Monday, May 31, 2010

US Foreign Policy part 6: Torture

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Torture is bad for an entire host of reasons that you can take your pick from. It incites hatred abroad and aids enemy recruiters, it produces unreliable intelligence, and as a nation I'd think we would declare it as an immoral way to treat prisoners. Oh yeah, and it's illegal.

Matthew Alexander, a military interrogations officer, doesn't think torture is necessary to get good information, in fact he thinks quite the contrary that torture hardens resolve and produces unreliable intel. He told an interesting anecdote about a suspect that he interrogated. He said he walked into the room and the suspect said if he had a knife he'd cut his throat (this suspect was caught blessing suicide bombers), but after showing respect to the suspect's culture and religion he was able to get reliable information on bomber safe houses.

Wow. Imagine if he ended up in the hands of another officer who didn't mind torture tactics. Torture is a great tool for recruiters, it drums up hatred and calls for action to right such an obvious wrong. So every time something like Abu Ghraib unfolds it's an automatic trigger for more enemy/terrorist recruits, making our country and citizens abroad that much more unsafe.

The intelligence is often unreliable as well. When you think you're on the brink of death you'll probably say anything your tormentor wishes to hear. What good is that info? It wastes time and resources.

I can't imagine someone would argue that it isn't immoral. The picture one would paint in favor is that if there's an imminent danger, then wouldn't you do anything to get that information? What if your own mother would be the victim? While those are somewhat valid questions and scenarios, the reality is that we don't live in Kiefer Sutherland's "24", where breaking a finger automatically gets you the code to deactivate the nuke. More importantly, we're not talking about what we do as individuals, but as a government body, because that has a far greater affect nationally and internationally alike. It simply isn't something we as Americans should tolerate as part of our ideology, we say that we are the standard for the rest of the world.

It's illegal. It may not be a tough argument to weasel out of the Geneva Conventions, which declare that if a signed nation is in conflict that it must abide by the international treaty, but you cannot escape that it's Federally illegal, no matter where you are, and even if you aren't doing the actual torture, conspiracy to torture is also illegal. Indictable up to 20 years in prison, or even the death penalty in cases where torture resulted in death.

You should not be so naive to think that "But it's a terrorist! Have no pity, because they had none." There is an inherent fallacy with that which is: how do you declare someone a terrorist? Who gets to make that claim? Based on what? Do not be so hasty to throw away anyone's rights, even those labeled a terrorist, because all it takes is a label, and God forbid that this label somehow falls on you. Did you know that if the government declares you a terrorist that it can assassinate you without due process? You're a citizen!! Yet there is no regard for your rights as a US citizen. This point isn't hypothetical. President Obama authorized an assassination of a U.S. citizen on sight, no matter the location, near or far from the field of battle, sleeping or awake, without a trial, without any protection of the US Constitution. This is clearly wrong. If he has committed treason then capture him, try him and execute in accordance with the law, but do not make the mistake of thinking this philosophy cannot bleed over into your life and affect your rights.

Torture is a great promotional tool to recruit enemies, it doesn't produce reliable intelligence, it endangers our rights by extension, it's immoral, and it's unAmerican. Frankly, I'm ashamed I didn't come around to this conclusion sooner.
_________________________________________________
part 1: Blowback
part 2: Sanctions
part 3: Just-War
part 4: Preventive War
part 5: Declaration of War
part 6: Torture
part 7: Finances
part 8: CIA
part 9: War on Terror
part 10: War on Terror part 2, Suicide Terrorists
part 11: Conclusion

Monday, May 24, 2010

US Foreign Policy part 5: Declaration of War

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According to the US Constitution, only Congress has the power to declare war (Article 1, Section 8), and the President's job is to be the Chief Commander. However, the last time Congress voted and officially declared war was in WWII. We have had many wars since then, including the Korean War, Vietnam, Gulf War (Iraq-1990 & 2003), Bosnian War, Kosovo and a few others.

