WWRD? What Would Republicans Do About America’s Enemies? — Dave Carter

 

“Senate Report: Torture Didn’t Help Capture Osama bin Laden”

Thus opens an AP story that might easily be mistaken for news, containing as it does the fact that the Senate has labored mightily and is about to give birth to a healthy, bouncing denunciation of enhanced interrogation techniques.  

 The focus of the piece is on the allegation that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed did not yield vital information that led to the Navy SEAL strike on bin Laden as a result of water-boarding, which is a contention that will be batted about for the foreseeable future. My focus, however, is on the language, which accepts as axiomatic the idea that water-boarding, i.e., the simulated drowning of someone under the supervision of a physician, equals torture.  

 

“It is torture,” President Obama declared in 2011. “It’s contrary to American traditions,” said a Commander-in-Chief who has revived such American traditions as watching helplessly while Russia eats another country for breakfast.  “That’s not who we are,” said the President. He’s right, of course. We are now a country that belittles, lectures, and antagonizes our allies, shrinks in the face of adversaries (thereby reducing the world’s remaining superpower to the status of just another international ZIP code), and unilaterally disarms in the stupefying belief that weakness begets security.  

 

But I’m getting ahead of myself again. Look at the first sentence of the AP piece, where we read, “For those who want to defend the CIA’s torture program, the link between the interrogation programs and the capture of bin Laden has been both a frequent argument and a crown jewel.” That it was also the assertion of a sitting Secretary of Defense (Leon Panetta) seems to elude the careful attention of the article’s author. Panetta’s absence may not be an oversight, however, because this is where we step into the trap wherein anyone who maintains that pouring water up KSM’s nose helped produce actionable intelligence information is automatically defined as defending torture.  

 

For the record, I personally am in favor of almost anything that will extract the information required to save American lives, most notably the lives of my children and yours. “Okay then, Jack Bauer,” you ask, “are you advocating torture?” To which I answer, “Well, not quite.”  

 

Recall, for example, the hysteria that gripped all of Liberaldom (and the more timid quarters of the Republican Party as well) in 1980 regarding the supposedly trigger-happy Ronald Reagan. Here was this fairly unhinged, war-mongering conservative, we were told, who was liable to do just about anything in office, including usher in Armageddon. Interestingly though, it wasn’t just the serial bed-wetters on the American left who were nervous. The maniacs in Iran were watching too — and when Ronald Reagan took the oath of office, their calculus changed. The American hostages were released.

 

Similarly, after George W. Bush removed Saddam Hussein over the question of weapons of mass destruction, Libya’s Colonel Gadaffi got that old time religion and agreed to destroy his own stockpile. While one should not engage in wanton and gratuitous cruelty, it is generally a good thing if one’s adversary’s can’t be sure what one might, or might not, do to defend hearth and country. Take that fear, add a few drops of water up a terrorist’s nose, and you might save innocent lives without ever firing a shot.

 

We know that the Democratic Party is unwilling, as a matter of deep principle, to do anything more stringent than withhold room service and dismantle air defenses as a means to gain life-saving information.  But what about the Republican contenders? Are they content with the formulation as dictated by the Associated Press?

Rand Paul has misgivings over what could plausibly be regarded as over-ambitious, and ultimately futile, experiments in nation-building. He’s also concerned, justifiably in my opinion, about the extent to which American citizens are being monitored by their own government. So what would he do about the bad guys?   

 

Jeb Bush, fresh from presenting Hillary Clinton with the Liberty Medal for service that included liberating a US Ambassador and three Americans from their mortal coil, must have an opinion on the matter. Chris Christie has appeared on everything from cable television to airport radar and hospital sonograms. I even saw his likeness in a piece of toast recently. Has he differed from the Obama Administration on this point?  

