Tortured Lieberman

Joe Lieberman’s defense of torture is truly astounding. In an articled titled “Lieberman Says Some Waterboarding OK,” the Connecticut Post reports:

“We are at war,” Lieberman said. “I know enough from public statements made by Osama bin Laden and others as well as classified information I see to know the terrorists are actively planning, plotting to attack us again. I want our government to be able to gather information again within both the law and Geneva Convention.”

In the worst case scenario — when there is an imminent threat of a nuclear attack on American soil — Lieberman said that the president should be able to certify the use of waterboarding on a detainee suspected of knowing vital details of the plot.

You want to be able to use emergency tech to try to get the information out of that person,” Lieberman said. Of course, Lieberman believes such authority has limits. He does not believe the president could authorize having hot coals pressed on someone’s flesh to obtain that information.

The difference, he said, is that waterboarding is mostly psychological and there is no permanent physical damage. “It is not like putting burning coals on people’s bodies. The person is in no real danger. The impact is psychological,” Lieberman said.

Lieberman is squarely in line with John McCain and the rest of the pro-torture GOP.

First, I hope by “emergency tech” Lieberman means emergency techniques and not emergency technology, as I don’t know that water is a technology and I’d rather not care to speculate on Lieberman’s fantasies of how technology can be used to inflict physical and psychological pain to the point of breaking someone.

What strikes me as particularly remarkable is how Lieberman pretends to have standards about how we’re allowed to torture people. Burning coals? No. Drowning? Yes. He has clearly embraced the false notion that the issue of how we torture is one of picking the right items off of a menu and not the existence of the menu in the first place.

Of course, Connecticut is represented by one humane Senator in Chris Dodd. Dodd makes the point that needs to be repeated from the mountaintops:

This month, Dodd bluntly described waterboarding as torture. “Let me be clear: there is no such thing as simulated drowning. When a person is strapped to a board and water is poured into their mouth and nose with no way to get air, that is drowning; that is torture,” he said.

If you can drown, the impact is physical. And like all other forms of torture, waterboarding also has a psychological impact.

I think it’s worth noting, but the impact of Joe Lieberman being primaried was psychological for him. He still hates those Dems who endorsed Ned Lamontpost-primary. No one poured water down his throat, but Joe Lieberman has it out for Democrats like Chris Dodd who believe in the rule of law, the Geneva Conventions, and the simple fact that in the US we do not torture, not even a little bit (and when we find out we did, we don’t change the law to make it legal after the fact).

The psychological impact of Joe Lieberman losing his Democratic primary and bolting the party has led him to endorse a Republican for President and vote with the GOP on partisan votes over 90% of the time this year. All we did was subject him to the democratic process. Can you imagine how actually being tortured can turn suspected terrorists against America? Can you imagine the bile and venom of Joe Lieberman played out on the scale of a terrorist who’s been waterboarded? Psychological impact damages us. Physical impact damages us. Torture is always wrong. This is as uncomplicated as it gets.

2 thoughts on “Tortured Lieberman

  1. According to some, “reasonable minds” can disagree over whether waterboarding is torture. This is an argument I hear a lot at school. Today Marty Lederman examines this week’s testimony by OLC head, Steven Bradbury, in which the government lawyer revealed some tidbits about how the OLC justified waterboarding in the past. here.

    Here’s an excerpt:

    “Bradbury later confirmed what I’ve often speculated here: OLC’s view is that a technique is not torture if, “subject to strict safeguards, limitations and conditions, [it] does not involve sever physical pain or severe physical suffering — and severe physical suffering, we said on our December 2004 Opinion, has to take account of both the intensity of the discomfort or distress involved, and the duration, and something can be quite distressing or comfortable, even frightening, [but] if it doesn’t involve severe physical pain, and it doesn’t last very long, it may not constitute severe physical suffering. That would be the analysis.”

    “Let’s be very clear: This so-called “analysis” is at the very core of the OLC justification for waterboarding, and possibly several other components of the CIA program, as well. And it is flatly, 100% wrong, and indefensible, for reasons I have discussed at length. The fact that Judge Mukasey continues to abide by it is a scandal. And the fact that Congress has not said a word about this legal linchpin of the OLC/CIA regime is even worse.

    “Waterboarding, even the CIA version, entails excruciating and intense physical suffering. That’s why they use it. . . .

    “And yet OLC concludes that this unimaginable physical suffering is not “severe.” Why? Because it is so effective at inflicting intense, unparalleled suffering that it does not last very long.”

    Perhaps a technical definition of torture can be articulated that fails to encompass waterboarding but could we really call anyone who accepts that definition to be in possession of a “reasonable mind”?

    That said, there is a stronger constitutional argument that the President has the emergency power to violate the law, including those banning torture. I’m not sure where Lieberman gets the idea that this power would not encompass hot coals — it’s by definition a nearly boundless emergency protection power. The key to this argument is that the conduct would still be torture. And of course corollary to that point is that a President weighing whether to authorize torture needs to consider if a) he is confident that his emergency powers have triggered such that his authorization is not illegal (because it is constitutional), and b) that he is willing to engage in constitutional torture despite its unlikelihood of producing sound results and its utter abhorrent nature.


  2. That said, there is a stronger constitutional argument that the President has the emergency power to violate the law, including those banning torture. I’m not sure where Lieberman gets the idea that this power would not encompass hot coals — it’s by definition a nearly boundless emergency protection power.

    Exactly, that is a huge part of what I find so puzzling about this. (1) Why allow try to make false distinctions between some kinds of torture vs others? (2) Why pretend that the President wouldn’t have extraordinary authorities in an emergency that precludes the need to legalize these things now?


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