American Thinker | Vasko Kohlmayer | May 7, 2009
History clearly teaches that great civilizations are not brought down by their external enemies, but that they undermine themselves from within. In other words, they essentially commit suicide. Islamists could never bring down an America determined to defend itself. We can, however, be toppled if refuse to take the commonsense measures necessary to safeguard our survival. Choosing not to obtain critical intelligence about impending attacks against our country is the equivalent of committing national suicide.
Who would have ever thought that we would seriously debate whether to prosecute those who have kept us safe since 9/11?
Most of us can still recall the fear and uncertainty of the days and weeks that followed. Shell-shocked and frightened, we lived in imminent expectation of further attacks. Few would have bet a dime that in the next seven years we wouldn’t be hit again. That it did not happened is almost difficult to believe, since the hijackers’ spectacular success inspired jihadists far and wide. Every year since they would promise an even greater slaughter with blood running down the streets and American mothers veiling in despair. That those threats never materialized has surely not been due to a lack of trying on their part, but to the vigilance of George W. Bush and those in his administration who devoted themselves to protecting this country. The fact that they managed to keep us safe is a remarkable achievement and something we should all be grateful for.
Protecting America against Islamic jihadists is an enormously complex and difficult task, because this enemy is unlike any other we ever faced. For one thing, he is hard to even identify, since he has no visible armies, no firm command structures or uniformed warriors. The foe we face is a stealth one, and one that operates insidiously from within the very population it seeks to destroy.
Because of this, the most important and effective weapon against this furtive adversary is not numerical advantage or raw power but intelligence. It is intelligence that makes it possible to identify enemy operatives and disrupt their plots and plans. The best and most reliable sources of such intelligence are captured terrorists themselves, because they have firsthand knowledge of the secretive networks in which they operate.
The problem is that once apprehended they are not inclined to voluntarily divulge the information they posses. The only way to extract it is by subjecting them to some form of pressure. The process of applying that pressure is referred to as “enhanced” or “coercive” interrogation.
As the recently released documents show, coercive interrogation approved by the Bush administration consisted largely of procedures such as grabbing terrorists by the collar and giving them a shake, pushing them against a flexible wall, depriving them of sleep, and forcing them to endure uncomfortable physical positions. In a few cases, the interrogators considered such unusual – and according to some “inhuman” – methods as placing a non-stinging caterpillar in the terrorist’s cell.
The harshest form of interrogation authorized by the administration was waterboarding, a procedure that induces a drowning sensation in the subject. By utilizing this very effective method, our interrogators were able to extract priceless information from several high ranking al-Qaeda operatives. One of them was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the organization’s number three and the mastermind of 9/11 and other atrocities. Because of his high position, Mohammed was privy to a great deal of crucial information about al-Qaeda personnel as well as its plans and operations. Although he was initially reluctant to speak, he changed his mind during a waterboarding session. The particulars he provided were promptly used to foil terrorist plots and save American lives.
It should be noted that waterboarding usually takes less than 90 seconds and has been used only in a handful of cases. Furthermore, the procedure leaves no long-term – or even short term – consequences. The subject recovers within moments and fifteen minutes later no one could tell that waterboarding has been applied, except perhaps for his wet hair.
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