Is “Torture” Ever Justified?

Let’s not spend a lot of time debating whether enhanced interrogation techniques, which include waterboarding, amount to torture.  For the sake of this discussion, let’s say they do.  Though I don’t believe it for a minute.

And let’s not argue over whether waterboarding yielded information that led to the courier who led the Navy Seals to Osama bin Laden.  Instead, let’s say the jury is still out on that; that’s it’s too soon to know for sure.

Instead, let’s ponder this not-so-new question, which has surfaced again in the wake of the bin Laden take-down:  Is torture, at the hands of CIA interrogators, or any other American authorities, ever justified?

The New York Times, the most reliable daily publication of liberal thinking, says  the answer is no.   “There are many arguments against torture,” a recent editorial explained, before re-hashing its own old arguments. “It is immoral and illegal and counterproductive.”

This is the basic liberal view of torture.  That it is always wrong because, most of all, it violates what liberals call, “American values.”  Some go so far as to say there’s no difference between waterboarding and eye-gouging.  Never mind that one leaves the prisoner with no eyes while the other leaves him merely gasping for breath –and only for a short time at that.

So, let’s examine the liberal case against torture – first, that it is illegal.  Yes, but only because, well, only because there are laws against it.  But that can easily be changed. All Congress has to do is pass new laws stating very clearly that under certain circumstances, and only with presidential approval, torture – or enhanced interrogation — is permissible.  I’m not saying this will happen.  And with our current president in the White House, he almost certainly would veto such a law.  But to argue that torture is wrong because it is illegal, isn’t much of an argument.  For a long time, mixed racial marriage was illegal in parts of our country.  Surely, the Times wouldn’t argue that because it was illegal it was also wrong.

What about torture being counterproductive?  That one, as I say, is off the table at the moment — even though more than a few high-ranking officials have come forward to say that waterboarding did indeed play an important role in the discovery of bin Laden’s hideout.  That leaves us with “immoral.”

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but what is immoral to the liberals at New York Times and their acolytes on the Upper West Side of Manhattan isn’t necessarily immoral to several hundred million other Americans.  But let’s pursue the allegation anyway.

Let’s say a terrorist operation is underway to explode an atomic bomb in Times Square on New Year’s Eve where a million people are gathered to have a good time.  And let’s also say that U.S. officials have in custody a terrorist suspect whom they believe knows where the bomb is hidden.  But he refuses to talk.

I know, I know. You’ve heard all this before.  It’s the “ticking time bomb” scenario.  The liberal case tells us that if we torture this suspect, we are committing an immoral act.  Besides, we’re told, we could get the information by other means (a dubious argument at best).  But what those sensitive liberal souls don’t answer is a question that goes to the very heart of the discussion:

Why it is moral to allow the bomb to go off killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians?

And exactly what American values are upheld by letting the bomb go off.  I can’t think of any.

If liberals want to make the case that waterboarding is immoral no matter how many innocent lives are saved – even if the target is a yellow school bus filled with third graders on their way to the museum – then Man Up and make the case, with no apologies.

Nonetheless, like my liberal friends, I’m against torture. Really!  They’re against it 100 percent of the time.  I’m against it 99 percent of the time.  I’m against it to punish jay-walkers and litterbugs and car thieves.  In fact, I’m against it to punish anybody for any crime, no matter how heinous, if the crime already has been committed.  But if waterboarding, or some other enhanced interrogation technique, could save innocent American lives, I’m all for it.  For me, that’s the moral position.

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  • Tim Fraser

    it is all to confusing

  • Tim Fraser

    this shit is so fucked up

  • unkown

    yes torture is acceptable to get info from terrorists

  • Todd Navarette

    There is certainly a whole lot to know about this. I can see you made nice points in the features as well.

  • Nancye

    I guess torture must be justified because I feel like I’ve been tortured every day that Obama is President of our country.

  • Rick007

    The problem is not just the definition of torture, but also that of unlawful combattant. When there is a mass uprising, you are not supposed to treat all rebels as spies or illegal combatants. You can’t torture them, and all Geneva Convention Protocols except those releated to espionage apply. However, you can kill them. You can keep them as POWs until the war is over. You can kill or capture support personnel along with the combatants. That includes clerics and teachers that chant “Death to America!” What the Geneval Convention says is there is a right to mass revolt, but also a right of active military and other government supporters to kill the rebel. Please don’t complain about the body count; that’s what normally happens when untrained individuals attack trained military and law enforcement.

  • Frog

    It’s absolutely amazing that it was no problem that we blew the brains out of three Somali pirates to save one man (another great job by Navy SEALs, by the way), but [liberals] have this ethical problem with waterboarding one to save many.

    This following is the notional dialogue that took place between a secret-service agent (SSA) and a democrat politician (DP), whose life, and life of his family, the agent is sworn to protect:

    SSA: “Sir, sir, someone kidnapped your daughter and she’s being held in a basement near the seashore where the next high tide will flood it and subsequently drown her! The perpetrator has been caught, but refuses to divulge where your child is being held captive. He doesn’t want a ransom, but rather is just an evil person and wants you to suffer with the knowledge that your child is going to drown at the next high tide. The folks who have the perp in custody are former CIA agents and have guaranteed that they can get the information needed to save your child’s life by simply waterboarding him.”

    DP: “Nah, I’d rather adhere to and uphold a universally recognized standard of justice and goodness, and forgo waterboarding this evil and despicable person because it’s just not right; and that even as the tide slowly rises to my tied-up daughter’s mouth and nose, I’d rather she suffer and agonize with the thought that she will soon die. My moral high ground justifies that it is better that my daughter really drown, and her kidnapper experience only simulated drowning.”

