Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Is Torture a Jewish Value?

Today, the Whitehouse admitted that the U.S has used "waterboarding" in the past and may use it in the future. Most of the world considers waterboarding torture, and it is banned by various international treaties.

Recently, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey spoke before Congress and decided not to comment on whether he believes the interrogation technique known as waterboarding is to be considered torture.

Waterboarding, is a method of interrogation that essentially simulates drowning. A person is forced to lie face up, rag stuffed down his throat and over his head, as water is poured over the face and into the breathing passages. Even though death is not imminent, the person is made to believe that it is. Waterboarding causes extreme pain, damage to the lungs, possible brain damage, broken bones, psychological effects, and if performed incorrectly, death.

When asked by Sen. Edward Kennedy, if waterboarding would be considered torture if it were done to him, Mukasey replied, "I would feel that it was."

With Mukasey's acknowledgement of the cruel nature of the interrogation technique, it raises the question of why he would refuse to consider it illegal. Apparently, the CIA and the Pentagon stopped using the technique in 2006. However, if the Justice Department were to explicitly define waterboarding as illegal, CIA interrogators could be susceptible to legal action in either U.S. or international courts.

But that is not a consideration that an Attorney General should deal with. Especially one who is an Orthodox Jew, and claims to be guided by Jewish ethics and commitment to justice.

Not only is Mukasey's waffling, allowing criminals to get away free, his acts - or lack of them - are defacto legalizing waterboarding in the U.S. and allowing it to be used again whenever deemed necessary.
"... waterboarding's use in the past was also approved by the attorney general, meaning it was legal and not torture."
I asked, in a previous blog entry, whether the first Jewish Attorney General would be a source of pride or shame to the Jewish community. Sadly, I think, the answer is now clear. People who realize Mukasey is a religious Jew (thankfully not everyone) will ask themselves: "is torture is a Jewish value?" And that is a real Chilul Hashem!

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