Monday, November 05, 2007

"Better Cut Off All Identifying Labels..."

From the AP wire today:

Nov 5th, 2007 | WASHINGTON -- Protesters staged a waterboarding Monday outside the Justice Department, calling for a Senate committee to reject attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey because of his reluctance to define the interrogation tactic as torture.

The demonstration came shortly before Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said he would oppose Mukasey during a Senate Judiciary Committee vote set for Tuesday on whether the retired judge should be confirmed to lead the Justice Department.

Mukasey's approval was all but assured last week when two Democrats on the panel — Charles Schumer of New York and Dianne Feinstein of California — said they would buck concerns about his stand on torture and support him.

On Monday, about 25 protesters describing themselves as anti-war activists and actors responded with a demonstration of waterboarding that brought a volunteer to retching coughs and tears in less than four minutes.

"I wanted desperately to scream but I couldn't because as soon as I would — water," said Maboud Ebrahimzadeh, a 26-year-old Iranian-American actor from Maryland. "Water would go through the mouth and through the nose."

Set up outside the Justice Department's headquarters, Ebrahimzadeh struggled against his supposed interrogators as they yelled questions and forced him to lie on his back, a cloth over his face, his legs elevated. They poured two gallons of water over his face.

The process was supposed to resemble the process that CIA interrogators are believed to have used on terror detainees until a few years ago. However, Ebrahimzadeh's interrogators put a plastic cage between his face and the cloth to make sure he did not inhale too much water and, potentially, drown or asphyxiate.

At Senate confirmation hearings last month, Mukasey repeatedly refused to say whether he considers waterboarding a form of torture, as claimed by an unlikely coalition of military officials, doctors and humans rights groups.

The Pentagon has banned its personnel from using waterboarding. The Bush administration has sidestepped questions on whether it has allowed CIA interrogators or other employees to use it against terror detainees.

In a letter to the Senate panel Monday, 21 military and intelligence officials urged lawmakers to delay voting on Mukasey's confirmation until he clarifies his position on waterboarding.

"The most likely explanation for Mukasey's reticence is his concern that, should his conscience require him to condemn waterboarding, this could cause extreme embarrassment and even legal jeopardy for senior officials," the letter stated.

Cardin, a Senate Judiciary Committee member, said Mukasey is "a good person, an honest man," but probably cannot be truly independent of the president.

Cardin said he would vote against Mukasey because "on the critical issue of standing up to this administration as an independent adviser against torture, I have my doubts."

(This version CORRECTS that Ebrahimzadeh is a U.S. citizen of Iranian heritage.)

And a comment on the subject made by Rhode Island Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse on the Senate floor last week, 10/31:

"Will we join that gloomy historical line leading from the Inquistion, through the prisons of tyrant regimes, through gulags and dark cells, and through Saddam Hussein's torture chambers? Will that be the path we choose? If we allow the president of the United States -- the most highly representative of our rule of law -- from recognizing that bright line, we will have turned down that dark stairway. I cannot stand for that."

Every time I think of the fact that this country is seriously engaged in a debate as to whether or not torture is justified -- setting aside, for the moment, the fact that we actually have, you know, tortured people -- I get sick to my stomach. Torture is barbaric; it's cruel, inhumane and despicable. It has no place in civilized society, none whatsoever, not for any reason or purpose. It's criminal. The practice is outlawed by all truly civilized countries, as it should be. To have a debate on the subject is simply beyond the pale; there should never be any question of allowing it, ever, under any circumstances. That this current administration has taken us to a place where there are Americans who are actively defending the process, saying that it should be allowed under certain conditions or in certain circumstances, should make every American who truly loves his or her country weep with sadness at the passing of this once great nation. If torture is on the table, a condoned practice by this government, then perhaps we don't deserve the Constitution any more.


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