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Sunday, March 6, 2016

Trump and Torture

Text of the Fox debate last week:
BAIER: Mr. Trump, just yesterday, almost 100 foreign policy experts signed on to an open letter refusing to support you, saying your embracing expansive use of torture is inexcusable. General Michael Hayden, former CIA director, NSA director, and other experts have said that when you asked the U.S. military to carry out some of your campaign promises, specifically targeting terrorists' families, and also the use of interrogation methods more extreme than waterboarding, the military will refuse because they've been trained to turn down and refuse illegal orders.

So what would you do, as commander-in-chief, if the U.S. military refused to carry out those orders?

TRUMP: They won't refuse. They're not going to refuse me. Believe me.

BAIER: But they're illegal.

TRUMP: Let me just tell you, you look at the Middle East. They're chopping off heads. They're chopping off the heads of Christians and anybody else that happens to be in the way. They're drowning people in steel cages. And he -- now we're talking about waterboarding.

This really started with Ted, a question was asked of Ted last -- two debates ago about waterboarding. And Ted was, you know, having a hard time with that question, to be totally honest with you. They then came to me, what do you think of waterboarding? I said it's fine. And if we want to go stronger, I'd go stronger, too, because, frankly...


... that's the way I feel. Can you imagine -- can you imagine these people, these animals over in the Middle East, that chop off heads, sitting around talking and seeing that we're having a hard problem with waterboarding? We should go for waterboarding and we should go tougher than waterboarding. That's my opinion.

BAIER: But targeting terrorists' families?

TRUMP: And -- and -- and -- I'm a leader. I'm a leader. I've always been a leader. I've never had any problem leading people. If I say do it, they're going to do it. That's what leadership is all about.

BAIER: Even targeting terrorists' families?

TRUMP: Well, look, you know, when a family flies into the World Trade Center, a man flies into the World Trade Center, and his family gets sent back to where they were going -- and I think most of you know where they went -- and, by the way, it wasn't Iraq -- but they went back to a certain territory, they knew what was happening. The wife knew exactly what was happening.

They left two days early, with respect to the World Trade Center, and they went back to where they went, and they watched their husband on television flying into the World Trade Center, flying into the Pentagon, and probably trying to fly into the White House, except we had some very, very brave souls on that third plane. All right?
PolitFact notes that the claim about the terrorists' families is false.

CNN reports:
Donald Trump is casting aside any doubt about his position on torture: He's in favor of it because "we have to beat the savages."
Trump vowed on Friday that he would never instruct the military to break the law -- appearing to flip on his previous promise to bring back waterboarding and more severe forms of torture. But on Saturday he said repeatedly, during a rally and a late-night news conference, that he would seek to "broaden" the laws to allow torture, including but not limited to waterboarding.

And pressed on CBS's "Face the Nation" about his position, Trump vowed to "strengthen the laws so that we can better compete" with ISIS' brutal tactics -- rejecting out of hand the argument that allowing torture would be stooping to ISIS' savagery.
At Foreign Policy, a number of experts write:
We the undersigned have devoted a substantial part of our professional lives to studying, writing, and teaching about American civil-military relations.

We have many disagreements among ourselves on a range of important topics. In particular, we have strong and principled disagreements about politics. We have in the past, and will likely continue, to vote for different candidates for president.

But we all agree on one important matter: if any president orders the U.S. military to commit war crimes, the U.S. military will be legally and professionally obliged to refuse to carry out those orders. Moreover, we believe the U.S. military will, in fact, resist such orders. Refusing to implement them will not be a violation of civilian control of the military. Refusing to carry out such orders will protect the rule of law and the constitutional order, of which civilian control of the military is fundamental.
In the current campaign, one leading candidate, Donald Trump, has repeatedly insisted that he will direct the military to take steps that every reputable legal expert we know has deemed illegal: targeting the families of terrorists and other civilians not directly involved in hostilities for lethal military strikes, and torturing suspected terrorists and their families.

If Donald Trump becomes president and carries through with these campaign promises, the U.S. military will be obliged to refuse these orders.

Let us be clear. Here we are only talking about illegal orders. All candidates for president make campaign promises that are legal but may or may not be wise. We are not suggesting that the U.S. military leaders should or will refuse orders they deem unwise, if those orders are otherwise legal.

We recognize that the United States has a strong record of civilian control of the military. That record depends on senior military leaders understanding and fulfilling their obligations under the law. And it depends on presidents and civilian political leaders understanding their obligations to the rule of law as well.

We call on all candidates to acknowledge these basic truths about democratic civil-military relations. And we call upon Donald Trump to cease promising to issue illegal orders to the U.S. military.