Saturday, October 06, 2007

This ain't your grandfather's America

By Libby

Contrary to the exhortations of those who still shameslessly exploit it, everything did not change on 9/11. As horrific as the event was, in reality it is just one more chapter in the ongoing history of mankind. The WaPo today highlights those men from the "good war" who remember past threats to the world order and what America once fought for and how they fought for it.

When about two dozen veterans got together yesterday for the first time since the 1940s, many of the proud men lamented the chasm between the way they conducted interrogations during the war and the harsh measures used today in questioning terrorism suspects.

Back then, they and their commanders wrestled with the morality of bugging prisoners' cells with listening devices. They felt bad about censoring letters. They took prisoners out for steak dinners to soften them up. They played games with them.

"We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture," said Henry Kolm, 90, an MIT physicist who had been assigned to play chess in Germany with Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess.

Several of the veterans, all men in their 80s and 90s, denounced the controversial techniques. One refused to receive an award because he felt they were being used to justify the un-American torture techniques currently in use. Another accepted the award but made clear he did not support the current war.

The vets from this base had interrogated over 4,000 prisoners and to be fair they bent some rules but as one put it, "I never laid hands on anyone. I'm proud to say I never compromised my humanity." Therein lies the crux of our present condition. What good is victory, however one defines it, if we lose our humanity in the process?

This elderly soldiers personify the America and the American way I remember and cherish from my youth that has been virtually destroyed by this administration. It's nice to be reminded that there is a better way and as Phil and James note it would be good if our present day interogators took a lesson from the old geezers. Psychology beats thuggery every time if you want useable intelligence rather than coerced justifications for beastly behavior.

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