I'm about to say some unfriendly things about
waterboarding and Attorney General Michael Mukasey, so if you're a
friend of his you may want to stop reading at this point.
You know what waterboarding is, don't you? It's a form of
torture we use on POWs who won't tell us what we want them to tell
us. It's been around since the Spanish Inquisition and it works like
We've got a prisoner of war and we want him to tell us
things we believe would help us to beat the bad guys. If our POW is
hesitant to tell us what we want to hear, we put him where he might
reconsider his hesitancy: on a waterboard.
You know what a waterboard is; it's a nasty kind of
teeter-totter. Back in October, the New York Times gave us this
"Waterboarding involves strapping a prisoner to a board,
covering his face with cloth and pouring water over the cloth to
produce a feeling of suffocation. Variations of the technique,
designed to give a prisoner a feeling of imminent drowning, have been
used for centuries."
That's reassuring, isn't it? If there were something
wrong with waterboarding, surely as moral a country as the U.S. would
not be playing the waterboarding game.
Here's what Attorney General Mukasey said earlier this
month about the legality of waterboarding:
"Waterboarding, because it was authorized to be part of a
cannot possibly be the subject of a Justice Department
.That would mean that the same department that
authorized the program would now prosecute someone for taking part"
(That's like saying that an English teacher can't be
punished for plagiarizing because he had told his students that they
could not plagiarize.)
And a week lateron Feb. 13the Senate, by a 51-45
margin voted to ban waterboarding.
The measure, according to the Washington Post the next
day, "would effectively ban the use of simulated drowning,
temperature extremes and other harsh tactics that the CIA used on al-
Qaeda prisoners after the Sep. 11, 2001, attacks."
Sounds good to me.
It may be because I'm claustrophobic. That means that
when I get stuck in small places I go a little more looney than I
normally am. Probably came from where I grew up in southwest Kansas
where there are no hills, where you can see parts of eastern Colorado
and a piece of the Oklahoma Panhandle from the same spot in Kansas on
a clear daywhich is nearly the only kind of day we had there.
The Truth, Mainly
If you ever have the occasion to pick me up in a car that
has a front seat and a back seat, but only two doors, I'll probably
go a little crazy and flail about in way that may end up with me
kicking out the back window.
Don't worry. I'll pay for the new window and I'll never
ride in your back seat again.
We once had a beagle named Ned, and he would catch me do
my little claustrophobic dance. He was interested because he saw
that my claustrophobia would result in an open windowand Ned liked
open car windows. He'd stick his head out and get doggy slobbers all
over the back quarter of the car's exterior and a considerable amount
of the interior, to say nothing of the windshields of any cars that
might be following us too closely.
And he thoughtby whichever reckoning headstrong beagles
are privy tothat riding in a car with your head out the window was
far more entertaining than anything humans might do in a car speeding
down the interstate at 70 mph.
But I digress. I often digress when I run up against
arguments like Attorney General Mukasey makes when he says that
something the Justice Department approves of cannot be over-ridden by
other branches of our government.
It's a position that I suspect Ned would have agreed
toassuming that some Beagle organization got together to override any
new law that infringed on any right that Beagles might decided they
really, really needed.
Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity
from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail