Boiling The “Torture” Debate Down To Its Simplest Form

ABC has the scoop (if you believe their anonymous sources) on the double super secret “torture techniques” of the CIA. If you have any doubt that these techniques are the “heavy guns” of the CIA interrogators, just look at the rigmarole they have to go through to even use them:

“When properly used, the techniques appear to be closely monitored and are signed off on in writing on a case-by-case, technique-by-technique basis, according to highly placed current and former intelligence officers involved in the program. In this way, they say, enhanced interrogations have been authorized for about a dozen high value al Qaeda targets — Khalid Sheik Mohammed among them. According to the sources, all of these have confessed, none of them has died, and all of them remain incarcerated.

…According to the sources, when an interrogator wishes to use a particular technique on a prisoner, the policy at the CIA is that each step of the interrogation process must be signed off at the highest level — by the deputy director for operations for the CIA. A cable must be sent and a reply received each time a progressively harsher technique is used. The described oversight appears tough but critics say it could be tougher. In reality, sources said, there are few known instances when an approval has not been granted. Still, even the toughest critics of the techniques say they are relatively well monitored and limited in use.”

So, are you ready for the “torture” techniques that are so awful, so terrible, that they “must be” banned? Well, here they are:

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“1. The Attention Grab: The interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt front of the prisoner and shakes him.

2. Attention Slap: An open-handed slap aimed at causing pain and triggering fear.

3. The Belly Slap: A hard open-handed slap to the stomach. The aim is to cause pain, but not internal injury. Doctors consulted advised against using a punch, which could cause lasting internal damage.

4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.

5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.

6. Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner’s face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.”

There you go, folks. Those are the techniques that John McCain wants to ban and Andrew Sullivan gets so hysterical about.

Now, two things:

Number one, torture is smashing people’s toes with a hammer, hooking electrodes up to their nether regions, and sticking bamboo shoots under the fingernails. It’s not “making them cold” or giving them a “pink belly.” While these interrogation techniques are undoubtedly unpleasant, none of them rises to the level of torture.

Number two, and this is the crucial one, what Americans have to ask themselves is if a high level Al-Qaeda detainee has information that may save American lives and the interrogators decide this is the best way to get it out of them, would we rather use these techniques or forego receiving the information?

Put another way, if we capture Osama Bin Laden and he knows the details of the next big terrorist attack on American soil, would you rather force him to give up the information via “Long Time Standing” or “Water Boarding” or would you rather the attack have a much better chance of succeeding?

That’s what the misnamed “torture” debate is all about: is it more important to safeguard the lives of American citizens or is it more important not to make Al-Qaeda terrorists uncomfortable?

If we choose to use these interrogation techniques then, worst case scenario, somebody may go too far and it could cost a terrorist (or 3) their lives. On the other hand, if we don’t use these interrogation techniques then, worst case scenario, it could lead to our missing the information needed to stop the next 9/11 or worse.

If the people who want these interrogation techniques banned think that putting these Al-Qaeda terrorists through this discomfort isn’t worth saving countless American lives as a result, then they should plainly say so. But whether they do or don’t, banning these techniques would be an enormous mistake that would needlessly put the safety and security of the American people at great risk.

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