Liz Cheney vs. Norah O’Donnell: “The tactics are not torture”

posted at 2:45 pm on April 26, 2009 by Allahpundit

A few days old but we’ve had a steady stream of requests for it. Hotline has the transcript; don’t quit before the end or you’ll miss her thoughts on Palin and Meghan McCain. Speaking of McCains, Maverick may differ with Cheney about whether waterboarding constitutes torture but they agree that a “truth commission” would be a very bad idea. A good question: “[Enhanded interrogation] was bad advice. But if you criminalize bad advice on the part of lawyers, how are you going to get people to serve, and what sort of precedent does that set for the future?”

Actually, here’s a better question: If we all know it’s going to happen anyway in certain circumstances, why not legalize it? Kathleen Parker, unsurprisingly, doesn’t get it:

In his book “Shouting Fire: Civil Liberties in a Turbulent Age,” Dershowitz proposes that since torture is a given under those certain circumstances, then “torture warrants” should be issued by a judge.

He is right that most of us would do whatever necessary to save our child, possibly even torture a kidnapper. Likewise, if we stumbled upon someone trying to harm a loved one, we would kill the attacker if necessary to stop him.

But those are both darkly impassioned environments. It is by the cool light of day that we devise our laws. And it is by that same light that we judge our actions.

The law would protect you if you had to kill an attacker to stop him from killing, which is to say, it’s those “darkly impassioned environments” that law is most concerned with. Why leave a CIA agent in legal limbo if, however likely or unlikely it may be, he finds himself with a detainee in a ticking-bomb scenario?

Do yourself a favor after you watch the clip. Go listen to the archived audio here. Three minutes.

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Article 1.1 of the UN Convention Against Torture, which the US signed:

Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

When I was a kid growing up in England (now I live in Canada) I loved war movies like “The Guns of Navarone”, “The Great Escape”, “633 Squadron” and “The Bridge on the River Kwai”. In all of these movies, our guys were never depicted as torturing anyone. Why was that, I wonder? The only guys doing the torturing were the Nazis and the Japanese. Perhaps this over-romanticized the truth: maybe we weren’t quite as guiltless as we pretended**. However, the moral of the story was clear.

I suppose there are a few broad classes of people on this issue:

a) all aggressive interrogation is torture and those practicing it were war criminals (Andrew Sullivan)

b) some aggressive interrogation techniques border on torture and the tactical value to be obtained from them does not justify the strategic loss (in terms of public support and degradation of national honor) that their use entails (TrueNorth)

c) torture is bad and the United States would never torture; however, aggressive interrogation isn’t torture so there is no problem (most of the people on this blog)

d) terrorists are evil and deserve everything they get (too many people on this blog for my liking)

I belong in the b)category. I think those in the a) and c) categories have at least an arguable case. If those of us in the first three categories could at least agree about those in the d) category I think we might be making some progress in this debate.

** – see this article

TrueNorth on April 27, 2009 at 6:19 PM

Go Liz go girl!

Cinday Blackburn on April 27, 2009 at 6:22 PM

Second, “the bomb is ticking” scenario is laughably far fetched.
Some people seem to forget that 24 is fiction
More stupid liberal logic: Just because the “ticking bomb scenario” was shown on TV does not make every “ticking bomb scenario” fiction.

dpierson on April 27, 2009 at 6:30 PM

UN Convention Against Torture, which the US signed

Say, pal. Please explain to us how this is a strong argument for your position? We have a useless organization, filled with terrorist nations, rogue nations, totalitarian nations, and worthless nations, dictating to us how to handle our enemies and protect our citizens. You have got to be joking!

When the UN actually acts in a manner worthy of respect and adherence to moral law, then come to me about UN resolutions. Until then, give me a break!

Joe Pyne on April 27, 2009 at 7:57 PM

Oh, and one other thing, Mr. Canadian (True North);

This –

d) terrorists are evil and deserve everything they get (too many people on this blog for my liking)

Is a gross mischaracterization of the posters who have commented on this topic.

No one is for cutting off fingers, and shoving bamboo sticks under their fingernails. However, we have a sense of moral perspective. Terrorists are not equivalent to members of an enemy force from a recognized nation – they are vicious murderers, rapists, kidnappers, and torturers beyond all human decency.

