WaPo's Richard Cohen inadvertently provides insight into the confused thinking
of the liberal establishment when it comes to the "torture" question.
He admits, as many lefties don't, that "torture" sometimes works to get valuable information from terrorists to prevent attacks against the innocent. He says the renewed "moral authority" the Obama administration claims to have achieved by releasing the interrogation memos is an "awfully thin reed upon which to construct a foreign policy." But then, he pronounces himself "glad that we are no longer torturing anyone." (How he knows this, he doesn't say.)
Then he offers this:
America should repudiate torture not because it is always ineffective -- nothing is always anything -- or because others loathe it, but because it degrades us and runs counter to our national values. It is a statement of principle, somewhat similar to why we do not tap all phones or stop and frisk everyone under the age of 28. Those measures would certainly reduce crime, but they are abhorrent to us.
Is Cohen serious? Does he really think that tapping ALL phones and frisking EVERYONE under the age of 28 would "certainly reduce crime?" Because it wouldn't.
Just imagine the law enforcement manpower such a program would entail. Imagine the cost of such a stupid program. There are more than 300 million people in this country. At least 100 million of have to be under the age of 28. Keeping surveilance on such a number would be as impractical as it would be stupid and offensive.
But the fact is, we DO tap the phones of some members of the under-28 crowd. People reasonably suspected of being involved in criminal activity. And we do so with legal and judicial authority.
As for our enemies captured on the foreign battlefields, we do not and did not use
our harshest interrogation tactics against ALL of them. We used such tactics against a very select few, high-up al Qaeda fanatics who provided information that helped us prevent terror attacks and save American lives.
It would, of course, be preferable that such rough techniques never had to be used to protect anyone but welcome to the world in which we live.
After admitting that "that nothing Obama did this month about torture made America safer," Cohen goes on to compare the Bush administration to - you guessed it - the Nazis.
He says he knows it is "offensive" to do this, but it appears his own "moral authority" allows him the leeway to be offensive.
He goes on to call the interrogation memos, "the squalid efforts of legal toadies to justify the unjustifiable."
Of course, just paragraphs before he admits that "torture" sometimes works to get valuable information that can, does, and has saved innocent lives. So by "unjustifiable" he must mean, something more like aethestically displeasing to his own sensibilities.
Fine. If that's what he means - and I think that is a fair reading of his piece - he should say just so. Torture is unjustified, not because it doesn't work, or because it undermines' our nation's "moral authority" but because it is "abhorrent to us."
Well, so is war. But occasionally we are forced to fight them.
Cohen closes with a flourish:
"Before you can torture anyone, you must first torture the law."
No you don't. What "squalid" memos were written by "legal toadies" that allowed Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to saw off the head of Daniel Pearl? That was done, not to save innocent lives, but out of hatred of Jews and the West, to terrorize, and to put us on notice that they would stop at nothing to see America lie in smoldering ruin.
Cohen obviously understands the enemy we face, certainly better than most of his compatriots on the left. He just can't bring himself to admit George Bush, Dick Cheney, et al. acted in good faith and with the belief that they were protecting the country. They certainly did so effectively. The proof? Not a single successful attack on American soil after 9/11.
Cohen blames - and has nothing but contempt for - the lawyers who helped lay out the parameters of how far interrogators could go before crossing the torture line. He doesn't even mention the CIA interrogators who inflicted the pain on the likes of KSM to get him to talk.
But it is interesting to learn that upon his capture, KSM at first refused to talk until he spoke to an attorney. Apparently he believed that he would be treated the same way the first guys who attempted to blow up the World Trade Center were treated. He wasn't. He was interrogated, harshly, roughly even brutally. And American lives were saved. (Even Dennis Blair, Obama's top intelligence officer, admits as much.
If KSM had been treated with the kid gloves he expected and the left is now demanding, if he had been defended by ACLU lawyers who no doubt would have counseled him not to talk, who knows how many more Americans might have suffered and died in another wave of attacks.
In the meantime, "abhorrent" is a good word for the partisan slanders being heaped on good men stuck with the sometimes dirty job of fighting our enemies and trying to keep America safe.