Patterico's Pontifications


Let’s Get a Straight Answer, and Pronto, Please

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:54 pm

Tony Snow says that Dick Cheney wasn’t endorsing waterboarding when an interviewer asked: “Would you agree that a dunk in water is a no brainer if it can save lives?” and Cheney replied: “It’s a no brainer for me.”

What? It sounds like a “no-brainer” that he was endorsing waterboarding.

Snow said that he would ask Cheney what he really did mean.

I expect the White House Press Corps to follow up.

This seems weaselly to me. I want an explanation.

24 Responses to “Let’s Get a Straight Answer, and Pronto, Please”

  1. That’s how I read that too… I think a likely explanation is that Cheney was responding personally how he thinks (and I agree with him) and later stating that he doesn’t endorse waterboarding because it disagrees with his boss’s position… so Cheney’s position is defensible on an honor level… personally supporting a useful technique, yet not endorsing it upon reflection because he’s second in command and realizes he has to follow his boss’s lead.

    A little bit weaselly, yes. Honorable, yes. He would have been better to think about his “no brainer” comment before making it though and it pains me to write that because he really was right.

    Christoph (9824e6)

  2. Honorable, my ass. According to the response from the administration, Cheney wasn’t referring to water-boarding at all. Of course, they couldn’t come up with a credible explanation of what he did mean, if not water-boarding.

    When I was growing up and becoming politically aware in the sixties, the United States justifiably enjoyed a position of honorable morality in the world. But then Vietnam, Watergate, lying about arms sales… now we have invaded a country under false pretenses and have Abu Gharaib, Gitmo, and CIA renditions to our discredit. I’m not defending the so-called “terrorists” but how can we claim the moral high ground with a straight face?

    No, we won’t hear the truth or any response about Cheney’s “no-brainer” defending torture. The administration is too busy distorting Kerry’s misspoken jab at Bush.

    nosh (ee9fe2)

  3. I have to agree that clarification is needed. Not to detract from that necessity, remember that the term “no-brainer” was built in to the question, which leaves it a bit of a set-up. (Not that it’s fair to accuse the media of a set-up on anyone in the current administration)

    I think that for now, the answer to all such questions from the executive branch needs to be, “We do not condone torture, and beyond that we will not discuss our methods.”

    There is congressional oversight of detainee treatment, that’s all the public needs to know. Except that the administration is doing everything it can in trying to win.

    Freelancer (f99e36)

  4. nosh, I said that Cheney was being honorable when he spoke, not that the administration people trying to spin it are being accurate or honorable.

    Christoph (9824e6)

  5. Nosh,
    I’m not sorry that you feel we don’t have the ‘moral high ground.’ We never did. we’ve always done nasty things to preserve our way of life. You just didn’t know about it. But now that you do, state your opinion and move on. I’m not real happy about all the times we had to take a life in order to perserve our way of life, but it’s us or them.
    I think most reasoned individuals would rather a world with all our short-comings and faults rather than live with beheadings, vaginal mutilation, honor murder, dhimmitude and mass murder.
    No waterboarding is not nice, but then again radical islamisim isn’t either.

    paul from fl (967602)

  6. Paul: it’s all in the eyes of the beholder. Waterboarding may not be nice to the person undergoing it, but the people whose lives are saved from the information gained sure are happy. As you put it, we’ve long done things in order to preserve our way of life. It’s just a matter of who gets screwed… and I’d prefer it to be the guys on the other side.

    steve sturm (d3e296)

  7. Dunking someone’s head under water is not waterboarding! Waterbaording is a completely different method involving the stuffing of a cloth down someone’s mouth and pouring water over it so that they breathe in small amounts of water which makes them fell like they’re drowning. Certain US soldiers experience waterboarding first hand as part of their training and it does not cause physical harm. I don’t quite see what the VP has to explain. The above question and answer are self-explanatory and I don’t see why the VP would/should expand on it.

    Ashley Barlow (9d328f)

  8. I’m sorry, but I also don’t see how dunking someone’s head under water is waterboarding. That may be what was implied, but it’s not what was said and you have no reliable ground upon which to assert Cheney was referring to waterboarding in his answer.

    If he did mean waterboarding, then yes he should clarify his position. If he says that’s not what he meant, then you are only left to conclude he is being honest or is a liar.

    Regarding waterboarding, here’s the calculus for those living in La La Land:

    1.) Waterboarding of bad people saves good peoples lives.

    2.) Waterboarding of bad people means we are not the most morally pristine people on the planet (maybe), but we can not use that method to get information to save lives.

    Option 1 will preserve the life of good, moral people, while option number 2 will preserve the comfort of bad, immoral people, while also allowing smug leftists to pat themselves on the back about having the moral highground.

    If waterboarding Islamic radical murderers makes you hate your country…I really don’t know what to say. We have nothing in common intellectually or morally, and I can’t begin to fathom what kind of bubble you grew up in.

    thelinyguy (e32b76)

  9. The near-ubiquity of the term “waterboarding” and the virtual absence of the term “dunk in water” in the discussion about interrogation techniques leads me to believe that either the question was extremely carelessly posed or the questioner was not, in fact, referring to waterboarding. As has been noted, dunking in water and waterboarding are two entirely different techniques; conflating them requires a deliberate misinterpretation of the question or an assumption of something that’s not stated or even implied (though it may be [IMHO improperly] inferred).

