Of torture, waterboards, and Attorney General nominees

Well, I am very pleased that Democrats increasingly seem to be showing some spine on the torture issue.  It remains to be seen if enough of them will, but the progress is encouraging:

Democratic support for attorney general nominee Michael B. Mukasey dwindled further yesterday over his refusal to comment on the legality of a harsh CIA interrogation technique, setting the stage for an unexpectedly close vote next week by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (Ill.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) announced that they will join Sen. Joseph R. Biden
Jr. (Del.) in voting against Mukasey on the Judiciary panel, after the
nominee said in a four-page letter to Senate Democrats that he does not
know whether a type of simulated drowning called waterboarding
constitutes illegal torture under U.S. law.

George Bush came out with ridiculous statements yesterday to the effect that by saying anything on waterboarding, we are giving away our interrogation strategies to Islamist terrosists.  Hello!  Everybody already 1) knows we are waterboarding; 2) knows that, yes, it is torture; and 3) knows this is a shameful moral lapse on the part of a country that should stand for something better.

And, if you doubt that waterboarding is actually torture, you might want to have a friend try it on you.  If you'd actually be convinced otherwise by reading, here's a good Slate.com article on the topic.  This paragraph really sums it up:

What is it about waterboarding that makes the White House so reluctant
to renounce it? It's an old torture technique from the Spanish
Inquisition that consists of immobilizing your target on an inclined
board, head down, with cloth covering their face. Pouring water over
the face simulates drowning. The practice leaves no physical marks.
It's illegal under the Geneva Conventions and has long been treated as
a war crime by the United States. We even use this technique
to train our own troops to withstand illegal torture by our enemies. As
retired Rear Adm. John D. Hutson, a former top Navy lawyer and now dean
of Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H., testified at Mukasey's hearing last week,
Other than perhaps the rack and thumbscrews, waterboarding is the most
iconic example of torture in history. It has been repudiated for
centuries.
It's a little bit disconcerting to hear now that we're not
quite sure where waterboarding fits in the scheme of things.” [emphasis mine]

And, that doesn't convince you, Salon.com editor Joan Walsh embeds a very disturbing waterboarding “training” video here.  Even under controlled circumstances, this is not exactly fun

Okay, if you are not now convinced that 1) the Democrats are right to stand up to an Attorney General nominee who cannot even call this torture; and 2) our president is a shameful moral coward who wouldn't know “What Would Jesus Do” if Jesus was whispering in his ear, there's just no helping you– and you've probably long since decided not to read my blog. 

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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