Thursday, January 15, 2009

Holder: Waterboarding Is Torture

As contrasts between Attorney General candidates go, you can't get much more stark than this:

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's choice for attorney general broke with the Bush administration to call waterboarding "torture" and vowed to fight financial fraud at his Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday.

Eric Holder also addressed a major criticism by Republicans and acknowledged that he had erred when, as a deputy attorney general, he supporting a pardon by former President Bill Clinton for a fugitive financier, Marc Rich.

Obama Justice Pick Breaks With Bush On Waterboarding

At least, I hope it doesn't get any more stark, because when one guy who's been a judge and a prosecutor can't be bothered to look up court precedent on torture, while another can, it's as different as I ever wanted things to get. Contrast that quote with what I wrote about Bush's pick to replace Abu Gonzalez, Michael Mukasey:

It's hard to imagine anyone could have studied law, been a judge for eighteen years, and have not formed an opinion on whether waterboarding is torture. Yet, the current nominee for the post of U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey has said just that before the Senate Judiciary Committee. As a lawyer, he should be familiar with the fact that we tried people as war criminals after World War II for using waterboarding, among other forms of torture:

Within the legal and academic community there has been a good deal of discussion of water torture in various forms under the general rubric of “water boarding.” See, generally, Karen Greenberg, Ed., The Torture Debate in America, Cambridge University Press (New York, 2005). There has been no mention, however, of past American government pursuit and prosecution of individuals who inflicted such treatment on U.S. military personnel (the trials of Japanese war criminals after World War II) or of American service members who indulged in the technique (the Philippine insurgency hearings).

Drop by Drop: Forgetting The History of Water Torture in U.S. Courts (pg. 5)(PDF)

That's an excellent title, because we do seem to have forgotten all about what is and is not torture recently.

Mukasey And Torture

No doubt, Holder's critics will point out that he was stating the obvious when he admitted that the Rich pardon was a mistake. That's certainly true. In contrast to his predecessor, though, at least Holder can recognize the obvious.

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