On: May 11, 2009

Many Americans believe the interrogation technique called “waterboarding” is torture.  And they say that civilized societies don’t torture because harsh interrogation isn’t one of the values of a civilized society.

Whether water-boarding is torture really isn’t the issue.  It is to some and it isn’t to others.  But the statement, by those who oppose waterboarding and other aggressive interrogation techniques, that civilized nations don’t do these things is  incorrect. The reality is civilized societies do whatever they need to do to survive – even when those “things” are “things” the society wouldn’t normally do.  Most societies don’t go around killing others, but they do when they are attacked and their survival is at stake.

After the Yom-Kipper War in 1973 between Israel and a coalition of Arab states, Golda Meir, the Prime Minister of Israel, said to Anwar Sadat, the President of Egypt, “We can forgive you for killing our sons, but we will never forgive you for making us kill yours.”  Israel is a civilized society.  They did what was necessary to survive after being attacked even though many of the things they had to do in order to survive were things they abhorred as a nation.

One can believe that certain interrogation techniques don’t work as well as others or that certain techniques were used too often or at the wrong times, but to suggest that doing what is needed to survive as a nation is wrong is disingenuous.   Societies that don’t do what is needed to survive eventually disappear.