specifically, the debate over waterboarding -- is it torture, or is it simply scaring prisoners into talking? according to malcolm nance, who trained soldiers and marines to withstand waterboarding and other hostile interrogation techniques, waterboarding is indisputably torture. he testified to that effect in congressional hearings. yet right wing pundits like rush limbaugh and sean hannity persist in defending the practice. recently hannity made the mistake of volunteering to be waterboarded, which rival commentor keith olbermann pounced upon, offering hannity $1000 to be donated to the families of u.s. troops for every MINUTE that hannity withstood the torture. to date, hannity has been ear-splitting in his silence.
i regard hannity, limbaugh and former vice president dick cheney to be black-hearted cowards, fomenting terror among the american public in place of rational discourse. they appeal to fear, racism and hatred, and are paid handsomely for doing so -- hundreds of millions of dollars each. this is a scandal from which we will be a long time healing.
former minnesota governor jesse ventura, a vietnam-era navy SEAL who underwent waterboarding as part of his training, shares my view. in his words, "it's a good thing i'm not president because i would prosecute every person that was involved in that torture. i would prosecute the people that did it. i would prosecute the people that ordered it. it is against the law....waterboarding is drowning. it gives you the complete sensation that you are drowning. it is not good, because you -- i'll put it to you this way, give me a water board, dick cheney and one hour, and i'll have him confess to the sharon tate murders....if it's done wrong, you could certainly drown. you could swallow your tongue. you could do a whole bunch of stuff....it's torture."
on a lighter note, here is a link to the pointed, controversial and mostly hilarious comments of comedian/actress wanda sykes, at the white house correspondents' association dinner last saturday night. the event is a roast, with speakers poking fun at those in the public eye. whether or not you agree with all of her views, she has a first amendment right to free speech, and she's telling it like she sees it. (be sure to click on the video clip.) just like eartha kitt got in trouble for doing, during the LBJ years. some people just can't take having a light shone on their hypocrisy, i guess.
this morning on NPR, i heard an interview with the son of a man who served in WWII. the father was captured by the japanese in the philippines, and as a POW was tortured mercilessly. the experience left emotional scars which the father bore for many years. yet, according to his son, the father always expressed pride and honor in being an american, since "in this country, we would never torture prisoners". the son said he was glad that his father did not survive to witness the brutal and illegal excesses of the bush-cheney years, in particular the establishment of abu grahib and guantanamo as centers for torture.
thank goodness we now have a president, barack obama, who is a constitutional scholar and understands that laws are in place to protect and serve, not merely to persecute and imprison. so far i do have a handful of things i would do differently from obama, the head of the list being to indict and bring to trial ALL those people (whether in government, on wall street, in corporate offices, or in the military) who participated in the financial excesses and political malfeasances of the bush-cheney administration. the possession of wealth and power bring responsibility, not entitlement to lie, steal, wage an insupportable war, and then cover up the evidence.
more on my few (so far) additional differences from obama in a future entry. but on balance, i think he is the best thing to happen to this country in many decades. he has been remarkably consistent with the ideals expressed in his book, The Audacity of Hope. and has revived cautious hope among the citizenry as a result. given the train wreck that his presidency inherited from bush, that in itself is a small miracle.