Sunday, February 17, 2008


George Bush and Dick Cheney and the rest of their Constitution-trashing gang must be quite concerned that they will be prosecuted for ordering and implementing torture of Al Qaeda suspects. They seem to be sending everyone out to claim that what was done was really not torture. This claim is bound to fail. It does not pass the test of common sense.

The latest to publicly defend torture is Steven Bradbury, the acting chief of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), the Justice Department division that renders legal opinions on such things as the legality of waterboarding. Bradbury appeared before a House subcommittee last week and tried to say that the U.S. practice of waterboarding was not the same as waterboarding as it was done during the Inquisition or by the Japanese in WWII.

Dan Eggen writes in todday's The Washington Post:

"The method was not, he said, like the "water torture" used during the Spanish Inquisition and by autocratic governments into the 20th century, but was subject to "strict time limits, safeguards, restrictions." He added, "The only thing in common is, I think, the use of water."

"Bradbury indicated that no water entered the lungs of the three prisoners who were subjected to the practice, lending credence to previous accounts that the noses and mouths of CIA captives were covered in cloth or cellophane. Cellophane could pose a serious asphyxiation risk, torture experts said."

Several Japanese soldiers were executed by the Americans after WWII for waterboarding. Here again, Bradbury claimed there was a big difference between what the Japanese did and what CIA agents did to Al Qaeda suspects:

"Bradbury also referred to cases of waterboarding involving Japanese soldiers prosecuted after World War II; one well-known incident involved a type of waterboarding in which a U.S. soldier was forced to ingest large amounts of water and was beaten and stomped.

"The historical examples that have been referenced in public debate have all involved a course of conduct that everyone would agree constituted egregious instances of torture," Bradbury said.""

Bradbury said that a practice needs to be both severe and long-lasting if it really is "torture." A practice or technique such as CIA waterboarding that lasts only a brief period of time therefore would not qualify.

"Under questioning from lawmakers of both parties, Bradbury said pain suffered by a prisoner had to be both severe and long-lasting for an interrogation tactic to be considered torture.

""Something can be quite distressing, uncomfortable, even frightening," Bradbury said, but "if it doesn't involve severe physical pain, and it doesn't last very long, it may not constitute severe physical suffering. That would be the analysis. . . .""

"Bradbury's unusually frank testimony Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee subcommittee stunned many civil liberties advocates and outside legal scholars who have long criticized the Bush administration's secretive and aggressive interrogation policies. . . ."

"Bradbury wrote two secret memos in 2005 that authorized waterboarding, head-slapping and other harsh tactics by the CIA. As a result of that and other issues, Senate Democrats have repeatedly blocked Bradbury's nomination to head the legal counsel's office permanently."

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