The CIA's use of waterboarding has often made many Americans uncomfortable. Yet, one has to admit the method does not seem so cruel when compared to the barbarity ISIS has shown in its pursuit of global jihad. That's the point Donald Trump tried to make on ABC's "This Week" Sunday when arguing that we need to revisit the interrogation technique in the wake of last weekend's terror attacks in Paris:
“I think waterboarding is peanuts compared to what they do to us,” the Republican presidential candidate said. “What they're doing to us, what they did to James Foley when they chopped off his head, that’s a whole different level and I would absolutely bring back interrogation and strong interrogation."
Waterboarding involves putting a cloth over someone's face and pouring water over it, causing the sensation of drowning, ABC explains. The United Nations has defined the technique as torture. Yet, the Justice Department has concluded that the technique has proven to be essential following the attacks on September 11. The CIA said that the use of waterboarding on al Qaeda leader Khalid Sheik Mohammed, for instance, helped thwart a potential attack on Los Angeles. While Mohammed was uncooperative at first, once the CIA employed waterboarding, he started to talk:
After he was subjected to the “waterboard” technique, KSM became cooperative, providing intelligence that led to the capture of key al Qaeda allies and, eventually, the closing down of an East Asian terrorist cell that had been tasked with carrying out the 9/11-style attack on Los Angeles.
So, while the media may chalk this up as yet another controversial Trumpism, his supporters will likely agree with his comparison.
I attended a conference in Washington, D.C. a few years ago in which a foreign policy expert noted that journalists underwent waterboarding as a means to write a report on it. As he noted, if a journalist is willing to try it, "it's not torture."