Was it a mistake to use interrogation techniques such as waterboarding?

Federal civil servants take an oath of office modeled on the president’s own, which begins, “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies.” At great personal cost since 9/11, our intelligence employees have been pursuing terrorists and preventing more homeland tragedies — and it’s shocking that they have now been undermined and demoralized by the president himself.

Our protector in chief has said it was a “mistake” to use coercive interrogation techniques on Al Qaeda masterminds – despite the fact that the resulting information saved us from another 9/11 on the West Coast. President Obama said we surely could have gotten the information another way. Really? Presumably, any techniques would need to be coercive or the terrorist would have answered the first time we asked. Yet our president has now banned their use.

Terrorists worldwide probably share the same disbelief as Americans at our president prioritizing the comfort of evil men over the safety of our people. Hard work to track and capture doesn’t matter from now on: under the Obama Administration, the terrorists know we can’t do a thing to compel them to share their information. Open season on Americans.

No American wants us to become the barbarians we are trying to fight, and Obama implying our methods were equivalent is deeply offensive. Unlike Al Qaeda, we are not burning, castrating or blinding our detainees with branding irons. Even waterboarding, the most intense CIA technique, does no permanent harm – American soldiers undergo it in survival training — and was authorized only under strict guidelines. A May 30, 2005, Justice Department memo said it could be used only if the CIA has “credible intelligence that a terrorist attack is imminent,” the detainee has information that could prevent it, and all ‘other interrogation methods have failed to elicit’ it.

As former CIA director Porter Goss said in a recent Washington Post article, “there is simply no comparison between our professionalism and [the terrorists’] brutality.”

Evil men will leverage every weakness – including naïve good intentions. High ideals are one thing – but if we aren’t even allowed to get as tough as waterboarding to save American lives, then we are in serious trouble.

Was it a mistake to use interrogation techniques such as waterboarding?

My colleague would have you believe that there is no action between torture and inaction, when in fact a long list of permissible techniques have elicited crucial information. She would have you believe terrorists worldwide are startled by our newfound aversion to torture, and there she may be right, but for the wrong reasons. Our civilized behavior here and on the ground in Iraq frustrates Al Qaeda because it wins over hearts and minds. Never forget that our enemies in this war aim to be martyrs, so not only is there no evidence that torture yields better information, it’s not even a deterrent.

Still, the fans of torture persist in their beliefs. I’m not sure which “West Coast 9/11” Shaunti thinks waterboarding prevented; she couldn’t possibly be referring to that FOX-fueled falsehood that our government stopped an attack on the tallest building in Los Angeles by torturing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his ilk. We’ve since learned that plot was successfully thwarted in 2002 but Shiekh Mohammed wasn’t captured until 2003. Remember, gang: Karl Rove may put it on his Facebook page but that doesn’t mean it’s true.

The truth is that there is no hard-and-fast evidence to show that waterboarding elicited any life-saving information but plenty of data to suggest that techniques were applied far beyond the guidelines of the Justice Department and violated the U.N. Convention Against Torture ratified by the United States in 1994. Many of us were horrified by the Bush Administration’s attempt to alter the Geneva Conventions—what’s our next move? Simply hope that the people who capture our soldiers don’t do as we do?

I find it particularly odd that polls conducted by the Pew Forum and Faith in Public Life both reveal that many of the same conservative folks who are against embryonic stem cell research and abortion for any reason whatsoever, even to save existing lives, think that torture can often be justified.

Say what? Aren’t the righteous expected to rise above the devil, not emulate him? Let me get this straight: if a conservative only cherishes life when it’s convenient, she’s being practical. When a liberal is this inconsistent, she’s called a moral relativist. Talk about tortured logic…

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Mara

May 27th, 2009
1:59 pm

No link?!! W2W gone bye-bye? Aaaawwwww, cr*p….

Gandalf, the White! (!)

May 27th, 2009
1:19 pm

They kilt it, the link is gone from the opinion page. By to all!

Gandalf, the White! (!)

May 27th, 2009
12:27 pm

Freddie was a good singer, but get someone back in there so they can play some more! Freddie’s Dead, that’s what I said!

USinUK

May 27th, 2009
11:18 am

Mara –

“um…you do know that Freddie’s dead”

good gravy, woman … I live in the UK – he’s practically a SAINT here.

it’s just wrong because it’s not like Freddie Mercury was someone in the background like the drummer – he was the face and the voice for Queen. They can replace him, but they should call themselves something other than Queen.

(and, yes, I feel much the same way about replacing Michael Hutchens from INXS)

but you are absolutely right – FM was definitely one-of-a-kind

Mara

May 27th, 2009
10:59 am

I really don’t know how the GOP is going to fight her nomination, but I’m sure they will. Maybe their plan is to make her look so acceptable to them that liberals will start second-guessing their support.

For example, here’s John “Torture Memo” Yoo – “Liberals have missed their chance to put on the court an intellectual leader who will bring about a progressive revolution in the law.

————————————————————————

UsinUK – …replacing Freddie Mercury is just…so…wrong.

um…you do know that Freddie’s dead…right? So Adam wouldn’t exactly be ‘replacing’ Mercury, not that he could anyway since FM was, IMHO, one-of-a-kind.

USinUK

May 27th, 2009
10:20 am

“her opinion that a Latina has BETTER wisdom than a white male is racist”

Actually, if you read the rest of the quote (which, by the way, was about racism and sexism specifically, not wisdom generally), then you’d see that she doesn’t think that at all.

The rest of the quote:
Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.

However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see.

A PERFECT example of the facts judges choose to see: Ginsburg’s dissents in Gonzalez v. Carhart (a great read, by the way) and especially Ledbetter (”In our view, the court does not comprehend, or is indifferent to, the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination,” and “”Title VII was meant to govern real-world employment practices, and that world is what the court today ignores.”)

A few years ago, there was a fantastic ad where an umpire is about to go call a game, but leaves his glasses at a restaurant table … he says “I call it like I see it” to which the waitress replies “but you have to see it to call it”. Sotomayer and Ginsburg are both saying that you HAVE to see the issue to call it – something which the Roberts court doesn’t seem particularly adept at.

Gandalf, the White! (!)

May 27th, 2009
10:04 am

She has the creds, but her opinion that a Latina has BETTER wisdom than a white male is racist. She should be eliminated!

Gale

May 27th, 2009
9:14 am

Y’know, If Andrea and Shaunti actually care about their site, they could pop in and state a topic or opinion.

Gale

May 27th, 2009
9:12 am

I read a complaint that Sotomayor has a narrow focus in her opinions. Having read the opinions from the Prop 8 ruling, I cannot see how conservatives could complain about narrow focus. She seems to be very focussed on the law as is, not law as should be.

USinUK

May 27th, 2009
8:56 am

quote of the day … from July 5, 2005:

“I’m tired of these Democrats acting like they won the election. Somebody needs to stand up and say, “When you win the election, you pick the nominees. Until then, shut up! Just shut up! Just go away! Bury yourselves in your rat holes and don’t come out until you win an election. When you win an election, you can put all these socialist wackos, like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, all over the court, but until then, SHUT UP! You are really irritating me.”

- Rush Limbaugh