing to destroy our future by yearning for the past.

    C’mon I’m just being snarky again…Anyway, the medeival Muslim world was still medieval! complete with jizyas, zonars, stonings, beheadings and all that lovely stuff you get under religous monarchies 1000 years ago. I don’t buy any of this crap that the golden age of Islam should be ressurected and implemented as it was then. Just like I wouldn’t like to see the Cathloic church revert to its former medeival self.

  15. nykrindc Says:

    Jimmy,

    You really are a good at misinterpreting arguments, aren’t you?
    To start with, the part of my comment you focus on was a response to Monica’s ascertion that Islam has always been a brutal religion. I was merely pointing out that there was a point when this was not the case. I wasn’t making an argument for living under Islam or anything of the sort so you are arguing against your own straw men there.

    Remember, in order to get to that point, the House of Islam brutally and ruthlessly conquered all of Byzantium, Asia minor, all the way to Persia in less than a century after Mohammad’s death.

    True, to an extent, but how do you think Byzantium conquered those lands to begin with (hint: it wasn’t with flowers and songs). Plus, unlike Christianity when Islam spread it did not force convertions en masse or burn books deemed heretical, it didn’t even try to impose itself on the local populations. In Latin America alone, Spain’s catholics named a saint as protector of the St. Mataindios aka Matamoros (or killers of Indians) to protect them as they pillaged and destroyed Indigenous societies and religions throughout the new world. Contrast that with Islam, which at the beginning did not seek to impose Islam on the native population, or replace them with Arabs but rather converted many using carrots or economic, political incentives for them to do so. Discriminatory, yes, but hardly as brutal as the bloodshed spilled by Christian “missionaries” in Africa, Latin America and elsewhere, the best example of which was the mass expulsion of Muslims and Jews from Spain where you either converted to Christianity or died.

    My point in this is not to say that Islam is better than Christianity, but rather that early on both religions were used to justify brutality of one kind or another, and both spread by the sword, not just Islam.

    As for your point about “There were never any conflicts in Yathrib after Mohammad ethnically cleansed the city of Jews and changed the name to Medina. “ Learn your history. First, the reason Mohammed was invited to Medina by the arab tribes in the area who knew him to be an objective arbitor (which they needed at the time) to resolve their disputes and unite them. He went to Medina along with the first Muslims (they had been expelled from Mecca by the arab tribes that refused to convert). Upon reaching Medina he got along well with the population there, including jews. He actually liked being around the jews because he felt a connection to them due to the fact that he believed his god to be their god as well. The Jews resented this, and when time came to fight against Mecca (which felt threatened by his religion and growing power) the Jews in Yathrib betrayed him and sided with the Meccans against him.

    Rather than eliminate the Jews and pillage, kill and maim their population (as was usually done with traitors) he asked them to leave Medina, because he could no longer trust them against the Meccans. I don’t remember my history of the period that well, but I believe there might have been some fighting, but ultimately when it was done Muhammed chose to let the Jews leave rather than kill them. In fact, that is also what he did with the Meccans once they were defeated in battle, rather than engage in vengeful acts, he accepted their peace offerings and welcomed them to Islam. This was unusual at the time, particularly in the tribal world where Muhammed lived, and as such it won him many allies and converts to the new religion.

    Is Islam a panacea, of course not. No religion is, given enough fundamentalism, and closed mindedness any religion can become a tool for the violent and sadistic.

    In any case, I fail to see what your argument has to do with the subject at hand, mainly how the treatment of detainees and the reinterpretation of the Geneva convention affect who we are as a nation.

    Also Jimmy, “The Muslim world is preparing to destroy our future by yearning for the past.”

    That is a very broad statement, as it is not the Muslim world that is preparing to destroy our future, rather, it is a very vocal minority within the Muslim world that wants to create a clash of civilizations to garner support for their evil acts (as the President says). That is one of the things we have to prevent. To paraphrase Barnett, while the Jihadists want to make this into a clash of civilizations, we need to keep this as a clash for globalization, where connectivity and the expansion of the rule sets that govern globalization’s core is the ultimate aim.

  16. Kevin Says:

    Jimmy, I know you were being snarky, just thought I’d respond with a little snark of my own. I don’t think we should be looking for lessons on tolerance any more than we should give our country back to the Native Americans.

    I will add this, since we’ve gone way off topic. It’s been part of our traditions as Americans to abstain from torture and the inhumane treatment of prisoners. If we’re going to depart from those traditions, the burden of proof is on those who want to change those traditions.

    I can examine the history books and point to instances where our positive reputation made victories easier. Where are your proofs?

  17. Kevin Says:

    Damn my lack of proof reading! Second sentence should read “I don’t think we should be looking for lessons on tolerance FROM MEDIEVAL ISLAM….” Sorry.

  18. alexking.org: Blog > Around the web Says:

    [...] And Lest We Forget Powell [...]

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