Victor Davis Hanson:
There are lots of hypocrisies surrounding the recently released executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. But they pale in comparison to the current Democratic silence about President Barack Obama’s policy of targeted drone assassinations.
Since 2004, drones have killed an estimated 2,400 to 3,888 individuals in Pakistan alone, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London. An estimated 345 to 553 individuals in Yemen have been killed in drone strikes over the same period. The BIJ reports that the Obama administration has “markedly stepped up the use of drones. Since Obama’s inauguration in 2009, the CIA has launched 330 strikes on Pakistan — his predecessor, President George Bush, conducted 51 strikes in four years.”
On some occasions, drones blew up women and children in the target area. According to the BIJ, casualties of the drone strikes include 480 to 1,042 civilians in Pakistan and Yemen.
How is assassinating a suspected terrorist — and anyone unfortunate enough to be in his general vicinity — with a drone missile morally or legally different from waterboarding a confessed terrorist at Guantanamo Bay? At least the waterboarded suspect survives the ordeal.
The Senate Intelligence Committee report failed to disprove the CIA’s contention that only three detainees were waterboarded. A small number of detainees were subject to sleep disturbance or excessive temperatures. In contrast, drone strikes ordered by Obama may have assassinated thousands.
Were those who were waterboarded more or less likely to be plotting terror than those blown to smithereens? We do not know that answer. Yet the former were in detention — one of whom confessed to plotting the 9/11 attacks, and another suspected of masterminding the USS Cole attack — while the latter were never caught, much less questioned, and their status as terrorists was far less assured.
Those killed by drones were not in uniform. They did not serve a nation-state and therefore were not classified as military targets in the traditional sense. Obama had assumed persuasively that they were terrorists and therefore without the protection of the Geneva Conventions that govern the rules of war.
But were the detainees at Guantanamo any different? They did not surrender on the battlefield in uniform or in the service of a nation that adheres to the Geneva Conventions. Blowing up suspects or waterboarding high-level terror suspects may or may not be moral, but the two acts seem to be analogous.
Is one act more heinous than the other? Most people would prefer to be waterboarded than vaporized. Drones blow up everybody nearby. Waterboarding does not affect other nearby prisoners who are not being interrogated.
If the wrong suspect is waterboarded, he can be exempt from further such interrogation. If the wrong target is blown up, he has no second chance.
Moral? This addresses the issue of ethics: what is just action?
Torture was once defined as treatment which left permanent damage or death in the victims. See the hands of John McCain, for instance. Tiger cages. Systematic starving (see the returning Vietnam prisoners or the Holocaust survivors). Medical experimentation (Japan). Josef Mengele’s activities in Nazi Germany.
Today torture is newly defined as any action over which one might become exercised. Waterboarding is a prime example. A regular part of specialized military training, waterboarding has been endured by a cast of thousands, without permanent damage.
Waterboarding produced actionable intelligence, and thus was moral, by any standard. It was not torture.
But DiFi was DISSED by the CIA. They did not quail at the lash of her tongue, so she got them, big time. She wrote the conclusions and hired a bunch of 20-somethings to put together a fake report, for a cool $40 million.
Drones, on the other hand, kill without discrimination. They produce no information. They do not identify the people executed. They are strictly a terror weapon. But the WH loves drones. They have no fingerprints. Like Clinton’s 40,000 foot war on Bosnia, they risk no American lives. They allow the WH to claim activity, when none is present. Drones are flatly immoral, by any standard.
But the lame-stream media loves them!