Watch the Brian Ross video and listen to him patiently explain how information coerced from Khaled Sheikh Mohammed proved to be quite reliable indeed. And ended up saving god knows how many Californians’ (blue state!) lives.
They want us to debate honestly on this. Fine. I’m willing to, if it’s a genuinely honest debate. The first step of which is for us to concede we don’t want innocent people or even not-so-innocent people who are guilty of ordinary crimes to be mistreated, and for them to concede that in some instances these tactics are important and effective. If we start from the position that no one should be tortured even if we credibly believe it will prevent airplanes from being flown into skyscrapers, then we are at what is known as an unbridgeable impasse.
I’ll readily concede that I don’t want anyone to be “mistreated.” I think that word covers different things for people with higher-value information who refuse to give it up, as the KSM example demonstrates.
I have hinted at this before in posts with many other issues. But now I’d like to throw it out there without any other distractions.
Let’s assume the following hypothetical facts are true. U.S. officials have KSM in custody. They know he planned 9/11 and therefore have a solid basis to believe he has other deadly plots in the works. They try various noncoercive techniques to learn the details of those plots. Nothing works.
They then waterboard him for two and one half minutes.
During this session KSM feels panicky and unable to breathe. Even though he can breathe, he has the sensation that he is drowning. So he gives up information — reliable information — that stops a plot involving people flying planes into buildings.
My simple question is this: based on these hypothetical facts, was the waterboarding session worth it?
While this is not being done for retribution, it may provide some perspective to note that, in the hypothetical, the plot stopped by obtaining the information is much like 9/11. And in the real 9/11, real people in the Twin Towers who were confronted with fires and smoke had the sensation they couldn’t breathe, but that’s because they actually couldn’t — and it lasted more than two minutes. Then they were crushed by the collapsed building, and taken away from their families, due to the actions of this man. If we don’t get the information, similar things would happen again, perhaps to hundreds or thousands of people.
So: is such a waterboarding session worth it?