Waterboarding…”It’s A No-Brainer”

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in The War On Terrorism

You’ve gotta hand it to Cheney. He certainly knows how to turn a phrase.

From a recent interview:

WASHINGTON – Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed that U.S. interrogators subjected captured senior al-Qaida suspects to a controversial interrogation technique called “water-boarding,” which creates a sensation of drowning.

Cheney indicated that the Bush administration doesn’t regard water-boarding as torture and allows the CIA to use it. “It’s a no-brainer for me,” Cheney said at one point in an interview.

Cheney’s comments, in a White House interview on Tuesday with a conservative radio talk show host, appeared to reflect the Bush administration’s view that the president has the constitutional power to do whatever he deems necessary to fight terrorism.

The U.S. Army, senior Republican lawmakers, human rights experts and many experts on the laws of war, however, consider water-boarding cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment that’s banned by U.S. law and by international treaties that prohibit torture. Some intelligence professionals argue that it often provides false or misleading information because many subjects will tell their interrogators what they think they want to hear to make the water-boarding stop.

Tell us what they think we want to hear. Yes, a valuable technique that gives us loads of good intel.

By the way, you may have seen the picture before because I posted it on another torture post, but it was taken at the Tuol Sleng Prison in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The prison is no longer operational and now serves host to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.


This entry was posted on Thursday, October 26th, 2006 and is filed under The War On Terrorism. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

21 Responses to “Waterboarding…”It’s A No-Brainer””

  1. DosPeros Says:

    Hypothetical: We catch Osama bin Laden on 9/10. We’ve tried everything else (talking nice, giving him cookies, combing his beard, picking the camel mites off his back) and nothing is working! We know something is up, but we just don’t have the necessary details to stop it. Do we waterboard or do we not waterboard OBL? Is it a “no-brainer” at that point.

    Lets say that we did waterboard OBL, and it was successful and we stopped the attacks, would we have lost our moral soul for the measly price of a few thousand people?

  2. The Heretik : Slam Dunk on Torture Says:

    [...] No brainer? The casual cruelty of torture reveals itself. The comfort this administration takes in the discomfort of others betrays all our ideals. Under the Geneva Convention Bush and Cheney insist we honor, waterboarding is a mock execution. For those who seek clarity, that’s a war crime. [...]

  3. Eural Says:

    Yes, DosPeros, let’s base our national policy (and 200 years of US credibility) on yet another episode of “24″.

    Can we stop using fiction to assess real-world situations?

    Incidently, the example of OBL is a very good reason to maintain the illegality of such methods – only someone absolutely convinced they had to break the law to save lives would choose such an option. That would serve the point of making it extremely rare. Legalizing such options would turn it into a fairly common practice – a practice with no real demonstrable effectiveness thus far except for autocratic governments keeping the sheep in line.

    “Give me liberty or give me death” – Patrick Henry

    Seems like our leaders were made of sterner stuff 200 years ago.

    BTW – your OBL example is truly hypothetical. There is no way to catch him on 9/10 since our leaders were busy ignoring all the warnings something was up. And he won’t be caught anytime soon since Bush has said (in 2002) that he’s really not that concerned about Mr. Bin Laden and doesn’t give him much thought.

    Yeah, this is exactly the bunch you want to give the power to torture suspects to.

  4. ES Says:

    We know something is up, but we just don’t have the necessary details to stop it. Do we waterboard or do we not waterboard OBL? Is it a “no-brainer� at that point.

    Why does the argument hinge on the “24″ scenario? Will we always be in a state that we are in constant fear of something is to happen? I

    Just like the lawyer (Alan Dervowitz (sp?)) said a few weeks ago, if there is a concern of something is about to happen, then the POTUS needs to sign on the dotted line that he takes responsibility for the torture of the suspect. Otherwise there is no accountability.

  5. KMan Says:

    Of course, ignored in your commentary is the fact that we waterboarded KSM, which led to the capture and rollup of a number of high-level AQ operatives, so perhaps he wasn’t just ‘telling us what he thought we wanted to hear’, but instead was giving us valuable information to prevent future attacks?

  6. m.takhallus Says:

    Hypothetical: Osama threatens to explode a nuke in New York City unless we shoot a child in the head. What do we do?

    I write fiction for a living so trust me when I say you can invent a “hypothetical” to rationalize anything. We don’t live our lives by overblown hypotheticals. We live our lives according to certain core values. We adjust to reality, but we don’t stop being who we are simply because someone can write a scary scenario. Life is a not a thriller or a screenplay.

    I thought conservatives believed in values.

  7. JustAnotherIdjut Says:

    Some intelligence professionals argue that it often provides false or misleading information because many subjects will tell their interrogators what they think they want to hear to make the water-boarding stop.

    Tell them what they think they want to hear. Yes, a valuable technique that gives us loads of good intel.

    The keyword being “Some”. Many other believe it to be highly effective. Torture done in the form used during the Inquisition gave the result you site. You’ve got to be a pretty strong suspect nowadays, and the right interrogator knows when you’re lying and when you’re not.

  8. DosPeros Says:

    m.takhallus – that was the very best response to the hypo I have heard. (the part about shooting a child in the head) very good, sir.

    the example of OBL is a very good reason to maintain the illegality of such methods – only someone absolutely convinced they had to break the law to save lives would choose such an option. That would serve the point of making it extremely rare. Legalizing such options would turn it into a fairly common practice – a practice with no real demonstrable effectiveness thus far except for autocratic governments keeping the sheep in line.

