If many of Donald Trump’s critics are rushing to kiss the ring, Republican Senator John McCain isn’t one of them. McCain, who has been locked in an on-again, off-again feud with Trump since last summer, told an audience this weekend that he wouldn’t let the president-elect bring torture back to the United States.
“I don’t give a damn what the president of the United States wants to do. We will not waterboard,” McCain said at the annual Halifax International Security Forum. “We will not torture people. It doesn’t work.”
On the subject of waterboarding, McCain has always been slightly to the left of Republicans. Given his unique experience with painful interrogation techniques stemming from his years as a POW, McCain has been afforded the respect and deference you would expect.
On the flipside, Trump was, in the primaries, the only Republican candidate suggesting that the U.S. made a mistake by banning the “enhanced interrogation techniques” defended by the Bush administration.
“What do you think about waterboarding?” Trump asked a crowd last June. “I like it a lot. I don’t think it’s tough enough.”
At one of the debates, Trump said he would not only bring back waterboarding, he would “bring back a hell of a lot worse.”
This weekend, McCain said he would stand in the president’s way if he tried to pursue that promise.
“What does it say about America if we’re going to inflict torture on people?” he asked, telling Trump that he would be challenged in court if he made efforts to defy the Geneva Conventions.
While John McCain thinks that waterboarding is torture, not all Americans agree by any stretch of the imagination. Nor do all Americans agree that terrorist networks like ISIS and al Qaeda should get to shield themselves under the umbrella of international law. Certainly, these armies are not signatories to the Geneva Conventions and they are not legitimate state actors of any kind. Is it logical to put handcuffs on civilized nations when the enemy builds strength through an unending series of war crimes?
These are the questions we may have to confront over the next four years. It’s clear, with the election of Trump, that Americans are ready to destroy these Islamists once and for all. Those championing the prudent, measured approach may not have much of a voice in the new administration.