A Means to an End?

by Shannen W. Coffin

The president is entitled to an immense share of the credit for this success, and the American people will undoubtedly give it to him. He authorized a risky strike with uncertain results in a very unfriendly part of the world and is entitled to crow a little at its near perfect execution. That he felt it necessary to remind them of his role seems more a part of his reelection campaign than a necessary component of his speech last night. 

An interesting aspect of this, however, is the admission by administration officials that President Bush’s ”secret CIA prisons” and enhanced interrogation techniques played a role in developing the intelligence that led to the kill. President Obama was a most vocal critic of the CIA’s interrogation programs and very publicly closed the overseas CIA prisons in one of his first acts as president. For those who refused to believe that effective intelligence could be gathered from such techniques, it would seem that effectiveness has been proved in spades here. GTMO naysayers can still debate the legality and morality of enhanced interrogation techniques (even though this didn’t happen at GTMO, by the way), but don’t they have to admit that the techniques were effective in bringing Osama bin Laden to justice? Perhaps the argument will linger that we would have gotten this information through other methods, but the fact is that, at least in the reported case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, enhanced methods of interrogation succeeded where other methods had failed. 

We probably won’t ever hear President Obama explain his position on the intelligence gathered from KSM and others in the light of bagging OBL, but it certainly would be interesting to hear whether he thinks the ends justified the means here. Whether he thinks so or not, he and his country certainly benefited from that means.

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