Torture doesn’t work — as John McCain and Donald Rumsfeld remind us

Tongue-in-cheek or not, Sarah Palin’s recent comments on waterboarding at the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual meeting Saturday effectively rehashed the physical torture discussion.

That discussion was deemed closed nearly a decade ago by John McCain and Donald Rumsfeld when they debunked the efficacy of such methods.

Sarah Palin
Palin said, “[Prisoners] obviously have information on plots to carry out Jihad. Oh, but you can’t offend them, can’t make them feel uncomfortable, not even a smidgen. Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.”

But let’s take a stroll down memory lane back to 2005:

McCain referenced conversations he had with Israeli defense officials on physical torture, saying “The Israeli Supreme Court in 1999 said that the Israelis could not torture or practice cruel or inhumane treatment on the people they take prisoner. The Israeli defense officials who I have discussed this with say that it doesn’t work and they use psychological techniques.”

Military intelligence, McCain and Rumsfeld said, led them to the conclusion that torture doesn’t work. Rumsfeld said that “the history of the military is clear: Torture doesn’t work. The military knows that.”

Four years after these comments, Dick Cheney still maintained that it was techniques like waterboarding that kept the nation safe from “mass casualty attacks” for eight years.

“The enhanced interrogation techniques were absolutely essential in saving thousands of American lives and preventing further attacks against the United States, and giving us the intelligence we needed to go find Al Qaeda, to find their camps, to find out how they were being financed,” said Cheney.

He added that he “knew about the waterboarding. Not specifically in any one particular case, but as a general policy that we had approved.”

Most pertinent was a Senate Intelligence Report, the details of which came out a month ago. It revealed that the CIA misled the government and the public about the efficacy of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” in preventing catastrophic events.

“The CIA described [its program] repeatedly both to the Department of Justice and eventually to Congress as getting unique, otherwise unobtainable intelligence that helped disrupt terrorist plots and save thousands of lives,” one briefed U.S. official told the Washington Post. “Was that actually true? The answer is no.”

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Practicing torture has long run against the American grain. George Washington expressed the following opinion of physical torture in his charge to the Northern Expeditionary Force, September 14, 1775:

Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any [prisoner] … I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportional to its guilt at such a time and in such a cause … for by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country.

Contemporary politicians and the military know physical torture is ineffective, a Senate Intelligence Report debunked Dick Cheney’s claims to the contrary and America’s first president deemed it immoral.

What more is there to know?


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