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In Support of Torture

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It’s hard to argue with Senator John McCain when the subject is wartime imprisonment and torture. Unfortunately for him, he has the credentials. Maybe that’s why his voice has been very persuasive recently with his colleagues.

“If we are viewed as a country that engages in torture…any possible information we might be able to gain is far counterbalanced by [the negative] effect of public opinion,” I heard McCain say on Face the Nation last week.

The Senate has now voted in support of a McCain-sponsored measure that would prohibit the “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment” of any person in U.S. custody regardless of location - a direct response to a Washington Post revelation that al Qaeda detainees are being detained in Eastern European locales called “black sites”. These are locations where we take prisoners so that the gloves can come off.

I like McCain. In fact, I hope he runs for President, again. But I can’t agree with his stance on torture. And I think I found two people to help make my case. One’s the face of evil; the other an American hero.

The first is Sajida Mubarak al-Rishawi. She’s the 35-year-old Iraqi woman who walked into a Radisson Hotel in Amman, Jordan hoping to kill wedding party celebrants with a bomb strapped to her belly. Her bomb did not detonate, but her husband’s did, and sent him to hell in the process of killing individuals whose only crime was in participating in nuptials. They say she’s the sister of a man with ties to Abu Musal al-Zarqawi, the al Qaeda leader in Iraq. In a televised confession she has offered details of the bombing plot.

Ok, let’s take it a step further. Let’s assume she knows Zarqawi’s whereabouts but won’t give up that information for a piece of quiche and a warm blanket.

Now what?

I say do whatever is necessary to get her to talk. Waterboard her. Strap her to a pig. Do whatever it takes.

Of course, that is just my view, and some might argue that my chicken hawk credentials hardly warrant attention. Which is why I wish to bring somebody else to this party. That would be “Wild Bill” Guarnere of South Philadelphia.

“Wild Bill” is the stuff of legend. You should remember his name because Stephen Ambrose told his story in Band of Brothers and then it was brought to the screen in the HBO mini-series of the same name. Wild Bill was a member of the 101st Airborne, 506th P.I.R. “Easy Company”. He jumped on D-Day, and later fought at the Battle of Bulge. He lost his leg fighting at Bastogne.

The name “Wild Bill” was earned in battlefield exploits. “You didn’t want to be a German and come upon Wild Bill on D-Day” he told me last week. No doubt part of his motivation came during his training in England in advance of the June 6, 1944 invasion. One day, en route to the latrine, he grabbed a colleague’s jacket by mistake. In the pocket, he found a note from the man’s wife offering news from home, which he read. In the letter from the States was a line that said Wild Bill didn’t yet know, but word hit home that his brother had died in combat. That is how Wild Bill got the news. That note sealed the fate of many Germans.

Given all of the recent debate on how to treat terrorism detainees, I wondered whether Wild Bill has a problem with the notion that al Qaeda members might not be afforded all of their so-called civil rights? How does a hero of yesteryear, one of America’s Greatest Generation, regard the current controversy? He minced no words.

“Well if you’re fighting a war, what the hell have civil rights got to do with it? You are fighting a war, period. End of conversation.”

John McCain may have met his match.
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