It should not sit well that the President can send our troops into armed conflict with another country without a declaration of war from our Congress, there was an attempt to shore this up with The War Powers Resolution of 1973, but that actually gave the President even more leeway to send troops into war for 90 days before requiring a vote from Congress, and that's only been activated *once* since the bill was voted into law.

The US Constitution wasn't perfect upon creation, but it was fairly intelligent when dividing up powers among the three branches of our Republic (did you know we're a republic?), because war should not be entered into lightly, and certainly shouldn't be left to a single person which is why I think it was highly intelligent to put it in the hands of several hundred people (Congress). When the war is needed it's declared and met with minimal objection, and has a clearly defined beginning and end, because Congress can specify who we are fighting, why we are fighting them and what is required for us to cease fighting. Can you say that about any of the wars we're fighting in currently?

There's a reason we have a procedure for war written into the Constitution, perhaps we should dust it off and use it again, if only to know where every politician stands rather than condemn & hide behind the irresponsible acts of the President.
_________________________________________________
part 1: Blowback
part 2: Sanctions
part 3: Just-War
part 4: Preventive War
part 5: Declaration of War
part 6: Torture
part 7: Finances
part 8: CIA
part 9: War on Terror
part 10: War on Terror part 2, Suicide Terrorists
part 11: Conclusion

Monday, May 17, 2010

US Foreign Policy part 4: Preventive War

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Preventive War is the idea that you attack first to spearhead dangerous enemies before they get to you. Our 2003 invasion of Iraq is a great case study for Preventive/Preemptive War. The Bush administration labeled Iraq as a global threat harboring Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Saddam Hussein was said to have instigated this theory as a means for intimidating Iran, so the US invaded Iraq claiming proof of these weapons though none actually existed. So naturally, after 7 years of occupying Iraq and yielding nothing substantial you should only conclude that the justification for invading Iraq was falsely produced and we should never have invaded.

Had Bush been President during the Cuban Missile Crisis we surely would have had catastrophe, because a policy dictating "take them out just in case" is not a sound principle of peace. It was recently posed to me that if someone was acting suspicious and led me to believe they possessed a gun, would I do nothing? Well, yeah, probably. Suspicions alone do not justify ending lives, and many civilians and soldiers alike died for such a tragic policy.

So when you hear people say we should invade Iran because they have a nuclear program, we should hear all the facts before demanding blood. For instance, many countries possess nuclear weapons or are at least thought by experts to possess them: China, France, India, Pakistan, Russia, UK, Israel, North Korea and most certainly the United States. That's probably not even the entire list. The only country to have used a nuclear weapon in war is of course, us. So, how does that make us the moral authority?

Good thing no other country is practicing Preventive War on us, at least not since Pearl Harbor, but you see how that ended for Japan. It inflamed US citizens and prompted many to join the military to right such a wrong, do you not think it has the same result in other countries? Do you think it cannot result in a similar ending for us? We are not above the law, and certainly not the law that we ourselves have implemented, yet we bomb other countries for things they haven't done and have the audacity to get indignant when they fight back.

Preventive War leads to erroneous wars, more hatred abroad from bombing their land, killing their people, occupying their country and dictating how they should run their government and it's also expensive for us to fund.

The idea of going to war to prevent war is a rather ridiculous notion for US politicians to play up, because if you don't want war then stop cooking up false pretenses to wage it.
_________________________________________________
part 1: Blowback
part 2: Sanctions
part 3: Just-War
part 4: Preventive War
part 5: Declaration of War
part 6: Torture
part 7: Finances
part 8: CIA
part 9: War on Terror
part 10: War on Terror part 2, Suicide Terrorists
part 11: Conclusion

Monday, May 10, 2010

US Foreign Policy part 3: Just-War (moral obligation)

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The 2003 invasion of Iraq was justified by our "evidence" that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction. Never mind this evidence was never presented and any witnesses were never produced. There was never any evidence for Iraq possessing WMDs.

However, the 2nd most popular idea is that it's the United States' moral responsibility to enact justice where we don't perceive any. Let us forget that we enabled Saddam to come to power in the first place. Let us also forget that Saddam enacted his cruelty with weapons and supplies we either paid for or gave him. Instead, let's address the principle of a "Just-War", going to war where we feel morally obligated to step in where we otherwise have not been invited.

