Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has pressed for extreme measures in wake of the bombings. Photo / Getty Images
In the wake of a series of deadly terrorist attacks in Brussels, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said he would go beyond waterboarding when interrogating suspected terrorist leaders and repeated that the United States should “close up our borders until we figure out what’s going on”.
“Waterboarding would be fine and if they could expand the laws, I would do a lot more than waterboarding,” Trump told NBC’s Today, adding authorities should “should be able to do whatever they have to do.” Asked if he believed people, when tortured, yield useful rather than false information, he said he was “in that camp.”
“You have to get the information and you have to get it rapidly,” he said.
On March 18, Belgian authorities captured Salah Abdeslam, whom they suspect of participating in the November 13 terror attacks in Paris.
A news agency affiliated with Isis said the terror group had carried out the Brussels attacks. AMAQ agency said: “Islamic State fighters carried out a series of bombings with explosive belts and devices on Tuesday, targeting an airport and a central metro station in the centre of the Belgian capital Brussels.”
President Barack Obama said the US “will do whatever is necessary to support our friend and ally Belgium in bringing to justice those who are responsible”.
In a speech in Cuba, Mr Obama said: “We will do whatever is necessary to support our friends in Belgium. We stand in solidarity with them in condemning these outrageous attacks against innocent people. This is yet another reminder that the world must unite, we must be together.”
Trump’s statements were quickly followed by comments from the other candidates. The Democratic front runner, Hillary Clinton slammed Trump’s call to close the border as “unrealistic” and said torture was ineffective. On the Republican side, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz called on President Barack Obama to call the attacks an outgrowth of “radical Islam” while Ohio Governor John Kasich urged a redoubling of efforts to root out the perpetrators of such acts.
“We can’t be soft and weak,” Trump said, suggesting the US and Europe should observe laws around interrogation techniques but said “liberal” laws there have hampered terror investigations. The US considers waterboarding torture.
Trump also repeated his earlier call to shutdown much immigration in the US, including almost all immigration by Muslims and refugees from Syria, and said poor assimilation by Muslims in Europe contributed to the attack.
“Assimilation is very, very difficult and in some cases impossible,” Trump told Fox & Friends in an interview earlier in the day.
Trump said that Brussels, which is both the capital of Belgium and the European Union, “is an armed camp.” He said he would not build ties between Muslim communities and the US but rather said it was Muslims responsibility to bring concerns about possibile terrorist activities to the attention of authorities.
“They’re very untrusting of people other than Muslims,” he said. “Somehow that community doesn’t believe in reporting.”
“If you went into Brussels 20 years ago, it was like a magical city,” he said.
Trump, who will compete in the Republican presidential primary in Arizona and caucus in Utah on Tuesday evening, said hawkish rhetoric at a time of high-profile terrorism appears to have helped his poll numbers.
“It’s why I’m probably No. 1 in the polls because I say we have to have strong borders,” he said on NBC.
Trump spent much of a Monday trip to Washington trying to convince Republicans, some of whom have repeatedly suggested he tone down his rhetoric, that he can act presidential. His comments on Tuesday, however, seemed to return him to proposals that some leaders in the GOP had described as not what the country stands for.
“Our country’s most experienced and bravest military leaders will tell you that torture is not effective,” Clinton, who served as President Obama’s secretary of state from until 2013, said Tuesday, also on Today. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies “don’t need to resort to torture but they are going to need more help.”
She called it “unrealistic to say we’re going to completely shut down our borders to everyone. That would stop commerce for example and that’s not in anybody’s interest.”
Clinton said the US and Europe need to tighten security, particularly on visa checks and tracking of international travelers’ names, while saying that Europe should commit to the Eurozone, which has relatively free borders.
In a press conference in Washington, D.C., Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is Trump’s chief rival for the Republican presidential nomination, said the “attack in Brussels is in many ways the fruit of a failed immigration policy in Europe” and said the U.S. should “absolutely” re-examine “immigration policies across the board.”
He added the US should not “withdraw from the world,” noting Trump’s previous criticism of NATO.
Ohio Governor John Kasich, who is also seeking the GOP nomination, said in an e-mailed statement that the US must redouble efforts with “allies to identify, root out and destroy the perpetrators of such acts of evil”.