Who Will Not Torture?

George W Bush has vetoed a bill outlawing torture by the CIA. In his own words, he stated that anything was permissible that prevented another terrorist attack on the US. Americans are, tonight, debating the rights and wrongs of that presidential action.

Let me just repeat that last sentence, so the reader has an opportunity to truly consider its import:

Americans are, tonight, debating the rights and wrongs of that presidential action.

What that one sentence clarifies beyond question is that over the last seven years, America has become a society that condones the use of inhumane and cruel practices, labeled ‘torture’ under the Geneva Conventions, as an official part of their national defense strategy.

How has a once proud nation fallen.

Europe, for decades, has suffered intermittent terrorist atrocities, yet never once has torture become a debated issue in any European nation. The atrocities of Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan too clearly revealed the degradation of the human being who sinks to such levels. It is a matter few Europeans would even momentarily consider when discussing the combating of terrorism.

We can expect such low moral fiber from the likes of George W Bush. Anyone who, as a state governor, can openly mock the pleas of a woman condemned to die on death row is an obviously sick and depraved human being.[1]

But what of the rest of America? Why is the question of torture even being debated in this nation?


The major reason debate is rife over torture techniques lies with America’s weak and wimpish politicians. So many of them refuse to come right out and condemn these practices, clearly and unambiguously, that a high percentage of the electorate, who rely on the communications of such individuals for their political and moral guidance, hear the hesitation of their congressmen and assume it must be an okay thing.

A similar situation exists in the right-wing churches where many pastors are insisting it’s God’s will that such practices as waterboarding are used against ‘evil’ and ‘ungodly’ terrorists.

When both politicians and churchmen are prepared to support acts condemned by the Geneva Conventions, it’s little wonder the populace are confused and begin to take sides over a matter that, in all decency, should never, ever, be an issue.

George W Bush is, thankfully, on his way out, so let’s examine the principles of those vying to take his place.

Can any of them be relied on to come right out and condemn, unequivocally, those actions of this present administration that are in contravention of the Geneva Conventions?

John McCain, the Bush alternative, has always opposed the use of torture techniques, including waterboarding, given that he was subjected to some rather vigorous examples himself back in the Vietnam era. We can assume his objections are rock solid – can’t we?

Sadly, John is given to sending mixed messages to the American populace, so his recent vote against the bill to ban the CIA from using such techniques perhaps comes as no great surprise.[2] After all, he is running on a Republican ticket, and some rednecks just relish the idea of screwing a few of those Islamofascist bastards.

Republicans aren’t the only ones to pander to the neolithic base of their parties. Here’s what Hillary Clinton had to say recently on the subject:

This response from Ms Clinton outraged Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at the University of California-Los Angeles:[3]

” The CIA just announced that it would no longer do waterboading. That clearly implies that the CIA was doing waterboarding. Waterboarding is torture. If HRC can’t say “No waterboarding,” her “No torture” isn’t worth the spit behind it.

The same goes for the cold cell, for “long time standing,” for “disappearing” people into secret prisons, and to “rendering” people to countries which we know practice torture. It’s legitimate to say “I won’t know just how bad things are until I’m President,” but it’s not legitimate to pretend that we don’t already know that torture is going on in our name, and that if we decide not to hold war crimes trials we at least need a truth and reconciliation commission to expose the facts.

Part of HRC’s problem is that the Bill Clinton regime didn’t have entirely clean hands, specifically on the “rendition” issue. But it now seems clear that if we want the country to make a clean break with current policies on maltreatment of captives, we can’t do so by putting HRC in the White House.”

Oh, dear, it seems that Hillary can’t be trusted on the issue either; no wonder Americans are confused.

That only leaves one other presidential contender – Barack Obama. Is he joining with his fellows in skirting the issue, insisting the truth of waterboarding and similar ‘enhanced techniques’ can only be evaluated once the White House is won?

In October 2007, while commenting on the possible appointment of Michael Mukasey as Attorney General, Obama stated:[4]

“I have been consistent in my strong belief that no Administration should allow the use of torture, including so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ like water-boarding, head-slapping, and extreme temperatures. It’s time that we had a Department of Justice that upholds the rule of law and American values, instead of finding ways to enable the President to subvert them. No more political parsing or legal loopholes. I cannot support Judge Mukasey unless he clearly and unequivocally rejects techniques like water-boarding.”


Throughout his nomination campaign, Obama has apparently remained consistent in his opposition to such techniques.

It would appear that Obama is the only candidate the American people can rely on to guide them in matters moral, as well as political.

