Waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques were not a factor in tracking down Osama bin Laden, a leading Republican senator insisted Thursday.
Sen. John McCain, who spent 5½ years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, also rejected the argument that any form of torture is critical to U.S. success in the fight against terrorism.
In an impassioned speech on the Senate floor, the Arizona Republican said former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and others who supported those kind of measures were wrong to claim that waterboarding al-Qaida's No. 3 leader, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, provided information that led to bin Laden's compound in Pakistan.
McCain spoke with an unrivaled record on the issue. He's the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee who consistently challenged the Bush administration and Vice President Dick Cheney on the use of torture and a man who endured brutal treatment during the Vietnam War.
He said he asked CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts, and that the hunt for bin Laden did not begin with fresh information for Mohammed. In fact, the name of bin Laden's courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, came from a detainee held in another country.
"Not only did the use of enhanced interrogation techniques on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed not provide us with key leads on bin Laden's courier, Abu Ahmed, it actually produced false and misleading information," McCain said. He called on Mukasey and others to correct their misstatements.
This was a sterling example of leadership by Sen. McCain. For far too long (since the 2008 election, in fact), McCain has pandered to the lunatic fringe in his party, adopting increasingly far-fetched, conservative views on a range of issues. But, as the one man in the Senate who can speak authoritatively on the subject of torture, Sen. McCain's speech on the Senate floor was a welcome breath of fresh air. McCain knows firsthand how ineffective torture is, and reminded us in his speech that torture is not only against the law, but a danger to our troops everywhere, and a crime against the soul of our country.
Since before the Revolutionary War, the torture of prisoners has been specifically outlawed by the U.S. military. Torture is illegal under military regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which is "the foundation of military law in the United States." The torture of prisoners (or "detainees"...yeah, like Gitmo is a damn hotel!) is also illegal under American civilian law, as well as being illegal under international laws and treaties to which we are a signatory, a fact that somehow escaped the notice of the Bush administration chickenhawks. When President Obama resumed enforcement of the prohibitions against torture, I frankly cheered. Only blind, evil idiots like John Yoo (who conjured up the "legal" cover for the Bush administration's love of waterboarding and sleep deprivation as interrogation techniques), former BushCo Attorney General Michael Mukasey, a torture fan who McCain basically called a liar, and ex-VP and demon from hell Dick Cheney still insist that waterboarding and other coercive techniques reverse-engineered from the Navy's SERE course were effective.
It angers and disgusts me that there is even an argument in this country over the use of torture! For a nation that professes a belief in God with every other breath, we still somehow manage to have far too many fools who seem to base their opinions on important issues like this from what they've seen on TV and in the movies, rather than from a moral or ethical standpoint. America has too many gap-toothed idiots (in flesh and/or spirit) who, lacking any experience, insight, knowledge, or forethought - much less the capacity for such - form their opinions from an emotional basis, rather than from an intellectual, legal, or moral one. And torture doesn't work as an interrogation technique.
It strikes me that the people who support the use of torture as an interrogation technique have watched far too many episodes of "24." Osama bin Laden is dead, and we didn't have to nearly drown someone to find him. I'm happy to see that John McCain once again supports the rule of law.