GOP Candidates Pledge to Bring Back Torture

Still from Amnesty film on waterboarding

Still from Amnesty film on waterboarding

Saturday’s Republican Debate in Spartanburg, South Carolina, treated us once again to the now traditional quadrennial spectacle of American politicians pledging to torture terrorist suspects.

The debate was intended to showcase the candidates’ national security chops and current frontrunner Herman Cain took the opportunity to demonstrate that he was fluent in doublespeak by calling for the reintroduction of waterboarding while simultaneously declaring that he abhorred torture.

Mr. Cain went on to state that he would trust the judgment of military leaders to determine what is torture and what is not torture. He might find that the role of Commander-in-Chief involves rather more leadership than that.

In any event, military leaders have made it abundantly clear that they consider waterboarding to be torture, which is why the CIA got saddled with doing President Bush’s dirty work.

Demonstrating the same rigorous attention to detail that she displayed in her comments about the HPV vaccine, Representative Michele Bachmann told the audience:

“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 ACLU to run the CIA.”

Actually, we now know that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was able to mislead interrogators on a number of important details while being subjected to waterboarding, inventing fake terror plots and lying about the identity of Osama bin Laden’s courier. So, not very effective.

Also, the idea that President Obama is taking his orders from the ACLU might come as a bit of a surprise to the ACLU itself which famously ran a full-page advertisement in The New York Times as far back as March 2010 depicting President Obama morphing into President Bush.

Not to be outdone by his fellow torture apologists, Texas Governor Rick Perry, joined the rush to embrace waterboarding:

“This is war, this is what happens in war.”

What he failed to add is that when it has happened in war in the past, the United States has prosecuted waterboarding as a war crime.

In fact, Perry is so enthusiastic about waterboarding that he gushed he would be for using the procedure “until I die.”

Mercifully, the moderators chose not to put him on the spot by asking if he could name two other enhanced interrogation techniques he would reintroduce.

It fell to Ron Paul and John Huntsman to inject some reason into the debate – and how often do you get to write a sentence like that?

Congressman Paul knocked the ball out of the park noting that waterboarding is:

“Illegal under international law and under our law. It’s also immoral, and it’s also very impractical. There’s no evidence that you really get reliable evidence.”

Ambassador Huntsman added:

“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.”

All excellent points.

Former Republican Presidential candidate Senator John McCain also broke cover to tweet his disapproval of the Perry-Cain-Bachmann torture axis:

john mccain tweet

Kudos Mr. McCain.

President Obama weighed into the controversy during a press conference at the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Hawaii telling reporters:

“They’re wrong. Waterboarding is torture. It’s contrary to America’s traditions. It’s contrary to our ideals. That’s not who we are. That’s not how we operate. We don’t need it in order to prosecute the war on terrorism. And we did the right thing by ending that practice.”

Well said, Mr. President.

Since waterboarding is torture, and torture is a crime under both US and international law, I presume that you will now be directing the Department of Justice to prepare indictments against those who authorized its use by the CIA in black sites around the world.

Ah well, I guess I won’t get my hopes up. We know all too well that in this administration fine words rarely translate into fine deeds.

Last Saturday’s debate reminds us all why upholding the law is so important. As a nation we chose to brush the crimes of the Bush administration under the rug and now torture is poised to make a comeback.

We prosecute crimes to deter others and to ensure that the guilty are never again in a position to repeat their offense. Accountability is not something you can fudge. We failed on torture and, as a consequence, we may be condemned to repeat the mistakes of the past decade all over again.

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40 thoughts on “GOP Candidates Pledge to Bring Back Torture

  1. These people are amazing. It defies common sense to believe that accurate information can be obtained by torture. Never mind how barbaric it is but the ineffectiveness has been proven time and time again. When I hear public figures speak of supporting these tactics, I have to wonder where and how they were educated. It is as if they have lived their lives with their heads in the sand.

  2. It is disgusting…. While politicians should be speaking about ways to diminish atrocities like this, they tlak like they debate the last movie they watched… Sad, so very sad….

    Any type of torture, whatever the name given to it, it is TORTURE. Nothing else

  3. Michele Bachmann should reacquaint herself with the ducking stool. Taking America back to the Middle Ages, apparently.

  4. So its allright for america & the west, to commit war creimes,& will not be taken to the human rights court of jutice,this human rights farce need 2 stop,useing this criminan court 2 pirate the wealth of the thirdworld,Africa,THE Middle east is crime god & man

  5. These people are amazing. It defies common sense to believe that accurate information can be obtained by torture. Never mind how barbaric it is but the ineffectiveness has been proven time and time again. When I hear public figures speak of supporting these tactics, I have to wonder where and how they were educated. It is as if they have lived their lives with their heads in the sand.

