Archive for the ‘Robinson & Long’ Category

A Sober Commentary from Peter Wehner on Morality and Enhanced Interrogation Techniques

April 28, 2009

I’m quickly becoming a fan of Peter Wehner from the Robinson & Long.com blog, he forwards a great read at CommentaryMagazine.com on the current BS (my term) on EITs complete with Charles Schumer quotes from 2004 when he still understood the consequences of NOT doing everything to protect America.

Morality and Enhanced Interrogation Techniques

Peter Wehner

The issue of the Bush Administration’s enhanced interrogation techniques involve several inter-related questions.

There is, first of all, the matter of morality. Critics of enhanced interrogation techniques have taken to saying that Americans don’t torture, period – meaning in this instance that we do not engage in coercive interrogation techniques ranging from sleep deprivation to prolonged loud noise and/or bright lights to waterboarding. Anyone who holds the opposite view is a moral cretin and guilty of “arrant inhumanity.” Or so the argument goes.  

But this posture begins to come apart under examination. For one thing, the issue of “torture” itself needs to be put in a moral context and on a moral continuum. Waterboarding is a very nasty technique for sure – but it is considerably different (particularly in the manner administered by the CIA) than, say, mutilation with electric drills, rape, splitting knees, or forcing a terrorist to watch his children suffer and die in order to try to elicit information from him. Waterboarding is a technique that has been routinely used in the training of some U.S. military personnel – and which the journalist Christopher Hitchens endured. I certainly wouldn’t want to undergo waterboarding – but while a very harsh technique, it is one that was applied in part because it would do far less damage to a person than other techniques. It is also surely relevant that waterboarding was not used randomly and promiscuously, but rather on three known terrorists. And of the thousands of unlawful combatants captured by the U.S., fewer than 100 were detained and questioned in the CIA program, according to Michael Hayden, President Bush’s last CIA director, and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey – and of those, fewer than one-third were subjected to any of the techniques discussed in the memos on enhanced interrogation.

Morality also involves balancing ends and means. It is therefore relevant to take into account the possible benefits from the act of coercive interrogation techniques. Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, during a 2004 hearing on the subject of torture, put it this way. “There are times when we all get into high dudgeon” on this matter, Schumer said, but that we “ought to be reasonable about this.” He then added this:

I think there are probably very few people in this [Congressional hearing] room or in America who would say that torture should never, ever be used, particularly if thousands of lives are at stake. Take the hypothetical: if we knew that there was a nuclear bomb hidden in an American (more…)