Thursday, December 13, 2007

Does Walberg Support Torture?

Today, the House of Representatives considered HR 2082, the Intelligence Authorization Act conference report, which reconciled the House and Senate versions previously passed. It reauthorizes funding for our intelligence-gathering agencies (at a cost of $2.00 per American). As far as I know, that part wasn't controversial, and I'm guessing that Congressman Walberg and most other members of Congress are fine with funding our intelligence agencies.

Here's the part that people disagreed with:

The House, in a 222-199 vote, passed annual policy legislation for intelligence agencies that included the ban on the use of simulated drowning in interrogations.

``This would mean no more torture and no more questions about what the CIA is allowed to do behind closed doors,'' said Representative Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat.

U.S. interrogations emerged again as a controversial issue after Central Intelligence Agency Director Michael Hayden revealed on Dec. 6 that the agency destroyed videotapes of the questioning of alleged terrorists made in 2002.

(Emphasis added.)

That's right. The controversial part, apparently, is that the bill bans torture. That's controversial.

As you read above, the House passed the conference report, 222 to 199.

Congressman Tim Walberg voted No. The entire Republican delegation from Michigan shared his position.

I was ready to write up something on how absurd it is that anyone would think it's unreasonable to outlaw torture, including waterboarding-- the simulated drowning technique mentioned above. But instead, I'll give you a much better take-down, by DHinMI at DailyKos. I don't usually like to quote entire posts, but really, you can't get a better explanation than this:

One might have thought the waterboarding debate in the US was settled over a century ago:

The water board technique dates back to the 1500s during the Italian Inquisition. A prisoner, who is bound and gagged, has water poured over him to make him think he is about to drown...

Water boarding was designated as illegal by U.S. generals in Vietnam 40 years ago. A photograph that appeared in The Washington Post of a U.S. soldier involved in water boarding a North Vietnamese prisoner in 1968 led to that soldier's severe punishment.

"The soldier who participated in water torture in January 1968 was court-martialed within one month after the photos appeared in The Washington Post, and he was drummed out of the Army," recounted Darius Rejali, a political science professor at Reed College.

Earlier in 1901, the United States had taken a similar stand against water boarding during the Spanish-American War when an Army major was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor for water boarding an insurgent in the Philippines.

In 1901 women were prohibited from voting. We were less than 50 years away from legalized slavery, and most African-Americans were denied the full rights of citizenship. Children were working in mines, we were on the cusp of becoming an imperial occupier of the Philippines, and "polite society" accepted most of the tenets of eugenics. But even then, our interrogation techniques had evolved beyond the practices of the Spanish Inquisition, and we punished torturers, even if they were our torturers.

Just as the military rejected torture during previous wars, soldiers today know that torture yields bad information, dehumanizes the torturers along with the tortured, and makes it more likely that when our soldiers are captured that they too will be tortured. That’s why 30 retired generals and admirals implored Congress to pass the prohibition against torture.
Congressman Walberg, I admit, I don't know that this is the reason why you didn't support the bill. Maybe you had an issue with the cost, or maybe you thought that our intelligence agencies would be protecting the wrong people or something... that seemed to be your problem with S-CHIP, after all.

But the impression I get is that you and your Republican colleagues opposed this bill because you think torture is just fine. You think it's a legitimate method of interrogation, even if it doesn't actually yield results and is a violation of human rights and any sense of decency we might have.

That's the impression I get. Am I right? Congressman Walberg, do you believe waterboarding is torture? If you do, do you think it's a legitimate interrogation technique?

If you don't think waterboarding should be allowed, then I'll issue an apology for this post right away. I would feel terrible if I accused you of something so despicable as supporting torture and it wasn't true. I'd really appreciate a response or a public statement to clear things up. Torture is a serious thing to me, and I find it hard to believe anyone who claims to be Christian-- or, for that matter, anyone who claims to have any morals, regardless of faith-- would support it.

Do you support the use of torture, Congressman Walberg?

I'm sending a copy of this post to his office in hopes of a response, but I think it would be great if more people were to ask him about it. Contact Congressman Walberg and ask him about this vote. Ask him whether he supports torture. I'm eagerly awaiting his answer.

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For those interested, here's the e-mail I just sent Congressman Walberg:

Congressman Walberg,

I often criticize you for some of the positions you take, but tonight, I was truly surprised. Earlier in the day, the House of Representatives passed the conference report on HR 2082, which authorized funding for the country's intelligence-gathering agencies. From the news reports I've read, the "controversial" portion of the bill seems to be the part which bans the use of torture techniques, including waterboarding. You voted against the conference report, and I could find nothing in the bill which I thought you would find objectionable, except perhaps the part banning torture.

In my frustration, I dashed off a post on "Walberg Watch" (which may be found at In the post, I more or less accuse you of supporting torture, but as I neared the end, I realized that it wasn't fair of me to do that. I decided to ask you directly: do you support waterboarding and other interrogation techniques labeled as torture? If not, why did you vote against the bill?

I would really appreciate an answer to me or a public statement explaining why you did not support the bill and what your position is on waterboarding and other interrogation techniques. I sincerely hope that I've mischaracterized your position. If I have, I'll immediately post an apology on "Walberg Watch" to reflect that.

I eagerly await a response.



[Below, the text of the "Walberg Watch" post.]

I'm a little worried, because the confirmation page after I submitted my message cut off everything after my first paragraph, but I'm hoping that's just the House website being difficult, and his office will actually receive my full message. Otherwise, I hope someone stops by here to see the whole thing.
Does Walberg Support Torture?

Absolutely, look how he's tortured the people of the 7th District!

BTW here's Susan Dema's recent column:
I suggest Schauer supporters read this column by Susan Dumas. She says:

What I find revolting is that both men (Walberg and Schauer) swim the sewage of politics and don't retch - they actually seem to feed off the stench.

It's still early enough for other candidates to jump in. Lord knows, we deserve better.
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