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The judiciary committee of the U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote on the nomination of Mr. Mukasey to be attorney general of the U.S. on Tuesday. His nomination is at risk because of his inability, or, rather, his unwillingness, to say that water boarding is torture.

One cannot google “waterboarding” and not be sickened by the description of the act. One web page has photos of the actual board used by the Khymer Rouge at the Tuol Sleng Prison in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. As David Corn points out on the page, the Khymer Rouge used water boarding to elicit confessions so that the person being tortured could be executed. The practice is so horrible that people will say anything to stop the torture. For this reason, it is worthless as a means to extract information — the use for which Mr. Bush has directed its use.

A New York Times article says Mr. Mukasey is unwilling to condemn water boarding as torture because of a fear of putting at legal risk CIA personnel who may have been ordered to perform the procedure under orders. That shouldn’t matter. If you are ordered to perform a war crime, you should refuse or be willing to suffer the consequences. This is the lesson of Nuremberg. Because of his refusal to designate this procedure as torture, his confirmation should be denied.

There will be a rush at the end of 2008 to grant immunity to Mr. Bush and others involved in this onerous activity. This would be a mistake. What is called for are truth commissions such as those in South Africa, Argentina, Peru and Guatemala. Those willing to admit their guilt and what they did should be granted immunity. The others should be prosecuted. Only in this way will the truth about what we did as a country come out into the open. Then we can ask forgiveness.

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