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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

On torture, Cheney goes off the deep end

Guest Column: Aaron Loudenslager

Former Vice President Dick Cheney has come out with his new memoir, “In My Time,” which has stirred up more controversy around the policies he carried out during his time in office.

Some of the controversy has to do with his view on waterboarding, which he defines as “enhanced interrogation.” Cheney is explicitly and entirely incorrect. Waterboarding has categorically been considered torture for years, and it will continue to be torture in the future, no matter what arbitrary label a politician attaches to it.

Cheney has never been apologetic for using waterboarding as an interrogation technique. He claimed that “enhanced interrogation techniques were absolutely essential in saving thousands of American lives and preventing further attacks against the United States, and giving us the intelligence we needed to go find Al-Qaeda, to find their camps, to find out how they were being financed.”

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This is simply not true. As Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), who was waterboarded during the Vietnam War, said, “I know of no information that was obtained, that would have been useful, by ‘advanced interrogation.’ In fact, according to published reports … some of the key people who knew about this courier denied it.”

Even if waterboarding somehow did work, is it ever legal or morally acceptable? It is unequivocally torture, and therefore is never a legitimate means to get information from anyone.

Some, like Cheney, argued that waterboarding is simply “enhanced interrogation,” not “torture.” The history of waterboarding tells a contrasting story to Cheney’s.

Waterboarding began in the 1500s during the Italian Inquisition. Then, as early as 1901 in the United States, waterboarding was treated as torture. A U.S. soldier waterboarded an insurgent in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War and was subsequently sentenced to 10 years of hard labor. Then in 1968, a U.S. soldier was court-martialed and thrown out of the U.S. Army for waterboarding a North Vietnamese prisoner. As John McCain has stated many times about waterboarding, “It is a horrible torture technique.”

Erich “Mancow” Muller, a conservative radio host from the Chicago area, also believed that waterboarding was not torture. To prove this, he was waterboarded in May 2009 for his radio show. Mancow lasted only six or seven seconds, stating that, “It is way worse than I thought it would be, and that’s no joke … I don’t want to say this: absolutely torture.”

How did waterboarding go from unquestioned torture, to a debate on enhanced interrogations? The answer is lawyer John Yoo.

Torture is defined in federal law as “the intentional infliction of severe mental pain or suffering.” Yoo wrote memos for the Bush administration’s Justice Department that allowed enhanced interrogations, which in Yoo’s view, fell short of “severe, intentionally inflicted pain and permanent damage.” With this added requirement of permanent damage, the Bush administration had the legal, but not moral authority, to use waterboarding on enemy combatants.

This is just one example of lawyers abusing their institutional role and manipulating legal opinions and memos to justify illegal policies. Unfortunately, this probably won’t be the last time a lawyer does something like this for the White House.

Dick Cheney is still defending his ill-advised policy of advocating for waterboarding as enhanced interrogation. It is time for him to stop trying to rewrite his own history and legacy.

Cheney openly advocated for the torture of human beings, which is what waterboarding is. People want him to admit his mistakes, because without him doing so, politicians in the future, here and abroad, may waterboard war prisoners with the precedent of the U.S. doing it in the name of “enhanced interrogation.” This is something that we cannot tolerate as humans.

Cheney can only truly claim that waterboarding is not torture when, like Mancow and McCain, he has felt the first hand experience of waterboarding, which I don’t see him volunteering to do anytime soon.

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