    The response by the democrat politician would not really happen (at least I hope not); I don’t believe any liberal would ever sacrifice his/her child’s life over some moral issue such as waterboarding. I firmly believe that most democrat politicians believe in their hearts that waterboarding is appropriate for a given situation, but they’re essentially kiss-ass, brown-nosing yes-men, who have their collective noses so far up a president’s a** that they need to carry toilet paper around with them so they can wipe off the crap.

    • CCNV

      Amen, Frog!! Thank God for our military men and women!! To hear the doofus in the White House tell it, HE did it all by himself. I bet his arm is sore from patting himself on the back all the time. Next we’ll find out that obama claims to have been a Navy Seal.

      And, where is the outrage from the Left regarding the FLAG BURNING at LSU??? Why no DEATH THREATS and uproar from the media?? Why let that Turd get away with burning the AMERICAN FLAG, when just the ‘mention’ of burning the Koran pisses off the Libs?? Oh, I forgot…it’s OUR flag and OUR bible, etc.

      Somewhere in the distance you can hear the theme song of the Libs -“Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows…”.

    • Bob Hadley

      Your hypothetical is misleading. There’s never any guarantees. And I think an experienced interrogator would also tell the Democratic politician that waterboarding may well not break down the kidnapper’s resistance before the next high tide. The former CIA agents would likely tell him that a much stronger interrogation technique was needed to get the info before the next high tide. Remember, KSM was waterboarded repeatedly over a month.

      You and various others speak of waterboarding as if it’s the unltimate imaginable interrogation technique. Why don’t you show some guts and change your hypothetical to the former CIA agents recommending something far stronger than waterboarding, e.g. chopping off the kidnapper’s fingers one at a time until he gives in.

      I’m on record as saying I favor that under your hypothetical. How about you? In that situation, what would you tell the former CIA agents?

      • Frog

        Bob Hadley, in my hypothetical I implied—no—I stated, that waterboarding would guarantee the child’s release. You’re correct in saying “… waterboarding may well not break down the kidnapper’s resistance…” and “…agents would likely tell him that a much stronger interrogation technique was needed…” In fact, experts are saying that waterboarding doesn’t necessarily yield anything of intelligence value. Some call it bad science, others throw in terms like “folk neurobiology,” hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex.
        Your statement regarding “something far stronger such as chopping off the kidnapper’s fingers one at a time until he gives in” is actually along the lines of what I had written in my first draft. In that, I had a republican politician confronted with the same situation, to which he replied, “Kneecap the SOB.”
        The point I’m trying to make here is not so much the efficacy of waterboarding, or any other “torture” technique, but rather that torture of any kind would be [publically] objectionable to the left-leaning, liberal politician. I believe their [public] stand on this topic (and many others) is based on the fact that their leader; i.e., the president, objects to it. Liberal/democrat politicians act like the president is their boss, and if they don’t agree with him he’ll get mad at them. It appears as if that applies to almost every national issue that’s confronting us, today. That’s where my “kiss-ass yes-men” characterization comes in. I believe that if this president were in favor of torture, most of these democrat politicians would be on board with that.
        Regarding CCNV’s comment on that would-be flag burner at LSU: If someone there (or anywhere) were desecrating the Mexican flag, you’d hear a furor from “sea to shining sea.”
        For the life of me I cannot understand why someone would burn the very symbol that gives them the right to do so.
        Again, Bob Hadley, I agree with you.
        So, with all that being said, it’s obvious that this is not the appropriate forum for any further discussion of the spirit and intent of my yammering; therefore, I end further discourse on this topic. Thank you for your responses.

        • Tim Ned

          So what is the alternative to enhanced interrogation, Miranda Rights?

          I heard an FBI agent state that there are other methods to interrogating prisoners other than enhanced interrogation. If this is the case than the FBI must be sending innocent people to jail as I hear that the vast majority of prisoners in our penal system state they are innocent. So how well can interrogation work with these terrorists when they have their ACLU attorney present?

          The fact is it’s not about enhanced interrogation. The left wants to end all interrogation except for Name, Rank, and Jihad Number!

        • Will Swoboda

          Bob &Frog,
          Let’s make it real simple. Take the terrorist to the sea shore and bury him up to his neck at low tide. Then give him a signal device that tells us that he ready to talk but has to give us enough time to rescue the girl. He would be released only if the girl is found. Put it all back in his hands. if he doesn’t talk, we just let nature take it’s course. I know, I know, that makes us as bad as them but I would give this thug a last chance to do something decent. Let’s remember, the girl is presumed to be an innocent target. Now if she is my daughter, then I would be the most ruthless of the bunch.
          Let’t honest, no one really knows what they would do in any given situation until they are in it. What makes a Ranger pick up a grenade and throw it back to the bad guys knowing he might loss his own hand and maybe his life in order to save his buddies?
          Your friend in Baltimore.

