White House on Wednesday defended the use of the interrogation technique known as waterboarding, saying it is legal — not torture as critics argue — and has saved American lives.
How dost I parse thee? Let me count the ways. Or better, not. Counting is too painful. Just a few points will do.
Where do they get the notion that it’s legal? Because the CIA did it? Because they say so?
Not torture “as critics argue?” One usually designates as “critics” an opposing side to an argument, not the entire civilized world, including the United States of America with the exception of the Bushites.
Has saved American lives? That must refer to that bogus PR campaign with former CIA officer John Kiriakou as frontman, telling his “story” as an interrogator of Abu Zubaydah.
Problem is, as Larry Johnson pointed out a couple months ago, Kiriakou never witnessed the waterboarding, which was carried out by another group of individuals, and none of the information provided by Zubaydah concerned threats inside the United States.
Additionally, none of the information given by Zubaydah, whose mental condition before and after torture is a matter of some conjecture here and among our adversaries, should be considered all that reliable.
The White House’s line of reasoning could very well have fit with the Inquisition:
Torquemada on Wednesday defended the use of the technique known as burning at the stake, saying it has saved Europeans’ eternal souls.
Larry Johnson also reminded us,
…it is worth noting that waterboarding is torture as defined in the Convention Against Torture & Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Convention defines torture as:
. . . any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
Writers and editors at the Post and other newspapers should also consult the following sections of this Convention:
Article 2 – No Exceptional Circumstances Warranting Torture
Article 3 – No State Party shall expel, return (”refouler”) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
Article 4 – Acts of Torture Are Criminal Offenses
Article 10 – Education & Information Regarding Prohibition on Torture Provided in Training
Article 16 – Each State to Prevent Acts of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Since the United States is a signatory to this Convention, it is not up to President Bush to declare waterboarding is okay. It is not. It is torture. Plain and simple.
UPDATE: And here’s today’s jaw-dropper, from TPM:
General Michael Mukasey is back on the Hill today, testifying to the House Judiciary Committee. Paul Kiel is covering it at TPMmuckraker.
So far, he’s dropped too big bombshells. DOJ will not be investigating:
(1) whether the waterboarding, now admitted to by the White House, was a crime; or
(2) whether the Administration’s warrantless wiretapping was illegal.
His rationale? Both programs had been signed off on in advance as legal by the Justice Department…
We have now the Attorney General of the United States telling Congress that it’s not against the law for the President to violate the law if his own Department of Justice says it’s not.
It is as brazen a defense of the unitary executive as anything put forward by the Administration in the last seven years, and it comes from an attorney general who was supposed to be not just a more professional, but a more moderate, version of Alberto Gonzales (Thanks to Democrats like Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer for caving on the Mukasey nomination.).
President Bush has now laid down his most aggressive challenge to the very constitutional authority of Congress. It is a naked assertion of executive power. The founders would have called it tyrannical. His cards are now all on the table. This is no bluff.
And a Congress that will not call his bluff is complicit in the destruction of the American experiment in democracy.