Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"A President can't placate the left and keep America safe."

That's the subheading of an excellent editorial up at the Wall Street Journal.  It gives a useful perspective on the whole torture memos controversy, in contrast to the hysterical ranting of the usual suspects. Here are some key points.
CIA interrogators wanted to use these techniques in 2002 to break a terrorist they believed had information that could potentially save American lives. Rest assured that if the CIA hadn't taken these steps and the U.S. had been hit again, the same people denouncing these memos now would have been demanding another 9/11 Commission to deplore their inaction.
There's little doubt about that. Look at the attacks on Bush for not preventing 9/11, despite his short time in office. If Bush erred in ordering the torture of Al Qaeda leaders -- and he didn't -- he did so in the direction of protecting national security.
In a saner world (or at least one that accurately reported on original documents), all of this would be a point of pride for the CIA. It would serve as evidence of the Bush Administration's scrupulousness regarding the life and health of the detainees, and demonstrate how wrong are the claims that harsh interrogations yielded no useful intelligence.

That kind of statement will probably cause exploding heads among the terrorist rights crowd, but the Journal is correct. People like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were treated better than they deserved, and are still alive and in one piece today because of U.S. restraint. Some of us would have authorized far more extreme techniques, followed by a summary execution once all useful information had been extracted.

The Journal editorial concludes by observing that there is no way President Obama will be able to satisfy the "revenge fantasies" of his left-wing base without "weakening American intelligence capabilities." A crippled CIA that is more worried about legal niceties than doing its job is not what we need to defend the nation against terrorist threats.

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