College kids screaming USA USA were 10 when the Towers fell
It's strange to think of being 10 years old when the towers fell, growing up in these strange times. I spent my pre-college years watching Reagan arm the Contras who were purposefully targeting medical workers, I'm not sure how people argue that that is better than targeting people who work in famous buildings. I wasn't predisposed to trust his next adventure.
For college students today history started on 9/11, and we've only been at war with evil whackos -- Saddam Hussein was vastly evil (as I yelled at Republicans back in the Reagan years, oh never mind)... how do college students get perspective on history when they've been watching just this?
Vietnam ended about seven years before I started paying attention to politics, forever ago; the Contras were a few days ago. How should a pacifist talk to someone whose history starts on 9/11?
As someone who abhors violence but doesn't think we've done the work to live in a world without it, yet, I think the best analogy is to get people thinking about how we fought the Nazis. The idea that bin Laden is the worst villain we've ever fought is silly -- fascinating to me as someone who grew up Jewish to watch the Jews in my community simply forget Hitler in the moment of anger at this new guy.
There's a simple point to make, that if we hadn't gone into Iraq we likely would have had the resources to find and kill bin Laden years ago.
And a more complex point about whether Americans who aren't fighting should cheer on our troops as if it's a football game, if we should use the terrorists as our moral gauge ("they would torture prisoners"), if Guantanamo was the right decision.
+ Add up on one side what Gitmo interrogations and other steps over the line compared to what America used to pride itself on
+ and compare it to what we could have gotten by treating the terrorists more like we treated Nazis -- pounding the message home that we would play cleaner and we had the higher moral ground, aiming to turn a few of them for real rather than try to break them with waterboarding and leaving them naked; add to that an attitude of respect and negotiation that let Obama simultaneously increase cooperation with Pakistan AND step up the actual attacks. Bush's belligerent "Bring it on" attitude cost us key allies... he bought the chance to use rhetoric and gloat instead of buying the chance to quietly, apologetically (to Pakistan's sovereignty) kill terrorists over their border.
It's not a magic easy answer. There are certainly benefits to capturing people working for the enemy and interrogating them... whether or not the abuses of Gitmo pulled out this particular piece of information we don't know, and what we missed by transforming America's reputation we'll never know. Yes, there are benefits to be gained by torturing your enemies. We defeated the Nazis -- who certainly were as evil as bin Laden and vastly stronger -- and we didn't just kill their leaders, we erased their population's desire to fight, turned their leaders into pariahs instead of martyrs, and transformed the populations into allies. I like that America more than the angry, self-righteous one we've become in this war.