Cheney vs. Ignatieff on waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - Macleans.ca

Cheney vs. Ignatieff on waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

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The scene from Washington D.C.: President Barack Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder has named a prosecutor to investigate alleged CIA abuses of terror detainees. Former Vice President Dick Cheney gives an interview to Fox News regarding this decision and what he calls a political investigation rather than a law enforcement action. “Enhanced Interrogation” as it is euphemistically called by its supporters and “torture” by its detractors, was carried out numerous times during the Bush presidency since 9/11.

Michael Ignatieff has published opinions on waterboarding and targeted assassinations (which the Cheney interview also addresses regarding predator drone strikes into Pakistan). As CIA officials are facing potential prosecution in the US regarding enhanced interrogation/torture, and lawyers who provided legal opinion regarding these techniques now face disbarment, it may be a good time for the Liberal leader to clarify his justification of the use of waterboarding against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks.

Michael Ignatieff from Prospect Magazine, April 2006:

I submit that we would not be “waterboarding” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed—immersing him in water until he experiences the torment of nearly drowning—if our intelligence operatives did not believe it was necessary to crack open the al Qaeda network that he commanded. Indeed, Mark Bowden points to a Time report in March 2003 that Sheikh Mohammed had “given US interrogators the names and descriptions of about a dozen key al Qaeda operatives believed to be plotting terrorist attacks.” We must at least entertain the possibility that the operatives working on Sheikh Mohammed in our name are engaging not in gratuitous sadism but in the genuine belief that this form of torture—and it does qualify as such—makes all the difference.

Dick Cheney from Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace today:

CHRIS WALLACE: The CIA released two other documents this week. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, preeminent source in al Qaeda — while they say that the overall program got absolutely crucial information, they do not conclude whether the enhanced interrogation programs worked. They just are kind of agnostic on the program and then there’s what President Obama calls the core issue.

DICK CHENEY: Well, these two reports are versions of the ones I asked for previously. There’s actually one, the detainee report pivotal for the war against al Qaeda, there’s one that’s more detailed that has not been released. The interesting thing about these is it shows that Khalid Sheik Muhammad and Abu Zubaydah were pivotal in the war against al Qaeda, that both were uncooperative at first, that the application of enhanced interrogation techniques, specifically waterboarding, especially in the case of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, convinced him he needed to cooperate. The EITs were critical and saved thousands of lives and let us defeat all further attacks against the United States.

Dick Cheney confirms Michael Ignatieff’s rationale for the use of waterboarding to prevent future terrorist attacks. Does Michael Ignatieff still hold this position? It would seem that on waterboarding, that Michael Ignatieff’s position is closer to Dick Cheney — who signed off on use of EITs — rather than Barack Obama, whose AG is now looking into prosecuting those that carried it out.

UPDATE: Some have suggested that I should include this quote of Ignatieff’s from the same essay. I am happy to do so.

“We cannot torture, in other words, because of who we are.”

My original statements and questions still stand… because while I didn’t say that Michael Ignatieff supports waterboarding, I did say that he has justified it.

“To defeat evil, we may have to traffic in evils: indefinite detention of suspects, coercive interrogations, targeted assassinations, even pre-emptive war. These are evils because each strays from national and international law and because they kill people or deprive them of freedom without due process. They can be justified only because they prevent the greater evil.” — Michael Ignatieff

1) “it may be a good time for the Liberal leader to clarify his justification of the use of waterboarding against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks.”

This is factual and even some Iggy defenders here note that the man justified waterboarding if he didn’t support it.

2) “Dick Cheney confirms Michael Ignatieff’s rationale for the use of waterboarding to prevent future terrorist attacks. Does Michael Ignatieff still hold this position?”

Indeed, while Cheney justifies (and supports) torture, the comparative quote above is one confirming the rationale (not support) of the other.

3) “It would seem that on waterboarding, that Michael Ignatieff’s position is closer to Dick Cheney — who signed off on use of EITs — rather than Barack Obama, whose AG is now looking into prosecuting those that carried it out.”

Dick Cheney has argued that waterboarding works as has Michael Ignatieff. This is illustrated by both quotes above.

At the moment, our good friend Kady is asking all party leaders on their stance on these topics. She’ll have a post up on that soon. I’m encouraged by her work on this, clarifying (without nuance) each leader’s position on the topic. As it has also been noted, Michael Ignatieff’s position has actually evolved from supporting these “lesser evils” to arguing that they may be justified without endorsing them.

Stephen Taylor is a conservative commentator based in Ottawa.

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