Torture Must Be an Option

The Senate Armed Services Committee may disagree, and notable veterans like Senators McCain, Warner and Graham, joined by General Colin Powell, may spearhead the opposition, but torture must be an option in our war on terror. It might be legitimate to worry that American soldiers will be tortured in return, as opponents aver. Except that terrorists already hideously torture and mutilate our brave warriors when they are captured.

The question is how can we protect ourselves from enemies who are willing to sacrifice their lives in order to murder us en masse? For terrorists, the rules must be different, precisely because they do not play by the old rules of war.

We're often told that we must not become tyrannical concerning the methods we use to keep us safe. For example, we're told that we shouldn't use force to extract confessions from known terrorists who have information that would save lives. The Bush Administration has been criticized for reports that torture was used by the CIA and the military. Recently, the New York Times, criticized the U.S. for using loud music by the band, Red Hot Chili Peppers to 'torture' terrorists.

One's music predilections notwithstanding, such treatment can hardly be compared to the beheadings of Americans captured by these savages. Winning a war against people who are willing to die for their cause is not going to be an exercise in diplomacy, nor is it for the squeamish. We're dealing with a well—trained group of suicidal zealots who have been brainwashed to believe that they will go to Heaven if they murder Americans. Indeed, if they could blanket our country with neutron bombs today, we'd already have the smell of decaying flesh in our nostrils, had we somehow survived.

With that said, what would the average American be willing to do to prevent another tragedy? Suppose you knew for a fact that your family was in imminent danger of being murdered in a plot masterminded by a captured terrorist. Suppose further that you knew a confession from him would save the lives of your family. Would you be willing to have the authorities use torture to obtain it? If your answer is no, then you evidently think it's more noble to allow your family to suffer and die than it is to force a confession and save them.

As far as I'm concerned that's not nobility, it's stupidity. Worse, it's a flawed philosophy that jeopardizes our attempts to withstand the threat to our survival. The mass murder on 9/11 sent us cascading into a new paradigm on the tactics of war. Undoubtedly, many of the relatives of about 3000 victims wish we had been tougher and less politically correct when it came to security concerns.

We can't do anything for those who have perished on 9/11, but we can do whatever it takes to prevent any further incendiary consequences. Some would opine that the torture of one man is not worth saving the lives of thousands. That may get a round of applause at an ACLU meeting or a Hollywood cocktail party, but in the real world it's an asinine comment. It should be painfully obvious to any sensible person that a thousand innocent lives are infinitely more valuable than the life of one homicidal madman. The attack on America should have taught us that we no longer live in a theoretical world. Yet, we are continually inundated with well meaning phrases and polite niceties that have no relevance in the war against terrorism.

The reality is that people get accustomed to using gentle—sounding words and pious expressions that describe their sensitivity, but when it becomes personal, they are loath to risk everything to defend a dubious principle. Only when it's happening to the other guy's family in that city a thousand miles away do they feel enough detachment to speak magnanimously about the appropriate reaction to the slaughter. In other words, it's easy to be generous with your sympathy toward the arsonist when the other guy's house is on fire.

Picture this: There's a guy in police custody who knows the location of a bomb that's set to explode in a school building that holds 500 children. Threats and intimidation have failed to make him reveal the address of the school and the location of the device. You know that torture would loosen his tongue and save all those innocent lives. What would you do? C'mon, the clock is ticking. Make a decision! Five hundred helpless children against the life of some murderous creature who corrupts the atmosphere of life with every breath he takes.

Should you think lofty thoughts about the slippery slope toward totalitarianism? Should you quote the Constitution, chapter and verse? Should you courteously recite his Miranda warnings and get him a lawyer, or should you do everything and anything imaginable to force a confession? Which course of action is most noble? You decide. I already know what I would do.

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the excutive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas.  Email Bob

The Senate Armed Services Committee may disagree, and notable veterans like Senators McCain, Warner and Graham, joined by General Colin Powell, may spearhead the opposition, but torture must be an option in our war on terror. It might be legitimate to worry that American soldiers will be tortured in return, as opponents aver. Except that terrorists already hideously torture and mutilate our brave warriors when they are captured.

The question is how can we protect ourselves from enemies who are willing to sacrifice their lives in order to murder us en masse? For terrorists, the rules must be different, precisely because they do not play by the old rules of war.

We're often told that we must not become tyrannical concerning the methods we use to keep us safe. For example, we're told that we shouldn't use force to extract confessions from known terrorists who have information that would save lives. The Bush Administration has been criticized for reports that torture was used by the CIA and the military. Recently, the New York Times, criticized the U.S. for using loud music by the band, Red Hot Chili Peppers to 'torture' terrorists.

One's music predilections notwithstanding, such treatment can hardly be compared to the beheadings of Americans captured by these savages. Winning a war against people who are willing to die for their cause is not going to be an exercise in diplomacy, nor is it for the squeamish. We're dealing with a well—trained group of suicidal zealots who have been brainwashed to believe that they will go to Heaven if they murder Americans. Indeed, if they could blanket our country with neutron bombs today, we'd already have the smell of decaying flesh in our nostrils, had we somehow survived.

With that said, what would the average American be willing to do to prevent another tragedy? Suppose you knew for a fact that your family was in imminent danger of being murdered in a plot masterminded by a captured terrorist. Suppose further that you knew a confession from him would save the lives of your family. Would you be willing to have the authorities use torture to obtain it? If your answer is no, then you evidently think it's more noble to allow your family to suffer and die than it is to force a confession and save them.

As far as I'm concerned that's not nobility, it's stupidity. Worse, it's a flawed philosophy that jeopardizes our attempts to withstand the threat to our survival. The mass murder on 9/11 sent us cascading into a new paradigm on the tactics of war. Undoubtedly, many of the relatives of about 3000 victims wish we had been tougher and less politically correct when it came to security concerns.

We can't do anything for those who have perished on 9/11, but we can do whatever it takes to prevent any further incendiary consequences. Some would opine that the torture of one man is not worth saving the lives of thousands. That may get a round of applause at an ACLU meeting or a Hollywood cocktail party, but in the real world it's an asinine comment. It should be painfully obvious to any sensible person that a thousand innocent lives are infinitely more valuable than the life of one homicidal madman. The attack on America should have taught us that we no longer live in a theoretical world. Yet, we are continually inundated with well meaning phrases and polite niceties that have no relevance in the war against terrorism.

The reality is that people get accustomed to using gentle—sounding words and pious expressions that describe their sensitivity, but when it becomes personal, they are loath to risk everything to defend a dubious principle. Only when it's happening to the other guy's family in that city a thousand miles away do they feel enough detachment to speak magnanimously about the appropriate reaction to the slaughter. In other words, it's easy to be generous with your sympathy toward the arsonist when the other guy's house is on fire.

Picture this: There's a guy in police custody who knows the location of a bomb that's set to explode in a school building that holds 500 children. Threats and intimidation have failed to make him reveal the address of the school and the location of the device. You know that torture would loosen his tongue and save all those innocent lives. What would you do? C'mon, the clock is ticking. Make a decision! Five hundred helpless children against the life of some murderous creature who corrupts the atmosphere of life with every breath he takes.

Should you think lofty thoughts about the slippery slope toward totalitarianism? Should you quote the Constitution, chapter and verse? Should you courteously recite his Miranda warnings and get him a lawyer, or should you do everything and anything imaginable to force a confession? Which course of action is most noble? You decide. I already know what I would do.

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the excutive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas.  Email Bob