Cruz, Trump and Rubio: Who Will be the Worst War Criminal?

In televised debates, the Republican Party’s main presidential candidates have indulged in a strange competition: Who will promise to commit the most war crimes once he is elected. As of now, they are committed to “grow Guantanamo” (Marco Rubio), submit prisoners to waterboarding (Ted Cruz) or “even worse” (Donald Trump), carpetbomb the Middle East and see if the “sand can glow in the dark” (Cruz), “take out their families” (Trump) and “use overwhelming air power to utterly and completely destroy ISIS” (Cruz) … to the point where their imprecations make George W. Bush seem like a weak dove, since they want to stand out at all costs.

Europe had watched, with dismay, the re-election of the second Bush, in which the war in Iraq had consequences that we know well: Among others, the emergence of Daesh (the Islamic State). But what should we fear from the eventual election of a candidate whose popularity rests on their determination to torture?

According to Ted Cruz who has, however, condemned torture, waterboarding — a simulation of drowning that suffocates the victim — cannot be called torture because, according to him, torture causes “excruciating pain that is equivalent to losing organs and systems,” but [waterboarding] is a “vigorous” interrogation method — a legal ploy introduced by Dick Cheney to legalize this practice, and which brings to mind the status of electroshock during the Algerian War.

Marco Rubio shut down the question as to which form of torture he preferred, not because of principles but so that he wouldn’t “telegraph to the enemy what interrogation techniques we will or won’t use.” But the award for “manly” discourse of course goes to Donald Trump: “I would approve more than that. It works … and if it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway for what they do to us.”

Obama’s Responsibility

How can one imagine that a candidate with such beliefs, which are a total violation of both American and international laws governing civil rights and the use of torture, could one day become the leader of NATO? And what historical irony would it be if Jeb Bush, son of the 41st and brother of the 43rd presidents of the United States, former governor of Florida, a coveted swing state, ended up winning over the Republicans who had found reason, as the only bulwark against such foretold catastrophe?

How to analyze the state of a country where the principal presidential candidates of one of the two main parties call for killing civilians and for non-compliance of the laws with complete impunity? It’s also, one has to admit, the America of paradoxical Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama, who didn’t know how to turn the gloomy page on the Bush years. He couldn’t limit the drone strikes or targeted executions on the battlefield. He waited until the absolute last minute to propose closing Guantanamo Bay — where 104 detainees are languishing for eternity in legal limbo — at the risk of weakening the Democratic candidates who must take a position on the subject on the eve of Super Tuesday…

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