Wednesday

Waterboarding is not torture.






Excerpts in bold are from the MSNBC article “Gruesome origins of 'torture' tactics overlooked” found here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30338039

The issue of torture threatens to further divide a nation already polarized along ideological lines. Main stream media accounts, like the one referenced here, seem to intentionally blur the lines between the United States and terrorist regimes. While true torture is reprehensible and an anathema to civilized persons what the United States did was hardly torture by any serious definition of the word.

WASHINGTON - The program began with Central Intelligence Agency leaders in the grip of an alluring idea: They could get tough in terrorist interrogations without risking legal trouble by adopting a set of methods used on Americans during military training. How could that be torture?

Indeed, how could training inflicted on our own service men and women constitute torture. Familiarization training is not a new concept. Law enforcement agencies routinely exposes recruits to “pepper spray”, TASERS and other intermediate weapons that they normally carry. The military has used water boarding to expose their personnel to techniques they may encounter as well. If these “techniques” resulted in any lasting physical or mental side effects would they be used on our own? Would it be reasonable to assume that we would have already heard the outcry to cease these actions?

In a series of high-level meetings in 2002, without a single dissent from cabinet members or lawmakers, the United States for the first time officially embraced the brutal methods of interrogation it had always condemned.

I think this is an important point to consider. Why was there no dissent? It seems that only the right is being held to task in this inquisition while leaving the left blameless and more importantly pointing the finger as if free from guilt.

According to several former top officials involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know that the military training program, called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, had been created decades earlier to give American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture methods used by Communists in the Korean War, methods that had wrung false confessions from Americans.

I will address this point a little later in this post.

After years of recriminations about torture and American values, Bushadministration officials say it is easy to second-guess the decisions of 2002, when they feared that a new attack from Al Qaeda could come any moment.

I think it is a valid argument. In hindsight it may appear to have been a rash decision but we were facing an unprecedented attack on American soil and an enemy unlike any we have faced before. An enemy with a fanatical resolve and a complete willingness, even desire, to die for their cause. I think the left should consider that President Obama is making the same type of argument to support his unprecedented spending. We have never faced this kind of economic downturn and so on. How will history judge Obama if his decisions turn out to be less than successful? Will he be deemed to have been reckless and subject to criminal prosecution for fraud, theft or malfeasance? How about his advisors?

Leaked to the news media months after they were first used, the C.I.A.’s interrogation methods would darken the country’s reputation, blur the moral distinction between terrorists and the Americans who hunted them, bring broad condemnation from Western allies and become a ready-made defense for governments accused of torture. The response has only intensified since Justice Department legal memos released last week showed that two prisoners were waterboarded 266 times and that C.I.A. interrogators were ordered to waterboard one of the captives despite their belief that he had no more information to divulge.

I reject the entire line of reasoning presented above. There is no moral equivalency to be found here. We were attacked by radical Islamic terrorists and sought only to defend ourselves. The methods we used were mundane, inconsequential and not worthy to be called torture. I have stood and directed traffic for hours in the rain. I have been subjected to hours of loud and obnoxious music while working details. I have worked 48 hours straight during hurricanes. I have been pepper sprayed and TASEd. None of this was considered torture; I was just doing my job.

Had someone shoved bamboo under my finger nails or eviscerated me while I watched, had my bones been repeatedly broken or my joints wrenched from their sockets, that would have been torture. Not simple discomfort or simulated drowning; yes simulated, they were never in any danger of actually drowning from water boarding.

But according to many Bush administration officials, including former Vice President Dick Cheney and some intelligence officers who are critics of the coercive methods, the C.I.A. program would also produce an invaluable trove of information on Al Qaeda, including leads on the whereabouts of important operatives and on terror schemes discussed by Al Qaeda. Whether the same information could have been acquired using the traditional, noncoercive methods that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the military have long used is impossible to say, and former Bush administration officials say they did not have the luxury of time to develop a more patient approach, given that they had intelligence warnings of further attacks.

This is the key to it all and the one thing that seems to be glossed over by the media and the Obama administration. Obama released the memos on the so called “torture” but none of the memos regarding what was learned. Is it possible that several attacks were prevented and thousands of lives saved? We will never know because it does not serve the motives of the administration to tell us. This issue could be put to an end quickly with the release of such information. Either it was an effective method or it was not.

"I have said to all who will listen that the agency did none of this out of enthusiasm," he said. "It did it out of duty. It did it with the best legal advice it had."

Simply put I believe this. I believe that whatever the results and the fallout may have been or will be, these guys acted in our best interests and without malice of forethought.

Sinister 'brainwashing'A little research on the origin of those methods would have given reason for doubt. Government studies in the 1950s found that Chinese Communist interrogators had produced false confessions from captured American pilots not with some kind of sinister "brainwashing" but with crude tactics: shackling the Americans to force them to stand for hours, keeping them in cold cells, disrupting their sleep and limiting access to food and hygiene.

"The Communists do not look upon these assaults as ‘torture,’ " one 1956 study concluded.”But all of them produce great discomfort, and lead to serious disturbances of many bodily processes; there is no reason to differentiate them from any other form of torture."

Worse, the study found that under such abusive treatment, a prisoner became "malleable and suggestible, and in some instances he may confabulate."

There is one huge difference here: The communists looked at prisoners of war as propaganda tools. It was their desire, first and foremost, to obtain confessions of crimes they knew to be fabrications. It was not about obtaining the truth or important information as much as it was about propping soldiers up TV to destroy our resolve. Further they indulged in true forms of torture not innocuos forms of discomfort we call torture.

The Democrats are once again running from themselves. They seek to obscure the fact that they not only knew what was going on but overtly advocated the actions, and rightly so. They should not hide from the truth when they also acted in the best interest of the nation they swore to protect and the constitution they swore to uphold. They should be proud but, alas, they are ashamed of having played a part in protecting our country as evidenced by the following:

Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, who in 2002 was the ranking Democrat on the House committee, has said in public statements that she recalls being briefed on the methods, including waterboarding. She insists, however, that the lawmakers were told only that the C.I.A. believed the methods were legal — not that they were going to be used.

By contrast, the ranking Republican on the House committee at the time, Porter J. Goss of Florida, who later served as C.I.A. director, recalls a clear message that the methods would be used.

"We were briefed, and we certainly understood what C.I.A. was doing," Mr. Goss said in an interview. "Not only was there no objection, there was actually concern about whether the agency was doing enough."

Senator Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida, who was committee chairman in 2002, said in an interview that he did not recall ever being briefed on the methods, though government officials with access to records say all four committee leaders received multiple briefings.

History will eventually vindicate the policies of the Bush administration if not in practice at least in intent. We have become a nation ashamed to do the hard things to ensure our own survival and will, as a result, become the target of more terrorist attacks.

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