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Panties on your head isn’t torture, Rohrabacher says

June 06, 2008

U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher has made national news for remarks dismissing FBI complaints that interrogators used inappropriate, possibly illegal techniques on suspected terrorist detainees in Guantanamo Bay.

The remarks at a subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee also drew sharp words from his Democratic congressional challenger.

Rohrabacher repeatedly cited a report of panties put on detainees’ heads as comparable to “hazing pranks,” arguing it didn’t come close to the definition of torture.

He mentioned the panties-on-head incident eight times.

“It’s one thing to have a growling dog eating someone’s leg or arm, which is absolute torture,” he said. “It’s another thing to have a growling dog around, or putting panties on someone’s head.”

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Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.) replied at the meeting that the FBI also reported seeing physical abuse and other elements of humiliation.

But Rohrabacher returned to his point about women’s underwear on a detainee’s head.

“I in no way will ever apologize that someone put panties on the head of this 9/11 terrorist and treated him without respect,” he said. “That man should have no respect.”

Huntington Beach Mayor Debbie Cook, who is running for Rohrabacher’s seat in Congress, took issue with the exchange.

“At a time when we need a serious discussion and thorough review of the allegations of torture coming out of Guantanamo Bay, Congressman Rohrabacher has used his position of trust to make jokes and liken the interrogations to nothing more than a frat party,” Cook said in a news release. “Torture is not to be taken lightly especially when the prestige and moral authority of the United States government is at stake.”

— Michael Alexander


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