Just what is ‘torture’?

Now that our U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has roundly condemned torture, it might be a good idea to learn what she is talking about.

If we are going to abhor it, banish it, punish for the use of it, we probably ought to know what torture is before we proceed to legislate against it.

Is it torture to be a journalist, volunteer refugee helper or tourist and be kidnapped, then held in captivity by murderous Islamists just long enough to have your head sawed off on worldwide television?

Was it torture to have been in the upper floors of the World Trade Center on 9/11 only to find that you have to jump to your death to avoid being consumed by flames?

Was it torture for the passengers of a commercial airliner hijacked by Islamist murderers to learn that they had to give their lives to divert the aircraft from crashing probably into the White House?

Was it torture to be injured or killed while working in the Pentagon that fateful day?

Was it torture to be injured or killed aboard the USS Cole when attacked or be severely injured or killed in any embassy or battlefield by Islamic murderers?

Or is it torture to be anywhere else in the world and be the victim of the endless creativity of Islamists to kill, maim, or enslave in disobedience to civilized norms?

Indeed, yes, I answer. And anything that can be done to garner valid information from these murderous Neanderthals to protect others is fair game as far as I am concerned; Sen. Feinstein be damned.

But that does not help us define “torture.”

You may envision torture as some of the unsavory conduct articulated by Mrs. Feinstein in her report and recoil thinking that WE are just not like THAT.

You may think that we should treat all prisoners with kid gloves and in doing so make them love us and see the error of their ways while we house and feed them.

You and I would likely agree that the conduct of U.S. prison guards at Abu Ghraib was wrong.

I agree not because of the mild humiliation of the inmates, but because their conduct made Army personnel look like frat-house pledge masters instead of competent warriors.

During one of my trips to Israel, I heard a presentation by a self-described Israeli “torture master.” Yes they have them and so should we. Of course “torture master” is not an official title. Such people are more likely called “interrogation specialists” or “intelligence agents.”

Too bad Sen. Feinstein didn’t meet him before she shot her mouth off and damaged our ability to defend ourselves from another 9/11.

Mr. Torture Master first queried our group and asked how many of them opposed torturing enemy prisoners. Of course there was unanimous approval of that position. But that was before they heard what he had to say.

The “master’s” first and fundamental point was to ask us what we thought would be gained by employing the more notorious techniques of torture, such as, say, pulling out finger nails or shooting people in the knees or administering electrical shocks you know where.

What would anyone say under those circumstances? The answer is that a person being so treated will tell you anything you want to hear to stop the pain. Thus information so gained is not reliable.

Physical punishment absent some plan is simply sadism and not the business of people who want to win wars.

Instead of the mindless administration of pain, those in charge of gaining intelligence from war captives have a bigger challenge: they must obtain valid information that will be helpful to protect the good guys.

Gaining information from a cell full of madrassa-brainwashed radicals is not so easy and requires substantial patience, wisdom and experience.

Each inmate is different and each needs to be analyzed to discern his own hopes and fears.

Doing so requires a near patient-psychoanalyst approach.

For example, is it torture to deprive a heavy smoker of cigarettes until he gives up some important insight? When I smoked, that would be torture enough for me to hand over the keys to Fort Knox.

Is it torture to keep the inmate in custody when his friends get released? Sure, and depending how badly the young man wants to go home, is likely to result in some useful information.

What about circulating a rumor among cellmates that he is talking even though he isn’t? Is that torture? Of course. It is likely a death sentence, but it involves no violence on the part of the interrogator.

What if you just tell him you are going to do that?

How about extra food for a hungry guy, privileges for one who seeks them, sleep deprivation for someone known to have valuable information? All fair game to reduce the carnage? Yes.

Much of the influence of the torture master rests on the general fear of the inmates that once in custody they could be physically abused.

If successful, the clueless Sen. Feinstein will unilaterally disarm our officers by depriving them of the key psychological advantage they need to make the rest of the system work.

Since soon after the birth of Muhammad, Islam has been marching on a worldwide quest to subject everyone to the retrograde laws of their ancient Arab tribal forefathers, laws that are antithetical to our constitutional, self-governing principles.

Islamists proclaim and overtly use murder, torture, mass executions and enslavement to foster their cause.

If depriving Muhammad’s modern-day foot solders of some sleep will get them to talk, that is OK with me.

Stirling, a former U.S. Army officer, has been elected to the San Diego City Council, state Assembly and state Senate. He also served as a municipal and superior court judge in San Diego. Send comments to Comments may be published as Letters to the Editor.

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