Whether you love him or hate him, Barack Obama, at least for now, appears the only true embodiment of “what you see is what you get”.

[1] Karla Faye Tucker

[2] Huffington Post, February 14th, 2008

[3] “Would Hillary Clinton Waterboard?” – New York Times, March 8th, 2008

[4] TPM Election Central, October 29th, 2007.

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7 Replies to “Who Will Not Torture?”

  1. I “have no higher responsibility than protecting America from terrorist attacks.” Is this truly the President’s highest responsibility? Perhaps this is an “enhanced” view of the Constitution and of one’s moral obligations. Impeach him now!

  2. I guess that one hears what one wants to hear, RJ. 🙂

    Senator Clinton’s reply was clear enough for me: “the USA should abide by the Geneva Convention”. She’s a lawyer of long experience. She uses words with great care and circumspection, but that doesn’t mean that she would ever condone waterboarding. She probably has good reason for phrasing things as she does. She’s been caught before and hauled over the coals by the Republicans.

  3. It’s great that you think America has a tradition of fairness. My uncle told me that in the Korean War, they used to take POW’s on a plane ride and throw them out over the ocean. America gave our freezing natives blankets impregnated with smallpox. History is kind of like the media – extremely biased.

    If there was a God, he would do to people what they did to others.

  4. I’m not hearing what you heard on the HRC interview, RJA.

    She said “we should abide by the Geneva Convention” – that is pretty clear to me and also she says evaluation of all the damage caused by the current admin is going to take time. Very reasonable, IMHO.


  5. One great big gaping loophole I’d love to see addressed properly is the “rendering/rendition” one.

    Incidentally, I’ll add that I don’t believe for one minute that Blair’s government wasn’t fully aware of it’s complicty in this matter.

    Trying to convince the British public that they weren’t aware of the true business/purpose of any of the US planes landing at British airports for refueling and such, was just one more huge insult to our intelligence.

  6. Al – which begs the question – why are neither top Republicans nor top Democrats prepared to instigate impeachment, against both Bush and Cheney? Experts agree the evidence is there. There just isn’t the political will.

    Twilight – oh, how I hate disagreeing with friends! I note I have to disagree with two of them while responding to these particular comments.

    First, it’s not what I’m hearing, it’s what I’m not hearing from Hillary Clinton that concerns me. A few weeks ago, she wept in a public show of anguish over, she said, her country. Despite that, she deliberately refrains from unequivocally denouncing the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” like waterboarding, the use of rendition to foreign nations known to practice torture, and the incarceration of prisoners without trial. Despite all of these being despicable acts that heap shame upon her country.

    To suggest she has no idea of what the administration has been doing, is a downright lie. CIA Director Michael Hayden admitted to Congress that his department had used waterboarding and other forms of ‘enhanced interrogation’ (read ‘torture’) techniques. The acts of prisoner abuse practiced by this administration are now in the public domain.

    George Bush has repeatedly insisted America has done nothing in contravention of the Geneva Conventions, even when it is obvious to everyone it has. “We should abide by the Geneva Conventions” and “No torture” are fine words, but Clinton fails to define her interpretation of “torture”, just exactly as Bush continuously failed to do. “We do not torture,” has become an infamous Bush saying that I think he truly believes. He doesn’t view waterboarding, cold rooms, sleep deprivation, etc., as torture. Does Hillary Clinton? She consistently negotiates her way out of defining just what she views as torture. Obama is most specific, and leaves no shadow of a doubt. I’d rather support someone who says, “I pledge to stop these specific acts,” rather than one who simply says, “Maybe.”

    Flimsy – I do try to be kind to America occasionally. I think it’s because I know there are many, many, citizens of this country who feel ashamed of what it has become, and just want it to be what they thought it once was. Also, I’m well aware my own nation of birth has multifarious war crimes and atrocities to its shame over a much longer history.

    As to God, Pastor John Hagee believes in just such a One as you describe. Though he’s too busy embracing Senator McCain to give it much thought today.

    WWW – I fear I must just refer you to my response to our good friend, Twilight. Otherwise, I would just be repeating myself. 😉

    TOB – Tony Blair lie to his people? This is the man just chosen to teach Yale students on the subject of “Faith and Globalization.” Dammit, I’d have soon taken that as mathematics, any day. It was never on our curriculum.

    I’m still searching for that elusive fish, the honest politician. So far, Obama seems the most appealing trout in the pool. Of course, it’s hard to judge accurately through all the ripples.

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