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Chris Matthews: Waterboard SEALs, Not Terrorists

Posted on September 1 2009 12:19 pm
David Forsmark is the owner and president of Winning Strategies, a full service political consulting firm in Michigan. David has been a regular columnist for Frontpage Magazine since 2006. For 20 years before that, he wrote book, movie and concert reviews as a stringer for the Flint Journal, a midsize daily newspaper.
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As predicted, Chris Matthews could hardly contain himself reacting to former Vice President Dick Cheney, (or Chee-neey, as Matthew peculiarly insists on over-emphasizing with the relish pretentious liberals used to affect when saying “Nee-ah-rrrah-wah” during arguments over the Contras and the Sandinistas).

Cheney’s blockbuster interview on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace had all the usual suspects screaming in outrage Monday, with Matthews’ reaction particularly self-revealing, thanks to former California Congressman Duncan Hunter.

There was plenty of the usual blather about how we should be above this, misapplications of the Geneva Conventions, whether it works, and the like (issues we will cover in the future).  Matthews and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz were particularly outraged that the interrogators had talked meanly to the terrorists, using sound effects and threats to family members whom the U.S. isn’t even holding.

But Duncan Hunter finally hit Matthews with something I’ve been shouting at the screen for months.

HUNTER:  Yes, the Geneva—the Geneva Convention, first, if you look at the—the Geneva Convention was analyzed by the lawyers in place, and they came to the conclusion, especially about water-boarding, because that‘s the primary thing, that, since we do it to our own soldiers, by the hundreds, incidentally, and it doesn‘t hurt them, and they—and it makes them tougher, and it doesn‘t hurt anybody—Khalid Shaikh Mohammed gained weight after he was water-boarded—we decided that, since we do that to our own soldiers in training…


HUNTER:  … we‘re not going to consider that torture.

Now—now, the question for liberals is, if you consider—consider that torture…

MATTHEWS:  You know why we did that, though.  I want to go on to the congresswoman.

HUNTER:  But wait just a second.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, look, you know why we did…

HUNTER:  If you consider that torture…

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re not putting the… You‘re not being honest here, Congressman.


HUNTER:  … then are we torturing our own soldiers?

MATTHEWS:  We did that because the Chicoms—because the Chinese communists were doing it in Korea, so we did it to prepare our guys, G.I.s, in case they got picked up.  You didn‘t give the context.

HUNTER:  So, what‘s wrong with that?  So, what‘s wrong with that?

MATTHEWS:  Well, you never explained why we‘re doing it. Because we believed the enemy was torturing out prisoners.

HUNTER:  Baloney.

MATTHEWS:  And we wanted to prepare them to be tortured.  We didn‘t do it as part of their training.  We said, this is what happens if you‘re…

HUNTER:  Korea has been over for a—well, you‘re wrong about that, Chris.

Mr.—Senator Levin was very—I‘m sure, very shocked when he saw that we do it with our own folks.  But the point is, if we do it, are we torturing American soldiers?  You have to answer yes if you consider water-boarding to be torture.

Are we torturing our own soldiers?  Answer the question.

MATTHEWS:  We‘re preparing them to face torture.

HUNTER:  No, we water-board them.  We don‘t prepare them for water-boarding. We water-board them.  Are we torturing our own soldiers?

MATTHEWS:  Look, you‘re getting into a game here.  Do you think it’s within the bounds of the Geneva Convention…

HUNTER:  Well, that’s not a game.  That’s a—that‘s a reasonable question.

Later, Hunter again tried to get out of Matthews and Wasserman-Shultz why they were outraged at waterboarding KSM, but not Special Forces and Air Force personnel.

HUNTER:  So, the—so—OK.  So, Debbie, so, Debbie, so the—so the—so the American SEALs torture…

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  We should not—we should not be spiraling ever downward.

HUNTER:  So, the American SEALs torture themselves, the Air Force tortures itself, according to your definition that water-boarding is torture.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  That‘s not torture.  That’s preparing… Give me a break.

HUNTER:  And there’s no problem with Israel doing very enhanced methods of interrogation.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  That‘s preparing our troops.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Congressman…

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  That’s preparing our troops.

MATTHEWS:  … even the most normal intelligence could help you with this.  I don’t know why you‘re not applying it, because you have it.

MATTHEWS:  Obviously, the service people know they’re in training. They’re not going to be killed.

HUNTER:  Well…

MATTHEWS:  That captured person who is one of our enemy has no idea what we’re doing

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  They’re getting ready for what they might be subjected to in other countries.

MATTHEWS:  … when we submit him to water torture.

HUNTER:  So, we scared—so, Chris—Chris, use your common sense.

MATTHEWS:  So, don‘t tell me it‘s the same thing.

HUNTER:  We scared Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.  We scared him, but we didn’t hurt him. We scared him.  And he gave up three—three potential terrorist plots, and you don’t think it’s worth it.

I’ve talked to several  former Air Force or Special Forces friends who have undergone waterboarding—or worse– as part of their training.  All agree and repeat Hunter’s “Baloney” retort.

First, in what is called SERE training, waterboarding is not carried out in a clinical setting.   It is generally in the field, with a simulated escape and capture.  The “prisoners” are knocked around and treated roughly in a way that would have Matthews and Wasserman-Shultz screaming for a trial at the Hague.

Second, as every former participant has told me, it doesn’t matter what one’s mind thinks it knows in that situation, one’s body thinks it is drowning, and it is momentarily terrifying.

Third, waterboarding soldiers and airmen is not conducted to train them to resist such methods indefinitely—or In Matthews’ ridiculously vague assertion “prepare” them—for what?.

They are waterboarded, among other things,  to show them that even in simulated circumstances, resistance is futile.  That anyone can be broken eventually.  That is why tactics, codes, and the like are changed when someone who knows them is captured.  A well-trained captured soldier/airman/operator’s job is to resist in the short term, then give out tactical information as slowly as they can stand to do so, given the circumstances, so that hopefully by the time the enemy extracts it, it is useless.  Futhermore, a captured American needs to stay psychologically healthy for the rest of  his captivity after he is made to talk.  Being waterboarded in SERE training, prepares for that, too, by removing the guilt associated by having broken to at least some extent.

Unanimously—and enthusiastically, for that matter—every one of these men endorses the waterboarding of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.  The only reservation I’ve heard from these men is the question of why only 3 captured terrorists have been waterboarded so far.

Leftists’ hysteria on this issue shows their unseriousness about protecting American lives.  In the last year, the only “terrorist” threat Chris Matthews or Keith Olbermann have gotten excited about is this guy:

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