In yet another installment on this topic I thought it might be interesting to see what the military thinks of the waterboarding controversy as well as what the legal precedent is in the US.

Take a look at this video. John Stewart really has it down when it comes to bringing out the absurdity in a situation. Thanks onegoodmove.org for the clip.

So, what does the military think of the waterboarding controversy? I've already shown what Malcolm Nance thinks of it. It is hard to gauge what active duty military think of this as they are not generally allowed to voice their opinions on policy. Retired military officers are the usual gauge of opinion but as you will see, through these retirees, we get two accounts from high ranking active duty officers as well.

Recently 38 high ranking retired officers wrote a letter to the Congressional chairman of the intelligence committee's stating in no uncertain terms that they find waterboarding to be reprehensible morally and a hinderance to our mission againt terrorism. In it is also a quote from General David Petraeus' open letter to the troops reminding them that only field manual approved interogration is allowed. Here is an excerpt of Gen Petraeus' open letter quoted from the retirees letter in the Huffington Post:

What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight. . . . is how we behave. In everything we do, we must observe the standards and values that dictate that we treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect....Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary. Certainly, extreme physical action can make someone "talk;" however, what the individual says may be of questionable value. In fact, our experience in applying the interrogation standards laid out in the Army Field Manual (2-22.3) on Human Intelligence Collector Operations that was published last year shows that the techniques in the manual work effectively and humanely in eliciting information from detainees.


Funny how the darling boy of the Neo-con backed "Surge" is against the very thing they feel will help us win the war. Funny also that the Neo-cons are generally desk jockeys and not actually doing the work or at risk of being catured. Funny that they refuse to trust the moral imperative and rational reasoning that Petraeus lays out in this letter regarding why waterboarding and other non-approved interrogation methods are not to be used.

As if that were not enough a group of retired JAG's has sent a similar letter specifically speaking out against waterboarding. Interesting that in this letter it is pointed out that several high ranking, active duty, JAG's were asked to comment on waterboarding and unanimously stated that it constituted inhumane torture and was universally illegal. So, that's another active duty group who appose it, along with the retirees.

Now, what is the legal precedent regarding waterboarding in the United States and under US jurisdiction? The best primer I have found is here. It is a legal article written for the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law which does an excellent job of summarizing the legal history of water torture in the US.

Despite the legal opinion of John Yoo there is quite a bit of legal precedence against waterboarding in the US. Yoo is splitting hairs by stating that the Congress does not have the right to tie the presidents hands on torture. They may be, but the President is bound to follow the law, he is not above it.

Also, legal precedence in military and civilian trials stretching back to the 1800's and extending forward to Vietnam have shown that waterboarding is illegal, considered to be torture, and has at times been considered a capital crime. Somehow John Yoo ignores this.

In summary, we as well as our allies have convicted and executed Japanese prisioners for waterboarding under the jurisdiction of US prosecutors and judges, making waterboarding not only torture but a capital offense. We have convicted a sherriff and his deputy in the US of using this technique on prisoners. We have also held military court martial against our own troops during the Philipine invasion as well as during Vietnam and convicted our own soldiers for using waterboarding on prisoners. In a class action suit against Ferdinand Marcos of the Phillipines it was shown that waterboarding was torture and the plaintiffs won the suit in US court.

Can a conservative minded person comment on how it is that waterboarding is viewed by the military (admittedly possibly not the CIA) as torture and a poor inteligence gathering mechanism as well as a slippery moral slope and yet the president the justice department have ignored that? Can anyone comment on how it is that waterboarding has been shown to be torture and even worthy of capital punishment in US courts, tribunals and court martials since the 1800's and yet we are dabating whether it is torture now? Can anyone explain how you can call it anything but torture given it's legal history, even if you believe it is justified in the current case? If you do believe it is justified why not call it like it is and accept the fact that we use torture, why do you feel you need to call it a horse of a different color? I'm very confused.