Republican U.S. presidential candidates businessman Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz pose together before the start of the Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas, Nev., Dec. 15, 2015.
Photo by David Becker/Reuters

The GOP’s pro-torture posture comes into sharper focus

Going into Saturday night’s Republican debate, an alarming number of GOP presidential candidates had already voiced support for returning to torture policies banned by the Obama administration. On the debate stage and after the event, some took the pro-torture posture even further.
2/7/16, 12:32 AM ET

Cruz: Under definition of torture, water boarding is not

Ted Cruz discusses why waterboarding does not fit the technical definition of torture and if he would revive enhanced interrogation as president.
Ted Cruz discusses why waterboarding does not fit the technical definition of torture and if he would revive enhanced interrogation as president.
The New Republic’s Gwyneth Kelly noted:
Finally, a cause to unite a fractured party. Ted Cruz refused to say that he would support torturing terrorism suspects, only because waterboarding, the torture technique he was asked about, isn’t torture. Cruz said that waterboarding is merely “vigorous interrogation” that doesn’t “meet the generally recognized definition of torture.”
He is wrong.
What makes this especially noteworthy is that, as recently as December, Cruz’s approach to the issue was far less ridiculous.  ”We can defend our nation and be strong and uphold our values,” the Texas Republican told the Associated Press just two months ago. “There is a reason the bad guys engage in torture. ISIS engages in torture. Iran engages in torture. America does not need to torture to protect ourselves.”
What he neglected to mention is that, in Cruz’s book, actual torture policies don’t fall under his narrow definition of “torture.”
Of course, Cruz wasn’t alone. In the same debate, asked about torture, Marco Rubio argued the question itself missed the point. “Here’s the bigger problem with all this: we’re not interrogating anybody right now,” he said. (Add “interrogations” to the list of issues about which Marco Rubio is badly confused.)
But leave it to Donald Trump to effectively endorse a campaign platform based on war crimes.
On Saturday night, the New York Republican argued, “I would bring back waterboarding and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” – a remark that drew unsettling applause from the New Hampshire audience.
Trump, who has previously endorsed torture even “if it doesn’t work” in producing valuable intelligence, elaborated on his position during an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos yesterday. From the transcript:
STEPHANOPOULOS: As president, you would authorize torture?
TRUMP: I would absolutely authorize something beyond waterboarding. And believe me, it will be effective. If we need information, George, you have our enemy cutting heads off of Christians and plenty of others, by the hundreds, by the thousands.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do we win by being more like them?
TRUMP: Yes. I’m sorry. You have to do it that way.
When the “This Week” host asked if the United States would “chop off heads” of detainees under Trump’s policy, the GOP candidate didn’t answer directly, but did say, “We’re going to do things beyond waterboarding perhaps, if that happens to come…. [W]hen you have conditions like that, I would say absolutely, I would approve waterboarding and if you go beyond it, I’m OK with that.”
He did not appear to be kidding.