Sen. John S. McCain (R-AZ, 96%) has painted himself into a deep hole over waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation methods. He has staked everything, everything, on two dubious claims:
- That waterboarding and the other so-called “harsh” interrogation techniques (used through 2006 by the CIA against terrorists and other unlawful combatants) is “torture,” defined by McCain as the equivalent of what his captors visited upon him in the “Hanoi Hilton.”
- That such “torture” cannot conceivably yield valid information, not even in theory.
How so? Because any form of interrogation harsher than politely asking the detainee to spill the beans necessarily, in every instance, elicits false and misleading disinformation (which apparently cannot even be fact checked, for some unfathomable reason).
Alas, in the war against radical Islamism, McCain has become obsessed with proving these two preposterous propositions, to the point that such proof trumps even victory itself. He believes such measures are never necessary, and that their use sears the very souls of the interrogators and of the nation itself. He also appears to maintain a childlike belief that there is always another way to gain the same intelligence; if only we ask detainees sincerely, compassionately, and charmingly enough, even top al-Qaeda leaders will see the light.
Case in point, McCain’s bizarre argument with former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and others who had intimate knowledge of what information was extracted from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Faraj al-Libi under waterboarding and other somewhat harsh (but hardly torturous) questioning. Though he wasn’t there, John McCain has a vision of what happened (and didn’t happen):
Waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques were not a factor in tracking down Osama bin Laden, a leading Republican senator insisted Thursday.
Sen. John McCain, who spent 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, also rejected the argument that any form of torture is critical to U.S. success in the fight against terrorism.
In an impassioned speech on the Senate floor, the Arizona Republican said former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and others who back those tactics were wrong to claim that waterboarding al-Qaida’s No. 3 leader, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, provided information that led to bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.
Impassioned! But extreme passion typically comes at the price of reason.
AP makes a feeble attempt to cast McCain as “in the loop” anent those interrogations, enough to know for dead certain that they were completely unproductive, fraudulent, and useless; writer Donna Cassata tepidly serves up the fact that Sen. McCain is currently (since 2009) the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, a qualification she concludes gives McCain an “unrivaled record on the issue.”
But he was neither chairman nor ranking member when the interrogations took place; the Republican who was both is John Warner, now retired, who has not seconded McCain’s pronunciamentos. No matter, the point is irrelevant anyway, as it’s extremely unlikely that anybody in Congress, including Warner, was fully informed about the nature and extent of intelligence gleaned from those interrogations — under the principle that 535 can keep a secret if 534 are bound and gagged.
How did McCain become such an authority, particularly on the left, on the morality and effectiveness of enhanced interrogation? Those now prattling about his “unrivaled record on the issue” utterly villified him during the 2008 campaign; what has since transmogrified him into the senator with absolute moral authority to speak on the issue of interrogations?
The cover story is that John McCain’s Communist captors tortured him, so he has a unique understanding of such things. (The real story is that anybody casting calumnies on George W. Bush and other Republicans automatically has absolute moral authority.) But McCain’s captors inflicted real, not simulated, torture upon him, for years during and after the Vietnam War. It’s hardly comparable, but that’s the truncheon they’ll use to bash everyone who engaged in or supported the interrogations.
Yet McCain’s personal connection is precisely what makes him a uniquely unreliable witness.
This same thought has crossed my mind before: That McCain’s very intimate experience with torture makes him too close to give an objective, rational assessment of the CIA program which bears no moral likeness at all to what went on during the Spanish Inquisition, Khmer Rouge, the Japanese military, and what happened to him at the hands of the North Vietnamese when he was a POW.
He is taking a prejudicial knee-jerk reaction to the term “waterboarding” and confusing it with water torture, water cure, and waterboarding as it was practiced by others- not as it was carried out under controlled conditioned by the CIA so as to not cross the line into actual torture and physical harm.
I am not an expert on torture.
I had some classes on the subject, way back in 1960, when I was in ROTC.
Back then torture encompassed a large variety of activities which inflicted pain, caused permanent damage, and had the specific intent of producing a permanent change in orientation. One was tortured to break down all of one’s beliefs, thoughts, memories, and intentions, and replace them with a new outlook, which would unhesitatingly cooperate with one’s captors. Supposedly the psyche could be stripped bare by this method, making puppets. Permanent mutilation, removing of extremities, systematic breaking of bones, deprivation of sleep, deprivation of food, a steady diet of false information, isolation from other captives, all were directed towards the same end; conversion.
Waterboarding does not fit the category of torture. It does not do permanent damage. Yes, to be waterboarded induces the fear of death. So does being shot at. Waterboarding produces a sense of being powerless; so does working in a cubicle.
As to the unreliability issue: my brief training in intelligence taught me that all information gleaned from captives had to be evaluated, no matter how it was obtained. One correlated what one learned with other sources and with other information from the individual in question. Those who provided demonstrably false information on one issue rendered their testimony on other issues suspect.
The Al Khaida captives had a manual; the manual authorized them to resist to the point where they felt their lives were in danger. Thereafter they could talk freely. That is documented fact.
Alas that Sen McCain has not given up his Presidential dreams. He still acts like a RINO dark horse.
His emotional connection with this subject renders him unfit to present a reasoned opinion.
I was thinking the same thing Curt. His stance is irrational as well as his need to be right. He’s sunk to outright dishonesty to push his position which further proves to me he is unfit for office.