Posted by: Rick | Thursday, April 23, 2009

Framing and The Politics of Torture

Notwithstanding the radical views of Republican Jack Bauers, waterboarding is torture.  Period.  Here’s how we know:

Legal experts said they would see the matter differently if the focus was on war crimes and international law.

Saltzburg and others said Americans would probably be inclined to bring war crimes charges against a former official who authorized the waterboarding of a U.S. agent.

“I admit I feel hypocritical about that,” he said. “If one of our soldiers or CIA agents had been captured by Saddam [Hussein], waterboarded and put in box, and we found out who authorized it, we would insist on prosecuting that person for war crimes.”

Malinowski said there would be a legal consensus in favor of a war crimes prosecution if a American had been waterboarded by Iran, Iraq or North Korea.

“There would be no controversy, no debate,” he said. “We would seek to prosecute any foreign official who authorized the commission of those acts on an American. And no one would buy the excuse that one of those dictators was relying on the advice of his legal counsel.”  [Emphasis added]

Going after the Cheney Gang for its criminal activity would be problematic, but Democrats shouldn’t fear the torture issue.  The extremist base of the Republican Party wholeheartedly approves of waterboarding and worse.  The rest of America does not and will not.

An aggressive and graphic Congressional inquiry, if properly framed, would drive a wedge between responsible Republican politicians (if any exist) and the barbaric elements of their constituency.  The tail would have difficulty wagging the dog.

Does the GOP really want to market itself as the torture party?

Update: John Boehner expresses solidarity with the bloodthirsty mob.  I guess he figures it’s safer to be out in front of them.

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