Torture?  Sounds Like A Swimmingly Good Idea

By:  Rachel Marsden

President George Bush's nominee for attorney general, Judge Michael Mukasey, may end up getting dunked at his Senate confirmation hearing because he refuses to call waterboarding torture.

According to the Geneva Convention, prisoners of war are afforded certain protections. But contrary to what some folks might believe, we're not talking about prisoners of war here. In the war on terror, we're dealing largely with "unlawful enemy combatants" -- unaccountable freelancers who dress like they're coming out of philosophy class at UC Berkeley.

If you want full legal protections that come with engaging in legitimate warfare, then go join an army and put on a uniform so that Western forces can spot you before you head into a civilian centre with a bomb strapped to yourself and blow up innocent people.

Think they play by Geneva Convention rules when they get a hold of someone from our side? Not a chance.

Ever since the 17th century Military Revolution aligned armies with nation states rather than rich guys, it has always been completely legal to just kill unlawful enemy combatants on the battlefield. But since there's a possibility they might know something, sometimes it's worth keeping them around.

Intelligence saves lives. Two years ago, the White House detailed several terror attacks that had been foiled through intel gathering. It's worth its weight in gold during wartime -- which is why, for example, during the Cold War, the Russians paid traitors like the FBI's Robert Hanssen and the CIA's Aldrich Ames millions of dollars for it.


Now consider the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind who ultimately claimed to have been involved in dozens of terrorist plots. He was found dressed like a slob, naturally, and also apparently in possession of a letter from Osama bin Laden. Think he might have known a thing or two?

I'm not sure how folks who are critical of the CIA's interrogation techniques would suggest eliciting intelligence from guys like this. Perhaps by offering him some tasty snacks and the love and understanding that he lacked as a child?

The CIA doesn't do what they do for kicks. As CIA Director Michael Hayden explained the other day, interrogation techniques serve a purpose.

So now that we've established that the detainees in question aren't even protected by the Geneva convention, and that they often have crucial information that can save lives, what about the idea of waterboarding as "torture"?

When asked about it during a recent CNN appearance, I suggested that "one man's torture is another's CIA-sponsored swim lesson." In case anyone thought I was being facetious -- I wasn't.

I suppose that those who object to terror suspects getting water up the nose would say that, as a young competitive swimmer, I was also tortured. It was called "hypoxic training" -- swimming underwater and holding our breath until we passed out. Our coaches didn't call it torture, just an exercise in "mental toughness." So think of it this way -- terror suspects are getting some free mental toughness training courtesy of the U.S. government.

Here's another idea to make the concept more palatable to objectors: Call the place where waterboarding is performed "The CIA Centre For Aquatic Excellence," give all participants an "I survived training camp" T-shirt with the centre's logo on it, and treat them to a couple of carbo-loading pancake breakfasts. It worked for us.