01/15/2009 05:46 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

An Emerald City Moment: Waterboarding Is Torture Says Holder

I'm going to have a lot of Emerald City moments over the next few months. I'm hoping to have them on a host of topics including global warming, women's and children's health issues, foreign affairs.

If you've seen The Wizard of Oz, that glorious 1930's masterpiece, you know the Emerald City moment: It's that lovely moment where Dorothy and her companions have made it through tough times, and after Good Witch Glinda wakes them from a drug-induced sleep Dorothy excitedly points and says look! I can see the Emerald City! Then, with renewed energy and a fresh boost of optimism, they bound along as an invisible choir encourages them to "Step into the sun, step into the light."

As we free ourselves from the darkness of these last 8 years under the Worst President Ever, I'm hoping for many Emerald City moments, where the new president or someone in his administration finally speaks the truth and helps us remember we're out of the woods, we're out of the dark.

I just had one.

Just a short while ago, minutes into the confirmation hearings of Eric Holder for Attorney General, the nominee was asked by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy if waterboarding was torture. His response:

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 in Vietnam, I agree with you, Mr. Chairman, waterboarding is torture.
The man nominated to uphold the law of the land just said that the United States should not torture, and agreed that the outgoing administration did just that.


In contrast, let's just take a quick trip in the wayback machine, and take a look at what the last two Attorney Generals had to say on the subject. Alberto Gonzalez, why don't you step up first. When asked by Senator Ted Kennedy during a hearing in July of 2007 whether the use of waterboarding as an interrogation technique violated the Geneva Convention, Gonzalez replied: "It is not so clear." During his confirmation hearings in January 2008 his successor, Michael Mukasey, basically claimed the same: "It is unresolved."

It was never unresolved. It was never 'not so clear.' According to no less than the United States Army manual, waterboarding is torture: the manual banned torture and degrading treatment of prisoners, including water-boarding, forced nakedness, hooding and sexual humiliation.

Just now, President-Elect Obama's nominee for Attorney General agreed, and then he added this: "No one is above the law."

Next step: do something about it. Then the invisible choir will really have cause to sing: You're out of the woods, you're out of the dark, you're out of the night. Step into the sun, step into the light.