Gingrich cements the new orthodoxy of the GOP:
Waterboarding is by every technical rule not torture. [Applause] Waterboarding is actually something we’ve done with our own pilots in order to get them used to the idea to what interrogation is like. It’s not — I’m not saying it’s not bad, and it’s not difficult, it’s not frightening. I’m just saying that under the normal rules internationally it’s not torture.
I think the right balance is that a prisoner can only be waterboarded at the direction of the president in a circumstance which the information was of such great importance that we thought it was worth the risk of doing it and I do that frankly only out of concern for world opinion. But we do not want to be known as a country that capriciously mistreats human beings.
The problem is not caprice. The problem is torture. Waterboarding by every conceivable rule is torture. No court has ever found otherwise in any country that adheres to the Geneva Conventions or the UN Coinvention on Torture signed by Ronald Reagan. Several federal court opinions define waterboarding as torture. The US government executed Japanese military leaders following World War II for waterboarding. It was judged torture in the 1926 Mississippi Supreme Court case, which Gingrich as a "historian" should know by now. It is featured in Cambodia's Museum of Torture to commemorate the abuses of the Khmer Rouge. As the UN Rapporteur on torture has said:
I don’t think there is any question, any serious question. I mean it’s a question of severity. If you think that waterboarding is not severe mistreatment you don’t really know what waterboarding is. … I mean if you then redefine upwards the severity standard to say that it’s only severe if it’s organ failure or death, then you know you’re really very clearly distorting the sense of the words and you know words have to be interpreted in treaty language, they have to be interpreted in their plain meaning and their plain meaning couldn’t be more clear in the case of waterboarding.
This is not an opinion. It is a fact. What Gingrich has said is untrue. It cannot stand. What the last president authorized was torture, a war crime under domestic and international law.