Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Torture and protests, what does this mean for the future of the US?

The problem with any information obtained through torture has always been it's reliability.  On one hand, the victim may just give the answers the interrogator wants in order to stop the torture.  The validity of the information still then has to be checked so the torture may have been for nothing should the information prove to be false.  On the other hand, should the victim give up accurate information that we know to be true then the torture was pointless (although supporters will say this is why it is effective, to help validate other information).

Now the Democrat Senators of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA have combined to put torture back in the headlines amidst on-going demonstrations protests in support of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice.  To an enemy, the US must appear to be in absolute chaos and treats its citizens as badly as it treats its hostages.  What an opportune time to exploit these raw emotions and truly set the US into complete chaos!  Far-fetched?  Think about how this is exactly what the Obama White House has tried to do in both Libya and Syria, exploit internal divisions to create regime change (to be fair, this is not the first White House administration to try this tactic.  They are merely the most recent).

The information from the CIA contained in the Senate investigation of course has been heavily redacted and while that practice may protect the names of sources, it also makes the CIA look even more incompetent and culpable.  The Republican Senators are nowhere to be found on this matter and their charter won only last month to take on the President has already evaporated thanks in large part to Congress. The Republicans are proving to be gutless and the Democrats are lame ducks.

Syria, Jordan and Libya have been identified as likely collaborators in detaining and torturing suspected terrorists on behalf of the US (Daily Beast).  If true, it makes US led hostilities against Syria and Libya look hypocritical and may further elicit additional support for groups such as Daish, Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The release of the report also has put countless operatives and sources at risk.  Anyone even remotely suspected of working with the US may be killed, tortured or arrested.  It also just made the job of US operatives abroad damn near impossible.  Who in their right mind now wants to risk being found out as an ally of the US?

Ever since the war on terror as framed as "asymmetrical", this has given license to pursuing and targeting suspected terrorists in a wild free-for-all.  Under President Bush, we first learned of water-boarding which was supposed to be a legal means of obtaining information from a suspected terrorist under extreme duress.  Bush and Cheney assured the public this was only used in the rarely and only for the most dire cases.

It now appears the CIA withheld how often torture was actually being used from the Bush White House.  Worse, the CIA (even through the heavily redacted reports) did not find any major intelligence through these means and appears especially incompetent at keeping track of who that had in custody.  Slopping bookkeeping makes any intelligence from the CIA suspect as well.  How do we know it came from reliable sources when the CIA doesn't seem to have accurate rosters of who they have detained?

A very serious concern for the US should be the ability of Daish and other terrorist groups to successfully recruit US citizens over to their facilities.  Given the recent racial tensions ignited by incidents in Ferguson, New York and Cleveland it would seem likely that groups such as Daish will have even greater success in the future.  Those Americans that go and get killed aren't the ones we need to worry about.  The ones we should be worried about are the ones that go over, get radicalized and trained, and slip back into the US.  Imagine what just a few of these operatives could do amongst the protestors?

The current protests here in the US may have been ignited along racial lines but the result has also been to turn more citizens against law enforcement.  If this pattern continues with more and more citizens becoming suspicions or actively hostile towards law enforcement, anarchy will surely result.  The response to anarchy is of course martial law which will fulfill every paranoids worst fears and a revolt would seem inevitable.

Meanwhile as we sort through our feelings about the protests and use of torture by the CIA, the US military is going through a morale crisis.  Thirteen years of rotations into combat zones, along with dealing with sexual assault scandals and the ability of gays and lesbians to now openly serve in the military has put the troops through major paradigm shifts while still waiting to see if they will even have jobs in the near future.  And while the White House and press attempt to convince the public that now new troops will be put into Iraq, it now appears we have 300 troops in Poland as part of the NATO rapid response.  We have also quietly added 2 Aegis class frigates at Rota, Spain (Sputnik News) ostensibly to be closer to the Black Sea and respond to additional aggression by Russia.

Perhaps all of this is why Putin feels no pressure to handle Ukraine as he sees fit.  The state of the US has to be appealing to him and his advisors cannot have missed the reports about morale amongst US troops which thanks to sequestering may be even thinner in the near future.  There are also many signs that US legacy weapon systems (such as the A-10) are too old and the replacement systems won't be brought on-line in time.

A colleague of mine wrote a rather long response as to why the A-10 needs to be retired (too many years of 2.5G turns stressing the airframe beyond its life-cycle).  What his reply did not address is that the F-35 is never going to have the numbers and performance characteristics of the A-10.  The F-35, even if we assume that it meets the need of future wars, has a horrible ratio of flight-time to maintenance time.  Reports are that for ever 1 hour of flight time, the F-35 requires 27 hours of maintenance time.  Compound that with fewer aircraft to begin with and will see sortie rates plummet.

But there is another problem for both the F-35 and F-22 (as well as the legacy F-15, F-16 and FA/18).  The US tends to development the big dollar weapon system first (i.e. fighter aircraft) but only later do they upgrade the weapons.  Several articles have come out recently pointing out the the main air-to-air missile carried by US and allied fighters, the AIM-120 (AMRAAM), can now be jammed by Russian counter-measure (Daily Beast).  If the reports are correct, this mean at best case it will require multiple shots to down an aircraft armed with Russian made countermeasures.  At worst, the AIM-120 becomes useless.  Along with the news of a Su-24 being able to completely shut-down the electronics on-board an Aegis class destroyer would seem to mean Russia has prepared to confront  US technology either in a limited engagement or in an all out war.

Given all of this, community leaders and police need to start having dialog on how to improve relations.  Compare how police chiefs and community leaders reacted to a shooting in Iceland last year to our own.  The police AND community came together to grieve the death of a citizen.  No, I don't expect US police chiefs to accept blame or throw their officers under the bus but they should show some compassion whenever someone loses their life.  Police need to become more of the community and NOT be seen as separate by those they are sworn to protect.

Our elected officials, especially at the federal level, need to stop meddling in local politics and focus on protecting the country.  We all need to remember that no matter how transparent and fair our favorite news outlet claims to be, they are in the business of selling copy.  That means we only see stories that are guaranteed to sell copy or increase viewership so only the most scandalous stuff goes on the air.  As the character Herb Tarlik on WKRP in Cincinnati once quipped, "Tasteless sells!  The more tasteless the ad, the better it sells!"

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