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Giuliani Flip-Flops on Waterboarding, Jokes About Torture

October 25, 2007

In Iowa yesterday, GOP frontrunner Rudy Giuliani followed Bush Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey in playing dumb on the subject of torture. It should come as no surprise that Giuliani would argue that whether waterboarding violates the Geneva Convention depends on what the definition of "torture" is. Even less surprising is that the same man who in May endorsed "every method they could think of" would now jokingly claim that he was a victim of torture himself.
Asked in Davenport, Iowa about torture and the enhanced interrogation techniques employed by the Bush administration, Giuliani mimicked Mukasey's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Mukasey, as you'll recall, answered Senator Sheldon Whitehouse's question on regarding waterboarding by elliptically saying, "If it amounts to torture, it is not constitutional." On Wednesday, Giuliani followed suit. As the New York Times reported:

Asked at a community meeting here whether he considered waterboarding torture, Mr. Giuliani said: "It depends on how it's done. It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it."
He went on to say that the way the practice had been described in news reports - "particularly in the liberal media" - he did not believe it should be allowed. But he expressed doubts about whether it had been described accurately.

Perhaps sensing a departure from his usual tough on terrorism line, Giuliani turned the discussion back at the Democrats:

Mr. Giuliani also criticized the Democrats for describing sleep deprivation as torture. "They talk about sleep deprivation," he said. "I mean, on that theory, I'm getting tortured running for president of the United States. That's plain silly. That's silly."

Given his own checkered past as mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani might want to show a little more care when discussing the subject of torture. After all, in 1997 four renegade members of Giuliani's NYPD brutalized Abner Louima, assaulting him in their precinct and sodomizing him with a wooden stick. That was followed by the 1999 killing of Amadou Diallo, an innocent West African immigrant mistakenly gunned down in a 41 shot fusillade by New York police.
But even more problematic for Giuliani is that his unfortunate statements in Iowa contradict the tough talk on torture he offered during a May 15, 2007 GOP presidential debate moderated by Fox News' Brit Hume. Then, Giuliani made it clear he would resort to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods early and often to thwart a looming terrorist attack:

GIULIANI: In the hypothetical that you gave me, which assumes that we know there is going to be another attack and these people know about it, I would tell the people who had to do the interrogation to use every method they can think of. Shouldn't be torture, but every method they can think of.
HUME: Water boarding?
GIULIANI: I would say every method they could think of, and I would support them in doing that because I have seen - [applause] - I have seen what can happen when you make a mistake about this and I don't want to see another 3,000 people dead in New York or any place else.

The practice of torturing detainees by the government of the United States, of course, is no laughing matter. And as the former New York mayor once again clear, "Giuliani time" is no joke.


About

Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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