Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Cenk Uygur Headshot

What if Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Had Died?

Posted: Updated:

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times. We practiced sleep deprivation on him for 11 straight days. I don't know how many times we smashed his head against a wall, slapped him in the face, put him in a stress position in a freezing room and/or put him in a coffin sized box in extreme heat. But the right-wing argues that it doesn't matter because none of this is torture. They are adamant in saying that it is not even open to interpretation.

Because, remember, if it's at least open to interpretation, we should investigate to see if laws were broken and we crossed the line into torture. Their logic is that this is so obviously not torture that it does not require any investigation at all! It's an open and shut case.

Obviously, I disagree. It's one thing to admit that this appears to have crossed the line but you have no problem with that because we should be torturing the bad guys to get information out of them (that is a less morally defensible position but at least it's logically consistent). But it's another thing to claim that all of these "enhanced interrogation" techniques are nowhere near torture.

So, let me ask you this -- what if Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had died during one of these extreme interrogations?

Here is a perfectly plausible hypothetical: He's had no sleep for eight days, he's exhausted and stuffed in a tiny box in a sweltering hot room with insects crawling all over him, we take him out, smash his head against the wall three times and then waterboard him for the 162nd time. And boom he goes into cardiac arrest and dies on the spot. Did we just torture him to death or was his death just coincidental? Was his interrogation so obviously clean that it doesn't even require an investigation?

Let's get real. If he had died, everyone in the world would have thought it was torture without a shadow of a doubt. As it was, he survived -- so, it's all kosher? No reasonable person can argue that these draconian techniques do not merit an investigation to see if they crossed the line into torture. Especially because we already know that we have in the past considered waterboarding such a serious crime that we have executed people for practicing it against our soldiers.

I know what conservatives are screaming into their computers right now: "But he didn't die! None of them died. So, your question is an absurd hypothetical." Well, here's the problem with that. In fact, many of them did die.

About one hundred of our detainees died when we were holding them. Of these, 34 are suspected or confirmed homicides. We beat people to death at Bagram Airbase and Abu Ghraib using some of the same techniques authorized by the Pentagon and the Bush administration. Military lawyers told the Bush officials that it would be illegal, inhumane and immoral. And they did it any way. Everyone suffered and some died. That's what happens when you torture people.

Now, the folks who did this have the temerity to say that the people who exposed these crimes are making America look bad. How about the people who committed them in the first place?

They add that we should ignore the homicides and the beatings and the drownings because it would be political to look into them. In reality, the only thing that could stop an investigation of these clear abuses is politics. It's their only shield. Otherwise, a Justice Department inquiry would be monumentally obvious.

If anyone outside of a politician had ordered these beatings, they would already be in the middle of a criminal trial. Obviously a regular citizen can't do it. Cops can't do it (imagine how a judge would handle the case if the cop admitted he got the confession by banging the guy's head against the wall and then drowning him within an inch of his life ... 183 times). As the former Bush officials claim that they are being investigated because of politics, the reality is the exact opposite. Politics is their best friend and their only refuge.

Young Turks on You Tube