    Good point Eural.

  9. Pete Says:

    “Legalizing such options would turn it into a fairly common practice – a practice with no real demonstrable effectiveness thus far except for autocratic governments keeping the sheep in line. ”

    Exactly. Today its the CIA torturing enemies of the state, thirty years from now it will be the local sheffiff water-boarding the captain of the football team to find out who the local pot dealer is.

  10. JustAnotherIdjut Says:

    m.takhallus

    Why does everything have to be black and white?

    You’re putting torturing OBL on the same level as shooting a child in the head! One is a much more acceptable form of preventing a terrorist attack then the other.

  11. Gary Says:

    How about we waterboard people like DosPeros, and see how he likes it.

  12. DosPeros Says:

    I’m sure I would tell you everything you wanted to know.

  13. Tom Says:

    I like how everyone ignores Kman’s perfectly reasonable justification for waterboarding. KSM sang like a bird.

  14. sleipner Says:

    I’m sure you would tell him everything you think he wanted to hear to get it to stop.

    Also, consider, many of these terrorists are willing to blow themselves into bits to take out 10 or 12 enemies and get 72 virgins – do you really think they’d give away secret information about their comrades in fanaticism just cause they’re having difficulty breathing? Sure, waterboarding might work on Joe Blow from the hardware store, but Zubob the Psycho? Hardly.

  15. Eural Says:

    Tom-

    I’m at work so I can’t just dig into a point and start debating!

    I’ve got a few minutes but here’s a quickie take:

    OK, lets assume the KSM point is true –

    So one success validates the legalization of a technique abhorrent to US and international law (not to mention the ethics of Christianity which the vast majority of US citizens claim to endorse)?

    And to what degree was this one incident successful? KSM did such a great job that Al Qaeda is out of business? No, apparently, the bad guys are actually gaining business because of the publicity of practices such as this (there are other reasons but it is a contributing factor to the perception of the US in the Muslim world).

    Finally, lets try the accountability system mentioned by ES – if the prez is so gung ho to torture he putts himself on the line. If it works then it was done in a very restricted context and isn’t as liable to be abused. If it doesn’t then he’s got to face the full weight of the law.

    A government of laws and not men? Accountability and transparency? Holy crap – we might be talking about some radical democratic republic!

    Now, take a look again at the legislation the POTUS and the VP have pushed – no accountability, no transparency and no legal remonstrance (even by US citizens).

    How did we ever beat the fascists and the communists without resorting to these measures?

  16. Justin Gardner Says:

    How about we waterboard people like DosPeros, and see how he likes it.

    Gary, one more crack like that and you’re banned. Make a point, and make it well…but don’t ever, EVER make veiled threats.

    Michael and Eural…great points.

  17. Eural Says:

    Ok, here’s a little something I found on the KSM thing:
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14924664/site/newsweek/

    Bottom line – KSM did talk and we learned a little (not a lot) some of which was bogus. We also have another case where the suspect just spewed complete nonesense but the nonesense was accepted as fact and lead to supporting the case against Iraq (no small mistake as it turns out!).

    I’m not really convinced we’ve got a lot to go on here to support the efficiency of such interregations – which just makes me more suspicious as to why the VP seems so adament about it. I really don’t think Cheney is a bad guy (like the terrorists) but his thinking seems to be extreme and unclear (and unconventional to say the least).

    KMan or Tom – can you point me to some better summary of the KSM stuff to back up a pro-torture point?

  18. Alan Stewart Carl Says:

    Why stop at water boarding? Why not pull their thumbnails out? Why not put them on the rack? Why not bring in their family and kill one every few hours?

    All those could be very useful in getting information–if getting information is a goal that outweighs all other concerns. I mean, once you believe that torture is useful or even necessary, how exactly do you draw a line? Water boarding IS torture but it’s not the worst kind. If it doesn’t work, how much further of a step is it to bring in some hot irons?

    The thing is, we’re either a nation that permits torture or one that doesn’t. We can comfort ourselves and say “yeah, but we only do light torture.” And we can deceive ourselves into thinking it makes us safer. But the truth is, permitting torture just makes us more like our enemies. And that’s not a direction the good guys should head.

  19. ES Says:

    IF I remember correctly, Ron Suskind’s “One Percent Doctrine” book has some words to say about KSM’s treatment – one particular item by the CIA had hardened his heart, where the FBI had lamented of the lost opprotunity to work him for information with less harsh methods. The waterboarding was not effective on him, though he did relent after a long period of time under the water can. I will see if I can find the pages in the book tomorrow.

    That brings up the Ramzi case where he was thought by some in the intelligence of being some lynch-pin but had no information that was credible when torture was used against him. Wasn’t it Ramzi who said there was a connection between Saddam and AQ?

  20. ES Says:

    “One Percent Doctrine” pp.228-230 talks about KSM and pp.164-165 talks about Ramzi bin al-Shibh. Ramzi didn’t talk. It was Zubaydah whom I was thinking of when I mentioned false information.

  21. lensma Says:

    Believe it or not, there is actually a funny video about waterboarding. ANd some cool cartoons on this site: http://deadguylives.blogspot.com

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