The GOP Debate on Foreign Policy was held at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina on Saturday night. The debate was not on a topic the GOP Presidential hopefuls looked forward to as the Obama Administration – despite their many serious flaws – has had some success in the area of foreign policy. This is not to say that the Obama Administration’s performance in the area of foreign policy hasn’t been realistically uneven, but they’ve had enough victories to make the topic less than easy pickings for the usual mud-slinging of the campaign trail.
What was more telling than the absence of effective smear or substantive criticism was when the subject of waterboarding came up. Would you vote for a candidate that advocates breaking the laws and violating the Constitution of this country? Apparently politicians not only think you will, but now consider it a selling point if the laws they advocate breaking involve torture.
As previously discussed on this blog here, here and here (to list but a few), torture is illegal and waterboarding is torture. This is not supposition, but legal fact despite the Obama Administrations failure to prosecute the members of the Bush Administration responsible for ordering the illegal practice. Some even consider Obama’s failure to prosecute these crime tantamount to aiding and abetting after the fact.
Waterboarding violates the U.S. Constitution, Amendment 8 – Cruel and Unusual Punishment, which reads “[e]xcessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
There is precedent for successful prosecution of those caught waterboarding. In 1902, Maj. Edwin F. Glenn was court-martialed and convicted of the crime of torture in 1898 despite attempting to use the oft repeated rationalization heard today about the “necessities of war”. In 1947, Japanese officer Yukio Asano was sentenced by military tribunal to 15 years of hard labor for waterboarding prisoners of war during the years 1943-1944. In 1983, Texas Sheriff James Parker and his deputies were convicted of waterboarding a prisoner resulting in Parker being sentenced to four years in prison.
Waterboarding is a domestic crime under the Torture Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2340-2340A. The text of the Torture Act reads:
“Sec. 2340A. Torture
(a) Offense.–Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.
(b) Jurisdiction.–There is jurisdiction over the activity
prohibited in subsection (a) if–
(1) the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or
(2) the alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender.
(c) Conspiracy.–A person who conspires to commit an offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties (other than the penalty of death) as the penalties prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy.”
Waterboarding is a war crime according to international law and the Geneva Convention which states, “No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuses to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.” Geneva Convention III, art. 17.
None of this deterred candidate Herman Cain or Michelle Bachmann during the following exchange:
“Major Garrett: I don’t need to tell the people on this stage that presidential politics is interactive business. And, of course, this debate is interactive as well. And we have an email question I’m happy to say, emailed into the National Journal. And it comes from Stephen Schafroth (PH) of Odell’s (PH), Oregon. And I’d like to address this question to Mr. Cain. Stephen writes, “I served on an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War. I believe that torture is always wrong in all cases. What is your stance on torture?”
Herman Cain: I believe that following the procedures that have been established by our military, I do not agree with torture, period. However, I will trust the judgment of our military leaders to determine what is torture and what is not torture. That is the critical consideration.
Major Garrett: Mr. Cain, of course you’re familiar with the long-running debate we’ve had about whether waterboarding constitutes torture or is an enhanced interrogation tech– technique. In the last campaign, Republican nominee John McCain and Barack Obama agreed that it was torture and should not be allowed legally and that the Army Field Manual should be the methodology used to interrogate enemy combatants. Do you agree with that or do you disagree, sir?
Herman Cain: I agree that it was an enhanced interrogation technique.
Major Garrett: And then you would support it at present. You would return to that policy.
Herman Cain: Yes, I would return to that policy. I don’t see it as torture. I see it as an enhanced interrogation technique.
Major Garrett: Congressman– congresswoman Bachmann, your opinion on this question that our emailer asked.
Michele Bachmann: If I were president, I would be willing to use waterboarding. I think it was very effective. It gained information for our country. And I– and I also would like to say that today, under Barack Obama, he is allowing the A.C.L.U. to run the C.I.A. You need to understand that today– today we– it– when we– when we interdict a terrorist on the battlefield, we have no jail for them. We have nowhere to take them. We have no C.I.A. interrogations anymore. It is as though we have decided we want to lose in the War on Terror under President Obama. That’s not my strategy. My strategy will be that the United States will be victorious in the War on Terror.”
Apparently Herman Cain slept through the part of civics in high school where they taught that the laws of a country were only determined by the military in a military dictatorship let alone the discussion of the 8th Amendment.
