Professor criticizes attorney general pick on torture stance

To the editor:

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer's vote to confirm Michael Mukasey as attorney general and the chief law enforcement officer of the U.S. Justice Department is sad, painful and quite ironic as it confirms that we are a country governed by the winks and nods of men, and not by law. What good is it to have an attorney general, but no law?

Many senators recognized the irony in trying to have it both ways and changed their position on Mukasey because of his refusal to state that waterboarding is torture. They recognized that this refusal was an attempt to protect Bush administration officials and their interrogators from possible war crimes prosecution. These senators chose to side with the principle of law rather than the practicalities of politics and I applaud them for it. It is important to understand that, from a logical point of view, it is not difficult to see the incongruity here.

Precedence indicates that the United States clearly considers waterboarding to be torture; in 1901, 1947 and 1968 respectively, we convicted Japanese and American soldiers of war crimes because of it. Since torture is cruel, it is, by virtue of the eighth amendment, unconstitutional and unlawful. Since waterboarding is torture, waterboarding is unconstitutional and unlawful. Since the 14th amendment extends equal protection of our laws to any person under the jurisdiction of the United States, the torture of anyone by the United States anywhere is unlawful. It is a simple exercise of logic to correctly reach this conclusion.

Mukasey's refusal to state that, "waterboarding is torture," even though he can't logically avoid this conclusion, shows that politics is not always logical or principled. With a wink and a nod, Schumer has agreed to go along with him and thus suspend our law and our constitution. For the last seven years we have been a country governed by winks and nods and maybe we have always been so. However, I don't think it was ever made so blatantly obvious. Are there no lines we won't cross?

-Anthony J. Macula

Associate Professor of Mathematics