  • Ken Besig, Israel

    Regarding the morality of shooting of bin Laden and waterboarding
    ala Juan Williams and especially Mr. Donilon:

    Mr. Donilon could just have said that the two acts, both enhanced
    interrogation using means like waterboarding, and shooting an unarmed
    terrorist, are inconsistent with American values, whatever that
    means. But he could also state unequivocally that that sometimes war,
    especially this war on Islamic terrorism, demands difficult and often
    inconsistent decisions.
    Or better yet, Mr. Donilon could have admitted that the shooting of an
    unarmed terrorist was certainly worse, as it definitely is, than
    inflicting reversible and rather mild physical discomfort on a
    terrorist prisoner to obtain information.
    There is nothing morally wrong with stating this obvious fact however
    it may well be politically harmful.
    Mr. Donilon could also have simply stated that waterboarding is wrong
    and that shooting unarmed terrorists is also wrong but that while
    waterboarding is carried out in a conscious, controlled, and
    deliberate way by a government, much like capital punishment is,
    shooting an unarmed terrorist in a combat situation is a possible and
    sometimes unwanted and unexpected outcome of an uncontrolled and
    potentially lethal event like this.
    Indeed, the comparison of the shooting of an unarmed bin Laden with
    imposing capital punishment is probably a far better means of
    understanding the different positions in this important argument.
    This is all academic as far as I am concerned, and I have no problem
    with either enhanced interrogation or the shooting of bin Laden, to my
    way of thinking, they are both necessary parts of the war on Islamic
    terror. The Islamic terrorists by the way are not bound by any rules
    or morals governing their conduct of war except to kill their enemies
    and win. They do not even discusss these morally and spiritually
    important issues like we Westerners do, and that is why we are right,
    why we must and will win, and why the Islamic terrorists deserve to
    and will lose.

    • Kathie Ampela

      The argument the Left endlessly puts forth about morality, American values and “torture” falls flat when compared with the tactics the Obama adminstration have used in its place. We won’t “torture” terrorists we will just kill them…but what about our values? The Predator drone attacks have become a far better recruiting tool for Al Qaeda than Gitmo ever was…we are stirring up a hornet’s nest in Pakistan. So where is the outrage from the Left…where are the calls for investigations for war crimes for the Obama administration? The hypocrisy is so thick you can choke on it.

      I agree with Ken that the most constructive conclusion that all on both sides can come to is that, although it may be distasteful and inconsistent with our “values” to use harsh interrogation techniques, it is a necessary and effective tool when dealing with an enemy such as Islamic terrorism. This debate goes around and around in a circle like the Willowbrook Park merry go ’round that I take my son to…and we keep arriving at the same place.

      I saw your appearance on O’Reilly last night, Bernie…I totally disagree that the evidence regarding waterboarding is muddled. I read Marc Thiessen’s op-ed last week and saw him on Bill’s show..the evidence didn’t seem muddled to me. Enhanced interrogation techniques aren’t used to extract intelligence..they are used to gain cooperation. You break the guy’s willpower and then you ask questions. Questions are asked we already know the answers to see if the guy is still lying.

      As a private citizen, who am I more inclined to believe…former Bush officials who explain the facts to me in a coherent way that I can understand and who did everything in their power to protect us after 9/11..or the MSM who we all know beyond a shadow of a doubt have a horse in the race with respect to Obama. You, Bernie, go on Bill’s show week after week giving examples of media bias…you write a column here on this’ve written books on the subject. So clearly, we know that their objectivity has been compromised to say the least. You expect me to believe their argument that evidence of waterboarding’s success is muddled? And how exactly did they come to the conclusion that the evidence was muddled..based on their Obama lust or their hatred of the Bush administration?

      • Pat Johnson

        Kathie, Ken stays in the middle east so his reference point for civilised behaviour is somewhat muddled. I believe the last case of “enhanced interrogation” was in 2002. It is somewhat strange that Bin ladin was caught 9 years after the last case. This makes a mockery of the imminent risk argument propunded by Bernie Goldberg. If it takes 9 years to link the dots following “enhanced interrogation” then something is very wrong. Most criminal investigations are solved well before that time frame.

        • Paul Courtney

          Your comment makes a mockery of the threat we face. Killing UBL was not Bernie’s example of an imminent threat. UBL may have been back when we doused these guys, or don’t you remember wondering in early ’02 whether they would try to hit the Super Bowl, or LAX, or whatever target Flight 93 failed to hit. Your reference to criminal investigations tells us you don’t get the difference, and you haven’t given this sufficient thought.

        • Ron Kean

          If staying in the middle east muddles one’s reference point for civilized behavior, does that make China, Nigeria, and Antarctica clear reference points? We should hope that mass murderers are found faster than 9 years.

      • Bernie Goldberg


        You are one of my favorite writers on this site … so let me re-state my position.

        I told O’Reilly that “as of tonight” I believe that enhanced interrogation provided information that led to the courier which then led to bin Laden. I made that very clear.

        I then said that a whole bunch of so-called “facts” that came out right after the take-down of bin Laden turned out not to be true. If the facts change tomorrow, I said, or the day after tomorrow, then I’d have to reconsider my belief.

        I used the word “muddled” only to say that we don’t know if enhanced interrogation “helped a little or a lot” … and (as I said earlier in this note) if what we know today will hold up tomorrow.

        And yes, I further said that almost all the high-ranking officials who said enhanced interrogation worked were part of the Bush administration. “That doesn’t mean they’re lying,” I said, but as a journalist I have to question whether they have a dog in the fight that might influence what they say.

        We may still disagree, Kathie, but I believe my position was and still is reasonable.

        Please keep writing …


    • Paul Courtney

      Well said. Daniel Pearl’s murder was one of countless messages from these folks to us, telling us the nature of this enemy. Given that they are unrestrained by civil norms, waterbd and sleep dep don’t seem unreasonable. I’m not ready to advocate chopping off fingers, but those who do are not unreasonable as the ticking gets louder. Before liberals were for daring military action, they generally saw relativity in everything. Soviets, China, do bad things? Well, America did bad things, too, blah blah blah. But when we face an enemy that is literally a death cult, we must abide by a gold standard of conduct, no exception. Allowing waterbd at all raises risk that some rogue cia guy will do you for taking his parking space, yes, it’s a risk I’ll take. Would I be ok with taliban waterbd our captured troops? Putting aside that this would be progress for the taliban, the answer is yes, if a doctor is present and only officers (sorry sirs).

