To say the killing of Osama bin Laden created a patriotic euphoria in the United States would be a gross understatement, as the sense that justice had been served was downright palpable. Spontaneous celebrations broke out across the nation, and the image of thousands chanting "U-S-A" from Ground Zero was simply awe-inspiring. It was a great day for America.
Having said that, it is clear that U.S. still is not wholly committed to winning the War on Terror. The very fact that we are still debating whether waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques" should be used on terrorists hell-bent on destroying us projects weakness.
There are now conflicting reports as to whether the waterboarding of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed provided information about an al-Queda courier, who ultimately led the U.S. to bin Laden’s Pakistani hideout.
One question: who cares? Common sense tells us that waterboarding works, and has no doubt saved lives by obtaining intelligence that would have otherwise not been uncovered. Whether that method was responsible for extracting the courier information will probably never be known, but debating that point misses the big picture entirely.
We are at war. And when at war, you pull out all stops until victory is achieved — Vietnam was supposed to teach us that. When you fight not to lose, the enemy becomes emboldened.
Where we are right now is a perfect example of the adage "we have met the enemy, and it is us."
We have allowed our security to be unnecessarily compromised, and, despite bin Laden’s death, the threat against the Western world remains high.
And it’s all done in the name of political correctness.
The blame cannot be directed just at President Obama, who officially discontinued waterboarding in 2009. Under the Bush Administration, both the CIA and the military had effectively ended the practice years earlier. And it was Republican John McCain who offered an Amendment prohibiting the U.S. from engaging in humiliating or degrading treatment of captured terrorists.
By way of explanation, waterboarding is when water is poured over the face of an enemy combatant, simulating the feeling of drowning. If you’re waiting for the rest of the description, you’ll be sorely disappointed, because that’s it. Don’t misunderstand—it’s very effective, but derives its success due to psychological stress rather than physical harm. No one gets hurt, and no one dies.
But somehow that’s degrading, so much of a no-no that we stopped it outright. So maybe if we just politely ask our detainees for sensitive information, like their financial network, comrades’ whereabouts, and the battle-plans to kill Americans, they will just tell us.
If the goal is to ensure that terrorists feel comfortable, then we were right to ban waterboarding. However, if we want to be seriously engaged in a global war against those who aggressively advocate our destruction, maybe we should reconsider how we handle detainees, since Al-Queda prisoners are also afforded fantastic medical care, food reflective of their ethnicity, and prayer time.
Maybe we should ask the survivors and victims’ families of the 9/11 massacre, the Madrid train attacks, the London subway bombings, and a host of other atrocities if they care whether a prisoner, with possible knowledge of an impending attack (potentially nuclear, chemical or biological), has some water poured on his face, or feels humiliated.
Cutting through the PC, does the average American, or European for that matter, really believe such interrogation methods should be banned, putting the prisoner’s well-being ahead of their own? Are they really willing to jeopardize their children’s future because a combatant’s "dignity" is affected?
When Americans are captured, the enemy doesn’t feel compelled to reciprocate that dignity. Need a quick refresher? Just look at the videos of Americans — civilians and military — being decapitated, dragged through the streets, burned, dismembered and hung from bridges.
Because we coddle prisoners, refuse to profile, won’t construct a border wall and tie our troops’ hands behind their backs because of PC politics, we have become a paper tiger. And the sigh of despair you hear? That’s the silent majority of Europeans who live on the front lines, too scared to publicly support anti-PC measures because their cultures have become the embodiment of appeasement. They used to nod in admiration that at least one country still had the guts to take it to the enemy. Sadly, that is no longer the case.
The President should use every means necessary to extract information that could save lives, and waterboarding is clearly one of them. Just as Americans call for domestic drilling only after gas hits $4 per gallon, there will undoubtedly be loud calls to bring back enhanced interrogation techniques — after the next attack.
But by then, it will be too late.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative
reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com
Readers of his column, "Freindly Fire," hail from six continents, thirty countries
and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including
The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick
Morris’ recent bestseller "Catastrophe."
Freind, whose column appears regularly in Philadelphia Magazine and nationally in
Newsmax, also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national
television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected]