President Obama may not want to admit it, but the War on Terror is ongoing. War under any other name, after all, is still war. And since there are still terrorists in the world that want to harm Americans, and since we’re still – hopefully – committed to stopping them, it doesn’t really matter what you call it. And the fact is that war is a dirty business. It’s mean, gory, and it claims many lives, not all of whom had anything to do with the conflicts at hand.
Somehow, though, we accept the dirty business of war. We accept that we must do deplorable things to keep the world from falling into chaos. It’s not easy to find hard numbers on the civilian casualties of the Iraq War, but conservative estimates put the total north of 100,000. Obviously, not all of those people died as a result of American bombs, but let’s say a quarter of them did. 25,000 people, just trying to live their lives, now dead because of military conflict in their country.
It’s enough to give even the hawkiest Republican pause, but we throw a “collateral damage” label on it and move on. We understand that when it comes to the business of fighting evil, we can only do the best we can. Until technology has advanced to the point where we can just shoot terrorists with lasers from space, we have to accept that war leads to unfortunate consequences.
Never Worth It?
With the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture having been released, the Bush administration’s most aggressive critics are back in force. It’s easy to understand why. The details are horrific to anyone who has an ounce of compassion left in their body. But while there are arguments to be made on whether or not “enhanced interrogation techniques” are effective, I can’t give a lot of credence to this notion floated by many on the left, including White House Spokesman Josh Earnest. When asked whether the CIA’s techniques produced usable intelligence, Earnest demurred several times before finally saying, “Even if they did, it wasn’t worth it.”
That seems like a mighty dubious line to draw in the sand. It’s okay to launch a war that kills thousands of innocent civilians, but it’s not okay to torture people who willingly took up arms against the United States? Better to kill someone, this philosophy says, than to subject them to sleep-deprivation. Better to blow a city block to smithereens than to engage in a round of water-boarding. Better to risk another 9/11 than to ever engage in “enhanced interrogation.”
I don’t know. I don’t quite buy it. We’re facing an enemy that is quite literally willing to die for their cause. They see themselves as part of a holy war. ISIS, which is just Al Qaeda with a new coat of paint, has even found a religious justification for child rape. They laugh at any suggestion that they should abide by international rules of engagement. I’m not saying we have to sink to the level of our enemies, but some of this hand-wringing about torture should be viewed in the larger light of reality.