Cashing in on a tragedy to promulgate his draconian ideas and theories, yet again, Donald Trump suggested Belgian authorities could have thwarted the terrorist attacks in Brussels on March 22 by torturing Salah Abdeslam, the suspected terrorist who was captured four days earlier.
“The waterboarding would be fine. You could expand the laws more than waterboarding to get the information from these people,” he said. “If it was up to me and if we changed the laws or have the laws, waterboarding would be fine and if they want to, as long as it’s — you know we work within the laws, they don’t [work] within the laws.”
Of course it’s not reasonable to expect rational arguments from the loud-mouthed billionaire who has established himself as a lying, ignorant, war-mongering bigot over the past couple of months.
However, thanks to his incendiary, pro-torture rhetoric, Trump has inadvertently provided an important question for Americans to think about: What happened the last time a U.S. president authorized torture?
Exactly 13 years ago in the month of March, the United States embarked on a military mission that later turned out to be one of the biggest mistakes in the history of war and politics.
An estimated 112,017-122,438 civilian deaths were recorded by Iraq Body Count between March 20, 2003, and March 14, 2013, during the Iraq War. Although, the invasion officially came to an end in December 2011, people are still dying there because of the ongoing insurgency the conflict wrought.
The so-called war, on the whole, was a disaster for George W. Bush's administration. But of all the horrors committed by the U.S. military in Iraq, the Abu Ghraib prison controversy stands out.
After then-President Bush, intelligence director George Tenet and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld OK'd the use of torture on suspects, tens of thousands of Iraqis were detained by the U.S. Army and the Central Intelligence Agency without being charged.
In 2004, only a year after the invasion, it was revealed the military police personnel committed mass human rights violations against the detainees that included physical and sexual abuse, torture, rape and even murder.
The scandal blew up, drawing international condemnation. The details that followed were so appalling that on May 7, 2004, Rumsfeld had to apologize publicly for the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse.
After more than a decade, calls for accountability have more or less faded.
A meager total of 11 soldiers were convicted but private military contractors — as well as the architects of the torture program, including Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney — involved in the abuse are still at large, living comfortable lives of retirement while Iraq crumbles.
"You had some of the low-level military folks held accountable, but not their leaders further up in their chain of command, and certainly not the private military contractors who were also there, who were involved in many of the very same incidents," P.W. Singer, author of "Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry,” told Los Angeles Times last year. "It is now a decade since, and key players in one of the worst scandals in recent U.S. history have not faced any accountability."
Apart from the horror inflicted on detainees and the embarrassment brought to the U.S. government and military, the prison abuse, experts say, made recruitment for terrorist organizations quite easy. Using the deplorable photos, al Qaeda reinforced anti-American sentiment in its strongholds to expand its outfit.
So it's clear that using torture, unlike what Trump says, doesn’t help in fighting terrorism. It’s, in fact, counterproductive. Not to mention, torture is against both U.S and international law.
But at this point do we really expect Donald Trump to be aware of such basic and irrefutable facts?