I have decided that every week in my recommendations I’ll be hitting a different cabinet department for a law until I make a full circuit around the cabinet (and maybe add in one of the non-cabinet offices per cycle). This week, my favorite department, the Department of Defense.
So for this week I’m going to go with ending rendition. For those who don’t know, rendition is where we capture a terrorist but because we don’t torture people, we just send them to a country that does torture people to get information out of them. It’s about as close as you can get to the definition of hypocrisy and ethical cowardice. It was immoral when Bush did it, it’s immoral now that Obama does it (and if anyone before them was using it was pretty slimy then too). This doesn’t require much argument, because this just about the scummiest thing we do right now. This is a no brainer of a law. You want to overturn a law that actually hurts of in the eyes of the world, this would be one of those laws. Now if a country that uses torture has an actual warrant out on this person and wants them extradited, that’s a very different matter, and an extradition judge will take that into account when making their decision.
However this does leave that little question about getting good intel (not that torture was actually providing us with good intel). But this is really a very irrelevant point because we do have something that gets good intel and isn’t torture. But Liberals love bringing up irrelevant things (probably because they don’t have a lot of relevant issues to bring up. Earmarks, yeah they’re irrelevant, but they’re also a symbolic first step.) And then there’s the non-issue of waterboarding that’s being brought up again.
I bring this up partly for the very reason that W. is out on the talk show circuit trying to sell his book. And in amongst making really dumb statements like “I hope people don’t lose confidence in the government” (someone should remind him that conservatives by definition don’t have confidence in the government and that this nation was founded because people didn’t have confidence in a government….but as W. isn’t really a conservative I can’t hope for much) W. has had several questions about the issue of waterboarding. Now per usual this twit is only giving answers like “because the lawyers said it was legal” which is about as weak a defense as I can think of. So in an attempt to further tarnish the image of invading Iraq and Afghanistan (which was the right thing to do, albeit not carried out in the right way) a British journalist agreed to be waterboarded to give a firsthand description of it. His conclusion was all too predictable that this is torture and that we shouldn’t do it.
However, while his statement that this is torture, his actions betray a lie.
Torture: “the action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or to force them to do or say something, or for the pleasure of the person inflicting the pain.” Waterboarding it painful, temporarily, but pain isn’t the purpose, fear in the most basic part of the brain is. And fear isn’t the real purpose, shutting down the part of the brain that lies and resists is. Further notice that part about pleasure, US soldiers and intelligence personnel aren’t doing this for the pleasure of it (or if they are once we find them we have a very good track record of putting them in prison, unlike other countries which tend to promote such sick excuses for humans). We do it for intel to save lives.
Now I don’t have to defend waterboarding in a pragmatic sense. Pragmatically its uses are self-evident: a system of cutting through willpower to where fear in the brain is so heightened that a person doesn’t have time to think up the lies that a person who is being tortured would usually come up with. For the few terrorists with lots of information. But is it torture? No. You know how I know it’s not torture? The reporter volunteered to undergo it. Lots of reporters have volunteered to undergo waterboarding for a story. But would they have volunteered to be beaten within an inch of their life? No. Volunteered to have electrodes tied to them? No. Volunteered to be repeatedly cut with a knife? No. Volunteered to be left in a below freezing cold cell without clothes? No. Volunteered to have bamboo pieces shoved under their fingernails? No. Whipped, burned, actually drowned, or any other kind of torture the Nazi, communists, Tojo’s imperial army, or Al Qaida have come up with over the last hundred years? No! What’s the difference? No one in their right mind volunteers for torture! But he volunteered for waterboarding? And I’m not claiming that this reporter is either crazy or has something for S&M. He volunteered because, yes it’s something that will cause immeasurable fear in someone, but it’s not torture. If you actually read his article this so called journalist doesn’t describe a lot of pain, he describes a lot of fear.
We do waterboarding because it isn’t torture. While pain is scary, there are more efficient and humane ways to get to that fear, and that fear is what is needed to get the information. And it certainly is better than outsourcing intel to other countries.