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October 18, 2007

"A massive hedge": Whitehouse vs. Mukasey on waterboarding

Talking Points Memo brings us this clip from the Mukasey confirmation hearings, in which Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) presents the AG-to-be with the following question: Is waterboarding constitutional?

Mukasey's answer?

If waterboarding is torture, then it's not constitutional.


Let's put this another way. Is a convincing simulation of drowning that can cause brain and lung damage torture?

I don't know about you guys, but drowning is one of the ways I'd least like to die. Anything that simulates drowning has got to be torture--especially when it involves extreme pain and potential organ damage, or even death. It's difficult to know what the complication rate is for waterboarding because it's not something that any ethical physician or research institution would ever inflict on humans...or animals for that matter.

I think it's safe to assume that Mukasey is lying when he says that he's "not familiar with the technique" of waterboarding--either that, or he's so sheltered as to disqualify himself for the job of the nation's top law enforcer.

Good for Sen. Whitehouse for telling Mukasey that his answer is "a massive hedge" and very disappointing.


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I am sorry, but I am still astounded that the United States now "hedges" on torture. Absolutely disgraceful. What the hell is wrong with these people?

According to most Republicans, the only thing that actually qualifies as torture is having to pay taxes.

I think it is torture, but...

Whether it is or isn't torture, it's prohibited by the Geneva Conventions, under the terms of which captives taken in the course of a war (and the U.S. considers the "war on terror" to be a war, as far as I know) may be questioned, but they're under no obligation to respond to questioning, nor may they be "encouraged" in any way to respond to questioning. Or have I been reading some other Geneva Conventions?

Surely there must be more "humane" ways to extract information. Ice pick in the scrotum? Ripping off finger/toenails with a pliers? Branding of the gentials? No? This is torture too isn't it?

In all seriousness, it is clearly torture and should not be practiced. In fact, it is even low brow on the torture scale, like the means I reference above. Is it necessary for our methods to be so draconian? Shameful. And we are the civilized ones?

Since it is clearly not torture, we can assume that if waterboarding were demonstrated to Mr. Mukasey in a way that was especially vivid, he would have no problem denying that waterboarding is torture. Naturally, there’s no question that he’s made of the same rock-hard, tough-as-nails material as Bush, Cheney, Gonzales, John Yoo, “scooter”, and all the other Rambos in this administration.

I just got through watching Frontline: Cheney's Law on PBS. It's just after 11pm here in Vancouver, but I don't expect to be able to get to sleep for a while.
There's more online at but I'm not going to look at it tonight.

This public discussion of torture is chilling. Absolutely chilling.
When we claim not to grasp how whole populations can be in mass denial about events happening in their lynching, genocide or the systematic eradication of undesireables...this is, in fact, a case in point.
Our moral compass has broken.

Based on Glenn Greenwald's live-blogging of the confirmation hearings, it doesn't appear that Mukasey knows much of anything about the law. Mukasey was also unable to answer whether a massive warrantless wiretapping program in direct violation of FISA would be legal, or whether the President has the ability to hold American citizens indefinitely without trial. Such tricky, tricky legal questions.

Oh you silly Americans. Rule of law, rights of man, separation of powers, Constitution this, Constitution that...

Times have changed folks. Every thing's different since 9/11. Get over it and get with the program. Torture's the new black.

Of course waterboarding is torture. To the extent that it "works" it's by triggering a powerful, instinctive (i.e., virtually uncontrollable) fear. Those who have authorized its use, as well as those who have acted on that authorization should be facing public trials.

Is anybody in the least bit surprised by Mukasy's "performance"?

Mukasey's contention that he "not familiar with the technique" is preposterous. He hasn’t exactly been living in a cave these past six years. He has served almost 20 years in the Justice Dept. as a US District Judge in NY fer fuck sake! Mukasey's presided over some of the highest profile terror trials. Oh and we're supposed to believe that Cheney, Addington, Mukasey and his handlers all did not anticipate questions about torture too. Not plausible. Not possible. Not credible.

A month ago the Democrats made their intentions crystal clear. Judiciary Committee chair Pat Leahy:

“All I want is the material we need to ask some questions about the former attorney general’s conduct, on torture and warrantless wiretapping, so we can legitimately ask, ‘Here’s what was done in the past, what will you do?'”

