Search This Blog

Monday, May 9, 2011

The War On Terror Has Turned Into A Debate on Waterboarding

“Shooting an unarmed man in the face is consistent with American values.” — Tom Donilon, President Obama’s National Security Advisor.

On Sunday on Chris Wallace of Fox News asked National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; “Why is shooting an unarmed man in the face legal and proper while enhanced interrogation, including waterboarding of a detainee under very strict conditions controls an limits, why is that over the line?” (You can see the question and Donilon’s reply beginning at 05:45 into the video clip)

To paraphrase Donilon’s reply: Shooting of an unarmed man at the a time of war is consistent with our values while enhanced integration is not. (Note Donilon’s consistent eye blinking as he attempts to spin the admiration’s position of enhanced integration).

When has shooting an unarmed combatant in the face consistent with our values? Had this been done by a soldier in the field he or she would have faced a courts material. This is the double speak to the highest degree — George Orwell would be pleased with Donilon’s performance.

The killing of Osama bin Laden has created a series of dilemmas for the left. Bloggers on Human Events Red States have detailed the debt owed the Bush Administration which the current administration juvenilely and churlishly refuses to acknowledge (here | here). And many on the right are willing “to give the president credit” for doing his duty. According to reports bin Laden’s location has been known to the administration since March with the same degree of certainty that existed on May 1, so I fail to see what credit is really due unless we are saying that indecisiveness is a virtue.

Bin Laden’s death will eventually be seen as the unofficial end of the U.S. assault on al Qaeda. We will leave a war not won and forsake a victory that would make the world a safer place simply because Barack Obama doesn’t have the guts to prevail. What is worse, he wants to give the impression of being serious.

Intelligence is the key tool in fighting any war. Technical means are valuable but the only way you can obtain insights into the enemy’s operations and intentions is through prisoners.

As Sun Tzu stated in the Art of War:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Taking prisoners and getting intelligence from them carries with it three implications: 1) you have a place to keep them, 2) you have a means to extract the information from them in a timely fashion, and 3) you have a plan for what to do with the prisoners when their intelligence value is exhausted.

Even though Obama has backed off his efforts to close the prison at Guantanamo this does not mean he is supportive of its presence. In fact, the easy way to close the prison is to simply stop adding new prisoners while releasing those prisoners held. If you aren’t going to vigorously interrogate the prisoners, because as Leon Panetta reminds us waterboarding does work, why bother taking them in the first place. Lest anyone think this administration will relent on an policy that succeeded in keeping us safe you need look no further than this exchange at Ground Zero between Obama and a member of the 9/11 families group, Debra Burlingame.

Debra Burlingame, the sister of Charles "Chic" Burlingame (pilot of the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 that was flown into the into the Pentagon on 9/11) told Fox News Thursday that President Barack Obama turned his back on her during the 9/11 memorial when she attempted to engage him about the prosecution of the men who interrogated Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

“Burlingame said she confronted Obama about Attorney General Eric Holder's prosecuting the men, who probably produced intelligence leading us to bin Laden.”

“Burlingame describes the encounter with Obama: "As a former attorney, I know you can't tell the attorney general what to do, he said, 'No, I can't.' But I said 'we — that shouldn't stop you from giving your opinion. We wouldn't be here today if they hadn't done their jobs. Can't you at least give them your opinion.' And he said 'no I won't,' and he turned around and walked away."

As Jennifer Rubin notes in the Washington Post:

“In addition to eliminating the very techniques that allowed us to track down and kill bin Laden, Obama has permitted the Justice Department to reopen investigation of previously cleared CIA operatives. Muskaey explains: “ I say ‘reopening’ advisedly because those investigations had all been formally closed by the end of 2007, with detailed memoranda prepared by career Justice Department prosecutors explaining why no charges were warranted. Attorney General Eric Holder conceded that he had ordered the investigations reopened in September 2009 without reading those memoranda. The investigations have now dragged on for years with prosecutors chasing allegations down rabbit holes, with the CIA along with the rest of the intelligence community left demoralized.”

Having an animus against both holding and interrogating prisoners, the administration has developed a novel means of reducing prisoner intake while giving the illusion of actively pursuing al Qaeda. We have simply started killing people who we should be taking prisoner. First, let me say that I do not fault the SEALs for killing Osama bin Laden. In my view he falls into a unique category of prisoner whose continued presence would cause problems far beyond the value of any intelligence he could provide. Yet we hear, almost on a daily basis that some “high value target” has been killed by a missile attack from a UAV in Pakistan or some other country know to harbor Islamic terrorist.

The Washington Post reports:

“When a window of opportunity opened to strike the leader of al-Qaeda in East Africa last September, U.S. Special Operations forces prepared several options. They could obliterate his vehicle with an airstrike as he drove through southern Somalia. Or they could fire from helicopters that could land at the scene to confirm the kill. Or they could try to take him alive.”

“The White House authorized the second option. On the morning of Sept. 14, helicopters flying from a U.S. ship off the Somali coast blew up a car carrying Saleh Ali Nabhan. While several hovered overhead, one set down long enough for troops to scoop up enough of the remains for DNA verification. Moments later, the helicopters were headed back to the ship.”

“The strike was considered a major success, according to senior administration and military officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the classified operation and other sensitive matters. But the opportunity to interrogate one of the most wanted U.S. terrorism targets was gone forever.”

“The Nabhan decision was one of a number of similar choices the administration has faced over the past year as President Obama has escalated U.S. attacks on the leadership of al-Qaeda and its allies around the globe. The result has been dozens of targeted killings and no reports of high-value detentions.”

To say the least, this is not a man who has learned anything about fighting the War on Terror from the death of bin Laden, rather he sees the death of bin Laden as nothing more or less than a monkey that is no longer on his back and it gives him good reason to declare victory both in Afghanistan and in the War on Terror in general.

Our ability to kill or capture terrorists, roll up their networks, and interfere with their operations is being degraded by the lack of fresh information while the administration continues to act like a T-Ball team, all the while talking about its “gutsy call.”

During World War II two of the most critical achievements were the Allies’ ability to break the German and Japanese naval codes. Due to the British and American code breakers the Allies were able to win the Battle of The Atlantic, The Battle of Midway and the shoot down of Admiral Yamamoto. This was one of the best kept secrets of the war and gave the allies much needed intelligence to defeat the axis powers.

While we celebrate the death of bin Laden, as we no doubt should, the Obama administration, with its policy of missile strikes is violating Sun Tzu rule of “knowing the enemy”. You can only do this by capture and the extraction of valuable intelligence. It’s time for the Obama administration to grow up and act like adults and stop campaigning on the War on Terror with their numerous and blabbering press conferences and TV appearances.

No comments:

Post a Comment