Dick Cheney's book is out and unsurprisingly he is unapologetic. He is quoted as saying that he has no regrets about waterboarding terrorists.
Asked in an NBC interview if he still embraces waterboarding, Cheney says, "I would strongly support using it again if circumstances arose where we had a high-value detainee and that was the only way we could get him to talk."
This is one of my favorite arguments to have with liberals as it offers a very simple calculus, do you value the personal comfort of terrorists higher than the lives of innocent civilians? Now the counter-arguments fly fast and furious, but in the end I believe they all boil down to a desire to feel morally superior to bad people. Fine, that is a nice desire but it becomes vanity when you raise it higher than a responsibility to protect innocents. And please spare me the argument that it doesn't work. If you waterboard someone with no knowledge of terror attacks, of course it won't work. If they do have such knowledge, then anything that can help you gain that knowledge ought to be considered. The folks we wet down told us things we didn't know and helped us stop attacks, period. It has even been reported that the first clue to the identity of the courier we eventually tracked to bin Laden came out of KSM's mouth after he got the treatment.
No one should want to waterboard another human being, it is an awful and terrifying procedure and its use should be a near last resort. but refusing to do it simply because you don't want to "sink to the level" of the bad guys is weakness masquerading as moral superiority. If you have an individual with knowledge of terrorist attacks planned for the future, which KSM did and told us he did, then it is a form of cowardice to claim you are too evolved or good a person to use force to compel him to tell you about them. I believe you would then be complicit in any deaths that would come in such attacks.
First I will stipulate that I do not believe that waterboarding is torture. It is a Jedi mind screw that convinces the animal brain that you are drowning, when in fact you are not, and it causes no permanent damage. It is also quite effective at breaking down resistance as a waterboardee admitted.
That regimen of harsh interrogation was used on KSM after another detainee, Abu Zubaydeh, was subjected to the same techniques. When he broke, he said that he and other members of al Qaeda were obligated to resist only until they could no longer do so, at which point it became permissible for them to yield. "Do this for all the brothers," he advised his interrogators.
So if you can get evil bastards to tell you what they know and avert the killings of innocents, how does letting those people die make you the better person? The answer is that it doesn't. It makes you someone who misplaces his own desire to feel morally superior above actual lives of other human beings. If it is proper and acceptable to shoot a man who is attempting to kill others, then why is it not acceptable and proper to pour water on someone with the same intentions? It should be and we unnecessarily handicap ourselves and endanger our citizens by failing to have this option when other methods fall short.