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home : opinions : opinions October 20, 2014

4/23/2013 9:59:00 PM
Column: Nations have used torture, but is it right?
Lindsay Graham on CNN

Statements from Graham and Ball

Tom Cantlon
Courier Columnist

The alleged Boston bomber has been read his Miranda rights, and that's good. Not for his sake. For our sake.

Sen. Lindsay Graham would like to not give him any of the usual rights at all but rather hold him as an enemy combatant. One elected representative says we shouldn't hesitate to torture him. Sen. Graham also seems eager to throw out yet more of the limits on how citizens can be investigated in response to this bombing.

It's a little trite to say that if we overreact, if we throw out our principals in reaction to something like this, then the terrorists win, but it's close to the truth. It may not be the primary intention of a terrorist, but if our reaction is to forsake our freedoms and our principals - as far as that damages us and it does - terrorists would be happy to have that result.

Any nation can squash its opponents by might. Many nations have resorted to torture. Many of the worst nations have done so, and some of the best nations at their worst moments have, as well. If we protect ourselves by those methods what have we proven? We have proven that we're no different than anyone else.

Even if you accept George W. Bush's simplistic and inaccurate claim that they hate us because they hate our freedoms, then what sense does it make to whittle away at those freedoms in response?

George Washington was very advanced in using spies during the Revolutionary War, as Harrison Clark described in his biography, "All Cloudless Glory." He wasn't hesitant to use whatever means to get an advantage. Yet, as Clark also described, he ensured his prisoners were treated in the most civilized way. He never tortured or squeezed any for information even though he had the strongest of motivations, the safety and success of for him and his men as they went off to the next day's battle.

While the manhunt for the suspect in the Boston bombings proceeded, Sen. Graham said he hoped he would be held as an enemy combatant. It has since been announced he will be held under criminal law. A New York state senator, Greg Ball, asked, "Who wouldn't use torture on this punk...?" Ball has nothing to do with it, of course, but it's a sentiment our elected officials shouldn't be broadcasting. On CNN, Sen. Graham speculated that if we need to loosen our surveillance standards still further, then we should.

Yes, if there are laws that get in the way of our surveillance for signs of terrorism in ways that are within our principals, certainly, let's change them. And we want to get whatever useful information we can from this or any other suspect. That process of interrogation for information, if done right, can be kept separate from information used for prosecution, and it can be going on before, during, and after prosecution. Our interrogation experts tell us that the best methods for getting reliable information don't involve torture, so let's let them do their job.

There was a lot of bravery exhibited in the course of this whole Boston incident. We have no lack of bravery, but we sometimes forget where we need to apply it. We are a nation of rights, and that puts limits on some things, limits that call upon our bravery to maintain. We have people every day who are victims of crimes because we did not apprehend criminals. We don't just go barging into every home, looking through everyone's things to see who might have a weapon that could be traced to a crime or who might have stolen goods. Privacy, as with many of our rights, comes with a corresponding tradeoff.

We take the chance on those rights partly because we believe it will work out best for ourselves, and partly because we believe it's right. We also believe standing on what's right will make us the strongest that we can be. That is a powerful tool to use in succeeding against something as amorphous as terrorism. We can show the world that these rights are something we believe in in good times and bad, that we believe a nation of rights can succeed. We do that in part to attract more of the world to that standard, and to encourage other nations of rights to hold fast. We can show the world that we are strong enough to succeed even while maintaining rights and that it even helps us to succeed. Further, it is the reason to succeed, the very thing we are trying to protect.

This isn't just some mushy, gee-whiz, feel good notion. This is real. This is why America is worth preserving. This is how we succeed.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, April 27, 2013
Article comment by: More Liberal Lunacy

The definition of torture? Reading Michelle Star's comments.

Posted: Saturday, April 27, 2013
Article comment by: Attentive Listener

"Is torture right?" Who even asked that?

Posted: Friday, April 26, 2013
Article comment by: michelle star

Most countries define torture in terms of pain severity.

Waterboarding can cause extreme pain, dry drowning, damage to lungs, brain, damage from oxygen deprivation, other physical injuries including broken bones due to struggling against restraints, lasting psychological damage, and death.
Inhalation of water on lung tissue causes extrema burning pain and depending on the amount can act like pneumonia symptoms, severely restricting oxygen from tissue to blood exchange.

I believe almost anyone physically tortured will say anything to make it stop. and that's the problem, useless information. Even John McCain broke down and signed a North Vietnam confession.

"Mar 1, 2007 John McCain sat on a stool in Hanoi, his teeth broken, his body battered from a savage ... His right leg, injured when he was shot down, was horribly swollen. ... Unable to endure any more, he agreed to sigh a confession."
Was John McCain truthful when he signed the North Vietnam confession admitting to purposely bombing and killing Vietnam civilians and babies? Was he telling the truth or was he trying to stop the pain of physical torture?

