Vice President Dick Cheney was recently interviewed by Scott Hennen of WDAY radio
. Based on comments that he made, It has been widely reported
that Cheney supported "waterboarding." Here is what Cheney said
Q I've heard from a lot of listeners -- that's what we do for a living, talk to good folks in the Heartland every day -- and I've talked to as many who want an increased military presence in Iraq as want us out, which seems to be the larger debate, at least coming from the left -- cut and run, get out of there. One fax said, when you talk to the Vice President, ask him when shock and awe is coming back to Iraq. Let's finish the job once and for all.
And terrorist interrogations and that debate is another example. And I've had people call and say, please, let the Vice President know that if it takes dunking a terrorist in water, we're all for it, if it saves American lives. Again, this debate seems a little silly given the threat we face, would you agree?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I do agree. And I think the terrorist threat, for example, with respect to our ability to interrogate high value detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, that's been a very important tool that we've had to be able to secure the nation. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed provided us with enormously valuable information about how many there are, about how they plan, what their training processes are and so forth, we've learned a lot. We need to be able to continue that.
The Congress recently voted on this question of military commissions and our authority to continue the interrogation program. It passed both Houses, fortunately. The President signed it into law, but the fact is 177 Democrats in the House -- or excuse me, 162 Democrats in the House voted against it, and 32 out of 44 senators -- Democratic senators voted against it. We wouldn't have that authority today if they were in charge. That's a very important issue in this campaign.
Are we going to allow the executive branch to have the authority granted and authorized by the Congress to be able to continue to collect the intelligence we need to defend the nation.
Q Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there, I was criticized as being the Vice President "for torture." We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in. We live up to our obligations in international treaties that we're party to and so forth. But the fact is, you can have a fairly robust interrogation program without torture, and we need to be able to do that.
And thanks to the leadership of the President now, and the action of the Congress, we have that authority, and we are able to continue to program.
While the term "waterboarding" in not explicitly used, it seems to be what the Vice President meant. Some weeks ago, David Corn posted several pictures that were taken by Jonah Blank at Tuol Sleng Prison in Phnom Penh, Cambodia depicting the equipment used for waterboarding by the Khymer Rouge. Here is one of the photos:
Corn also posted a painting by a former prisoner of the waterboarding process.
Blank, in an e-mail to Corn, noted:
The crux of the issue before Congress can be boiled down to a simple question: Is waterboarding torture? Anybody who considers this practice to be "torture lite" or merely a "tough technique" might want to take a trip to Phnom Penh. The Khymer Rouge were adept at torture, and there was nothing "lite" about their methods. Incidentally, the waterboard in these photo wasn't merely one among many torture devices highlighted at the prison museum. It was one of only two devices singled out for highlighting (the other was another form of water-torture--a tank that could be filled with water or other liquids; I have photos of that too.) There was an outdoor device as well, one the Khymer Rouge didn't have to construct: chin-up bars. (The prison where the museum is located had been a school before the Khymer Rouge took over). These bars were used for "stress positions"-- another practice employed under current US guidelines. At the Khymer Rouge prison, there is a tank of water next to the bars. It was used to revive prisoners for more torture when they passed out after being placed in stress positions.
The similarity between practices used by the Khymer Rouge and those currently being debated by Congress isn't a coincidence. As has been amply documented ("The New Yorker" had an excellent piece, and there have been others), many of the "enhanced techniques" came to the CIA and military interrogators via the SERE [Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape] schools, where US military personnel are trained to resist torture if they are captured by the enemy. The specific types of abuse they're taught to withstand are those that were used by our Cold War adversaries. Why is this relevant to the current debate? Because the torture techniques of North Korea, North Vietnam, the Soviet Union and its proxies--the states where US military personnel might have faced torture--were NOT designed to elicit truthful information. These techniques were designed to elicit CONFESSIONS. That's what the Khymer Rouge et al were after with their waterboarding, not truthful information.
Bottom line: Not only do waterboarding and the other types of torture currently being debated put us in company with the most vile regimes of the past half-century; they're also designed specifically to generate a (usually false) confession, not to obtain genuinely actionable intel. This isn't a matter of sacrificing moral values to keep us safe; it's sacrificing moral values for no purpose whatsoever.
These photos are important because most of us have never seen an actual, real-life waterboard. The press typically describes it in the most anodyne ways: a device meant to "simulate drowning" or to "make the prisoner believe he might drown." But the Khymer Rouge were no jokesters, and they didn't tailor their abuse to the dictates of the Geneva Convention. They-- like so many brutal regimes--made waterboarding one of their primary tools for a simple reason: it is one of the most viciously effective forms of torture ever devised.
The Vice President noted in the interview that "We live up to our obligations in international treaties that we're party to and so forth." Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions prohibits: "Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture" and "[o]utrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment." In Hamdan, the Supreme Court held that Common Article 3 applied to the U.S. war with al Qaeda. Even if the Military Commissions Act of 2006 seeks to give the President the authority to interpret the Geneva Conventions, is there any way that a reasonable person would not conclude that waterboarding violated the Geneva Convention?