Campaign 2016

Republican Leaders Should Repudiate Trump's Most Recent Comments on Waterboarding

By John Bellinger
Friday, July 1, 2016, 5:33 PM

On Tuesday, hours after the terrorist attacks in Istanbul, Donald Trump again raised the prospect of waterboarding terror suspects, asking a crowd at Ohio University “What do you think of waterboarding?”   After receiving supportive cheers, Mr. Trump responded: “I like it a lot.   I don’t think it’s tough enough.”  He went on say that “You have to fight fire with fire.”

Last December, after Mr. Trump said he would approve waterboarding and "more than that", I wrote (“Donald Trump is a Danger to Our National Security”) that someone needs to tell Mr. Trump that waterboarding is illegal: Congress has prohibited the use of interrogation techniques not in the Army Field Manual.   Even if Mr. Trump did not know this last year, he should by now.  Indeed, in March, Mr. Trump appeared to recognize he had gone too far, saying “I do, however, understand that the United States is bound by laws and treaties and I will not order our military or other officials to violate those laws and will seek their advice on such matters.”  Now he seems to be reverting to his disdain for the law.

In contrast, Senator John McCain rejected Trump’s calls for a return to waterboarding.   In remarks to the Bipartisan Policy Center on Wednesday, he said “It’s not the United States of America.   It’s not what we are all about.   It’s not what we are.”  At the same event, former Marine Corps commandant General James Jones said “There is such a thing as an illegal order, and I believe deeply in the Geneva Conventions.”

It should be disturbing to all Americans that a Presidential candidate and putative Commander-in-Chief and Chief Executive should continue to voice enthusiastic support, and even worse, to stir up popular support, for governmental actions that would clearly violate a Congressional prohibition, especially a prohibition governing the conduct of our military and intelligence agencies.   Republican leaders should swiftly repudiate Mr. Trump's statements. 

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