Lost in the coverage generated by Donald Trump repeating a sexist slur used by one of his supporters to describe Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is the fact Trump has taken the most extreme stance in favor of torture among a crop of waterboarding-friendly GOP presidential candidates.
Trump believes Cruz is “a pussy” because during last Saturday’s Republican presidential debate, Cruz expressed a modicum of discomfort about waterboarding, saying he’d “prohibit line officers from employing it, because I think bad things happen when enhanced interrogation is employed at lower levels.”
But Cruz stuck a different note when discussing the potential use of waterboarding in instances where the national security of the United States is believed to be at risk.
“When it comes to keeping this country safe, the commander in chief has an inherent constitutional authority to keep this country safe,” Cruz said. “And so if [waterboarding] were necessary to prevent a city from, say, facing an imminent terrorist attack, you can rest assured that as commander in chief, I would use whatever enhanced interrogation methods we could to keep this country safe.”
That didn’t go nearly far enough for Trump, however, who said during the debate that as president, he would “bring back waterboarding, and I would bring back a hell of a lot worse.”
In the wake of 9/11, the Bush Administration authorized the CIA to waterboard terrorism suspects. The practice is meant to induce panic and suffering by forcing a person to inhale water into their sinuses, pharynx, and trachea.
President Obama banned waterboarding shortly after taking office in 2009. Regarding the Bush Administration’s decision to authorize the technique, Obama said, “I believe that waterboarding was torture and, whatever legal rationales were used, it was a mistake.”
The United Nations defines torture as “any act by which severe pain and suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person” in an effort to obtain a confession or intimidate them. By that definition, not to mention Obama’s, forcing a suspect to feel as though they’re drowning certainly seems to qualify.
But during Saturday night’s debate, Cruz made a case that waterboarding isn’t torture after all.
“Under the law, torture is excruciating pain that is equivalent to losing organs and systems,” Cruz said. “So under the definition [waterboarding] is not. It is enhanced interrogation, it is vigorous interrogation, but it does not meet the generally recognized definition of torture.”
That debate aside, the fact remains that the information gathered via waterboarding during the Bush years wasn’t reliable. In late 2014, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a report finding that “the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information or gaining detainee cooperation.”
But for the Trump supporter who originally shouted “He’s a pussy!” in reference to Cruz during last night’s Trump rally, questions about the efficacy of interrogation techniques are secondary.
Reached for comment by Mic, the woman, who didn’t disclose her name, said, “I watched the debate, and [Ted Cruz] just comes across as a pussy… He doesn’t have the balls to stand up to Putin. He doesn’t have the balls to stand up to other leaders of others countries.”
But with regard to Trump, the woman added, “He’s got the balls the size of watermelons, whereas the other ones got the balls of little grapes… they’re nobodies.”
Cruz may stop short of fully embracing waterboarding, but he’s far from a dove — his national security plan does openly support the use of illegal tactics like carpet bombing and saturation bombing.