Torture Motivates Our Enemies

I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me -- unless you don't count American soldiers as Americans.
It's so obvious... the soldiers volunteered.  The all-volunteer force allowed the Bush Administration to use them in ways that no government with a conscripted force would ever contemplate.  They are expendable, both in the field and once they return home.  The GI Bill and the Walter Reed scandal is all the proof you need on that last point.  "Support the Troops" really means "Support All Wars."

I'd say it is equally obvious that these practices have made our homeland less secure as well as our troops in the field.  In the mythical Jack Bauer situation, where we know there is an imminent attack and we know that someone in custody knows how to stop it, then no jury would convict a Bauer-type for doing what they thought they needed to do to avert the attack.  The problem is enshrining that torture as legal.  If it's legal, it'll happen routinely.  It will become the norm rather than the exception, and then America will cease to be a Shining City on the Hill, and join the ranks of ordinary nations and tinpot dictators.  In fact, that is exactly what has happened under the Bush Torture Regime.  To think that these dirt-poor, illiterate youths that are susceptible to radicalization will only strike in Iraq against US Forces is naive.  If they had the chance to strike America itself, I don't think there is much doubt as to which target they would prefer.

This concern isn't borne out of some liberal hippie-dippie desire to be nice to everyone and drop flowers instead of bombs.  Being seen as the Shining City is the greatest Strategic Weapon America has at its disposal.  It is a weapon we can use freely, for it creates no blowback.  Ronald Reagan understood this, but the Republican Party that worships him has decided he was wrong.  They're still on board with the deficit-spending, favor-the-rich, tax-cuts-solve-everything policies, but the Shining City - that's liberal mushiness and naivete.

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