Sunday, April 26, 2009

Torture Proof

Several conservative pundits have stated that water boarding is not really torture. Well if water boarding (and other questionable techniques the Bush Administration approved) are not really torture, why were they effective at getting information?

You’ve captured a terrorist and believe he has information about an attack that could kill hundreds, thousands or millions of people (the Jack Bauer scenario). What would convince this terrorist to tell you what you want to know? Threat of a wedgie? A water balloon fight? No, according to the Bush Administration, the only thing that would work is some sort of coercion that would force a person to talk. You might need water boarding, thumb screws, nail pulling, the rack or something equally painful.

But wait, if water boarding is not really torture, why would anyone tell you something they otherwise wouldn’t just because of water boarding?

So the proof that water boarding is torture are the very claims by Bush Administration officials that it was effective

Why Not Really Torture?

I’m also bothered and confused by the “the ends justify the means” defense of "enhanced interrogation techniques" being espoused by Bush Administration defenders. How did the Bush Administration decide where to draw the line of acceptable versus unacceptable techniques? If they were really worried about the safety of U.S. citizens and convinced that torture, excuse me, "enhanced interrogation techniques" were required, why weren't they willing to authorize techniques more severe than water boarding?

The line had been drawn for decades with the Geneva Conventions and U.S. law. The Bush Administration thought these rules were inadequate to the threat we faced. They decided they needed to move that line, but they only moved it a little.

I'm missing something.

Who Deserves Jail Time?

There are many things that bother me about the Bush Administration torture policies.

The Administration didn’t have the balls to admit what they were doing when they were initially caught. They let U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib go to jail for using techniques that somehow just happened to be many of the same techniques that Bush Administration lawyers had approved in written memos. If soldiers can do jail time for using these techniques, it sure seems logical that people up the chain of command can go to jail for authorizing them.

Ugly Alert!

There is one thing sure about the current controversy over U.S. torture policies under the Bush Administration; it is going to get ugly.

We’ve heard accusations that President Obama has lost control of the torture issue. Of course, he never had control. Too much was already known. He could have tried to prevent release of the torture memos, but the courts would have eventually forced their disclosures and then President Obama would have been accused of being complicit.

Former Vice-President Cheney has not helped. Well maybe he has helped…, helped himself and fellow former administration members. He has positioned himself and them to be vindicated should another attack occur (after 9/11/2009, that is).

Their argument is that the Bush policies kept us safe after 9/11 and that fact justifies whatever they did. Of course, as I’ve previously written (Who Has The Best Record?), Bill Clinton kept us safe after the first World Trade Center attack in 1993 and I haven’t heard anyone claim he authorized terrorism (although there may have been renditions). And we have at least one documented case (the planned bombing of the LA airport in 2000) where they thwarted a terrorist attack.

I don’t think we know why the terrorists attacked when they did and why we haven’t been attacked since 9/11. But if water boarding 3 terrorists is the reason we haven’t been attacked in the U.S. since 9/11, we are in trouble. I haven’t heard about any recent high level terrorists we’ve apprehended who we could torture to prevent the next attack.