Sunday, November 4, 2007

Torture-Should We Do It?

The confirmation hearings for Attorney General-Designate, Michael Mukasey has now been hung up on whether he approves of the practice of water-boarding-a form of interrogation that gives the prisoner the sensation of drowning. This is all part of a larger question: Are we engaging in torture of terrorist prisoners, and if so, is it right?

As a retired law enforcement agent (DEA), this question has a personal ring. Torture is something I never did; it is something I never would have approved of; it is something I have no knowledge of by my colleagues. It is something that is against the very essence of our American culture.

A generation ago, America was accused of having trained Latin American law enforcement and military to practice torture. I thought the idea was laughable. When did Latin Americans need North Americans to teach them how to torture? In reality, they would have to teach us how to do it. Latin Americans learned the art of torture from the Spaniards centuries ago.

I do believe that we as Americans should not engage in this practice for two reasons: First, we are supposed to be the good guys. Second, we want to do everything possible to ensure that our own prisoners are treated according to civilized standards. While I believe that terrorist suspects should not be accorded protections of the Geneva Convention nor the rights of our criminal court system, I feel they should be treated humanely. I would hate to think that we are practicing torture in places like Guantanemo. Is waterboarding torture? Yes, I think it is.


In 1985, a DEA agent named Enrique Camarena, who was assigned to Guadalajara, Mexico, was kidnapped by Mexican drug lords (assisted by certain elements of the Mexican police) and tortured to death over the course of several days. Camarena's death and the circumstances of his death have been an emotional issue to DEA agents to this day. DEA was under no illusions as to what Camarena's fate would be unless he could be rescued. So the question is: Would torture have been justified if DEA or Mexican police had a member of that drug ring in custody who knew where Camarena was being held? In my view, yes. Would I have done it in those circumstances? Yes, I believe I would have. (Someone would have had to show me how.)

The same question arises in the War on Terror. We have seen instances where Americans have been kidnapped overseas by Islamic terrorists, tortured and killed-in some cases by beheading. So if we had someone in custody who knew where one of our people was being held, would torture be justified? Would it be justified if the prisoner knew the details of a terrorist bomb about to go off- perhaps a nuclear device? What would I do? What would you do?

As much as I hate to admit it, I do believe that there may be certain extraordinary instances when torture is justified. Do I have a problem if we are sending terrorist prisoners back to their own countries to face the interrogation methods of their own authorities? (No.) Will this increase the danger of our own prisoners being tortured by Islamic terrorists? They are going to do it no matter what we do. I respect the opinions of those who say we should never engage in torture no matter what. However, I have come to the sad conclusion that we are up against an evil enemy. If, and only if, innocent lives will be saved from terrorists, then, as much as I hate to admit it, I would support the use of torture by Americans. If anyone disagrees, I respect your feelings.

1 comment:

Shane said...

I have no respect for those who say we should never torture under any circumstances. This is a a mentality that would see thousands killed so that America doesn't ruin its reputation. It is an absolute adherence to an ideology that costs lives. The retort that by continuing to waterboard we risk the lives of Americans kidnapped by Islamists is asinine - the extremists have already shown that they care nothing for the life of the infidel. The internet is full of videos showing the head of innocents being cut from their body - would they appreciate the difference between the two forms of "torture?"

This idea that we have agents out torturing people en masse is a leftist concoction that is willfully jaundiced - it comes from a perspective that America is the terrorist, spreading through a pristine world a poison that originates here. It is frustrating to me that we have Democratic leaders playing to a crowd that has no education on the issue - as if the act itself of forcing information from a suspect is anathema to American ideals.

Waterboarding must remain an option to break terrorist suspects - and if we are forced to abandon it, be sure that the next thing we will not be able to do are those things that are at the most, uncomfortable - cold and heat room temperature manipulation or sleep deprivation. The goal of many of those demanding an end to "torture" is to undermine the WOT - I truly believe that.

I trust that we have people in place who recognize the true objective - to get information. It makes no sense to torture those who have none to give, and it makes no sense to believe that we have goons who cannot recognize when the techniques they are using are not working. We are not cutting off hands or gauging eyes (see Al Qaeda's torture manual from Iraq) - the murderers of innocents walk from interrogation rooms to Halal meals and prayer mats.

The War on Terror is not a God damned video game. Sometimes I think we here on the home front lose sight of that.