Via Think Progress, we learn that there is still some confusion over whether or not waterboarding is, in fact, torture:
VAN SUSTEREN: But you said a minute ago that it was torture, waterboarding...
GINGRICH: No, I said it's not something we should do.
VAN SUSTEREN: OK. Is it torture or not?
GINGRICH: I -- I -- I think it's -- I can't tell you.
VAN SUSTEREN: Does it violate the Geneva Convention?
GINGRICH: I honestly don't know.
I have only one question for anyone who is still unsure about whether or not waterboarding is torture: if it's not torture, then how the hell is it supposed to get anyone to talk?
I was surprised to see a Fox host actually press Gingrich on the issue; I think he was, too, which is why he seems to take a position that he doesn't know much about it but he's pretty sure it's bad. This, by the way, is pretty much how I feel about any movie directed by Michael Bay. Torture is a bit more important than Transformers 2, especially for someone like Gingrich who's been gurgling on about running for president in 2012.
Of course, one of the reasons Gingrich comes off looking like such a dolt in that segment is because, he, like everybody else jockeying for leadership of the Republican party, has to somehow reconcile the evidence before his own eyes with the knowledge that a huge chunk of his party's base thinks waterboarding isn't severe enough. Good luck with that, Newt.
Gingrich might be pinned down by electoral considerations, but there was absolutely no excuse for this stupidity:
In a series of high-level meetings in 2002, without a single dissent from cabinet members or lawmakers, the United States for the first time officially embraced the brutal methods of interrogation it had always condemned.
This extraordinary consensus was possible, an examination by The New York Times shows, largely because no one involved — not the top two C.I.A. officials who were pushing the program, not the senior aides to President George W. Bush, not the leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees — investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate.
In other words, they tore down what little moral standing America still had in the world without even researching if the techniques they were embracing would work. I can't get my head around that. Not at all. Was this some kind of mad game for them, some kind of sick role-playing? "Well, boys, we can't be serious about this unless we torture a few folks, right?" It didn't even seem to occur to them that soldiers receiving SERE training are subjected to waterboarding under medical supervision and have the option of leaving the program (admittedly, not without consequences to their military careers). They are not detainees, and therefore have a completely different legal status under the Geneva Conventions.
Read that whole article at the New York Times link above; the Bush administration appears to have been genuinely unaware that we prosecuted and convicted Japanese interrogators who waterboarded captured Americans during World War II and that it was a favorite technique of Pol Pot.
One of the many things that makes me angry about the Bush administration is the fact that, by and large, they were so incredibly fucking stupid. Absolute nincompoops. We all like to make jokes about Dick Cheney being some kind of supervillain, but let's face it: everyone in that crew is way too dumb to make any legitamate claim to a lofty title like supervillain.
And, you know, I could almost live with it if the country had been undone by some band of evil geniuses; to paraphrase Walter Sobchak, say what you will about the National Socialists but at least they weren't a bunch of fucking nitwits. America isn't perfect, but I always felt we deserved to be driven into a ditch by a better class of politician than the Bush clods. One of my favorite poems is Thomas Hardy's Hap, in which he laments there is no evidence of a malevolent god twisting his life and his fortunes for sport:
If but some vengeful god would call to me
From up the sky, and laugh: "Thou suffering thing,
Know that thy sorrow is my ecstasy,
that thy love's loss is my hate's profiting!"
Then would I bear it, clench myself, and die,
Steeled by the sense of ire unmerited;
Half-eased in that a Powerfuller than I
Had willed and meted me the tears I shed.
I know how he feels.