As the Fourth of July approaches, we might stop and reflect that we have not experienced an attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001. This is either because: (A.) The terrorists have gotten together and decided, What the heck? We sorta like the Great Satan, or (B.) Somebody somewhere is doing something right to protect us.
Who could that be? Liberals certainly don’t want to credit any of the tactics of the Bush administration with keeping us safe. They are too busy mocking the administration as stupid and/or Hitlerian. It is telling that the first installment of the Washington Post’s four-part series on Vice President Dick Cheney bears this headline: “The Unseen Path to Cruelty.” It deals with handling of detainees.
One of the cornerstones in Cheney’s program for handling terrorist suspects is that they do not “deserve to be treated as prisoners of war.” Cheney had argued that The Geneva Conventions, which since 1949 have regulated treatment of civilians and combatants in a war zone, do not apply to al-Qaeda or Taliban fighters captured on the battlefield. It is my humble recollection that neither of these terrorists groups signed the convention.
We should not extend the assurances of The Geneva Conventions to those who in no way honor civilized rules of combat. Being a decent society, we intuitively want to do so. “Robust questioning,” for which, according to the Post, Cheney argued, may include things we’d rather not know about (I’d be more interested in establishing rules, though not necessarily making them public, that restricted more severe forms of barbarity than prohibiting, say, water boarding). But given a choice between your child and a terrorist’s civil rights (which probably wouldn’t be honored in his own country!), even a liberal might end up being nasty.
Does our society take a risk engaging in such forms of interrogation? Yes. But given a possible alternative, ceasing to exist as a society, we should be glad that some men and women are prepared to make these hard choices. Almost despite itself, the Post series portrays Cheney in such a heroic mold: When Cheney and others watched the attack on the twin towers on television, “The people who were present, not all of them admirers, said they saw no sign then or later of the profound psychological transformation that has often been imputed to Cheney. What they saw, they said, was extraordinary self-containment and a rapid shift of focus to the machinery of power. While others assessed casualties and the work of ‘first responders,’ Cheney began planning for a conflict that would call upon lawyers as often as soldiers and spies.”
As for the alleged “cruelty,” I agree with columnist Mona Charen, who wrote this on National Review’s blog: “If Cheney took the position that the executive has broad constitutional authority in this area, as the article suggests, it was not because he is a cruel man, but out of genuine conviction that this was the best way to protect the American people.”
One of the arguments in the piece is that policies of cruelty developed in Washington spread to Abu Ghraib, creating one of the worst scandals in recent U.S. history. But Abu Ghraib did not involve high-ranking officials, charged with conducting clandestine interrogations running amok. It was not a stench that somehow spread. It was lower ranking men and women who became involved in pornographic behavior.
It is possible to take a civil libertarian position that criticizes the administration. But it’s the mockery of the men and women who have most likely prevented another attack on America that is so infuriating. There have always been such people. In Victorian England, Rudyard Kipling had their number:
Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap.
This, of course, was before the left developed the ingenious formulation of supporting the uniform but not the country for which it stood. Still, mockery of those who like Cheney have to make decisions most of us would rather not make persists. It’s, as Kipling said, cheap. The real root, though, of much of the mockery is that so many of us don’t value the United States. Yes, I know that liberals will say they value it so much they don’t want it besmirched by the likes of Bush and Cheney. But I think that is a subterfuge. They aren’t sure that America is worth the terrible cost our survival is extracting. You can’t die for a country if you don’t believe in it.
Mockery is cheap; survival is not. As we celebrate the Fourth, let’s remember how many died for this country and honor them.
Charlotte Hays is the senior editor at the Independent Women’s Forum.