We have had years of Attorney Generals who won’t answer the question, “Is Waterboarding an act of torture?” Now Attorney General nominee Eric Holder has come out and said what is obvious: “Waterboarding is Torture.”
In further confirmation testimony yesterday on the treatment of prisoners, Eric Holder responded to a question about other interrogation techniques (my transcription from C-SPAN):
Senator Dick Durbin: The Judge Advocates General are the top military justice lawyers in America. I’ve asked them about the techniques other than waterboarding: painful stress positions, threatening detainees with dogs, forced nudity, mock executions. They told me that each of those techniques is illegal and violates Common Article III of the Geneva Conventions. When I asked Attorney Generals Gonzales and Mukasey the same question they refused to respond. I think it’s only fair that I ask you that question. Let me ask you that question directly. Do you agree with the Judge Advocates General? Would it be illegal for enemy forces to subject an American detainee to painful stress positions, threatening detainees with dogs, forced nudity or mock execution?
Attorney General Nominee Eric Holder: I am not as conversant with those techniques as I am with waterboarding, which is something I have really focused my attention on. And so I would not go so far as to say that those constitute torture. I don’t know about them.
What’s this? Is Eric Holder veering into a Mukaseyism, another refusal to be pinned down? Holder continues:
On the other hand, Common Article III requires that people, prisoners be treated in a humane fashion, and so I would agree that the techniques that you have described, I would agree with the folks in the Judge Advocate General Corps are in fact correct, that those techniques violate Common Article III.
Durbin: That they cross that threshold and become inhumane.
Holder: That’s right.
There we have it. Our next Attorney General has straightforwardly identified waterboarding as torture, and has further characterized various cruel and inhuman forms of prisoner treatment as violations of the Geneva Conventions.
[I’m a skeptic, and so it’s difficult for me to shove these words out of my mouth, but here they come….]
What a relief.