  6. Besides being morally appalling, this shared position of the candidates baffles me since they're trying to gain votes. Is this really how they're trying to gain popularity? Shameful. In addition, I certainly hope they're wildly misinformed about the constituency's opinion on the issue.

  7. It is disgusting…. While politicians should be speaking about ways to diminish atrocities like this, they tlak like they debate the last movie they watched… Sad, so very sad….

    Any type of torture, whatever the name given to it, it is TORTURE. Nothing else

  8. So, the candidates running on a platform of minimizing government power because of its purported danger to individual liberty brought about by abuses of power, are also advocating that the very same government engage in a kind of barbaric abuse of power rejected as criminal by the civilized world. Hypocrites.

  9. Michele Bachmann should reacquaint herself with the ducking stool. Taking America back to the Middle Ages, apparently.

  10. So its allright for america & the west, to commit war creimes,& will not be taken to the human rights court of jutice,this human rights farce need 2 stop,useing this criminan court 2 pirate the wealth of the thirdworld,Africa,THE Middle east is crime god & man

  11. Besides being morally appalling, this shared position of the candidates baffles me since they’re trying to gain votes. Is this really how they’re trying to gain popularity? Shameful. In addition, I certainly hope they’re wildly misinformed about the constituency’s opinion on the issue.

  12. So, the candidates running on a platform of minimizing government power because of its purported danger to individual liberty brought about by abuses of power, are also advocating that the very same government engage in a kind of barbaric abuse of power rejected as criminal by the civilized world. Hypocrites.

  13. Dear Jen,

    You can take also action by writing to Attorney General Eric Holder and calling on him to open a criminal investigation into the widespread use of extra-judicial assassination by drone aircraft in Pakistan and Afghanistan conducted with "wanton disregard for civilian casualties" ( this by the way being a full on Geneva Convention war crime every bit as much as torture is ) leading to the deaths of thousands of innocent women and children bystanders by the Obama administration, activities explicitly approved as legal by Attorney General Eric Holder.

    Oh wait a minute, I forgot.

    According to Amnesty it is just fine and dandy for the Obama administration to be assassinating at will on a daily basis, with a typical kill ratio on a good day of about 10 innocent civilian women and children killed for every one Taliban terrorist killed, It is perfectly fine to be blowing apart and burning alive little children by the bus load in these bombings, that is all just A-OK for the Obama administration to do and Amnesty has no problem with AG Eric Holder giving his legal approval for this.

    According to Amnesty it is completely legal for the Obama administration to burn and kill and maim as many civilians as it darn well pleases them to, just as long as they don't actually arrest and torture anyone by pouring water up their nose like Bush did because then it would be a war crime.

    That is according to Amnesty.

  14. Dear Jen,

    You can take also action by writing to Attorney General Eric Holder and calling on him to open a criminal investigation into the widespread use of extra-judicial assassination by drone aircraft in Pakistan and Afghanistan conducted with “wanton disregard for civilian casualties” ( this by the way being a full on Geneva Convention war crime every bit as much as torture is ) leading to the deaths of thousands of innocent women and children bystanders by the Obama administration, activities explicitly approved as legal by Attorney General Eric Holder.

    Oh wait a minute, I forgot.

    According to Amnesty it is just fine and dandy for the Obama administration to be assassinating at will on a daily basis, with a typical kill ratio on a good day of about 10 innocent civilian women and children killed for every one Taliban terrorist killed, It is perfectly fine to be blowing apart and burning alive little children by the bus load in these bombings, that is all just A-OK for the Obama administration to do and Amnesty has no problem with AG Eric Holder giving his legal approval for this.

    According to Amnesty it is completely legal for the Obama administration to burn and kill and maim as many civilians as it darn well pleases them to, just as long as they don’t actually arrest and torture anyone by pouring water up their nose like Bush did because then it would be a war crime.

    That is according to Amnesty.

  15. I am always a bit baffled as to where Judonimh gets his/her information from because he/she couldn't be more wrong.

    Amnesty takes the position that drones are just like any other weapons system – they can deployed lawfully and unlawfully. Amnesty does not accept the global armed conflict paradigm adopted by both the Bush and Obama administrations in responding to Al Qaeda. Wars are fought between states – not between states and criminal gangs.

    Therefore, we view the increased use of drones by the Obama administration with great concern and where they – or other weapons systems like cruise missiles – may have been used unlawfully we consistently call for such incidents to be investigated. You can read multiple posts on this subject on this blog – most recently October 14th's post entitled "The Man in the Mirror".

    Also you may be interested in an event taking place on November 17th at 4pm EST in our DC office. Pratap Chatterjee, a member of AIUSA's Board of Directors and a journalist for the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, will report back on his October 2011 fact-finding trip to Pakistan on the civilian impact of US drone strikes. He will show two short documentaries (total running time 15 minutes) and discuss ongoing data gathering and legal initiatives to challenge the CIA's targeted killings in the country.