 

Last week, Rear Admiral Jeremiah Denton passed away. The 89-year-old veteran led a squadron of A-6 Intruder aircraft on a mission over North Vietnam on July 18, 1965, when he was shot down. As a prisoner of war, he gained notoriety when he blinked, in Morse Code, the word “T O R T U R E,” during a propaganda broadcast. He was subjected, among other things, to brutal beatings, and four years in solitary confinement, which included periods of time in a coffin-like box. Then there was this: 

A special rig was devised for me in my cell. I was placed in a sitting position on a pallet, with my hands tightly cuffed behind my back and my feet flat against the wall. Shackles were put on my ankles, with open ends down, and an iron bar was pushed through the eyelets of the shackles. 

The iron bar was tied to the pallet and the shackles in such a way that when the rope was drawn over a pulley arrangement, the bar would cut into the backs of my legs, gradually turning them into a swollen, bloody mess.  The pulley was used daily to increase the pressure, and the iron bar began to eat through the Achilles tendons on the backs of my ankles. For five more days and nights I remained in the rig.

In this observer’s opinion, a person who cannot distinguish between the grisly disfigurement and horrific agony of Admiral Denton and the briefly overflowing nostrils of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has no credibility to lecture the rest of us on matters of national conscience. So perhaps it’s time to find out. What Would Republicans Do?  

There are 38 comments.

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  1. user_96427 Contributor
    user_96427
    @tommeyer

    I agree that only a fool would fail to distinguish between the treatments that Denton and Mohammed suffered, but I disagree that it therefore follows that what we did to Mohammed doesn’t constitute torture.

    • #1
  2. Devereaux Inactive
    Devereaux
    @Devereaux

    Ah, Dave! You were probably a serviceman. You may have pulled a trigger on another in that period. You speak as one of that crowd – namely, those with a dose of reality in their system, not peatmoss.

    “The underlying motive of many Socialists, I believe, is simply a hypertrophied sense of order. The present state of affairs offends them not because it causes misery, still less because it makes freedom impossible, but because it is untidy; what they desire, basically, is to reduce the world to something resembling a chessboard.”–George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier, Chapter. 11

    This argument will never be laid to rest, nor finished, simply because the left has no rational view of reality – only how they wish it was.

    • #2
  3. Blondie Thatcher
    Blondie
    @Blondie

    One would hope the Republicans would govern from a position of strength. I’m afraid that mat not happen depending on the person. This kind of gets back to Frank Soto’s post about pacifists. They tend to think of things in unrealistic ways. If everybody already played “nice nice” we wouldn’t have to have these discussions.

    • #3
  4. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    I think we should give tit for tat and bring back the use of the iron maiden, thumb screws, and pull out fingernails. Seemed to work well with the Inquisition. Taking a head or two off doesn’t seem to bother our enemies much when they do it to us. Waterboarding is child’s play as they know it won’t cause death or permanent damage. It should also be done in full view of the other captives, gives them something to think about before their turn. The problem is, they know the average Americans have a deep aversion to torture, it makes us want to puke, so it is used against us.

    • #4
  5. The Mugwump Inactive
    The Mugwump
    @TheMugwump

    Members of the press are very adept at the arts of false equivalence, omission, and innuendo.  It’s what they do because their agenda is more important than the truth.  In fact, their agenda is more important than the lives of innocent Americans.  Those who bear false witness against the truth are complicit with evil.  The truth remains the truth even if only one man know it.

    • #5
  6. user_1938 Member
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    Tom Meyer:
    I agree that only a fool would fail to distinguish between the treatments that Denton and Mohammed suffered, but I disagree that it therefore follows that what we did to Mohammed doesn’t constitute torture.

     The trouble with all such discussions of torture is that everyone defines it differently.

    We should distinguish between actions intended only to extract information and actions intended primarily to punish and abuse.

    We should also distinguish between actions with long-term physical consequences and actions which only cause temporary pain or discomfort.

    Some would call it all torture, regardless of those conditions. Some would not. And so these debates run endlessly in circles.

    • #6
  7. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    Tom Meyer:

    I agree that only a fool would fail to distinguish between the treatments that Denton and Mohammed suffered, but I disagree that it therefore follows that what we did to Mohammed doesn’t constitute torture.

