Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Friends




Our grandson Johnny (left) and friend Chris visited with us for the last few days on their round-the-country tour. These best friends served a tour of duty with the Army 82nd Airborne Division, Wolfpack Command, in Iraq. When they return on Saturday to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, John will ship out for another year in Iraq, while Chris goes to intelligence school. Both young men expressed concern about being split up – their friendship is very important to them. I encouraged them to just stay in touch - their bond of friendship forged in tough and dangerous times would persevere.

That conversation got me thinking about friends, old and new. I realized that, in addition to their shared war and obvious compatibility, John and Chris also share a common set of beliefs. They believe that what they are doing in the military service is right and good and honorable.

In the latest issue of Commentary Magazine, Joseph Epstein talks about the prominent neo-conservative Norman Podhoretz and his 1999 memoir Ex-Friends. Describing his separation from once close liberal friends, Podhoretz explains that friends can disagree about a lot of things, but only provided the things they disagree about are not all that important to them. The ties between people that are forged of ideas, by virtue of sharing a common culture, writes Podhoretz, do not necessarily rest on personal affection. When shared beliefs and personal affection are combined, the friendship is darn near indestructible.

Many friendships that are not founded on fundamental beliefs go asunder when things get tough. Epstein recounts the split between long time friends Ludwig Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russell over WWI, when Wittgenstein wrote to Russell: I can see perfectly well that your value judgments are just as good as mine, and deep-seated in you as mine are in me, and I have no right to catechize you. But, for that very reason there cannot be any real relation of friendship between us.

When John and Chris left I went off to my Omnilore Great Decisions class where the subject was human rights in an age of terrorism. The first question we addressed was: Are there certain circumstances in which torture is justified? One of us answered that if you capture a terrorist who has planted a nuclear bomb in America, torture should be used, if necessary, to find the bomb. Others disagreed, saying - How can you be sure that the terrorist knows where the bomb is?


Another posed the case where your daughter has been buried alive and the kidnapper tells you she has only one hour of air left, but will not tell you where she is. Checkmate, I thought. But no, several said we are humans, thus torture is never justified. You’d let your daughter die said the first? That is a stupid hypothetical, said the second. But the question asked for a circumstance - what is your answer?

Finally my frustration surfaced and I offered a real life circumstance involving my grandson. The next time they capture a terrorist planting a roadside bomb in Iraq, I hope they use rough measures, if needed, to find out where else the bombs are planted. Terrorists have no human rights, none, as far as I’m concerned.

The Omnilore folks who would confer US Constitutional rights to terrorists when coercive force could save innocent lives – well there cannot be any real relation of friendship between us.

13 Comments:

Blogger gary daily said...

Let’s all wish/pray for the safe return of Bill’s grandson. Clearly he is a brave young man doing his duty as he sees it.

But Bill's “Friends” post creates a scenario so specific and so personal it is useless as a guide for how our brave troops in Iraq should conduct themselves, and ultimately live with themselves.

Because of the horrendous errors of policy and execution by the Bush administration, American military men and women are thrust into the midst of a religious and civil war that turns in a different direction against a different enemy every day they are in Iraq. These troops need clear orders and guidance from their commanding officers, not “from the gut” jungle advice issued from the far sidelines.

Here’s what I mean. Bill says: [I offered] “a real life circumstance involving my grandson. The next time they capture a terrorist planting a roadside bomb in Iraq, I hope they use rough measures, if needed, to find out where else the bombs are planted. Terrorists have no human rights, none, as far as I’m concerned.”

Are Bill’s “rough measures” euphemisms for torture? If so, any specific recommendations? And how helpful is Bill’s “if needed” advice?

So, imagine this: _Your_ grandson, brother, wife, husband, best friend is the one who captures a terrorist/insurgent/revenge against American invaders fanatic planting a roadside bomb. Your Friend in arms is a disciplined member of the military, a lover of his/her comrades in arms, the corps, and the nation. He/she knows that American military personnel live and fight under a code; knows the commanding officer has lectured at training sessions about the standards that should be upheld on the field of battle; knows that certain “rough measures” are out of bounds for American troops.

We need to ask: Should your grandson, etc. listen to the orders of his commanding officer or to the voices of the angry, the fearful, the frustrated, and the guilty who are not on the scene of battle but who voted and cheered the leaders and the policies that have placed him/her in such untenable straits?

9:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My respect,admiration and gratitude to your grandson John and his friend Chris. May God keep them in safe ways.

I understand your frustration with those who think that terrorists deserve US Constitutional rights,no matter what. I think those people are very often confused with what is real in life, no matter how high their level of education is.

Take care,
Haya

10:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill,
I whole heartedly agree with you! They do not believe in the old saying treat others as you wish to be treated. They just bomb and kill innocents but want to be treated according to Geneva rules. Hogwash.

What nice looking young men.
I always enjoy your blogs.

Prim

10:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree 100% We are not dealing with normal folks

Millie

10:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alright Gary. I think we should use everything at our disposal, including toturing the terrorists' family members. Too harsh? Well, if it's your grandson, nothing is too harsh. I say whip them, beat them, thumbscrew them until they talk! Gosh, won't the libs wake up?

9:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree ...... Terrorists have no human rights, none, as far as I’m concerned ....... AMEN!!!!

~Carolynne

9:59 AM  
Blogger fetching jen said...

Bill, two young men we all should be privileged to meet one day and have representing America in the armed forces. Godspeed and God Blass these two brave young men.

10:03 AM  
Blogger gary daily said...

I wrote: "We need to ask: Should your grandson, etc. listen to the orders of his commanding officer or to the voices of the angry, the fearful, the frustrated, and the guilty who are not on the scene of battle but who voted and cheered the leaders and the policies that have placed him/her in such untenable straits?"

I take the avoidance and refusal of most commentators to speak to the issue I raise as support for Bill's "rough measures, if needed" guide that is no guide.

Please think about this. Do you really want a rogue army of individuals loose in a foreign culture using might makes right operating procedures in the field? Won't this only result in even more murder, mayhem, and military courts martials of our leaderless non-coms?

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No these are professional soldiers who are "professionally" getting the info that will save lives! We need to take the terror to the terrorists, and make them feel less safe, and if that means toturing their children, so be it!

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, here is my hypothetical response.

Terrorists have captured several traveling U.S. members of Congress, specifically Senators Clinton, Reid, Kerry and Obama, as well as House Minority Leader Pelosi. They have taken them to an undisclosed location, where the CIA believes they will be likely beheaded for the cameras. We have captured one likely suspect, who refuses to talk. Time is critical, possibly just hours to act.

In an effort to get him to talk, should we
(a) withhold dinner,
(b) play loud music until he can't stand it,
(c) use torture?

Greg

10:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill:

Our thoughts to your grandson and his friend. We salute them for their service to our country and will pray for them.

Tom R.

10:55 PM  
Blogger gary daily said...

The shortsighted views expressed here on using torture as a viable and, a big assumption here, effective response to acts of terrorism, are mind boggling.

But Greg’s hypothetical is by far my favorite so far. I say this even though he leaves out several crushing choices in his valiant efforts to save a few of the members of the Democratic Party Centrist Establishment. Here’s his list:

In an effort to get him to talk, should we
(a) withhold dinner,
(b) play loud music until he can't stand it,
(c) use torture?

Where are:

(d) play John Ashcroft’s best selling CD “Let the Eagle Soar” backward (This reveals the coded message: “Look at us, we can be as evil as you.”)

(e) bring in Charlton Heston to read “The Collected Wisdom of George W. Bush,” complete with blank pauses and mispronunciations.

Of course, you could always unleash the dogs. That worked well at Abu Ghraib.

Your ace in the hole, however, might be Steven D. Green. This sad specimen of a soldier, accused of raping a 14 year old Iraqi girl and killing her parents, undoubtedly came up with some really important intelligence in the process of his brand of “rough measures, if needed” interrogation. Why not unleash him on the terrorist, the terrorist’s family, the terrorist’s friends, and while you’re at it anyone hanging around a mosque or drinking tea in a Baghdad marketplace at noon.

Is this your model for military behavior in the field? Is Steven D. Green your poster boy for “torture good, military discipline bad” SOP?

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Greg,

The Senators and Minority Leader would surely demand we fly in a US funded civil court and a jury of the terrorists peers. But don't forget the ACLU approved lawyers. That way our enemy can have his Constitutional rights proteced and his day in court.

Ray

10:25 AM  

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