In praise of waterboarding 5

Frankly, the waterboarding, if it was up to me, and if we changed the laws or had the laws, waterboarding would be fine. I would do a lot more than waterboarding. You have to get the information from these people.

So said Donald Trump on NBC’s Today show last Tuesday, March 23.

We agree with him. And, somewhat to our surprise since PowerLine has declared itself to be anti-Trump, Paul Mirengoff of that excellent website does too.

He writes:

According to reports, the terrorists who carried out last week’s attacks in Brussels acted sooner than originally planned because they feared that captured terrorist Salah Abdeslam would inform authorities of the attacks. Apparently, they need not have worried.

Belgian officials questioned Abdeslam only lightly, and not at all about possible new attacks. Instead, using the discredited law enforcement model, they focused on the Paris attacks of last November, presumably hoping to obtain a confession.

Back in the days of the controversy over waterboarding, there was talk about a “ticking time bomb” scenario. The question was: When we know there’s time bomb ready to go off, but don’t know the location, is it okay to waterboard a captured terrorist who likely has knowledge of the impending attack?

Opponents of waterboarding, having no satisfactory answer, tended to pooh-pooh the question. It was based on an unrealistic scenario, they insisted.

Tell that to the victims of the Brussels attacks.

In reality, most captured terrorists present a variation of the ticking time bomb scenario. These days, organizations like ISIS are constantly planning new attacks. A captured terrorist who has been active recently might very well know something about upcoming attacks in his locale.

It’s unlikely that even in the Age of Obama, the U.S. would have handled Abdeslam as ineffectively as the Belgians did. One can imagine our people declining to question the terrorist for 24 hours because he was hospitalized and then questioning him only for a fairly short time because “he seemed very tired” after surgery. But I doubt that we would have failed to ask about future attacks.

But how far would we have gone to obtain answers? … What if Abdeslam proved to be among the one-third of detainees who don’t cooperate without enhanced interrogation?

In that scenario, no one with a decent regard for innocent human life could object to the use of enhanced interrogation techniques on a terrorist like this. Abdeslam was the mastermind behind the Paris attacks. … This was a ticking time bomb scenario.

It’s time to revisit the question of enhanced interrogation, a question that the U.S. answered incorrectly during a lull in the terrorist threat.

The writer, it seems to us, clearly enough implies that the “correct” answer is Donald Trump’s.

It will be interesting to see whether, if Trump is elected to the presidency, the mere fact of his coming to power will deter Muslim terrorism – as the mere fact of Ronald Reagan’s entering the Oval Office on January 20, 1981, persuaded Iran to release the American hostages it was holding, on that very day.

  • Nothing deters a bully like knowing he might get his teeth kicked in.

  • Please note – I have never interrogated anybody so I don’t know what I’m talking about. That said, I am troubled by this gung-ho talk of doing “a lot more than waterboarding”. We got through WWII with a very minimal amount of torture as far as I understand it.

    Keeping the brainwashed masses out in the first place though, that’s got to be sensible.

    • So what’s your answer to the “ticking time-bomb” scenario?

      • Well in all honesty its another of these issues that I wrestle with a lot but come to no firm conclusions about (sorry this has set me off on a bit of a rant):

        One thought with the statement is ok but would you stop at nothing at all? Would you resort to Gestapo style measures such as pulling out fingernails and so forth? Has this sort of thing been proven to work? Might there be more effective ways of getting information? Would you literally stop at nothing? People have been known to resist torture all the way to death and might lose their ability to even think coherently on the way there. Maybe Trump wasn’t talking about such extremes, but did he give any reassurance about that?

        Perhaps it may depend to some extent on the nature of the ideology you’re up against. We were able to get information out of German officers partly because many of them were in fact disillusioned with the Nazi regime. My main idea would be to start an interrogation by probing for weaknesses in their ideological beliefs, although this would take too long for the ticking time bomb scenario. In the case of Islam, the ideology is so riddled with obvious problems that simply relentlessly pointing the problems out might yield results. Of course Obama’s determination to remove even any mention of Islam from counter-terrorism strategy is not helping that strategy.

        The urgency of the ticking time bomb scenario is also a question for the surveillance debate as well. You might literally have only minutes, insisting on a warrant might slow you down and lose vital time. Perhaps we might say well the state should have the power to override the rules in the case where there is immediate threat to life, but to break those rules when the threat was not immediate should be a criminal offence.

        A lot of this comes down to the question of can you trust the state not to abuse its power once you grant it. Absolute power corrupts absolutely as the saying goes. Right now my trust in my own government is at an all time low. Jamie Glazov’s recent interviews with Tommy Robinson can give you a further insight into why (this is a chilling indictment of the current UK government):

        Our government came very close to getting away with murder here. You cannot help concluding that members of our current government put this man’s life in danger and I feel that people at the very top of the government need to be held to account for it. We need to be very careful before we give our governments absolute power over us. Our complacency on this has led to more and more encroachments on our civil liberties, as seen with the Extremist Banning Orders that I wrote about.

        Incidentally it seems Robinson himself was having some successes in disturbing Muslim fellow inmates by pointing out the problems in their religion. He says one prison imam actually asked him to stop it, because it was causing problems among the imam’s congregation.

  • liz

    It’s for this, and the urgent need to close the border and stop immigration that we need Trump. He gets it. If he gets elected and follows through with these promises, terrorism will be deterred.