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The Baptism of Private Palin

April 30, 2014

"Waterboarding," would-have been GOP vice president Sarah Palin told a cheering NRA audience Saturday, "is how we baptize terrorists." On Monday, she defended the comments even her most ardent supporters called "sacrilegious," calling it "utterly absurd for MSNBC to suggest that I could put our beloved troops in harm's way."
But MSNBC has plenty of company in making that point. Among them is her former running mate and Vietnam War POW John McCain, who on May 12, 2011 took to the Senate floor to denounce waterboarding because "I believe that if America uses torture, it could someday result in the torture of American combatants."
He should know. And so should Sarah Palin. After all, one of "our beloved troops" who could have been subjected to the waterboard was her own son, Private First Class Track Palin.
In June 2008, then Governor Palin described America's war in Iraq as "a task that is from God." Just three months later, John McCain's new running mate spoke at the deployment ceremony for her 19-year old son and the Alaska-based 25th Infantry Division's 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, known as the "Arctic Wolves." Mercifully, PFC Palin safely completed his tour and returned home.
But imagine the horror if a different scenario played out. Imagine if in early March 2009, Private Palin and two other U.S. soldiers were captured by Al Qaeda militants on the outskirts of Diyala, Iraq. Imagine our beloved troops hook to electrodes, handcuffed naked and tormented by dogs, tactics Americans learned about at Abu Ghraib 10 years ago this week. And imagine Private Palin gasping for air as AQI terrorists simulated drowning him, just like American interrogators did when they waterboarded Abu Zabaydah, torture that produced no actionable intelligence. As the Washington Post reported in 2009:

The methods succeeded in breaking him, and the stories he told of al-Qaeda terrorism plots sent CIA officers around the globe chasing leads.
In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida's tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida -- chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates -- was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said.

That doesn't sound like "a task that is from God." And if had been performed on her own son, Sarah Palin probably would not have referred to his near-suffocation and drowning as a "baptism."
For his part, John McCain could not disagree more with his VP choice and her Fox News colleague Sean Hannity, who defender her waterboarding fetish, "That's the way we roll. That's the way America rolls." In his May 2011 Senate floor speech, McCain warned the reverse was true:

Ultimately, this is about morality. What is at stake here is the very idea of America - the America whose values have inspired the world and instilled in the hearts of its citizens the certainty that, no matter how hard we fight, no matter how dangerous our adversary, in the course of vanquishing our enemies we do not compromise our deepest values. We are America, and we hold ourselves to a higher standard. That is what is really at stake.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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