Obama Is Walking a Torture Tightrope

But a Spanish judge is taking the issue head on. First, in his big press conference last night, President Obama called waterboarding “torture.” It was a significant moment, but then the cautious president stopped short of saying that the Bush administration had committed war crimes by waterboarding prisoners. He also characterized the legal opinions that authorized torture — written mostly by UC Berkeley law school professor John Yoo — as a “mistake.” Again, not war crimes. Obama appears to be trying to have it both ways. But his argument is ethically and logically bankrupt. You can’t acknowledge that waterboarding is torture, knowing both that the Bush administration ordered prisoners to be waterboarded and that torture violates US and international laws, and then not take the next step and acknowledge that the previous administration’s activities were illegal. They were, of course, and it’ll be interesting to see how long Obama tries to keep up this façade.

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