  • John Svengali

    “IS ‘TORTURE’ EVER JUSTIFIED?” It depends, of course. If someone asked me whether suspending Habeas Corpus was ever justified, I’d say, no – on its face. But as a Lincoln-phile, I know that Lincoln suspended Habeas during the US Civil War; and at that time it was justified to hold the Union together. Borrowing the logic of the famed jurist Learned Hand, who significantly developed formulas and reasoning in negligence law, the degree of crisis will necessarily correlate with the degree of response. The fixed-minded critic would preclude suspension of Habeas Corpus or the application of torture/quasi-torture. Some would assert it is moral relativism to stray so far away from our values. But the preconceived notions of never crossing a line, or if the line is crossed, that we may never be able to return is preposterous. Extreme circumstances call for extreme responses, period.

    In the domain of fighting terrorists, why should we fight by Marquess of Queensberry rules, when our enemies use the most despicable tactics? It’s nonsense. Ostensibly, we do not advocate torture or quasi-torture on the grounds of our national values or the fear of losing ourselves irretrievably if we did. There are many examples, however, of “putting the genie back in the bottle.” Here are two: Poison gas was not used after World War I by major warring powers. Nuclear weapons are not used post-World War II to settle wars. Tactics and practices in time of war and Islamic terrorism are relative to the need of effectively resisting and winning. And I want to win. Don’t you?

  • Bob Hadley

    Bill O’Reilly notwithstanding, I’ve heard conflicting reports about what role, if any, enhanced interrogation has played in eliminating Bin Laden. I’ve heard from different sources (at least one a conservative journalist on FNC) that a detainee told interrogators the alias of Bin Laden’s courier before the enhanced interrogation program was instituted. Interrogators then asked KSM and another high ranking terrorist about this courier after they had already been waterboarded. Both of these terrorists denied knowing anything about this courier so vehemently that the interrogators knew they were on to something big (as in “You protest too much”).

    Even if this story is the true one, it does not mean waterboarding isn’t a useful tool to break down one’s resistance, at least when used properly and perhaps in combination with other techniques.

    And, Bill O’Reilly notwithstanding, I don’t think Leon Panetta said that the courier’s name/alias was given after enhanced interrogation. I could be wrong on this, but as I recall, he said that the courier’s identity was revealed after interrorgation–he didn’t say whether it was enhanced.

    The problem is that we have a dearth of straight news reporting of all pertinent facts. I agree with Ted Koppel that at least much of the problem is that news reporting has become a profit making enterprise. The news is too often filtered to get ratings. Partisanship, dressed as and mixed in with news, is profitable.

    As a result, the line between facts and news is becoming increasingly blurred.

    Whatever happened to the late Senator Pat Moynihan’s directive: “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but your’re not entitled to your own facts”? I interpret that to include that you must have all known pertinent facts, not just the facts you like.

    And whatever happened to “Just the facts Ma’am”?

  • Nicholas

    The question of torture and when it should be used and how it should be used is one of the moral quandaries this new age of terrorism forces us to examine. Are we a country of laws? That seems self-explanatory. We are a country of laws but as Bernie pointed out so efficiently, laws can be changed. Law and morality do not always go hand in hand, as Bernie pointed out with the laws that forbid interracial marriage. The question I have for Bernie and the others here is how far are we willing to go? Is saving lives worth sacrificing our humanity?

    I’m not a liberal or a conservative, preferring to make up my own mind rather than be told these are the perspectives I’m supposed to hold. I think that I’m glad I don’t have to make those decisions. I hope that those who make these decisions exhaust all other options before resorting to torture. And let’s call it what it is: torture. Not enhanced interrogation techniques. Plain speech works better than speech that tries to hide something. In the ticking bomb situation, torture should be on the table as a tool to get information but it should not be the only tool in the box. It should be kept in reserve for those situations where all other options have been exhausted. It should not under any circumstance be the first and only option to obtain information.

  • Tom M,

    Never a truer statement than the than the Combs comment. Thank You !!

  • Benjamin Davis

    Even if we passed a law making it legal we would still have our treaty obligations under the Geneva Conventions, the Convention Against Torture, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as customary international law. It is not as simple as just passing a law in Congress.
    Ben Davis

  • Ron Russell

    I would say it depends on the defination of “torture”. It’s been used by almost all states in recorded history in some form.

  • Wil Burns

    Bernie, Torture: It’s a stratgy or tactic favored by totalitarians. It’s anti-democratic, anti-American, and simply immoral. The right-wing in America likes torture; that’s telling and damning, too.

    • Geanie Jordan

      Pul-eeze, enough of this liberal self-righteousness; I’m going to vomit! The left-wing in America likes murdering unborn human babies. What did they do to deserve that? Apparently, it’s O.K. with the liberals for terrorists to wipe out 3,000 innocent American lives, and we can only give them a slap on the wrist! No, I don’t like torture either — but, like it or not, Wil, THIS IS WAR! And WAR IS HELL! Waay back ih 1945, our courageous President, Harry Truman, ordered the atom bomb to be dropped on Japan. The world gasped in shock! I cried for joy a short time later, when Japan surrendered and that horrible war was over. I witnessed Pearl Harbor up close. We didn’t start that war and we didn’t start this one, either. I didn’t vote for Obama and I still wouldn’t do so; but it took guts for him to order the raid on Bin Laden and I praise him for that act! God Bless The United States of America!

