"Do you believe in waterboarding?"
The question was not from President Barack Obama or former vice president Dick Cheney, who are all over the news today for their comments on torture and terrorism yesterday. It was posed by former senator Gary Hart, who long before 9/11 was warning of the trouble ahead.
On Wednesday, Hart, the subject of two Westword Q&As last year (read the February chat here, the June conversation here) moderated "Judging Guantanamo: Does Providing International Terrorism Suspects with Constitutional Protections Compromise Our National Security?," a discussion between Charles Stimson, former Department of Defense deputy assistant secretary for detainee affairs, and Gabor Rona, international legal director for Human Rights First.
Hart's lead-off question was a surgical first strike. But Stimson handled it ably. "I think waterboarding is torture," he said. "I've always maintained that." And he took some heat for his position when he returned to the defense department in 2006.
"I was waterboarded by the press one time," Hart said.
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"So was I," Stimson replied.
"Not like I was," Hart told him.
You won't find any reference to the Monkey Business, the Miami cruise ship that ultimately sank Hart's presidential hopes, at the CELL, the Center for Empowered Living & Learning, which sponsored Wednesday's talk. But at this new institution at 99 West 12th Avenue, you will see Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere: Understanding the Threat of Terrorism, an inaugural exhibit on a deadly serious subject -- and one that has particular resonance this Memorial Day weekend.
For more information, go to www.thecell.org.