Friday, October 26, 2007

Lie Down, Rudy, Let Me Demonstrate

"I don't know what is involved in the technique."

That was Judge Michael Mukasey, the man likely to be confirmed as the United States Attorney General once his confirmation hearings are concluded. He said this yesterday when a senator from my home state of Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse, asked him about the interrogation technique known as "waterboarding."

He doesn't know? How is it possible an Attorney General nominee is ignorant about waterboarding, yet I am not? Is this just an especially pointless lie?

Judge, you lie someone down on a flat surface and restrain them. You drape a cloth over their face. You then pour water over their face. This simulates the experience of drowning. It leads to panic and loss of consciousness in the short term; with repeated use, the technique is known to lead to psychological disorder and permanent physical harm including death.

There. I have just explained the technique to the next Attorney General of the United States.

He could also read Joe Conason's excellent commentary on Salon today about Rudy Giuliani, who also says he is not very familiar with the technique or whether it should be considered "torture." He does, however, claim to know enough about it that he knows "liberal newspapers" are exaggerating about it.

Moreover, he says that we should never torture. And he can say that because, according to his moral calculus, when we do it it isn't torture. It's "aggressive questioning" when we do it, and only torture when our enemies (e.g., I suppose, the Japanese military during World War II) do it.

Please read Joe's commentary for more, including some historical perspective.

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