    What we did to KSM was not torture. The insistence by liberals, libertarians, and  on calling it torture fulfills some kind of need on the part of those people to conflate American actions with the actions of our enemies.
    In the case of John McCain, who actually was tortured, I think it’s understandable that he doesn’t want the United States to be associates with anything even remotely associated with torture. Sticking someone’s head in a bucket of water and almost drowning them would be torture, I think. Strapping someone on their back to a table, placing a towel over their mouth and nose so that water doesn’t enter their lungs, and then pouring water on their head, all while a doctor stands by monitoring their condition, while I’m sure it is extremely unpleasant and frightening, is simply not the same thing.
    In the case of liberals, I think pretending that waterboarding is the same as ripping someone’s fingernails out, is an attempt to create moral equivalence between the US and our enemies.
    In the case of libertarians, I’m not sure, really what’s going on. I think libertarians believe we don’t have any right to dictate to anyone else what to do. That’s why (most) libertarians are isolationist (or non-interventionists, as Fred Cole prefers). They don’t think we can tell other countries or other cultures how to behave. 

    • #7
  8. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    Albert Arthur:

    … “They don’t think we can tell other countries or other cultures how to behave.”

     

    Response begins here:   Grin.  As a practical matter, we “can” only tell other cultures how to behave to the extent that we are willing to do something to promote or encourage or even enforce what we think is correct.

    I’m not trying to be provocative, the sentence merely struck me funny.  I realize that you were most likely thinking about addressing the moral justification for doing so.  And that’s always the big question, isn’t it?

    • #8
  9. user_955 Member
    user_955
    @

    “We know that the Democratic Party is unwilling, as a matter of deep principle, to do anything more stringent than withhold room service and dismantle air defenses as a means to gain life-saving information. ”

    …or cancel our participation in the Olympic games…

    • #9
  10. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    TG: I realize that you were most likely thinking about addressing the moral justification for doing so.  And that’s always the big question, isn’t it?

     Yes, I meant morally. Libertarians, I think, believe that we should “mind our business.” I’ve also heard, from time to time, things like “How can we tell Iran not to have a nuclear weapon, if we have them?” Ron Paul has expressed this sentiment, I believe.

    But nuclear weapons are not cookies.

    That we have nuclear weapons is precisely the reason why we can tell Iran they can’t have their own bomb.  

    • #10
  11. Roberto Member
    Roberto
    @Roberto

    I’ve always found this obsession with waterboarding somewhat puzzling.

    If this action is torture then by that logic have not tens of thousands of US armed forces personnel who’ve undergone SERE training also been tortured? That is part of the training after all and yet no one appears to care about them, it is only the waterboarding of our nation’s enemies that seems to elicit outrage.

    • #11
  12. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    Albert Arthur:

    TG: I realize that you were most likely thinking about addressing the moral justification for doing so. And that’s always the big question, isn’t it?

    Yes, I meant morally. Libertarians, I think, believe that we should “mind our business.” I’ve also heard, from time to time, things like “How can we tell Iran not to have a nuclear weapon, if we have them?” Ron Paul has expressed this sentiment, I believe.
    But nuclear weapons are not cookies.
    That we have nuclear weapons is precisely the reason why we can tell Iran they can’t have their own bomb.
     

    Response begins here:  “Why” in a practical sense.  The moral “why” has nothing to do with us having the nuclear weapons.  (smiley-face)

    • #12
  13. flownover Inactive
    flownover
    @flownover

    It’s just the damned democrats and liberals anyway. If we had been using feathers to tickle the confessions out, they would be complaining about feathers . It has nothing to do with tactics and everything to do with the commander . Obama could be pulling teeth out right now and we wouldn’t hear a peep. 

    Abu Ghraib was the biggest molehill ever. I think the story count at the NY Times was something like thirty times more front page coverage than the Holocaust . It was a naked pyramid with some barking dogs for gosh sakes ! I forgot the death toll from Abu Ghraib, was it pretty high ? Or was it nothing !

