Horrible news Tuesday morning on the Taliban attack in Pakistan that claimed the lives of over 130 young students, targeted by the terrorists if, for no other reason, than they were easy targets. Imagine if you will that the CIA ran across one member of that Taliban attack team last week, and found evidence of the pending attack to come, but very few details. Who among you will say that the American agents in question should stop at any extreme in the effort to extract information that could prevent this attack from the Taliban prisoner in hand? With that question in mind, enjoy my thoughts on the topic from almost six years ago, that sadly still ring true today!
Okay, now that I have your attention with that admittedly pompous and sensational headline (this is my column), let me throw a few real nasty things against the wall, with the request that you assess them one at a time based on what you know and what you have heard:
Police attack dogs
Milk of Magnesium
I doubt very seriously that normal human beings did anything but grimace as they made their way through the list above or, as I like to describe it, the Rhodes Gallery of Offensive Terms and Objects (patent pending).
The words “torture” or “waterboarding” would have been perfectly at home on that list, and not just because the terms seem to evoke an instinctive, visceral, negative reaction from civilized adults. Waterboarding also belongs on that list because it is misunderstood, blown out of proportion by its critics, and in very specific and prescribed instances useful, effective and necessary and, in some cases, life saving.
Before we move on, I must ask the kind reader who may not be aware as to what exactly waterboarding involves, to check out this online article, written by Eric Weiner at National Public Radio (npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15886834“; npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15886834).
Then Google Mike Guy’s fascinating video essay showing his waterboarding experience up close and personal. In my opinion, until you have seen this demonstration (or another like it) you are unqualified to offer a meaningful opinion on the topic.
With your homework now completed, let’s carry on.
First, allow me to shoot down the usual complaints/grievances about waterboarding:
- It is unconstitutional. Really? So are handcuffs, if used improperly. So is jail time, if given inappropriately. So is a body cavity search, if administered randomly. However, under the proper conditions, all are legal and all are used regularly.
- It is cruel and unusual punishment. Actually, waterboarding is not punishment at all. Used properly, it is an interrogation tool and, from what I have seen, heard and read, a pretty damn efficient one. Misused, obviously waterboarding would be cruel and unusual. Then again, you can misuse a garden hoe doing serious and painful damage as well.
- It doesn’t work. Say what you want to about CIA interrogation experts, but as a rule, they have never been accused as a group of being frivolous or inefficient. If waterboarding doesn’t work, why bother using it? And don’t invoke this garbage about the technique being used to procure “confessions.” The CIA doesn’t care if you say YOU DID IT, they want to know “WHO DID IT WITH YOU?”, “WHERE THEY ARE HIDING?”, AND “WHAT THEY HAVE PLANNED NEXT?” Getting “false confessions” doesn’t aid them in their cause one iota.
- President Obama, and great heroes like Senator John McCain, say waterboarding is torture and that we shouldn’t use it, because it makes us the bad guys. First off, these men are politicians, and if you think they always say what they really think or believe, you are nuts. Because of his personal experience, McCain’s protests seem to come from the “authority” on torture. Actually, had McCain only been waterboarded every day of his five and a half years as a POW in Vietnam, he would have none of the serious scarring and permanent disabilities so evident to all who meet him. McCain was tortured, and after his first few weeks of imprisonment, that torture was about nothing other than punishment, invoking fear and the pure sadistic pleasure of his captors. The claim that waterboarding makes us as bad as the captors who burn flesh, break bones and pierce skin is total BS and should be regarded as such.
Go back to the list of horrible things at the top of the column. What does the word “chemotherapy” bring to mind? Racking nausea, head to toe soreness and pain, massive side effects that often kill on their own, and depression that takes an individual to the depths of despair. All lasting weeks, sometimes months on end. Talk about torture, but it can and does save lives.
Chemotherapy makes waterboarding look like a walk in the park by comparison. Can you imagine administering chemotherapy to accused terrorists? Yes, I know, it saved Grandma a few years back, but man was she sick!
I am just enough of an optimist and a patriot that I believe the men and women working to save American lives through their work in the CIA and Special Forces military units are not misusing the waterboard any more than they are misusing their tanks, pistols and hand grenades. I will also say this: I am not (nor are most of you) trained or experienced enough in these matters to know when those tools are specifically needed, how they are needed or when they are needed.
And I also know this: The people using these tools believe they help save American lives and, if waterboarding does that, may they waterboard in good health with my blessings and salutations.
And if we need to stop waterboarding because it is “mean” or “torture,” then I suggest we put all the captured terrorists on a plane back to the Middle East. When that plane is over their homeland, we can fly it full speed right into the side of a high-rise building. God forbid we “torture” anyone.