Monday, April 12, 2010

A Day To Remember - 4/11/10

The irony of the plane crash that claimed the lives of over 100 people, including Polish President Lech Kaczynski and several other high-ranking Polish officials, is that it happened so close to this particular day, which in Hebrew is known as Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Directly or otherwise, every Jewish person on the planet lost someone during the Holocaust. It's particularly unavoidable knowing that 6,000,000 Jews -- as well as millions of non-Jews -- were exterminated due one individual's distrust, paranoia and twisted, grotesque vision of the world. And yet I am sure there are Jews out there -- perhaps even reading this -- whose attitude regarding this day equates to "What's the difference?"

I'm not answering the Four Questions in this space or anywhere else; but given the political situation the world is in these days -- an administration in Washington, DC, that seems headed towards forsaking -- or at least altering -- the relationship this nation has continually held with the state of Israel; the nuclear ambitions of rogue nation-states like Iran and North Korea; the nuclear -- and mass-scale -- ambitions of radical Islam, evidenced by Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas; and the general apathy exhibited by many people in this nation, both Jewish and non-Jewish -- is particular disconcerting.

The other night I had a discussion with friends about whether interrogation torture -- as employed by the CIA -- should have a place in our legit tactics. We debated -- for some time -- whether torture should be practiced or forbidden (waterboarding, psychological torture, etc.). There were six in our group and I believe I was the only one who supported the use of torture tactics in policy if the end result was the saving of lives (American or otherwise). The rest of the group was morally repulsed by the notion that torture ever had a place in our obtaining of intelligence and felt these tactics should be banned.

The reason why I bring this up -- although it didn't occur to me at the time -- was that in this modern era of gray (as opposed to black and white), how can we ensure that another Holocaust, of people or of an entire nation, not repeat itself? How can we not compare Hitler and Osama bin Laden? Despite the fact their goals are, largely, the same, what's the difference if one uses concentration camps and another hopes to somehow obtain a nuclear weapon and kill millions in one huge blast rather than over a ten-year period? Vis-a-vis torture, if we have a method which -- as repulsive as it is -- can save lives, shouldn't we explore and endeavor to use those methods which can help us accomplish this task?

Or should we aspire to a noble, proper cause, much akin to English policemen ("bobbies") walking around the streets of London unarmed?

Inasmuch as the world today is a far more disturbing place than it was prior to 1939, it seems to me that while I agree that torture is a repulsive tactic, I think we must meet the challenges we face to ensure another Holocaust -- of Jews, or anyone else -- never occurs. Prior to 1939, the US distaste for war precluded us from involvement in World War II, deeming it repulsive -- much like many today feel about torture -- yet had the US gotten involved before 1939 (without the prodding from Japan but of our own volition and on our own terms) perhaps the death of 6,000,000 would be far less, if not happened at all.

My point is not to accuse or admonish or condescend; however, whether it's war, torture or a medical tactic -- such as chemotherapy -- once we acknowledge there is a repulsive threat, we need to be willing -- and act -- to repel said repulsive threat, and be willing to do so with whatever means necessary, even if some of same are almost as -- if not moreso -- morally repugnant as the threat we face.

Never again.

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