    Diffus (ead439)

  10. Which is what Snow should have said at the time and should say now.

    “A dunk in the water is not waterboarding”

    Just that simple.

    nittypig (4c1c43)

  11. I think we all know what the interviewer meant by the question asked of Cheney. Waterboarding has been the key torture technique at issue in this entire debate. So to somehow say now that Cheney really was talking about dunking someone’s head into water is very disingenuous and quite frankly Clintonesque. If he agrees with waterboarding, just say so and be done with it.

    justlaw (4c29c4)

  12. No, it’s disingenuous to say that we should look to words that were not uttered or written, not to the words that were, to understand what a speaker meant. Rather than play the “we all know what he meant” card, as you’re the one suggesting without evidence that the talk-show host didn’t mean what he said, but something else entirely, why not give him a call and find out?

    Cheney may very well agree that waterboarding is a no-brainer. But that’s not what the questioner asked about, and I think it’s appropriate to judge Cheney’s response in terms of the question that was asked, not one that wasn’t.

    Diffus (ead439)

  13. Have you ever seen a scene in a movie or TV program where someone is interrogated by dunking their face in a trough or barrel of water? Waterboarding, according to my understanding, is an elaboration of that technique.

    Is that torture? It’s scary, but causes no pain. We do it to our own troops, during their training. The Wikipedia entry calls it torture, but my definition requires the infliction of excruciating pain.

    larry (336e87)

  14. Well said Patterico. The only “no-brainer” here is that Cheney was indeed referring to waterboarding. Waterboarding is commonly referenced to in very dismissive terms by the right wing in america. They call it a dunk in the water, getting the terrorists a little wet, no big deal, in order to hide the true horror of the act. Cheney knows this, the conservative interviewer knew it and you and I know it.

    Here is how the right wing blog “The unalienable Right” put it on Sep. 29. “Pouring water on a terrorists face for a minute or two, versus thousands of innocent civilians dead- seems to us like the ethics are pretty straightforward in that type of circumstance.” This is common rhetoric for the right and the people Cheney associates with.

    Paul (250b42)

  15. Paul, I take it you do not find the tradeoff of waterboarding with saving thousands of life to be morally justifiable.

    Yes or no would suffice here.

    spongeworthy (45b30e)

  16. You can waterboard all you like as far as I’m concerned – as long as it saves American lives. Heck – let’s start with John F. Kerry – maybe then he will release his military records at long last!

    Gayle Miller (855514)

  17. Here is how the right wing blog “The unalienable Right” put it on Sep. 29. “Pouring water on a terrorists face for a minute or two, versus thousands of innocent civilians dead- seems to us like the ethics are pretty straightforward in that type of circumstance.” This is common rhetoric for the right and the people Cheney associates with.

    So if a terrorist has information that will help avert a major terrorist strike, you would rather let potentially thousands of innocent people die to save one guilty man from severe discomfort – but no lasting harm?

    If that’s too simple for you, feel free to heap layers of nuance on to it. Anything to make it less clear. It’s clear to me that all the left wants to do is avoid having to make difficult decisions. Invariably erring on the side of passivity is a good way to destroy a nation.

    thelinyguy (e32b76)

  18. I shall not be ambiguous about it, cloth in the throat, water over the head I really do not care how the information is gleaned from anyone trying to harm this United States of America. I will never become so PC as to believe that if we do not fight the vicious terrorist’s with the same ferocity we shall not be here to fight at all.

    Rigthmom (c8d596)

  19. These Islamic terrorists are trained to yell torture whenever they are captured. I say, if you are going to be accused and published all over the world, then by damn torture, no one is going to believe that you don’t. Is it too much to ask that these anti-torture-ites direct their energies to halting beheadings and children slaughters?

    krusher (199ded)

  20. The anti-tortureites are also anti-beheading and child slaughtering. The pro-torturites show many of the same qualities as the latter.

    Paul (94ac04)

  21. It must be disconcerting for know-it-all Lefties to have the little people disagree with their haughty pronouncements.

    How much easier it would be for the Left’s hate mongers to dominate the whole world, if only the unwashed masses would get out of the way and let the anointed Progressive priesthood decide what was acceptable to think and say.

    mokus (539ee5)

  22. The anti-tortureites are also anti-beheading and child slaughtering. The pro-torturites show many of the same qualities as the latter.

    That makes absolutely no sense. Are you trying to say that people who are pro-torture (whatever that may be these days) are pro-beheading and pro-child slaughtering?

    And why can’t you answer my questions above?

    thelinyguy (e32b76)

  23. What a bunch of nut jobs! Do you really believe your government only uses these techniques on Islamic radicals who are plotting to kill thousands of Americans? We know that’s not true; read about Abu Graib.

    Everything is so simple in your black-and-white world, isn’t it? You people are scary.

    BobH (1a1a51)

  24. Perhaps when you all are done prancing around on your high horses whining about us scary crazy neo-con bible thumping fascist devils, you could answer the question. I’ll wait, since it’s fairly relevant. And here’s a napkin to whipe off that spittle.

    I’m gonna go waterboard a puppy now.

    thelinyguy (e32b76)

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