License to torture

The Bushies make it explicit: in order to be able to torture suspected terrorists with partial-drowning interrogation (AKA waterboarding), we’re prepared to expose captured US servicepeople to the same treatment.

Yes, it’s come to this. The Bush Administration officially won’t say whether it would constitute torture if Iran were to waterboard a captured US airman. And no, it’s not just one witness.

On the one hand, I share Lindsay Graham’s disgust.

On the other, this is a gift for the Democratic Presidential nominee, and for every Democrat who wants to take a firm stand against waterboarding, because it makes clear the cost the country pays for not taking a firm stance against torture. In effect, GWB and his clown-show administration have declared our own men and women in uniform as fair game for waterboarding.

Funny, we’ve never been in any doubt about this before. The U.S. has prosecuted waterboarding as torture for more than a century.

Congressional Democrats’ next move seems to me obvious: put forward a resolution declaring the sense of the Congress that waterboarding is torture and that any foreign official who subjects any U.S. servicemember or civilian to waterboarding should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: