When I was a Corpsman, I made fun of Marines and they made fun of me. However, if the time came, I would have risked my life for one of them and I knew they would do the same. Honor and integrity are intrinsic to the Corps. Generals Krulak (ex-Commandant of the Corps)and Hoar (past Chief of CentCom) maintain those core principles in retirement. In today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, they write about our responses to recent attacks inspired byKey quotes….
We’ve faced many tough enemies on the battlefield, but a new threat is stalking the homeland: Fear itself…..
Equally disturbing, however, are the prophets of fear who have taken to the airwaves to tell us that the rule of law is a luxury we can no longer afford. That’s a formula for destroying America to save it.
The struggle against terrorism will take years. We need to set aside partisan scare tactics and think strategically about weakening the terrorists without weakening ourselves by resorting to lawlessness, cruelty, and revenge – which have short-term political appeal but are ultimately self-defeating.
Particularly self-defeating is the assertion that the U.S. justice system isn’t up to handling terrorists, and that ad hoc military commissions in Guantanamo Bay are better for the job. In fact, the reverse is true.
A lone Nigerian caught with a bomb in his underwear is no match for FBI interrogators and skilled federal prosecutors – without resorting to torture, which violates our laws and subverts our values. Some assert that once suspects like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab get “lawyered up,” it will be impossible to get information from them about plots in progress. But FBI interrogators routinely crack tough suspects, even those with high-priced lawyers.
The assertion that suspects with lawyers never talk is simply wrong. Lawyers routinely encourage their clients to cooperate, especially in cases where suspects have been caught red-handed. And terrorists have proven eager to brag about their grand plans and al-Qaeda connections. Questioning in such cases has led to vital intelligence in the past – about sleeper cells in the United States, training camps in Afghanistan, and high-level terrorism suspects such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Moreover, the civilian courts have an excellent record of nailing terrorists. Since 9/11, the military commissions at Guantanamo have successfully convicted only three prisoners. In that same period, federal prosecutors have convicted 195 people on terrorism charges.
U.S. prisons are holding about 355 convicted terrorists. They include the notorious jihadist Omar Abdel-Rahman (the “blind sheikh”) and Ramzi Yousef, who were convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, as well as “shoe bomber” Richard Reid. None of them has ever escaped……
Finally, those who oppose closing Guantanamo have seized on the deteriorating situation in Yemen as proof that the detainees, particularly the Yemenis, are too dangerous to try, imprison in the United States, or send home. But the Christmas plot shows that holding suspects for years in Guantanamo has done nothing to make us safer. Attempted attacks will continue as long as there is an expanding pool of fresh recruits willing to be suicide bombers.
Guantanamo gives our enemies a potent recruiting tool. We must deny them this powerful weapon, or the struggle against terrorism could be truly unending. And that prospect really ought to worry Americans.
Our media has long broadcast under the rule, “If it Bleeds, it Leads.” Couple this with media which will use any event for partisan purposes, and even failed attacks seem to be putting Americans into panic. These attacks are launched with the hope of creating terror. They can only succeed if we succumb to fear. Once fear is our dominant motivator, we renounce our values. We become that which al Qaeda can recruit against. We become a country that does not follow the law. We become a country that tortures. We become a country that is easy to vilify.
It is at times like these that we must especially cling to and fight for our true values. General Petraeus has said much the same thing here.
Live our values. Do not hesitate to kill or capture the enemy, but stay true to the values we hold dear. This is what distinguishes us from our enemies. There is no tougher endeavor than the one in which we are engaged. It is often brutal, physically demanding, and frustrating. All of us experience moments of anger, but we can neither give in to dark impulses nor tolerate unacceptable actions by others.
It is all too easy to take the cowardly route. Too easy to think only of the short term. Maybe it is too much to expect that of our politicians. Many of them chickened out when it came their time to serve during war. Also, politics is all about compromise. Honor and integrity do not get you elected. Compromise gets bills passed. Politics takes little physical courage. it rarely involves putting the needs of others first. Maybe it takes career military men, who have risked their lives, who understand the importance of integrity in war to communicate these ideas. Men who have expected bravery of themselves and others, who are not afraid to ask it of us also.
Finally, if we live up to our values, it does lead others to respond positively. It leads to fathers turning in sons when they turn jihadist. In Iraq, Bing West noted that it was the decency of our common grunt which enabled the Sunni rejection of AQI. We were clearly a better alternative. And if we succumb to the darker side? Let me quote Fareed Zakaria.
As for the calls to treat the would-be bomber as an enemy combatant, torture him and toss him into Guantanamo, God knows he deserves it. But keep in mind that the crucial intelligence we received was from the boy’s father. If that father had believed that the United States was a rogue superpower that would torture and abuse his child without any sense of decency, would he have turned him in? To keep this country safe, we need many more fathers, uncles, friends and colleagues to have enough trust in America that they, too, would turn in the terrorist next door.