Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Obama Shakes up GOP on torture debate

"And let me speak to th' yet unknowing world
How these things came about. So shall you hear
Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts..."

~William Shakespeare, Hamlet

We observed the Bard's birthday this month -- he was baptized April 26, 1564 -- and we also observed President Obama do something in the style of Shakespearean monarchs (think Fortinbras in Hamlet) ready to examine the sins of their predecessors: He's looking for answers on the waterboarding issue. And maybe Obama's doing it in part for Shakespearean reasons: He's seeking to divide the Republican opposition.
Waterboarding, Fox News reports, works as follows:
(A) detainee is strapped to a gurney with his head lowered and a cloth placed on his face. Interrogators pour water onto the cloth, which cuts off air flow to the mouth and nostrils, tripping his gag reflex, causing panic and giving him the sensation that he is drowning.At that point the cloth would be removed, the gurney rotated upright and the detainee would be allowed to breathe.
No wonder the Obama Administration has taken steps against this -- the most recent one being last Thursday's release of Bush-era memos describing its use against detainees in the War on Terror.
In addition to rousing a nation's conscience, this move could split the opposition. Some Republicans could argue that while waterboarding is heinous, flying airplanes into buildings is even more despicable, and that winning the War on Terror justified whatever means were taken. On the other hand, GOP members already uneasy with sidestepping the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment may find the past administration even more unsavory now that we know just how cruel and unusual its punishments were.
"Let this same be presently performed," Horatio tells Fortinbras of disclosing former King Claudius' misrule in Hamlet, "Even whiles men's minds are wild, lest more mischance/On plots and errors happen." Not only has Obama stopped "more mischance" from the CIA, he could also start a debate among the GOP about how it prosecuted the War on Terror.

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