On Mukasey

Ken AshfordWar on Terrorism/Torture1 Comment

WaterboardingLook, I know I have biased political views, but I like to think I can at least understand both sides of any debate, even if I agree with only one side.

But I just don’t understand how there can be any doubt on this very simple question: Is waterboarding torture?

You can engage me in a debate about whether the United States should engage in torture (I’ll take the "no" side) and you can engage me in a speculative debate about where the United States does/should engage in waterboarding techniques (again, I’ll take the "no" side).

But the question on Mukasey’s table is quite simple and does not relate to what the United States is doing, might be doing, or should be doing.  Instead, it is a simple question: Is waterboarding torture?

Waterboarding, for those who don’t know, consists of immobilizing an individual on his or her back, with the head inclined downward, and pouring water over the face to force the inhalation of water and induce the sensation of drowning.  The goal of course is to get the individual to confess (although, like most torture techniques, he’s likely to say anything to get you to stop doing it).

To suggest that this isn’t torture — or to even balk at the answer — simply eludes my understanding.  We prosecuted Japanese war criminals in WWII for conducting waterboarding on prisoners.  So how can it NOT be torture?  Is it a crime only when they do it, and not when we do it?  Is it torture when they do it, and not when we do it?

Mukasey, of course, isn’t giving any answer, but dodging it.

If there was only some way we could get him to talk….