Combs Spouts Off

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Posts Tagged ‘hamdan’

Why we’re safer

Posted by Richard on September 7, 2006

Last week in Salt Lake City, President Bush delivered the first of a series of speeches about the war against Islamofascism. I dubbed the speech "Bush channels Sharansky" –it made the case for rejecting the policy of promoting Middle East "stability" (which the U.S. pursued for over a half-century) in favor of encouraging freedom and democracy.

On Tuesday at the Capital Hilton in Washington, Bush followed up with a speech to the Military Officers Association of America, which included a sobering picture of our enemies:

We know what the terrorists intend to do because they’ve told us — and we need to take their words seriously. So today I’m going to describe — in the terrorists’ own words, what they believe… what they hope to accomplish, and how they intend to accomplish it. I’ll discuss how the enemy has adapted in the wake of our sustained offensive against them, and the threat posed by different strains of violent Islamic radicalism. I’ll explain the strategy we’re pursuing to protect America, by defeating the terrorists on the battlefield, and defeating their hateful ideology in the battle of ideas.

The terrorists who attacked us on September the 11th, 2001, are men without conscience — but they’re not madmen. They kill in the name of a clear and focused ideology, a set of beliefs that are evil, but not insane. These al Qaeda terrorists and those who share their ideology are violent Sunni extremists. They’re driven by a radical and perverted vision of Islam that rejects tolerance, crushes all dissent, and justifies the murder of innocent men, women and children in the pursuit of political power. They hope to establish a violent political utopia across the Middle East, which they call a "Caliphate" — where all would be ruled according to their hateful ideology. …

We know what this radical empire would look like in practice, because we saw how the radicals imposed their ideology on the people of Afghanistan. Under the rule of the Taliban and al Qaeda, Afghanistan was a totalitarian nightmare — a land where women were imprisoned in their homes, men were beaten for missing prayer meetings, girls could not go to school, and children were forbidden the smallest pleasures like flying kites. Religious police roamed the streets, beating and detaining civilians for perceived offenses. Women were publicly whipped. Summary executions were held in Kabul’s soccer stadium in front of cheering mobs. …

The goal of these Sunni extremists is to remake the entire Muslim world in their radical image. In pursuit of their imperial aims, these extremists say there can be no compromise or dialogue with those they call "infidels" — a category that includes America, the world’s free nations, Jews, and all Muslims who reject their extreme vision of Islam. They reject the possibility of peaceful coexistence with the free world. Again, hear the words of Osama bin Laden earlier this year: "Death is better than living on this Earth with the unbelievers among us."

Read the whole thing — it’s excellent.

Today, Bush followed up with the third installment, and it was the big newsmaker because of Bush’s revelations about terrorists held by the CIA:

In addition to the terrorists held at Guantanamo, a small number of suspected terrorist leaders and operatives captured during the war have been held and questioned outside the United States, in a separate program operated by the Central Intelligence Agency. This group includes individuals believed to be the key architects of the September the 11th attacks, and attacks on the USS Cole, an operative involved in the bombings of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and individuals involved in other attacks that have taken the lives of innocent civilians across the world. These are dangerous men with unparalleled knowledge about terrorist networks and their plans for new attacks. The security of our nation and the lives of our citizens depend on our ability to learn what these terrorists know.

Many specifics of this program, including where these detainees have been held and the details of their confinement, cannot be divulged. Doing so would provide our enemies with information they could use to take retribution against our allies and harm our country. I can say that questioning the detainees in this program has given us information that has saved innocent lives by helping us stop new attacks — here in the United States and across the world. Today, I’m going to share with you some of the examples provided by our intelligence community of how this program has saved lives; why it remains vital to the security of the United States, and our friends and allies; and why it deserves the support of the United States Congress and the American people.

Please don’t just rely on the 90-second news stories about this speech. Read the whole thing — or better yet, watch the video (about 30 minutes, available at the same link; requires Real Player). Bush is compelling and persuasive, and his recounting of the events set in motion by the capture of Abu Zubaydah –including the thwarting of several planned attacks on the U.S. — is the stuff of great spy thrillers. In particular, I found the revelation of a foiled anthrax weapons program chilling.

Bush presented, in my opinion, a powerful defense of the CIA detention program and the interrogation techniques used:

These procedures were designed to be safe, to comply with our laws, our Constitution, and our treaty obligations. The Department of Justice reviewed the authorized methods extensively and determined them to be lawful. I cannot describe the specific methods used — I think you understand why — if I did, it would help the terrorists learn how to resist questioning, and to keep information from us that we need to prevent new attacks on our country. But I can say the procedures were tough, and they were safe, and lawful, and necessary.

This program has been, and remains, one of the most vital tools in our war against the terrorists. It is invaluable to America and to our allies. Were it not for this program, our intelligence community believes that al Qaeda and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland. By giving us information about terrorist plans we could not get anywhere else, this program has saved innocent lives.

This program has been subject to multiple legal reviews by the Department of Justice and CIA lawyers; they’ve determined it complied with our laws. This program has received strict oversight by the CIA’s Inspector General. A small number of key leaders from both political parties on Capitol Hill were briefed about this program. All those involved in the questioning of the terrorists are carefully chosen and they’re screened from a pool of experienced CIA officers. Those selected to conduct the most sensitive questioning had to complete more than 250 additional hours of specialized training before they are allowed to have contact with a captured terrorist.

I want to be absolutely clear with our people, and the world: The United States does not torture. It’s against our laws, and it’s against our values. I have not authorized it — and I will not authorize it. Last year, my administration worked with Senator John McCain, and I signed into law the Detainee Treatment Act, which established the legal standard for treatment of detainees wherever they are held. I support this act. And as we implement this law, our government will continue to use every lawful method to obtain intelligence that can protect innocent people, and stop another attack like the one we experienced on September the 11th, 2001.

Personally, I wouldn’t have been as diplomatic and restrained in discussing McCain — or the Hamdan decision. I’d have said that this crap about humiliation, intimidation, and degrading treatment being torture is ridiculous and insults the victims of real torture (in fact, I have). But I’m not a politician, and I suppose Bush is right not to complain about things he can’t change now.

I’m glad Bush is going to Congress. It’s about time they quit just carping and viewing with alarm, and actually fulfilled their role. Bush is correct that, in the wake of Hamdan, we need specific legislation spelling out what is and isn’t legal. And Congress should certainly authorize military tribunals to deal with the men at Gitmo — they can’t and shouldn’t be handled as a law enforcement problem.
 

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