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  John Ashcroft's Take on Washboarding as Torture


John Ashcroft's Take on Washboarding as Torture

by Adam Kukulka and Chris Hutton

Hutton: Would you want these same acts of torture to be conducted against American troops?

Ashcroft: I hope other countries would use our methods rather than their own.

On Tuesday April 11, 2006, former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft gave a speech at Emory University. Afterward he allowed questions and answers. Time ran out before the last questioners could get to the microphone, so some of us approached Mr. Ashcroft as he was leaving to ask him our questions. What follows is a verbatim transcript of the encounter.

The Transcript:

Adam Kukulka: Why do you think President George W. Bush first opposed the McCain Anti-torture Bill, only to support it later? Also, do you think torture is an appropriate method for the U.S. to use to obtain information that might prevent a terrorist attack?

John Ashcroft: For your first question, I don't know. I had left my position as Attorney General at that time, and George does not call me up and ask 'John, what do you think about...?' The definition of torture is broad in both the UN and World community. The general consensus is that torture is any long-term physical or mental harm done to a person. I believe that we should conduct "discomforting tactics" like yelling, sleep deprivation, or making them stand at attention for long periods of time.

Kukulka: What about washboarding?

Ashcroft: What if we did washboarding, and what if there were studies done, not saying that there have been these studies, to prove that it did no long-term physical or mental harm?

Kukulka: I don't think that even if these studies were done, they would conclude that.

Alex Guile: I think that it would cause long-term effects.

Ashcroft: Different countries and international treaties define torture in other ways and it's mainly defined as long-term physical and mental harm.

Chris Hutton: People die under washboarding.

Ashcroft: Yes, causing death is torture.

Kukulka: So, just to be clear, you said that torture is defined as long-term physical and mental harm?

Ashcroft: Look, I'm not a law professor teaching in a law class, so I don't have time to teach you every single detail about how different countries and international treaties define torture.

Hutton: Would you want these same acts of torture to be conducted against American troops?

Ashcroft: I hope other countries would use our methods rather than their own.

Kukulka: I appreciate your answers.

Authors' Conclusion:

Although Mr. Ashcroft specifically said, "[I am] not saying that there have been these studies [on washboarding]," his answer is not a denial of government research on this and other forms of torture. He implies that washboarding is not torture unless or until it causes death. If Ashcroft and other senior officials believe that washboarding is a humane interrogation technique, could that be because government studies have indicated the practice does not have long-term effects?

The transcript of this conversation was taken by Jessica Cook (a physics major at Emory University), Alex Guile (a biochemistry major at Georgia State University), and Christopher Hutton, who, like Adam Kukulka, is an international studies major at Berry College.

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Copyright © 2006 The Baltimore Chronicle. All rights reserved.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on May 10, 2006.


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