At the Republican debate in New Hampshire, when Senator Ted Cruz was asked whether waterboarding is torture, he replied that it is not. “Under the law, torture is excruciating pain equivalent to losing organs and systems,” he said. So waterboarding “does not meet the generally recognized definition of torture.”
I am simply dumbfounded hearing Cruz’s opinion. If waterboarding is no torture, what is?
Torture is wrong anywhere around the world, no matter who or what creature is being tortured. It is illegal and should be kept that way everywhere.
But politics is dirty, and the politicians have no morality, or so it seems these days. The USA government, like many other criminal governments around the world, has used tortures, horrific ones I must add, to inflict severe pains on their targets and extract information, even though those coerced information may not be true. Torture to its endorsers, and surely practitioners, is an acceptable savagery.
During the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, the CIA and the US military committed some of the worst forms of sadistic tortures, previously either unknown or practiced only by some of the worst tyrannical rulers in history. Prisoners were held since 2002 outside the scrutiny of the International Red Cross and subjected to harrowing pressure tactics, which included beatings to the head; hours held naked in a frigid cell; days and nights without sleep while battered by thundering rock music; long periods manacled in stress positions; or the ultimate, waterboarding. Never in history had the US authorized such tactics prior to Bush Jr.’s time.
Waterboarding is a form of water torture in which water is poured over a cloth covering the face and breathing passages of an immobilized captive, causing the individual to experience the sensation of drowning. [Waterboarding can cause extreme pain, dry drowning, damage to lungs, brain damage from oxygen deprivation, other physical injuries including broken bones due to struggling against restraints, lasting psychological damage, and death. Adverse physical consequences can manifest themselves months after the event, while psychological effects can last for years.]
Waterboarding constitutes war crime. However, it was widely used during the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Rice era after “the torture memo” – written by Berkeley Law Professor John Yoo, serving in the Office of Legal Counsel – was widely accepted as a sweeping legal justification for even the harshest tactics. According to Dr. Yoo, who should more properly be called Dr. Torture, no interrogation practices were illegal unless they produced pain equivalent to organ failure or “even death.”
After Yoo left the Justice Department in late 2003, the new head of the Office of Legal Counsel, Jack Goldsmith, found Yoo’s memos deeply flawed infuriating White House officials. In June 2004, Mr. Goldsmith formally withdrew the August 2002 Yoo memorandum on interrogation. He then left the Justice Department. Six months later, the Justice Department quietly posted on its Web site a new legal opinion with its opening: “Torture is abhorrent both to American law and values and to international norms.”
Alberto R. Gonzales, deeply loyal to Bush Jr., for championing his career from their days in Texas, was appointed attorney general in February 2005. He soon issued an opinion that endorsed the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency. It provided explicit authorization to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.
It was no accident that under Bush’s presidency, Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba became (and remains so under Obama) the Gulag of our time with its shameful history of war crimes and torture where international law was simply ignored. Even though the Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the Geneva Conventions applied to prisoners who belonged to Al Qaeda, in July, after a month-long debate inside the administration, President Bush signed a new executive order authorizing the use of what the administration called “enhanced” interrogation techniques, which allowed the C.I.A. again to holding prisoners in “black sites” overseas (e.g., Afghanistan, Thailand and Eastern Europe). Sadly, the executive order was reviewed and approved by the Office of Legal Counsel.
Even our US soldiers could not ignore the long arm of the law during the Vietnam War. After The Washington Post ran a front-page photo of a U.S. soldier supervising the waterboarding of a captured North Vietnamese soldier on Jan. 21, 1968, the picture led to an Army investigation and, two months later, the court martial of the soldier.
Cases of waterboarding have occurred on the U.S. soil, as well. In 1983, Texas Sheriff James Parker along with three of his deputies were all convicted and sentenced to four years in prison for waterboarding handcuffed prisoners.
