Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Welcome to their world of waterboarding

Welcome to the bizarre world of Paddy Mac and his admirer Jessica Mac, in which waterboarding is something you might do at Tommy Bartlett's place in the Dells:

McBride says this is Patrick McIlheran, resident Journal Sentinel warmonger, "at his best." McIlheran, she says, "skewers the left on waterboarding" when he writes:
The usual retort is, “Would you want it done to you?” Well, no. Then again, I wouldn’t want to be locked up in jail at all, nor subjected to the good-cop, bad-cop routine. I do something to avoid those perfectly legal fates: I avoid committing crimes. If I weren’t a U.S. citizen and lived outside this country’s protection, I’d avoid making war on it. That’s a good way to not have it happen to you. But in any case, whether you’d find something unpleasant, even extremely so, isn’t the criterion for torture.
Actually, that's not the usual retort.

The usual retort is that waterboarding is inhuman, brutal torture -- something our nation should never consider using on any human being.

McIlheran says Congress ("the law") decides what torture is:
Mukasey’s explanation — and it’s a reasonable one; read it here (pdf) -- is that doing something to make someone feel like he’s drowning is awful, “repugnant,” even, and that, in his best legal judgment, it isn’t torture. The law says what is torture: “Whether a particular technique is torture,” Mukasey writes, “would turn principally on whether it is specifically intended to cause (a) severe physical pain or suffering, or (b) prolonged mental harm resulting from certain specified threats or acts.”

Or maybe it’s “cruel, inhuman or degrading” -- that’s illegal, too, he points out. When he’s AG, he’ll get briefed on classified interrogation the CIA does and decide, based on the law.
The Department of Defense has banned waterboarding. It can't be used by the military. But Congress hasn't specifically told the CIA to stop.

That makes it OK? Hardly.

You don't need Congress to tell you it's torture. You know it when you see it. And even the CIA knows it's torture.

This from an ABC News report:

Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.

"The person believes they are being killed, and as such, it really amounts to a mock execution, which is illegal under international law," said John Sifton of Human Rights Watch.

The techniques are controversial among experienced intelligence agency and military interrogators. Many feel that a confession obtained this way is an unreliable tool. Two experienced officers have told ABC that there is little to be gained by these techniques that could not be more effectively gained by a methodical, careful, psychologically based interrogation. According to a classified report prepared by the CIA Inspector General John Helgerwon and issued in 2004, the techniques "appeared to constitute cruel, and degrading treatment under the (Geneva) convention," the New York Times reported on Nov. 9, 2005.

It is "bad interrogation. I mean you can get anyone to confess to anything if the torture's bad enough," said former CIA officer Bob Baer.

The question is not whether you'd like to have it done to you. The question is whether it should be inflicted on anyone. The answer is obviously no.

UPDATE: From thursday's NY Times editorial:
Waterboarding is torture and was prosecuted as such as far back as 1902 by the United States military when used in a slightly different form on insurgents in the Philippines. It meets the definition of torture that existed in American law and international treaties until Mr. Bush changed those rules. Even the awful laws on the treatment of detainees that were passed in 2006 prohibited the use of waterboarding by the American military.

And yet the nominee for attorney general has no view on whether it would be legal for an employee of the United States government to subject a prisoner to that treatment? The only information Mr. Mukasey can possibly be lacking is whether Mr. Bush broke the law by authorizing the C.I.A. to use waterboarding — a judgment that the White House clearly does not want him to render in public because it could expose a host of officials to criminal accountability.

... The administration’s standard is dangerously vague, invites abuse and amounts to a unilateral reinterpretation of the Geneva Conventions. Would Mr. Mukasey approve of a foreign jailer using waterboarding on an American soldier? Mr. Bush’s policies increase the danger of that happening.

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