      • Pat Johnson

        Geanie, I think you are conflating issues. Abortions raise issues of whether a fetus is human or not. In any event, both abortions and the death penalty infringes on the ten commandments that says thou shall not kill. No exception was made for a suspected terrorist instigator. Lets forget for the moment that Bin Ladin was an American creation used to bleed and bloody the Soviet Union. A monster created by evil for evil that eventually visited evil on its creator! The critical issues are numerous. 1. The assasination was done in a soveriegn country in a manner inimical to the laws of the country in which such action occurred. 2. Bin ladin should have been tried for all terrorist acts committed against the US and for those committed against the soviet Union and the previous Afgan Govt on the behest of the US government. 3. All states and their officials that financed and armed bin laden’s activities (from the Saudi’s to Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reegan) should be tried for accessory to murder. 4. It would be interesting if the fans of this action would agree for sovereign foreign states to now start using drone attacks to flatly level entire apartment bloacks in New York city on the basis of a suspician that a terrorist occupies one of the flats.5. If it is acceptable for the US embarking on extra-territorial killing then it must be acceptable for Israel to do it. If it is acceptable for Israel then it must be acceptable for Iran and North Korea..etc. Where does this lawlessness end.

        • EddieD_Boston

          Terrorists aren’t human. Also, as far as your statement about being “inimical to the laws of the country…”…American businesses are bound by US law when operating in a forgein land. Just pointing it out for conversation purposes.
          Also, and I’m not a anti-abortion zealot, a premature baby can live. They must be human. It’s a woman’s right to choose…birth control.
          Just throwing it out there.

          • Pat.Johnson

            Eddie, please make some effort to mask your ignorance. All businesses are subject to the laws of the place in which they operate. I don’t know what religion you belong to or whether you are an adherent to any religion at all, but the last I looked, all people (bad, good, evil and angelic) are human.

          • EddieD_Boston

            Pat…I said they’re subject to US laws in the country they operate. For someone who obviously can’t read you feel comfortable calling ignorant?

            And, no, terrorists aren’t human, they’re animals.

          • Pat Johnson

            Eddie, First of all I made references to US forces killing a person in a manner “inimical to the laws of the country in which such action occurred”. I.e Pakistan. How this relates to or has any logical connection with “American businesses are bound by US law when operating in a forgein land” beats me. In trying to avoid bein anal, I tried to make sense of this unrelated statement by assuming that you were saying that US people only have to confirm with US law even if they are in a different country. Which is both stupid and ignorant.

            Terrorists, murderers, rapists, investment crooks, world leaders that kill for strategic domination and control of other countries and their resources, ponzi scheme sham artists are all human beings with serious defective character flaws. They are people that believe that the ends justifies the means. Similar to you really!

  • Konrad Lau

    Any time Leftists begin to chatter about morality, it’s time to put on the hip wader boots because it’s about to get deep.

    They would preach their sense of morality in protecting a mad bomber from harsh interrogation but allow a million to die were the bomb to explode.
    They would preach their sense of morality to “protect a woman’s right to choose” (read that kill her otherwise healthy baby as if that were the only choice a woman has in America) and allow 1.5 million or so children’s lives be extinguished each year because of inconvenience.
    They would preach their sense of morality in “Protecting the Planet” while cruising the stratosphere in luxury private jet aircraft.

    The fodder they provide for your television and print commentary on liberal hypocrisy in the media springs from this same, never ending font of misguided self righteousness.

    You can see it.
    I can see it.
    Heck, even they can see it.
    But the objective in their minds is more important than little things like logic or the truth.

  • Tim

    Webster Dictionary definition of “Moral”; relating to Duty or Obligation,

    I wish our liberal politicians who have suddenly adopted a “moral backbone” would get back to law and duty. The debate on enhanced interrogation is not about right or wrong, it’s about duty to country. We ask our soldiers to do the unthinkable in war for duty to country. It’s time our politicians quit trying to define the moral standards of war . Either outlaw enhanced interrogation or clearly define it into law. Our politicians need to do what our soldiers do every day. Do their DUTY!

  • Lily

    If anyone thinks that we aren’t water-boarding anymore I have a bridge for sale, cheap.

    Remember when the libs said we would get rid of the Patriot Act. Its still around. Remember when they said we’d get out of Iraq, we still have soldiers there and until they come home that’s another “promise” broken.

    I maintain that water-boarding is still happening. But since the lame-stream media is still basically in lust with BO, we’ll likely never know. Where are this generations’ Woodward and Bernstein?

    • Nicholas

      That’s an excellent question. We could have used guys like Woodward and Bernstein in the run up to the Iraq War. Funny a self-avowed conservative would look for people like two men who believe in government transparency.

  • Dan Farfan

    While working for a defense contractor a few years ago, I met a man who can most accurately be described as a crusty old veteran. He probably had been protecting this country in and out of the military longer than I’d been alive at that point. He told me a story about a report that was produced years prior that concluded “torture doesn’t work.” I don’t recall if he told me what year, or decade, who asked for it, or even who produced it. The salient detail of his story is that the scope of the report was framed with a very specific objective, assessing the effectiveness of using torture to break the morale of an insurgent population. In other words, the age old challenge – the oppressor keeping control of the oppressed.

    Long story short, “torture doesn’t work”… for that.

    Fast forward to the knuckle-headed times we live in, keep the quote, forget the report, pansy-foot around the topic while trying to stay employed by the voters (or the pols & “media” who hire pundits, advisors and talking heads) and voila, a faux-debate that not only offers close to zero light, but also offers close to zero chance of resolution or compromise or common ground.

    The fundamental question isn’t “torture or not” or even “when to torture”, per se.
    The fundamental issue is threat assessment.
    “Could save innocent American lives” is simply to simplistic to be practical. It’s an okay bumper sticker or a poetic campaign line. But we govern in prose. And we protect with principles.

