First, Donald Trump advocated using torture to interrogate terrorists because “torture works.” Then he said that as president he would not order troops to break U.S. or international laws, which both forbid torture and waterboarding. On Saturday, Trump advocated for broadening laws governing torture so that interrogators can use controversial techniques without breaking the law.
Trump brought up waterboarding twice during a rally at an arena at the University of Central Florida on Saturday afternoon, including once after he was interrupted by protesters.
“As far as the waterboarding is concerned, we have to stay within the laws. We have to stay within the laws,” Trump said. “Hey: Who here thinks that ISIS – who chops off heads, who drowns people in a cage – who here thinks that ISIS stays within the laws. Right? We’re like a bunch of babies. But we’re going to stay within the laws. But you know what we’re going to do? We’re going to have those law broadened because we’re playing with two sets of rules: their rules and our rules. And those laws are going to be broadened. It’s embarrassing to see what’s happening.”
Trump has long been a vocal proponent of waterboarding, a controversial technique that is no longer used by the United States because it has been deemed torture and ineffective.
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At a town hall in South Carolina last month, Trump labeled the technique torture – something that proponents are usually careful not to do – and said that he wants to reinstate waterboarding and “so much worse” because “torture works.” At a later rally, Trump labeled waterboarding “minimal, minimal, minimal torture.”
This stance quickly raised concerns and prompted this question: If Trump were to become president, should troops follow his orders, even if they violate the law? Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, a former presidential candidate, sent a letter on Friday that asked for the opinion of Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Soon after, Trump released a statement saying that he would not order a military officer to disobey the law.
“I will use every legal power that I have to stop these terrorist enemies,” Trump said. “I do, however, understand that the United States is bound by laws and treaties and I will not order our military or other officials to violate those laws and will seek their advice on such matters.”