Monday, May 11, 2009


Dan Froomkin in his blog in today's points me to the dangerous and silly utterances of Dick Cheney when appearing on CBS Face the Nation yesterday. Apparently Cheney is still pushing the line that his "harsh interrogation methods" saved thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of lives. And that most Americans would support such "methods" if they knew how effective they were.

First of all, Froomkin points out that there is no credible evidence that torture or waterboarding produced any actionable intelligence that saved lives. Zubayda was waterboarded some 80 times and Khalid Sheik Mohammed over 150. If waterboarding were so effective as Cheney implies, how come it had to be done on multiple occasions to these two prisoners.

But more importantly, even if torture and waterboarding did produce evidence that the government used, would it ever be morally justified? Can we sacrifice the life of an individual for the good of the nation? Do the rights of the majority trump the rights of the individual? Morally, there is no way to justify waterboarding or Cheney's other harsh interrogation methods.

Furthermore, from a legal perspective, waterboarding is a supreme offense against the U.S. Constitution. The rights of an individual are supreme in the Constitution. Consider the Bill of Rights. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and freedom from being tortured by the state. If the individual did not possess these basic and fundamental rights in the U.S., then the U.S. would not be the land of the free or the paragon of democracy.

Historically, states and regimes have always resorted to torture and especially to waterboarding to make the accused tell "the truth." Consider the practices of the Inquisition where the Church turned "heretics" over to the king and the state for tests by water and/or by fire. Imagine if the Church suspected you were in consorts with Satan. Would you confess if you were subject to the trial by water? Would you admit that you were in fellowship with the devil? Suppose it were a test by fire, such as with hot irons? How long would you last without confessing "everything"?

Cheney claims that his interrogation techniques saved thousands of lives. That still is not justification for using them on suspects. If Cheney persists in his argument for this constitutionally abhorrent and immoral practice, I suggest that he himself undergo both water and fire and see how long he can endure without admitting he was the 20th hijacker.

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