Water-boarding is term that describes strapping an individual to a board, with a towel pulled tightly across his face, and pouring water on him or her to cut off air and simulate drowning.
When asked directly last week whether he thought waterboarding is constitutional, Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey was evasive. As noted by NPR, Mukasey "danced around the issue of whether waterboarding actually is torture and stopped short of saying that it is." "If it amounts to torture," Mukasey said carefully, "then it is not constitutional."
John Hutson, former judge advocate general of the Navy, said last week after Judge Mukasey's confirmation hearing , "Waterboarding was devised in the Spanish Inquisition. Next to the rack and thumbscrews, it's the most iconic example of torture."
The Bush Administration seems to believe that when anyone else does it, it's torture, but when the U.S. does it, waterboarding is acceptable.
Michael Mukasey suddenly seemed to morph into his predecessor, Alberto R. Gonzales -- beginning with a series of openly evasive answers that ultimately led to what appeared to be a lie. At first, he repeatedly stated that he does not support torture, which violates the U.S. Constitution. This is precisely the answer given so often by President Bush like a mantra. The problem is that Bush defines torture to exclude things like water-boarding. It is like saying you do not rob banks, but then defining bank robbery in such a way that it does not include walking in with a gun and demanding money from the cashier.
The senators pushed Mukasey to go beyond the Bush administration mantra. He refused and then said something that made many of us who were listening gasp: "I don't know what is involved in the technique," he said.
In an editorial published yesterday, the Los Angeles Times states:
Michael B. Mukasey, who once seemed headed to confirmation as attorney general by acclamation, may now be facing a narrower and more contentious vote. That's the price the retired federal judge from New York will have to pay unless he reconsiders some evasive testimony about torture.
. . . As the 10 Democrats on the Judiciary Committee noted in a letter to the nominee, water-boarding "has been the subject of much public discussion." What isn't clear is whether the CIA reserves the right to resort to that appalling practice to elicit information, reliable or otherwise, from suspected terrorists.
. . . Mukasey owes the Senate, and the country, an unambiguous commitment to upholding the Geneva Convention's ban on "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." The question to him is whether Americans -- in any service, for any reason -- should be allowed to engage in water-boarding. The only acceptable answer is no.
As noted by Professor Turley, there are only two explanations for Mukasey's evasion: either Mukasey is the most ill-informed nominee in the history of this republic or, the more likely explanation: Mukasey is lying.
Where do our Senate Democrats and Presidential candidates stand on torture? That is what the vote on Mukasey has become.
The candidate I'm supporting for President, Bill Richardson, stated on October 19th:
"Waterboarding is torture, and anyone who is unwilling to identify it as such is not qualified to be the chief legal officer of the United States of America. If I were in the U.S. Senate, I would vote against Mukasey unless he denounces such specific forms of torture.
"Torture does not work. Mistreatment backfires and destroys our international leadership, as we saw with Abu Ghraib. Torture also endangers our own troops. The standards we adopt may well be what our own troops are subjected to.- Advertisement -
"Anytime one makes a person think he or she is being executed, the very nature of waterboarding, it obviously is a violation of the U.S. Constitution, international law, and basic human decency.
"ABC News has described waterboarding as follows: 'The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face, and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in, and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.'