Thursday, December 13, 2007 at 11:34 AM
Political correctness, moral relativism and cowardice have driven political leaders to absurd extremes to ensure plausible deniability [e.g. via renditions] even when torture is absolutely justified. ["Justified torture…", The iPINIONS Journal, April 2005]
Most politicians who profess opposition to waterboarding are hypocrites (or hopelessly naïve); although you’d never know it based on the ferocity of their moral outrage. But they’re hypocrites because, among other things, they know full well that successive American governments have sanctioned far more egregious abuses of human rights by the CIA, including the assassination of foreign leaders.
Whereas, truth be told, compared to torture that involves real pain (like pulling out fingernails or electrocuting testicles), waterboarding is about as harmful as a good wedgie. After all, here’s how former CIA operative John Kiriakoua described this so-called torture and lauded the positive effect it had on one of al-Qaeda’s most notorious terrorists:
Abu Zubayda was wholly uncooperative for weeks and refused to answer questions. That’s when the CIA decided to waterboard him. Waterboarding [which is designed to emulate the sensation of drowning] begins by placing a suspect on a table with the suspect’s feet slightly elevated. Once a suspect is secured on the table, interrogators wrap his face in a cellophane-like material….There is a bladder, or a water source, above the head with water pouring down on the mouth, so no water is going into your mouth, but it induces a gag reflex and makes you feel like you’re choking.
After only 35 seconds, Zubayda broke. From that day on, he answered every question. He said that Allah had visited him in his cell during the night and told him to cooperate because it would make it easier on the other brothers who had been captured. The threat information he provided disrupted a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks.
Now bear in mind that Zubayda suffered no permanent harm. Waterboarding only scares people shitless. Moreover, it can only be 20/20 hindsight to argue that talking nicely, or even harshly to him would have yielded the life-saving information Kiriakou cites.
Therefore, why all the moral self-flagellation and questioning of America’s national character over waterboarding?! (So much for President Bush being the only reason why America is a laughing stock in the Muslim world….)
But frankly, I think this debate has more to do with political amnesia than moral principals. Because these politicians seem to forget that virtually everyone in America would have condoned killing, let alone waterboarding, anyone who even looked like an al-Qaeda terrorist in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
Nevertheless, if you want to know how critics of waterboarding really feel about torture, just ask them the following question:
If CIA agents were to inform you that waterboarding a terrorist is the only way to get information about a radioactive bomb they suspect is planted in your hometown, would you approve?
Because I have no doubt that every one of them would not only approve but wouldn’t care if it took 35 seconds or 35 minutes to break that SOB. So again, why the moral navel gazing?! Not to mention that this whole debate will become moot as soon as terrorists pull off another, and perhaps even more spectacular 9/11.
(For the record, the CIA claims that it discontinued using this tactic four years ago. But I find this about as credible as the claim that Iran discontinued its nuclear weapons program around the same time….)
Finally, politicians invariably cite Sen John McCain (R-AZ) as the moral authority on waterboarding because he was tortured during his five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. But I think his personal experience is precisely why his perspective may not be the most reliable on this issue.
After all, the fact that McCain claims that he has “slept like a baby every single night” since his release – with none of the familiar post-traumatic stress or flashbacks other POWs suffered – suggests that he may be in deep denial about his torture. Never mind the real possibility that his antic concern for the welfare of these terrorists might have more to do with his Stockholm Syndrome than with their human rights….
That said, I do not condone the fact that CIA agents destroyed videotapes of the interrogation (torture?) of Zubayda and another terrorist at Guantanamo Bay. Because they were operating not only under a court order, but also under a directive from the head of the CIA not to destroy them.
In fact, no matter their legitimate concerns about exposing operational secrets to irresponsible, unreliable and untrustworthy politicians, this amounts to a wilful and craven case of obstruction of justice, which only further undermines the agency’s already tarnished reputation.