The current debate over “torture”–the waterboarding of three high-level al Qaeda leaders in order to obtain information about threatened attacks–is an example of public discourse at its worst. From Barack Obama on down, most of what has been said by critics of harsh interrogation has been dumb, disingenuous or both. Waterboarding is, as I’ve often said, a humane alternative to actual torture. It frightens (even when, as in the case of the three al Qaeda terrorists, they are told beforehand that it may feel like they’re drowning, but they won’t) but does no physical harm. None.
For a sample of the real thing, check out this story:
A videotape showing a member of the United Arab Emirates Royal Family torturing a man is threatening a multibillion-dollar nuclear power deal between the US and the Gulf kingdom.
The 45-minute tape shows a man that the Government of Abu Dhabi has acknowledged is Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahyan — one of 22 royal brothers of the UAE President and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince — mercilessly and repeatedly beating a man with a cattle prod and a nailed board, burning his genitals and driving his Mercedes over him several times. He is assisted by a uniformed policeman.
The Sheikh tortured the victim because he thought the victim had cheated him in a grain deal. You can watch a brief excerpt from the video at the linked site.
These are the people Barack Obama thinks will be impressed by his repudiation of one of the most effective terrorism-fighting tactics used by the Bush administration. I think, rather, that they’ll conclude he’s a fool.