S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

One word: "waterboarding"

. . . was the subject of 29,300 posts carried by my news aggregator Bloglines this morning. The word simply will not go away. In fact, someone I know dreamed about George Bush and waterboarding. It is very serious business when something in the news disturbs the sleep of perfectly normal people.
What is so disturbing about the practice of waterboarding being carried out by people in the name of the U.S. government? It is hard to put into words, but here are a few that come quickly to mind: It is flat wrong. It is un-American. It is stupid. It is illegal. It is uncivilized. It is counterproductive. And it is terribly destructive to the fabric of of our nation's illustrious history of freedom and justice.
I found even better words, however, in my Sunday paper, written by one of my favorite columnists, Joe Galloway, described by his newspaper this way:

General H. Norman Schwarzkopf has called Joseph L. Galloway, a military columnist for McClatchy Newspapers, "The finest combat correspondent of our generation — a soldier's reporter and a soldier's friend."

Galloway is the co-author, with Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, of "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young," a story of the first large-scale ground battle of the Vietnam War. The book was made into a movie of the same name. Galloway was portrayed in the movie by actor Barry Pepper.

He knows from whence he speaks --
McClatchy's Newspapers Joe Galloway, a Texan, seems very disturbed as evidenced by his most recent column. Dated (11/7/07), the author titled it simply, "Commentary: Is waterboarding torture -- Yes." To quote:
All of Judge Michael Mukasey’s artful dodging and word play to avoid acknowledging the obvious to the august members of Senate Judiciary Committee does nothing to change the fact.

When you hog-tie a human being, tilt him head down, stuff a rag in his mouth and over his nostrils and pour water onto the rag slowly and steadily to the point where his lungs fill with water and he's suffocating and drowning, that is torture.

Four decades ago in the field in Vietnam, I saw a suspected Viet Cong waterboarded by South Vietnamese Army troops. The American Army advisers who were attached to the Vietnamese unit turned their backs and walked away before the torture began. It was then a Vietnamese affair and something they couldn't be associated with.
Galloway goes on to write the most rational, succinct and passionate piece I have ever seen on the subject of waterboarding. I now realize what former Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith (who rescinded the Justice Department's original torture memo) was talking about. In one of my previous posts, "Following the Rule of Law - - Part II," Goldsmith talked about what everyone involved was afraid of, actual prosecution. To quote further from Galloway,
Waterboarding is torture in the eyes of all civilized peoples, no matter how desperately President George W. Bush tries to rewrite the English language, with which he has only a passing familiarity, anyway. No matter how desperately his entire administration tries to redefine the word "torture" to cover the fact that not only have they acquiesced in its use, but they also have ordered its use.

The president, Vice President Dick Cheney, and their cronies and legal mouthpieces such as David Addington, John Yoo and Alberto Gonzales are doing all they can to avoid one day facing the bar of justice, at home or in The Hague, and being called to account for crimes against humanity.

They want a blank check pardon, and they'll continue searching for attorneys general and judges and justices and senators and members of Congress who'll hand them their stay-out-of-jail-free cards.

As they squirm and wriggle and lie and quibble and cut deals with senators, they claim that "harsh interrogation methods" are necessary to prevent another 9/11. But as terrified as they are by terrorists, they also fear that one day they may be treated no better than some fallen South American dictator or Cambodian despot or hapless Texas sheriff; that they might not be able to leave a guarded, gated compound in Dallas or Crawford, a ranch in New Mexico or the shores of Chesapeake Bay for fear of arrest and extradition.
Galloway's conclusion lays it out more clearly than I have seen written to date on the subject of waterboarding. Quote:
Now the Democrats, or some of them, are conspiring with them to seat an attorney general who will help facilitate the ever more frantic search for ex post facto immunity for their crimes. Shame on them! There’s such a thing as too loyal an opposition; too cowardly an opposition; too craven an opposition.

Waterboarding is torture. Decent people have acknowledged that for centuries. We sent Japanese war criminals to the gallows for using it. We sent a Texas sheriff to prison for using it. One day, an ex-president and those who helped him and those he ordered to torture fellow human beings may have to plea bargain for their lives and their freedom.
The one word for voters to ask presidential candidates should be, "How do you feel about waterboarding?" It is not a complicated or convoluted question. It is simple. And the answer should be simple. "Never again."
  1. "The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment inside the Bush Administration," by Jack Goldsmith
  2. Lapopessa's "A History of Waterboarding"
  3. "We were Soldiers Once . . . and Young," by Joe Galloway and Lt. Gen Hal Moore (USA-Ret.)

My links:
(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)
My “creativity and dreaming” post today at Making Good Mondays is about "variety as the spice of life."
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