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Commentary from the Free Enterprise Foundation, Issue #Spec09-10- More Thought Provoking Commentary!
June 16, 2009
You are invited to read the latest commentary from the Free Enterprise Foundation. It will make you think!
Protect and DefendBy Robert E. Freer, Jr., President of The Free Enterprise Foundation
“No. 1: Critics of our policies are given to lecturing on the theme of being consistent with American values. But no moral value held dear by the American people obliges public servants to sacrifice innocent lives to spare a captured terrorist from unpleasant things. And when an entire population is targeted by a terror network, nothing is more consistent with American values than to stop them.” (Former Vice President Cheney, May 21 2009)
Members of our military upon entering service undertake through oath an obligation to support and defend the Constitution of The United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. It is perhaps the most serious pledge a person can give. It may subject them to great hardship, and ultimately it may cost their life. In dueling speeches, President Obama and former Vice President Cheney traded jabs at each other’s interpretation of what that means at the level of Presidential responsibility to protect our nation against the most dangerous of combatants intent on the destruction of our country and our way of life. For any thoughtful reader, the Vice President’s measured and sure footed explanation of the policy development process, its application and results in the wake of the transforming events of 9/11 is assurance enough that those policies were as carefully conceived as time would permit.
On the other hand, Mary Cate Carey, writing in U.S. News noted as to President Obama’s speech “President Obama's speech is lecturing, boring, and reads like a legal brief written by lawyers. One woman I spoke with thought it had a "bullying" tone to it; I thought he implied that people who disagreed with his position on the war on terror have no values, which simply isn't the case.”
While Cheney may have won the round, both speeches have succeeded only in raising to political theatre a debate not on the facts but on the political charges emanating from 1. The adoption of an interrogation policy restricted to the most valuable of non cooperating prisoners of our conflict who possessed the most significant and time critical information. And 2, the unlawful activity by a small, improperly supervised group of military prisoner control unit personnel who violated not only our standards of conduct as human beings but military law in mistreating prisoners. While not linked in fact, the two have become linked in our political culture as one battlefield in what promises to be a continuing struggle to protect our society in a generational struggle over the shape of the world’s future.
Much that concerns the initiation and conduct of the war in Iraq has descended to this level, with charge and countercharge, seeking to prove the abject stupidity, cupidity and inhumanity of anyone who does not toe the line of total support for the perspective of one or the other of the intellectual combatant camps. For these warriors of left and right, only a vow of purity is acceptable. Regretfully the American people are the collateral damage of this partisan jihad.
To counter Vice President Cheney’s speech, the left immediately released an interview, on U-tube, denouncing Cheney’s whole speech as wrongheaded because, in the experience of this one former officer interrogator, most of the men he interviewed professed to be in Iraq ready to give up their lives because of American hypocrisy in professing a regard for human rights. It is unfortunate that as a country, we have been reduced to appeals to emotionalism, detached from a serious effort to look at the issues on an intellectually honest basis. Leadership should consist in truthfully and contextually providing information to the public, not in appealing to mob psychology to dehumanize those who have a differing view. If we are to get it right in the future, the right lessons must be learned for what promises to be a very difficult road ahead.
I have my own concerns regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq and have written of them a number of times before. It is clear, however, that whether flawed or not, the decision, in the wake of 9/11 was a bi-partisan supported response to the flawed data supplied by all the principle Western intelligence agencies, not a plot by The Bush Administration to go to war just because they wanted to. It is also beyond dispute that a significant and growing segment of Muslims dedicated to a rule or ruin of their faith is spreading like a cancer throughout not only traditional Muslim lands but Western Europe and Great Britain as well. Appeasement will not work to quell their violence anymore than it did Hitler’s, and we would be fools to think so.
I believe it is fair to say the West has, so far, held these forces at bay on the battlefield, but our experience in Iraq was an expensive lesson in how not to win this war. Regardless of the relative allied supremacy on the battlefield in its early stages, the battle plan was flawed from the start and failed to anticipate that which was obvious to many. We were not putting enough boots on the ground and failed to have realistically planned for the breakdown of civil society. In fact we did much to bring it about.
It is also beyond dispute that Abu Ghraib was a lamentable breech in the normal conduct shown to detainees and does not, nor ever did represent Army policy or normal conduct. The guilty were arrested and have been punished. It is also clear that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” that have become a warfront of their own were never general policy. They were used only in three cases and have been documented; they were used only after careful consideration and analysis by competent military and Department of Justice attorneys; they received specific authorization by The President and notice to the appropriate Congressional Committee leadership. That process hardly qualifies as a reasonable basis for the general condemnation of our government for its actions or the vilification of the patriotic Americans who had a role in their adoption. Our current public squabbling is decidedly not in our interest and only advances what is the professed, inalterable enemy goal: our destruction.
The vice president noted in his speech, and the record supports the conclusion that our country may not have done everything right, but it never lost its “moral bearings” “The United States was a good country before 9/11, just as we are today” He has made a strong case for the rightness of that conclusion. Meanwhile, while we remain superior in a straight up fight, our enemy prepares tomorrow’s battleground by its explosive growth throughout Europe, nursing its grudges in the barrios of European cities and sharpening its tools of annihilation while protected by democratic structures it would replace with Sharia law.
Copyright © 2009 by Robert E. Freer, Jr. All rights reserved
About the author: Robert E. Freer, Jr. is President of The Free Enterprise Foundation. He is a Visiting Professor, at The Citadel and elected in 2005 to be their first John S. Grinalds Leader in Residence. A regular contributor to the Mercury, He can be reached by E-mail at The Citadel . Copies of his earlier columns can be found The Free Enterprise Foundation.
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