PAUL DUNN: Waterboarding and the Apologists for Torture
Lately, The Pilot and other newspapers across the country have offered readers' differing viewpoints on the Bush administration's use of waterboarding (a practice begun during the Spanish Inquisition).
Some current and former military and naval officers and enlisted men enthusiastically endorse and defend the practice. Similarly many far-right Republicans, who're still staunch supporters of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, Donald Rumsfeld, Condi Rice and the rest of that sorry gang are strong apologists for this and other torture techniques.
In a letter that makes one's hair curl, one Pilot reader stated, "We are wrong in confusing waterboarding, sleep deprivation, creepy-crawling bugs and all the rest of the mind games used by skilled interrogators with thumb-screws, branding irons and bamboo shoots under the fingernails."
He and a fellow Pilot columnist rationalize that waterboarding isn't torture because it's "not based on pain." That argument has been long-debunked by the CIA's inspector general, who found, "CIA interrogation methods did violate the Convention Against Torture."
Further, sitting judge advocates of the four armed services unanimously and unambiguously agree that such conduct is "Inhumane and illegal and constitutes a violation of international law, to include Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Convention." They're supported by dozens of retired senior Judge Advocate General officers in that conclusion.
Military officers familiar with lawful interrogation techniques have told Congress repeatedly that waterboarding is "controlled drowning, a slow suffocation, and if it goes wrong can lead to terminal hypoxia. When done right it is controlled death." GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina claimed such torture would "put American troops at jeopardy, weaken the U.S. and our world reputation, undermine the ideological side of this war, and give aid and comfort to the enemy."
Many moderate Republicans prefer the enlightened and prescient view of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who'd warned Bush and Company in 2002 that their torture programs would bear a "high cost in negative international reaction ... and make us more vulnerable to domestic and international legal challenge." Bush dumped the experienced Powell and put the more compliant Condoleezza Rice in his place. A fatal move.
Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and hack Justice Department legal opinion writers argued that the commander-in-chief could ignore Geneva Convention prohibitions on prisoner torture. Only two weeks ago, Condi Rice was still using that lame argument to justify her sordid role in torture authorizations while national security adviser.
The fact that there are extensive records of White House officials sitting around discussing illegal torture of prisoners and destruction of filmed evidence of CIA torture should remind Americans of the criminal gang that sat in the Oval Office and obstructed justice 30 years ago during the Nixon years.
Many of Watergate's 40 defendants went to prison for conspiracy to obstruct justice, burglary, perjury and lying to the FBI or Congress. Consider the magnitude of the crimes committed by the Bush crowd and their top lawyers, compared to the penny-ante offenses of Richard Nixon and his accomplices.
Torture is an international and federal crime. Compared to the break-in at Democratic headquarters at the Watergate complex and subsequent cover-up, it's deadly serious stuff. Yet only 10 low-ranking enlisted men and women have been tried and sentenced to prison. In Watergate, 40 federal officials were indicted. Nixon's top aides went to prison, and if not pardoned, Nixon would have been subject to prosecution.
GOP arguments are made that since Nancy Pelosi, Jay Rockefeller and other leading Democrats were privy to information related to the torture, no Republicans who actually initiated the orders should be indicted for war crimes. The Nuremburg Trials settled that argument after World War II, when judges held that death camp guards were subject to punishment as well as German field marshals and criminal Nazi officials.
As a naval courts-martial member myself, I vividly remember many officers and men who were given substantial sentences to Portsmouth Naval Penitentiary for criminal acts far less daunting than those authorized by Bush, Rice, Cheney and Rumsfeld, et al.
In America, in theory no one's "above the law." Mr. Obama, is that still true?
Paul R. Dunn lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at email@example.com. com.
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