    Bush Derangement Syndrome, the gift that keeps cancelling subscriptions to their noxious rags .

    • #13
  14. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    flownover:
    I forgot the death toll from Abu Ghraib, was it pretty high ? Or was it nothing ! 

    I think just three.

    • #14
  15. Roberto Member
    Roberto
    @Roberto

    Zafar:

    flownover: I forgot the death toll from Abu Ghraib, was it pretty high ? Or was it nothing !

    I think just three.

    I believe Manadel al-Jamadi is the only prisoner confirmed to have died at Abu Ghraib and while I certainly object to his treatment and believe disciplinary action is in order I shed few tears over someone who bombed the Red Cross. 

    Cases such as Abed Hamed Mowhous are more serious, however he did not die at Abu Ghraib, sloppy reporting adds nothing to discussion and debate.

    • #15
  16. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    That’s a fair point – but don’t you think that focusing on location rather than who was responsible for the death of prisoners is a bit of a misdirect?

    • #16
  17. Roberto Member
    Roberto
    @Roberto

    Zafar:
    That’s a fair point – but don’t you think that focusing on location rather than who was responsible for the death of prisoners is a bit of a misdirect?

    On the contrary the details are everything. It is difficult to imagine any possible justification for the death of Abed Hamed Mowhous, his position and the details of his capture raise the most serious questions and Chief Welshofer, Officer Jefferson Williams and Specialist Jerry Loper were held to account for that affair. 

    We’re the punishments too harsh? Woefully insufficient? These are questions that can be debated, however you are simply engaging in propagandistic demagoguery.

    • #17
  18. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    It’s not a subject I know a lot of details about.  Were the US soldiers responsible for civilian deaths in Iraq all held to account adequately? Those drone deaths make me doubt it, but you may know better.

    And going back to the issue of torture – how much, if any of it, provided accurate information that couldn’t be gotten any other way?  Power does corrupt, and young men who have lost comrades in battle may not always hold back when they should.  It’s reasonable to ask whether human beings consistently could hold back, or whether this (mission defeating) temptation should be placed securely out of reach if it provides no real advantage wrt info.

    • #18
  19. Roberto Member
    Roberto
    @Roberto

    Zafar:
    It’s not a subject I know a lot of details about. Were the US soldiers responsible for civilian deaths in Iraq all held to account adequately? Those drone deaths make me doubt it, but you may know better.
    And going back to the issue of torture – how much, if any of it, provided accurate information that couldn’t be gotten any other way? Power does corrupt, and young men who have lost comrades in battle may not always hold back when they should. It’s reasonable to ask whether human beings consistently could hold back, or whether this (mission defeating) temptation should be placed securely out of reach if it provides no real advantage wrt info.

    You are conflating philosophy with actual events that may be entirely justified or on the other hand require remediation. Pick one. These are entirely separate discussions. The details matter. 

    • #19
  20. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    When American soldiers kill civilians there is an investigation to find out whether it was accidental or intention, justified or not justified. If the American soldiers are found to have unjustifiably killed civilians, they are punished. When American soldiers kill civilians, American citizens are upset. On the other hand, Muslim extremists target civilians on purpose as a matter of course. And Muslim terrorists who kill civilians are lionized by other Muslims.

    • #20
  21. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Roberto

    You are conflating philosophy with actual events that may be entirely justified or on the other hand require remediation. Pick one. These are entirely separate discussions. The details matter.
     

    Not really – you can’t separate the utility of torture from human failings of torturers.  The one is a function of the other.

    • #21
  22. Eeyore Member
    Eeyore
    @Eeyore

    WWRD? – a John Boehner R or a Trey Gowdy R?

    • #22
  23. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    1) I think I could handle some water boarding.   After all, I was married to Satan once.  I would not deal well with what those airmen had to handle in Vietnam.   2) Water  boarding isn’t torture.   3) I don’t care about our enemies’ well being, real torture is the norm throughout all of history.  4) Ron Paul is an idiot about Iran and much of our foreign policy.   5) Muslim extremists are a very real issue and racially profiling doesn’t bother me.

