When Bush nominee for Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, was asked, during confirmation hearings, whether the technique of "waterboarding" was torture, his answer was evasive at the least.
"I think it would be irresponsible of me to discuss particular techniques with which I am not familiar when there are people who are using coercive techniques and who are being authorized to use coercive techniques. And for me to say something that is going to put their careers or freedom at risk simply because I want to be congenial, I don't think it would be responsible of me to do that." Questioned further, he said, "If it amounts to torture, it is not constitutional." But he would not say whether it was torture.Right. So then the Democratic senators asking that question sent him a letter asking for a written clarification. His response was long on words; short on substance.
On Oct. 30, the nominee replied in four convoluted pages. He called waterboarding "over the line" and "repugnant" on "a personal basis," but adopted the lawyerly pose that it was merely an academic issue: "Hypotheticals are different from real life and in any legal opinion the actual facts and circumstances are critical."Hypothetical?! But confirmation hearings often enter the hypothetical. You know, "What would you do if... ?"
Well, one way to answer the question is to go to an expert.
Malcolm Nance, a counter-terrorism expert and former Master Instructor and Chief of Training at the US Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE) in San Diego, California, has cleared up the question. Nance knows waterboarding. (some emphasis mine)
SERE staff were required undergo the waterboard at its fullest. I was no exception. I have personally led, witnessed and supervised waterboarding of hundreds of people. It has been reported that both the Army and Navy SERE school’s interrogation manuals were used to form the interrogation techniques used by the US army and the CIA for its terror suspects. What was not mentioned in most articles was that SERE was designed to show how an evil totalitarian, enemy would use torture at the slightest whim. If this is the case, then waterboarding is unquestionably being used as torture technique.Nance makes his point succinctly and bluntly.
There is No Debate Except for Torture ApologistsNance does believe there is a place for the waterboard. It's just not where the torture cheerleaders think it is.
1. Waterboarding is a torture technique. Period. There is no way to gloss over it or sugarcoat it. It has no justification outside of its limited role as a training demonstrator. Our service members have to learn that the will to survive requires them accept and understand that they may be subjected to torture, but that America is better than its enemies and it is one’s duty to trust in your nation and God, endure the hardships and return home with honor.
2. Waterboarding is not a simulation. Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.
Is There a Place for the Waterboard?That's right. It won't matter when or where any future war is fought. US troops are now targets. Even allies would be hard pressed to express outrage should captured US troops be subject to waterboarding. As ugly as it sounds, the Bush administration has made it all perfectly defensible by others by engaging in themselves. And a future enemy isn't going to concern themselves over which president initiated the doctrine.
Yes. The waterboard must go back to the realm of SERE training our operators, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. We must now double our efforts to prepare for its inevitable and uncontrolled use of by our future enemies. Until recently, only a few countries considered it effective. Now American use of the waterboard as an interrogation tool has assuredly guaranteed that our service members and agents who are captured or detained by future enemies will be subject to it as part of the most routine interrogations. Forget threats, poor food, the occasional face slap and sexual assaults. This was not a dignified ‘taking off the gloves’; this was descending to the level of our opposition in an equally brutish and ugly way. Waterboarding will be one our future enemy’s go-to techniques because we took the gloves off to brutal interrogation. Now our enemies will take the gloves off and thank us for it.
It is outrageous that American officials, including the Attorney General and a legion of minions of lower rank have not only embraced this torture but have actually justified it, redefined it to a misdemeanor, brought it down to the level of a college prank and then bragged about it. The echo chamber that is the American media now views torture as a heroic and macho.And you can thank one of the scumballs in Cheney's office for all of it. David S. Addington.
Torture advocates hide behind the argument that an open discussion about specific American interrogation techniques will aid the enemy. Yet, convicted Al Qaeda members and innocent captives who were released to their host nations have already debriefed the world through hundreds of interviews, movies and documentaries on exactly what methods they were subjected to and how they endured. In essence, our own missteps have created a cadre of highly experienced lecturers for Al Qaeda’s own virtual SERE school for terrorists.
H/T Sadly, No! for the Nance link