When he was asked about Mukasey’s refusal to condemn waterboarding as torture, CIA director Michael Hayden said that he would need to understand “the totality of the circumstances” before he could give an answer. So, how about these circumstances for you, Mike?
- Waterboarding is torture.
- When you torture someone, the victim will tell you anything you want to hear so that you will stop torturing them.
- So, all of the “valuable intelligence” you have gathered by torturing people is worthless, as was clearly demonstrated last week by the release of the unredacted Higazy decision.
That’s why torture is against the law- it causes great harm, without yielding any real benefits except a burgeoning public fear of those in power. Perhaps the circumstance that Mukasey and Hayden are worried about is this one: Americans are almost certainly guilty of participating in waterboarding sessions, if not other acts of torture, against the political prisoners we’re holding in Guantanamo and in the CIA secret prisons overseas. If Mukasey says “Waterboarding is torture,” all of those CIA guys who have been doing their torture jobs like happy little Eichmanns are suddenly going to have a whole lot more to think about.
The only way to purge this stain from the American soul will be to have open and public war crimes trials of all the government figures who were involved in the decision to torture prisoners. The trials should end with Dick Cheney and David Addington and Alberto Gonzales and Michael Hayden, but they must begin with the individual soldiers on the ground. So forget Dick Cheney for the moment. For good or ill, those soldiers are the people that Mukasey is trying to protect.
So if you are one of those soldiers, your course of action is clear: if you have been engaged in waterboarding, you should stop now, because Mukasey’s refusal to condemn it is prima facie evidence that it is illegal. And you should come out from behind the sordid protection of a complicit administration, and admit that what you did was an illegal violation of human rights. And you should call Patrick Leahy or Sheldon Whitehouse and offer to testify against the superior officer who ordered you to do it.