    • #23
  24. user_647 Podcaster
    user_647
    @DaveCarter

    I’m trying, without success, to use the quote function from the iPad, so please pardon the shotgun response here.  I appreciate the comments, and Flownover, I almost didn’t recover from your feather comment.  For those who equate water boarding with torture,..a couple of questions please. 

    1)  Does this mean you would NOT employ it as a means to gain actionable intelligence if all other means failed?

    2). What would you not do, if the lives of your loved ones were hanging in the balance?

    • #24
  25. user_3130 Member
    user_3130
    @RobertELee

    Someone said “Torture is bad.  Don’t get caught.”  Good enough for me.

    • #25
  26. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Dave Carter:
    Does this mean you would NOT employ it as a means to gain actionable intelligence if all other means failed? 

    Isn’t the point that torture doesn’t produce actionable intelligence that other means cannot produce.  So why engage in something that’s both morally corrupting and really not that great when it comes to gathering  intelligence?  Iow if it cured cancer sure I’d be tempted, but the fact is it doesn’t.

    • #26
  27. user_647 Podcaster
    user_647
    @DaveCarter

    Zafar, I personally don’t find water boarding morally corrupting, and I’ll use that as a specific example of something that did, according to a sitting Secretary of Defense, yield actionable intelligence.  In which case, I’d find the failure to do that which is necessary to protect innocent Americans much more morally corrupting.  It wouldn’t soothe my conscience to look at a smoking hole in the ground where thousands of people once existed, and comfort myself with the knowledge that least we didn’t water board anyone.

    • #27
  28. Devereaux Inactive
    Devereaux
    @Devereaux

    Zafar:

    Dave Carter: Does this mean you would NOT employ it as a means to gain actionable intelligence if all other means failed?

    Isn’t the point that torture doesn’t produce actionable intelligence that other means cannot produce. So why engage in something that’s both morally corrupting and really not that great when it comes to gathering intelligence? Iow if it cured cancer sure I’d be tempted, but the fact is it doesn’t.

     You recite a meme that simply isn’t true. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed did NOT give up any actionable intelligence until he was water boarded. You cannot claim that you can get all the necessary intelligence via other means. Some people just don’t give that up. Just like some people just need killing.

    • #28
  29. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    Zafar: Isn’t the point that torture doesn’t produce actionable intelligence that other means cannot produce. So why engage in something that’s both morally corrupting and really not that great when it comes to gathering intelligence? 

     This begs the question on whether waterboarding is torture. In order to conclude that waterboarding is morally corrupting, you are asserting as fact that waterboarding is torture.

    Waterboarding, while I’m sure it’s scary and unpleasant and I wouldn’t want it done to me, is not torture in the way that most people understand torture.

    • #29
  30. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Devereaux:

    Zafar:

    Dave Carter: Does this mean you would NOT employ it as a means to gain actionable intelligence if all other means failed?

    Isn’t the point that torture doesn’t produce actionable intelligence that other means cannot produce. So why engage in something that’s both morally corrupting and really not that great when it comes to gathering intelligence? Iow if it cured cancer sure I’d be tempted, but the fact is it doesn’t.

    You recite a meme that simply isn’t true. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed did NOT give up any actionable intelligence until he was water boarded. You cannot claim that you can get all the necessary intelligence via other means. Some people just don’t give that up. Just like some people just need killing.
     

    Here are some comments on ‘leaks’ from a CIA report on torture, though of course a lot of info on this is written from a pro/con position:

    Every “example” used by defenders of the CIA to defend the torture program is apparently debunked in the report. Khalid-Sheik Mohammed — the 9/11 mastermind who was tortured 183 times and eventually “gave up” the name of the courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, who eventually led to bin Laden? Turns out that he only named him well after all those waterboardings, and never revealed al-Kuwaiti’s significance in any meaningful way. Other examples show that the torture program just lead various Al Qaeda officials to repeat what the CIA already knew.

    • #30

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