    The primary dynamics (or categories) of threat assessment are (in no particular order):
    1. The subject (i.e. the person in custody).
    2. The past violent crime (by the subject).
    3. Plausible future violent crime.
    4. Information
    5. “Other people”

    There are questions in each category ( 22 in all ).
    They are too detailed to go into here, but let’s just say they guide the assessment of the threat.
    Answer the questions, the threat is characterized and eventually a plan of action can rationally be selected.

    In my opinion, this is exactly the detailed framework that should guide the debate, so that we don’t spin around chasing our collective tails in a kind of Anecdote Follies with no conclusion but dizziness.


  • EddieD_Boston

    Liberals face quite a dilemma over Obama’s heroics (yes I think he showed guts). It is very obvious we got some very good information from the few that were waterboarded and that Bush did the right thing going to any length to obtain vital intelligence. It has been said already but if Senator Obama had his way we never would have obtained some very critical pieces of the puzzle.
    One more point off topic…I think the reason so many young people took to the streets to celebrate is because their president (they voted for him in very large numbers) scored a huge victory after being a let down to that point. They were cheering Obama more than Osama’s death.

  • http://BernardGoldberg. daryl d duke

    My comment is, You have this lib and the cop have the man, they know buried your wife/son/daughter/ or even your dog. He won’t talk because it show that he is guilty. You lib have 1 hour before the air runs out. The cops leave you alone with him. Now what lib, he ain’t a talken. 59 minutes. How I wish this could be true.

    • Wil Burns

      daryl, You watch way too much TV. That scenario almost never happens in real life. Using a TV plot to justify torture, is sad!

  • Clarence De Barrows

    I swear, our Country is going to debate itself into oblivion. Rough times call for rough tactics! Got a problem in town? Call Wyatt Earp, problem solved.

    • Bruce A.

      Great idea! Except Wyatt Earp never had to deal with the ACLU.
      And I agree, we have gotten way too soft. The endless debates are a sympton.

  • Anthony

    Two minutes with my mother-in-law would have the most hardcore jihadist sing like a canary.

    • JDO

      Lol, is she willing to enter Government service? Sign her up! … of course, subjecting a person to mother-in-law rants MAY be covered by the Geneva Convention …

  • Clarence Keegan

    The proposition outlined goes thus, first the interrogators “suspect” that a person in custody has information on a future occurrence. Goldberg also assumes that the individual “refuses” to talk. What Goldberg has not addressed is the fact that the person being subjected to torture may not infact have such information and the suspicion may be unfounded. The situation then is the interrogators continue to torture and the suspect continues to say he does not know. What then gives. What facts must the interrogators know as a fact before it can assume that the person being tortured actually has that information? Taking Goldberg’s reasoning further, would he agree that subjecting certain humans to experimental testing as guinea pigs (such as the Germans did during the second world war) is acceptable because it would enhance Germany’s ability to avoid defeat and the deaths of so many of its citizens? Would it be permissible for Iranian soldiers to have tortured American’s that strayed into Iran because Iran “suspected” that they were American spies involved in efforts to bomb and kill many Iranians in order to stop Iran’s nuclear programme? Is a suspicion a high enough standard to deviate from acceptable norms of behaviour? The critical issue is that the US has infact signed an agreement that prohibits torture. The next issue then is should a signatory to an agreement be allowed to wantonly abdicate its responsibility. If yes, then on what grounds does it purport to prevent Iran from developing nuclear arms? Afterall, the US position is that Iran is a signatory to the non proliferation treaty!

    The key issues are therefore twofold, Has the US signed legally binding treaties that prohibit the use of Torture? If yes, then it must adhere to its legally binding obligations especially when it expects its own citizens to benefit from treaties that may lead to disastrous consequences for others. A case in point is the case of a CIA officer that murdered two local citizens in Pakistan but which the US government expected Pakistan to refrain from prosecuting the fellow for murder because of the laws signed by all countries that states that all diplomatic staff have immunity from prosecution! All decent human beings will agree that a person should not be allowed to wantonly kill people. Pakistan however was a party to a treaty. The US should either revoke its adherence to certain treaties and then feel free to do whatever it feels is necessary to defend its state and its citizens. It should then accept that it is no different from any third world dictator that tortures, maims and kills in the interest of the stability and security of its state.

    • Paul Courtney

      Very good points, which is why I’m unwilling to go with Bernie’s assumption. We do need to decide what’s torture and what isn’t, and if water boarding is torture, then we can’t do it or we withdraw from a treaty. Bernie’s position is exposed to the likes of Mr. Burn’s comment, below. My answer is, water bd (and sleep dep) is not torture if done under certain conditions. Brief pain, no lasting phys. harm, med personnel on hand, just scare the hell out of ’em. I understand Congress tried to define torture in ’94 and did NOT include water bd. I agree with Tim above-Congress is failing to do its duty on this.

  • Wil Burns

    But, if waterboarding, or some other enhanced interrogation technique, could save innocent American lives, I’m all for it. For me, that’s the moral position.>>

    Then your moral position is, you are for torture. How sad!

  • Wil Burns


    Let’s assume for a moment that the intelligence was gained via waterboarding YEARS ago, when we were still doing it…

    Why then, did Bush not do anything about it, since Bin Laden was apparently living in that compound for over 5 years??

    • begbie

      I would recommend you read up on the particulars of the entire investigation, including the Alec Station group. It takes years to put this stuff together and it’s fascinating. Check out a Tom Clancy novel. Yeah, I know it’s fiction….but all based on real-life technologies, intelligence, and tactics.