To give credit where it is due, Ron Paul and John Huntsman had the following to say about waterboarding:
“Ron Paul: Well, waterboarding is torture. And– and many other– it’s ill– it’s illegal under international law and under our law. It’s also immoral. The– and it’s also very impractical. There’s no evidence that you really get reliable evidence. Why would you accept the position of torturing 100 people because you know one person might have information? And that’s what you do when you accept the principal of a– of– of– of torture. I think it’s– I think it’s uncivilized and prac– and has no practical advantages and is really un-American to accept on principal that we will torture people that we capture.”
“Jon Huntsman: First of all, let me thank the sailor on the ship. I have two boys in the United States Navy. And all they wanna do is go on to fight, protect, and defend the great freedoms that we share in this country. This country has values. We have a name brand in the world. I’ve lived overseas four times. I’ve been an ambassador for my country three times. I’ve lived overseas and done business.
We diminish our standing in the world and the values that we project which include liberty, democracy, human rights, and open markets when we torture. We should not torture. Waterboarding is torture. We dilute ourselves down like a whole lot of other countries. And we lose that ability to project values that a lot of people in corners of this world are still relying on the United States to stand up for them.”
Equally troubling as Cain and Bachmann’s endorsement of torture was Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich’s endorsement of the Obama policy claiming the President has the right to unilaterally order the execution of American citizens without Due Process which included an outright lie by Gingrich.
“Scott Pelley: And that is time. Thank you, sir. Governor Romney. Governor Romney, recently President Obama ordered the death of an American citizen who was suspected of terrorist activity overseas. Is it appropriate for the American president on the president’s say-so alone to order the death of an American citizen suspected of terrorism?
Mitt Romney: Absolutely. In this case, this is an individual who had aligned himself with a– with a group that had declared war on the United States of America. And– and if there’s someone that’s gonna– join with a group like Al-Qaeda that declares war on America and we’re in a– in a– a war with that entity, then of course anyone who was bearing arms for that entity is fair game for the United States of America. Let me go back– let me go back and just– and just talk for a moment about the issue that the issue that a number of people have spoken about which is their definition of how their foreign policy might be different than this president.
My foreign policy’s pretty straightforward. I would be guided by an overwhelming conviction that this century must be an American century where America has the strongest values, the strongest economy, and the strongest military. An American century means the century where America leads the free world and the free world leads the entire world.
We have a president right now who thinks America’s just another nation. America is an exceptional nation. We have a president who thinks that the way to conduct foreign policy is through his personal affects on other people. I’m– I believe the way to conduct foreign policy is with American strength. Everything I do will make America stronger. And I will stand and use whatever means necessary within the law to make sure that we protect America’s citizens and Americans’ rights.
Scott Pelley: And– and that’s time, Governor. Lady– ladies and gentlemen, — ladies and gentlemen, the applause are lovely. But we will not have doing. Thank you very much. We’ll have– we’ll have courtesy for all of the candidates on the stage. Speaker Gingrich, if I could just ask you the same question, as President of the United States, would you sign that death warrant for an American citizen overseas who you believe is a terrorist suspect?
Newt Gingrich: Well, he’s not a terrorist suspect. He’s a person who was found guilty under review of actively seeking the death of Americans.
Scott Pelley: Not– not found guilty by a court, sir.
Newt Gingrich: He was found guilty by a panel that looked at it and reported to the president.
Scott Pelley: Well, that’s ex-judicial. That’s– it’s not–
Newt Gingrich: Let me– let me– let me tell you a story– let me just tell you this.
Scott Pelley: –the rule of law.
Newt Gingrich: It is the rule of law. That is explicitly false. It is the rule of law.
Scott Pelley: No.
Newt Gingrich: If you engage in war against the United States, you are an enemy combatant. You have none of the civil liberties of the United States. You cannot go to court. Let me be– let me be very clear about this. There are two levels. There’s a huge gap here that– that frankly far too many people get confused over. Civil defense, criminal defense, is a function of being within the American law. Waging war on the United States is outside criminal law. It is an act of war and should be dealt with as an act of war. And the correct thing in an act of war is to kill people who are trying to kill you.”
Apparently Mitt and Newt slept through that part of the civics lecture about the Separation of Powers and Due Process.
Should statements like the ones of Cain, Bachmann, Romney and Gingrich that display a blatant disregard and/or ignorance of the laws of the United States preclude them as a serious candidate? When candidates for the Office of President of the United States show a willingness to break the law and further the crimes of previous administrations it illustrates that there is something critically wrong with our campaigning process and the culture of Washington in general. What can be done to discourage such people from either running or in the alternative being taken seriously? What should be done to eliminate such blatant endorsement and defense of criminal activity in the political class?
What do you think?
~ Submitted by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger