Holder on Waterboarding During Confirmation Hearing

In response to a direct question by Senator Leahy, AG-Designate Eric Holder responded with refreshing clarity that waterboarding is torture.

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 for using it in Vietnam. I agree with you Mr. Chairman, that waterboarding is torture.

Jonathan Turley was on the Rachel Maddow Show tonight discussing this hearing (video below). He made the important point that waterboarding is unequivocally torture and that we didn’t need the new AG to tell us that. He went on to make the key point that the follow-up question on torture prosecutions went unasked.

That is a key point, and I believe prosecutions are necessary for a host of reasons. However, I did find the first part of Holder’s response to be promising. I think that the statements regarding previous prosecutions of waterboarding – Japanese war crimes and American soldiers in Vietnam – were unnecessary. No real historical context was necessary, but if Holder wanted to, he could have limited himself to the Inquisition.

I don’t want to give too much weight toward my particular parse of his words, and I certainly didn’t watch the entire confirmation hearing. However, I see the mention of previous prosecutions as the laying of a certain amount of historical cover, should he eventually choose to prosecute. Furthermore, I believe that any amount of intellectual honesty requires prosecuting these incidents, having acknowledged the precedent.

I have great hope for the intellectual honesty of this administration.

Update: See also Jonathan Turley’s post on the subject here.

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Published in: on January 15, 2009 at 11:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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