Moral Low Ground

US Government

‘The Moral High Ground’: John McCain Slams GOP Candidates’ Support of Waterboarding

At Saturday’s CBS/National Journal Republican presidential debate in South Carolina, every candidate save for Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman endorsed the controlled drowning torture technique known as waterboarding. All, except the two mentioned above, affirmed that they would reinstitute the practice if elected. Embattled first-tier candidate Herman Cain gave the most perplexing explanation of his stance on waterboarding, declaring “I do not agree with torture, period” before saying this about waterboarding only seconds later: “I agree that it was an enhanced interrogation technique. I would return to that policy. I don’t see it as torture, I see it as an enhanced interrogation technique.” Michelle Bachmann’s assertion that she “would be willing to use waterboarding” was met with resounding applause from the audience.

It should be noted that Rep. Ron Paul and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman emphatically stated that waterboarding is absolutely torture and that they would not resort to such barbarism if they are elected. “Torture is illegal … waterboarding is torture,” Paul, who is also a medical doctor, responded. “It’s illegal under international law and under our law. It’s also immoral and it’s also very impractical. There’s no evidence that you really get reliable evidence. I think it’s uncivilized. It would have no practical advantages and is really un-American to accept on principle that we will torture people we will capture.”

Predictably, President Obama had harsh words for the torture-supporting Republican candidates. “Waterboarding is torture. It’s contrary to America’s traditions, it’s contrary to our ideals, it’s not who we are, it’s not how we operate,” the President said at a news conference earlier today. “We don’t need it in order to prosecute the war on terrorism,” Obama added. “If we want to lead around the world part of our leadership is setting a good example. And anybody who has actually read about and understands the practice of waterboarding would say that that is torture and that’s not something we do. Period.”

But it wasn’t just Democrats who weighed in on the waterboarding debate. Sen John McCain (R-AZ), who was tortured for years while he was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam in the late 1960s and early 1970s, slammed the GOP candidates for endorsing torture. “Very disappointed by statements at SC GOP debate supporting waterboarding,” the 2008 Republican presidential candidate tweeted. “Waterboarding is torture.”

This isn’t the first time that McCain has vociferously denounced waterboarding. “Anyone who knows what waterboarding is could not be unsure,” he previously  asserted. “It is a horrible torture technique… and should never be condoned in the U.S.. We are a better nation than that.”

The very thought that we Americans have spent a good part of the last decade debating whether or not it’s okay to torture people is chilling. What’s even more disconcerting is how torture proponents have attempted to re-define torture in order to sell it to a reluctant public. That waterboarding is torture ought to be beyond debate, but unfortunately it’s not. If you have any doubts, I would implore you to read this recent post written as former Vice President and torture advocate Dick Cheney was doing the media circuit promoting his memoir In My Time. Interestingly, Cheney called a hypothetical waterboarding of a U.S. citizen by Iran objectionable.


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