If Mukasey does manage to get confirmed, expect the Justice Dept. to remain largely unchanged. Justice has already been completely purged via the infamous firings as well as the “voluntary” exodus The sole difference is that Mukasey is considerably brighter than Gonzalez. This is little consolation as my cat Jack is exponentially brighter than Gonzo.

Shit. I think I just somehow insulted my cat.


While I cannot, at this point, even pretend to be surprised by Mukasey's performance, I do still have a very small amount of surprise that the Democrat-controlled would let him get away with this. I'm not sure how I manage it, after 9 months of this. But these expectations that the Democrats will actually do something are just small vestigal remnants, and will surely completely wither away any day now.

A little this, a little know, improvise when it comes to torture...right? Wing?

It’s been a few days now and we haven’t heard a peep from the Republicans who lately were so very, very concerned that Bill Clinton’s lying was such a serious matter that only his most expeditious impeachment could possibly save our republic. Oh, but I forgot: Clinton “got away” with his crime, and, as the wingers predicted, lying became the accepted norm. Or could it be that when Mukasey pukes up a “dog ate my homework” stretcher like "not familiar with the technique" of waterboarding, the wingers, like the dogs they are, are willing, in fact eager, to eat each other’s vomit.

"Good for Sen. Whitehouse for telling Mukasey that his answer is "a massive hedge" and very disappointing."

But he didn't follow up with the simple question, "Do you think waterboarding is torture?", and he will probably not put up too much of a fuss when he is confirmed.

Mukasey should undergo waterboarding so he's appropriately familiar with the technique.

I've heard that the toughest of tough folks can handle about 15 seconds before caving. I think one person handled 30 seconds and it was considered astonishing.

Damn it, I yearn for the days when I believed that if anyone in our military or law enforcement heard an order to torture a prisoner, the response would be a request for two copies of written orders... one to be preserved for the court martial/trial/hearing (for disobeying a direct order) and one to be folded until it was all sharp corners, and the suggestion given "with all due respect, SIR!" that it be... well, I'm sure you can fill in the rest.

I guess my big problem at this point is that Mukasey's background in solid, Dems lauded his nomination and now he is being attacked over waterboarding? Come on. This is what pisses me off about politics and people's partisanism. They make it a one issue thing. That is ridiculous, ignorant and short-sighteded.

Yes, Mukasey is a goof for his responses on this issue, but who really cares? We need the AG to be more than just a torture/anti-torture enforcer. We have big issues domestically that need addressing and Mukaey is a solid choice to address these concerns.

Of course, it's not a one-issue problem.

But even if it were, it's a pretty damn serious issue, and what's ridiculous, ignorant and short-sighted is claiming there's nobody else as qualified as Mukasey who isn't going to lie and play dumb about what torture is and who should be prosecuted for resorting to it.

Waterboarding is wrong, no matter who does it--Khmer Rouge, the Bush administration... It's not a partisan issue.

We Mukasey is lying when he says he's not familiar with the technique.

Mukasey’s "not familiar with the technique" of waterboarding. Uh huh. And Larry Craig just likes tidy public restrooms, so he picks up the litter around the crapper. It’s not just that they lie, it’s that they insult the intelligence of a fucking barnacle when they do so.

As for waterboarding, yes it is a single issue, and the issue is torture. Once the United States crosses that threshold, we’ve abandoned everything we supposedly stand for, and we become just another authoritarian shithole among a score of other authoritarian shitholes around the globe. We might as well become a satrapy of China. At least they know how to grow an economy while they torture and murder their captives. An America that officially sanctions torture is defensible only in a tribal sense; at that point the place has nothing more to recommend it than take-out pizza and some nice scenery.

"I Mother looking the and are on it pieces these Mr. planted you your garden," answered. "Oh, "That handkerchief turned have into many lemon. us. laughed potatoes," Blake. make is plant as disappear And magical trick beans Nature the for plant vine you potatoes, piece potato, change 'eyes' We completely, a or is we a and with springs a for on she they roots when of it, more or turns the the or, if a eye a into it the on more a Nature bean--disappears bean, does your a with many the eye wonderful." is into it. seed--that is just seed, potato to potato which the of magician made up stage in pretends plant very Mother was

Gertrude, enough is enough.

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