On Friday, Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren interviewed former House speaker Newt Gingrich regarding President Obama’s recent release of Bush-era OLC torture memos. Throughout the interview, Gingrich tried to sit on the fence of the torture debate — saying, for example, that “releasing the documents last week was a big mistake” but also saying “I want to see the United States run the risk, at times, of not learning certain things in order to establish a standard for civilization.”
When Van Susteren asked if waterboarding is torture, Gingrich hemmed and hawed. “I think it’s something we shouldn’t do,” he said, but he qualified his statement, adding, “Lawyers I respect a great deal say it is absolutely within the law. Other lawyers say it absolutely is not. I mean, this is a debatable area.” When asked if waterboarding violates international law, Gingrich played dumb:
VAN SUSTEREN: But you said a minute ago that it was torture, waterboarding…
GINGRICH: No, I said it’s not something we should do.
VAN SUSTEREN: OK. Is it torture or not?
GINGRICH: I — I — I think it’s — I can’t tell you.
VAN SUSTEREN: Does it violate the Geneva Convention?
GINGRICH: I honestly don’t know.
Gingrich added, “I think — I think that there — I am exactly where Senator McCain was.” But McCain, a former prisoner of war, has repeatedly said that waterboarding is a “horrible torture technique.” “One is too much. Waterboarding is torture, period,” McCain said last week. Indeed, it is a fact — and not a matter of “debate” — that waterboarding is illegal torture. The interrogation tactic violates both U.S. statute and international treaties to which the U.S. is a signatory.
Perhaps the Bush torture memos are so disturbing that they have gotten even Newt Gingrich reexamining his position on torture. Yet he is still unwilling to fully break with the right-wing on the issue.