How we get information from a captured terrorist is a debate that is roiling the country. Is torture appropriate if it means saving innocent lives? Just what qualifies as the definition of torture anyway?
I went to my "World Book Dictionary" and extracted the definition of torture as: "the act of inflicting very severe pain." We can all cite examples that include beatings with implements, extracting finger nails, branding with hot irons and hanging backward from the shoulders. These kinds of treatments leave permanent marks and disabilities for a lifetime.
How about water boarding, a very effective technique for extracting information? Does water boarding meet the definition of torture? No, water boarding does not inflict very severe pain leaving permanent scars and disabilities. Rather, it is a psychological experience wherein a person’s mind believes he is drowning under a wave of water being poured on his face. In contrast to the technique used during the Spanish Inquisition when the head was held under water, the current method incurs little danger of drowning. Other psychological techniques used to extract information include continuous loud music, disrupting sleep, humiliating treatment and solitary confinement. The latter are long term psychological treatments, whereas water boarding apparently produces almost instantaneous results. None of the many psychological treatments leave any permanent physical damage.
As the debate regarding water boarding rages in the US Congress we now learn that the same members of Congress who approved and encouraged this technique after 9/11 are now opposed. This confuses me because they offer no logical explanation except they now apparently believe that it will help win elections. What a sorry rationale!
I can see carrying the torture debate into new areas. All of us have our own definition. In the psychological field I might consider being exposed to Senator Hillary Clinton’s cackle or Roseann singing our National Anthem, for hours at a time, a form of torture, although no severe physical pain is involved. On the other hand, the use of a Taser by our law enforcement agencies certainly meets the dictionary definition of torture, since it inflicts severe physical pain to the recipient. If you’ve seen the tape of the driver dropped by a patrolman with screams of anguish or the student’s strident cry: "Don’t Tase me Bro," you know that real pain was inflicted. To see for yourself just click on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bVa6jn4rpE and/or http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,312466,00.html.
One might wonder why Senator Harry Reid isn’t carrying on about the use of Tasers compared to his rants against water boarding. A Taser is used because it creates instantaneous results and is supposedly non-lethal but it does inflict severe pain. Actually 150 deaths have been reported in the 2001-2005 period of persons who were Tasered. Water boarding is used because it brings almost instantaneous results, does not inflict severe pain and no deaths have been reported from its usage. How is it that we can embrace Tasering (severe pain and often lethal) and yet oppose water boarding (no pain and not lethal)? Very puzzling!
I have some other ideas for extracting information from captured terrorists. I’ve always considered that a prostate exam or a colonoscopy is a form of torture. Why hasn’t the CIA thought about inflicting two prostate exams or a colonoscopy every day on the hard cases? In less than a week, they’d get all the information they ever wanted – and without a single complaint from Congress.
In summary, why can’t we all agree that physical torture per its dictionary definition is out-of-bounds, but psychological techniques, including water boarding, used within specific bounds and national security necessities, are acceptable.
While I’m on the subject of intelligence and national security, the lack of logic emanating from the halls of Congress frustrates me. We’ve all read and heard for several years now, how bad the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was when it stated that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction – and thereby resulted in a faulty decision to invade Iraq. Now that same clientele who pounded that NIE have embraced the latest NIE that Iran has halted their nuclear weapons program – although they are still going all-out with their nuclear enrichment project which produces the main elements to create A-bombs. I can only conclude that the NIE’s are used as a convenient crutch to support one’s political position to gain votes and win elections. What a shame when American citizens can’t count on their elected representatives in Congress to subvert their politics to put the security of their country first!