Trump received serious criticism when he called for a return to waterboarding after the terror attack on Istanbul this summer.
He suggested that US and international laws that prohibit torture are standing in the way of our fight against ISIS, saying at an Ohio rally that waterboarding is “peanuts compared to many alternatives.”
The President-elect met with retired general James Mattis this weekend, and now considers him to be the leading candidate for the position of Defense Secretary. Mattis is the “real deal,” said Trump.
When asked about his thoughts on waterboarding, Mattis said he could do better with “a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers” than with torture.
“I’m not saying it changed by mind,” said Trump. “We have people that are chopping off heads and drowning people in steel cages and we’re not allowed to waterboard. But I’ll tell you what, I was impressed by that answer.”
Mattis is a seasoned commander, having served in both Afghanistan and Iraq during his 44 years of service in the Marine Corps. He earned the nickname “Mad Dog” after his ferocity in the deadly Battle of Fallujah in 2004 and came under fire a year later for saying, “It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up front with you. I like brawling.”
“Mad Dog” Mattis’ selection as potential Defense Secretary has been met with approval, but the retired general faces one legislative hurdle. According to federal law, the Secretary of Defense must be a civilian OR must wait seven years after retiring from the military.
Mattis retired just three years ago, and in order for him to accept the position Congress must first vote to waive the rule. This phenomenon has occured only once in American history – when President Truman appointed Gen. George Marshall in 1950.
“There’s nothing magical in the seven years,” says Mattis. “They want to have enough time to say ‘are you separate enough from the military ethic and culture and part of the community as such to be the civilian boss?’”
Editor’s note: As a former intelligence officer, I have always cringed when Trump says he may allow torture. When I was a young officer in training at the CIA, our briefers always told us they did not use torture. It was not a moral decision, it was a practical one. Torture rarely yielded reliable results and their professionals already had better methods to get information from a captured opponent. Mattis is absolutely correct, and the question is moot.
The bottom line is that waterboarding should never been done in the first place.