The weird and quip-based roadshow that is Donald Trump has predictably shifted into overdrive now that Primary season is upon us. The controversial Presidential candidate, not content with spraying an audience with profanity, has now once again re-entered the spotlight by suggesting that the U.S. should introduce enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding and even go beyond them.
In an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Donald Trump suggested that phenomena, such as the Islamist beheadings of Christians in the Middle East, justified the use of practices such as waterboarding. In comments reported by ABC Online, Trump claimed that Islamist organisations were “thriving” as a direct result of the U.S.’ unwillingness to bring back waterboarding and other interrogation practices that were condemned as constituting torture in the wake of the second Iraq war.
The issue arose during the Primary Debate in New Hampshire. Characteristically, it started with a curt comment by Donald Trump, leading Stephanopoulos to press him on what he meant. When asked to explain himself, Trump said that the U.S. refusal to use techniques such as waterboarding were creating an atmosphere conducive to extremism.
“We’re like living in medieval times. If I have to do it and if it’s up to me, I would absolutely bring back waterboarding,”
Donald Trump went on to say that he wouldn’t stop at just waterboarding. He promised that, if elected, he would authorize measures beyond waterboarding, saying that if he were President, the treatment of suspected extremists would be much tougher. Interestingly, Donald Trump would not rule out using tactics similar to those of the extremists. When asked if he would advocate perpetrating tit-for-tat beheadings of extremists, Trump became characteristically evasive, refusing to categorically say that he wouldn’t, but similarly refusing to define what “worse than waterboarding” might actually mean.
When the debate turned to the subject of ISIS, Trump seemed to become preoccupied with beheading, repeatedly citing the tragic case of James Foley, the American beheaded by the extremist organisation last year. The real estate mogul referred repeatedly to public beheadings and claimed that extremist groups were “laughing at us” because of the U.S. refusal to approve the practice. In comments reported by CNN, Trump promised that under his administration, waterboarding would be “declassified” and “worse” measures would be instituted. It is assumed that “declassified” should be taken to mean “approved.” As well as the idea of matching the extreme behavior of Islamist insurgents, Donald Trump assured audiences that waterboarding was provably useful “for information and other things.”
Donald Trump is not the only Republican candidate who is in favor of re-introducing the controversial technique, with Ted Cruz also coming out in support of the now infamous practices associated with the term “enhanced interrogation.” It would seem that most of the Republican field is in favor of waterboarding. Donald Trump notwithstanding, Cruz supports the practice and Chris Christie will not rule it out. It’s worth pointing out that for most of the USA’s history, waterboarding has been treated as a war crime, with past U.S. governments having executed foreign military members for crimes that have included waterboarding. It should also be noted that members from both major parties were leading members of the chorus of horror and disapproval that helped to end the waterboarding and similar practices when first they were revealed to the public.
Donald Trump’s commanding lead of the polls took a dent at the first Primary, when he lost out to Ted Cruz. Trump has been attempting to play down the loss, saying, rather contradictorily, that Cruz “stole” votes from him, before repeatedly declaring that he had won in Iowa, despite the fact that he did not. When asked whether he had to win New Hampshire, Trump said that he would “like to” win there, but felt he didn’t have to.
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