I don't mean to upset Andrew Sullivan again. But I think that most
Democrats are showboating on "waterboarding." And they will pay with the
election if they don't stop. Frankly, it's my opinion that the
presidential candidates have clamped onto this example of admittedly very
dubious behavior to signal to the party's left (which is the constituency that
determines who's the nominee) that they think this defense against terrorism
is a supposedly grave, grave issue. Hillary, of course, has hemmed and hawed the most, but not for the most cynical of reasons, but because she realizes that the issue is complicated, not simple.
What do they really believe? Who knows?
Alan Dershowitz has made the case in this morning's Wall Street Journal.
And in his article he cites none other than Bill Clinton on the specifics:
Consider, for example, the contentious and emotionally laden issue of the use of torture in securing preventive intelligence information about imminent acts of terrorism--the so-called "ticking bomb" scenario. I am not now talking about the routine use of torture in interrogation of suspects or the humiliating misuse of sexual taunting that infamously occurred at Abu Ghraib. I am talking about that rare situation described by former President Clinton in an interview with National Public Radio:
"You picked up someone you know is the No. 2 aide to Osama bin Laden. And you know they have an operation planned for the United States or some European capital in the next three days. And you know this guy knows it. Right, that's the clearest example. And you think you can only get it out of this guy by shooting him full of some drugs or waterboarding him or otherwise working him over."
He said Congress should draw a narrow statute "which would permit the president to make a finding in a case like I just outlined, and then that finding could be submitted even if after the fact to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court." The president would have to "take personal responsibility" for authorizing torture in such an extreme situation. Sen. John McCain has also said that as president he would take responsibility for authorizing torture in that "one in a million" situation.
Although I am personally opposed to the use of torture, I have no doubt that any president--indeed any leader of a democratic nation--would in fact authorize some forms of torture against a captured terrorist if he believed that this was the only way of securing information necessary to prevent an imminent mass casualty attack. The only dispute is whether he would do so openly with accountability or secretly with deniability. The former seems more consistent with democratic theory, the latter with typical political hypocrisy.