Donald Trump once said he would gladly bring back waterboarding, a controversial interrogation method brought to the public’s attention during the Bush administration’s War on Terror.
Now, it appears “The Donald” is willing to go one step further.
When asked at Saturday night’s GOP debate about this views on “enhanced interrogation techniques,” Donald Trump said he would not only bring back waterboarding, but “bring back a hell of a lot worse…”
Trump’s opponents at the debate were either far less explicit or far less supportive of the technique.
Ted Cruz, who soared past Trump in the Iowa caucuses, said he would not bring waterboarding back “in any widespread use.”
Marco Rubio did not answer the question directly, but did oppose Obama’s closing of Guantanamo Bay, saying “We should be putting people into Guantanamo, not emptying it out.”
Interestingly, Jeb Bush, brother of former U.S. President George W. Bush, whose administration spearheaded the use of controversial interrogation techniques, explicitly said he believed current restrictions on waterboarding were “correct.” Bush did, however, agree with Rubio on Guantanamo Bay, saying he would expand it.
Trump, who is known for generating a mix of shock and applause from the American public, left viewers guessing as to what types of interrogation methods he would bring back. But considering the controversial nature of waterboarding, they would no doubt be condemned by a wide range of lawmakers and humanitarian activists.
Waterboarding is a form of a torture where water is poured over a cloth covering the breathing passages of an incapacitated individual. The purpose of the torture is to make the person feel like he or she is drowning.
Trump’s justification for bringing back waterboarding seems to be what he sees as the “medieval” brutality going on in the Middle East.
“In the Middle East, we have people chopping the heads off of Christians. We have people chopping the heads off many other people. We have things that we have never seen before as a group, we have never seen before, what’s happening right now. The medieval times, I mean, we studied medieval times. Not since medieval times have people seen what’s going on.”
He also considers the torture technique to be effective.
According to the Telegraph, at a rally in November, Trump insisted that waterboarding worked and “Only a stupid person would say it does not work.”
The right-wing real estate mogul would have a hard time proving that to experts and the rest of the public, though. Other than the obvious moral problems that arise when talking about torture, experts from both academia and law enforcement have argued the type of coercion used in detention centers like Guantanamo is not only ineffective, but harmful to American interests.
In a study published in the Social Issues and Policy Review, authors Mark A. Costanzo and Ellen Gerrity found that coercive techniques may increase the likelihood of false confessions.
“… as the coerciveness of the interrogation increases, so does the probability of eliciting false confessions.”
In a 2009 article for the New York Times, Ali H. Soufan, an F.B.I. agent from 1997–2005, claimed that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” used during the War on Terror may have been more harmful than helpful.
Soufan called the techniques “ineffective, unreliable, unnecessary, and destructive.” He also warned that they “may have given Al Qaeda a second wind” and “damaged” America’s reputation.
Being that Donald Trump’s unnamed techniques are, by his own admission, worse than waterboarding, they would certainly run into far more opposition.
If he is serious about using them, Donald Trump had better prepare for a steep, uphill battle.
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]