Friday, September 15, 2006

Choice Time

[posted by Callimachus]

I'll say this much for Bush, he forces an issue to a decision. Clinton would have been melting into a compromise weeks ago. Bush wants a yes-or-no. This time, he's right about that; sometimes life is a matter of morality and demands clarity. This is such a case.

He's not afraid, either, to go up against John McCain, John Warner, Lindsey Graham, Colin Powell, and the Pentagon itself on a military matter. That's right, too. The civilian leadership of this country has to have the final say in the face of military opposition -- even if in the issue at hand, the president is wrong.

The easy thing for anyone put off by Bush's White House, which is most people these days, is to say, "I'd rather be wrong with Powell and McCain than right with Cheney." That might work for you, but it's not really a good habit of thought.

Quotes on either side haven't been much help in clarifying anything. I should qualify that, though, by saying I'm reading this through mainstream media coverage, not actual transcripts, and by now I am well aware of the MSM's ability to make anyone sound like a twit, to juxtapose A to Z as though Z was said in response to A, and to present information that it wrung out of someone by a tortuous line of trap-door questions as though it is that person's official and pronounced policy.

Powell said Bush's proposals would encourage the world to "doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism." Colin, they need no encouragement. The world's media and cultural elites have been telling them Americans are a pack of murderous thugs for the past 50 years -- 70 years, if you limit it to Germany; 230 if you limit it to Britain.

Our domestic contrarians have been broadcasting the worst sins of American soldiers to the world since 1965 and suggesting they are official policy. And the Middle Eastern media and religious leaders aren't even constrained by factual exaggeration. When the real story isn't there, they just make one up.

So, no, the reason to do this isn't that, if we don't, people won't like us. They hate us. They don't believe our stated motives. They believe us incapable of any unselfish act. And they think we're always the real bad guys, no matter who is ranged against us. As long as we're the superpower, that will be true. Get used to it.

So then Bush comes back today with, "It's unacceptable to think that there's any kind of comparison between the behavior of the United States of America and the action of Islamic extremists." But that isn't a response to Powell, who didn't say that. He said other people will think that. If it's unacceptable, what do you do about it, Mr. President?

Well, something like a revived and vigorous Voice of America might be a good answer, I suppose, but given the abyssmal ability of this administration to communicate its messages even to people who agree with them, I'm willing to wait for the next set of incumbents to try that route.

Graham responded that Bush's version weakened protections for prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions that could come back to haunt the United States.

Well, the Geneva Conventions haven't done us much good so far, when we've been on the other side of them, at least since 1929.

American forces have been engaged in five major armed conflicts since 1945: Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War and the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. At no time in any of these wars have our adversaries accorded captured Americans the legal rights of POWs under the 1929 Geneva Convention, the 1949 Geneva Convention or customary international law. Moreover, during this entire period, the ICRC's contribution to the welfare of captured Americans was negligible.

Some 7,245 Americans were captured in Korea, and more than a third died in captivity. Throughout the Vietnam war, "American POWs were treated with unspeakable brutality," even though the U.S. in 1966 had begun treating captured Viet Cong as POWs, and according to the international rules, regardless of whether they legally merited such a designation. In Iraq today, of course, any American, civilian or military, unlucky enough to fall into the hands of the "insurgents" can expect to quickly end his or her life in a filthy basement somewhere, and have his decapitation be the most downloaded video on the Internet for about a week.

Like the Captain says:

If Powell and Levin and McCain can name one modern conflict where our enemies gave POWs treatment in accordance with the GC, I'd be glad to post it right here on my blog. Don't expect that kind of an update any time soon.

McCain, a former POW in Vietnam who presumably knows all this, said in a statement, "Weakening the Geneva protections is not only unnecessary, but would set an example to other countries with less respect for basic human rights ... that put our military personnel and others directly at risk in this and future wars."

Countries like Taliban Afghanistan, Saddam's Iraq and contemporary Iran? I wouldn't think they'd need us to set a bad example. I certainly don't expect them to follolw us in a good one.

So ignore the debate as its presented in the media. It's a headache waiting to happen. Stand back, get yourself into an open, quiet place, and just think: What kind of people do you want us to be? What kind of people do you want our sons and daughters in the military to be? What do you want that flag to stand for? What makes us right -- not perfect, but right -- and Saddam wrong? What would Washington or Lincoln do? Frame it any way I try, I always seem to come to the same answer.

ADDENDUM: I needn't add, but will anyhow, that I find the Democrats' tactics today of watching this essential national debate on the sidelines and toasting it as mere "GOP infighting" that will boost their own pathetic political fortunes contemptible and another indication of a party unworthy and unwilling to lead right now.

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