Today the New York Times is reporting that the Inspector General’s Office of the Justice Department is recommending to Attorney General Eric Holder the reversing of a Bush Administration directive not to prosecute intelligence operatives that tortured prisoners held in various places for many years as part of the American "War on Terror" (or is that War of Terror?). The recommendation would mean that a Special Prosecutor would be appointed and that about two dozen intelligence operatives might face serious war crimes charges as well as other serious charges.
President Obama has gone down on record as opposing this and simply wanting to "move forward". He has stated that on several occasions. However, in this country, the Attorney General’s Office of the Justice Department is not supposed to be governed by the wishes of the Executive Branch. It is supposed to be independent of the President’s desires. It rarely works that way, but in this case, it just might.
Are we conducting a War on Terrorism or a War of Terrorism? That is a central question all veterans need to task themselves. We simply become the enemy when we use his methods. This is not a case of an American soldier using extreme violence to stay alive in an immediate combat situation where his life will be snuffed out if he is not violently successful in killing an enemy in hand to hand combat. It if was, that would be acceptable war time conduct. After all, war is hell.
No, this is long term policy and actions that we took as a nation (whether we knew it or not) to torture, maime, humiliate and hold without charges hundreds or even thousands of people that may or may not have been guilty of terrorism. We did this all over the world in secret CIA prisons using a process that we call rendition. This was a blanket policy extended toward anyone who did not like us and may or may not have been in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong politics on his mind. This may very well turn out to be our darkest hour. This may be the moment we turned from an arrogant and over reaching American Empire into the Dark Empire parodied in the Star Wars movies. This may be the few years we lost our national soul.
We may very well have just stepped over the line into eternal fascism from which there is no return. If we allow war crimes to be committed in our names for the sake of "national defense" then, to put this bluntly, we are war criminals. Period. If we do not demand justice when we are the terrorists then a "war on terrorism" has no meaning. If the President is going to be the President, he must have the guts to allow this to be investigated. Let the chips fall where they may. If Democrats are implicated in war crimes, then they go to jail along with any guilty Republicans. It has to be that way.
I don’t enjoy saying any of this. I would like to see us as always the good guy, always the champion of the underdog, always the injured party screaming for justice. But I am an old man now. I know better than that. We are very quickly becoming imperialist, fascist, war mongering idiots that will do anything that the super wealthy minions of the military industrial complex demand of us in order to ensure "national defense". War is now the very basis of our economic life. To not see that is to deny reality.
We need to quickly shut down our Offense Department and give rebirth to a true and honest and ethical Defense Department that exists to protect the people and their interests. And that is not the same as protecting the interests of the military industrial complex. Even the Republican President, Dwight Eisenhower, told us that in 1961. We don’t need to have an economy based on making and selling munitions, brush fire wars and "security companies" like Xe (formerly Blackwater). As you can see, this is the result of that type of thinking. We slowly have become the Nazis we all hated so much sixty five years ago. We have become the enemy.
So let me ask you, how does that feel?
We need to become America again. We need to cleanse our national soul by demanding a full accounting of what we have done and then make amends to the world for our lack of leadership, our moral weakness and our national cowardice. We need to face ourselves in the mirror and truly understand that the man we see reflected in that glass needs to find his soul again. We lost it when we decided that torture was acceptable.
We must undergo a period of national soul searching to find out who we are as a people. We have lost our way.
CWO3 Tom Barnes, USCG (Ret.)