Monday, January 26, 2009


The latest administration subordinate to join the George W. Bush "We're Not Going to Stop Praising Ourselves Until You Admit We Were Right" Endless Legacy Tour is Alberto Gonzales; Gonzo just gave an interview to NPR's Michel Martin, which aired today.

During the interview (transcript here), Gonzales gave us his response to Attoney General-designate Eric Holder's unambiguous statement that waterboarding is torture (emphasis mine):

MS. MARTIN: ... Now the man designated as the Attorney General for the Obama administration in his testimony before congress, in his confirmation hearings, has explicitly said that he thinks that water boarding is torture.... When you heard that, what was your reaction?

MR. GONZALES: ... I don't know whether or not, in making that statement, Mr. Holder had access to all of the opinions, all of the underlying documentations supporting the opinions. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. The other thing I don't know is how much of the intelligence decisions Mr. Holder had with respect to the threat that existed at the time these opinions were offered, and the opinions of the intelligence officials about their belief in a particular detainee having very important, valuable intelligence information that might save American lives. And so, I don't know what Mr. Holder did or didn't know in making that statement....

Here's the thing: either waterboarding is torture or it isn't -- period. You can't say that it's torture if applied to a church deacon but not torture if applied to a mass murderer -- the act itself doesn't change. It doesn't stop being torture because the person being waterboarded is really, really bad.

You ask Gonzales about a blanket statement that waterboarding is torture and he says, well, Holder should have looked at the importance of the information we could get from certain detainees. But it doesn't matter. It's still torture, regardless of the circumstances -- or it isn't, regardless of the circumstances. (Needless to say, I think it is.)

Now, you can make an argument that it is necessary to torture under some extraordinary circumstances -- it's a troubling argument, but you can make it, but you have quite a task before you in defining the circumstances under which torture is necessary. But at least have the moral honesty to acknowledge that what you are advocating is the same act regardless of the circumstances. Gonzo is apparently so morally impaired that he doesn't even understand that.

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