January 5, 2009
Necessary tactics in ‘War on Terror’
I recently heard novelist Vince Flynn, author of spy thrillers, speak at YULA High School, discussing such issues as the war on terror. During his speech, he gave everyone an interesting point to consider.
He asked: While watching "24" or reading his books, when Jack Bauer or Mitch Rapp beat up and interrogate the terrorists, do you say stop? The audience said emphatically, "No!"
Our generation of teenagers is growing up in a time of war and hatred. As a 16-year-old, I feel it is of the utmost importance for teens to get involved in politics and be informed about important issues that deal with the war on terror. If we as teenagers stay informed, we will have the knowledge to make the correct choices in the future.
Flynn taught me that we as Americans need to protect our country. That is our first priority. If the CIA needs to interrogate like Jack or Mitch, then they should do it. We are living in a different world after Sept. 11.
Flynn's latest book, "Extreme Measures," points out that the CIA's biggest adversaries are politicians who "either think there's no war on terror, or if we'd just be nice to these zealots, they'll leave us alone."
It seems to me that politicians and journalists have changed the game plan. They've moved from understanding why the terrorists act the way they do to thinking if we'd just be nice, they'll leave us alone.
Israel is an example of how a country stands up to terrorists and seems to have done a pretty good job recently of greatly reducing terrorist acts. One only has to look at the recent events in Mumbai to see U.S. intelligence in action: The Indian government could have stopped the attack had they taken seriously the warnings given by U.S. intelligence. After capturing one of the terrorists, the Indian government obtained valuable information in a very short period of time. I do not think they got the terrorist to talk by offering him teatime.
While President Bush made some errors in judgment, he deserves credit for keeping us safe by allowing these organizations to implement certain programs. The CIA and their methods are crucial in this national security issue. Hopefully, President-elect Obama will continue President Bush's policy regarding national security and interrogation methods.
Let's examine one of the CIA's methods -- water-boarding. Water-boarding makes tight-lipped terrorists talk. At least three major al-Qaeda leaders reportedly have been water-boarded, most notably Khalid Sheik Mohammed. U.S. and Pakistani authorities captured Mohammed on March 1, 2003, in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Mohammed didn't talk for months, often answering questions with Koranic chants. Interrogators eventually water-boarded him -- for just 90 seconds. Mohammed "didn't resist," one CIA veteran said in the August 13 issue of The New Yorker. "He sang right away. He cracked real quick." Another CIA official told ABC News: "[Mohammed] lasted the longest under water-boarding, about a minute and a half, but once he broke, it never had to be used again."
Mohammed's disclosures helped authorities identify and imprison at least six major terrorists. Yet, there are those who still argue against water-boarding. Water boarding is not used on American citizens suspected of tax evasion, sexual harassment or bank robbery. Water boarding is used on foreign Islamic-extremist terrorists, captured abroad, who would love nothing more than to dismember innocent men, women and children into small, bloody pieces.
There are those who argue that water-boarding is a form of torture and degrading. For me, Flynn sums it up best: "The guy lives in a cave nine months out of the year. His specialty is convincing the parents of Down syndrome kids to let him use their children as suicide bombers. The word degrading isn't in his vocabulary." Besides, those who water-board have to go through vigorous training, which includes having to be water-boarded themselves.
There has also been discussion of closing the military prison at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. If it is closed down, what will happen to those known terrorists? Do we release them, so once again they can attack us? Recently, the terrorists wanted to plead guilty so they would become martyrs. "Our success is the greatest praise of the Lord," stated Mohammed and the other five defendants to the military judge, concerning the Sept. 11 attacks. As one of the terrorists in Flynn's novel, "Extreme Measures," says, "Your country is too divided ... too concerned with the rights of your enemies."
I know the argument is that the terrorists are entitled to due process, that the Guantanamo Bay detainees should receive the legal rights established by the U.S. Constitution for American citizens. This is mind boggling to me, since they are not American citizens, and therefore, are not entitled to any legal rights under the Constitution of the United States.
Flynn summarizes it best as he writes in the book: "Freedom does not come without a fight. Those two documents [Bills of Rights and Constitution] are bathed in blood.... They did not survive on high-minded ideals alone."
We did not start this war, and the terrorists have not backed down on their mission to kill Americans, as recently evidenced in Mumbai. The CIA operatives must use tactics that are unsavory but necessary to protect us. These men and women in our intelligence agencies are not sadists but rather have a responsibility to protect and defend this country.
Phil Cooper is a sophomore at Beverly Hills High School.