As I mentioned almost two weeks ago, we needed to wait until more of the facts were available before coming to a definitive conclusion concerning the role of “enhanced interrogation techniques” in the eventual killing of Osama bin Laden. On one hand, you have Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Cheney and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey stating that the trail to bin Laden started with the waterboarding of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. On the other hand, you have a recent Washington Post op-ed by former POW Senator John McCain, in which states, “I asked CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts, and he told me the following: The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. The first mention of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the nickname of the al-Qaeda courier who ultimately led us to bin Laden — as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country, who we believe was not tortured. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts or an accurate description of his role in al-Qaeda.”
Both sides of this torture debate are probably wrong. Intelligence and torture are not parts of an all-or-nothing proposal. There are multiple shades of gray. Was everything that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed spewed out under torture wrong? I doubt it. I think that he probably did give us some valuable information. On the other hand, could we have possibly gathered information from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed through other methods? Probably. Our interrogators seem to be very skilled at garnering information over a period of time.
Our moral compass seems to have been broken for some time. We’ve adopted a “win at any cost” type of mentality. It is as if we were prominently playing some sort of reality game. Whether it is reelecting Senator David Vitter or Representative William “cash in my freezer” Jefferson because he is a senior politician and will bring more money to the state, it is simply wrong. Why the good people of Arizona are putting up with the craziness of Senator John Ensign who has proven himself to be unfit to represent anyone is beyond me. In the name of laissez-faire capitalism and open markets, we allowed the American people to get ripped off for over $13 trillion in which Wall Street banks got rich and the rest of us got to see our housing nest eggs depreciate in value.
Torture is wrong. Wherever you want to draw that line in the sand (on one side there’s torture and the other side there is no torture), I want to be far away from that dividing line. Now, conservatives always come up with the 24-hour scenario (based on the Kiefer Sutherland series 24 hours). What if you detain a terrorist who you “know” has information about an impending terrorist attack? Getting that information will save hundreds, if not thousands, of American lives. What you do? In my opinion, you get special permission from Congress to use your enhanced interrogation techniques on this specific terrorist at this specific point in time. I’m hoping that we can find our moral compass before it is too late.