      And it’s also important to appreciate the scale of the intelligence community’s reach and responsibility. There’s no doubt that waterboarding works. Even if the info gained was false, we’d find that out anyway and waterboard that SOB again for lying! For the record, I’m for torture.

    • joe from louisiana

      You watch way to much TV. That scenario almost never happens in real life. Cases like this take years. You must condone terrorism by always sounding so sanctimonious, how sad. The irony here is the left slowly chips away at personal liberties of Americans they don’t agree with, yet are adamant about the gray areas of what rights does a belligerent non-national expect to receive.

  • Cameron D. MacKay

    Thank you for your very thoughtful argument however allow me to take umbrage with your logic. Implicitedly your question is this: “does the end justify the means?” By proceeding with that line of argument you have avoided the real question which is: ” is it moral to used waterboarding as an enhanced interrogation technique when you are dealing with terrorists in a Postmodern society in which untold havoc can be exercised by these terrorists in a stateless war?

    The liberal’s line is no … but they always reference the Geneva Conventions which dealt with conventional war by Wester European States [basically] who conducted war within a specified paradygm. Such definitions of what conduct is acceptable or unacceptable has absolutely nothing to do with terrorists who play be rules which even Nazi Germany did not employ. Therefore the question of whether or not waterboardings is moral or immoral is by no means clear.

    Rather than using the “ends justify the means” argument, I prefer a Kantian approach. That is, can America agree that waterboarding, when dealing with terrorists to prevent a future crime, is acceptable for any other nation which is so threatened?

    I think most reasonable people would agree that if some American terrorist was threatening another nation with a nuclear terrorist act, that that nation would be justified in using waterboarding to prevent a nuclear holocaust. If you come to that conclusion then waterboarding in the situation you outlined is moral and the liberal argument is flawed.

    The above approach, I suggest, is a much safer approach than the “ends justify the means” approach.

    • Paul Courtney


  • RecknHavic

    When fighting an enemy that uses tactics that are outside of the box, one must also use tactics that are outside of the box.

  • Bob Hadley


    I largely agree with your article, but I think it’s more appropriate to modify your ticking time-bomb example as follows: An experienced interrogator has a known terrorist in his custody; the interrogator has just received very credible information that a nuclear device has been planted near Time Sguare and is set to explode at midnight, at the turn of the year; it’s now 11:10 p.m. on Dec. 31; the interrogator tells the terrorist that he will chop off all his fingers, one at a time, unless he gives the location and other necessary info about the nuclear device; the device is located and neutralized before midnight and the terrorist only has six fingers left; the interrogator explains that the process of breaking down the terrorist’s resistance by waterboarding or any other less damaging technique would probably take too long (after-all KSM is reported to have given up key info regarding Osama’s courier long after his month-long series of waterboarding); the interrogator also explains that he did not have time to go up the chain of command.

    In this case, I’d say the interrogator did the right thing, if the facts as given are true. I also think, however, think that the feds should have a policy similar to that of at least certain police departments when an officer shoots someone. When a police officer shoots someone the case automatically is submitted for internal review. If the facts are clearly on the officer’s side, he’s cleared. If there is anything troubling about the review, there’s an opportunity to learn and perhaps refine or modify the department’s policy.

    In the case of enhanced interrogation, I think the review should be made public, at least at some point. In addition, I think the review committee should be fairly diverse, sans politicians or those in the political arena–perhaps we should recruit retired politicians.

    I find it interesting that I have never heard someone say, “Enhanced interrogation can work, at least in some cases, but is immoral and should not be used.” It’s always the same line, “Enhanced interrogation is immoral and should never be used, and, oh by the way, it never works.” Ideologues often give their moral or ideological argument and then recite that, in addition, what they’re against doesn’t work or what they’re for will benefit everyone. Similarly, i can’t remember any purist against tax increases admitting that increasing taxes is a tool to balance the budget and to reduce the national debt. It’s always–or at least very often–the same old line: tax increases are unfair/thievary and, oh by the way, they can’t increase revenue and/or they necessarily lead to increased spending.

    Yes, I think torture and enhanced interrogation are tools to fight terrorism, but that their use should be carefully limited and subject to independent review.

    • Wil Burns

      Yes, I think torture and enhanced interrogation are tools to fight terrorism, but that their use should be carefully limited and subject to independent review.>>

      Just dandy, let have rules and guidelines for torture. If that males it okay. Get real!

      • Bob Hadley

        Rules and guidelines do not make torture OK. What makes it OK is an array of factors giving rise to professional judgment that torture is necesssary to neutralize an immediate threat of mass murder in the form of terrorism.

        I fully realize that there’ll be a real problem if the terrorist is tortured, continues to deny any pertinent knowledge and the anticpated “ticking time-bomb” threat turns out to be a false alarm. That is one reason why we need close supervision, review and training to minimize this possibility and to only use torture in narrowly defined cases.. But what if the terrorist isn’t tortured but indicates he knows the location and type of nuclear device that is set to go off, doesn’t divulge any information, an atomic device goes off and kills throngs of innocent people?

        Life is full of judgment calls. In such a situation as described above, the interrogator makes a judgment call no matter what he does or doesn’t do. But you would apparently have him make a judgment call on the basis of an abstraction. I would rather the interrogator make a professional judgment based on strict guidelines and on the circumstances before him.

        • Wil Burns

          Bob, If torture is so effective, how come the police don’t use these methods?

          i.e. kidnapping suspects.

          • Bob Hadley

            I’m unaware of when police have had a suspect in custody who has knowledge fitting the “ticking time-bomb” scenario as set forth above. If you have such info, please send me the link. But, my hunch is that, in such a case, the police might call the FBI. Again, if you’re aware of either the police or the FBI being faced with such a scenario, please send me the link

      • EddieD_Boston

        If some sub-human is in a terrorist camp willfully being trained to blow up innocent people then he should be tortured just for the exercise.