Waterboarding is simulated drowning. Inhale a little water into your lungs and see what happens. Waterboarding is a lot of water introduced directly to the lungs. It's is a combination of pain and mental abuse.

I don't don't believe there's anyone here who wouldn't confess to the Boston bombings or personally flying a 767 into the Twin Towers if waterboared. Most law officers will tell you that physical interrogation often brings useless information. You beat a guy long enough and he will confess to anything. This is just one reason all law agencies in this country do not use torture to gain information.

John McCain said: "I had learned what we all learned over there," he would write later. "Every man has a breaking point. I had reached mine."

Pain and the threat of death will make anyone talk, even if it's a lie.

Posted: Friday, April 26, 2013
Article comment by: Ernie Pyle

To tired of it all. Just a little note about proper grammar, since you are quick to point to an obvious spelling error. You wrote" your the moron". It should be you're the moron. And in your previous post, you have two incomplete sentences. One cannot begin a sentence with a conjunction such as the word "or" lest he be considered to be displaying moronic behavior.

Posted: Friday, April 26, 2013
Article comment by: J K

@ tired of it all. Ok, you win. Let me try this again without the spell check since you seem to be rather simple minded( the definition of a moron)
You claim that Senator John McCain knows what is torture. I agree with you. He has stated on numerous occasions that WATERBOARDING is torture.
Is that clear enough for you?

Posted: Friday, April 26, 2013
Article comment by: tired of it all

JK...YOU are the moron! You apparently smoke to much "mary jane" and your a surfer dude...dude...weather boarding? Your the moron..

Posted: Friday, April 26, 2013
Article comment by: Hobbes2 aka Sam Brunstein

TO: Anyone who wants to know more about waterboarding



A Conservative talk radio host, Mancow, said "That's torture," after undergoing it.

For crying out loud, watch it! Learn something.

Posted: Friday, April 26, 2013
Article comment by: Hobbes2 aka Sam Brunstein

TO: Hobbled Bumstein

You ramble. What's your point? If there is one, I don't understand it.

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Article comment by: J K

@tired of it all. Let's just take your advice and see what McCain says. On many occasions he has said that weatherboarding is indeed torture.
Now who's the moron?

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Article comment by: @ s c

your comments have an eerily troubling tone, similar to Sal A_ _ _ _. Interesting that Sal hasn't weighed in on this. Could you be Sal, gone underground? If so, i would say you warrant Homeland Security scrutiny Either way, your messages seem motivated to incite. Seems to be dangerous stuff.

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Article comment by: S C

Chief Warrant Officer Welshofer's where abouts can be found online.
If the bounty on him goes up, I am sure someone will take the reward, DoA.
The rewards for many who participated in the Unconstututional invasion, occupation and slaughter of Iraqis is substantial. They are probably They probably don't sleep so sound. Guess oil money can buy a lot.

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Article comment by: John Rollo

In order to preserve our rights and freedoms the Right insist on taking our rights away. Be wary of those who want to change or suspend our constitution. That's a slippery slope to slide down.

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Article comment by: Hooty Hoo

I voted for Kerry too, over fellow liberal George "the shrub" Bush. The No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, Iraqi Freedom, bombs away Shrub Bush. At least Kerry was smart enough to get out of Iraq. Shrub and Buckshot not so much (I love the name Buckshot!).

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Article comment by: Hugs Boson

Conservatives, Republicans, Christians, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were so panicked when our troops could find not even a whiff of WMD's, ordered the CIA and Military officials "take the gloves off" and do serious "enhanced interrogation techniques" they could not even say the word: TORTURE!
Chief Warrant Officer Welshofer of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment captured an Iraqi general's kids, tortured them to get the dad to turn himself in. The father, Iraqi Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush, to save his children further anguish, submitted to interrogation.
Here is what our nation did to the general. "Witnesses testified that Warrant Officer Welshofer stood by while thugs, reportedly in the employ of the CIA, beat the general senseless for about 30 minutes with rubber hoses. General Mowhoush received eight broken ribs as a result. The next day, Welshofer took the general to the roof of the prison and, while other soldiers held him down, poured water on his face to induce the drowning response of intense panic. This is what Vice President Dick Cheney and his buddy Hooty Hoo call a little dunk! The general did not answer questions, so the following morning Chief Warrant Officer Welshofer turned to what was dubbed, "the sleeping bag technique." Invented by another interrogator who recalled how his older brother used to stuff him head first in a sleeping bag to induce claustrophobia and panic! Claustrophobia along with suffocation as they took turns sitting on the, sleeping bag enclosed, 56 year old Mowhoush! Our agents caused the general to die of asphyxiaa, gasping for air while Welchofer sat on his broken ribs surly a violent and terrifying death. Welshofer asked for another sleeping bag the next day to continue the technique with other detainees! Chief Warrant Officer Welshofer was fined $6000 and got 8 weeks of house detention for the murder!
War on Iraq was illegal, immoral, and based on greedy oily lies! History will reveal that we lost our nation's goodness and the respect of the rest of the world as a result of this behavior. Should we torture this kid as Conservative, Republican, Christian Senator Greg Ball and Hooty Hoo suggests? Only if we as a nation have lost our constitutional compass, compassion and values!


Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Article comment by: Martha Wright

@Michelle Star-the solution to our problems is to impeach Obama and do away with the Democratic Party. This way we won't have to listen to lunatics like you!

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Article comment by: Get A Clue

@Mr. Cantlon-explain that to the victims and their families.

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Article comment by: Hooty Hoo

I voted for McCain, he was the lesser of two evils. I hardly consider him in the Rand Paul genre. And about waterboarding: this guy is an unquestionable terrorist. Anyone who really thinks that he just thought up these mass murders on his own with no radical Islamic input is a freaking idiot. So we need information from this enemy of war. If he sings fine. If not go to the next step. Whatever it takes. He knew the job was dangerous when he took it. No ridiculous "I was insane" garbage. He should really be tried by a military entity, not a criminal court. We all know the truth, but some of us will ignore it.

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Article comment by: DragonMaster 6

The term more accurately is Alteration of sensory perceptual functioning via pain compliance! Procedures begin at relatively low infliction level then continue to scale upwards if information is not divulged. Obtain control of the perpetrator's power to obtain accurate info supposedly for good and reasonable purposes. This is not usually the reason this is performed in our society however. Sometimes it's performed for enjoyment, retaliation or seeking power over the now powerless. It is utilized by terrorists, Gangs, sex or extortionists deviants, politicians, and any other power hungry deviants that would find it useful. We sometimes used it for just plain fun on, "Bad-Guys!"

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Article comment by: tired of it all

MORONS!!! Water boarding IS NOT TORTURE!! How quickly we forget what real torture is. Just ask our Sen. John McCain. Or any survivor of WWII of a Japanese POW camp. Or a survivor of the Gestapo. Wake up folks...

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Article comment by: Hava Javelina

No. It's not right.

But neither is treating terrorists, even if they are US citizens, as if they were ordinary criminals.

I don't have the answer. Do you?

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Article comment by: Hobbled Bumstein

Liberals like to play little games with the truth and twist reality to suit their warped perspective. We see some examples here today. One "RJ" actually compares early American freedom fighters to today's jihadist savages. ... I don't recall the American patriots slaughtering innocent women and children, let alone SEEKING OUT such targets, as do the terrorists of today.

The American revolutionaries fought against a military force to gain their freedom from a king who resided thousands of miles away across the ocean. Exactly who are the jihadists trying to gain their freedom from? How about the two Boston Bombers? Were they being persecuted and denied rights in the U.S.? Quite the opposite in fact. They had all the freedom and opportunity anyone could ever ask for here. And look what they did with it.


Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Article comment by: The Rev

What is torture??? Waterboarding is iffy, I get this, so what else is on the table?

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Article comment by: Ban Abusive Interrogation Techniques

... and return to the old fashion way - Truth Serum.

Posted: Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Article comment by: Hobbes2 aka Sam Brunstein

TO: I think

Who wrote: "hooty hoo should volunteer to be waterboarded just to show us it's not torture. Wonder how long he/she would last. Come on Hooty step on up."

Actually. it's been done for us by another Conservative (Mancow) who claimed that it wan't torture until he volunteered and tried it. He changed his mind immediately.


Posted: Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Article comment by: michelle star

"Who cares what John McCain says? He's as liberal as all get out." Then why does the Arizona Republican keep voting for him? I would guess many Republicans in your party care about what he says. And as long as McCain keeps getting reelected...... then most of the Arizona Republican voters must be liberal as all get out. Right?

Typical Republican vs Republican cop out. "oh he's just'a.... [insert appropriate Republican Slur here]
An example of the Republican eating their own.

So you don't agree with another Republican Hooty? He's your man John McCain and you wasted no time labeling him a liberal or maybe a RINO?
Even though he's still registered as a Republican... I think? Even though he was your FIRST losing Presidential candidate to President Obama in 2008? Even though he keeps getting reelected and represents your party in the senate? Even thought he mostly votes with the rest of the Republican obstructionists? and you don't like the guy?

The Republican keeps voting for John McCain and then they trash the man while he's in office. I don't get it?

Do we see a Republican Party split in the near future? They're going the way of the Whig Party and won't be a Presidential threat in 2016.

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