Rep. West Defends Torture: "In The Movie G.I. Jane, Demi Moore Was Waterboarded"

November 14, 2011 11:45 am ET — Alan Pyke

After several GOP presidential hopefuls pined for the good old days of waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques" at Saturday night's debate, the right-wing noise machine is busy defending torture. Given his own history — he was nearly court-martialed for his treatment of a detainee in Iraq — Rep. Allen West (R-FL) is a natural mascot for the pro-torture right, but that doesn't mean he can make a logical argument. From this morning's Fox and Friends:

WEST: I would say this, the president is the benefactor of a lot of information that came from waterboarding and the most important thing is when you look at the precedent, non-state, non-uniform belligerents captured on the battlefield under the Geneva Convention are not afforded the same type of rights. We can make that determination. And as the president, you need to do those things which are necessary to make sure that the American people are kept safe. I see that when we continue to read Miranda rights to people such as the underwear bomber, we are using [sic] the advantage and leverage that we have. And furthermore in the movie G.I. Jane, Demi Moore was waterboarded and we do use that in military training and Survival, Escape, Resistance and Evasion training. 

BRIAN KILMEADE (HOST): And she ended up with a much younger husband in real life. 

WEST: That's right.

KILMEADE: So I don't know if that's related. Colonel, on top of that, you're very intimately involved with this because you almost got court-martialed because of the way you handled a situation where you had a detainee in your presence and you knew American lives were at stake. 

WEST: That's the thing and so as a commander, that's my responsibility and this was the responsibility not just to those men but also to their families to do what is necessary. I used a psychological intimidation tactic to fire a pistol over his head and it kept my men safe. Of course, they took it to an investigative hearing, but I'm here today as a congressional representative and I still continue to fight for men and women in uniform. 


It's hard to believe that President Obama "is the benefactor of a lot of information that came from waterboarding" given that interrogation experts say the practice yields inaccurate intelligence. Furthermore, the CIA says that only three detainees were ever waterboarded — and we know that those men intentionally lied about the identity and import of the courier who earlier this year led U.S. troops to Osama bin Laden's door. West's suggestion that Obama owes his national security successes to waterboarding is sheer partisan bluster.

West's own experience using beatings, intimidation, and the fear of death to interrogate a detainee in Iraq actually illustrates the argument against torture: It just doesn't work. West fired a gun next to the head of a detainee after letting his soldiers beat the man, who claimed not to have knowledge of the ambush West believed he had planned. Eventually the man described such a plan — not because it actually existed, but because it was what West wanted to hear. No evidence of such a plan was ever found, and in a 2004 interview, West told the New York Times, "It's possible that I was wrong about Mr. Hamoodi."