In an op-ed in the Miami Herald General Charles C. Krulak, the former Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Joseph P. Hoar, the former Commander in Chief of the United States Central Command, repudiate former Vice President Dick Cheney and his anti-American stance on torture. It is, quite simply, powerful stuff:
[W]e never imagined that we would feel duty-bound to publicly denounce a vice president of the United States, a man who has served our country for many years. In light of the irresponsible statements recently made by former Vice President Dick Cheney, however, we feel we must repudiate his dangerous ideas — and his scare tactics.
We have seen how ill-conceived policies that ignored military law on the treatment of enemy prisoners hindered our ability to defeat al Qaeda. We have seen American troops die at the hands of foreign fighters recruited with stories about tortured Muslim detainees at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. And yet Cheney and others who orchestrated America’s disastrous trip to “the dark side” continue to assert — against all evidence — that torture “worked” and that our country is better off for having gone there.
To argue that honorable conduct is only required against an honorable enemy degrades the Americans who must carry out the orders. As military professionals, we know that complex situational ethics cannot be applied during the stress of combat. The rules must be firm and absolute; if torture is broached as a possibility, it will become a reality. Moral equivocation about abuse at the top of the chain of command travels through the ranks at warp speed.
Krulak and Hoar close with this hard truth: “Repudiating torture and other cruelty helps keep us from being sent on fools’ errands by bad intelligence. And in the end, that makes us all safer.”
It’s been clear throughout the tenure of the Bush/Cheney administration and in the early months of the Obama administration that the leadership of the US military has, by and large, been one of the biggest opponents to the torture regime instituted under Bush. Retired military leaders in many cases have made strong moral and practical arguments in public against torture.
Unfortunately we can only expect that Krulak and Hoar will be savaged on right-wing blogs for being unpatriotic and disagreeing with the words and deeds of a man who had five deferments during his generation’s war.