Paul Begala CNN political commentator Posted April 24, 2009 | 06:21 PM (EST)
In a CNN debate with Ari Fleischer, I said the United States executed Japanese war criminals for waterboarding. My point was that it is disingenuous for Bush Republicans to argue that waterboarding is not torture and thus illegal. It's kind of awkward to argue that waterboarding is not a crime when you hanged someone for doing it to our troops. My precise words were: "Our country executed Japanese soldiers who waterboarded American POWs. We executed them for the same crime we are now committing ourselves."
Mr. Fleischer, ordinarily the most voluble of men, was tongue-tied. The silence, rare in cable debates, spoke volumes for the vacuity of his position.
But I was not referring to Asano, nor was my source Sen. Kennedy. Instead I was referencing the statement of a different member of the Senate: John McCain. On November 29, 2007, Sen. McCain, while campaigning in St. Petersburg, Florida, said, "Following World War II war crime trials were convened. The Japanese were tried and convicted and hung for war crimes committed against American POWs. Among those charges for which they were convicted was waterboarding."
Sen. McCain was right and the National Review Online is wrong. Politifact, the St. Petersburg Times' truth-testing project (which this week was awarded a Pulitzer Prize), scrutinized Sen. McCain's statement and found it to be true. Here's the money quote from Politifact:
"McCain is referencing the Tokyo Trials, officially known as the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. After World War II, an international coalition convened to prosecute Japanese soldiers charged with torture. At the top of the list of techniques was water-based interrogation, known variously then as 'water cure,' 'water torture' and 'waterboarding,' according to the charging documents. It simulates drowning." Politifact went on to report, "A number of the Japanese soldiers convicted by American judges were hanged, while others received lengthy prison sentences or time in labor camps."
15. I saw Michelle Bachman on MTP this morning stating that she would waterboard
MR. GREGORY: No, no, let me just make the point. Your view that waterboarding should be reinstituted, you understand that puts you at odds with most of the generals, OK, the former Republican nominee of your party John McCain, General Colin Powell. You realize you're on the opposite end of what they believe? Do you not trust them and their views?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, but what, but I, but I'm on the same side as Vice President Cheney on this issue, and others as well. Because, I, again, what we're looking at is what will save American lives. And that's what the most important thing is. We've got, we've got to decide that we want to defeat the terrorists. And when we make that decision, we need to, we need to employ the methods that will best help us to defeat them. And President Obama is not doing that. Again, President Obama was given a war that is won in Iraq, and he's choosing to lose the peace. That's a desecration of the memory of 4400 Americans that gave their lives to liberate Iraq. And also, it's over $800 billion that we have expended. I believe that Iraq should pay us back for the money that we spent. And I believe that Iraq should pay the families that lost a loved one several million dollars per life...
4. There is such an abundance of evidence that the bushes
tortured POWs they held in captivity, that there is no excuse for allowing bush, cheney et.al. their continued freedom from justice. Not only did the bushes use the tried and true method the Japanese used in WWII but they raped, starved and used other horrific techniques. And not only did agents representing the US torture POWs held in captivity by the US, but they were clearly authorized to torture by the president himself. He brags about it in his book.
Obama and the US Attorney General are now complicit in the bushes war crimes. Are we officially a banana republic yet?
Justice may take a long time, but it comes with heavy feet.
A horrific act by another name is still torture.
"The Tokyo Trials, officially known as the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. After World War II, an international coalition convened to prosecute Japanese soldiers charged with torture. At the top of the list of techniques was water-based interrogation, known variously then as 'water cure,' 'water torture' and 'waterboarding,' according to the charging documents. It simulates drowning." Politifact went on to report, "A number of the Japanese soldiers convicted by American judges were hanged, while others received lengthy prison sentences or time in labor camps.""
21. I agree we should still be talking about this. Obama's attitude
about this has also hurt us, because he framed it as a difference in policy, when it's clearly an illegal act. Expect the Rethugs to resume it right away. This is what will define us as good or bad people collectively. We have to get better at replacing the ridiculous "it keeps us safe" notion with the more correct "it's morally wrong" truth.
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