During last week’s Republican debate, Republican front-runner Donald Trump made some extremely disturbing remarks about the subject of torture, saying that he would “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” in order to stop Daesh (ISIS/ISIL). Republican Senator, war veteran, and former torture victim John McCain (R-AZ) took to FOX News and roundly slammed the candidate for his callous and unproductive ramblings.
McCain, a man who unlike Trump has a respect for history and for the facts, noted that following the Second World War “we tried Japanese generals and hung them for war crimes. One of the crimes was waterboarding.” He failed to note that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, the men ultimately responsible for the CIA’s torture program, are also war criminals who need to face justice.
But, in a rare sighting of facts on FOX News, McCain publicly refuted the idea that the torture program gave us any useful information at all; when questioned by some who said the technique led to the killing of Osama bin Laden, McCain said:
“They’re lying. What we got was a whole lot of bad information from these people who just told whatever they thought the interrogator wanted to hear. Are we going to subject people to torture? Is that what the United States is all about?
They’re in violation of the Geneva conventions and I believe that they’re lying when they said they got useful information. They, in fact. I know they’re lying when they are saying that they didn’t. They got a whole lot of information that was totally false, because when you torture somebody. The major thing is, do we want to resort to doing things that our enemies do? Do we want to be on the same plane as those people chopping off heads? The point is not whether he is a liar or no.The point is even if we had gotten useful information, the propaganda and image and the behavior of the greatest nation on Earth by torturing people is not what we want and it helps the enemy.”
Indeed, that is the CIA’s own assessment on the issue of torture, as they informed the Intelligence Committee in 1989: “the use of inhumane physical or psychological techniques are counterproductive because they do not produce intelligence and will probably result in false answers.” But McCain makes a very impassioned rebuke to Trump and his party’s presidential candidates – three of whom endorsed torture that night. It is astonishing to hear people actually endorsing horrific war crimes as a political talking point, and it shows just how out of control the right-wing is when it comes to dealing with the specters of terror.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.