Friday, May 15, 2009

Peacetime Differs from Wartime

That's obvious, right? You might think so, but apparently most of the people screaming and  howling about torture don't understand that or choose to ignore it. That's why people have to keep restating the obvious, over and over. The latest effort comes from the Wall Street Journal, which uses General Curtis LeMay's air offensive against Japan as an example of how thinking changes in wartime. Here are some key points.  
On Sept. 12, 2001, it is highly doubtful that any member of Congress was worried that our government would be too harsh in its treatment of terrorists.

This bears repeating. It is now fashionable, especially on the left, to minimize 9/11, downplay the threat of terrorism, and pretend that the U.S. grossly overreacted. But very few people saw it that way right after 9/11. What they saw was a devastating attack out of the blue that killed three thousand people in our greatest city, shut down the U.S. air transport system, and disrupted our economy. Many people worried about more attacks. And that worry wasn't just based on blind panic, it was completely understandable and reasonable.

In peacetime, a country can deliberate the balance of its security and civil liberties. It can even apologize for actions that were clearly wrong. When a nation is in peril, however, a forceful defense takes priority.

Again this should be obvious. The government, including both parties, was focused on defending the U.S. after 9/11. The silly notion that imaginary terrorist rights should take precedence over U.S. security would have been laughable immediately following the terror attack.

The author also points out the the definition of "war crimes" is highly flexible. It is so flexible in fact, that it really has very little meaning.  When you look at things the U.S. has done in the past, the idea that torturing a known terrorist was somehow a war crime becomes even more ridiculous than it is on its face.

Following Pearl Harbor, this country asked its military leaders to commit acts that, when taken out of context, can be viewed as war crimes today. Between March and August of 1945, 38-year-old Gen. Curtis LeMay ordered the deaths of more civilians than any other man in U.S. history
People will no doubt say, well that was different, that was total war. But as I have pointed out repeatedly, even now the U.S. is carrying out an assassination by drone campaign in Pakistan. Our campaign kills mostly civilians and has all sorts of negative repercussions. But we do it because we think it is necessary, just as we tortured some terrorists because we thought it was necessary.  But there's one thing we don't do. We don't prosecute past administrations for national security decisions they made during wartime.

1 comment: