Monday, May 09, 2011

Torture Nation

If you needed any indication how intellectually and morally bankrupt the GOP is in terms of any optimistic vision for this country, all you need to do is see how quickly its leaders are rushing to not only embrace, but actually reverse their previous positions to embrace, the state-authorized use of torture. Embarrassed by the fact that the President they've worked so hard to paint as weak on foreign policy managed to do what they were unable to do while controlling all three branches of the Federal government (i.e., track down and kill the terrorist who ordered the murder of thousands of Americans), but still needing some rhetorical device to differentiate themselves from the current Commander in Chief as they seek to unseat him, these Einsteins have apparently concluded that because torture remains popular with the ignorant cowards that form one segment of their base, that catering to this lowest of human impulses will make them look more presidential than the current occupant of the White House.

The consequences of this are not just what promises to be round after round of nationally aired and humanly humiliating defenses of the indefensible throughout the campaign, though. We're seeing the fruits of Bush's labor appearing in internationally shameful ways as well. From Sully:

Under the Convention Against Torture, member states can refuse to extradite citizens to another country where they might be subject to torture. A Canadian court has just denied extradition of an al Qaeda suspect to the US on exactly those grounds. We are no longer trustworthy when it comes to prisoner treatment:

The Ontario Court of Appeal has upheld a decision to halt extradition proceedings for an alleged Al-Qaeda arms supplier, citing the extent of US human rights abuses tied to his capture in Pakistan. A 3-0 ruling by the court ruled that a Toronto judge was justified in releasing Abdullah Khadr, the older brother of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp's youngest detainee Omar Khadr. Both are Canadian. Khadr's lawyer Dennis Edney hailed what he called a "victory for the rule of law." "Evidence should be (obtained while respecting) human rights, and it was not," he told AFP.

Of course, all kinds of folks with guilty consciences are rushing to connect the use of torture with the intel that led to bin Laden being tracked down. All kinds of folks who are talking out their asses, that is:

More and more evidence suggests a key piece of intelligence -- the first link in the chain of information that led U.S. intelligence officials to Osama bin Laden -- wasn't tortured out of its source. And, indeed, that torture actually failed to produce it.

"To the best of our knowledge, based on a look, none of it came as a result of harsh interrogation practices," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee in a wide-ranging press conference.

Moreover, Feinstein added, nothing about the sequence of events that culminated in Sunday's raid vindicates the Bush-era techniques, nor their use of black sites -- secret prisons, operated by the CIA.

"Absolutely not, I do not," Feinstein said. "I happen to know a good deal about how those interrogations were conducted, and in my view nothing justifies the kind of procedures that were used."

For me personally, there's no moral issue more pressing in this country than whether we are the kind of people who endorse or condemn torture. The idea that "it's ok when the good guys use torture" ignores the central oxymoron of such arguments: you automatically cease to be the good guy when you brutalize another defenseless human being. Full stop. No debate. Via that one decision, you cross over to the dark side.

I've posted on this topic before and pointed to sources that convincingly (for me) argue that torture doesn't actually work, and in fact, even with this most recent high-profile case (bin Laden) the flimsy arguments that it did work here are far weaker than the carefully constructed outlines that prove it didn't.

But one part of me sincerely doesn't want to even have that argument. Torture is so obviously repellent that anyone coming to its defense is morally suspect in my opinion. I mean, I can sit there and listen to people try to argue about ticking time bombs or "actionable intelligence," but all the while, the only thing I'm really thinking is "What the hell happened to your humanity? Are you truly that terrified of another attack that you're willing to become a monster to stop it?" Forget that that mind frame, one driven by fear, makes one a less effective analyst . . . so you stop a bombing, but because you choose to do so via torture you damn your own soul and that of your nation?

I don't get it.

Labels: politics, torture


Anonymous Franklin said...

Sully nailed this a few days ago: "Remember the days when Republicans only defended torture in the case of a ticking time bomb? Funny how now the debate on the right has moved - so quickly and without any evidence - to defending torture as a permanent policy to find small nuggets of information that could help in developing leads in anti-terrorism work. Those of us who warned of such slippery slopes are vindicated."

5/09/2011 11:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Brian Sherwin said...

I don't see the capture/death of Osama as a victory for one party or the other. Our service people are individuals when the work day is done. I've known people in the military who are Democrats, Republicans, and some who just don't give a damn about politics.

It took thousands to track bin Laden down. It was not like our President waved a magic wand to reveal his hiding place. This took years.

Honestly, if the Democrats try to hype this as their doing-- which I've noticed some left political bloggers are doing-- they should keep in mind that service people vote as well. My gut tells me that they won't like said hype knowing that they have lost 'brothers' and 'sisters' in this struggle.

President Obama has shown great integrity by thanking ALL who have been involved.

5/09/2011 11:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Jack said...

Nice try at making it seem like torture is strictly a GOP hard-on, while the Dems slip out the back with clean hands and chewing gum. Who are those ignorant folks again? I know. The ignorant are those who like their politics smothered with yummy warm partisan butter - Oooo, so smooth going down. Ra Ra, Go team Go! What a pitiful country we've become.

5/10/2011 12:57:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...


I don't see the capture/death of Osama as a victory for one party or the other.

You're right. It's not. And as easily as it would be for me to recontextualize my post to clarify that ultimately I see it as a win for America (red and blue), I did lean a bit toward making it look like a blue victory. My bad.

My larger point though is demonstrable only via the GOP. There are currently no Democrats running for president who endorse torture.

they should keep in mind that service people vote as well. My gut tells me that they won't like said hype knowing that they have lost 'brothers' and 'sisters' in this struggle.

You're laying it on a tad too thick there, in my opinion. It's not as if this would be the first time the fine (and terribly bright, I might add) men and women in our military had to watch others spinning their achievements. I recall a certain smirking president in a flight suit taking a lot of credit aboard an aircraft carrier.

As you say, Obama has been careful to thank everyone, going so far as to invite President Bush to claim credit with him at Ground Zero.


do you have a point?

5/10/2011 08:07:00 AM  

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