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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Waterboarding Is Torture

posted by on November 14 at 8:15 AM

So said the Mississippi Supreme Court—in 1926, when “the water cure” was used to extract a confession from a black man. It’s safe to say that the judges in Mississippi in the 20s weren’t exactly bleeding heart liberals, and that blacks weren’t exactly treated fairly by the courts. But the use of waterboarding was so offensive, so outrageous, that the Mississippi Supreme Court tossed out the confession and ordered a retrial. From the blog IsThatLegal:

In a case called Fisher v. State, 110 So. 361, 362 (Miss. 1926), Mississippi’s highest court ordered the retrial of a convicted murderer because his confession was secured by a local sheriff’s use of the water cure.

Here’s the court:

The state offered … testimony of confessions made by the appellant, Fisher… [who], after the state had rested, introduced the sheriff, who testified that, he was sent for one night to come and receive a confession of the appellant in the jail; that he went there for that purpose; that when he reached the jail he found a number of parties in the jail; that they had the appellant down upon the floor, tied, and were administering the water cure, a specie of torture well known to the bench and bar of the country.

Fisher relied on a case called White v. State, 182, 91 So. 903, 904 (Miss. 1922), in which the court took—as I understand history in those parts—the unusual step of reversing the murder conviction of a young African-American male, charged with killing a white man (it appears), because his confession was secured by *the cure*. The court said:

… [T]he hands of appellant were tied behind him, he was laid upon the floor upon his back, and, while some of the men stood upon his feet, Gilbert, a very heavy man, stood with one foot entirely upon appellant’s breast, and the other foot entirely upon his neck. While in that position what is described as the “water cure” was administered to him in an effort to extort a confession as to where the money was hidden which was supposed to have been taken from the dead man. The “water cure” appears to have consisted of pouring water from a dipper into the nose of appellant, so as to strangle him, thus causing pain and horror, for the purpose of forcing a confession. Under these barbarous circumstances the appellant readily confessed …

If “the cure” was seen as a barbarous form of torture in Mississippi in the 1920’s, I guess I’m at a loss to understand exactly how our attitudes about the process have progressed to see it as an acceptable means of interrogation 80 years later.

Via Sullivan.

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Dianne Feinstein has failed us.

Failed progressives. Failed Democrats. Failed Californians. Failed Americans.

As the world watches, you want someone to take a stand. To hold Senator Feinstein accountable. Now.

That's what Courage Campaign members overwhelmingly told us after Senator Feinstein's pivotal Judiciary Committee vote to approve Judge Michael Mukasey as U.S. Attorney General -- a man who refuses to acknowledge that "waterboarding" is torture and will look the other way if President Bush ignores the rule of law. The Senator's vote condoning torture closely followed her vote to approve Judge Leslie Southwick to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit -- a man with a clear record of condoning racism and gender discriminaton.

Whether it's condoning torture, racism or homophobia, Senator Feinstein's actions are unacceptable.

You demanded action. We're taking action: The Courage Campaign is calling on the California Democratic Party to officially censure Senator Feinstein.

Will you join and help build the movement to censure the Senator? With the CDP Executive Board meeting in just a few days, time is running out. A growing group of progressive grassroots organizations needs your support for a censure resolution no later than Friday at noon:

Posted by patrick | November 14, 2007 8:34 AM

...thanks, Patrick.

Anyway, all I know is that Barbarians are awesome and Mississippi sucks. So I'm still torn with waterboarding.

Posted by Mr. Poe | November 14, 2007 8:38 AM

Yes, but we weren't a fascist state back in the 1920s, so the analogy doesn't really hold up.

Posted by Boomer in NYC | November 14, 2007 8:50 AM

How is it this is just coming to light now? Seems pretty relevant.

Posted by Mike in MO | November 14, 2007 9:09 AM

its WAS torture in the 20's. BUT 9/11 CHANGED EVERYTHING.

so now its whatever dear leader says it is.

Posted by max solomon | November 14, 2007 9:09 AM

Waterboarding is torture. Plain and simple. You can dance around it all you want, but it is torture by anyone's definition.

First, torture doesn't work. Any "information" derived from torture is unreliable at best. If you waterboard me, I'll confess to raping baby kittens on a daily basis. So will you. Even if you completely ignore the moral issues of torture, simply on a practical level, it is an ineffective method of obtaining useful information.

Second, how can you ignore the moral issues? Part of the premise of the constitution is that even people we disagree with and even criminals deserve a basic level of human dignity and civil rights. Torture does not figure into that picture in any way. This nation should be above torture. When we torture prisoners, we give up any right to call ourselves a civilized nation. We become a nation of barbarians.

Posted by SDA in SEA | November 14, 2007 9:15 AM

Of course waterboarding is torture. Everybody knows that. Bush knows it. Mukasey knows it, but can't say so, because if he did it would open the door for Fearless Leader to be charged as a war criminal.

And if Feinstein doesn't know it, she's too fuckin dumb to be tolerated. Yeah, get her the hell out of there before she does any more damage.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | November 14, 2007 9:42 AM

Why does no one ask the obvious question, whether we would object if this were done to our troops?

Posted by Gitai | November 14, 2007 10:27 AM

I vote that whoever is FOR waterboarding (as not a torture) be made to UNDERGO waterboarding! See how quick our congressmen and politicians change their minds!!! Ha ha! Yeah!
Um.... Hm. Sounds fair to me.

Posted by subwlf | November 14, 2007 11:49 AM

not if done consensually

Posted by board | November 14, 2007 12:20 PM

Why does no one ask the obvious question, whether we would object if this were done to our President and/or Vice President?

Posted by NapoleonXIV | November 14, 2007 2:36 PM

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