Report Card: GOP Candidates on Waterboarding

Atthe recent Republican debate, the presidential candidates were asked if waterboardingis torture. Their answers were shocking, in more ways than one. Even if RonPaul and Jon Huntsman hadn’t blown the curve, everyone else would have failedthe human rights test miserably. Their grades would not have earned them any goldstars:

  • HermanCain:  F-
  • MittRomney:  F-
  • MichelleBachmann:  F
  • RickPerry: F
  • RonPaul:  A+
  • JonHuntsman:  A+

HermanCain and Mitt Romney come in dead last because both candidates do not believethat waterboarding is torture – for the record, waterboarding is torture and itis illegal under domestic and international law. Someone who does not know orrespect the law on this important issue does not deserve to be a leader in thefree world.

MichelleBachmann and Rick Perry fair only slightly better because, while neither candidatewas willing to take the position that waterboarding is not torture, both are willingto use it. Bachmann stated that it is “very effective” and Perry certainlyimplied as much with his impassioned defense of it: “For us not to have the ability to extract information to save ouryoung people’s lives is a travesty. This is war. And I am for [using anytactics] … and I will be for it until I die.”

Sadly, Perry and Bachmann havenot been doing their homework. Top military officers, suchas General David Petraeus, who now runs the C.I.A., have stated that such formsof torture are useless for gathering reliable intelligence. In fact, theseforms of torture have been called detrimentalto the security of American forces as well as the nation’s reputation.

Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman deserve top honors for their willingnessto speakout loud and clear, perhaps to the dismay of their own party. “Water boardingis torture,” said Ron Paul, “it’s illegal under international law, and our law.It’s also immoral.”  PHR gives JonHuntsman extra credit for giving the best explanation:

"We diminish ourstanding in the world and the values that we project, which include liberty,democracy, human rights and open markets, when we torture…We should not torture. Waterboarding is torture. We dilute ourselves downlike a whole lot of other countries. And we lose that ability to project valuesthat a lot of people in corners of this world are still relying on the UnitedStates to stand up for them."

Following the debate, we heardcommentary from other important quarters. Here are their grades:

  • PresidentObama:  A
  • John McCain:  A
  • Rep. Allen West(Fl): F-

PresidentObama, who banned waterboarding in 2009, said twice in the aftermath thatwaterboarding is torture and “contrary to American’s traditions” and “ideals.”McCain gets a good grade as well for tweeting his disappointment in the GOPcandidates and stating that “waterboarding is torture.” It is not easy to dothe right thing in the face of opposition. Indeed, Obama knows a little too well the pressures of appearing toughon national security and were we to give him a grade on accountability fortorture, for example, he would be no better than a below-average student.  Lastly, Representative Allen West gets afailing grade and should report to detention immediately. He reportedly statedthat waterboarding is legal and useful, and “Furthermore, in the movie ‘G.I.Jane,’ Demi Moore was water boarded.” This last comment is more absurd than thefirst. Performing a dangerous and illegal practice on people is neverjustified, and certainly not on the basis of a Hollywood movie.

Waterboardingis torture and it is illegal and ineffective. And, it is un-American.


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