Eric Holder Unequivocally Rejects Torture
This is something I’ve been waiting to hear for a long time – a straightforward, clear rejection of torture from someone with the power to do something about it. It comes from Eric Holder, in his confirmation hearings for the post of Attorney General in the Obama administration:
Asked just minutes into his confirmation hearings whether waterboarding qualified as torture, Holder was unequivocal in his response.
“If you look at the history of the use of that technique used by the Khmer Rouge, used in the inquisition, used by the Japanese and prosecuted by us as war crimes – we prosecuted our own soldiers in Vietnam – I agree with you, Mr. Chairman, waterboarding is torture,” said the former deputy Attorney General.
Holder and Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy subsequently went through a checklist of sorts as to where the legal limits of interrogation measures stood.
Would other countries have the authority to torture captured U.S. citizens if they deemed it a national security threat?
“No, they would not,” replied Holder. “It would violate the international obligations that I think all civilized nations have agreed to, the Geneva Conventions.”
Could the president, if need be, use his authority as commander in chief to override acts that prohibit illegal interrogation practices or torture?
“No one is above the law,” said Holder. “The president has a constitutional obligation to faithfully execute the laws of the United States. There are obligations that we have as a result of treaties we have signed and obligations to the Constitution.”
Watching the process of the transition to an Obama administration from the outside, it sometimes feels as if he and his advisers are approaching subjects that they have had strong opinions about in the abstract for years, and realizing they are now responsible for dealing with these things in the real world, which leads them to toy with the idea that maybe there’s a good reason for some of the practices that they opposed before it was up to them. Maybe there are times when torture is necessary, for instance. Cheney seems to think it’s absolutely necessary. Sure, he seems like a man without a conscience, but maybe a conscience gets in the way when it comes time to make tough decisions.
Then, when you ask them outright, is waterboarding (known as water torture before Bush and Cheney renamed it) torture? it’s as if they shake the cobwebs from their heads and remember what we’re talking about here, and they have to say, Of course it is. And is torture illegal? Well, when you put it that way, of course it’s illegal. But even if torture’s illegal, that doesn’t mean the president can’t do it sometimes when he deems it absolutely necessary, right? Wait a minute – that can’t be right. No way. Torture’s illegal, period.
Special thanks to the Senate Judiciary Committee for asking these obvious questions.
Visit change.org to let the Obama administration know that you support applying the law equally when it comes to torture.