I have a question for former Vice President Dick Cheney, who has been staunchly defending the Bush administration's use of waterboarding and other torture against prisoners in our care. My question: Should Scott Roeder, accused murderer of abortion doctor George Tiller, now be waterboarded? Roeder has just gone on the record stating that further violence is coming, in "many similar events planned around the country as long as abortion remains legal." In other words, Roeder is claiming the now-infamous "ticking time bomb" scenario of what can only be termed domestic terrorism. So, Mr. Cheney, doesn't this mean (following your own "logic") that Roeder should immediately be waterboarded to tell us what he knows? Anything less, by your standards, would be hypocritically picking and choosing which terrorists get a pass, and which don't.
Following Roeder's provacative statements to the Associated Press, this seems like a textbook case of a ticking-time-bomb scenario. Anti-abortion terrorism has a long and sordid history in America, meaning that the threat must be taken seriously. But, so far, it has not been. News organizations have mysteriously shied away from calling Roeder what he is -- a domestic terrorist. Or, to assuage journalistic (and legalistic) sensibilities -- an alleged domestic terrorist (by this rule, he's "alleged" or "accused" until he has been convicted in a court of law). To date, I haven't seen this term used once in any of the news reports about Tiller's murderer. But it certainly fits the description of terrorism, as far as I can tell. Yet there has been no talk of charging him with any terrorism crimes (although by now, the law certainly allows this to happen). Arsonists committing crimes as part of the "Earth Liberation Front" have had terrorism enhancements added to their sentences, even though they didn't kill anyone, because they were trying to effect a change in government policy by violence and criminal actions. Meaning the legal precedent is clear for domestic terrorism cases. And Roeder has already killed someone (OK, "allegedly" killed someone), and has now made dark threats of "more actions" to come by people across the country. This, again, is a textbook description of domestic terrorism. And anyone who thinks domestic terrorism isn't a real concern should go to Oklahoma City and stare at the space where the federal building used to be for a few hours.
Of course, Roeder could be merely drawing attention to his case. The AP article points this out: "It wasn't clear whether Roeder knew of any impending violence or whether he was simply seeking publicity for his cause." But how can we be sure? Are we (to use Cheneyian logic) supposed to sit around and wait and see what happens, or are we to aggressively interrogate Roeder to foil such plots as may exist before they kill other Americans?
And, still using Cheney's legal theories, the constitutionality of doing so shouldn't even be a question. Dick Cheney is still convinced that everything he ordered done to prisoners was legal, constitutional, and necessary to protect the American public. So I am aware that as far as Cheney's concerned, it doesn't even enter the conversation.
So, Mr. Cheney, I ask again: Should Roeder be immediately waterboarded in an effort to make him tell us what he knows?
Now, even using Cheney's reasoning, there might seem to be a way to back out of this question. After all, Roeder (allegedly) only killed one person. And even if there were a wave of copycat killings, it would all be rather small in the grand scheme of things. So, technically, it could be argued that since it doesn't rise to the level of "mass" killing, even if it is terrorism, it's such low-grade terrorism that it doesn't rise to the level of "enhanced interrogation."
Once again, though, how are we to be sure? The specter of Oklahoma City looms once again. Timothy McVeigh can't be called anything less than a "mass murderer," or (more accurately) a "domestic terrorist."
This would also raise the bar for defending waterboarding that has already happened. If your position (as is Cheney's) is that waterboarding foiled plots and saved American lives, then each one would have to hit the standard of "saved Americans from a mass killing." Which, one assumes, would be a harder bridge to cross.
The media, since it has been delighted with Cheney's defense of waterboarding for months now, really need to ask him this question. After all, Cheney's been interviewed by the media so many times recently you'd think they'd have run out of their standard questions and enthusiastically embrace new things to ask him by now. Cheney's daughter Liz has been all over the news as well (with a reported 22 appearances in the past month alone), defending her father's actions and policies. So this is a timely question for an honest journalist to now ask either Cheney or his daughter, due to the breaking news of Roeder's brash statement to the AP:
"Given the fact that Dr. Tiller's accused murderer has now warned from prison to expect further 'events' as long as abortion is legal, and given the fact that we simply don't know what accomplices he may have had, and given your strong defense of 'enhanced interrogation' in what has been called the 'ticking time bomb scenario'; would you now support waterboarding Scott Roeder to find out exactly what he knows and to thwart further domestic terrorism? Why or why not?"
But, seeing as how the media has so far been too timid to even call Roeder a domestic terrorist, I am not exactly filled with confidence that any "journalist" will ask him this seemingly-obvious question any time soon.
Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com