A number of readers have expressed outrage over my recent op-ed about torture and terror. which was sparked by Lee Giles’ editorial about the Obama administration’s investigation in the techniques used at Guantanamo Bay.
Some readers complained that it was not comparing apples to apples or addressing the specifics — this is true. It was a statement of my personal experience of how I turned from left to right. Perhaps the headline was misleading.
Ray Morin’s letter presented a factual rebuttal. However regarding those Guantanamo Bay residents who are waiting to be found host countries, it begs the question why these people cannot be simply repatriated.
Either there is some suspicion that they present a risk, and therefore it is difficult to find a new home for them, or they face even worse torture back home.
A key point in his letter is related to the issue of bounty hunting as a questionable means of capturing suspects. We do the same here in effect with the rewards that Crime Stoppers offers — but the difference is that few of us would dream of turning in a neighbour in the hope of getting rich. And our system is designed to prevent that because of due process, the element often necessarily lacking when trying to catch terrorists.
Which goes back to the issue of context. What was the historical context when these prisoners were taken in? What was the mood of the day and what were the circumstances?
It is fine for us, years later, to say ‘this is terrible and wrong’ — yet in those traumatized times it seemed the only available solution.
The most effective weapon used in 9/11 was not the airplanes, but rather the social contract of trust related to the smooth daily operation of Western society. Our trust became a weapon against us.
Once breached in general and in such a devastating way, it was not difficult — and was perhaps necessary — for the Bush administration to respond accordingly.
Herbert Fielding wrote of the horrors he witnessed during the Second World War, and how he feels that we become like ‘them’ if we lower ourselves to treat such suspects with forms of legally-authorized Western torture.
To his argument I say that the difference lies in the intent.
The Nazis intended to wipe out Jews, Catholics, gypsies, gays and anyone who was not on their side. But Winston Churchill and the Allies didn’t intend to wipe out Germans. They intended to stop the war.
In doing so, as recorded in the book A Bodyguard of Lies by Anthony Cave Brown, Churchill knowingly sent hundreds of his secret agents to torture and their death through many layers of red herring operations to confuse the Nazis. He also allowed his own city of Coventry to be bombed so that the Nazis would not know that the Allies had Enigma and could crack the mission codes of the Nazis.
Did Churchill descend to their level through these cruel decisions that likely saved millions of others?
The intent on the part of Churchill was to succeed in war, despite the sacrifice of many loyal citizens and the destruction of his nation’s beautiful old city. These are the hard decisions one faces in war; George Bush faced them in a way that is unacceptable to many — in retrospect.
Another writer claims that because I do not personally know President Barack Obama, I should not call him naive. Based on many of his speeches, versus my own world experience, I know he is certainly naive about the Middle East.
Obama claims that Israeli settlements are the obstacle to peace between Israel and Palestinians. This is utter nonsense. Israel pulled all of its 30-year-old settlements out of Gaza and got 4,000 rockets in return from Hamas in Gaza.
The same is likely to happen in the West Bank — unless we can oust the hand of Iran, Syria and the Hezbollah, who are fomenting most of the violence and supplying weapons to the Palestinians.
It may surprise you to know there are quite a few collaborators on the side of the Palestinians who willingly work with Israelis and risk their lives, to help target and destroy weapons caches and terrorists.
These collaborators, if caught, are tortured in horrible ways by their fellow Palestinians, like by having hot, molten plastic poured in their ears. Yet we and the Americans provide foreign aid to the Palestinians and never say a word about how their administration terrorizes and tortures its own citizens.
We’re Canadians. We only like to criticize Americans.
Some writers questioned whether the end justifies the means. It depends on whether or not you are the next target.
We know the end does justify the means for terrorists. Our challenge is to find both the limits and the courage to effectively protect our innocent citizens.
Michelle Stirling-Anosh is a Ponoka freelance columnist.