Is repeated near-drowning torture?  Should the Atty-Gen know?

Should a retired judge become Attorney-General of the United States – even though he doesn’t know or won’t say whether “waterboarding”  (near -drowning of a person, again and again and again – and AGAIN) is torture?

The Shalom Center thinks not. Below you will find an address to write your own Senator what your own views are.

If you are ready to write now, CLICK HERE. If you want to hear the opinions of Senator John McCain and of Americans who interrogated German prisoners during World War II, read on. 

Either way, PLEASE TAKE A FEW MINUTES TO SAY YOUR OWN TRUTH ON THIS QUESTION.

Let’s listen to Senator John McCain, the only survivor of torture ever to sit in the US Senate.  Yesterday he said:

“All I can say is that it [water-boarding] was used in the Spanish Inquisition, it was used in Pol Pot ’s genocide in Cambodia, and there are reports that it is being used against Buddhist monks today…. It’s not complicated. … It is torture.” (NY Times Oct 26, p. A23)

Yet Michael Mukasey, who is under questioning by the US Senate Judiciary committee as it examines whether to confirm him as the next Attorney-General, doesn’t know whether it is torture or not.
 
During questioning by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mukasey said he wasn’t quite sure if waterboarding should be considered torture:

“MUKASEY: If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional. […]

SENATOR WHITEHOUSE: If it’s torture. That’s a massive hedge. I mean, it either is or it isn’t. Do you have an opinion on whether waterboarding…is constitutional?

MUKASEY: If it amounts to torture, it is not constitutional.

WHITEHOUSE: I’m very disappointed in that answer. I think it is purely semantic.

MUKASEY: I’m sorry.”


This is not a partisan question.  Ten Democratic Senators and Republican Senator Arlen Specter have now demanded that Mukasey decide and say out loud whether he thinks repeated near-drowning is torture.

Specter added:

“How do you deal with the public concern that the rule of law is supreme and the president at times appears to put himself above the law?”

It is hard to resist the temptation – but I will—to suggest that the Committee subject Mukasey to repeated near-drownings until he tells the “truth” about why he can’t make up his mind on this question.

Imagine the scene on TV:  “Is it the law and the Constitution you find unclear, Mr Mukasey? Or do you indeed think the President is above the law, and besides – after all, it was the President who offered you the job you are trying to win?”

Now push his head into the water. On the verge of drowning, up. As he gasps for breath, into the water again. And again and again and again.  NOW – ask the question again. Did you get the “right” answer? No? OK, into the water again and again and again and again.  Now – ask him the question again. 

Of course, it would not only be vile, immoral, and illegal to torture Mukasey this way, but there is strong evidence that prisoners tortured this way will ultimately tell the torturers whatever they think will get them to stop. Not the truth.

How CAN interrogators get the truth without torture? — About two dozen veterans of a super-secret World War II unit of the Office of Naval Intelligence gathered recently to be honored and interviewed for their work in interrogating German and Japanese prisoners. Many of the interrogators were Jewish, many were refugees from Nazi Germany. Lots of reasons for rage against their prisoners.

Did they use torture on their prisoners?

As the Washington Post reported (October 6, 2007, p. A1):

When about two dozen veterans got together yesterday for the first time since the 1940s, many of the proud men lamented the chasm between the way they conducted interrogations during the war and the harsh measures used today in questioning terrorism suspects.

“We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture,” said Henry Kolm, 90, an MIT physicist who had been assigned to play chess in Germany with Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess.”

The interrogators had standards that remain a source of pride and honor.

“During the many interrogations, I never laid hands on anyone,” said George Frenkel, 87, of Kensington. “We extracted information in a battle of the wits. I’m proud to say I never compromised my humanity.”

What about the so-called “ticking bomb” cases? The Israeli Supreme Court, facing that question where it might be real, said No.

So here’s where the rubber hits the road. It takes only a few minutes to click on the link below and send a letter to your own Senators and the two ranking Senators on the Judiciary Committee, urging them to reject Mr. Mukasey’s nomination to become Attorney-General.

We have offered a draft or model version of the letter. You can shape it as you like, to reflect your own values.

PLEASE WRITE NOW. AND PLEASE CHECK OFF THE OPTION TO SEND A FAX. IT’S FAR MORE POWERFUL.  IF YOU HAVE TIME TO CALL, PLEASE DO THAT TOO – CALL 202/224-3121 AND ASK FOR YOUR SENATOR.

May you and all of us and all our children be blessed through the spiritual and practical power of your letter to live once again in a country where torture is not practiced, and is prosecuted as a vile and disgusting crime.

 


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