During the Spanish Inquisition, waterboarding, or simulated drowning, was first used as a torture tactic to elicit confessions. As far back as the Spanish-American war, American law has condemned soldiers who use waterboarding to stiff sentences. American soldiers were prosecuted in 1968 for waterboarding prisoners of war in Vietnam. After World War II, America tried and sentenced Japanese officers who used waterboarding on American soldiers for war crimes. According to John McCain, some Japanese were tried and hanged for using this technique on Americans. The American case law is clear: waterboarding is torture, and it is a war crime. International Law condemns it as well.
Yet just yesterday, Vice President Dick Cheney gave an interview where, when asked whether he still believes it was appropriate to use the waterboarding method on terrorism suspects, he said: "I do." Not only did he support the use of this illegal torture, Cheney signed off on the use. In that same interview, he said that the CIA "in effect came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn't do. And they talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it."
Read that again. When a United States federal agency, charged with defending our country in accordance with its laws, asked the vice-president if they could use torture, he said yes. He said, "do it."
In effect, the vice-president has just admitted, blithely and on national television, that he personally approved of war crimes perpetrated by this administration. Make no mistake about it: the use of torture is a war crime and is punishable by law. And Dick Cheney is responsible.
Cheney's comments comes only a few days after disclosures by a Senate committee showing that high-level officials in the Bush administration were intimately involved in reviewing and approving interrogation methods that have since been explicitly outlawed and that have been condemned internationally as torture.
Change in America will not just come by stimulating the economy and providing better health care. Change must also have a moral component. For America to lead once again, and regain its moral stature, it must show that it is a true democracy that respects the rule of law, and allows no one, not even the most powerful of its officials, get away with crimes that must shame every citizen proud to call themselves a member of this great nation.
The next president must launch a full investigation into these crimes, and people must be held accountable for their abuses of the law. This is not a mere political stunt. More even than a legal necessity, it is a moral duty.