June 16, 2024

Democrats Evolve Stance on Terrorist Interrogations

Glenn Greenwald reports the inevitable: Democrats’ attitude about harsh interrogation techniques has changed now that their man has been elected and is about to assume responsibility for the continued security of the free world.  It’s an unenviable job in many respects, in particular with regard the potential for being blamed for the 9/11, 7/7, or Mumbia that takes place on U.S. soil.  Not coincidentally, Indian leaders are confronted with the same question.  How hard should they press "baby-faced gunman" and murderer Azam Amir Kasab?  What rights do terrorists caught in the act of mass murder have?  And do those rights diminish because of the threat of follow-up terrorist attacks?


"in an interview on Tuesday, Mrs. Feinstein indicated that extreme cases might call for flexibility."  And:  "’I think that you have to use the noncoercive standard to the greatest extent possible,’ she said, raising the possibility that an imminent terrorist threat might require special measures."

Diane Feinstein is a very liberal Democrat, so her reversal is telling.  Democrats, to their credit, will do what’s necessary to defend the United States against terrorists.  Good for them – it’s their responsibility now, one they desperately wanted to take on.  That Democrats’ over-the-top denouncements of the Bush administration’s policies on interrogation was mere politics is now obvious, as I predicted on many occasions.  They will do what they have to in order to meet their new responsibilities.  That will make many progressives angry but should help alleviate some of the fears the rest of the country has about the Democrats’ willingness face the real difficulties in the world.

Across the Pacific, India faces a similar challenge in regard to the recent terrorists attacks in Mumbai.  They are planning to "administer truth serum" to an alleged Pakistani national named Azam Amir Kasab. 

Police interrogators in Mumbai told The Times that they are poised to settle the matter of Kasab’s nationality through the use of "narcoanalysis" – a controversial technique, banned in most democracies, where the subject is injected with a truth serum.

The method was widely used by Western intelligence agencies during the Cold War, before it emerged that the drugs used – typically the barbiturate sodium pentothal – may induce hallucinations, delusions and psychotic manifestations

American anti-torture activists would probably consider truth serum treatments a form of torture in its own right.  Certainly it violates the spirit of America’s constitutional right to refuse to incriminate oneself.  India seems prepared to address the issue more directly than we can here in America.  In fact, a friend from India has doubts about whether the truth serum plan is real.  He says that Indian authorities are more likely to beat the fire out of the terrorist than to use finesse.

That’s fine by me.  Kasab and his fellow terrorists gave up the right to the protections of civilized society when they fired their first shots in Mumbai.  Whatever happens to him at the hands of the Indian government, Kasab himself justified his treatment by his own treacherous, murderous actions.  The bottom line is that facts about what others in his terrorist cadre might be planning must become known, through whatever means necessary.  Gentlemen’s debates about whether or not to torture – and how to define the term – come after the fact in the comfort of a secure environment, not in the heat of battle.

That’s a truth that the Democrats in Congress are beginning to come to terms with. 


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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