I hope the local political press is burning up the lines to U.S. Sen. John McCain’s office today. It would be interesting to know what McCain thinks of state Sen. Scott Brown’s support for waterboarding, a practice McCain rightly regards as torture.
“Waterboarding is an enhanced interrogating technique. We need to interrogate by all legal means,” Brown said yesterday. (Sadly, if you follow the link and scroll down, you’ll see that Brown’s Democratic opponent in the Massachusetts Senate race, Attorney General Martha Coakley, missed a chance to take the high road.) [See update, below.]
Brown’s remarks come on the heels of McCain’s endorsement of him in the Massachusetts Senate race — hardly a surprise, given that they are both Republicans. The question now is whether McCain will stick by his endorsement.
During the Republican presidential campaign, McCain unloaded on former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani when Giuliani said he wasn’t sure if waterboarding was torture. According to the New York Times, McCain said of waterboarding:
All I can say is that it was used in the Spanish Inquisition, it was used in Pol Pot’s genocide in Cambodia, and there are reports that it is being used against Buddhist monks today…. It is not a complicated procedure. It is torture.
On another occasion, McCain said, correctly:
Following World War II war crime trials were convened. The Japanese were tried and convicted and hung for war crimes committed against American POWs. Among those charges for which they were convicted was waterboarding.
As this well-footnoted Wikipedia article notes, waterboarding is also regarded as torture by a wide range of international and human-rights organizations. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would have thought otherwise before Dick Cheney came along.
McCain, of course, was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam era and was himself tortured. The question now is whether he will torture logic and stand by his endorsement of Brown — or do the right thing and let Brown experience a drowning sensation caused by his own ill-chosen words.
Update: Coakley took care of whatever ambiguity she might have created by speaking out forcefully against waterboarding in a debate earlier today on WTKK Radio (96.9 FM). John Monahan reports in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette:
Ms. Coakley … said she backed Mr. McCain’s view that waterboarding is a form of torture.
“I don’t agree with John McCain on much, but I respect him. He was a war hero and he was tortured and he says he thinks it is. So this is one area where Scott Brown can pick and choose what he believes, but this is an area that he is really more like Bush-Cheney than he is like John F. Kennedy,” she said.