On Thursday, the Democrat-controlled House voted on a measure prohibiting the use of water-boarding as an intelligence tool to obtain information from terrorists. The mostly-Democratic members who voted against water- boarding did so by saying it constitutes torture, though from some of the language and discussion it appears that many liberal members are against any method of interrogation that is considered "harsh." Naturally, to our enemies and the terrorists any interrogation method that is successful in causing terrorists to open-up will be indicted as "harsh". The President vowed to veto the legislation.
Americans agree that anything reasonably defined as torture should be outlawed. However, simulated drowning ( water-boarding ) though harsh may not be torture. The President, it appears, does not to wish to publicly categorize water-boarding so that terrorists remain uncertain whether the U.S. will use it on them as an interrogation method. Why, the President contends, should we tip our hand as to its legality when by so doing we work against our need to keep the terrorist wondering?
Throughout the tenure of Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and the nomination process of his successor Michael Mukasey, the administartion rightly refused to categorize water boarding so as not to preclude its use or the threat of its use. Evidently, the administartion is aware that water-boarding as a tool or threat has been an effective means of discovering information that has saved American lives.
Though many Democrats insist that water-boarding is never effective, it appears that they would outlaw it even if proven effective since, to them, it is a stain on the reputation of the U.S., and nothing guides liberal policy more than how a particular policy effects their reputation among their liberal and left wing colleagues across the globe. Reputation has always mattered more to fervent liberals than the safety of U.S. citizens. Indeed, the most often heard refrain from Democrat liberals throughout the War on Terror has been: How will this policy make the nations of the world feel about us?
No doubt there are some sincere Democrats who are not motivated in using the water-boarding issue to try to undercut the President’s war against terror and a victory in Iraq. They point to the Geneva Conventions. Yet, it remains unclear if this technique falls within the definition of torture.
Leaving aside the legal arcana that go into deciding these matters, what are some of the common sense guidelines available to those who wish to do things according to a moral code yet value the lives of our children more than our reputation within left wing European salons? Given that the law here is not yet clear, is there a way to look at this issue that takes into account all of the elements associated with human life and human dignity?
There can be no doubt that temporary discomfort inflicted upon a particular terrorist is justified when done to save thousands of lives. As reported in news accounts, water- boarding has done this. Certainly, pain is not the equivalent of life itself, so that even saving one life takes precedence over the pain of the terrorist.
A moral society does not stand by, doing nothing, while an innocent person is about to be killed. It is our moral duty to stop those intent on killing innocent people, or those complicit and knowing of others who wish to kill, before the murder takes place. The “dignity” of the would-be murderer, his treatment, should be inconsequential to those in position to stop him. Indeed, by stopping the terrorist, through coercion, before he murders, we are saving the would-be murderer himself from the sin of murder.
Normal people understand their obligation to first protect and be concerned about the lives and safety of those for whom they are responsible: first, your family, then your community and nation. As a cosequence, these delineations should provide moral comfort. But to child-like purists, the intellectually lazy, and those wishing to always be beyond crticism, anything harsh is unjustifiable no matter the catastrophic downside. Worse are the transnationalists at the New York Times and the ACLU who long ago exhibited their psychological abnormality by refusing to root for the lives of their countrymen over the lives and "sensibilities" of our enemies. Fortunately, most in Congress do not belong to that crowd.
Unlike what is happening in the Islamic and Palestinian world, we Americans do not torture for sheer barbaric enjoyment, or as a means of revenge, nor even as a way of frightening foes. We employ momentary and isolated acts of physical or psychological coercion for the exclusive purpose of eliciting information we are convinced will save lives, thousands of lives. These are important distinctions — foundational moral differences.
In the world of radical Islam, on the other hand, victims are left with permanent defacing of the human body such as cut off fingers, ears, noses, gouged out eyes, and scars that remain with the victim for life. Such torture is done for the sake of torture and suffering alone and does not end until the thug reaches self-satisfaction. Such tortures incapacitate and cause excruciating pain for the remainder of that person’s life. We do not do any of that. Water-boarding is far from that.
The psychological torture of victims watching their family members writher in unspeakable pain or death is the enemy’s way, not ours. We carefully have chosen forms of minimal coercion that do not permanently deface and whose duration and effect are limited to that moment necessary to convince the terrorist to reveal his schemes. While serious interrogation must be done, we still treat prisoners as human beings while the enemy does everything possible and imaginable to cause needless suffering and strip the person of human-hood.
Left-wing dillettants notwithstanding, we have not become like the enemy; we remain in a category far above that practiced and preached by the jihadists. The President will be right to veto those measures that would tie our hands and needlessly sacrifice American lives. And he can do so morally, ethically and consistent with the principles of our Constitution.