Speaking of Waterboarding

(Also posted HERE.)


There goes that catchy title thing again.  I’m lovin’ (NOT) the unpleasant topics these days, but I do like to do difficult things first, and asking the hard questions is part of that.


But about that ‘boarding.  It was referred to (and I commented) in this blog: Let this one go Mr. President, let it go. and the blog’s link to Presidential Poison in the WSJ, about possible indictments for interrogators.  Here is an even BETTER opinion piece (IMO) on the subject in the WSJ: Misconceptions About the Interrogation Memos.  (It’s better because I agree with the opinion, of course.)


On the other side of the coin is this piece I do NOT agree with in the latest Time Mag: Dumb Intelligence By Robert Baer Thursday, Apr. 23, 2009.  (Two points for catchy oxymoronic title, at least.) 

Says Baer: “President Obama’s decision to declassify Justice Department memos detailing the interrogation techniques legalized by his predecessor has sparked a predictable partisan furor. Bush Administration officials say the release has somehow compromised national security and let the enemy in on our secrets–even though U.S. interrogators’ use of harsh and even sadistic techniques has been known for years.” 

I say “has been know for years” makes it OK to substantiate with specific memos?  I say not.


Baer says: “Obama apparently spent weeks debating the merits of releasing the documents and was lobbied by CIA Director Leon Panetta to keep them classified. In the end, the case for transparency was too great. The harsh tactics–isolation, sleep deprivation, humiliation, waterboarding–not only had been widely reported, but much of it was also acknowledged to have originated in…” etc. etc.

I say two points for Panetta for “trying” to keep them classified.  And “isolation, sleep deprivation, humiliation” (GASP!) are harsh?!  Oh the inhumanity.  (See the Misconceptions article about Abu Ghraib prison abuses.)

Baer even confirms: “From the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah, Mohammed and other al-Qaeda prisoners, the CIA learned a lot more than it knew before about the group’s communications, its use of safe houses and codes, and the outlines of its worldview. Valuable stuff, but stuff that could have been extracted through patient and relentless persuasion.”


I say “could have been extracted”?  I don’t know that.


Finally, Baer says: “A thorough clearing of the air will help discredit the idea that we either torture terrorists or become victims.” And “There are ticking time bombs out there. But torture won’t get us any closer to discovering when they’re going to go off.”

I say the ‘tortures’ he has mentioned (isolation, sleep deprivation, humiliation, waterboarding), are debatably “harsh tactics” and do not require a clearing of the air at the expense of our security and self-defense.  Following are harsh tactics:

1.                               Daniel Pearl – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

2.                               Nick Berg – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

3.                              TODAYonline – Eloping couple executed in Pakistan 

4.                               Afghan law "legalizes" rape


To name but a few.


As a followup:


There are numerous pro and con articles and letters on the subject in the 28 April Denver Post:

Loose lips or loose pix; same result by Cal Thomas

Letters pro and con

The dirty little secret by Mark Danner (linked to the Wash. Post as I couldn’t find the Denver Post link online)

The letters refer to David Harsanyi’s 24 April piece This Tortuous Debate. I agree with Harsanyi’s queries as to just what is torture, I strongly disagree on his call for disclosure and transparency.

I particularly agree with Cal Thomas’ statements and quotes from his article, some of which I reprint here:

"Porter Goss, the former director of the CIA and former chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote an op-ed column for The Washington Post recently in which he said, "The suggestion that we are safer now because information about interrogation techniques is in the public domain conjures up images of unicorns and fairy dust. We have given our enemy invaluable information about the rules by which we operate."

Dr. Mark M. Lowenthal, former assistant director of Central Intelligence for Analysis and Production, told ABC News the release of interrogation photos is "prurient" and "reprehensible." Lowenthal added, "We ask people to do extremely dangerous things, things they’ve been ordered to do by legal authorities, with the understanding that they will get top cover if something goes wrong. They don’t believe they have that cover anymore." Terrorist states and the freelancers they support can only be thinking that our "icky" feelings toward the necessities of war will give them an opening they can exploit to kill us and ruin our economy and way of life.

War is hell and that’s what we should make it for our enemies, because hell is precisely what they intend to make for America and the West. Releasing pictures that reveal interrogation techniques and other information can help the enemy construct that road to hell for us, paved with our good intentions."


About JohnRH

Retired, avid winter skier, avid reader, traveler (avidly). :)
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