Waterboard protestors are all wet

I’m doing something I very rarely do, which is to print an article in its entirety, but the article (a WSJ editorial) is brief and the point is so important, I feel that anything other than full reproduction, with attribution of course, would be a disservice:

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri planned the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. Abu Zubaydah was the mastermind of the foiled millennium terrorist attacks, which had Los Angeles airport as one of its targets. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed directed the September 11 attacks, and has claimed to have personally beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl.

All three men were captured by the CIA in 2002 and waterboarded in the course of their interrogations. They are also the only U.S. detainees to have been waterboarded. That fact, publicly confirmed yesterday by CIA Director Michael Hayden, shreds whatever is left to the so-called torture narrative, according to which the Bush Administration has engaged in widespread, needless and systematic torture of detainees.

Instead, we have sworn public testimony that the waterboarding was conducted against the three individuals best positioned to know about impending terrorist atrocities. The interrogations took place when a second major terrorist attack was widely seen as inevitable. And we know that the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah helped lead to the capture of KSM, and to the foiling of an active terrorist plot against the United States.

The waterboarding was conducted by intelligence professionals who understood they were operating not only with the approval of the Justice Department but also the informed consent of key Congressional leaders, including Democrat Jay Rockefeller, then the ranking minority Member on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

In his own testimony yesterday, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell refused to rule out the use of waterboarding in the future, though he said it would have to be approved by the President and Attorney General. To the extent that his comments provide a measure of uncertainty to terrorist detainees who might otherwise think they have nothing to fear from their captors, this helps make us safer.

UPDATE:  If you’re here from the WSJ, welcome!  The interesting discussion isn’t here, obviously, but can be found in the comments to this post.  Indeed, I wish I’d said most of the interesting things my commenters thought of and were kind enough to state here.


12 Responses

  1. This is such a convoluted issue that is politically impossible to voice a thoughtful, well-informed opinion. Look at what the left has done/is doing to Muckasey.

    Is it torture? If it is, I’ve been tortured by my own government, as have thousands of other Naval Aviators and others in the course of training. But does that fact make it right, or even make it useful?

    The findings are certainly mixed on whether torture works to get valuable, or even useful, information. But the whole point of the training that included waterboarding, was in how to avoid giving up useful intelligence. It was meant to give us some clue on how our enemies treat Americans. The lessons that McCain and the others learned from the Korean experience that helped them get through their Vietnamese captivity and torture and the lessons they brought back to us, were as much in the light of “we are NOT like them,” as they were teaching us coping skills.

    It’s the “We are not like them,” that meant the most to me, and still does. You may think it a naive belief that we Americans are better than that… I believed we were more sophisticated and more efficient at getting information from interrogations than the barbarians who use physical torture in an attempt to coerce. Was I wrong?

    Sometime since I trained and served on active duty, an idea has taken hold that torture DOES work… that was not what was taught to me… it was never a part of the conventional wisdom I was aware of, yet there seems to be an assumption of those who oppose the left, that torture works and is sometimes even necessary. What changed?

    I think one of the biggest changes is the aggressiveness from the left in defining anything other than luxurious accommodation of prisoners as inhumane. The left has defined the terms of the debate, and a willing press has set that lexicon in concrete. Our sailors on board ships would gladly trade the living conditions at Gitmo for their 50 man bunk room where they are stacked 3 bunks high with barely 3 feet between stacks.. They don’t even have the room to sit up in their personal space… yet the Gitmo detainees are being treated inhumanely? Man that topic alone is worth a rant or two… but the bottom line is, It has become virtually impossible to have a reasonable debate over what is and what isn’t torture, and what does and doesn’t work.

    Bush Derangement Syndrome is only partially to blame for that state of affairs, the fiercely partisan battles over Washington power… which is the root cause of the BDS… is the real problem. And most worrisome is the myopically liberal MSM which gives Rockefeller and the other Congressional Democrats a free pas… even though they were fully aware and complicit in the 3 cases of waterboarding. All in their effort to hurt Bush and the Republicans, and to give power back to Democrats, they have destroyed our ability to have reasonable and rational discussions about difficult and complicated issues.

    We are doomed if we cannot correct that. America needs to find a way to keep the left from avoiding debate through lexicography. Decades of creeping Political Correctness have made doublespeak a reality. Do we have the courage to stop it? Do we have the confidence in our institutions to reverse the politically correct policies and legislation that are in place… to give us our freedom of speech back? I’m not optimistic.

