Obama’s Predators – Bush’s Waterboarding

By George Noga

Which is More Moral – Humane? Is One Torture, the Other OK?

Previously in this space I have touched on the compelling juxtaposition of Predator drone attacks and waterboarding, but only very briefly. It merits further coverage because it exposes a gaping wedge of hypocrisy and a double standard rarely, if ever, observed in American society, politics or media.

Which is more moral and humane; to waterboard 3 known terrorists to extract life-saving intelligence or to use Predators against thousands of possible terrorists, collaterally killing and maiming wives and children – for no intelligence?

Let’s compare and contrast waterboarding, as practiced by the Bush Administration, and Predator attacks as being practiced by the Obama Administration. Following are the circumstances, protocols and results of waterboarding as occurred under Bush.

Bush Waterboarding Policies and Results

  • It was preceded by legal opinions, including from DOJ, that it was legal within the constraints proposed. (Note: it was a very mild and limited form of water-boarding.)
  • Similar (or worse) waterboarding routinely was done on our troops in training exercises.
  • There were strict safety and medical protocols put in place to protect the people being waterboarded; it was nearly impossible for anyone to be harmed.
  • A grand total of three people were waterboarded. It was a limited operation that required high-level approval on a case-by-case basis.
  • The three who were waterboarded were known terrorists beyond any possible doubt.
  • All three are alive and completely healthy today.
  • All three now are receiving due process of law.
  • Waterboarding did not damage bilateral relations with other countries.
  • The US obtained actionable intelligence that saved countless innocent lives.
  • The media and political opponents attacked it as torture in the strongest possible terms.

Contrast the limited form of waterboarding described supra with the Predator drone attacks under Obama’s watch which are described below.

Obama Predator Policies and Results

  • There is no legal opinion about Predators, certainly not one from DOJ. That doesn’t mean it isn’t legal – just that there is a lower legal standard than Bush had for waterboarding.
  • The US certainly doesn’t use Predators for training against its own troops.
  • Although there are attempts in place to limit collateral damage, there are no iron-clad safety protocols to protect innocent lives.
  • Authorization for attacks is delegated to lower level CIA and military operatives.
  • Predator attacks have killed many innocents including wives, children and bystanders. Much of this is on video, but the media aren’t asking for it to be released.
  • Some drone attacks are against people we don’t know and can’t identify in advance.
  • More than 1,500 have been killed under Obama. Estimates of innocents killed range between 20% and 80%. Therefore, hundreds of innocents, perhaps 1,000, have been killed. One strike alone killed 40 of which many were family members and civilians.
  • Over 1,500 people attacked by drones were killed. None received due process of law.
  • Zero intelligence was derived from Predator attacks.
  • Predator attacks are expanding to Yemen, Somalia and who knows where. At least 40 countries are developing drones; what’s to stop them from being used against us?
  • Predators are wreaking serious damage on our relationship with Pakistan.
  • The media are giving a blanket pass to Predator attacks. Opposing politicians have chosen thus far not to be critical or to make it an issue.
  • No one has called Predators torture because nearly everyone is killed; however, there have been survivors of the attacks who are badly burned and maimed; is this not torture?
  • The US now has Reapers, Predators on steroids, that can carry 15 times more ordinance, fly much faster and stay airborne longer. Its capacity for mayhem is exponentially greater. Thus far, Obama has placed no protocols or limits on Reaper attacks.

Waterboarding was done to 3 terrorists; no one was killed or injured and no innocents were harmed. Under Obama, Predators have killed 1,500 of which up to 1,000 were innocents. Intelligence gleaned from waterboarding saved thousands of innocent lives; Predators have taken perhaps a thousand innocent lives.

Now I ask again, which is the more humane and moral – waterboarding as done under Bush or Predator attacks that have become the signature of the Obama Administration? Why is one condemned as torture and the other considered acceptable – even laudable? Would you rather see a known terrorist waterboarded to extract life-saving intelligence or the young child of a possible terrorist killed, burned or maimed?

“Predator attacks are on video. Why isn’t the media frothing to have them released so they can play images of women and children being blown apart? They tried to get waterboarding videos released which they would have shown ad infinitum. “

I am not arguing Predator attacks are illegal or should cease although they must be subject to greater high-level control to protect innocent life. I also understand some such attacks (relatively few) were carried out under the Bush administration albeit with little, if any, collateral damage.

“This is about hypocrisy – not waterboarding or Predators.”

At bottom, this is not about waterboarding or Predators; it is about naked hypocrisy! I would like just one person to step forward who condemned the waterboarding as torture and who now supports Predator attacks to explain to our readers why Predators are more humane and moral.

Post Script: Eric Holder’s Epiphany

After this post was written, the AG gave a speech at the Northwestern University School of Law. It was remarkable for its vindication of the Bush Administration policies on terrorism and its embrace of its principal tenets. “We are a nation at war.” Holder exclaimed.

He went on to defend the use of military commissions and declared “We should not deprive ourselves of any tool in our fight against al Qaeda.” He defended use of lethal force off the battlefield including targeted killings of US citizens. He opposed judges reviewing battlefield decisions and favored due process taking into account the realities of combat. Incredibly, he went on to say: “The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.” Holder’s remarks were a complete endorsement and vindication of the policies of Bush, Cheney and Mukasey.


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