Extreme Interrogation Was Legal, But Was It Moral?

In spite of the Democrat report on extreme interrogation, an NBC poll shows that only 28% of the people think the interrogators “went too far.”

War is gruesome business in all of its forms. Questions of law and morals abound, and in this case the Holder Justice department concluded that no laws were broken.

“If you knew that there was a nuclear time bomb hidden somewhere in New York City — set to go off today — and you had a captured terrorist who knew where and when, would you not do anything to make him tell you where and when? Would you pause to look up the definition of “torture”? Would you even care what the definition of “torture” was, when the alternative was seeing millions of innocent people murdered?”

Thomas Sowell in the National Review

The question of morals remains, and I can tell you having been in battle that morals are left to each man, or in the case of naval warfare, each ship — although that also is the moral decision of one man, the Commanding Officer.

Let me posit a moral question that was debated in every wardroom of a Fast Attack Submarine on which I served: you are the CO of an Attack Submarine, on patrol in an assigned patrol area. You get a message, A high-priority heavy will transit the NE corner of your area at 02000 on the 28th of the month. SINK IT WITHOUT FAIL!” (These last words mean that the target is so special that even if it means the loss of your submarine and all of the crew, this target MUST be sunk!

You maneuver into position, and make all torpedo tubes ready, listening to a large ship approaching. You flood all tubes forward, and open all bow doors of all six tubes. You use SONAR to establish a target course and speed but as you are ready to commence shooting you raise your periscope for a final range and angle on the bow — and promptly lower the scope.

The ship has a huge Red Cross on its side!

What do you do? Quickly! You have perhaps 15 seconds to decide.

There is no right answer. Every CO might have a different answer, and there is no right one. I have been in heated conversations with Officers on both sides…with Commanding Officers on both sides.

(My answer, and I was Qualified for Command of Submarines, was “Tube 1, Set, Shoot, Fire 1, Make Ready Tube 2, Set, Shoot, Tube 2…)

I know that the Japanese used Red Cross ships in WWII to transport troops, transfer Americans to prison camps, and to transport ammunition.

If my Commanders think that ship has such high priority that it is worth the lives of my crew, I’ll take that shot!

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2 Responses

  1. I was thinking that I would put every ship in the scope on the bottom, red cross or not. In the bomb in New York or flash message situations, a stable military guy would do what they had to do and most of those folks would live with some guilt because we are not monsters. The nuclear guys in the missile silos have the same questions. Turn the key and end the world or not. It is a tough place to be and that is why you and I were trained to follow procedures and not to interpret the order.

    But, on the issue of torture I feel differently. In SERE school, I was water boarded, placed in stress conditions and everything else that the bad guys got to experience. Except they experienced it for a prolonged period of time. We as a nation have done a poor job in the past few years of explaining the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, when and how they were used and when their use can be terminated.

    There is also a issue to determining who is responsible to give a legal order. The President can give an wide ranging order but somewhere down the chain of command, that legal responsibility becomes less clear and when the interrogator is given unlimited freedom to use the enhanced interrogations then it crosses a line from legal to uncertain and I that is where many of the interrogators found themselves.

    I think there is a value to using them but there is also a point when they cross the line from being effective into the torture realm. Everything is videotaped and every word is recorded and ever interrogation can be reviewed at any time for accuracy. I also believe that any good police detective can be just as effective in extracting information from a terrorist. The only value that enhanced interrogation has is when there is a time constraint in getting that information.

    The FBI agent that interrogated Saddam Hussein didn’t use any enhanced interrogation and was able to extract all the information that Saddam had. It takes time to gain that level of information but it is probably more trustworthy than information gained quickly and in the heat of battle.

    • In no particular order, except that my memory remembers the last, first.

      Saddam was a despotic ruler, pampered beyond our concept — he could have been broken by a cook who simply burned his poached egg!

      I agree that the public does not understand. I forgot who said it last night, and I don’t know the validity, but someone said more journalists have been waterboarded than were terrorists, and more than 10,000 US personnel!

      But time is the deciding factor, and after 9/11 there was a real clamor for information to stop a second wave.

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