Waterboarding Hypocrisy?

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In this video released Thursday, a Kurdish Iraqi persh merga soldier is shown in an orange jumpsuit before Islamic State militants executed him. (YouTube screen grab)

In this video released Thursday, a Kurdish Iraqi persh merga soldier is shown in an orange jumpsuit before Islamic State militants executed him. (YouTube screen grab)

The hunt for James Foley’s killer:

On Sunday, the British ambassador to the United States said Britain was close to identifying Foley’s killer.

A number of possible identities have been suggested by British media although sources on both sides of the Atlantic have told Reuters that there was little likelihood of the British government naming the suspect imminently.

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that Foley and at least 3 other captives are known to have been waterboarded:

At least four hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State, including an American journalist who was recently executed by the group, were waterboarded in the early part of their captivity, according to people familiar with the treatment of the kidnapped Westerners.

James Foley was among the four who were waterboarded several times by Islamic State militants who appeared to model the technique on the CIA’s use of waterboarding to interrogate suspected terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

I can believe America’s enemies probably were inspired to waterboard because of all the media hype and hysteria over the issue; but I find it difficult to believe it was modeled with the same exact guidelines that the CIA were restricted to operate under, including time limit and doctor-supervised. And it absolutely did not serve the same purpose: The CIA used it (on only 3, worst of the worst HVDs) not for the purposes of confessions or obtaining information- but to induce a state of cooperation by making the HVDs feel that their situation was hopeless and could only be made better by working with the CIA debriefers. For ISIS, does anyone doubt waterboarding was performed merely for the sake of gratuitous pleasure? Certainly they weren’t doing it because Foley or the other captives had intelligence information on them that could save the lives of Muslim civilians who might be attacked by the West.

“ISIL is a group that routinely crucifies and beheads people,” said a U.S. official, using one of the acronyms for the Islamic State. “To suggest that there is any correlation between ISIL’s brutality and past U.S. actions is ridiculous and feeds into their twisted propaganda.”

The blame-Bush Firsters are drawing the correlation; and calling out hypocrisy because the Bush Justice Department did not call waterboarding torture when our CIA did it; yet we are ready to label it exactly that when it has been done by Islamic terrorists. Perhaps they do have a point there. However, even had the CIA never operated a Detention and Interrogation Program that incorporated “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”- mischaracterized as being far worse and far more severe than they were- does anyone really believe that these global jihadis are only “acting out” and torturing people (American, Sunni Muslim, Shia Muslim- you name it!) because of the CIA, GITMO, and abu Ghraib? (and of what good would releasing photos at this time in history, serve, aside from jihadi propaganda and recruitment?) Even in the absence of American abuses and scandals, these perverse Islamist terrorists would still be torturing and executing with gruesome violence.

“They [Islamic State militants] believe these actions serve them,” said Scott Stewart, vice-president of tactical analysis for the geopolitical intelligence firm Stratfor.

“For months, they’ve been beheading, amputating the hands of thieves, crucifying people in areas they control in Syria,” said Stewart, a former special agent with the U.S. State Department who was involved in hundreds of terrorism investigations.

“Despite these barbaric displays … it’s been successful. They’ve been able to grow and flourish, and they have been able to attract people to their cause despite this barbarity — perhaps because of it.”

Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to release their 6,200 page, 5 year “torture” report for the general public (and America’s enemies) consumption. It will happen, though, in the absence of Republican participation, as well as being without the input of the very people intimately involved in the CIA Program- the interrogators and CIA officials themselves.

Of what possible good does this do for America? It only reignites partisan divisions and provides propaganda for America’s enemies. It will not lead to the criminal prosecution of President Bush or anyone involved with the Bush Administration, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, or with any CIA officials. Nor will it help us move past this by “owning up to the sins of our past”. Waterboarding (of only 3 HVDs- the worst of the worst) as a CIA practice effectively was ended not by President Obama but in 2006 under Bush; and no HVD had been waterboarded since 2003.

And putting aside, for a moment, the controversy over whether or not the CIA Detention and Interrogation Program (specifically those who received EIT treatment- about 30 of the 100 in the CIA program) yielded any results and actionable intelligence, let’s pretend, shall we, that we have an ISIS captive, known to have beheaded and crucified others, believed to have knowledge of the whereabouts of current ISIS captives as well as the name and location of Foley’s executioner. He’s been trained to resist standard interrogation practices. Would any of you protest were he subjected to something as harsh as waterboarding (again, put aside for a moment the question of whether or not it or any of the other EITs obtained positive results)?

Would any of you shed a tear of guilt or feel we’ve sacrificed our values were we to waterboard Foley’s killer to induce a state of cooperation in him, in order to debrief him for intelligence information on his colleagues? In order to save lives?

One of the 3 HVTs in CIA custody who received the waterboard treatment is KSM. KSM, for anyone with short memory, beheaded another journalist. Daniel Pearl. It’s confirmed. This happened before OIF. Before Abu Ghraib. Before the CIA Detention and Interrogation Program and EITs. Nothing the CIA could possibly have done to KSM amounts to this level of barbarism.

But lets keep wringing our hands over abu Ghraib photos of 10 years ago; let’s keep lamenting over CIA waterboarding (of only 3 HVTs!), release a partisan investigation; let’s blame Bush and Cheney for the waterboarding of Foley and for the rise of ISIS; and let’s keep bellyaching over why they aren’t being tried as war criminals.

30 Responses to “Waterboarding Hypocrisy?”

  1. 26


    I am okay with your being a murder, that is your chosen profession “oil guy”; my stuffing my holier than though attitude is a negative. I am saying act in accordance with conventions of international law or be advised you will be prosecuted; you rep what you sow.

