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Non/Political Musing

May 22, 2009

On my way out the door to take our 3-month old for a walk this morning, I glanced at the headlines in the Post. Former Vice-President Cheney is vociferously debating the current President on the issue of so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’. (Not to sound curmudgeonly, but I remember when it was considered poor taste for past Presidents and Vice-Presidents to publicly criticize their successors– though I can see that Cheney is only defending his untenable turf, so fair enough.)

But what I thought of as I was walking were two things that Obama can not say:

1. Cheney is probably right: torturing suspected terrorists likely makes ‘us’ safer. Yet who is the ‘we’? By mistreating ‘them’, ‘we’ are safer, true. But is that any way to live, and any way to be? And what happens when ‘we’ leave ‘here’ and want to go anywhere else? Will we be safer, or more imperiled? Will we continue to wonder why the rest of the world just doesn’t appreciate our great American way of life? Why they don’t appreciate our ‘freedom’?

2. There is a price to be paid for high morals. This is something that I realized shortly after 9/11 (on which day my wife prepared her hospital for triage as she was legally compelled to stay on duty, and when I felt our building shake when the plane hit the Pentagon. When we talked for one minute on the phone, we thought we might not speak to one another again.). In those days, I walked through the city as armed troops and military vehicles patrolled the streets. I considered the efficacy of putting duct tape on our windows, and wet towels under our doors in the event of chemical warfare. I felt the winds and knew that a dirty bomb detonated downtown would send a toxic cloud right over our heads. I did all of that, and thought, “Well, this is how much of the rest of the world lives– it is only fair that we take our turn, too.”

Obama can’t be expected to say this for anyone else, so I’ll just say it for myself: I’d rather the lives and health of me and my family be imperiled than people be tortured in the name of ‘safety’ (and I know what it is to make weighty ethical/health decisions on behalf of my children). I’d much rather explain to my kids that their lives are endangered by distrustful, hateful, violent people than to try to explain to them that their apparent safety was brought about by hate and suspicion and violence. I’d rather raise them in a dangerous world than in one that is ‘safe’.

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11 Responses to “Non/Political Musing”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Fortunately your forefathers felt differently and made this a country that you could oh so bravely make that statement. Maybe if you were priveledged enought to watch your young daughters and wife beaten and raped by the evil that actually exists in other parts of this world, you would see it a little different. Coming from someone who would curse God for the loss of a son, I am a little surprised, but again, the high road is easy to take from safety that has been provided by sacrifices of others. I am not convinced that God, Jesus, Holy Spirit would see us lay our childrens on the blade of a terrorist knife and do nothing to defend it.

    Sign me a former marine, and you know who I am.

  2. My apologies for my lack of clarity, and my respect for your service.

    I’m not offering my wife or daughters to be raped, beaten, or killed– I’m saying that if it requires torture for us to be only marginally ‘safer’ (in some vague sense of the word), I’d rather that methods of torture be avoided. I’m opposed to both terrorism and torture. After reading again, I realize that my overstatement implied something I didn’t mean to say, but still, I’m troubled by the sober, considered, intentional actions of high-ranking members of the military, which ultimately put soldiers in great danger.

  3. Heather S. says:

    Amen. I’d rather not have people tortured in the name of my safety.

  4. Julie says:

    Thanks for this post Mike. I couldn’t agree more. It’s really tough for me to watch Cheney make his rounds. On an unrelated note, my father-in-law and Cheney look a lot alike. I am praying that the spouse doesn’t start going the same route.

  5. Kim B. says:

    I agree completely Mike. I always think of it as I don’t want anyone torturing anyone *in my name,* which is what the last administration did by seeking to “legalize” their use of torture.

    I also don’t happen to believe it works as far as gaining useful intelligence and thus preventing further attacks, but that’s not even the core issue.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Now do me a muse about the president and his stand on abortion and how we should see our tax money go to the support of that policy. I know they are just non thinking embryos and that torturing of terrorists is the popular and cool subject of the day. But how can all the cool hip Christians of the day stand up so proud and loud on the torture s issue and be so timid on the baby killing. Would you for instance support a nurse's right to NOT assist in performance of an abortion? I believe that right was just revoked. Don't get me wrong, I don't support torture and I don't support terrorism. I am also not a big fan of war or even those “police actions”. I do believe that if I decide to commit a crime, then I should also be willing to accept the consequences. Terrorism should have its consequences just like lying, stealing, murder, rape, and even speeding. The crime should fit the punishment. Maybe torture is a fitting punishment for the crime of terrorism. These are people who hijack airplanes with innocent people aboard, men, women, and children. Do I think torture is something we should embrace? Of course not, but I won't spend a lot energy condemning those that are trying to keep my children and grandchildren save. And you cannot say with certainty that it has not been effective. The truth is that we have not had any further attacks on our soil since the 9/11 mess. So, I will accept your stance if you are a true pacifist, but do me another piece on how we need to get morally responsible people in our government that does not support killing babies on one hand and being nice to terrorists on the other.

    And as far as the out going pres/vice-pres leaving graciously, when in the history of this country has an incoming pres attacked the leaving administration so vehemently as pres obama? Do people with opposing view points have to have better etiquette than those that you agree with? Just a thought………..

    And for the rest of you brave souls, I am afraid that you would be no better than Peter, and deny those beliefs if your daughter or mother happened to be on that hi-jacked plane.
    And if you think otherwise, then please respond and tell us about your most harrying experience and how you stood strong.

    God bless you all,

    Former Marine, Father, & Grandfather

  7. Anonymous says:

    I must say, Amen, and Amen.

    We love you guys!
    Nana xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox

  8. Anonymous says:

    The thing is, a lot of people who are professionals in the intelligence services feel strongly that torture doesn’t even really make us safer, for two reasons.

    One is that a lot of people who are under torture will pretty much say anything in order to make the torture stop, so information extracted under torture is often not very reliable.

    The other reason is that it increases ill will towards our country in the world-thus motivating at least some people who would otherwise have respected out democracy to decide that we’re total hypocrites.

    Also, it gives other countries no incentive to treat _our_ soldiers well when they capture them. I mean, granted, some of those countries would probably treat our soldiers badly anyhow.

    It’s bad enough to trade the principles of our nation for safety, but it’s even worse to trade them for, basically, nothing.

    Erin from CT

  9. Danielle says:

    I second Erin. Plus, I heard an interesting piece on NPR recently (you know that’s all us liberals listen to). The guy was saying how torture doesn’t work that well in getting legit info b/c terrorists are trained for a LONG time in how to withstand torture. Just a thought.
    I think McCain would agree with your thoughts on torture, Mike.

  10. Ken Tennyson says:

    Great post Mike, I have been thinking similar thoughts in recent days. Thanks for putting yours “out there,” you are a braver man than I…

  11. Maranda says:

    Mike, I agree. I don’t like to see our country stoop to acts of terror in an effort to stop terror. It’s rather ironic. Thanks for sharing your thoughts

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