Scarborough defends destruction of CIA waterboarding tapes
Conservative TV host Joe Scarborough attempted to argue on his MSNBC program Tuesday that the destruction of CIA interrogation tapes was a good thing because it helped prevent terrorists from learning about US interrogation methods via YouTube.
"Putting our techniques for interrogation of al Qaeda terrorists on YouTube is a great idea," Scarborough began sarcastically. "So I'm really sorry they destroyed the tapes." He then explained, more seriously, that "I think destroying the taped interrogations makes a lot more sense than taping the interrogations."
"I seriously feel like I'm Alice in Wonderland here," Scarborough continued, chortling. "Because there are millions and millions of Americans who are saying, 'What? You mean people are upset that we're not allowing our (laughs) interrogation techniques of the world's most dangerous terrorists onto YouTube?"
Scarborough also defended the practice of waterboarding, saying, "There are a lot of people on Capitol Hill and in the CIA that don't think it's torture if it's done under the right circumstances."
Co-host Mika Brzezinski countered that a former CIA officer who participated in waterboarding now agrees that it was torture. "I think people are upset that we're actually, perhaps, torturing people and then destroying the evidence," she proposed. "That could be the issue."
Scarborough suggested in response that waterboarding has been known about since 2002 but is only being turned into an issue now as a distraction from all the good news coming out of Iraq. "The New York Times is going to have this on their front page for the next 72 years," he said, "because things are going well in Iraq and they've got to change the topic. ... We're going to continue to see stories about Blackwater and about US contractors and we're going to be hearing stories that don't relate to how things are going in Iraq."
Scarborough then returned to praising the destruction of the tapes, saying that al Qaeda terrorists are taught that "if they are caught, the first thing they should do ... [is] to complain about human rights violations. ... We are facing a calculated enemy." Raising his voice to a yell, he proclaimed, "I don't want the terrorists to see how we interrogate terrorists ... because I don't want the enemy to know what we do when we're trying to get information!
"John McCain has a very different opinion on this, and he has a little bit more experience than both of us," Brzezinski suggested.
Scarborough suddenly turned grim at that point, telling Brzezinski, "You know what I'm going to have to say if you cross that line, and I would prefer not to say it, so let's not bring up John McCain,"
"Okay," replied Brzezinski meekly. "But I'm just telling you, I think you're wrong."
Correspondent David Shuster then joined the discussion, speaking from Des Moines, IA. Scarborough began by telling Shuster about how happy he'd been to read in 2002 that after being waterboarded, Khalid Sheikh Muhammed "started talking like a little pansy."
"How do they know the information he was providing was accurate?" Shuster demanded. "We're not talking about all the people who provided false information and false leads and all the time we wasted chasing down ridiculous information because we were waterboarding."
"You two are in the distinct minority of America!" Scarborough exclaimed to Brzezinski and Shuster. "When did the liberal media decide ... that waterboarding was torture?"
"I've talked to interrogators that have interrogated some very bad people," Scarborough went on, claiming that the only real problem is using untrained interrogators who don't know how far you can push people before causing serious bodily or mental harm. "It has to be done in a very measured way ... [or] then it does become torture," Scarborough stated.
Shuster responded, "If it's so measured, then why are we afraid to release the tapes? Why did somebody feel it was necessary to destroy these tapes? ... If it's something we can all be proud of, let's show the tapes."
As an explanation of why we can't afford to show the tapes, Scarborough launched into a long rant about the horrific firebombing of Dresden, Germany in February 1945:
"At the end of World War II, after the Germans were already ready to surrender, we firebombed Dresden. We killed tens of thousands of little children and mothers. We didn't have to do that, but we were sending a message to Germany: You brought us into war. We're going to incinerate your town. We're going to burn your little children up. We're going to burn babies up. We're going to burn mothers up. We're going to burn grandmothers up. We're going to burn grandfathers up. Was it immoral? Probably so.... Were we trying to send a signal? Yes."
Scarborough did not mention that at the time of the attack on Dresden, Germany was far from ready to surrender, and the firebombing was justified as a crucial measure to prevent them from regrouping at one of their last remaining undestroyed industrial centers. Even critics of the excessive loss of civilian life accepted that the bombing of residential neighborhoods was intended to weaken German morale and bring a speedier end to the war. But no one at the time would have seen the bombing as a pointless and immoral "message" that the US would routinely take vengeance on an already defeated enemy by incinerating its babies and grandmothers.
Brzezinski then attempted to bring the discussion back to the central issue, pointing out that the destruction of the tapes in itself suggests that the administration considers waterboarding to be torture and so "it's fair to ask questions."
Scarborough did not respond to her, but turned instead to Shuster, asking if he believes there is anything the US government and military do that US citizens do not have a right to know about "or do you think they should see everything on YouTube."
"That is such a ridiculous hypothetical," Shuster answered. "Americans are better than this. Americans stand for something better than torturing their enemies."
Shuster then called Scarborough on his claims of success in Iraq. "Iowa's going pretty well, Joe. You know, they're dancing in the streets this morning because of all the success in Iraq that you were talking about -- oh, just kidding."
In a follow-up segment, Scarborough spoke with correspondent Andrea Mitchell about his behavior during the previous segment. "I'm embarrassed. I lost my cool," he admitted. "I was very angry. I was outnumbered by Mika and David Shuster ..."
This video is from MSNBC's Morning Joe, broadcast on December 11, 2007.