    If you are interested in attending please email hlasher@aiusa.org to ensure a place and get directions to the event.

  16. I am always a bit baffled as to where Judonimh gets his/her information from because he/she couldn’t be more wrong.

    Amnesty takes the position that drones are just like any other weapons system – they can deployed lawfully and unlawfully. Amnesty does not accept the global armed conflict paradigm adopted by both the Bush and Obama administrations in responding to Al Qaeda. Wars are fought between states – not between states and criminal gangs.

    Therefore, we view the increased use of drones by the Obama administration with great concern and where they – or other weapons systems like cruise missiles – may have been used unlawfully we consistently call for such incidents to be investigated. You can read multiple posts on this subject on this blog – most recently October 14th’s post entitled “The Man in the Mirror”.

    Also you may be interested in an event taking place on November 17th at 4pm EST in our DC office. Pratap Chatterjee, a member of AIUSA’s Board of Directors and a journalist for the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, will report back on his October 2011 fact-finding trip to Pakistan on the civilian impact of US drone strikes. He will show two short documentaries (total running time 15 minutes) and discuss ongoing data gathering and legal initiatives to challenge the CIA’s targeted killings in the country.

    If you are interested in attending please email hlasher@aiusa.org to ensure a place and get directions to the event.

  17. Mr. Parker- Echoeing some of Judonimh's comments –
    Amnesty may occasionally throw the occasional tiny dart at President Obama but never associate the Democratic Party with his policies.
    But a Republican? Forget about it.
    Compare Hussein's capture with Ghaddafi's!!
    Had it been a Republican President that say – dropped bombs on Libya without even Congressional Approval… or ordered the attack on Ghaddafi's convoy – that resulted in a savage Mob beating and executing Ghaddafi – we would never hear the end of it.

  18. Really? The vast majority of the posts we have made on the topic of counterterorrism in the past three years have focused on the shortcomings of the administration in power which, last time I checked, represents the Democrats. Indeed, the post above is critical of President Obama while also praising the contributions made to the torture debate by three Republican politicians.

    AIUSA is a non-partisan organization that does not support any political party, it responds to policy positions and public statements that undermine established human rights and international legal norms – no matter what quarter they come from. We will be watching the statements of Democratic politicians just as closely once the Presidential race hots up but at present it is the Republican Party that is holding debates and staking out policy positions on the national stage as it goes through the process of selecting a Presidential candidate so they are getting some attention.

    On the subject of Libya, AI has expressed concern about potential war crimes and human rights abuses committed by all parties to the conflict and will continue do so as the new regime consolidates power.

  19. Mr. Parker- Echoeing some of Judonimh’s comments -
    Amnesty may occasionally throw the occasional tiny dart at President Obama but never associate the Democratic Party with his policies.
    But a Republican? Forget about it.
    Compare Hussein’s capture with Ghaddafi’s!!
    Had it been a Republican President that say – dropped bombs on Libya without even Congressional Approval… or ordered the attack on Ghaddafi’s convoy – that resulted in a savage Mob beating and executing Ghaddafi – we would never hear the end of it.

  20. Really? The vast majority of the posts we have made on the topic of counterterorrism in the past three years have focused on the shortcomings of the administration in power which, last time I checked, represents the Democrats. Indeed, the post above is critical of President Obama while also praising the contributions made to the torture debate by three Republican politicians.

    AIUSA is a non-partisan organization that does not support any political party, it responds to policy positions and public statements that undermine established human rights and international legal norms – no matter what quarter they come from. We will be watching the statements of Democratic politicians just as closely once the Presidential race hots up but at present it is the Republican Party that is holding debates and staking out policy positions on the national stage as it goes through the process of selecting a Presidential candidate so they are getting some attention.

    On the subject of Libya, AI has expressed concern about potential war crimes and human rights abuses committed by all parties to the conflict and will continue do so as the new regime consolidates power.

  21. I just do not feel is is just or fair to demand the current administration take the unprecedented step of persecuting members of the previous administration when you consider that the current administration, and probably all other administrations, past, present and future have and no doubt will continue to commit equally illegal or even worse war crimes and all of them out of the exact same motivation as the Bush Administration had which was to protect the United States and it's citizens from danger.

  22. I just do not feel is is just or fair to demand the current administration take the unprecedented step of persecuting members of the previous administration when you consider that the current administration, and probably all other administrations, past, present and future have and no doubt will continue to commit equally illegal or even worse war crimes and all of them out of the exact same motivation as the Bush Administration had which was to protect the United States and it’s citizens from danger.

  23. Judonimh's sentence is oxymoronic … that it's "unprecedented" to "persecute" (sic !) members of previous adminstrations !!

