Monday, October 5, 2009

Torture is a war crime

Torture is wrong.

Torture is wrong at a number of different levels.

From a military / investigative standpoint, torture is stupid.


Anyone who believes that torture has any military or investigative value is simply too stupid to be put in charge of anything at all, ever.

People who are being tortured will, eventually, say anything in the vain hope of having the torture stop.


You want that 20-year old Iraqi to confess to kidnapping the Lindbergh baby in 1932? Torture him long enough, and he'll admit it. And he'll probably be prepared to say that he was the second gunman on the grassy knoll. And that he was the real mastermind behind the Great Train Robbery. The fact that all these things happened decades before he was born is irrelevant. He'll confess to them just to make the pain stop.

Certainly he may also tell you things that are true. But there will be no way to tell what's true and what he's saying because he thinks it's what you want to hear. And the effort of confirming what's true (if anything at all) and what isn't diverts resources away from doing useful things. Things like actually investigating.

If you believe in the value of torture, you are simply stupid.

Dick Cheney, this means you.

Now, the stupidity of torture, of course, isn't the worst thing about it.

The really hideous thing about torture is the way it dehumanizes both its victims and its perpetrators.

Torture is a war crime.

And any official who has condoned, permitted, directed or approved torture is guilty of a war crime.

More guilty, I would argue, that even those who performed the torture first hand.

George Walker Bush, 43d President of the United States, this means you.

But even you, George Walker Bush, are not beyond the reach of grace.

And the thinking person's conservative, Andrew Sullivan, offers you a way to atone for your grievous sin.

In a column in The Atlantic this month, Andrew Sullivan (the only conservative commentator on American politics who is at all worth reading - or at all capable of critical thinking) sets forth clearly and conscisely how the best possible outcome would be for George Walker Bush to come forward and take personal responsibility for approving the violation of American and international law.

Structuring his column as an open letter to 43, Sullivan begins by making the case that forcing the former President to do the right thing would be destructive to his country.

I have come to accept that it would be too damaging and polarizing to the American polity to launch legal prosecutions against you, and deeply unfair to solely prosecute those acting on your orders or in your name. President Obama’s decision thus far to avoid such prosecutions is a pragmatic and bipartisan one in a time of war, as is your principled refusal to criticize him publicly in his first months. But moving on without actually confronting or addressing the very grave evidence of systematic abuse and torture under your administration poses profound future dangers. It gives the impression that nothing immoral or illegal took place. Indeed, since leaving office, your own vice president has even bragged of these interrogation techniques; and many in your own party threaten to reinstate such policies in the future. Their extreme rhetoric seems likely to shape—to contaminate—history’s view of your presidency, indeed of the Bush name, and the world’s view of America. But my biggest fear is this: in the event of a future attack on the United States, another president will feel tempted, or even politically compelled, to resort to the same brutalizing policy, with the same polarizing, demoralizing, war-crippling results. I am writing you now because it is within your power—and only within your power—to prevent that from happening.

He then makes the case that the only way for the United States to recover any sort of moral integrity is for the former President to man up and be accountable.

Examine the moral and ethical question. Could any moral person who saw the abuse of human beings at Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Camp Cropper, Camp Nama, and uncounted black sites across the globe and at sea believe it was in compliance with America’s “respect” and “law and freedom”? As president, your job was not to delegate moral responsibility for these acts, but to take moral responsibility for them. You said a decade ago: “Once you put your hand on the Bible and swear in [to public office], you must set a high standard and be responsible for your own actions.”

The point of this letter, Mr. President, is to beg you to finally take responsibility for this stain on American honor and this burden on a war we must win. It is to plead with you to own what happened under your command, and to reject categorically the phony legalisms, criminal destruction of crucial evidence, and retrospective rationalizations used to pretend that none of this happened. It happened. You once said, “I’m worried about a culture that says … ‘If you’ve got a problem blame somebody else.’” I am asking you to stop blaming others for the consequences of decisions you made.

Go. Read the whole thing. It's more than worth it.

Then pray that George Walker Bush will read it. Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest it.

1 comment:

Crimson Rambler said...

so glad to know somebody else read Sullivan. Actually, always glad to know that somebody, anybody, else reads. Anything.
Happy Thankgiving! and all blessings!