Charles Krauthammer’s recent column tells us that the wisdom of torture is undeniable. According to Krauthammer, there are two situations where torture is justified: the ticking time bomb scenario and when we capture high‐ranking terrorists and conclude that giving them the third degree may save lives. Furthermore, it would be “imprudent” for anyone who would not use torture to be named the commander of Central Command (CENTCOM), the military organization in charge of American forces in the Middle East.
The generals who have been in charge of CENTCOM and other national security officials disagree.
Here is a video of General Petraeus, current commander of Central Command, saying that American forces cannot resort to torturing prisoners:
The open letter Petraeus mentions in the video is available here. He admonishes our troops to treat prisoners humanely. “Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemies.”
Former CENTCOM commanders Anthony Zinni and Joseph Hoar don’t endorse torture either, evidenced by their open letter (along with dozens of other former general officers) to Congress asking that the CIA abide by the Army interrogation manual.
Hoar and former Commandant of the Marine Corps Charles Krulak wrote separately to denounce torture:
As has happened with every other nation that has tried to engage in a little bit of torture — only for the toughest cases, only when nothing else works — the abuse spread like wildfire, and every captured prisoner became the key to defusing a potential ticking time bomb.
So, once we sign off on the ticking time bomb scenario, the rationalization spreads to whenever we think it may save lives. Sound familiar?
These former commanders are not alone. Colonel Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay, also had some words on the subject. “We can never retake the moral high ground when we claim the right to do unto others that which we would vehemently condemn if done to us.”
Malcolm Nance, former head of the Navy’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape course (where sailors are trained in resisting interrogation techniques, including waterboarding), seems to know a thing or two about the topic. “I have personally led, witnessed and supervised waterboarding of hundreds of people.” He roundly denounces the use of waterboarding as wrong, ineffective, and counterproductive. Just for the record, water actually enters the lungs of a waterboarding victim. This is not simulated drowning, but controlled drowning. Read the whole thing.
Krauthammer’s column gives the impression that all national security experts support making torture our national policy. Wrong.