    "Unprecedented" ???

    Then the question of "persecution" doesn't arise !!

    "Unprecedented" ?

    Then the "persecuted" are actually the ARROGANT UNTOUCHABLES …. who brag about bringing ANYONE on earth to "justice", but are THEMSELVES ABOVE PROSECUTION ( that's the word, not "persecution" ! ) !

    "Unprecedented" ?

    Then ACCOUNTABILITY is OUT !!

    Accountability, the FOUNDATION STONE of democracy !

    "Unprecedented " ?

    Then the sytem NEVER corrects itself !

    & WE must CORRECT IT !!

    To its very foundations !!

  24. Judonimh says probably all US adminstrations are war criminal.

    But are MOTIVATED by the desire to protect america.

    MOTIVATION as argument is INADMISSIBLE in the triple courts.

    It's NEGATED & DISCREDITED in the court of history, by governmental archival / documentational evidence, like the Pentagon Papers, AND independent scholarly / journalistic historical research. No respectable historian leverages his arguments on motivation today, if they ever did.

    It's equally INADMISSIBLE in the court of international law, which does NOT accept "motivation" as excuse or justification for war crimes.

    & motivation's LONG been thrown out of the court of public opinion, in america & the world, where overwhelming MAJORITIES have spoken out ( in opinion polls & other public fora ), as well as demonstrated against, the US Wars of Terror, demanding their IMMEDIATE CLOSURE.

    As for Bush, his doctrine of PERMANENT & INDEFINITE war is a horror & embarrassment a decisive majority of Americans want to disassociate themselves from asap.

    If only their government would listen.

  25. Judonimh’s sentence is oxymoronic … that it’s “unprecedented” to “persecute” (sic !) members of previous adminstrations !!

    “Unprecedented” ???

    Then the question of “persecution” doesn’t arise !!

    “Unprecedented” ?

    Then the “persecuted” are actually the ARROGANT UNTOUCHABLES …. who brag about bringing ANYONE on earth to “justice”, but are THEMSELVES ABOVE PROSECUTION ( that’s the word, not “persecution” ! ) !

    “Unprecedented” ?

    Then ACCOUNTABILITY is OUT !!

    Accountability, the FOUNDATION STONE of democracy !

    “Unprecedented ” ?

    Then the sytem NEVER corrects itself !

    & WE must CORRECT IT !!

    To its very foundations !!

  26. Judonimh says probably all US adminstrations are war criminal.

    But are MOTIVATED by the desire to protect america.

    MOTIVATION as argument is INADMISSIBLE in the triple courts.

    It’s NEGATED & DISCREDITED in the court of history, by governmental archival / documentational evidence, like the Pentagon Papers, AND independent scholarly / journalistic historical research. No respectable historian leverages his arguments on motivation today, if they ever did.

    It’s equally INADMISSIBLE in the court of international law, which does NOT accept “motivation” as excuse or justification for war crimes.

    & motivation’s LONG been thrown out of the court of public opinion, in america & the world, where overwhelming MAJORITIES have spoken out ( in opinion polls & other public fora ), as well as demonstrated against, the US Wars of Terror, demanding their IMMEDIATE CLOSURE.

    As for Bush, his doctrine of PERMANENT & INDEFINITE war is a horror & embarrassment a decisive majority of Americans want to disassociate themselves from asap.

    If only their government would listen.

  27. Well, the Rapture won't happen by itself, now will it ! 2012 and some leader is bound to decide to go into every village kill every first-boychild they encounter. Wait, started.

  28. Well, the Rapture won’t happen by itself, now will it ! 2012 and some leader is bound to decide to go into every village kill every first-boychild they encounter. Wait, started.

  29. Stunning to hear politicians calmly supporting torture. Glad McCain and Obama spoke out against it. Geneva conventions are not optional. I suspect North American politicians are concerned about their lack of response to the torture allegations, petitions, and charges brought forward by the North American people which were not responded to. Electronic torture has been reported on American and Canadian soil for several years with zero military, health or justice intervention. Hundreds, possibly thousands of people have spoken loudly about this. All major installations are at risk with these weapons in action on home soil. We cannot seem to get our message through to defence, or UN. Amnesty International Canada does not appear functional. May they get support.

  30. Stunning to hear politicians calmly supporting torture. Glad McCain and Obama spoke out against it. Geneva conventions are not optional. I suspect North American politicians are concerned about their lack of response to the torture allegations, petitions, and charges brought forward by the North American people which were not responded to. Electronic torture has been reported on American and Canadian soil for several years with zero military, health or justice intervention. Hundreds, possibly thousands of people have spoken loudly about this. All major installations are at risk with these weapons in action on home soil. We cannot seem to get our message through to defence, or UN. Amnesty International Canada does not appear functional. May they get support.