Chris Wallace: Shooting bin Laden in the head is OK, but not waterboarding KSM?

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Clip begins at 5:44:

“Why is shooting an unarmed man in the face legal and proper while enhanced interrogation, including waterboarding, of a detainee under very strict controls and limits — why is that over the line?”

That was the unanswered question host Chris Wallas pressed President Obama’s national security adviser Tom Donilon about on this week’s ‘Fox News Sunday.’

Donilon first sought to parry the question, choosing to explain why SEALS acted as they did. But Wallace didn’t let him off the hook, pressing the question several times. Here is a transcript of that back-and-forth:

WALLACE: I’m not asking you why it was OK to shoot Usama bin Laden. I fully understand the threat. And I’m not second-guessing the SEALs.


WALLACE: What I am second guessing is, if that’s OK, why can’t you do waterboarding? What can’t you do enhanced interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was just as bad an operator as Usama bin Laden?

DONILON: Because, well, our judgment is that it’s not consistent with our values, not consistent and not necessary in terms of getting the kind of intelligence that we need.

WALLACE: But shooting bin Laden in the head is consistent with our values?

DONILON: We are at war with Usama bin Laden.

WALLACE: We’re at war with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

DONILON: It was a military operation, right? It was absolutely appropriate for the SEALs to take the action — forced it to take the action that they took in this military operation against a military target.

WALLACE: But why is it inappropriate to get information from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?

DONILON: I didn’t say it was inappropriate to get information from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

WALLACE: You said it was against our values.


DONILON: I think the technique — there’s been a policy debate about and our administration has made our views known on that.

Donilon performed about as well as possible, considering the apparent inconsistencies he was forced to defend.

While it may be consistent to argue that both enhanced interrogation and shooting bin Laden are justifiable — liberals may have a harder time arguing that waterboarding KSM is outrageous — while shooting an unarmed man (albeit one who had it coming) in the face is fine.

After all, shooting an unarmed man in the face is presumably harsher (though perhaps more acceptable) than waterboarding him.

If nothing else, this should stimulate debate…

Matt K. Lewis