In the War on Terror, some refuse to ask themselves the right questions

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I’ve noticed that when it comes to discussing the decisive topic of fighting  the global terrorist threat, the ideological left tries to shut down argument by stamping “Case Closed” on crucial points that are clearly up for debate.

For instance, consider water boarding.  Those who oppose water boarding justify their argument primarily by using two deceptive arguments.

First, they use the term “torture” to replace the term water boarding.  There is no room for discussion, apparently, as to if water boarding should truly be considered torture.  To the opposition, it just is.  We should ask ourselves if holding down suspected terrorists and tickling them until they spill the beans is also torture.

Secondly, the opposition duress that water boarding does not work.  The argument implies that real intelligence is not gained from those under the duress of the declared torture.

There are several issues at stake here.  First, if water boarding is truly torture,  how did Khalid Sheikh Mohammed withstand 183 sessions of water boarding without going mad?  Moreover, how did he suffer through this ordeal without providing any intelligence of significant value to the CIA?  KSM states that he provided false information to the CIA in order to shorten the water boarding sessions, while this is a possibility, it seems equally if not more possible that KSM gave up important information concerning the al-Qaeda network and its operations.   Under duress, it would seem easier to  state the truth rather than make out of whole cloth a plausible untruth.  But even if KSM did provide false information, does this take away from the truths he provided?  of course he lied to the CIA.  He was and is an arch-terrorist.   But given his universally accepted role within al-Qaeda,  (no one I know of believes KSM was not part of AQ, not intimately involved in the planning of the 9-11 attacks, and not responsible for beheading Daniel Pearl), KSM possessed vital knowledge concerning al-Qaeda operations around the world.

Suppose a terrorist is being water boarded, and provides the location of a terror cell which is plotting to blow up several public transit hubs in a large city.  He also makes up facts during his interrogation, hoping to shorted the session.  Let’s, for the sake of argument, say he makes up ten facts.  He may even say that the Man in the Moon is providing weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon.  But a few days later the terror network is busted, its members arrested and bomb-making material seized.  Do any of the lies take away from the fact that the water-boarding did its job?  That a terror attack that could have injured or killed hundreds and severely damaged the confidence of a population has been stopped?

Of course, those against water boarding will say that terrorists subjected to it won’t give up the location of terrorist cells, they’ll just use the time-proven “brainstorming” method for making stuff up. I say that’s absurd.  The former counter-terrorism chief of the CIA says that the method worked, that KSM gave up information that led to verified results.  In fact, information gained from the KSM interrogation led directly to the identification of Osama bin Laden’s courier, which then led to OBL’s death.  

Again for argument’s sake, let’s assume the utility of water boarding is debatable. That trained CIA interrogators wasted their energy on 183 water applications on KSM without ever gaining anything of value.  But now, ask this question to those against the technique: What if you knew water boarding would save the lives of 200 people in a planned terrorist subway bombing?  You absolutely knew this would work and stop the event.  Humans can argue anything, I realize, but to make a point, let’s assume that it is beyond doubt that water boarding could stop this catastrophe.

I say that whomever refuses to water board in such a case is a stubborn, ideological monster.

It seems that whatever the arguments against water boarding, the argument that it doesn’t work is one of the least valid.  It is similar to the vegetarian argument.  When animal rights groups began protesting, suddenly, meat became bad for us.  There is little science to back this assertion, but it was important because people wouldn’t stop eating meat if they thought meat was good for you.  And so it is with water boarding.  If people really believed that water boarding could save innocent lives, most of them would be all for it.  So it was important to make the argument that it doesn’t work without actually referring to the facts.

But the facts are in.  The CIA and JSOC tracked down Bin Laden using evidence gained from the water boarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.  Other terror plots were broken up before their fruition because of the intelligence gained from KSM’s interrogation.  Before we condemn harsh tactics (what could be harsher than shooting a terrorist or Taliban member? ) we should at least ask ourselves the important question: Does the tactic work?


One thought on “In the War on Terror, some refuse to ask themselves the right questions

    Joshua Letchford said:
    June 13, 2012 at 12:23 am

    There is the element of “the ends does not justify the means”. Just because it works is not enough reason to do something. We do not want to become morally bankrupt in our pursuit of these morally bankrupt terrorists. Otherwise we’d become just like them.

    But there is a big moral difference between waterboarding and a subway bombing. One of those differences is that the former inflicts pain to save lives, and the latter kills those lives.

    So ultimately, I’d agree with you. The benefit (saved lives) is far more important than the cost (pain). It’s playing hardball, but that’s what it means to fight a war.

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