Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Trump supporters, it's time for a humanity check

The other day, current chief of the CIA Richard Brennan told NBC News that he will not authorize the use of waterboarding (or other "harsh" interrogation techniques) by the CIA as long as he is in charge:
"I will not agree to carry out some of these tactics and techniques I've heard bandied about because this institution needs to endure," Brennan said... 
"Absolutely, I would not agree to having any CIA officer carrying out waterboarding again," he said.
In response to Brennan's comments, Donald Trump—on Fox and Friends—said this (per Politico):
“Well I think his comments are ridiculous," Trump said in a telephone interview Monday with "Fox & Friends." "I mean, they chop off heads and they drown people in cages with 50 in cage in big steel, heavy cages, drop ‘em right into the water, drown people and we can’t waterboard and we can’t do anything..."
"We’re playing on different fields, and we have a huge problem with ISIS, which we can’t beat. And the reason we can’t beat them is because we can’t use strong tactics, whether it’s this or other thing," he continued. "So I think his comments are ridiculous. Can you imagine these ISIS people sitting around, eating and talking about this country won’t allow waterboarding and they just chopped off 50 heads?”
Currently, waterboarding by any agency in the United States is prohibited by Executive Order 13491 (issued by President Obama on January 22, 2009). The United States Army banned waterboarding in 2006, along with a host of other "enhanced interrogation" techniques. So Brennan's statement is hardly inconsistent with current laws and rules. Obviously, however, Brennan is also saying he wouldn't authorize waterboarding even if he was told to do so by the President. Which of course makes the issue a drop dead one for Brennan: he'll quit or get fired before he'll do it, that's the implication.

Now, I'm not interested in rehashing the entire debate over "enhanced interrogation." Suffice it to say that I think the term is complete and utter bullshit; it was designed to avoid calling some things torture that absolutely are torture. I'd have a lot more respect for the people defending the use of these techniques if they just said they thought torture was sometimes justifiable (and to be fair, there are some who are willing to say that). Hanging one's hat on semantics, on legal technicalities indicates—to me—an underlining realization of one's lack of intellectual honesty.

That said, I'm equally dismissive of the people who insist "torture doesn't work" is an absolute, that it's pure truth. It's not. Torture can work; it depends on specifics, on the goal of the torture, on the parties involved, on the information being sought.

But all that aside, I think torture is just flat-out wrong. It's something that only little people, silly people would seek to legalize, people who are greedy, barbarous and cruel. And of course it's at odds with the Constitution. Those who would condone it really need to take a hard look at themselves, their world-view, and their personal ideology.

I know Trump's rhetoric, his willingness to say some things in very plain English that others dance around and avoid, appeals to many, many people. But let's take a closer look at what he's saying here. Again, Brennan's position is a firm line-in-the-sand one: he won't authorize water-boarding or other harsh techniques, period. And again, such techniques are currently prohibited, both by executive order and by US Army regulations. And Trump calls this "ridiculous." What's ridiculous? That Brennan has a firm position, with regard to the use of torture by agents of the US Government? Trump can disagree of course, but there's nothing ridiculous about Brennan's position.

Worse still, Trump offers up a completely irrelevant comparison as justification for his claim: he notes that (paraphrased) "ISIS is chopping off heads and we can't even waterboard people!" I seriously urge any Trump supporters reading this to think long and hard on what he is saying. Essentially, he's complaining that ISIS is somehow getting a free pass to commit horrible atrocities and that somehow allowing torture would even up the playing field to some degree. Trump's comments beg the question: should we also get to cut off some heads, as well? Just for fun?

ISIS isn't cutting off heads to get information; these acts are not a part of their interrogation techniques. ISIS is cutting off heads to instill terror throughout regions they control or are trying to control. They're cutting off heads for the purposes of—in their minds—fortifying that control, in much the same way that the Romans used to decimate conquered peoples ("decimate" means to destroy one tenth of a group; the Romans would put one tenth of a local population to the sword as a means of establishing their authority).

Setting aside the usefulness of such an approach, it points to the profound lack of humanity exhibited by ISIS. It makes ISIS and its supporters the scum of the Earth, in my opinion.

Yet, Trump is latching on to this lack of humanity as a basis for what should or shouldn't be allowed in the United States. And he's doing it ass-backwards: rather than pointing to the transgressions of ISIS and saying "see how horrible they are, we would never do that," he's saying "see how horrible they are, we should get to be a little bit horrible, too."

It's a revolting argument, in my opinion. It demonstrates quite clearly that Trump is neither a moral nor humane person, that others are mere objects to him, there to be used in whatever way he sees fit. And people are actually supporting this clod, actually want him to be President?

Time to look into the mirror, Trump supporters. Is what you're seeing really what you want to see? I hope not.