This twitchiness has been made worse by the consequences of President Bush's claim in Decision Points that the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed prevented terrorist attacks on Canary Wharf and Heathrow Airport.Read the whole thing.
One of the reasons the left have been so taken aback by Bush's statement is because it gets to the heart of the use of waterboarding. For too long the left have been trying to squeeze waterboarding into their definition of torture. In part because of this, the debate over waterboarding has become dictionary-centered in that in order to debate whether waterboarding is acceptable in certain circumstances, you first need to define exactly what you mean by "torture." This has drowned the debate in tedious exchanges of definitions by bureaucrats, academics, and elected officials on both sides of the Atlantic.
Consequently, it has been simply assumed by a large section of the public (especially with Obama declaring it to be an illegal weapon of torture) that waterboarding equals torture, and therefore, if we allow "torture" on just one person, then we are legitimizing torture on everyone. As a result "that makes us just as bad as them." Every logical step in this argument is flawed, and yet it is still widely believed.
Therefore, waterboarding, along with softer techniques such as sleep deprivation, have been abolished on the basis that "we must stay true to our principles," as if America and Britain were somehow founded on the principle that no terrorist must be kept awake past his bedtime.
What President Bush's claim has done is cut through the theoretical niceties and the dictionary definitions in order to present a solid fact: waterboarding was practiced on three people, and it prevented attacks on Canary Wharf and Heathrow Airport. These attacks would have been devastating and would have almost certainly led to the deaths of thousands upon thousands of innocent British citizens.
In the face of this terrifying reality, the lefties flipping through their dictionaries for the correct definition of torture and debating the meaning of the words "necessary" and "force" look quite pathetic.
What President Bush is doing is presenting a choice. The title of his book is Decision Points, and this moment is a decision point for the citizens of both America and Great Britain. The first choice is about what we would prefer to have happened in the past -- thousands of British deaths in a terrorist attack that may have dwarfed 9/11, or Khalid Sheikh Mohammed experiencing a sensation of drowning.
Yet it also asks of us a more pressing question for the future.
The fact is that hardened criminals such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will not give up information just by having a light shone in their face (although not too bright -- we wouldn't want to permanently damage their eyesight!) These people are well-trained to resist interrogation and are ideologically motivated. They do not fear death, and they do not fear pain. In the future, there are going to be more cases where vital information can be attained only via waterboarding and similarly strong methods.
When the next attack comes, and it will, I wish that it could confine its harm to those who want to prevent this interrogation tool. But it won't, and it will kill as many people who would have used it as those who would not. And the shame of it all, is that the victims never really had a chance to voice their opinions.
Of course, we could just subject them to a TSA search. That is too degrading though.