Therefore, although we may be opposed to torture in the vast majority of circumstances, unlike the left, we do have a sense of distinction. These people do not deserve Geneva Convention, or UN Convention, protection. I am for whatever means necessary, short of outright (real) torture, to get whatever information we need to protect our citizens.

Joe Pyne on April 27, 2009 at 8:09 PM

Joe Pyne has obvious disdain for the United Nations. I share it. The General Assembly of the UN is a parliament of chimpanzees and the UN Human Rights commission could have been named by George Orwell.

It wasn’t always thus. The UN at its inception was inspired by Western ideals, embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 5 states

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The US also signed that one. In fact, I suspect the US wrote that one.

TrueNorth on April 27, 2009 at 8:46 PM

Aww! We should all hug a terrorist!

sabbott on April 27, 2009 at 9:12 PM

Great job, Liz Chaney! More please!

Travis1 on April 27, 2009 at 9:32 PM

Great job, Liz Cheney! More please!

Travis1 on April 27, 2009 at 9:40 PM

Go Liz. She’s a good speaker. We should put her into the public debate more often.

PersonalLiberty on April 27, 2009 at 10:25 PM

Truenorth What would you use in place of waterboarding? the Muslims don’t care if you are an athest, Christian, Jew or whatever you are an infidel in their book. So far no one has come up with an answer on this for the last ten days.

garydt on April 27, 2009 at 10:49 PM

I think we’ve found are Vice President!

JeffVader on April 28, 2009 at 12:14 AM

Bishop on April 26, 2009 at 2:59 PM

Wow sounds like Navy/Marine/Army boot camp to me!

RedLizard64 on April 28, 2009 at 1:13 AM

Go Liz! Go Liz!

Cinday Blackburn on April 28, 2009 at 8:22 AM

I’ll bet you won’t see Liz on any more libral talk. She has the clearest way of stating was every person talking on this subject should be saying.

danabpetersen on April 28, 2009 at 10:14 AM

These people just don’t get it… and I agree with Liz,,, it isn’t torture.

kthomas8268 on April 28, 2009 at 1:45 PM

I think we’ve found are Vice President!

JeffVader on April 28, 2009 at 12:14 AM

I, of corse ment “I think we’ve found our VP!”
I’ve got to stop trying to text my comments in.

JeffVader on April 28, 2009 at 5:47 PM

Truenorth What would you use in place of waterboarding? the Muslims don’t care if you are an athest, Christian, Jew or whatever you are an infidel in their book. So far no one has come up with an answer on this for the last ten days.

While I admit that torture probably works in a tactical sense, I think it starts to become more of a negative as you go up the ladder to strategy, grand strategy and even national strategy (by the latter, I mean the international persona and alliances that stay with a nation beyond any one conflict).

For example the Iraq war. Here was the classic case the pro-torture crowd would point to. The US had to use aggressive interrogation to extract vital battlefield intelligence they would argue, considering the chaos that was going on over there and the reluctance the Iraqis had to cooperating with the Americans, it is a persuasive argument.

However, back in 2004-2006, when Abu Ghraib and the KSM interrogations were going on, Iraq was sliding deeper and deeper into chaos. When something like this happens, an incompetent commander will say “turn the screws” and get even tougher on captured prisoners.

Luckily, the United States had a great and competent commander available, General Petraeus, who is an opponent of aggressive interrogations, who understands that the solution to winning a failing war is to fight smarter, not more ruthlessly. Old blood-and-guts Von Rumsfeld was losing the war at that time but when the humane and competent Gates and Petraeus took it over they started to turn it around.

Similarly with KSM. When he responded “you will see!” when asked by an interrogator about the next attack, the competent thing to do would have been to immediately raise the threat level, put fighters on standby and that sort of thing and then bring in an experienced interrogator with de-programming skills to try to win his confidence and maybe even turn him away from Jihadism (like they do with Moonies). The belief system is similarly bizarre and demonstrably irrational. If he was surrounded by rational people including Quranic scholars arguing scripture with him and showing him that his actions were crazy and un-Islamic I think they might have had a high probability of eventually winning him over. Imagine if he had been turned to such a point that he could, of his own free will, appear on television to apologize for his actions, denounce Bin Laden and appeal to radical Muslims to turn away from the path of futility they are on.

Do you think that might have had some strategic value?

TrueNorth on April 28, 2009 at 6:04 PM