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Plaid Adder Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-06-07 02:01 PM
Original message
Some Help for Michael Mukasey
Look. Here's the definition of torture, the noun, from the Oxford English Dictionary online:

1. The infliction of severe bodily pain, as punishment or a means of persuasion; spec. judicial torture, inflicted by a judicial or quasi-judicial authority, for the purpose of forcing an accused or suspected person to confess, or an unwilling witness to give evidence or information; a form of this (often in pl.). to put to (the) torture, to inflict torture upon, to torture

2. Severe or excruciating pain or suffering (of body or mind); anguish, agony, torment; the infliction of such.

3. transf. and fig. with various allusions: Severe pressure; violent perversion or wresting; violent action or operation; severe testing or examination.

4. attrib. and Comb., as torture-chamber, -house, -monger, -rack, -room, -wheel; torture-scored adj.


Is waterboarding torture? Let's see, it involves the infliction of severe or excruciating pain or suffering of body and mind (2) on an accused terrorist and/or unwilling informant for the purpose of extracting a confession or information (1), so I guess according to most of the English-speaking world, the answer would be YES.

Well, OK, nobody ever claimed the OED was the ultimate arbiter in matters of law. I wonder how torture has been defined by international law?

Oh, look, The Google has found me Amnesty International's answer to that very question:

Torture is defined in the UN Convention against Torture as the intentional infliction of severe physical or mental pain or suffering for purposes such as obtaining information or a confession, or punishing, intimidating or coercing someone.

So, this is pretty much the same as the first two definitions given in the OED. According to the UN, is waterboarding torture? Would seem like the answer to that question is YES.

In fact, the only definition of torture that's been recently circulated that would not obviously include waterboarding is that concocted by the outgoing and thoroughly disgraced attorney general whose mess Mukasey is supposed to clear up. You can read all about Gonzales's attempts to rewrite not only the definition of torture but the U.S. Constitution here. Here's how, in a memo which was written for the specific purpose of bringing waterboarding and other techniques within legal limits, Gonzales defined torture:

We conclude that for an act to constitute torture...it must inflict pain that is difficult to endure.

Hey--wait a minute! That's the same definition as--oh, wait, he goes on:

Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.

Okay.

This is an obviously tendentious definition formulated for the specific purpose of allowing the U.S. government and its operatives to torture captives and informants. It's been attacked as morally bankrupt, legally absurd, and intellectually unforgivable by just about everyone other than Bush and his Coalition of the Batshit Crazy. AND YET, what does it actually say? That torture must be "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury"...or "even death."

What's waterboarding? Well, you strap someone down and pour water into them until for all intents and purposes they are experiencing drowning, which as anyone can tell you is one form of DEATH. So even by Gonzales's OWN BULLSHIT DEFINITION, the answer to the question "Is waterboarding torture?" would appear to be YES.

So why would Mukasey not give that answer?

It's obvious to me: he's afraid that if he does unequivocably state that waterboarding is torture during his confirmation hearings, then during his term as AG he will be put in a position where either he will have to prosecute Bush and his minions for torture, or he will be arraigned for perjury for trying to argue that in fact, waterboarding is not torture, despite the fact that he testified under oath that it was.

To me, the most depressing thing about this whole escapade is Schumer's explanation for his support of Mukasey, given in a New York Times article from November 1 entitled "Schumer In A Tough Spot After Supporting Mukasey":

No nominee from this administration will agree with us on things like torture and wiretapping, Mr. Schumer continued. The best we can expect is somebody who will depoliticize the Justice Department and put rule of law first, even when pressured by some of the administration. If Mukasey is that type of person, Ill support him.

Why is that depressing? Because he's right. And that sucks.

I'm not saying he's right to support Mukasey's confirmation. I'm just saying he's absolutely right about what exactly is the "best we can expect" from Bush's Rolodex at this point. Not only would Bush never willingly nominate a decent attorney general, he probably doesn't even know anyone who would make one. Reject Mukasey and you'll get some other nominee who also dances around the issue of what is and isn't torture and what is and isn't unconstitutional surveillance. Reject him, and you get another one, and so on and so on until Bush is finally out of office.

God. Someday Bush will in fact be out of office. Just imagine how wonderful that will be.

:argh:

The Plaid Adder
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Igel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-06-07 02:10 PM
Response to Original message
1. Do we have a statutory definition?
What Congress defines torture as isn't necessarily the same as the OED or international law.

To be honest, I don't think I've seen one. But that's what Gonzales/Mukasey would be interpreting.

And no, an impromptu--or even a carefully crafted--definition given by a committee during a hearing isn't what's at issue. As with all legislative bodies, it's primarily the body that has the authority, not individuals. (And how many times have I fought and argued with people that weren't clear on the point.)
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Plaid Adder Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-06-07 02:33 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. The Bybee Memo
is a response to the federal statute implementing the international Convention Against Torture. The cite given in the Human Rights First memo is 18 USC $$2340, 2340A. If you've got the time, chase it down and see what it says. I would, but alas, PJ is no longer napping.

The Plaid Adder
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magellan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-06-07 02:35 PM
Response to Original message
3. Simple answer
If Mukasey needs to be told waterboarding is torture, he doesn't deserve to be AG.
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Fiendish Thingy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-07-07 01:02 AM
Response to Original message
4. It won't matter if Bush is out of office if the MCA still stands
even if it is an unconstitutional law; if it goes unchallenged, along with all the othe unchallenged expressions of "Unitary Executive" power, it won't be good enough for Bush to be out of office; he and Cheney, Rumsfeld et al must be held accountable...

But I'm not holding my breath.

Thanks for a great post- clear and to the point, with no wiggle room for torture apologists/enablers/Vichy Dems
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roxnev Donating Member (194 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-07-07 05:03 PM
Response to Original message
5. Why are Republican so dumb
3. transf. and fig. with various allusions: Severe pressure; violent perversion or wresting; violent action or operation; severe testing or examination.

allusion <ə l'n>
(plural allusions)
n
1. indirect reference: an indirect reference to somebody or something
He made an allusion to marital problems.

2. act of alluding: the act of making an indirect reference to somebody or something

I wonder if drowning is called something

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rhett o rick Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-07-07 08:55 PM
Response to Original message
6. Schmumer is right and he is wrong. Yes this may be the best we can hope for, but he stills is not
acceptable and should be rejected. Schumer is wrong to accept someone that doesn't meet the principles of this Country even if he is the best we can expect. I would rather have no one than Gonzales or Mukasey.

There is no acceptable justification for Schumer and DiFi to help the republicans in their march toward tyranny.

We have to draw the line some where, and fight for every inch.
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Plaid Adder Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-07-07 10:25 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. I think what Schumer is more concerned about
than the torture issue is getting someone into the AG spot who will uncover the things that Gonzales and his minions did to manipulate the electoral process and make it harder for Democrats to get elected. It makes sense that that would be his top priority given that he's a career politician. It's an important issue for us too. I just don't know if Schumer's belief that Mukasey would actually go against Bush in order to uphold the law or the constitution is really warranted.

C ya,

The Plaid Adder
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rhett o rick Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-08-07 09:25 PM
Response to Reply #7
8. Yes I hope Schumer knows what he is doing. But my hopes along those lines
have been dashed too many times.
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