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Ashcroft's Bizarre Torture Comments

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April 24, 2008

Earlier this week, Think Progress reported on former Attorney General John Ashcroft’s comment about torture in a speech he gave Monday at St. John’s University. He said, “Going to a high school dance, having to listen to loud music, to me that’s torture. I was on the Daily Show once. I was interviewed by Jon Stewart. That was torture.”

Ha. Ha. Ha.

Now, we love a good laugh as much as the next person, but ThinkProgress’s roundup got us thinking about the many, well, rather insensitive comments politicians have made of late. We think humor on the topic of torture is best left to the comics, not someone who authorized the real thing.

It turns out Ashcroft was on a roll. On Tuesday, he engaged in a rather testy exchange with an audience member at Knox College in Illinois. The audience member wrote a first-hand account of what went down on MyDD.

In a nutshell, Ashcroft asserts that the difference between the waterboarding committed by U.S. interrogators and the waterboarding Japanese soldiers were convicted and punished for in the post-World War II Tokyo War Tribunals was a difference of water delivery method. Ashcroft maintains the Bush administration didn’t torture prisoners because U.S. soldiers poured water down detainees’ throats, whereas during WWII, when Japanese soldiers tortured U.S. soldiers, water was forced down soldiers’ throats.

Marty Lederman wrote a great analysis of the “force v. pour” distinction on Balkinization today.

The thing is, didn’t Ashcroft get the memo that the Bush administration has already admitted that the U.S. tortures prisoners? Not only that, but ABC’s story of two weeks ago put Ashcroft in the room with the other key cabinet members who worked out the details of how detainees would be tortured. Ashcroft even said at one point during these meetings: “Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly.”

So Ashcroft must be continuing to deny that the U.S. uses torture because … it’s good schtick?