My how times have changed: the victims have become the aggressors. The Bush administration doesn't consider waterboarding torture, but in World War II Japanese soldiers who used waterboarding against American troops were tried for war crimes and executed.
On Thursday, Steven Bradbury, a Justice Department official and Bush's nominee for Deputy Attorney General testified about torture before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties. Bradbury said that "something can be quite distressing or uncomfortable, even frightening, but if it doesn't involve severe physical pain and it doesn't last very long, it may not constitute severe physical suffering."
Bradbury said that while the victim of waterboarding "might panic from the sensation of drowning," the real question is whether "those factors cause prolonged mental harm." Bradbury claimed that waterboarding - a process illegal since the Spanish-American war - does not. You can bet that if these techniques were used against Americans, anywhere in the world, the Bush administration and the Justice Department would consider waterboarding torture - just as it was in WWII.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) was one of 45 senators voting this week in opposition to a bill limiting the CIA to 19 interrogation techniques outlined in the Army field manual. That manual prohibits waterboarding, in which detainees typically are strapped to a bench and have water poured into their mouth and nose, making them think and feel they will drown. Lieberman glibly remarked, "[Waterboarding] is not like putting burning coals on people's bodies. The person is in no real danger. The impact is psychological." Apparently Lieberman has forgotten that sometimes people actually die from waterboarding. In the previous election, Lieberman was voted out of the Democratic party, after cozying up to George Bush. He is now John McCain's best friend and active in his campaign for the White House.
Thankfully, the Senate continues to resist Bush's efforts to approve Bradbury as Deputy Attorney General. Bradbury helped write the "legal opinion" denying Guantanamo Bay prisoners the rights of habeas corpus, in defiance of both US and international law. He is also responsible for "immunizing" former White House counsel Harriet Miers from complying with a Congressional subpoena regarding the U.S. Attorney purge scandal.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives took the unusual step of holding Miers, along with White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten in contempt of Congress for their refusal to testify about the White House role in the purge. With House Republicans congregating on the steps of the Capitol in protest, Democrats passed the resolutions 223-32. Yes, it will take the Democrats to clean up after this administration.