It is annoying, to say the least, to be lectured to about the gravity of terrorism by those folks who argue for lenience with regard to America's current torture laxity. But beyond that, it is a bit dumbfounding -- what does the one have to do with the other? Yes, you make a sterling point -- terrorism is bad. Does torturing alleged terrorists and enemy combatants (remember, 90% or so of the Abu Graib prisoners ultimately left with no charges and in most cases with little sustainable evidence against them) somehow prevent terrorism? From almost all accounts -- look at South Africa during Apartheid, or Chile during Pinochet's reign, or consider John McCain's experience of finally relenting to torture and giving the names of the offensive line of the Green Bay Packers -- torture does not work. Indeed, the South African Security Forces or Pinochet's thugs had little interest in torture as a road to anything other than as a form of extrajudicial punishment and sadistic entertainment. If our best trump card in the war against terrorism, or whatever we are calling it now, is that we are better than they are, it probably is an unwise policy to engage in actions that descend to their level. In an administration that argued that an intercepted memo talking about flying hijacked planes into skyscrapers was not actionable intelligence, to say the least it seems that whatever we might gain from nearly drowning supposed enemy combatants is neither actionable nor worth the cost in our reputation, our relationships with our allies, or our attempts to win hearts and minds. So never mind that our actions are morally repugnant and beneath us -- apparently Vice President Cheney does not care about such things. Instead focus on the fact that torture will not help us win this war. Then again, competence is not exactly high on the list of the administration's priorities these days either.
Friday, November 18, 2005
I wish that some of the people who are defending the administration's stand on torture or who have narrowed the definition of "torture" to laughable limits could be made to sit through an hour of videotapes from South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings. Water Boarding, beatings, hanging people from their limbs, putting guns to their heads and pretending to shoot -- these and many more awful, unacceptable behaviors are, by any reasonable standard, forms of torture. We would never want American POW's to go through them. We could not imagine our girlfriends or wives or brothers or fathers having to endure such atrocities. And yet there is a shocking number of people making ends justify the means type arguments to justify the most loathsome behavior, behavior unbecoming a great nation.