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?
This post is in response to Bill’s comments regarding waterboarding and if it’s torture. Somewhere in here I’m going to post a Youtube video of writer Christopher Hitchens being waterboarded, but before you see it, I’d like to make a few points.
First of all, as Bill points out about a discussion he’d had with his friend who’d been waterboarded, each session of waterboarding got easier and easier to withstand. No surprises there. That goes for anything really. Also, the greatest fear is the fear of the unknown. In the video of Hitchens being waterboarded, there’s a mysterious air created by the waterboarders themselves. They’re wearing black balaclavas, they move with keen proficiency and you sense their confidence in what they’re doing. This is all intentional and they’re trained to act exactly like this. The stage is set and the question looms in the prone person’s mind: What happens next?
I can tell you, that my experiences in military training show that not knowing what’s coming next is very difficult to deal with. There are some very black operations in the US defense system whose entire assessment course is basically built around keeping its potential members in the dark at all times. The cadre take all timepieces from the soldiers. They’re never told what they will be asked to do from hour to hour, day to day.
Basic Combat Training was almost all theatre. I found my self asking: ” Where’s the combat part?” From day one, the Drill Sergeants act like they hate you. The yell and scream and tell you you’re the worst Soldier they’ve even seen. You stand in formation for hours at a time wondering when the DSs will release you. The unknown kills you in Basic, not the known. Nothing else is difficult except the lack of sleep.
So, the person about to be waterboarded doesn’t really know what he’s about to experience. The men around him seem so powerful, all knowing and in control. The balaclavas are a part of SWAT and special operations for a few reasons. One of them is intimidation.
The stage is set. The person waterboarded has been psychologically “softened.” He’s already lost this battle before the water is poured over him. His ego won’t allow him to spill his information quite yet, but in his own mind he’s already willing to talk, but he has to protect his own self-worth by holding out, by not being the guy who broke just by seeing plain old water.
When the water begins to spill, it’s now as if the person’s being led to the gallows. At least that’s what he thinks. There’s a growing sense of discomfort, agitation and smothering. But always, always, there’s the question: What next? When will it stop? Will I die?
Now Bill’s friend says the fact that Soldiers are waterboarded in SERE school, this proves it’s torture. This argument avoids the fact that torture is a word of gradation and we accept certain levels of torture, especially of the psychological variety. For instance, let us look at a vignette….
We capture a mid-level al-Qaeda operative and have set about interrogating him. we want to know what his cell is planning to do next. We don’t plan on waterboarding him, because we don’t think we have to; we almost never have to and we almost never do. But we do use psychological torture. The interrogator will get a feel for the psychological makeup of the operative. The interrogator knows a lot about Arabic culture and will use any tool available to pry the information out. Iraqi men like young, blond men. (True) So the interrogator may be young and blond. Arabic men are extremely jealous and protective of their women. Perhaps we have information that the cell’s leader is having sex with the man’s wife. Maybe we don’t but maybe we’ll lie and tell him that right now, as we speak, the man’s wife is doing things with the cell leader that she should only do to her husband… We see a reaction, so we keep going with it. We give him details. Perhaps we’ve pre-planned and have a fake prisoner who will come in and say he saw the cell leader with the man’s wife. After a time, the man is in a rage, and in typical Arabic fashion, is yelling and clawing at his own face in jealous frustration. After a few hours of this, combined with the sleep deprivation, and the consolations of the interrogator, the man is ready to tell all–just so he can see the cell leader dead, even if by America hands.
Was this not psychological torture? Ask the man what he would prefer, 14 second of water being poured on him, or the conviction that his wife is displaying her acrobatic skills with another man. I’m sure the choice would be easy for him. And yet people would rather have us destroy his domestic bliss.
We know that Soldiers who have been captured in the first Gulf war for instance were subjected to intense torture by the Iraqis. Their teeth were pulled out. They were beaten until they suffered severe physical damage, including permanent nerve damage. Read Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNab for a brilliant account. Why don’t we do these things to our Soldiers to toughen them and ready them? Because that’s real torture.
Waterboarding is torture. But it’s the torture of a lie. It isn’t what the person being waterboarded thinks it is. If the person knew with all certainty that he was safe, if he had been told that he will not die or be damaged, it would have little effect. After all, to my knowledge the CIA hasn’t killed anyone while waterboarding them. It would be uncomfortable, but not very effective.
Here’s the Hitchens waterboarding video.
