It’s not quite torture, but it sure has been painful watching Senate Democrats tie attorney general-designate Michael Mukasey into knots over waterboarding. Responding to their demands that he denounce this interrogation method that simulates drowning, Mukasey last Tuesday declared that “these techniques seem over the line, or, on a personal basis, repugnant to me…” Mukasey declined further comment because “I have not been briefed on techniques used in any classified interrogation program conducted by any government agency.”
This left Judiciary Committee Democrats, including Illinois’s Dick Durbin, unimpressed, putting Mukasey’s confirmation bid in jeopardy.
“I can’t support his nomination based on the letter he sent yesterday,” Durbin said Wednesday. “It was a real disappointment.”
Mukasey is at risk largely because, for years, the White House barely has replied to its critics’ never-ending “torture” narrative. Cryptic statements, such as President Bush’s comment that “This government does not torture people,” don’t cut it.
While the White House must beware not to inform our enemies what to expect if captured, today’s clueless anti-waterboarding rhetoric merits this tactic’s vigorous defense. Waterboarding is something of which every American should be proud.
Waterboarding makes tight-lipped terrorists talk. At least three major al-Qaeda leaders reportedly have been waterboarded, most notably Khalid Sheik Mohammed.
KSM, as intelligence agencies call him, directed the September 11 attacks, which killed 2,978 people and injured at least 7,356. “I am the head of the al-Qaeda military committee,” he told Al Jazeera in April 2002. “And yes, we did it.” KSM wired money to his nephew, Ramzi Yousef, who masterminded the February 1993 World Trade Center blast that killed six and wounded 1,040. KSM and Yousef planned Operation Bojinka, a foiled 1995 scheme to explode 12 American jetliners above the Pacific. While some doubt his claim, KSM reportedly said, “I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew Daniel Pearl in the City of Karachi, Pakistan.”
U.S. and Pakistani authorities captured KSM on March 1, 2003 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. KSM stayed mum for months, often answering questions with Koranic chants. Interrogators eventually waterboarded him — for just 90 seconds.
KSM “didn’t resist,” one CIA veteran said in the August 13 issue of The New Yorker. “He sang right away. He cracked real quick.” Another CIA official told ABC News: “KSM lasted the longest under water-boarding, about a minute and a half, but once he broke, it never had to be used again.”
KSM’s revelations helped authorities identify and incarcerate at least six major terrorists:
‐ Ohio-based trucker Iyman Faris pleaded guilty May 1, 2003 to providing material support to terrorists. He secured 2,000 sleeping bags for al-Qaeda and delivered cash, cell phones, and airline tickets to its men. He also conspired to derail a train near Washington, D.C. and use acetylene torches to sever the Brooklyn Bridge’s cables, plunging it into the East River.
‐ Hambali, Gunawan’s brother and ringleader of JI’s October 2002 Bali nightclub blasts, killed 202 and wounded 209.
‐ Suspected al-Qaeda agent Majid Khan, officials say, provided money to JI terrorists and plotted to assassinate Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf, detonate U.S. gas stations, and poison American water reservoirs.
‐Jose Padilla, who trained with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, was convicted last August of providing material support to terrorists and conspiring to kidnap, maim, and murder people overseas. Padilla, suspected of but not charged with planning a radioactive “dirty bomb” attack, reportedly learned to incinerate residential high-rises by igniting apartments filled with natural gas.
‐ Malaysian Yazid Sufaat, an American-educated biochemist and JI member, reportedly provided hijackers Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi housing in Kuala Lumpur during a January 2000 9-11 planning summit. He also is suspected of employing “20th hijacker” Zacarias Moussaoui. Page 151 of The 9-11 Commission Report states: “Sufaat would spend several months attempting to cultivate anthrax for al Qaeda in a laboratory he helped set up near the Kandahar airport.”
Imagine how many innocent people these six Islamo-fascists (and perhaps others) would have murdered, had interrogators left KSM unwaterboarded and his secrets unuttered.
“The most important source of intelligence we had after 9/11 came from the interrogation of high-value detainees,” Robert Grenier, former chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, told The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer. He called KSM “the most valuable of the high-value detainees, because he had operational knowledge.”
Meanwhile, President Bush is deeply deluded if he thinks opposing waterboarding will buy him any goodwill among the domestic and international Left, who hate him immeasurably. More quickly than the average Capitol Hill flip flop, Democrats who scream against waterboarding today will skin Bush alive if, God forbid, there is another major terror strike here on his watch.
“He didn’t keep us safe,” they will moan. “Why didn’t he stop this?” they will bellow. Instantly forgotten will be Bush’s very dangerous concessions to his domestic critics. His approval of the CIA’s 2006 request to ban waterboarding will give Bush absolutely zero protection if today’s soft-on-terror Democrats become tomorrow’s post-attack hawks. They will pick him apart like a hummingbird.
This is all the more reason for President Bush to reinstate waterboarding, proudly and publicly, so America can get the information we need to prevent Muslim-fanatic mass murder and win the Global War on Terror.
Appropriately enough, waterboarding is not used on American citizens suspected of tax evasion, sexual harassment, or bank robbery. Waterboarding is used on foreign Islamic-extremist terrorists, captured abroad, who would love nothing more than to blast innocent men, women, and children into small, bloody pieces. Some of them already have done so.
Waterboarding has worked quickly, causing at least one well-known subject to break down and identify at least six other high-profile, highly bloodthirsty associates before they could commit further mass murder beyond the 3,192 people they already killed and the 7,715 they already wounded.
Though clearly uncomfortable, waterboarding loosens lips without causing permanent physical injuries (and unlikely even temporary ones). If terrorists suffer long-term nightmares about waterboarding, better that than more Americans crying themselves to sleep after their loved ones have been shredded by bombs or baked in skyscrapers.
In short, there is nothing “repugnant” about waterboarding.
– Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution.