cross posted at The Dream Antilles
Waterboarding (read: torture) is nothing new. It’s been around since the 15th century, and has a long, well documented history. That history was briefly summed up by Ted Kennedy for Democracy Now:
It’s an ancient technique of tyrants. In the fifteenth and sixteenth century, it was used by interrogators in the Spanish Inquisition. In the nineteenth century, it was used against slaves in this country. In World War II, it was used against us by Japan. In the 1970s, it was used against political opponents by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and the military dictatorships of Chile and Argentina. Today, it’s being used against pro-democracy activists by the rulers of Burma. When we fail to reject waterboarding, this is the company that we keep. /snip
Make no mistake about it: waterboarding is already illegal under United States law. It’s illegal under the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit outrages upon personal dignity, including cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment. It’s illegal under the Torture Act, which prohibits acts specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering. It’s illegal under the Detainee Treatment Act, which prohibits cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. And it violates the Constitution. The nation’s top military lawyers and legal experts across the political spectrum have condemned waterboarding as torture. And after World War II, the United States prosecuted- prosecuted- Japanese officers for engaging in waterboarding. What more does this nominee need to enforce existing laws?
This essay isn’t about rehashing the many legal arguments about how waterboarding is torture and in violation of US and international law. Instead, this essay recalls two recent, prominent instances in which the US itself prosecuted the use of waterboarding as a crime, as torture. It raises this simple question: how can anyone who acknowledges this relatively recent history argue that waterboarding isn’t a crime and isn’t torture. And how is it that our learned congresspersons haven’t forcefully confronted Bushco’s minions with this history?
Please join me below.