NEW YORK — It’s not quite torture, but it sure has been painful watching Senate Democrats tie attorney general-designate Michael Mukasey into knots over waterboarding. Responding to their demands that he denounce this interrogation method that simulates drowning, Mukasey Tuesday called it “repugnant to me.”
This left Judiciary Committee Democrats, including Illinois’ Dick Durbin, unimpressed.
“I can’t support his nomination based on the letter he sent yesterday,” Durbin said Wednesday. “It was a real disappointment.”
Mukasey’s bid now is in jeopardy. Tuesday’s Judiciary Committee confirmation vote will be a nail biter.
Mukasey is at risk largely because, for years, the White House barely has replied to its critics’ never-ending “torture” narrative. Cryptic statements, such as President Bush’s comment that “This government does not torture people,” don’t cut it.
While the White House must beware not to inform our enemies what to expect if captured, today’s clueless anti-waterboarding rhetoric merits this tactic’s vigorous defense. Waterboarding is something of which every American should be proud.
Waterboarding makes tight-lipped terrorists talk. At least three major al-Qaeda leaders reportedly have been waterboarded, most notably Khalid Sheik Mohammed.
KSM, as intelligence agencies call him, directed the September 11 attacks, which killed 2,978 people and injured at least 7,356. “I am the head of the al-Qaeda military committee,” he told Al Jazeera in April 2002. “And yes, we did it.” KSM wired money to his nephew, Ramzi Yousef, who masterminded the February 1993 World Trade Center blast that killed six and wounded 1,040. KSM and Yousef planned Operation Bojinka, a foiled 1995 scheme to explode 12 American jetliners above the Pacific. While some doubt his claim, KSM reportedly said, “I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew Daniel Pearl in the City of Karachi, Pakistan.”
After U.S. and Pakistani authorities captured KSM in March 2003, he stayed mum for months, often answering questions with Koranic chants. Interrogators eventually waterboarded him — for just 90 seconds.
KSM “didn’t resist,” one CIA veteran said in the August 13 “New Yorker.” “He sang right away.” Another CIA official told ABC: “KSM lasted the longest under water-boarding, about a minute and a half, but once he broke, it never had to be used again.”
KSM’s revelations helped authorities arrest at least six major terrorists:
*Ohio-based trucker Iyman Faris pleaded guilty May 1, 2003 to providing material support to terrorists. He secured 2,000 sleeping bags for al-Qaeda and delivered cash, cell phones, and airline tickets to its men. He also conspired to derail a train near Washington, D.C. and use acetylene torches to sever the Brooklyn Bridge’s cables, plunging it into the East River.
*Jemaah Islamiya (JI) agent Rusman “Gun Gun” Gunawan was convicted of transferring money to bomb Jakarta’s Marriott Hotel, killing 12 and injuring 150.
*Hambali, Gunawan’s brother and ringleader of JI’s October 2002 Bali nightclub blasts, killed 202 and wounded 209.
*Suspected al-Qaeda agent Majid Khan, officials say, provided money to JI terrorists and plotted to assassinate Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf, detonate U.S. gas stations, and poison American water reservoirs.
*Jose Padilla, who trained with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, was convicted last August of providing material support to terrorists and conspiring to kidnap, maim, and murder people overseas. Padilla, suspected of but not charged with planning a radioactive “dirty bomb” attack, reportedly learned to incinerate residential high-rises by igniting apartments filled with natural gas.
*Malaysian Yazid Sufaat, an American-educated biochemist and JI member, reportedly provided hijackers Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi housing in Kuala Lumpur during a January 2000 9-11 planning summit. He also is suspected of employing “20th hijacker” Zacarias Moussaoui. “The 9-11 Commission Report” (page 151) states: “Sufaat would spend several months attempting to cultivate anthrax for al Qaeda in a laboratory he helped set up near the Kandahar airport.”
Imagine how many innocent people these six Islamo-fascists (and perhaps others) would have murdered had interrogators left KSM unwaterboarded and his secrets unuttered.
Though clearly uncomfortable, waterboarding loosens lips without causing permanent physical injuries (and unlikely even temporary ones). If terrorists suffer long-term nightmares about waterboarding, better that than more Americans crying themselves to sleep after their loved ones have been shredded by bombs or baked in skyscrapers.
In short, there is nothing “repugnant” about waterboarding.