Politicizing 'Torture' Will Backfire on the Left

Eleno Oviedo can tell you a thing or two about torture.  

Oviedo spent 26 years as a political prisoner in Cuba’s hellish prisons.  As Oviedo recalled in an interview with this columnist, he and other Cuban prisoners of conscience suffered beatings, extreme temperatures and isolation with very little food or medical care.  

They received threats of violence. And the Cuban authorities constitute a credible threat.  Beatings were routine, and Oviedo said he heard “more than 300 times prisoners being executed” by firing squad.  

Many of the prisoners cried “Viva Cristo Rey,” as a final act of defiance and profession of faith as the executioners’ rifles lifted for firing.  

It’s a good thing there are courageous men around like Oviedo. Otherwise we might not know what happens in Fidel Castro’s gulag. Cuba remains one of the few countries in the world to deny the International Committee of the Red Cross access to its prisons.  Many of those who do enter exit in body bags.

The Left would have us believe its support for the investigation and prosecution of Bush era CIA officials is rooted in principle. It’s about the torture, liberals insist, not politics.  
But it is about politics pure and simple.  If liberals truly detest torture, why do so many of them sing the praises of Castro’s Cuba, which today incarcerates and tortures hundreds of its citizens for the “crime” of promoting basic human rights?

Have those obsessed with alleged mistreatment of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, ever shed a tear for modern-day Eleno Oviedos, rotting in squalid prisons across that small island?

The Justice Department’s release of a report on the CIA’s “interrogation activities” and Attorney General Holder’s appointment of a special prosecutor to determine whether a full criminal investigation is warranted are deplorable.  It doesn’t seem to bother Holder that the people involved were already cleared by a previous investigation. I guess our nation’s top attorney doesn’t hold too closely to the principle of double jeopardy.

In the reconstituted report, CIA interrogators are accused of threatening terrorist suspects with physical abuse and with power tools and other devices.  Some interrogators threatened to hurt prisoners’ families.  And, probably worst of all for liberals, one officer is accused of blowing cigarette smoke into the faces of prisoners, causing them to vomit.  

President Obama has often said that he thinks the United States “should be looking forward not backward” when it comes to his administration’s national security efforts.

But looking back and attacking President Bush suddenly seems like a better plan.  It’s called political misdirection. Looking forward would require Obama to come to terms with two intractable wars, lingering economic woes and the fantastic flameout of his first major policy initiative, healthcare reform.  

Looking back is a bad move politically, though.  The American people will not appreciate seeing employees of an important agency attacked and ridiculed for actions that protected our well-being.

Sometimes lost in the controversy is the fact that the interrogation techniques used were very successful.  As even the New York Times was willing to admit, “The report found that the interrogations obtained critical information to indentify terrorists and stop potential plots and said some imprisoned terrorists provided more information after being exposed to brutal treatment.”

We live in a culture of confession.  Tabloids air the dirty laundry of every D-list celebrity.  And the lurid details of politicians caught in sexual scandals are splashed on the front pages, or home pages, of national newspapers.  

But Americans don’t want their elected leaders revealing to the world the intimate details of our national security. And they don’t want them lying and playing games with it either.  Obama reassured the CIA earlier this year that they had no need to worry about being prosecuted.  Now these same officials are searching for lawyers to put on retainer.  

All of this may be prompting many Americans to wonder: Is the political left more dedicated to imprisoning political enemies than to our security?

Still, the national security ramifications of Holder’s decision are more important than the political fallout. Some of our strongest allies are mentioned in these reports. Friendly governments may not help us again if we go against our word and release the details of confidential documents highlighting their role in intelligence gathering.

Prosecuting members of the CIA will also affect the recruitment and retention of dedicated patriots and professionals. People may be reluctant to work for the CIA if they feel they could be subject to partisan criminal prosecutions. Current members of the CIA will be much more cautious when dealing with detainees who might have critical intelligence information. The Obama Administration’s decision puts innocent American lives at risk and makes another 9/11 more likely.

Is this really the game the political Left wants to play?  If it is, then if (when?) America is attacked on their watch, conservatives need to be prepared to investigate all their sins of omission, all the things the Obama Adminstration failed to do to keep America safe, just as the Left is obsessed with the alleged malfeasance of the CIA under Bush.  

I somehow doubt the public will be satisfied with the liberals’ obsession to give terrorists a right not to believe his life is in mortal danger.  If terrorists had not endangered the lives of Americans, killing as many as they could before being arrested, they would not have been made uncomfortable at all.

When the Justice department released the CIA records this week, we were warned that America would be shocked at the level to which the CIA descended in their harsh treatment of suspected terrorists.  But if the worst happens, and any administration is found to have neglected its duties, the American public will feel a much deeper shock at just how little our leaders were willing to do to protect them.