One of the most tragic legacies of the Bush administration was its authorization of brutal and ineffective harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects that were tantamount to torture. One technique that President Bush admitted that he personally authorized was waterboarding, which involves the simulated drowning of a suspect.
Yesterday, former Bush speechwriter and conservative author Marc Thiessen appeared on CNN’s Amanpour and defended the previous administration’s interrogation policies. During one point during their exchange, Thiessen attacked host Christiane Amanpour for a segment she did in 2008 noting the parallels between Bush’s use of waterboarding and waterboarding techniques used during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia and during the Spanish Inquisition:
THIESSEN: There have been so many misstatements told about the enhanced interrogation techniques, comparing them to the Spanish Inquisition, to the Khmer Rouge. And I have to tell you, Christiane, you’re one of the people who have spread these mistruths.
AMANPOUR: Excuse me?
THIESSEN: I’m sorry. You went to S-21, the Khmer Rouge prison […]
AMANPOUR: Yes, and we saw the waterboarding there that they used as a torture technique. That’s called spreading the truth! […]
THIESSEN: We did not submerge people in a box full of water. […]
AMANPOUR: That is called waterboarding, you can say in whichever way you want! […] You’re trying to obfuscate the debate here. […]
THIESSEN: It’s nothing like what the CIA used.
As David Corn notes, there wasn’t “much difference between the Bush administration’s interrogation policy and the techniques used by the Khmer Rouge.” In 2006, a journalist e-mailed Corn a photograph of a painting done by a former Khmer Rouge prisoner depicting the torture he was subjected to, which shows interrogators pouring water on the suspect’s face — exactly what was authorized by President Bush:
The Wonk Room’s Matt Duss writes, “What was Thiessen’s point again? Oh yeah, to waste people’s time arguing over whether a technique developed by torturers as a method of torture should really be called torture when employed by the United States. And, to the extent that people continue to be willing to have him on their programs to have this nonsense argument, he’s having a lot of success with that.”