Saturday, May 02, 2009

Torture's Okay When We Do It

Quite a few justifications of torture....

Condoleeza Rice: With all due respect, we didn't torture Germans because, although WWII posed an obvious existential threat to our nation and our way of life, the Germans didn't attack us on our homeland... just repeatedly, in our territorial waters. Japan? No, with all due respect, I don't see how Japan would be relevant to my argument. Oh, and we didn't torture this time, either. Wait, you say we historically prosecuted people for water boarding and called it torture? Well, with all due respect... that's different!

Charles Krauthammer: Torture's immoral. Except for ticking time bombs. Or to torture "a high-value enemy" to save lives. Even if we don't know if the person is "high value" or has information that will save lives until after we torture them. (Did I mention, I love watcing "24"?)

Michael Gerson: I don't like the word "torture", and as a deeply moral person I find it better to define anything "they" do as torture and anything we do as "harsh interrogations". And let's start out by setting the record straight - while everybody else in the White House knew what was going on, and newspapers like the New York Times were publishing stories about water boarding, I had absolutely no clue that any of this was going on. I used to think harsh interrogations were bad, then I found out that other people spent time thinking about it. If you read the memos penned three years, eight months after 9/11, you'll see that people were still wrestling with how to justify harsh interrogations, and why what we were doing was different from, er, harsher interrogations. Compare and contrast WWII, where during the three years, eight months between our entry into the war and our declaration of victory over Japan, we did not spend three years, ten months thinking about anything we did, no matter how morally dubious. Oh, and my grasp of history is about as good as Condoleezza Rice's (who, again, I didn't talk to about harsh interrogations), so I think nobody lost any sleep over the creation and use of the atomic bomb, and nobody worried about the morality or criminality of fire bombing Dresden or targets in Japan. Besides, these are tough decisions, so we should accept anything a Republican President does as the pursuit of moral good in a complicated world.

Pat Buchanan: Torture's perfectly moral when we do it because we can assume that anybody we would torture is evil and doctors sometimes cause pain when they try to save a patient's life. Further, Taken, about a dad who tortures a kidnapper to free his daughter from white slavers, was a more popular movie than Rendition, a movie based on fact... (aren't facts a drag?) Further, if we don't torture people we won't prevent attacks that could have been prevented by torture, and no argument's better than a circular one.

Not that these examples from the "con" side are any better....

Michael Kinsley: If you voted in the 2004 election, unless the sole reason for your voting against Bush was torture, you're as guilty as the torturers themselves.

Richard Cohen: "Moral authority" is a worthless concept because terrorists think they have it, also (so imagine what I have to say about both teams saying a prayer for victory, get this, to the same God before a football game). Besides, lots of people have told me that torture works and, even though it didn't occur to me to ask what it means for torture to "work", they can't possibly all be wrong or lying - and I think it worked, once, to threaten somebody with being tortured by Mossad, even though prior torture of the same person hadn't worked. But still we shouldn't torture people because it it degrades us and runs counter to our national values, so we should ban it even though that doesn't make us safer. Also, the torture memos remind me of something a Nazi would write - and before you can torture anyone, you must first torture the law. But it's wrong and undermines the CIA to talk about prosecuting people who tortured the in order to authorized torture of people, rather than doing something to boost their morale like comparing them to Nazis.

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