I recently heard Sean Hannity toss about the idea that if I could hear my neighbor being raped and brutalized, would I do anything? Well, if I were witness to such a thing then I probably would intervene. However, there's a mountain of difference between that scenario and conflict abroad. The most obvious issue is that these places aren't our neighbors. Mexico and Canada are, that's it.

Another issue is that the "assault" scenario is one of personal choice, because while *I* would go and do my best to save that woman I wouldn't force my neighbors to do so. Governments are not personal, it isn't as if George Bush said that *HE* would go to Iraq and put his life on the line, no, he has to volunteer the lives of those in our military who entrust him with the decisions of war. As such, war should only be about the lives of Americans. If someone desires to help the oppression of another country then they should pack their bags and go help them, but you cannot volunteer the lives of others no matter how Just you think it is.

This is not an easy topic for me, because I'm quite appalled and at times breathless at what's been happening in Darfur. It's genocide, and if America were truly about moral dictation then we would've already been there to save those precious lives, and we would've been in Rwanda as well. We weren't, so don't let politicians and shady talk-show hosts throw misdirection at you in the name of moral fiber.

Hannity used World War II as another example of a Just-War. What he failed to mention or realize is that we did in fact stay out of WWII until we were attacked, despite the pleads of Great Britain. And that was the right decision, as tough as it is to make.

The other flaw in the argument of the neighbor-assault scenario is that the government would first impose sanctions that would only add to our neighbor's issues. We'd dry up her resources and end up hurting and killing her before ever stepping into the door, because we'd cut off her supplies and bomb the house declaring "casualties of war". Just ask the 100,000 dead civilians in Iraq.

The real morality check should be the United States Government deciding to stop interfering with the internal affairs of other nations. Our country puts itself at danger every time we dictate our ways around the world.
_________________________________________________
part 1: Blowback
part 2: Sanctions
part 3: Just-War
part 4: Preventive War
part 5: Declaration of War
part 6: Torture
part 7: Finances
part 8: CIA
part 9: War on Terror
part 10: War on Terror part 2, Suicide Terrorists
part 11: Conclusion

Monday, May 3, 2010

US Foreign Policy part 2: Sanctions

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Sanctions are thought to be a diplomatic solution for war. "Oh, let's not go to war, instead let's get them to cooperate by placing sanctions on them." In practical terms, sanctions is what older governments did via blockades, where they would place ships around your harbor to prevent you from any outside trade thereby allowing your infrastructure to crumble with the passage of time.

For example, in 1990 after Iraq invaded Kuwait, the U.N. imposed financial and trade sanctions/embargo on Iraq to compel them to leave Kuwait, and then to get them to pay reparations and then to disclose and eliminate any WMDs. The sanctions were largely overseen by the US and were used in hopes that if life became uncomfortable enough that Iraqi citizens would overthrow Saddam. The logic here is confounding, hoping that the damage *we* do will be blamed on someone else entirely, with the delusion that it's the leader's fault for bringing it upon them. The results were far more devastating, causing a rapid rise in child mortality rates linked directly or indirectly to the lack of potable water. Shortly after the sanctions were imposed the Iraqi government developed a food program that allotted 1,000 calories per person/day.

So, we destroy their ability to freely trade with others resulting in economic collapse, destruction in sanitation (which we predicted would happen 6 months into the sanctions, and prior to the Persian Gulf War), starve them, prevent adequate medical treatment/access to supplies, and that's only scraping the surface. Hundreds of thousands of children died as a result of this embargo.

Does any of that sound peaceful? It sounds like a war to me, and a recipe for inciting hatred abroad. Saddam was not the "good guy", but destroying his people to get to him isn't a good guy move either.
_________________________________________________
part 1: Blowback
part 2: Sanctions
part 3: Just-War
part 4: Preventive War
part 5: Declaration of War
part 6: Torture
part 7: Finances
part 8: CIA
part 9: War on Terror
part 10: War on Terror part 2, Suicide Terrorists
part 11: Conclusion