So Obama has decided to keep rendition and the torture it implies as part of U.S. covert operations. Surprise, Surprise. Turns out that instead of being a sign of pure personal evil, at least threatening to torture spies and illegal combatants is a necessary tool for even the most “enlightened” individuals.
Of course, anyone who spent any time actually studying the matter instead of trying to score rhetorical points out of selfish political motives knew that something like this is needed and as always has been.
I was watching a program on the history channel about army interrogators in WWII. They were responsible for interrogating uniformed German soldiers, i.e., legal combatants completely covered by the Geneva convention. On the show they talked about their most successful technique. Many of these men were Jews who had escaped Germany and Eastern Europe in the ’30s and who spoke many languages in genuine accents. They dressed their Russian-speaking members up in Soviet uniforms and then told the German captives that they would be turned over to the Russians unless they talked. The Germans, knowing full well that death by torture awaited them at the hands of the Russians, talked.
Now, the American interrogators were bluffing. If a German didn’t talk they just transferred him so he couldn’t give the game away. They never actually hurt anyone. They did, however, use the credible threat of torture to get the Germans to talk. Without the very real horror of Stalin’s Soviet Union hanging over their heads, the Germans had no reason to speak. The information that the Americans extracted from the German soldiers saved a lot of Allied lives, but they would have never gotten that information without Stalin’s sinister shadow looming in the background.
Secret “Black” prisons and rendition have been used continuously by the U.S. and other Western nations since the late 1930s because they’ve been needed. Determined people won’t talk unless physically threatened, and we needed at least the threat of torture to hold over their heads. For most of the last 70 years we only needed to hold at most a few dozen people at a time. When terror went large-scale in the late ’90s the rendition system would no longer suffice. Suddenly, we had to deal with not dozens but hundreds of people at a time. The rendition system could not process that many people. We had to bring the secret interrogations out into the light. Hence Gitmo.
Suddenly, people claimed to be shocked that we did such things. Some people did this out of real ignorance but most politicians and associated hangers-on did so out of pure self-interest. Bush at least had the integrity to step up to the plate and admit what he thought needed to be done. Obama and his supporters mocked and jeered from the sidelines while Bush et al did the dirty work.
Now its time for them to get their hands dirty.