Donald Trump seems to have concluded that, by rejecting “political correctness,” he is free to embrace war crimes.
As I noted in this COMMENTARY article, “Trump has embraced the torture of terrorist suspects even if it doesn’t elicit any information (‘they deserve it anyway for what they do to us’) and the killing of terrorists’ families even if it violates international law (‘I would be very, very firm with families’).”
He has also promised to bomb the “s—t” out of ISIS and to “take the oil” from Iraq.
Now, in his continual quest to up the ante, Trump has suggested that we should do things “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” to captured terrorists. He didn’t spell out what that would be: Pulling out their fingernails? Putting them on the rack? Burning them alive? But he did offer a hint when he noted that ISIS was “cutting heads off Christians and plenty of others.” He seemed to be suggesting that the U.S. should engage in some head-lopping too.
George Stephanopoulos asked Trump: “Do we win by being more like them?”
Trump replied, “Yes. I’m sorry. You have to do it that way… We are living in a time that’s as evil as any time that there has ever been.”
So there you have it: Trump has said that the United States should act more like ISIS. Of course what ISIS does is a crime against humanity. By implication that seems to be Trump’s advice for the United States — we, too, should commit war crimes.
This, of course, runs counter not only to international law but to U.S. law as well, which now forbids waterboarding much less techniques “beyond” that. More than 30 retired general officers signed a letter protesting waterboarding and other forms of torture. “The United States should have one standard for interrogating detainees that is effective, lawful, and humane,” they wrote.
It’s a safe bet that Trump, who gets his military information from “the shows” (perhaps reruns of “24”?), has not consulted the eminent officers who signed that statement. Or with former Defense Department official Marc Thiessen who defends waterboarding but writes that Trump’s stance is “crazy.”
Trump seems to be crazy like a fox. He keeps making repugnant suggestion — and each one is more repugnant than the one before. In so doing he generates coverage from a headline-hungry press corps and drives his poll numbers up. Now, finally, actual voters are rendering their verdict on Trump. We can only hope they will not endorse a war crimes platform.