by Aamer Madhani
As a former resident of the Hanoi Hilton, Sen. John McCain had a certain gravitas when he spoke about torture—particularly when he spoke out against the widely condemned interrogation technique called waterboarding.
You can go back just a few months to when then presidential contender Rudolph Giuliani seemed to equivocate before a forum of potential voters in Iowa on whether waterboarding is, in fact, torture.
“It depends on how it’s done,” Giuliani said. “It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it.”
McCain pounced on his friend and former opponent for the Republican nomination. As someone who spent five years as a prisoner of war in a North Vietnamese prison camp where he said he was the subject of beatings and harsh interrogations, McCain has long spoke passionately on the issue.
“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,” McCain said in interview with the New York Times in response to Giuliani comments. “They should know what it is. It is not a complicated procedure. It is torture.”
But on Wednesday, when the Senate voted on the intelligence bill, which includes a provision that effectively bans waterboarding from being used as an interrogation technique by all 16 intelligence agencies, McCain voted against the bill.
The bill passed 51-45, but President Bush has promised to veto it.
In a statement, McCain said the measure goes too far in applying military standards to intelligence agencies and maintained that existing law already forbids waterboarding. "Staging a mock execution by including the misperception of drowning is a clear violation,'' he said.
But the U-turn in Wednesday's vote by the captain of the Straight Talk Express comes in the wake of the Bush administration suggesting that waterboarding remains a "legal" tactic that they reserve the right to use if circumstances warrant it.
By the way, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama didn't vote, as they were on the campaign trail.