Last night, John Ashcroft delivered an address on the Cornell University campus “in the face of shouting dissenters and shrouded protesters.” At his last appearance on a student campus, Ashcroft was asked whether he would be willing to be subjected to waterboarding. “The things that I can survive, if it were necessary to do them to me, I would do,” he said.
Last night, Cornell University kept the heat on Ashcroft, repeatedly confronting him about his views on waterboarding.
Prior to his speech, Ashcroft answered students’ questions in the lounge of a resident house on campus where a small reception was held for him. One student in the adjoining dining hall (which shares a common window with the lounge) “taped a piece of paper to a window…asking Ashcroft why waterboarding was not considered torture.” The Cornell Sun reports that Ashcroft “merely stared at the piece of paper without comment.”
The Sun adds that it later followed-up on the question with Ashcroft:
In an interview with the Sun conducted just prior to his speech at Statler Hall, Ashcroft did address the question when it was again posed to him.
“The question of whether or not waterboarding is torture is defined by statute. It’s not something I can make a decision on,” Ashcroft answered. “There are laws about what is torture and what isn’t.”
Ashcroft told the Cornell students “I have no regrets” about his tenure as attorney general, adding “and I have done some crazy things.”
Ashcroft’s dodge on waterboarding is much like the answer former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) tried to give during the CNN/YouTube debate on Wednesday night. Romney claimed he can’t say specifically whether waterboarding is torture or not. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) ripped his equivocation:
McCAIN: I am astonished that you would think such a — such a torture would be inflicted on anyone in our — who we are held captive and anyone could believe that that’s not torture. It’s in violation of the Geneva Convention. It’s in violation of existing law. And, governor, let me tell you, if we’re going to get the high ground in this world and we’re going to be the America that we have cherished and loved for more than 200 years. We’re not going to torture people.
We’re not going to do what Pol Pot did. We’re not going to do what’s being done to Burmese monks as we speak. I suggest that you talk to retired military officers and active duty military officers like Colin Powell and others, and how in the world anybody could think that that kind of thing could be inflicted by Americans on people who are held in our custody is absolutely beyond me.