Torturing the truth more than our enemies

On September 11, 2001, a date which certainly ought to "live in infamy," 19 violent enemies of the United States carried out vicious airliner attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., killing nearly 3,000 persons. This is known to all, of course. Yet the ruling party today is determined to deprive us of the necessary means to prevent more attacks by abandoning the policies which protected us for the last eight years. President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats in Congress profess to be horrified at the specific tactics which the Central Intelligence Agency used to elicit information from three"high-value" targets. These men were seized in our successful campaign against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan that harbored the Al Qaeda terrorists who carried out the 9/11 and other acts of mayhem, such as the previous bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993.

I say "profess" because the "torture" to which these mass murderers were subjected did not elicit any outrage from Democrats when they were briefed on the techniques back in 2001. There appeared to be general agreement that no stone should be left unturned in the effort to gain whatever information that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri could provide.

Although Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi denies it now, others present with her at the briefings the Bush Administration gave to congressional leaders have said that she not only knew of the enhanced interrogation techniques but approved of them, even urging that the CIA go beyond them if necessary. She was responding then as virtually every other American would have in her circumstances, given the enormity of the evil inflicted upon us and the undeniable evidence that these three men were either directly responsible for or fully informed about the 9/11 outrage.

The most useful information obtained was that an airliner attack was planned for Los Angeles. Was thwarting that attack not worth the CIA’s best efforts?

Webster’s Dictionary defines torture as "the infliction of severe pain, as to force information or confession." While any definition is only as accurate as its correspondence to reality, and that depends upon the judgment of those who understand what it is, a dictionary provides an impartial reference point.

However, the Wikipedia definition of waterboarding, which is based upon the contributions of "editors" who may or may not be impartial, describes waterboarding as "a form of torture" which "consists of immobilizing the victim on his or her back with the head inclined downwards, and then pouring water over the face and into the breathing passage." It adds: "In contrast to submerging the head face-forward in water [the technique used in the Spanish Inquisition], waterboarding precipitates a gag reflex almost immediately. The technique does not inevitably cause lasting physical damage."

This is torture?

The rest of this story is that waterboarding has been used on American servicemen for years to prepare them for the abuse they will be subjected to should they be captured by enemy forces. There is no evidence that they have ever been subjected to the unspeakable methods favored by despotisms.

Few of us do not know that mutilation and decapitation have been resorted to by Islamist terrorists. It beggars belief that men who are that brutal will be inspired to change their ways by our refusal to use a harsh method that actually falls short of real torture.

Meanwhile, two Bush Administration legal advisors who thought through the constitutional and legal implications of enhanced interrogation techniques and wrote extensive memos about them, have been treated as evil men who provided cover for the government’s allegedly brutal policies. This is second-guessing at best and witch hunting at worst.

As Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Federalist Papers, "A government ought to contain in itself every power requisite to the full accomplishment of the objects committed to its care, and to the complete execution of the trusts for which it is responsible, free from every other control but a regard to the public good and to the sense of the people."

The first duty of the government is public safety which, if it is to be adequately provided for, cannot be restricted as to means unless those means are immoral. It is not clear that subjecting a highly select group of known terrorists to maximum discomfort amounts to torture. If our government actually shrinks from its duties, the torture for millions of people will be far worse than that on three al-Qaeda operatives.