So Many Tortured Firsts – Waterboarding Our Way To Policy

I am relatively new to the Watcher’s Council but I believe we have reached at least one if not a couple of firsts on this particular vote result Friday.

First we have two former Watcher’s Council members making a showing in the non-council selection of authors that have penned the week’s best articles.

Second, and more noteworthy for its novelty, the first place winning council member entry is a criticism of an article by former council member Right Wing Nuthouse, whose author Rick Moran also has a winning non-council entry on the same subject; waterboarding as torture.

These events show how contentious the topic of waterboarding has become, particularly for conservatives.

I believe that a majority of liberals are unified in the belief that waterboarding is torture. However the topic is not so cut and dry for conservatives. The latter group appears to be split along three lines, those making a stance based on a politically motivated calculations, those with a philosophical belief on the best way to protect the nation’s people (and at what price), and those with a populist stake.

Politicians often waver on their positions based on polling data. This is why I believe that some so called conservative politicians are drawn into the fray that has been defined by the left; essentially vilifying tactics that have helped the government extract information that has been shown to have kept us safe. So far we haven’t been attacked on our shores again since 9/11. This provides a safety net of sorts on the issue; relegating it to a theoretical discussion along moral and ideological lines. (i.e. we can say that we haven’t been attacked in part because of harsh interrogation techniques but we can’t really say we would have been attacked if we didn’t use them.) Thus if you are in favor of waterboarding there may be a price for that support in terms of polling numbers and negative campaigning as it is hard to quantify how safe it has made us in lieu of an attack had we not waterboarded. So for the time being the easier path may along the path that opposes waterboarding.

Philosophically however many conservatives note that there is not any damaging physical trauma incurred by waterboarding combined with the belief that it has been shown to have prevented at least one attack. That coupled with the fact that Democrats failed to exercise their majority position to explicitly define waterboarding as torture helps conservatives defend the tactic as a valid and legal form of interrogation.

Finally there is a populist stake based on a person’s standing (or perception thereof) in the media world. Bloggers have taken up sides and it is not surprising to see many take the side of their readers. For this reason I give Rick Moran credit. In this case he appears to be siding with liberals that make up a much smaller part of his audience. However the stance is a liberal populist position. Rick has been known to take on the right in some circumstances and this is no exception. In this case I believe this is why he has covered the topic so much right up to his winning non-council entry that may be the culmination of the overall discussion he has had on RWN.

Not surprisingly waterboarding is also the topic of the winning non-council entry. Blog winner Legal Insurrection takes the subject head on in Which City Would You Sacrifice?.

The debate over interrogation of the three top-level al-Qaeda leaders who were subjected to waterboarding is entering the honest phase. The first phase was the “this is the worst thing that has happened in the history of the earth” hand wringing on the left. The second phase was the “who gives a crap about the organizer of 9/11” response of the right.

Now we have reached the third, and most honest, phase with Dick Cheney’s call for a release of the memoranda detailing the plots which were stopped, and lives saved, based on the information obtained from these three leaders…

Like winning council member Wolf Howling, William A. Jacobsen takes exception with Andrew Sullivan (whom Rick Moran has aligned himself with on the subject).

Then the American people can make a decision. In order to avoid waterboarding in less than a handful of extraordinary situations, what are we willing to sacrifice? If the memoranda to which Cheney is referring say what he says they say, then alongside the photos and videos of waterboarding, we can see photos of lives saved, airplanes which never exploded, and cities which still live.

This is not fear-mongering by someone seeking to defend Bush policies on interrogation. The potential loss of a city, or multiple cities, was the estimation of Andrew Sullivan, one of the most outspoken critics of waterboarding.

Ending his article Jacobsen concludes:

And now this report: CIA Confirms: Waterboarding 9/11 Mastermind Led to Info that Aborted 9/11-Style Attack on Los Angeles and a take on the report at Hot Air.

This topic is tortured and complicated for sure. But I am with Jacobsen, Which City Would You Sacrifice?

Congratulations to all winners. Please pass this post along!

Winning Council Submissions

Winning Non-Council Submissions