Katrina’s column is called “Waterboarding Justice,” an almost clever play on words referring to the president’s nominee for Attorney General, Michael Mukasey. She’s not happy with Mukasey’s “tap dance,” as she calls it, around the possible legalities and illegalities of waterboarding as he interviews for the job with the various senators, all the democratic ones much intent on tripping him up.
She wants the probable future AG to come out against this relatively mild, yet extremely uncomfortable (and effective) method of interrogation. As she says, “it simulates the feeling of drowning.” If you’ve ever had water pour into your nose and mouth then you know the panic you’d feel while going through it. The mind shuts off and craves air. No one has ever died from it nor has anyone been seriously hurt. The "beauty" of it is that everyone who has gone through it has broken--no exceptions.
Even so, the CIA reports that it has only used this form of “torture,” as Ms Heuvel needs to call it, just three times in the past four years. I could add the caveat “that we know of,” but to what end? As far as I’m concerned our people should be allowed to use it as often as necessary to continue to keep the world safe from the human beasts that wish to destroy it. Read of life in Afghanistan during the Taliban to find out how they would rebuild it.
Mukasey's answers to the question of waterboarding was indeed a tap-dance, but a necessary one if he wants to be confirmed by certain key legislators. He knows good and well that keeping our war-fighting options open is what is going to continue to keep us free from more attacks. Has anyone noticed that since 9-11 we haven’t had any more terror attacks on US soil? That was due to some luck, but mostly the credit goes to this administration and its lean forward posture of preemption.
It seems that people like vanden Heuvel prefers to look at the CIA and The Justice Department as rogue organizations keen only on freewheeling torture and gratuitous spying on its citizens, all in the name of keeping us safe—banish the thought! I think Katrina has seen too many movies like Syriana and the Bourne series, all of which is mostly unadulterated anti-CIA crapola.
Mr. Mukasey understands all too well that every case requires a different level of understanding before allowing or disallowing the use of waterboarding. We waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, the brains behind 9-11, as soon as we could get our hands on him. To wait even a day to do it might have caused actionable intelligence to evaporate with time. Yet unbelievably, people like Ms. Heuvel, and even John McCain, would NOT have allowed it. Americans who understand the threat have no problems with what our people did to this guy to squeeze him. The word is that he broke in 2 and ½ minutes and what we got from him was very actionable indeed. Your comments Ms. Heuvel?
A lot of very nice people will sputter and moan over "losing our souls" as we go about using “horrible” methods of interrogation. I agree with them for the most part. We shouldn’t use it wholesale—but the thing is, we aren’t.
Here’s how I would analogize the decision-making behind when we should waterboard. On 9-11, four airplanes flew above our nation taken over by terrorists looking to kill as many of us as possible. Yet, also onboard those planes were several hundred innocent passengers, all of whom had Constitutional rights. The president had a decision to make—does he impinge on the rights of those captured citizens by killing them when ordering their planes shot down; or, does he hope for the best and continue to honor their right to live, and by doing so, possibly condemn to death thousands more? This kind of situation is exactly what Mr. Mukasey is referring to as he “tap-dances” around the senators' questions. But to Ms Heuvel everything is black and white, Bush is evil, waterboarding is wrong and always wrong, regardless of the circumstances.
I do admire Katrina’s desire that we not “damage our values” in the name of our security, and I share her concerns that we not harm relations internationally, and above all, her concern for the safety of our captured soldiers is commendable.
The fact that we are even discussing the ethics of waterboarding already speaks of our high values, and that we’ve only used it on occasion says even more. Internationally, other nations use far more physically and mentally damaging methods of extracting information, only they don’t speak of such things publicly. To do so destroys the effectiveness of the methods. The fact that we quibble over it causes them to snigger at us behind their hands. Other nations, including those in Europe claim all day long that they don’t condone torture, but they use it when they deem necessary, just as we should, when necessary.
As far as the safety of our captured soldiers, our people already know that to be captured by Al Qaeda means hideous torture and an eventual brutal death, for that’s been the way of it. If we could only talk Al Qaeda into waterboarding our people instead of cutting off their fingers, toes, feet, hands and finally, their heads; now THAT would be a great accomplishment! Now, if only someone could talk Katrina vanden Heuvel into writing THAT article. How about it Ms. Heuvel?