Thursday, April 30, 2009

Obama: 'I believe waterboarding was torture - it was a mistake'.

Mukasey famously didn't know if it was torture, Dick Cheney defended it as "a dunk in the water", and numerous right wingers have argued on here that waterboarding is not torture.

On his 100th day in office, Barack Obama has spelt it out for all to hear:

"I believe that waterboarding was torture and, whatever legal rationals were used, it was a mistake."
So, the new president has actually said out loud - and in front of the the nation's media - that the previous administration engaged in torture. It makes me wonder how prosecution can now be avoided. For the fact that the Bush/Cheney regime "waterboarded/tortured" is now an undisputed fact.

And, if waterboarding is torture, as Obama has rightly stated that it is, then he has an obligation under international law to pursue the people who have engaged in such a vile practice.

Cheney has called on Obama to release other classified documents that he claimed would show that valuable intelligence was gained from detainees interrogated in this way.

Obama responded by pointing to the example from the Blitz: "I was struck by an article that I was reading the other day talking about the fact that the British, during World War Two, when London was being bombed to smithereens, had 200 or so detainees. And Churchill said, "we don't torture," when all of the British people were being subjected to unimaginable risk and threat. And the reason was that Churchill understood you start taking shortcuts, and over time, that corrodes what's best in a people. It corrodes the character of a country."

Obama told the press conference he had read the classified material mentioned by Cheney, but this did not answer the question of whether the information could have been obtained in another way and whether use of these techniques made the US safer.

Obama said he believed it was possible to get information in ways that stayed true to the country's ideals. Torture had provided al-Qaida with a recruiting tool, he added.

I can imagine the right wing explosion from O'Reilly and Limbaugh which is about to take place, arguing that Obama will be responsible for any attack on the US which might take place because he lacks "the courage" to mercilessly torture persons held in US custody.

It is the natural place for insane right wingers to now find themselves. At first they argued that the US did not engage in torture and questioned the patriotism of anyone who dared to suggest that they did. At that point they were putting themselves through hoops to declare that waterboarding was not torture. But recently, we have watched them change their stance and introduce the argument of whether or not torture works. As if the fact that torture might work could possibly relieve a country who had signed the UN Convention Against Torture from it's commitments under that treaty.

And that's the point which is at stake here. Does the US intend to honour the international obligations which has agreed to abide by? Does the fact that the US has signed the UN Convention Against Torture actually mean anything? For whether or not "torture works", as some right wingers are claiming, the US has signed an international and binding treaty to say that it will never engage in it and that it will prosecute any American who engages in such a practice.

Cheney and Bush have admitted to waterboarding. Indeed, they have waterboarded one individual 183 times. Obama has now admitted that waterboarding is torture. So, the previous US administration have broken the law, literally, hundreds of times.

And Obama, whilst right to identify waterboarding as torture, is quite wrong to label it "a mistake". This was not "a mistake", this was a deliberate and thought out policy. This was signed off at the highest levels of the previous administration.

This was torture sanctioned from the Oval office itself. That office will forever be disgraced if Obama does not take action to show that the standards of that office were breached in a way that is not acceptable to the citizens of the United States.

One can't be a little bit pregnant. You are either pregnant or you are not. Likewise, one can't be against torture and permit it under certain circumstances. You are either a torturer or you are not.

Bush and Cheney have shamefully aligned the US with nations such as Uzbekistan when it comes to torture. It is now for Obama and the American people to demonstrate to the world whether or not they find that acceptable. And, when I read reports saying that almost half of Americans believe that torture is acceptable, I seriously wonder what has happened to the soul of that nation.


Here's the video.

Click title for full article.

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