Just a Reminder (on Torture)

This is old news, but unfortunately is still relevant:

“There should be little doubt from American history that we consider [waterboarding] as torture, otherwise we wouldn’t have tried and convicted Japanese for doing that same thing to Americans. I would also hope that he would not want to be associated with a technique which was invented in the Spanish Inquisition, was used by Pol Pot in one of the great eras of genocide in history and is being used on Burmese monks as we speak. America is a better nation than that.” -Senator John McCain

Even older is McCain’s Newsweek editorial from 2005, which is truly worth the few minutes it takes to read. He very accurately puts the whole issue in a nutshell:

I don’t mourn the loss of any terrorist’s life. Nor do I care if in the course of serving their ignoble cause they suffer great harm. They have pledged their lives to the intentional destruction of innocent lives, and they have earned their terrible punishment in this life and the next. What I do mourn is what we lose when by official policy or official neglect we allow, confuse or encourage our soldiers to forget that best sense of ourselves, that which is our greatest strength–that we are different and better than our enemies, that we fight for an idea, not a tribe, not a land, not a king, not a twisted interpretation of an ancient religion, but for an idea that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights.

Now, in this war, our liberal notions are put to the test. Americans of good will, all patriots, argue about what is appropriate and necessary to combat this unconventional enemy. Those of us who feel that in this war, as in past wars, Americans should not compromise our values must answer those Americans who believe that a less rigorous application of those values is regrettably necessary to prevail over a uniquely abhorrent and dangerous enemy.

It’s just too bad that these words have now gone unheeded for years. Time is running out – statutes of limitations will go into effect next year for some of the crimes committed – we must act soon to assert that which sets us apart from our enemies.

It’s Torture

Christopher Hitchens of Vanity Fair used to call waterboarding “extreme interrogation,” and not torture. He went so far as to test his convictions, and videotaped his own waterboarding. The resulting article, “Believe Me, It’s Torture,” and the accompanying video, are incredible work. There is no question about the nature of waterboarding, and our own government has prosecuted others for doing it. Yet President Bush vetoed a bill outlawing our use of waterboarding, a move that shoots past mere partisanship and stops near actual evil.

Our country has a terrible blemish on its history. I pray for forgiveness and mercy towards America for this inexcusable transgression.

College Student Schools Ashcroft on Torture

John Ashcroft spoke at Knox college – a rather liberal school. There was, as expected, a great deal of people protesting his visit, with varying levels of maturity. Howerver, one student had a very revealing exchange with Ashcroft:

ME: First off, Mr. Ashcroft, I’d like to apologize for the rudeness of some of my fellow students. It was uncalled for–we can disagree civilly, we don’t need that. (round of applause from the audience, and Ashcroft smiles) I have here in my hand two documents. One of them, you know, is the text of the United Nations Convention against Torture, which, point of interest, says nothing about “lasting physical damage”…
ASHCROFT: (interrupting) Do you have the Senate reservations to it?
ME: No, I don’t. Do you happen to know what they are?
ASHCROFT: (angrily) I don’t have them memorized, no. I don’t have time to go around memorizing random legal facts. I just don’t want these people in the audience to go away saying, “He was wrong, she had the proof right in her hand!” Because that’s not true. It’s a lie. If you don’t have the reservations, you don’t have anything. Now, if you want to bring them another time, we can talk, but…
ME: Actually, Mr. Ashcroft, my question was about this other document. (laughter and applause) This other document is a section from the judgment of the Tokyo War Tribunal. After WWII, the Tokyo Tribunal was basically the Nuremberg Trials for Japan. Many Japanese leaders were put on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including torture. And among the tortures listed was the “water treatment,” which we nowadays call waterboarding…
ASHCROFT: (interrupting) This is a speech, not a question. I don’t mind, but it’s not a question.
ME: It will be, sir, just give me a moment. The judgment describes this water treatment, and I quote, “the victim was bound or otherwise secured in a prone position; and water was forced through his mouth and nostrils into his lungs and stomach.” One man, Yukio Asano, was sentenced to fifteen years hard labor by the allies for waterboarding American troops to obtain information. Since Yukio Asano was trying to get information to help defend his country–exactly what you, Mr. Ashcroft, say is acceptible for Americans to do–do you believe that his sentence was unjust? (boisterous applause and shouts of “Good question!”)
ASHCROFT: (angrily) Now, listen here. You’re comparing apples and oranges, apples and oranges. We don’t do anything like what you described.
ME: I’m sorry, I was under the impression that we still use the method of putting a cloth over someone’s face and pouring water down their throat…
ASHCROFT: (interrupting, red-faced, shouting) Pouring! Pouring! Did you hear what she said? “Putting a cloth over someone’s face and pouring water on them.” That’s not what you said before! Read that again, what you said before!
ME: Sir, other reports of the time say…
ASHCROFT: (shouting) Read what you said before! (cries of “Answer her fucking question!” from the audience) Read it!
ME: (firmly) Mr. Ashcroft, please answer the question.
ASHCROFT: (shouting) Read it back!
ME: “The victim was bound or otherwise secured in a prone position; and water was forced through his mouth and nostrils into his lungs and stomach.”
ASHCROFT: (shouting) You hear that? You hear it? “Forced!” If you can’t tell the difference between forcing and pouring…does this college have an anatomy class? If you can’t tell the difference between forcing and pouring…
ME: (firmly and loudly) Mr. Ashcroft, do you believe that Yukio Asano’s sentence was unjust? Answer the question. (pause)
ASHCROFT: (more restrained) It’s not a fair question; there’s no comparison. Next question! (loud chorus of boos from the audience)

The student has a detailed account of the entire event, with pictures and video, here.

I’ve said it before, but it bears saying again: Torture is not a political issue. Our own inhumanity encourages our adversaries to treat us with the same evil. This madness must be stopped.