So yes, it is torture. And it does work. It leaves no marks, or damage other than scaring the individual. Hitches says that it does not simulate drowning, it is drowning, if slowly. But we know that they person will not drown. It’s torture of the most inane sort. It seems many have no stomach for it, though. They’d have even less stomach for the other things that go on in war, mostly at the hands of Islamic extremists, things that can’t be simulated by journalists in order to make a point. They’d be dead if they simulated these things.
I just don’t understand this. Is waterboarding something new? Had we not heard of its employment before Barack Obama was president?
Did we really think that the CIA documented the use of enhanced techniques without the highest levels of government knowing about it? Yes, even the Democrat controlled Congress, which has been given a get out of jail card by the media, but not by the American public. Witness their horrendously low approval ratings: Worse than Bush’s. That Congress wasted its time trying to make itself look good by pointing fingers at Bush and Cheney. It’s still doing so with Cheney; he’s driving them nuts with his candid speech. The last thing the Democrats can afford at this point is for the American public to know the facts.
Look. I’ll even call waterboarding torture, since some want to play that game. Let’s roll. I’ll also call caffeine a drug and heroin and drug. Wood burns. So does hydrogen gas. Black powder explodes. So does Uranium 235 when a sufficient amount of force is applied with an implosion core. Point being? Words don’t always explain degrees. Simply applying the word torture to waterboarding is an attempt to make people cringe. Iron Maidens, The Rack, Thumb Screws. How many go rounds with The Rack do you suppose KSM would have endured and survived through, completely uninjured?
Nanci Pelosi panicked. After thinking she could ride Bush Derangement Syndrome into the political sunset, she began writing a fiction novel worthy of Lewis Carroll; It only made partial sense.
Charles Krauthammer explains Pelosi’s catastrophic press conference in which she’s willing to destroy people trying to protect this nation, in order to save her political skin.
Pelosi has always displayed the worst aspects of the Democrat Party. Needlessly critical of business–even though she herself is a millionaire. Hyper-critical of Bush; she sniffs the media climate and follows the scent trail. Arrogant.
Now she finds herself on an island with no search party dispatched. She made her own bed by lying about the Obama CIA, not just the Bush CIA.
Everyone knew this stuff happened. We’ve been talking about it for years. And yet the Speaker of the House didn’t?
Pelosi needs to resign. Waterboarding destroyed her. She simply could not hold back from another run at Bush and Cheney, caught up in the euphoria of Obama’s victory, she believed she was impervious to scrutiny. But what makes America great and different is that everyone will be held to account at some point.
And don’t tell me it doesn’t work. It does. It’s been shown to over and over. But now the ideologues inhabiting a certain House of Alabaster have decided they’d rather see Americans die than have a terrorist be scared.
Because it’s all about maintaining the integrity of the US Constitution, right?
Wrong. The Constitution has nothing to do with it. It’s National Security. Two completely different things.
But George Bush committed war crimes, and this is an example of it.
You mean the same war crimes that Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry were all in agreement was the way to do business? The ones that we all have known about for half a decade? Why is this water boarding thing suddenly so big? It’s been going on for a while and everyone knew it.
Isn’t it cruel and unusual?
Is choking someone into near unconsciousness then smashing their head flat with your combat helmet cruel? It doesn’t matter to me if it is, because in combat, that’s what I’m trained to do if someone’s trying to kill me. It’s what I want to do if someone’s trying to kill me. And I won’t cry in the corner after I do it. I’ll be glad I’m alive and well, able to be with my friends and family. The other guy should have chosen someone who wouldn’t even be willing to splash water on him, let alone beat his brains in. If I’m ever captured in war and some bastard doesn’t splash some water on someone who knows where I am and how to get me out, I’m going to haunt their asses. And I don’t just mean making doors and cupboards crash. I mean the full Amityville show.
This article makes the great point that nothing is really that simple. Torture and war are very complicated and those who try to make it black and white are not being intellectually honest.
John Stewart is rarely intellectually honest. He just makes fun of people hoping that his humor will have the subliminal affect he desires; those people are stupid, and I’m not.
But people like Stewart would have a very difficult time were they the ones that actually had to make the tough calls. Picture Stewart as a cop on a car stop. He approaches the driver’s side door with due caution, stepping outside the arc of the car’s side mirror so the driver can’t view his approach. Stewart’s doing what’s right, like he’s done on hundreds of car stops. What he doesn’t know, is that the driver has just murdered his wife and has his infant son in back in a safety seat.
When Stewart gets to about 15 feet from the vehicle, the driver whirls in his seat and points the Glock 22 pistol out the window at Stewart. The driver pulls the trigger as fast as he can, without aiming. Before Stewart can even touch his own weapon, he’s struck once in his protective vest and once in the leg. He responds in the way he’s been trained, though. He draws his weapon and returns fire through the back window of the car. Two rounds from his .40 cal handgun strike the driver in the head, killing him instantly. Another round strikes the infant, whom Stewart still has no idea is there. The child dies.
