Yesterday’s New York Times reported on the antics of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four other detainees being tried at Guantanamo as the planners of the September 11 terrorist attacks on America. Needless to say, the trial is a something of a circus because of the behavior of these five men. Al Qaeda and its related groups have very little respect for the American justice system (military or civilian), and play our courts and our media very well. I don’t have any other comments on the article, but I mention it because it leads to what I want to say.
Today’s New York Post posted a story by Gary Buiso explaining some of the details of how we eventually collected information from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Just as America waterboards many of its military to prepare them for what will happen to them if they are taken prisoner by an enemy of America, Al Qaeda and related groups prepare their terrorists for what will happen to them if the Americans capture them (we used to capture them and send them somewhere for questioning–now we simply kill them with drones and cut off our source of information). The source of the story in The New York Post is a book titled “Hard Measures” by ex-CIA official José Rodriguez, Jr.
The article at the New York Post mentions Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s response to waterboarding. He had been coached on how it worked and how long it would last, and he simply counted on his fingers until it was over. Waterboarding alone would not have resulted in America getting the information we needed to understand the organization of Al Qaeda and eventually find Osama Bin Laden.
So what made Khalid Sheikh Mohammed talk–the experiencial equivalent of having a newborn baby in the house!
Ex-CIA official José Rodriguez Jr., told The Post:
The first day he was in custody, Mohammed — who attended college in Greensboro, NC — initially pretended to only speak Urdu, fooling no one. Officers forced him to stand, and after hours of questioning, his weakness for shut-eye began to show.
“Here’s the deal,” an interrogator said. “I know you speak English. I want you to politely ask me to let you go to sleep.”
The idea was to demonstrate to Mohammed “that he was no longer in control,” Rodriguez says. Officers would later keep him awake for 180 hours straight — 7 1/2 days. Loud noises and stress positions — where a detainee is shackled and forced to stand, putting intense pressure on the leg muscles — were used.
Other than the stress positions, that really does sound a lot like different stages of parenting. One of my daughters had a child who finally slept through the night after about a year. By the time that year was over, I think she and her husband would have given about anything for a good night sleep. As for loud noises, what do you say to parents who are raising a child who is a gifted drummer?
My point here is that there is a legal definition of torture–it does not include simply making someone uncomfortable.
The article reminds us:
One of Mohammed’s frequently stated goals was to be put on trial in civilian court in New York — which nearly happened until Congress last year blocked the Justice Department from transferring any Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States.
“It seemed to us that he was looking for a platform from which he could spout his hatred for all things American, and a trial would certainly present that opportunity,” Rodriguez writes. “It strikes me as more than a little ironic that several years later, Attorney General Eric Holder almost granted KSM his wish.”
A civilian trial in New York would have been made into a circus with the antics of these five prisoners. Thank God it never happened.
There is one other comment in the New York Post article I would like to mention:
“More than one detainee expressed surprise when slapped, and told the interrogator, ‘Hey, you aren’t supposed to do that!’ The al Qaeda training manual told them that Americans would treat them with kid gloves!” Rodriguez writes.
We can’t win the war on terror wearing kid gloves. Even if we are not planning to use torture, it might be a good idea to let our enemies think we are. We are not dealing with nice people–we are dealing with people who cut off the heads of innocent people with dull knives and think it is fun. We need to remember that.