January 21, 2008
Is There Waterboarding In Hell?By Randall Hoven
John McCain promised to do "whatever is necessary" to get Osama bin Laden, including following him "to the gates of hell." Ever the one to provide specifics, he would find hell, apparently, by "improving our intelligence capability dramatically." . His claims are reminiscent of John Kerry's claim that he "would stop at nothing to find and kill the terrorists."
Um -- guys? If you're looking for the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks that killed three thousand people on US soil, we already have him. His name is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and he is, I think, at Guantanamo Bay right now. As I understand it, he was one of only three people we waterboarded. (I cannot be sure because the CIA does not keep me informed on these matters. Ask Nancy Pelosi for real details -- she was briefed .)
In KSM's case he gave up the "names and addresses of people who were involved with al Qaeda in this country and in Europe" as well as a plot to run an airliner into the Library Tower in Los Angeles In all, more than "a dozen al Qaeda plots to kill people were stopped because of the information they got from coerced interrogation."
Senator McCain is against waterboarding. He says it is torture and thus a war crime. And thanks to him, "there will no such thing as waterboarding" any more. It doesn't kill. It doesn't injure. It doesn't leave a mark. It's all over in a minute in most cases. It has been shown to provide information that has saved lives. And Congress, where Senator McCain serves, has never outlawed it, despite at least some members receiving classified briefings on it.
As for the people who did it -- the ones who followed procedures considered legal and necessary to obtain information that saved many lives -- they will be lucky not to be prosecuted for it. The Senate is already on the case.
Apparently, "whatever is necessary" does not include waterboarding or other harsh interrogation methods. If there is waterboarding in hell, it must be past its gates.
If our dramatically improved intelligence does tell us where Osama bin Laden is, and if we manage to capture him alive (at who knows what cost in lives), then what will we do with him?
Don't want to keep him in some other country - that would be "rendering", and that's bad. Don't want to keep him in Guantanamo, also bad. Even Colin Powell says to close that place down since it has "caused far more damage than anything we get from it".
So what should we do with him? Colin Powell says he should be "moved to the US and placed within the legal system." At least that's what he said we should do with all the prisoners currently at Guantanamo. And if you get rid of rendering and Guantanamo, US soil is about all that's left for any newly captured enemy combatant like Osama bin Laden.
With a little imagination, let's fast-forward. President John McCain and Vice President Colin Powell have dramatically improved our intelligence, located bin Laden, captured him, and brought him back on US soil and placed him "within the legal system." After all, we did that with Ramzi Yusef, mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. And now Ramzi is in prison for life without parole.
But wait, Osama bin Laden did not "mastermind" the 9/11 attacks; KSM and Mohammed Atta did. Bin Laden merely gave his spiritual approval. Is it a crime to interpret the Koran your own way? And what proof do we have even of that? In fact, the FBI wants him, but not for 9/11. It wants him for the bombings of our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya . The Muckraker Report says that the FBI claims it has "no hard evidence connecting bin Laden to 9/11."
So we're not sure we could even try bin Laden in US court for 9/11. For all we know, he would get off on the embassy charges also. Did he set any bombs? Did he procure or transport any bombs or bombing material? Did he plan the bombings? It sounds to me like bin Laden doesn't really do anything, he just gives his blessing. Heck, that's free speech.
And how would we obtain any evidence from bin Laden or any other enemy combatant? We could only use the ephemeral "intense but not harsh" interrogation methods. What the heck are they, tickling? They could not include a dental examination on camera, for example, as in Saddam Hussein's case. That could be interpreted as humiliating and therefore against the Geneva Convention. And we've grown to love the Geneva Convention, even where it doesn't apply.
We live in a nation where one third of the population thinks the 9/11 attacks were a government conspiracy. All Osama bin Laden's attorney needs to do is make sure at least one of the 12 jurors is among that third. If OJ's blood at Nicole Simpson's house and Nicole's blood at OJ's house were "garbage" evidence, how convincing would a grainy audiotape recorded in Arabic be to an American jury?
However, don't expect Osama bin Laden to give his post-acquittal interview on the courthouse steps after the trial. The police and security forces will be too busy protecting the innocent Osama from potential right-wing assassins. He will be safely and secretly whisked away, once our medical system provides him free dialysis. And certainly not to any country that might be mean to him.
Far-fetched? A little. But are you so sure it would not go this way?
When you hear tough talk like "gates of hell", "whatever is necessary", "stop at nothing" and "find and kill", remember the rest of the story. Any CIA operative who actually does whatever is necessary, who stops at nothing, and who kills or even harshly interrogates Osama bin Laden, will likely face charges himself. Ask Mike Spann about the gates of hell.
Randall Hoven can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.