Mukasey Won’t Say Waterboarding Is
Torture But in 1947 the U.S. Called It a War Crime, Sentenced
Enemy Officer to 15 Years Hard Labor
By Jon Ponder
Review" -- - George Bush’s nomination of Michael
Mukasey for U.S. attorney general — once thought to be smooth
sailing — is experiencing a bit of turbulence. The problem is,
can’t bring himself to say whether or not waterboarding is
confirmation hearings earlier this month,
Mukasey said he believes torture violates the
Constitution, but he refused to be pinned down
on whether he believes specific interrogation
techniques, such as waterboarding, are
“I don’t know
what’s involved in the techniques. If
waterboarding is torture, torture is not
constitutional,” he said.
But after World War II, the
United States government was
quite clear about the fact that waterboarding was torture,
at least when it was done to U.S. citizens:
[In] 1947, the United States
charged a Japanese officer, Yukio Asano, with war crimes for
carrying out another form of waterboarding on a U.S.
civilian. The subject was strapped on a stretcher that was
tilted so that his feet were in the air and head near the
floor, and small amounts of water were poured over his face,
leaving him gasping for air until he agreed to talk.
“Asano was sentenced to 15
years of hard labor,” Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) told
his colleagues last Thursday during the debate on military
commissions legislation. “We punished people with 15 years
of hard labor when waterboarding was used against Americans
in World War II,” he sai
Mukasey’s non-answer has
doubts among Democrats, and even some Republicans, on the
Senate Judiciary Committee:
[The] Democrats on the
committee signed a joint letter to Mukasey, making sure that
he knew what’s involved, and demanded an answer to the
question as to whether waterboarding is torture.
Then two days later, the
doubts grew louder. Two key Democrats, Senate Judiciary
Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT ) and Sen. Dick
Durbin (D-IL) both said publicly that their votes depended
on Mukasey’s answer to the waterboarding question.
Then it was Sen. John McCain
(R-AZ) who saw an opening after Rudy Giuliani refused to
call waterboarding torture (”It depends on who does it.”).
Most certainly it’s torture, McCain said. When pressed, he
stopped short of saying that he would oppose Mukasey’s
nomination if he didn’t say the same, but he added to the
chorus of those who professed to be interested in what
Mukasey’s answer to follow-up questions will be.
Yesterday, Sen. Lindsay
Graham (R-SC) said that if Mukasey “does not believe that
waterboarding is illegal, then that would really put doubts
in my own mind.”
Rep. Arlen Specter (R-PA)
has also thrown in his lot of doubts and concerns.
Of course, if the past is a
guide, Mukasey will easily win nomination, and nearly all these
senators who have expressed concern will vote for him.
Waterboarding has become an
isssue because the Bush White House signed off on it as an
interrogation technique — and thus moved the United States into
the company of pariah states that permit torture — after the
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