On the Daily Show last night, host Jon Stewart asked Weekly Standard editor and New York Times columnist Bill Kristol if he is “a torture guy.” “Waterboard or no waterboard,” probed Stewart.
“I’m ambivalent on torture,” replied Kristol. “I’m a bit of a squish on torture.” After saying he “respects” Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) position that torture is “unwise and unnecessary and wrong for the U.S. to do,” Kristol made the case for allowing the United States to torture through waterboarding:
On the other hand, it does seem that the three people who seem to have been waterboarded, gave up, perhaps, very important information that may have prevented further attacks. So I think it would be a tough call.
The use of torturous interrogation techniques like waterboarding is not something to be “ambivalent” about and Kristol’s “on the other hand” defense of it is misleading.
Last week, CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden confirmed the identity of the three detainees that were waterboarded by the CIA: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. The contention that Abu Zubaydah provided “very important information” after being waterboarded has been disputed by the FBI:
While CIA officials have described him as an important insider whose disclosures under intense pressure saved lives, some FBI agents and analysts say he is largely a loudmouthed and mentally troubled hotelier whose credibility dropped as the CIA subjected him to a simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding and to other “enhanced interrogation” measures. […]
FBI officials, including agents who questioned him after his capture or reviewed documents seized from his home, have concluded that even though he knew some al-Qaeda players, he provided interrogators with increasingly dubious information as the CIA’s harsh treatment intensified in late 2002.
Kristol should follow his “squish” instincts when it comes to torture. Not only do intelligence experts say that it is “ineffective” because it “often produces false information,” but, in the words of Colin Powell, it causes the world to “doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism” while putting “our own troops at risk.”
JON STEWART: But I really wanted to know, are you a torture guy, before we left. What are you thinking? Waterboard or no waterboard?
BILL KRISTOL: I’m ambivalent on torture, I’ve got to say. I’m a bit of a squish on torture. I respect Senator McCain and he says it’s unwise and unnecessary and wrong for the U.S. to do. On the other hand, it does seem that the three people who seem to have been waterboarded, gave up, perhaps, very important information that may have prevented further attacks. So I think it would be a tough call, if you, one were in a position of responsibility, in all honesty.
STEWART: You know what? That sounded awfully human.
KRISTOL: I try to be, once every few months. About once every six months when I’m on your show. When I’m on your show, that’s my moment for humanity.