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?  

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  1. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Albert Arthur:

    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.
     

    It’s physically hurting/terrorising someone to make them do what you want.  How is it different from torture?

    • #31
  2. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    Zafar:
    It’s physically hurting/terrorising someone to make them do what you want. How is it different from torture?

     So if I give someone a wedgie, that’s torture?

    • #32
  3. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    Zafar: 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.

    What a ridiculous quote. First of all: “183 times” is a totally misleading number. They poured water on his face 183 times. He was subjected to waterboarding sessions only a few times.

    Second: “Turns out that he only named him well after all those waterboardings.” Are you serious? The proof that it’s not effective is that KSM didn’t talk until after he was waterboarded? OK. Maybe I’m stupid or my concept of cause and effect needs work.

    Third: “Other examples show that the torture program just lead various Al Qaeda officials to repeat what the CIA already knew.” That is not a defect. The very small number of terrorists who were waterboarded were not subjected to the procedure in order to extract specific information, but to make them compliant. The CIA asked the terrorists questions that the CIA already knew the answers to in order to determine if the terrorists were compliant.

    • #33
  4. user_3130 Member
    user_3130
    @RobertELee

    Albert Arthur:

    So if I give someone a wedgie, that’s torture?

     Sure can be.  One’s definition of torture is frequently influenced by how much one is hurting. 

    I’m surprised no one has brought up Lt Col West.  He slammed an Afghan cop against the wall, told him he was going to kill him if he didn’t talk, put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger…shooting the wall instead.  At that point the cop gave up the plans to ambush and kill Lt Col West’s men.  Lt Col West’s wasn’t a sanctioned torture (which means his method actually worked) so he was disciplined and forced to resign from the Army.  He most definitely gained usable intelligence in a timely manner using torture.  His only mistake was getting caught.

    • #34
  5. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    Robert E. Lee:

    Albert Arthur:

    So if I give someone a wedgie, that’s torture?

    Sure can be. One’s definition of torture is frequently influenced by how much one is hurting.
    I’m surprised no one has brought up Lt Col West. He slammed an Afghan cop against the wall, told him he was going to kill him if he didn’t talk, put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger…shooting the wall instead. At that point the cop gave up the plans to ambush and kill Lt Col West’s men. Lt Col West’s wasn’t a sanctioned torture (which means his method actually worked) so he was disciplined and forced to resign from the Army. He most definitely gained usable intelligence in a timely manner using torture. His only mistake was getting caught.

     Alan West? How do I not know about this?
    But I don’t think that’s torture, either. It’s intimidation. It’s threatening someone with death. It’s not torture.

    • #35
  6. user_96427 Contributor
    user_96427
    @tommeyer

    Dave Carter: 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?

    Sorry for the delayed response to very reasonable questions.  Some thoughts:

    I agree that there are situations in which torture can be morally justified, though I think they’re very narrow: i.e., a ticking time bomb or some similarly specific, known, imminent threat. As these situations are uncommon and hard to anticipate in specifics, I think it’s best to proscribe them as policy, but to be fairly lenient on those who use them under under duress. This is why pardons exist.
    I don’t think the circumstances of Mohammed’s capture rise to this level. As best I understand it, we decided — quite reasonably — that Mohammed knew stuff that we wanted to know and that there was an expiration date on the usefulness of his knowledge. However important that information might be, it’s a far cry from a ticking time bomb.

    • #36
  7. user_96427 Contributor
    user_96427
    @tommeyer

    3. As to whether or not Mohammed was tortured, it’s worth considering both the quality and the quantity of what we did: as I recall, he was water boarded 183 times, though I’ve never quite gotten straight what constitutes a “time.” While one or two instances of water boarding probably don’t constitute torture, scores of times — even if spaced — do in my estimation. Likewise, I wouldn’t count a couple of punches as a beating, though I would count 183 as such.

    4. I’m curious to know what the limits of your willingness to get actionable intelligence are. If a terrorist proves impervious to techniques against him, are you willing to apply them to his minor children in his presence if you suspect that will make him talk? Why not, if it saves lives?

    Again, I believe there are circumstances under which torture can be morally justified and under which I would torture (had LTC West tortured his prisoner, I think he would have been justified, though I still think he should have been removed from command).

    • #37
  8. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Albert Arthur:

    Third: “Other examples show that the torture program just lead various Al Qaeda officials to repeat what the CIA already knew.” That is not a defect. The very small number of terrorists who were waterboarded were not subjected to the procedure in order to extract specific information, but to make them compliant. The CIA asked the terrorists questions that the CIA already knew the answers to in order to determine if the terrorists were compliant.

    Was compliance an end in itself?

    It’ll be interesting to see what the report actually says – I’m wary of ‘leaks’ which tend to be one sided.

    • #38
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