War and Torture: The Platform of the Future?

For people who value the Rule of Law, the last Republican debate reached a new low. One would think that the promise of war and torture has now replaced work and taxes as the main issues for voters. To their great credit, John Huntsman and Ron Paul stood against torture as “unAmerican.” However, as noted in prior blogs, Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann called for the use of torture in the resumption of the waterboarding program. In the meantime, Gingrich called for yet another war: this time against Iran unless it yields to our demands. He and Santorum appeared to add promises of the murder of scientists as part of their package of promised presidential acts. I will be moderating a debate on torture this week organized by Ralph Nader’s “Debating Taboos” program.

Cain was asked directly about 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.

First, the question starts with a common misrepresentation in the media that there is a real debate over waterboarding being torture among experts. There is certainly a debate among politicians but the status of waterboarding as torture has been well-established for decades as noted in this recent chapter on torture.

Second, the whole purpose of our laws and treaties making torture a war crime is that it is not left to the military in this country or other countries. It is a war crime subject to prosecution.

The questioning then turned to Bachmann:

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.”

Now there is a strong platform: I would like to win in the war on terror. It appears that this pledge comes with the added promise of “by any means — legal or illegal.”

Paul and Huntsman offered the only redeeming moments in the debate:

“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 principle 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 principle that we will torture people that we capture.”

Huntsman then added “We diminish our standing in the world and the values we project which include liberty, Democracy, human rights and open markets when we torture. We should not torture. Waterboarding is torture.”

Of course, for those who are not satisfied with a pledge to torture our way to victory, there is always Newt Gingrich. Previously, Gingrich pledged to eliminate the EPA and its protection of citizens from pollution. Now, he pledged to start yet another — and bigger — war with Iran. Gingrich called for “maximum covert operations to block and disrupt the Iranian program including taking out their scientists, including breaking up their systems.” Of course, killing scientists is generally defined as murder. Yet, Gingrich appears to have thought about that little wrinkle: “All of it covertly, all of it deniable.” That would be the first overt covert operation in our history.

Not to be outdone, Santorum added “You know there have been scientists turning up dead in Russia and Iran, there have been computer viruses, there have been problems at their facility. I hope that the United States has been involved with that.”

Gingrich also added that war would be necessary “if, in the end, despite all those things, the dictatorship persists, you have–you have to take whatever steps are necessary to break its capacity to have a nuclear weapon.” Santorum, however, wants immediate support for Israel in commencing the bombing of Iran” “We should be working with Israel right now to do what they did in Syria, what they did in Iraq, which is take out that nuclear capability. Before the next explosion we hear in Iran is a nuclear one and the world changes.”

Gingrich appeared to be joined by Mitt Romney in his pledge for war if Iran does not yield. [Recently, I sat next to Romney on a flight from Oklahoma City. I told him that my editors would be grateful if he would unburden himself of any embarrassing stories or policies during the flight. It would remain between us and the readers of USA Today. Somehow the “I will go to war” policy escaped his attention. I actually found him to be remarkably nice despite what was clearly a long day. With the exception of turning down snacks in First Class, I was left with little to show for the long flight.]

It was truly an other-worldly moment with candidates for president casually discussing the murder of scientists and starting another war to attract voters. Of course, this could trigger a race to the bottom. Why stop at Iran? How about Syria or even China? Then there is Canada, which continues to threaten our fishing areas and dump low cost potatoes on our market. Indeed, you now have two candidates — Huntsman and Paul — who have campaign platforms that are entirely devoid of any pledged war. Even Obama has a war to his sole credit. The war gap could explain their low ratings in our new political reality.

60 thoughts on “War and Torture: The Platform of the Future?”

  1. Blouise –
    “I kinda miss Tootie.”

    Like I miss a toothache. While there are some able attempts here, none can bring the crazy like good ol Tootie. I hope it was my donations to Planned Parenthood in her name that convinced her to slink away. She didn’t have to go, only try to be rational – too big a step I guess.

  2. raff, your comment made me think of something I read about Osama bin Laden and both Afghanistan and Pakistan. He was their biggest cash cow and the last thing the governments of both countries wanted was to take him out.

