One of the more difficult rows to hoe in the ongoing debate over detainee treatment has been the insistence by some conservatives, against countervailing evidence, that these measures not only aren't torture but actually work.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney has led the charge, requesting that two specific memos be released showing valuable evidence from detainees who buckled during waterboarding. But outside of the administration as well, various officials who were once absolutists when it came to denouncing torture or humanitarian abuses now find themselves dealing in vagaries when discussing conduct by former Bush officials.
See, for example, these quotes from Newt Gingrich. The former Speaker of the House and reliable GOP presidential flirt would not definitively define waterboarding as torture during a Friday appearance on Fox News.
VAN SUSTEREN: But you said a minute ago that it was torture, waterboarding...
GINGRICH: No, I said it's not something we should do.
VAN SUSTEREN: OK. Is it torture or not?
GINGRICH: I -- I -- I think it's -- I can't tell you.
VAN SUSTEREN: Does it violate the Geneva Convention?
GINGRICH: I honestly don't know.
Several weeks ago, meanwhile, he insisted that President Obama's decision to close Guantanamo and put an end to interrogation policies had made the United States less safe.
When he was in office, however, Gingrich took one of strongest public postures against detainee abuse, political imprisonment and, yes, torture. A reader sends over the statement Gingrich issued following then-Chinese President Jiang Zemin's visit to the United States, in which he insisted that there was "no place for torture and arbitrary detention," describing such acts as contrary to "the foundation of American values."
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: OCTOBER 30, 1997
SPEAKER'S STATEMENT ON VISIT OF PRESIDENT JIANG
Washington, D.C. -- House Speaker Newt Gingrich released the following statement today following his meeting with Chinese President Jiang Zemin.
"As I said in China this spring, there is no place for abuse in what must be considered the family of man. There is no place for torture and arbitrary detention. There is no place for forced confessions. There is no place for intolerance of dissent." "While we walked through the Rotunda. I explained to President Jiang how the roots of American rule of law go back more than 700 years, to the signing of the Magna Carta. The foundation of American values, therefore, is not a passing priority or a temporary trend.
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