Does waterboarding work? While President Bush and CIA. officials insisted that the harsh and sadistic measures produced crucial intelligence, many veteran interrogators, psychologists and other experts say that less coercive methods are equally or more effective. When Michael Scheure – a CIA agent who worked on national security issues related to Muslim extremism from 1985 until his retirement in 2004 – was asked about the value of ‘enhanced’ interrogation techniques in gathering information, he replied it is ‘none.’ [He formed the CIA unit responsible for trying to capture Osama bin Laden and headed it from December 1995 to June 1999.]
Similarly, nine leading interrogators and intelligence officials, who issued a joint statement in May of 2011 said, “The use of waterboarding and other so-called ‘enhanced’ interrogation techniques almost certainly prolonged the hunt for Bin Laden and complicated the jobs of professional U.S. interrogators who were trying to develop useful information.”
David Miliband, then United Kingdom Foreign Secretary, described waterboarding as torture on 19 July 2008, and stated “the UK unreservedly condemns the use of torture”. The United Nations’ Report of the Committee Against Torture: Thirty-fifth Session of November 2006, stated that state parties should rescind any interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, that constitutes torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
Even President Obama had to admit that the interrogation techniques in question are a sign that Americans have lost their “moral compass,” a compliment similar to his the then Attorney General Eric Holder’s identifying them as “moral cowards.”
Who can deny that harsh interrogation techniques – whether done by the US and western governments or their despotic partners in the Muslim world – are a major recruiting tool for al-Qaeda and other groups? It may not be unreasonable to see the connection between American abuse and torture of Muslim prisoners with the savage beheading of hostages by the IS, the off-shoot of Zarqawi’s criminal terrorist group.
That is what torture does! It sets the justification that if the US government could do such a heinous crime then it is halal for others to follow the lead!
Senator McCain, a victim of torture himself during the Vietnam War, has opposed torture and so have many lawmakers in the USA including Ted Cruz. During his election campaign in 2008 McCain repeatedly said his audience that interrogation techniques amounted to torture and gloried in calling the CIA and its officers a “rogue institution.” “There should be little doubt from American history that we consider that as torture otherwise we wouldn’t have tried and convicted Japanese for doing that same thing to Americans,” McCain said during a news conference in November 2007.
After the release of the Senate torture report in 2014, Cruz told the Heritage Foundation that “Torture is wrong. Unambiguously. Period. The end.” Cruz has said that “America does not need torture to protect itself,” and last June, he voted for an amendment sponsored by Sen. John McCain, which required that overseas interrogations comply with regulations in the U.S. Army Field Manual. Twenty-two Republican senators opposed the amendment, including rival presidential candidate Marco Rubio of Florida.
So, what can explain Cruz’s new position on torture? Cruz’s earlier stand on torture put him at odds with many of his Republican colleagues who see torture justifiable. According to a new Pew Survey, a large majority of Republican voters — 73 percent — think torture can be justified against people suspected of terrorism. It did not matter to them that the UN and rights groups around the world consider torture as illegal and unacceptable.
As I have noted many times, many of the hardcore Republicans see themselves as Christian Zionists, the evangelicals, supporters of the War Party, and the foot soldiers of the Armageddon. Sadly, they have forgotten what James Madison famously said, “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded.” “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”
So, for an immoral politician like Cruz it did not take too long to change his position and reinvent himself. Cruz’s more limited endorsement of torture led GOP front-runner Donald Trump, at a rally on Monday (Feb. 8), to repeat an insult from the crowd, calling Cruz a “pussy.”
Trump said that he would “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”
I have never entertained any good opinion about casino-mogul Trump who made a living through haram means – e.g., casino incomes and by exploiting others. And he is not remorseful about any of his exploits. He is rather quite proud of the fact that he does not pay enough taxes that a billionaire like him ought to have paid. So, Trump’s nasty and unlawful remarks endorsing severe torture don’t reveal anything new. He is a shame to our humanity!
But for Ted Cruz who has a law degree from Harvard and had previously served as a law clerk for William Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the United States in 1996, the endorsement of torture is a major sin. What surprised me most is the revelation that his father as a teenager was imprisoned and tortured by the Batista Government for being loyal to Fidel Castro.
Cruz should have known better! But to expect anything good from this bunch of Republican immoral politicians is foolish. That is what Cruz reminded us once again.