I am the honorable flamingo. What you read here might make you smile, make you think, or make you wonder. This is the world as I see it, from the view of a pink, long legged, slightly awkward bird.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bill O'Reilly Answers My Mail...And Takes It Out Of Context

Bill O'Reilly answered my letter on his November 7th show. I thought I should put it up here, unfortunately, I only have audio. By the way, he got my name wrong too.

I wrote my letter in response to a segment he did on the previous night's show about the torturing of captives. In that context, I thought it was pretty clear that by "enemies" I meant those that we had captured, but I guess I was wrong. The bombings of Japan and Nazi Germany during WWII were just acts of war, however, the torturing of helpless captives is never justified.

I should also clarify that nowhere in my letter did I mention "dead Americans". The "Americans" portion of that was a complete fabrication. What I wrote was "Your 'families dead in the streets' argument is merely fear-mongering." This was in response to an argument Bill had with Liz Wiehl. He said something to the effect of "So your family is lying dead in the streets and you won't allow us to use harsh interrogation methods." The primary objection of my letter was this message of "allow torture or your family will be slaughtered." That is fear-mongering.

Since I have really no authority to speak on this subject, and it is just my word against Bill's when I say torture is immoral and it doesn't work, I've decided to bring in an expert. Retired Army Colonel Stuart Herrington worked as an interrogator in Vietnam, Panama, and during the Gulf War with Iraq. He was also asked to help train Iraq-bound interrogators in the art of non-coercive interrogation. I will use his words to support my argument now.

"In interrogation centers I ran, we called prisoners "guests" and extended military courtesies, such as saluting captured officers. We strove to undermine a prisoner's belief system, which we knew instructed him that Americans are unschooled infidels who would bully him and resort to intimidation, threats and brutality."

Can you imagine a 19 or 20 year old Al-Qaeda fighter, captured on the battlefield, sitting in the interrogation room? A person that has been indoctrinated with the idea that Americans are pure evil, and will brutalize him mercilessly. If we merely strap him to a board and pretend to drown him, it does nothing but reinforce these beliefs. He can say to himself, "they are exactly as I thought they were." However, treating a captive with respect, probably more than he ever received from terrorist leaders, will go farther to show him Americans are not bad than electricity applied to the genitals ever could.

"But the so-called ticking time bomb scenario is a Hollywood construct that I never encountered in my 30-year career."

Funny, a 30 year career that has never encountered this situation, and yet every question about torture given to Presidential candidates seems to focus on it.

Finally, he ends with a story from the Gulf War, about an Iraqi general who was interrogated not with hostility, but with respect and skill.

"An Iraqi general, captured and humiliated during Operation Desert Storm, is initially frightened and defiant but eventually cooperates, knowing that Saddam Hussein's penalty for treason was certain death. Before repatriation, the general hands his captor his prayer beads and a scrap of paper bearing an address, saying with emotion, 'Our Islamic custom requires that we show gratitude to those who bestow kindness and mercy. These beads comforted me through your Air Force's fierce bombings for 39 days, but they are all I have. When Saddam is gone, please come to my home. You will be an honored guest and we will slaughter a lamb to welcome you.'"

You can read the full article from the Colonel here.

I guess not everyone agrees with you Mr. O'Reilly.

When we use the fear of terrorism to justify torture, we become a little bit like the terrorists that we are trying to defeat. We do their job for them, and in fact do far more damage to ourselves than they ever could.

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose out freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." - Abraham Lincoln


BEAJ said...

Torturing for crucial information is something I can go along with.
However, overall treatment should be reflective of the society that captures the detainee.

The Flamingo said...

Sam Harris provides an interesting defense of torture in his book "The End of Faith", you may be familiar with it. He ends it, however, by acknowledging that our moral problem with torture doesn't really come from logic. If there is even a small chance that the torturing of a known terrorist would save lives, shouldn't we allow it? I'm not so sure.

Most everyone who knows anything about the subject (I'm not one of them) seems to say that physical pain as torture is unreliable and counter-productive. There was a saying I came across a few times that said something like "The strong will resist and the weak will say anything to stop the pain."

My problem with torture is that it implies that in order to defeat the terrorists, we have to become a little bit like them. I don't think the War on Terror will be won with machine guns. If we become what the terrorists portray us to their youth as, we help their cause.

I also think that the War on Terror will be won by the internet and the free exchange of information, similar to your theory about young earth creationism, which I agree with.