National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair says tough interrogation tactics yielded "high value information." Critics of the Bush-approved methods have called them "torture" and President Obama says that those tactics won't be used on his watch.
But here's the one thing that people on both sides of the torture debate don't seem to understand: This isn't really about uncooperative suspects, it's about uncooperative politicians.
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First let's all acknowledge that even the "evil" Bush administration's notion of "torture" is a far cry from what most of us think when we hear that word. There are no beheadings — like terrorists did to Nicholas Berg and Daniel Pearl — no shooting people in kneecaps, and no cutting off fingers one-by-one by with rusty garden shears.
What we're really talking about here is waterboarding and, whether you are morally in favor of it or not, it's far from clear whether that technique qualifies under the law as "torture."
And that's the whole problem: What exactly is "torture"?
What if we make a terrorist stay up a wink past their bedtime: Is that torture? What about playing loud music or feeding someone only bread and water: Is that torture?
Well, if you're rational, you might say, "Glenn, it all comes down to the law. Whatever it says, goes."
Great, we agree. But in this case the law is the problem.
Back in September 2002, the CIA demonstrated waterboarding and some other harsh techniques to a bipartisan group of politicians, including current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. We didn't see a single one of those lawmakers (or anyone else in Congress) go on the record after 9/11 and say "I don't care if we're vaporized, I am morally opposed to torture and we will not do it under any circumstance."
In fact, some of the most outspoken people on the issue — like John McCain — didn't make a peep about waterboarding until 2004 and 2005. Even worse, none of the lawmakers bothered to clarify the torture statute by, oh I don't know, writing complicated legalese like "waterboarding is torture."
But now, because these people were too spineless to define it, they want to go back in time and punish the Bush administration for making agonizing decisions and complex legal interpretations in a time of war?
And, let's not forget that even after deciding that waterboarding was legal, they only did it to three high value suspects — one of whose information actually helped stop a massive airliner attack on the Library Tower.
I'm sick and tired of the spineless weasels who've never fought a war or run a business but keep trying to tell people how to fight wars and run businesses.
Let's be clear: The president has to make decisions that most people don't even want to think about. Do you know if waterboarding is torture? The president must. He has to make the tough calls and then the people who actually fight wars need to be left alone to do their job and stand by what they've done, no matter what the consequences.
We need Jack Bauer. Here's what he said when he was asked if he tortured a suspect:
(BEGIN '24' VIDEO CLIP)
ACTOR KIEFER SUTHERLAND AS JACK BAUER: Senator, why don't I save you some time: It's obvious that your agenda is to discredit CTU and generate a series of...
ACTOR KURTWOOD SMITH AS SENATOR BLAINE MAYER: My only agenda is to get to the truth.
BAUER: I don't think it is, sir.
SEN. MAYER: Excuse me?
BAUER: Ibrahim Haddad had targeted a bus train of 45 people, 10 of which were children. The truth, Senator, is I stopped that attack from happening.
SEN. MAYER: By torturing Mr. Haddad.
BAUER: By doing what I deemed necessary to protect innocent lives.
SEN. MAYER: So basically what you're saying, Mr. Bauer, is that the ends justify the means and that you are above the law.
BAUER: When I am activated, when I am brought into a situation, there is a reason and that reason is to complete the objectives of my mission at all costs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
No, actually we need Oliver North:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COL. OLIVER NORTH: I told you that I was going to tell it to you — the good, the bad and the ugly. Some of it has been ugly for me. I don't know how many other witnesses have gone through the ordeal that I have before arriving here and seen their names smeared all over the newspapers and by some members of this committee, but I committed when I raised my right hand took and oath as a midshipman that I would tell the truth and I took an oath when I arrived before this committee to tell the truth and I have done so, painful though it may be for me and for others.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Where is that honor today?
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