I’m in cool but sunny New York as I write this, escaping the pounding rain that has engulfed Vancouver over the past few weeks. One word has jumped out at me during my stay in NYC. The word is on more buildings here than I cared to imagine. That word is “Trump.”
In the last couple of weeks, Trump has outdone himself. He has publicly supported torture. He is quoted in The Washington Post as saying to a crowd of supporters:
“Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I would — in a heartbeat . . . . And I would approve more than that . . . . Don’t kid yourself, folks. It works, okay? It works. Only a stupid person would say it doesn’t work . . . . And you know what? If it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway.”
Trump’s support for torture doesn’t stop at just waterboarding. The Donald wants to authorize much stronger torture methods. Indeed, his son Eric, in a TV interview, has compared waterboarding to a harmless fraternity initiation right, so clearly, if you’re in the torture business, waterboarding is for losers.
I’d like journalists from the major U.S. news services to dig a little deeper into this story and ask Donald Trump what sort of torture he really favours. I’d like some more particulars, just in case he wins in November.
If sleep deprivation and waterboarding are something akin to frat-boy hazing rituals, what methods does he think are the best for protecting America and making it great (again)? Pulling out fingernails? Electric shocks to the testes? Forced standing? The rack? Hot pokers where they aren’t meant to go? Regular beatings? The use of psychotropic drugs? Rape? Threatening to kill or torture family members? Mock executions?
What will the advertisements for torturers look like? How will he recruit torturers? Will the torturers be permitted to form a union? Will they have office Christmas parties? Will they have a Facebook group? Maybe The Apprentice can be revived on TV and choosing torturers can be a reality show. Any sign of weakness or reference to the rule of law and “You’re fired!”
Now, I’m no expert in this sort of thing. All I know about torture is what I’ve seen on TV. If Trump has watched a few episodes of Game of Thrones and seen Ramsay Bolton’s preference for skinning his prisoners alive, I’d just be keen on knowing if President Trump will see this an acceptable enhanced interrogation technique, and if so, how would he feel being remembered as the “flaying president?”
Will that keep Americans safe, or is that more likely to encourage ISIS or the Taliban to double down on torturing Americans and other westerners?
If he watched an earlier season of Game of Thrones, he might have seen a method of torture that involved rats, high temperatures, and helpless victims. Is he partial to the rat torture and will he authorize it to “make America great again?” Or, like flaying, is he a teeny bit concerned that it might lead to a torturer’s arms race, with each side escalating its techniques?
Or is he a sort of “Jack Bauer torturer?” You know . . . anything is permitted because the nerve gas/biological agent will be released in 12 minutes. Or the nuke will explode in three and there’s a commercial coming up.
I’m also concerned as to who gets to be tortured. Any prisoner of war? Well, I’m not sure the Geneva Conventions allow the torture of POWs, even if the U.S. is at war with ISIS. But if its not labelled a “real war” against a “real state” with a “real army,” does that allow him to avoid the Geneva Conventions and torture them on a legal technicality?
Maybe he’ll just permit the torture of anyone wearing a ghutrah, turban, or chador. Or maybe he’ll allow torture to be performed willy-nilly on anyone born in any country where there are Muslims, say, like the countries of the Middle East. Or France. Or Canada.
Or perhaps he’ll permit enhanced interrogation techniques on anyone with a foreign- sounding name, like Mohammed, or Hussein. Or Pedro or Jorge. Or Jesus.
Will Trump also permit the torture of a suspect’s lawyers? Lawyers know confidential information about their clients. I’m sure he thinks that information may be needed to protect America, but I’d like to know if lawyers are fair game so I can alter my holiday schedule if he wins.
Now, there are those who say torture doesn’t work. In a piece in just last week, author David A. Graham quotes from a CIA report that says: “The CIA’s use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees. The CIA’s justification for the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques rested on inaccurate claims of their effectiveness.”
Says Graham, “Despite their use against at least 39 detainees, there’s still no evidence that ‘enhanced interrogation’ methods produced information useful to stopping terror attacks, while there’s plenty of evidence that those subject to torture produced false information in the hopes of ending their ordeals.”
So how does Trump respond to a report by the very agency that actually tortured prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, that torture doesn’t work? Maybe he thinks stronger measures were required, or those in charge of torture were losers.
I guess the last thing I’d like to know is how he would escape prosecution for violations of international law if he becomes torturer-in-chief.
Or is that for losers, too?