Waterboarding Is Not Torture
Americans simply are losing their ability to distinguish right from wrong.
I don’t know how else to put it. Up is down, day is night, left is right and right is wrong.
A good illustration of my thesis is the growing political consensus around the idea that the U.S. should stop using any effective interrogation techniques that make our terrorist enemies uncomfortable — even those terrorists who were involved in planning acts of mass destruction and annihilation. For instance, armchair generals increasingly are referring to waterboarding as torture and saying it must be stopped in all cases.
I have no doubt that waterboarding is a very unpleasant experience. It must be so because it is considered 100 percent effective and usually induces cooperation within 30 seconds.
The technique of waterboarding involves pouring water on the head of a prisoner with the purpose of triggering a gag reflex and the panic of imminent drowning.
It was used successfully to learn about terrorist operations planned by two of al-Qaida’s top operatives: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, involved in the planning of the Sept. 11 attacks, and Abu Zubaida, another leader of the terrorist organization.
Apparently both of these mass killers endured many hours of coercive interrogations without talking. But they sang like canaries after a few seconds of waterboarding.
In both cases, there is reason to believe planned terrorist attacks were foiled as a result of this technique.
Nevertheless, there is a growing chorus of opposition against any further use of waterboarding in similar or even direr scenarios.
Let’s use our heads for a minute. Imagine American law enforcement or military authorities have captured a terrorist mastermind who has knowledge about an imminent nuclear detonation in an unknown American city. He knows the time, the location and the details about the warhead. The bomb could be going off at any minute. It could kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people.
Would you really want waterboarding to be banned under all circumstances? What alternatives would you suggest for quick results? Should we call in top negotiators from the State Department? Should we play loud rap music? Should we force the prisoner to listen to Hillary Rodham Clinton speeches? While I also find those experiences unpleasant, I don’t think they would produce the needed results in time to defuse the bomb.
Let’s not tie the hands of future Jack Bauers who will need to do what they have to do to save lives.
I personally think Mohammed and Zubaida got off way too easy with waterboarding. I would have performed far more unpleasant procedures on them without a twinge of guilt in my conscience. Real torture techniques would have been appropriate in both cases.
Here’s why waterboarding is not torture:
Do you know the U.S. military waterboards hundreds of our own soldiers every year? It is part of the conditioning Special Forces troops undergo to prepare for battle and the possibility of capture by the enemy. In other words, it’s OK for us to do this to America’s best and brightest, but it’s too horrible for our worst enemies? Does this make sense to anyone?
Many Americans are simply confused about the real definition of torture. Because so little sacrifice is required of most Americans today and because so few have experienced combat, they equate momentary discomfort or fear with torture. They are not the same.
My definition of torture is simple: It involves physical or mental abuse that leaves lasting scars. Cutting off fingers, toes, limbs — that would be torture. Forcing prisoners to play Russian roulette — that would be torture. Sticking hot pokers in the eyes of prisoners — that would be torture.
But a few seconds of dripping water on a prisoner’s face? That’s not torture to me.