Steven G. Bradbury, the acting chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, offered one of the most detailed defenses of waterboarding by the Administration to date. In a bizarre twist, he insisted that the Administration was less like the Spanish Inquisition and more like the Khmer Rouge in its particularly version of the torture technique. Of course, his distinction would be lost on all but torture affectionados and, of course, Democrat and Republican members desperately trying to avoid a criminal investigation.
In his testimony before the House subcommittee, Bradbury once again refused (as does Attorney General Mukasey) to answer the very simple legal question of whether waterboarding is illegal. Few members pressed the point or noted that the Administration waited for years to acknowledge this information until after the elections and the confirmation of Mukasey. Now the Administration appears eager to show Americans that waterboarding is more like a prolonged swim in a rough surf or a really vigorous shower. Bradbury told the subcommittee that American waterboarding “can be quite distressing, uncomfortable, even frightening . . . [but] if it doesn’t involve severe physical pain, and it doesn’t last very long, it may not constitute severe physical suffering.”
In the defense of “American waterboarding,” Bradbury insisted that it is not the same as the Spanish Inquisition. “The only thing in common is, I think, the use of water.” Of course, there is that other thing in common: it is torture. Yet, Bradbury refused to deal with the common element by refusing to answer the legal question on the status of waterboarding under American and international courts.
What Bradbury described appears to be the same technique used by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and by the military junta in Burma.
Bradbury is at the center of a storm over his own confirmation. Bush is reportedly putting dozen of nominees at risk to confirm Bradbury, who is central figure in the Bush torture program. Click here
Of course, if all of this sounds ridiculous, it is pales in comparison to the fact that Congress has does nothing in the face of such testimony. With Mukasey refusing to even investigate the crime of torture under a transparent rationalization, click here, Democrats are struggling to pretend to be doing something about torture while blocking any formal criminal investigation of its own. Thus, we are left with administration officials holding forth on the relative benefits of torture Khmer-style as opposed to Spanish-style.
It is truly otherworldly, Bradbury participated in a program to commit the well-defined crime of torture at the direction of the President of the United States. Yet, he feels entirely comfortable chatting with a congressional committee about the pros and cons of torture techniques while refusing to answer legal questions on the obvious illegality of all of these techniques. It is like Torquemada giving pressers on “Ten Interesting Facts About Waterboarding.” If members of both parties are going to abandon any sense of principle or morality, they should spare the nation further scenes like this.
For the full story on the latest hearing, click here