Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Think Before Speak

If one wishes to be a presidential candidate, the most important lesson you can internalize is that every single word out of your mouth will be dissected, examined, twisted and re-interpreted. Newt Gingrich learned that on day two of his campaign this year when he indicated support for an individual mandate on healthcare insurance and a trashing of Paul Ryan's proposal as "right-wing social engineering." Regardless of what the nuances of his statement were, the headline was that Newt was a big fan of Obamacare. That's not a winning strategy.

Now we've got Rick Santorum saying this:

McCain Doesn't Understand Enhanced Interrogation

Let's examine that. Everyone is well aware that John McCain was a guest of the North Vietnamese for five and a half years. Unless you are also a Holocaust denier you also accept that the NVN were brutal torturers of our POWs. McCain understands harsh interrogation very well. It is ridiculous to propose that he doesn't.

McCain has spoken out against water-boarding and torture of detainees. It is important to note at this point that I just used two words to describe actions. Torture is one and water-boarding is the other. They are not necessarily synonymous. In fact we should also be aware that since the Cold War days of the 1950s our aircrews and other military personnel have been trained in interrogation resistance techniques that include most of the menu of approved "enhanced" methodologies. We do it to our guys!

So, McCain says torture is going to be ineffective in terms of real information with any degree of reliability. He may be correct in that assumption.

Santorum said that McCain doesn't understand the enhanced interrogation methods used on Khalid Sheik Mohammed and the intelligence trail that eventually led us to UBL. That may also be correct and not quite as outrageous as the news item would make it.

KSM didn't get water-boarded and simply say, "pick up Abdul bin-Peoria and he will tell you where UBL lives." It was a long and arduous trail constructed piece-by-piece. Information gathered by detainees under duress was compiled and eventually led us somewhere.

McCain's experience is not with sophisticated and trained interrogators but with brutal and sadistic questioners. He abhors torture because he knows how debasing it is and he seeks to portray America as better than that. He is correct in that regard. The position, however, can not be viewed as a simple one. It isn't at all.

Santorum sought to make a contrast and in the process looks like a buffoon in saying that he knows more about torture than McCain. Santorum's position isn't that simple either.

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