It seems somewhat hyperbole to say it, but some cloth and water should derail the nomination of Michael Mukasey to be Attorney General.
Cloth and water are the two tools needed to perform waterboarding - the technique where an interrogee is tied down, and water is poured over cloth or cellophane over his face, to recreate the feeling of drowning. Some call it an "enhanced interrogation technique." What it is, though, is torture. Not only is it not proven to get any usable intelligence, but, more importantly, it puts our troops in danger.
Though the description of it sounds innocuous enough, there is no doubt that the technique meets all the definitions of torture under the Geneva Conventions, which provide the guideline under which our troops must operate. It is, without question, not as nice as it sounds.
In his confirmation hearing, and in a subsequent letter to the Judiciary Committee, Mukasey refused to say whether he considered the technique torture, and Constitutional.
As a veteran of Iraq who represents other Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, I can't speak to Constitutional issues. However, I can and must speak to the notion of having yet another Attorney General who advises the President that torture is not torture.
Among the greatest travesties of the tenure of Alberto Gonzalez at the White House and Justice Department was his steadfast belief that many different forms of torture were not forms of torture. His rationale went way beyond domestic Constitutional issues, and extended to the field in Iraq, where his rationale was the basis by some for the green-lighting of the use of torture against detainees.
This has terrible ramifications for our troops in harm's way.
First, the dismissal of the Geneva Conventions hurts our ability to win hearts and minds. Yes, this is proving terribly difficult, anyway, as the occupation of Iraq drags on. But there are still many Iraqis who are open to being allies of the U.S. But, when they hear that we use torture techniques, we lose credibility with them as a force that is trying to make things better. In fact, all it does is conjure up thoughts and feelings associated with Saddam Hussein, for them. That's a tragedy, because America, at its core, and our troops, represent everything the polar opposite that Saddam represented. But, it's hard to show that when Iraqis know that we employ the use of torture. The use of torture only fosters feelings of ill-will against Americans, feeds the insurgency, and leads to our troops being more heavily targeted.
Secondly, for thousands of years, the mentality of the region has been an eye for an eye. If we torture, it gives our enemies all the reason they feel they need to torture any of our troops who are captured.
This is far from a partisan issue. Democrats were joined by Senators McCain, Graham, and Warner, among others, in repudiating the use of torture. McCain and Graham, again, are voicing their concern over Mukasey's refusal to call waterboarding what it is.
America has to operate on a higher moral plane than our enemies. It, quite literally, is directly related to the safety and lives of our troops. If Mukasey will not make it abundantly clear that waterboarding and other techniques like it are torture, for our troops' sake, he must not be confirmed as Attorney General.