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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Below I denounce Matthew Yglesias and Mark Kleiman for their interpretation of the following exchange.

Q: Can I ask you a follow up? You mentioned Blackwater, you’ve said that at the beginning of your administration you’d ask the Pentagon to report. When it comes to special interrogation methods, obviously you’ve said you’re against torture, but the types of methods that are now used that aren’t technically torture but are still permitted, would you do something in your first couple days to address that, suspend some of the special interrogation methods immediately or ask for some kind of review?

HR Clinton: Well I think I’ve been very clear about that too, we should not conduct or condone torture and it is not clear yet exactly what this administration is or isn’t doing, we’re getting all kinds of mixed messages. I don’t think we’ll know the truth until we have a new President. I think once you can get in there and actually bore into what’s been going on, you’re not going to know. I was very touched by the story you guys had on the front page the other day about the WWII interrogators. I mean it's not the same situation but it was a very clear rejection of what we think we know about what is going on right now but I want to know everything, and so I think we have to draw a bright line and say ‘No torture – abide by the Geneva conventions, abide by the laws we have passed,' and then try to make sure we implement that.

Yglesias, in particular, astounded me by writing "As Mark Kleiman says, this doesn't really wash and seems to indicate that she accepts the view that, for example, waterboarding which we definitely do know is happening maybe doesn't count as torture."

I am trying to calm myself and understand why someone I respect wrote something that seemed totally crazy to me (see post below)(I am not managing to say things just once sorry). I think the key point of disagreement between Yglesias and me is that he doesn't seem to have noticed that Clinton said "abide by the Geneva conventions, abide by the laws we have passed," and that the conventions and the laws ban mistreatment short of torture. Even someone who had the insane view that water boarding isn't torture would have to have the further insane views that it is not cruel inhumane or degrading in order to think it is allowed by the Geneva conventions and US laws. One of the laws was enacted with the explicit aim of making it clear that Bush administration practices were illegal. Clinton, being a Senator, knows this and may have forgotten that some people don't know what the laws say.

That is, given the law and the Geneva convention, Clinton clearly said she would not allow "enhanced interrogation" short of torture. The laws and the Geneva conventions make this clear. She may be lying, but she definitely did not say that anything short of torture is OK. Only someone who ignored the words "abide by the Geneva conventions, abide by the laws we have passed," or does not know what is written in the laws and the Geneva conventions can fail to understand that.

I think it is quite common for Senators to assume that people know what is written in a recently passed bill. This can lead to confusion, but it is not vague (the law is clear Bush just decided to ignore it).

Also it is quite common to react more to the style than the literal content of a statement. Clinton takes a while to get to the point. This gives the impression she is dodging the question. However, her final statement is as clear as the laws and the Geneva conventions and they are plenty clear.

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