  2. Hello Bookworm,

    As a friend of mine exclaimed during the initial invasion of Iraq when reporters and commentators were so critical and so fearful of collateral damage for fear of negative public opinion, “So who CAN I OFFEND?!!”

    I seriously doubt that our enemies would be deterred from their purposes through strong, vehement, bold, underlined, italicized language. Offensive language is a fine thing when used in a proper context, but it is quite ineffective against a terrorist with an AK-47 and a head full of jihad against the infidels.

    But, hey, waterboarding terrorists for good intelligence is A-OK with me.

  3. When I think of torture, I do not think of waterboarding. It can work, and it is very aggressive, but it just doesn’t fit my definition of torture.

    It is as if a slap can be construed as a beating. Yes they both involve aggression and physical contact but there are degrees involved.

  4. oceanguy…
    very good, very thoughtful article. You define the problem well. I comment on several blogs, and have on several occasions asked a liberal minded person with an opposing opinion to define certain terms. Usually they won’t. They avoid it by saying something like “you’re an intelligent person – you know what it means” or “you’re too stupid to waste time on – everybody knows what that means”. But in fact, we all understand words to have slightly different meanings. What they are doing is exactly what you’re saying – avoiding debate by assigning whatever meaning they want to specific words, and shading/changing those meanings to move the goal posts.
    I don’t know if this is something we can change, but we need to if there is ever to be reasonable discussion.

  5. What an excellent point, Oceanguy. When everything is defined as torture, the term becomes so corrupt that you can’t have an intelligent debate about what actually constitutes torture, and what techniques work and what don’t work — or, what techniques work but that are so soul-destroying for the actor they shouldn’t be used anyway. It also destroys the ability to balance interests. Torture across the board makes us exactly the same as Hussein, but what about carefully targeted techniques on high value individuals when time is of the essence?

    There is a big problem with creating loose definitions and hard lines. Both deny us, as a nation, the flexibility to deal with real situations and, perhaps, the analytical ability to deal with most situations.

    This is the same thing I always get irritated about with the abortion debate. I think the debate is fatally tainted by the fact that the Left still argues abortion as if it’s 1955, there’s no or limited birth control, and women face social annihilation if they get pregnant, with the only option being a coat hanger. We need to examine the here and now of abortion, where we live in a world of easy access to birth control and low stigma for pregnancy. Also, we need to recognize that the abortion debate isn’t about making it illegal, but is about returning it to states so that the law suits community norms.

    In other words, OC: cheers to you for recognizing that debate is honest only if our definitions and facts mesh with reality.

  6. More kudos for OG from here. To add to your point about the left defining terms, I actually saw blindfolding included in a list of our torture sins. Think of all the sins I committed playing pin the tail on the donkey as a child.

  7. Do not forget that McCain will abolish this practice and close Gitmo with the intent of introducing the prisoners to the American legal system.

  8. I am sorry but I have to oppose water boarding as is torture. I do believe that we are better than those who do treat people cruelly. I have heard many times that the military and the FBI do not do use torture (such as water boarding) in interrogation. They apparently have methods that work more reliably. If water boarding is such a good tool why wouldn’t we use it in our country to get information from suspects? We did use “3rd degree” techniques in the United States in the past and the Federal Government now actively fights any jurisdiction in the U.S. that does it now.

    I believe my Christian beliefs require me to oppose these “enhanced techniques” particularly when they are used by my government.

  9. I’m conflicted on this one.

    “Enhanced interrogation techniques” is one of those jargon phrases that makes me grit my teeth. A garbageman is a “Mobile Sanitation Engineer”…

    Such phrases hide truth rather than reveal it.

    Done properly, waterboarding causes no lasting physical harm. But I think of it as a fast form of forced drowning. It’s extraordinarily stressful in a way that causes a person’s will to inevitably break within just a few minutes. This cannot be considered a good thing.

    But I believe we have it exactly right. It should be used only in emergency situations, where information is needed rapidly and time is critical. I find its use troubling enough that I can accept requiring a Presidential Executive Order to for its use.

    However, because its use provokes a reflexive terror rather than physical damage, I want it to remain available as a necessary tool in emergency situations. It’s as humane as it can possibly get under such an unpleasant but dire situation.

  10. […] [Discuss this article with Bookworm over at Bookworm Room…] Share Article Sphere: Related Content Trackback URL […]

  11. To the Left, all kinds of violence initiated by the US is torture. And all kinds of emotional and revolutionary violence done by the Left becomes compassionate policy making, Book.

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