Tuesday, May 12, 2009
WASHINGTON — Torture is an impermissible evil. Except under two circumstances. The first is the ticking time bomb. An innocent’s life is at stake. The bad guy you have captured possesses information that could save this life. He refuses to divulge. In such a case, the choice is easy. Even John McCain, the most admirable and estimable torture opponent, says openly that in such circumstances, “You do what you have to do.” And then take the responsibility.So I got pelted with emails from the usual lunatics this weekend after making the mistake of saying on television that I thought the lawyers who greenlighted the waterboarding program should be prosecuted. I’m not going to delve into this too deeply, because this is clearly one of those issues that few people are willing to change their minds about, but I feel like I’ve got to talk about one particular aspect of this debate, because it’s just too crazy to let go.
Some people, however, believe you never torture. Ever. They are akin to conscientious objectors who will never fight in any war under any circumstances, and for whom we correctly show respect by exempting from war duty. But we would never make one of them Centcom commander. Private principles are fine, but you don’t entrust such a person with the military decisions upon which hinges the safety of the nation. It is similarly imprudent to have a person who would abjure torture in all circumstances making national security decisions upon which depends the protection of 300 million countrymen.
The second exception to the no-torture rule is the extraction of information from a high-value enemy in possession of high-value information likely to save lives. This case lacks the black-and-white clarity of the ticking time bomb scenario. We know less about the length of the fuse or the nature of the next attack. But we do know the danger is great. We know we must act but have no idea where or how — and we can’t know that until we have information. Catch-22.
Under those circumstances, you do what you have to do. And that includes waterboarding.
Charles Krauthammer, via Townhall.com.
Here’s a snippet from one letter I got: “What really gets me about liberals like you is that when other countries torture and kill our people, and cut off their heads, [there's] not a peep from you. But you dunk some terrorist’s head underwater for a few minutes and you go all weepy.”...(Click for remainder.)