WASHINGTON – Donald Trump, the leading Republican contender for U.S. president, says he would return to strong interrogation techniques such as waterboarding if he were elected because their severity pales against Islamic State practices.
“You know, they don’t use waterboarding over there; they use chopping off people’s heads,” Trump said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” Waterboarding, a method of torture in which water is poured over the face of an immobilized prisoner to simulate drowning, is “peanuts” compared with that, Trump said. He said he “would absolutely bring back interrogation and strong interrogation.”
Ben Carson, running 4 percentage points behind Trump in the latest Bloomberg Politics national poll, taken Nov. 15-17, declined to say whether he’d favor waterboarding, during an appearance on the same program.
“I’m not one who is real big on telling the enemy what we’re going to do and what we’re not going to do,” Carson said.
Trump seemed to moderate earlier comments that were taken as support for a U.S. government registry of Muslims, saying he wants a database for refugees coming into the country from Syria.
“When the Syrian refugees are going to start pouring into this country, we don’t know if they’re ISIS, we don’t know if it’s a Trojan horse,” Trump said. “And I definitely want a database and other checks and balances.”
The billionaire New York real-estate developer also argued for a program to monitor activity at U.S. mosques.
“I don’t want to close mosques; I want to surveil mosques,” he said. Without what he called “strong measures,” he warned, “you’re going to see buildings coming down all over New York City and elsewhere.”
Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, also agreed with heavy monitoring of those with the most potential of leaning toward terrorism, saying, “there’s no such thing as political correctness when you’re fighting an enemy who wants to destroy you and everything that you have anything to do with.
“We should monitor anything — mosques, church, school, you know, shopping center — where there is a lot of radicalization going on,” Carson said, acknowledging that it could require beefing up U.S. intelligence capabilities.
Carson, who has said he favored what he considered a fairly easy measure to undermine the Islamic State’s finances by destroying their oil fields, was questioned on that point after President Barack Obama said such methods aren’t so simple according to the “best military minds.”
“We don’t really have the option of deciding whether it’s easy or not to take them out,” Carson said Sunday. “We need to get rid of their ability to derive money from oil, whether we take the fields or whether we blow the fields up.”
He said Iraqi military forces may perform better if they worked directly with U.S. special operations personnel.
Trump was also questioned Sunday about whether he would favor banning people on terrorist watch lists from obtaining firearms, to which he responded, “If somebody is on a watch list and an enemy of state and we know it’s an enemy of state, I would keep them away, absolutely.”