Thursday, April 30, 2009

Obama, Churchill And Torture

Let’s start with Ben Smith’s post this morning at Politico:

Obama followed Bush last night in using Winston Churchill as his example of a war president:

"I was struck by an article that I was reading the other day talking about the fact that the British during World War II, when London was being bombed to smithereens, had 200 or so detainees," said Obama, who's evidently readingAndrew Sullivan. "And Churchill said, 'We don't torture,' when the entire British -- all of the British people were being subjected to unimaginable risk and threat."

A reader points out, though, that that's a seriously contested claim. The Guardian published an article in 2005 the alleged torture of German prisoners in the "London Cage" between 1940 and 1948.

The paper described the facility as a "torture centre" and quotes one detainee -- an SS officer -- alleging "that he was doused in cold water, pushed down stairs, and beaten with a cudgel. Later, he says, he was forced to stand beside a large gas stove with all its rings lit before being confined in a shower which sprayed extremely cold water from the sides as well as from above. Finally, the SS man says, he and another prisoner were taken into the gardens behind the mansions, where they were forced to run in circles while carrying heavy logs."
I’ve read The Guardian’s 2005 story. It says quite clearly there’s no evidence what was done at the “torture centre” was done “with clear, official approval.”

The Guardian's also explicit in telling its readers what was done may have been a rouge operation by the centre’s officer in charge.

Now let’s hear from The Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb:
… I don't believe Churchill ordered the torture of Germans captured on the battlefield, but these were uniformed combatants, and what could they possibly have told their captors anyway -- there's a bunch of planes headed to London tonight? When Germans or their agents were caught operating without a uniform, they were turned or shot -- no trial, no habeas, no nothing.

But let's not pretend that Churchill wasn't responsible for policies that Jon Stewart and Andrew Sullivan would consider war crimes.

Churchill oversaw an area bombing campaign that killed tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of civilians [.]

Wars are messy, and in just 100 days Obama is already responsible for the deaths of more than a few civilians resulting from the targeted assassinations of al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan.

Baltasar Garzón, the Spanish magistrate who launched an investigation of six Bush administration officials, has also begun investigating Israeli officials for just such targeted assassinations as part of the Gaza campaign.

Garzón at least seems to believe that all state-sanctioned violence is criminal.
Obama would have us believe it's only criminal when Bush sanctions it.
President Obama wants us to believe that on the question of whether enhanced interrogation techniques yielded information not obtainable any other way and which saved lives, his judgment that it could have been obtained without those techniques is better than the judgment of the last 4 CIA directors and many others experienced in intelligence work who say it could not have been obtained but for the enhanced techniques.

I vote with the former CIA directors and others.

What about you?

Stay tuned to the Obama, Churchill, and torture story. It’s still developing.


Anonymous said...

Wait a minute. Didn't Obama send the Churchill bust into exile? Now he's citing "Churchill" as an authority on his anti-torture program. Has the man no shame?
Tarheel Hawkeye