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    Rather than argue at me, or slap each other’s backs and proclaim your great value why not read what real soldiers and officers think of water boarding, instead of pundits like yourselves and the author?
    Then maybe consider Article Three of the Geneva Convention, hell look at Wikipedia. You won’t change me anymore than the truth will alter your mindset which is apparently of the MTV generation.

    “Light them up” and kill this group blah, blah, blah –.i have never heard any soldier speak in that fashion I do see in the other hand as men progress through the ranks and experience in combat they become more caring of human life, educated on foreign policy and posses greater humility. You demean the armed services with the kind of chatter that goes on here and I was misled to consider that there was a viable opinion held on this blog which I thought was comments on the article not a sausage fest. Pink, huh — love it. Try it you’ll probably chasing these guys on this website “floppy asses”.

  3. 28




    To recapitulate, no good has come from the employ of torture. The problem with the article is that the author sought to undermine a peoples thinking that water boarding is other than wrong but rather is a needed devise; while it is not.

    Hey, Dread. Thanks for commenting.

    You are either new around here; or have not read my previous posts (including the one I linked in my previous comment. Did you take the time to read it?).

    Waterboarding is not needed, not desirable (the practice ended almost as soon as it had begun- 2003; none of the CIA interrogators or officials went straight to EITs or waterboarding as their default method), and it’s efficacy (for how it was being employed in the CIA program) ruined as soon as it’s existence as a technique were revealed (especially in 2009, when President Obama decided to release the OLC memo detailing the restrictions and limitations the CIA were operating under). The Waterboarding Issue is Moot. Since I can’t trust you’ll click onto that link, let me do you the further courtesy of cutting-and-pasting what I wrote:

    Waterboarding was discontinued in 2006 as a CIA EIT practice under Bush�s watch (and the last time an HVT received waterboarding treatment was in 2003) as its effectiveness was compromised when its usage as a technique to interrogate HVTs became common knowledge (applied to only 3 HVTs). President Obama�s 2009 EO signed upon his first day in office banning all EITs was basically redundant on the torture issue, since President Bush essentially said much the same in his 2007 EO.

    The media is reporting that both Cain and Bachmann would reinistate/support waterboarding, if elected. That�s not exactly what they said, but it�s not much of a distorted conclusion to arrive at, based upon their answers to the question posed.

    If they meant they would have supported waterboarding at the time it was used, and that it did not rise to the level of definition for torture, then I think those are valid positions to hold. If, however, they do advocate for bringing it back specifically and not just reviving the EIT program in general, then I have to quibble.

    What made waterboarding- and all the EITs in the CIA program- effective as tools against HVTs who were trained to resist standard interrogation practices, was in the not knowing. In the secrecy. Because of all the media attention and President Obama�s decision to release the OLC �torture� memos describing the techniques, the Houdini psychological power of these techniques have been all but effectively nullified.

    The CIA program should probably be revived; but now that the magic tricks have been revealed to its al Qaeda audience, demystifying the EITs, HVTs know that what they have to train against is the smoke and mirrors of simulated torture, and not real torture. So what techniques would a revived CIA interrogation program that goes beyond the Army Field Manual have to entail? Whatever they come up with, we the general public should not be privy to.

    Please read my posts for what I write and not for what you choose to make them out to be.

    It is sad that the people are so deluded as to be unaware that no good ever did come if it that could not be or actually was not gained by conventional interactions and, more conventional interagation techniques in intelligence gathering.

    I am so way ahead of you in your reading, buddy. 🙂

    Exhibit C thru I thru A:

    The Coercive Interrogation of Abu Zubaydah to Prevent a Second Wave Attack

    Zubaydah Thanked His Interrogators for Waterboarding Him


    Panties in a Wad Over �Big Boy Pants�

    Jose Rodriguez vs. Senate Democrats
    Making the Hard Measures

    Finally an Intellectually Honest Critic of EITs

    McCain�s WaPo Op-Ed on the Tortured Debate Over EITs

    Torture doesn�t work�ok, so where�s the disagreement? (Recognize this link?)

    FA Book Recommendation: �Courting Disaster�, by Marc Thiessen

    If you click under the “CIA interrogation program” category and hunt through for “wordsmith” posts, you can read other posts I’ve done as it relates to the topic.

    You’re welcome.

  4. 29




    Rather than argue at me, or slap each other’s backs and proclaim your great value why not read what real soldiers and officers think of water boarding, instead of pundits like yourselves and the author?

    Ha! Some soldiers who have been through SERE training will tell you waterboarding isn’t torture; others say it is. Quit co-opting a pretense of monopoly on the issue of whether or whether not waterboarding arises to the definition of torture (as it pertains to the method employed by the CIA with Justice Dept approval). It’s like lefties acting like all soldiers belong to the IVAW.

    Some of our past FA military commenters in past threads who have been through SERE, I recall, denied it to be torture.

    More journalists have been waterboarded than terrorists in CIA custody on their own volition. Do you know why? Because they knew they could survive it. Now ask these same journalists to volunteer having their limbs drilled through or a thumbnail pulled out to tell whether or not that’s torture. Think anyone of them would volunteer for that? Nope. Because that’s “real” torture.

    Again, the CIA interrogators who trained to waterboard HVDs were waterboarded themselves so they understood intimately the seriousness of the technique.

    If you click on my McCain op-ed post, you’ll find 3 former POWs who experienced real torture who deny that waterboarding arises to the same definition of torture that they experienced.

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    The purpose wasn’t gratuitous pleasure in delivering physical or psychological pain. The purpose wasn’t even to extract a confession or to glean intelligence information.


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