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.
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
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.
According to several former top officials
involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know that the
military training program, called SERE, for Survival, Evasion,
Resistance and Escape, had been created decades earlier to give
American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture methods used by
Communists in the Korean War, methods that had wrung false confessions
from Americans. (Emphasis mine.)
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.
Rather than sending thousands of nuclear warheads at the United
States, killing millions and wrecking tons of arable land, Russia could
simply attack a handful of banks and other financial institutions,
rending the U.S. economy effectively nullified.
“There is no need to destroy the whole planet in order to paralyze a
country and push it back into the Stone Age,” Pravda wrote at the
That being said, it is an uncomfortable reminder that there are still a frightening number of nuclear weapons in the world, enough to make it an ex-world with alarming ease. Obama's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but one of the many encouraging signs that grown-ups are back in charge is his willingness to address, once again, the issue of nuclear disarmament. I can't remember the last time there was someone in the White House who seemed to think nuclear weapons were anything other than fine and dandy. (Also, in retrospect, I should have called this post "Throw the Nukes Down the Well So We Can All Be Free.")
This renewed attention to the issue of nuclear disarmament has had one unfortunate side effect, at least for me personally: My Lovely and Talented and Precocious Eight-Year-Old Daughter Who is Smarter Than Me™ has been seeing headlines on newspapers I've left lying about the house and started asking questions about nuclear weapons. I am completely and utterly unprepared to discuss the fact that there are enough of these terrible weapons around today to kill every single one of us several times over. How the hell do you even start that conversation? She's old enough to know that there is such a thing as a lousy President, too, so there's no use in asking her to trust that those in power will behave wisely. There's no way I could ask her to do that, either.
She's been studying Japan in her history class, and they've covered Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They've even read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes as a class assignment. She does know, on some level, what nuclear weapons are capable of. But she's eight. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are dim facts of history to her. She is, as far as I can tell, relatively blissfully unaware of the continuing nuclear threat.
I guess I'm starting to sound like one of those insane parents who clutched their pearls and wailed, "How do I explain fellatio to my kids?!?" during the Clinton impeachment. But, for me at least, explaining oral sex will likely be a walk in the park compared to explaining why we have a massive stockpile of weapons that we don't ever dare use. I understand the motivation behind oral sex!
Lives will be saved by this decision. It's not often that I write about anything I can describe as unequivocally good news - hell, I don't think I've ever been able to do that. But make no mistake - lives will be saved by this decision.