        • Bob Hadley

          You’re thinking with your emotions, just like the liberals.

          • EddieD_Boston

            Maybe I’m a closet liberal.

        • Wil Burns

          Eddie, If that subhuman were you, well…

          • EddieD_Boston

            You mean someday when I’m in a terrorist camp?

  • Cyberquill

    What I find most fascinating about this debate is that those who consider enhanced interrogation immoral also tend to believe it’s ineffective anyway. Is there anyone who deems it immoral in spite of being potentially effective? These seem to be two entirely separate issues.

    That said, if waterboarding weren’t effective, why would anybody want to use it at all? If it were so obvious that “tortured” individuals always lie just to end their discomfort, thus sending their interrogators on a pointless wild goose chase, the technique would have gone extinct a long time ago, and we wouldn’t be having this debate in the first place.

    • Wil Burns

      the technique would have gone extinct a long time ago>>

      Really? You know, some sick people get off, torturing others. And, are you comfortable having our country known for torture!

      • Joe

        Wil, your argument assumes that the US military and its intelligence agencies are manned *primarily* by sadistic psychos. Sure, there are anomalous individuals in the military, CIA, etc. The question, though, is why anyone would want to maintain waterboarding as *policy* if it simply didn’t work. And by the way, the argument Bernie makes is that it should be only the President who could authorize it on a case-by-case basis, so those bad apples in the services don’t really matter. Oh, and, consider this: There are soldiers and cops who are indiscriminate and over-eager in their use of guns; should we, then, send our troops and our police into action armed only with…umm…maybe CD-players loaded with Obama’s speeches?
        I’m afraid, Wil, your argument fails the logic test.

        • Wil Burns

          Joe, ‘The Abu Ghraib Prison!’

      • Cyberquill

        I’m not comfortable having our country known for torture, but I do believe that if coerced interrogation techniques are used, it is primarily those who oppose such techniques who’ll use the word “torture” over and over in order to make sure our country will be known for that.

        • Tim

          I’m confused. Every Navy Seal is water boarded. Why isn’t Wil all over that issue of torturing our own?

          The fact is Wil and you know it. It’s not about torture it’s about your politics!

          • Wil Burns

            Tim, Torture people! And you compares interrogations to SERE training. Yes. We put our own people through that, as an exercise in endurance. However, I’m quite sure that no one enters SERE training believing that the trainers might ACTUALLY KILL YOU. And there’s also, no transactional element to SERE training: give up this information or the torture will continue.

          • Cyberquill

            To compare waterboarding in the course of a real-life interrogation to waterboarding during SERE training is certainly far more valid than to compare waterboarding to gouging out someone’s eyes or other forms of torture that result in physical injury or even permanent disability.

  • Bob

    Damn you Bernie! Your last paragraph really made me think….really! You articulate well the DIFFERENCE between the treatment of anyone for a crime already committed vs. a crime that can be prevented. Personally, I don’t like the use of the term “crime” in the same sentence as ‘terrorism”, but I won’t quibble about that for the sake of this particular article.

    I have steered clear of the concept of “preventative measures” – not because it isn’t a valid discussion. But because that discussion is too easily morphed into the charge we can punish someone for something that hasn’t even happened yet. No one will ever accuse me of being soft on crime (or terrorism), but I would fear the slippery slope of such an idea. (I think Tom Cruise starred in a movie about such things? Not sure)


  • Kathie Ampela

    Forgive me, Bernie, but I’ve just about had it with this debate. There are those on the Left, certain TV pundits, journalists and Hollywood celebrities who say what they say merely to get invited to the right cocktail parties. They could care less about the safety and security of millions of Americans and they have no idea what they are talking about, anyway. Sipping Cristal champagne and munching on Beluga caviar are what’s important…being accepted in to the club is what’s important. Bush bashing became fashionable between the years 2003 and 2008. These people create a culture of false idol worship. The mock and villify anyone who has the courage and integrity to stand for something. Much of the bitter divide that occured in this country during the Bush years happened because of these people. As for me, I was 4 blocks from the WTC on 9/11..luckily the structural engineer who designed the WTC made it strong enough to withstand the impact of a plane or else I would not be sitting here talking to you right now. The Bush administration did what was right in the aftermath of 9/11…another reason I’m sitting here talking to you right now.

  • Paul Courtney

    Alan Colmes would ignore the merits and shout that you’re just trying to restore the reputation of G. Bush (we all know which one). I bring that up because it was such a classic example of changing the subject when one is losing the argument. He appeared to have an emotional investment in the idea that GW was worst pres. in history, and would brook no point to the contrary. Out of the other side of his mouth, he’ll complain that conservatives refuse to give Obama credit. The Times does have a principled response, that American willingness to sacrifice lives for a greater cause is part of what makes us exceptional. Of course, this confuses acts of valor by soldiers with the potential slaughter of innocents like sheep. Let’s try this- would the Times change its view if some of the potential victims of the A-bomb were undocumented residents (their term, not mine)? I mean, Americans can die for a principle, but do undocumented residents have to share our principles? Thanks for fine lesson in logic.

  • Bruce A.

    The far lefts view on waterboarding is that is still not ok, despite the valuable information obatined.
    It is ironic that shooting someone in the head is ok.

    • JDO

      It’s a good thing the SEALs are good shots, then (not that there was any doubt). If Osama had been shot in the arms or legs, and died a slow death in torturous pain, the Left would’ve been all over Obama for that … oh, wait, nahhh.