Thursday, February 14, 2008

Caption of the day; irony of ironies and all is irony

The White House said that President Bush will veto a bill that would ban the use of waterboarding by the CIA. The president claims such a prohibition will inhibit the collection of information.

Under the headline of the day:

Bush Will Veto Ban On Torture
McCain, Once Tortured Himself, Joins White House To Oppose Bill Prohibiting Waterboarding

This is one of the most editorial articles I have ever read from the AP. An excerpt:

Although President Bush has stated that the United States has not and will not torture people, it has been learned that Mr. Bush himself has authorized the use of waterboarding on detainees (a practice previously prosecuted by the United States as a war crime), and has claimed the authority to do so again in certain circumstances.

Despite military interrogators' assertions that waterboarding and other brands of torture do not produce reliable intelligence, the Bush administration continues to argue that it needs the option of waterboarding when seeking information from recalcitrant prisoners.

Attorney General Mike Mukasey has declined to declare that waterboarding is torture, despite congressional demands during and after his Senate confirmation process, fueling the administration critics' assumption that admitting such would expose administration figures who authorized the practice to criminal prosecution.

The AP newswire called Bush a liar, a torturer, and a criminal, implying that the fact that he's not in jail for a war crime hangs on a technicality (and an Attorney General in his pocket). And that's in a straight news article.

The other day Scalia said that we have to have the debate over torture vs. intelligence, because the terrorists could have a ticking time bomb, etc. It's a huge grey area to him.

This is total crap. I explored it earlier and elsewhere. So I'll turn the mike over to a prominent critic of our torture policies.

Those who argue the necessity of some abuses raise an important dilemma as their most compelling rationale: the ticking-time-bomb scenario. What do we do if we capture a terrorist who we have sound reasons to believe possesses specific knowledge of an imminent terrorist attack?

In such an urgent and rare instance, an interrogator might well try extreme measures to extract information that could save lives. Should he do so, and thereby save an American city or prevent another 9/11, authorities and the public would surely take this into account when judging his actions and recognize the extremely dire situation which he confronted. But I don't believe this scenario requires us to write into law an exception to our treaty and moral obligations that would permit cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. To carve out legal exemptions to this basic principle of human rights risks opening the door to abuse as a matter of course, rather than a standard violated truly in extremis. It is far better to embrace a standard that might be violated in extraordinary circumstances than to lower our standards to accommodate a remote contingency, confusing personnel in the field and sending precisely the wrong message abroad about America's purposes and practices.

That sounds pretty convincing, critic of torture. Say, what's your position on waterboarding, while we're at it?

Now, in this war, our liberal notions are put to the test. Americans of good will, all patriots, argue about what is appropriate and necessary to combat this unconventional enemy. Those of us who feel that in this war, as in past wars, Americans should not compromise our values must answer those Americans who believe that a less rigorous application of those values is regrettably necessary to prevail over a uniquely abhorrent and dangerous enemy. Part of our disagreement is definitional. Some view more coercive interrogation tactics as something short of torture but worry that they might be subject to challenge under the "no cruel, inhumane or degrading" standard. Others, including me, believe that both the prohibition on torture and the cruel, inhumane and degrading standard must remain intact. When we relax that standard, it is nearly unavoidable that some objectionable practices will be allowed as something less than torture because they do not risk life and limb or do not cause very serious physical pain.

For instance, there has been considerable press attention to a tactic called "waterboarding," where a prisoner is restrained and blindfolded while an interrogator pours water on his face and into his mouth-causing the prisoner to believe he is being drowned. He isn't, of course; there is no intention to injure him physically. But if you gave people who have suffered abuse as prisoners a choice between a beating and a mock execution, many, including me, would choose a beating. The effects of most beatings heal. The memory of an execution will haunt someone for a very long time and damage his or her psyche in ways that may never heal. In my view, to make someone believe that you are killing him by drowning is no different than holding a pistol to his head and firing a blank. I believe that it is torture, very exquisite torture.

Any last thoughts?

The enemies we fight today hold our liberal values in contempt, as they hold in contempt the international conventions that enshrine them. I know that. But we are better than them, and we are stronger for our faith. And we will prevail. It is indispensable to our success in this war that those we ask to fight it know that in the discharge of their dangerous responsibilities to their country they are never expected to forget that they are Americans, and the valiant defenders of a sacred idea of how nations should govern their own affairs and their relations with others--even our enemies.

Those who return to us and those who give their lives for us are entitled to that honor. And those of us who have given them this onerous duty are obliged by our history, and the many terrible sacrifices that have been made in our defense, to make clear to them that they need not risk their or their country's honor to prevail; that they are always--through the violence, chaos and heartache of war, through deprivation and cruelty and loss--they are always, always, Americans, and different, better and stronger than those who would destroy us.

And now, the punchline:
Torture's Terrible Toll
By Senator John McCain
25 November 2005 issue

1 comment:

Mike said...

I found this bit of impeccable logic (for the republicans who believe the premises) in the comments here.

1) Torture works
2) McCain was tortured
3) McCain revealed state secrets and is a traitor

Obama day to you fine sir.