Where’s the simple answer, John? Where’s the quaint judgemental, denegrating comment now? What else could you have done, if you wanted to go home to your wife and children that night?
Truth is, Stewart’s the kind of guy who’s never been in physical danger. I guarantee it.
But I do love the Jack Nicholson quote from A Few Good Men, that the author of the article quotes:
“I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said ‘thank you’ and went on your way.”
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed must be getting a laugh from all of this. He got water poured on him after plotting the deaths of thousands, and his allies on MSNBC are ready to help Al-Qaeda saw some heads off.
He may have even been slapped! What has America come to!? Next thing they’ll be telling me America dropped nukes on cities in Japan back in the 1940s and left Dresden, Germany a carbonized husk for no good reason.
Wall Street Journal writer Daniel Pearl is an example of the difference between Al-Qaeda and the US. Guess to some, he’s just another dead Jew.
In his recent speech on the released CIA memos, President Obama states that the techniques used by agents “did not make America safer.”
This is an egregious lie.
Without going into too many details,, let us take the case of 9-11 “mastermind” Khalid Sheik Mohammed. While KSM easily resisted “soft” CIA techniques to extract information from him, stating that the US would soon find out what was in store for it, waterboarding changed his tune. He revealed a plot to smash yet another airliner into the Library Tower in Las Angeles, the tallest building on the West Coast. With the information gained from him during the waterboarding episodes came the discovery of the Guraba Cell which was to carry out the hijacking and plane attack.
Many parts of the memos that discuss much of the information uncovered from the “enhanced techniques” are blacked out. Interesting.
This morning as a I watched an MSNBC pundit go on about the “torture”, no it was torture, I listened to her state again and again that the technique doesn’t work, because as some of the memos state, KSMwas waterboarded 183 times. She was outraged that it took 183 events to ellicit information.
For one thing, she was completely misrepresenting the context of 183 events. You don’t ask a militant jihadist, sworn enemy of the US and Israel and devout pursuer of Paradise: “Hey dude, you like a, ya know–kill folks?”
Interrogators want details, because the Devil’s hiding amongst them. Details require repeated questions. Verifying that previous answers were not lies needs repetition.
I could argue that if waterboarding really does rise to the level of torture, why did it take so many events? If we had been smashing his fingers with a hammers or squeezing his testicles in a vice, how many events do you suppose would have passed before he spilled everything he knew? That’s torture. Waterboarding is just scary.
Obama released the Bush administration’s “torture” memos. Expect the ACLU to be in full sue-everyone mode. They can make a ton of money off this–and they will.
The memos outline aggressive techniques used by CIA interrogators, including the much publicized but little understood water-boarding technique.
Also touched on are things like stress positions and sleep deprivation–all of which every single US soldier has undergone in Basic Training. US Army Rangers are almost starved. According to the wikipedia entry on Ranger School, common maladies suffered by potential rangers in training are as follows:
It is not uncommon for soldiers to lose 20-40 pounds. Military folk wisdom has it that Ranger School’s physical toll is like years of natural aging; high levels of fight-or-flight stress hormones (epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol), along with standard sleep deprivation and continual physical strain, inhibit full physical and mental recovery throughout the course.
Common maladies during the course include weight loss, dehydration, trench foot, heatstroke, frostbite, chilblains, fractures, tissue tears (ligaments, tendons, muscles), swollen hands, feet, knees, nerve damage, loss of limb sensitivity, cellulitis, contact dermatitis, cuts, and insect, spider, bee, and wildlife bites.
I was watching Keith Olberman the other day, not because I wanted to, but because all of the TVs in the chow hall had his disenchanted mug on them. He looked very distraught as he reported that Obama will not authorize prosecution of those named in the memos.
Keith needs to read about some of the things that happened while our SOG and SEAL guys were fighting the Vietcong in Vietnam. Keith thinks the Bush era is somehow comparable to Mao’s China or Stalin’s USSR. He really does.
See, I’m betting that Keith was one of the last guys picked for kickball in school. I’m betting he never played sports, despite being a former commentator for ESPN.
I think Keith would do well to experience the real world. Get out and smell some fresh air. Climb a mountain. Get attacked by an enraged chimpanzee, well fed on lobster and ice cream. Then, he’d know how tough things can be. He’d stop worrying about the CIA keeping Islamic assassins awake for 24 hrs.
He may even come to realize that US soldiers–teenagers many–put up with CIA “torture” techniques everyday.