Michael Mukasey probably wouldn’t be attorney general today had he not dodged the Senate Judiciary Committee’s questions about waterboarding, an interrogation technique that involves simulated drowning. Mukasey said he wasn’t sure if waterboarding was torture but would look into it, and that was enough for some credulous committee members, including New York Sen. Charles Schumer, to put aside their reservations and vote to confirm him.
Soon after, Mukasey — surprise — reached the same ridiculous conclusion as his boss, George W. Bush: Waterboarding is not torture. Both the Army and CIA disagree, as does Congress, which just passed a law specifically banning the practice. But that doesn’t matter because Bush has vetoed it; and even if he had signed it, as demonstrated in the past, he would ignore it.
Of the many things this president has done to undermine our country’s image and standing in the world, sanctioning torture must be at the top of the list. It has emboldened Muslim terrorists and enraged moderates we need on our side, at the same time making our own troops more likely to be mistreated.
And most experts agree that torture is not necessary. The information, assuming it is still relevant, can usually be gotten through other aggressive but legal techniques — and often it yields bogus information from those who will say anything to stop the torture.
Bush claimed, in his Saturday radio address announcing the veto, that waterboarding has stopped several terrorist attacks. But he has shown before that he is not above making misleading, inflated claims to justify doing what he wants, legal or not. And so, barring the unlikelihood that Congress overturns his veto, George Bush and the United States reserve the right to torture.