So, without further adieu:
The Right Message
The U.S. Army has made clear what the new attorney general has not: There will be no waterboarding of enemy prisoners.
The Army sent a message to its leaders last week saying that waterboarding will not be tolerated. When he was before the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearings, Attorney General Michael Mukasey repeatedly refused to say whether he considered the practice to be a form of torture.
With its message, the Army makes it clear that it stands with international law, doctors and human-rights activists.
The Associated Press recently defined waterboarding as “a harsh interrogation technique that involves strapping down a prisoner, covering his mouth with plastic or cloth and pouring water over his face. The prisoner quickly begins to inhale water, causing the sensation of drowning.” That’s no way for a civilized nation, and a signatory of the Geneva Conventions, to treat prisoners. Nor is it the way that American military commanders want their troops treated if they should be captured.
The current administration has done much over the past seven years to lose America’s traditional moral high ground across the globe. The photos of torture at Abu Ghraib and the internment, without trial, of prisoners at Guantanamo shocked a world that expected better of us.
Military commanders understand what a loss that has been. We have no standing to complain when an enemy tortures American POWs if we are doing the same to adversaries we capture.
The AP reports that the CIA is suspected of having used waterboarding on three prisoners during 2003. The CIA says it banned the practice in 2006.
Mukasey was a big disappointment in his failure to categorically state that waterboarding is torture and therefore illegal. He hid behind legal technicalities.
Americans can only hope that Mukasey, now that he is on the job, will take the necessary steps to ensure that our intelligence services do not use this technique or any other that is considered torture. If he would designate waterboarding as a method of torture, it would mean that any Americans, be they intelligence or military personnel, who used the practice would be liable to prosecution. Their superiors might face the same music.
Mukasey has a reputation for being tough, but also a stickler for the law. The laws of this country, and of the world community, are clear. Torture is illegal. The laws cannot list every method of torture that man has created, but they provide a set of guidelines defining torture under which waterboarding obviously falls.
Waterboarding is torture. This nation’s military has outlawed it. Now it is time for our attorney general to face that fact.
I'll let Steve and Paul comment in the combox, but I will make a few observations:
1. For this newspaper, the logic is schizophrenic. As good liberals, they usually have the civilian government dictating policy to the military. Now, they've reversed that position. Where is the supporting argument?
2. They speak of the laws of the world community, but they neglect to mention that part of the territory of international law is the right of each nation to interpret the law for itself. I believe that was recently discussed on this very blog.
3. I love how the AP gets to make the definitions up for us. Thanks AP!
4. The Army banning waterboarding and "outlawing" it are not convertible ideas, except in populist vernacular. Also, as I recall, was a Navy specialist who defined it as "torture." Judges define "torture" in the legal realm, not the Army. There are folks in the military who loved Rumsfeld. I don't recall the WSJ extolling the virtues of Rumsfeld - quite the opposite in fact.