This morning on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, a caller asked Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) why he would not support a possible criminal investigation into the Bush-era torture program. Graham defended the Bush administration by saying they “overreacted” “out of fear,” but insisted that Bush’s “mistakes” were “not criminal mistakes”:
GRAHAM: The reason I don’t want to go back any more than we have already done is because I know what happened. Out of fear, we overreacted. … They took a view of the law that I think was aggressive, and I would not have approached it that way. Right after 9/11, we all thought we were going to be hit again. So as we go back and try to hold people criminally liable. I think we’re doing a lot of damage to the country, because their mistakes were not criminal mistakes. They were mistakes made out of fear.
The Bush administration approved, among other gruesome techniques, the use of waterboarding; waterboarding is torture, and torture is a crime. And it’s not just retired military experts, presidents, presidential candidates, and 71 percent of Americans who say so: Graham himself declared, in October 2007, that waterboarding “is clearly illegal under domestic and international law”:
GRAHAM: I am convinced, as an individual senator, as a military lawyer for 25 years, that waterboarding…does violate our war crimes statute and is clearly illegal under domestic and international law. … I don’t think you have to have a lot of knowledge about the law to understand this technique violates Geneva Convention Common Article Three, the War Crimes statutes, and many other statutes that are in place. So I do hope that he will embrace that.
Apparently for Graham, if you approve something that is “clearly illegal,” it’s not “a criminal mistake” — so long as you are acting out of fear.