I guess this means it’s on. O’Reilly gets the worst of this exchange for not comprehending that the Geneva Conventions bind nations to standards of conduct regardless of reciprocation and for many different kinds of detainees and refugees; doesn’t the man research the topic before an interview? He also lets McCain off the hook on the allegation that it makes American soldiers less safe in future wars, given the fact that we don’t plan on fighting France or the Brits any time soon:

I’m inclined to think that waterboarding is torture, even when done under controlled conditions that keep the detainee from suffering physical harm from it. Last November, I interviewed two Special Forces veterans who had very personal perspectives on waterboarding, and especially on the tenor of the national debate on the subject. Both concluded that any effectiveness waterboarding had as a interrogation technique had likely vanished as a result of the publicity surrounding it, and the CIA’s decision to stop using it in 2003 meant that they agreed.

However, apart from waterboarding, what exactly are the limits? Do we have to ensure the physical comfort of detained terrorists? What about the ticking-clock scenario, which McCain dismisses? Some have suggested — as O’Reilly does here — that some close-to-the-edge techniques have to remain on the table, subject to presidential approval, in rare cases. If so, then the law has to be written to allow for that. Some lawmakers suggested that the President could authorize the use of illegal techniques and that no one would prosecute if an attack got averted. That’s a ludicrous suggestion, setting up regulations to force someone to break the law in order to use apparently legitimate methods to secure the nation from attack.

McCain remains adamant that strict interpretation of the Geneva Convention will save American soldiers from torture in future wars. I’d argue that it hasn’t saved American soldiers from torture in any war, save perhaps World War I. Japan, for instance, was one of the earliest signatories to the GC and still treated American POWs more barbarically than did the North Vietnamese — also a signatory. We should treat POWs consistent with our own values, which would strongly argue against torture anyway, but don’t tell me that refraining from waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would keep jihadists from beheading and torturing American soldiers now or in the future.