George W. Bush and Jack Bauer--Losing the "War on Terror" from the Get-Go

My brother and I agreed the other night over dinner that George W. Bush will most likely go down as the worst US president in our history. From his misguided "compassionate conservatism" takeover of philanthropy, to his support for a North American Union, to his senseless attack of Iraq, the man has done almost nothing right.

Perhaps the worst trait of this ego-maniac is his seeming desire to emulate Jack Bauer of "24" fame, apparently believing that the protection of America against another 9/11 attack must involve torture of our potential enemies. Early in the War on Terror ballgame, George W Bush decided that any kind of interrogation--including torture--is fair game if it might protect America from further attack, and the "War on Terror" was lost in one fell swoop.

This goes against every American tradition. Such arrogance invites future attacks on America.

Ron Suskind called it the One Percent Doctrine. The people at Guantanamo came to know it as the Jack Bauer doctrine.

In order to stop terrorist attacks on America, the American government decided in early 2002 to unwittingly invite terrorist attacks on America

If we want to win a war against terror, we cannot ourselves use terror.

by using disproven means of "interrogation" of supposed terrorists--i.e. torture. Ironically, it was a Brit who reminded us in The Guardian yesterday that
Principles for the conduct of interrogation, dating back more than a century to President Lincoln's famous instruction of 1863 that "military necessity does not admit of cruelty", were discarded [by the Bush administration]. He approved new and aggressive interrogation techniques that would produce devastating consequences.
Up until early 2002, US Military doctrine followed Field Manual 34-52, whose primary aim was to garner helpful intelligence information by building rapport with prisoners.
Building rapport is the overriding aim of the US Army Field Manual 34-52, the rule book for military interrogators, colloquially referred to as "FM 34-52". Legality was also essential, which meant operating in accordance with the rules set out in the US military's Uniform Code of Military Justice and international law, in particular the four Geneva conventions.

At the heart of them lies "Common Article 3", which expressly prohibits cruel treatment and torture, as well as "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment". [Beginning in 2002] Tactics that had conformed to these principles changed dramatically.
George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld were too impatient (or stupid) to see that this was the only means of interrogation that produced actionable intelligence.

Imagine that an enemy nation has captured you and used the following means of eliciting intelligence from you:
  • yelling
  • deception
  • humiliation
  • sensory deprivation, including stress positions, such as standing for a maximum of four hours
  • isolation
  • deprivation of light and sound
  • hooding
  • removal of religious and all other comfort items
  • removal of clothing
  • forced grooming, such as shaving of facial hair
  • use of individual phobias, such as fear of dogs, to induce stress
  • use of "mild, non-injurious physical contact", such as grabbing, poking and light pushing
  • use of scenarios designed to convince the detainee that death or severely painful consequences were imminent for him or his family
  • exposure to cold weather or water
  • use of a wet towel and dripping water to induce the misperception of suffocation also known as water-boarding
How likely would it be that you provided "intelligence" to your captors? How likely would it be that you would rather saw them as monsters to be stopped at all costs? Yet that's exactly what we're doing to these people that we have incorrectly come to see as less than human. And it's all right out of Fox's "24". According to the Guardian article:
[A] character in Fox's hugely popular TV series, 24[, ]Bauer is a fictitious member of the Counter Terrorism Unit in LA who helped to prevent many terror attacks on the US; for him, torture and even killing are justifiable means to achieve the desired result. Just about every episode had a torture scene in which aggressive techniques of interrogations were used to obtain information.

Jack Bauer had many friends at Guantánamo Bay, Beaver said, "he gave people lots of ideas." She believed the series contributed to an environment in which those at Guantánamo were encouraged to see themselves as being on the frontline - and to go further than they otherwise might.
I know a few people who love Jack Bauer, and who think he is the quintessential American. I think George W. Bush must be one of Bauer's admirers.

If we want to win a war against terror, we cannot ourselves use terror. If the United States uses terror to get "intelligence", we all lose.

I hope that an overwhelming majority of Americans abhor Jack Bauer. But I'm probably too optimistic. In reality, Jack Bauer is not much different than Joe Stalin, Pol Pot, or Mao Tse Tung. Neither, apparently, is George W. Bush.


  1. Frank, this post is spot on.

    I think it's somewhat telling that as of this morning your "porn at the Marriott" post has 25 comments and this one has none.

    Torture in our names is about as pornographic as it gets. I'm appalled at the cavalier attitude this administration has taken toward the treatment of fellow human beings. I can't even imagine voting to continue this insane course of action by voting for McCain in November.

  2. Don,

    Thank you! I am as flummoxed as you that no one seems interested in this post compared to the Marriott one, because it IS far more important.

    Maybe it's too long of a read? I don't know. But this is one article that I thought would have a TON of input. Oh well, I've been surprised before.

    I can't imagine voting for McCain either, but neither can I vote for Obama or Clinton--for other reasons. (I actually think Clinton would be not much different than McCain in this arena).

    That's why, til my dying day, I will say that Ron Paul is/was the best candidate for President in 2008; he is correct on torture and foreign policy, and he's correct on domestic policy as well.


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