  3. Gyges,
    You are right that if the rule of law had been followed and the torturers punished, these GOP candidates would have nothing to talk about.

  4. To answer the fools who think that torture is effective, just mention the name of the greatest interogator of WWII. Unfortunately, he was German and his name was Hans Scharff. He was so good that after the war, he was hired by the US and was friends with many of his former prisoners.

    He simply talked to the POWs and when they were brought into his office, he had their file on his desk, and mentioned he had been waiting for them to drop in so to speak. He then read from the file where they had gone to school, who their friends in the squadron were, and then asked them to fill in some blanks in his records or to correct bad info. He also took them on his famed walks in the woods to have a chat, after he made them promise that they would not try to escape.

    I also read that he had the infernal tactic of throwing a beer party for all the POWs in a room that had microphones planted all over. It was brilliant. I don’t think it was a violation of Geneva to force all those pilots to drink German beer as much as they wanted. Needless to say, young pilots and unlimited beer loosened a lot of tongues.

    Maybe we could use Alice B Tolkas brownies for our Islamic suspects, since they don’t drink alcohol. I don’t think Bush and company will be getting an invite for a home visit from their prisoners.

  5. I agree with you there indeed.

    What I don’t understand is why they talk about it as a viable entity when the discussion was had, Pres.Obama has flatly said that waterboarding is torture and we don’t torture. So why is there still an argument? It is insane the way the Republicans can’t hear unless they get thier way….no matter WHAT damage ensues to anyone else. Watching our Country disintegrate while the Dems and Reps fought like 3 year olds over the past few years,,,THAT was torture…

  6. Woosty,

    The problem is no longer that George W. Bush ordered the torture of prisoners when in office, that took care of itself when he left office, it’s that these people want to order torture people while in office.

    That problem would most likely not exist if the UN Convention had been followed.

  7. second thought…yes, I do.

    Do you think the pro-torture crowd are capable of doing anything without the ‘shortcuts’ and ‘perks’ that torture and other deviations from process allow?

  8. Do you think that if Obama had done what he was legally obligated too, that these same people would be talking about how they would be in favor of water-boarding? Gyges
    I don’t know.
    I know that enabling can indeed make a problem worse….but I don’t know if you can call it enabling if the problem existed before the so called ‘enabler’ arrived. That ball was already in play….

  9. Swarthmore,

    There’s a good reason the convention has so many clauses dedicated to making it’s signatures obligated to prosecute torture: enablers are just as much a part of the problem as those they enable.

    Do you think that if Obama had done what he was legally obligated too, that these same people would be talking about how they would be in favor of water-boarding?

  10. Obama was wrong not to pursue prosecution, but these republicans are advocating using it extensively in the future.

  11. Woosty’s still a Cat 1, November 14, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    POL POT stirring…
    Good point.

    Don’t forget he was a CIA asset as are some of these thugs.

  12. Swarthmore,

    Take your pick:

    Article 12
    Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committee in any territory under its jurisdiction.

    Article 13
    Each State Party shall ensure that any individual who alleges he has been subjected to torture in any territory under its jurisdiction has the right to complain to and to have his case promptly and impartially examined its competent authorities. Steps shall be taken to ensure that the complainant and witnesses are protected against all ill-treatment or intimidation as a consequence of his complaint or any evidence given.

    Article 14

    Each State Party shall ensure in its legal system that the victim of an act of torture obtains redress and has an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible. In the event of the death of the victim as a result of an act of torture, his dependents shall be entitled to compensation.
    Nothing in this article shall affect any right of the victim or other person to compensation which may exist under national law.

    Article 15
    Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.

    Article 16

    Each State Party shall undertake to prevent in any territory under its jurisdiction other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture as defined in article 1, when such acts are committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. In particular, the obligations contained in articles 10, 11, 12 and 13 shall apply with the substitution for references to torture or references to other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
    The provisions of this Convention are without prejudice to the provisions of any other international instrument or national law which prohibit cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment or which relate to extradition or expulsion.”

    The Obama Administration has an obligation under the treaty to investigate anytime there is reasonable suspicion of torture. They haven’t. In fact, they’ve gone so far as to say they WON’T which is in clear violation of the treaty.

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