Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Who's to blame for torture

Mark Danner had a weighty piece on torture this week that leaves me reassessing my position. I don't really believe that the last time the Bush administration used torture techniques was in 2003, but that aside, it's a good point that the blame for allowing this to happen doesn't rest solely on the Bush White House.

He makes a strong argument for an investigation but against immediate prosecution.
Like most mystiques built on secrecy, the mystique of torture will only disappear once a cold hard light has been shone on it by trustworthy people who can examine all the evidence and speak to the country with authority. We need an investigation that will ruthlessly analyze the controversial and persistent assertions that torture averted attacks and will place alongside them the evidence that it has done great harm to the United States, not only to the country's reputation for following and upholding the law but also to its ability to render justice. In torturing Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his fellows we have created a class of permanent martyrs, unjustly imprisoned in the eyes of the world because they cannot be legitimately tried and punished. We have let torture destroy justice.

Those who break the law should be punished. This includes those who torture no less than those who kill. But prosecutions of those who tortured, if they come before a public investigation, will not end the argument. On the contrary, they will appear to much of the country as yet another partisan turn in the bitter politics of national security, launched to persecute those who only did what was necessary to protect the country. They will encourage those who defend torture to espouse even more bitterly a corrosive counter-narrative according to which only those who torture can be trusted to protect Americans.
I've been thinking the opposite until now. By that I mean, I don't have much faith in government investigations and thought taking it straight to court would be more efficient. But I think he's right that going that route would only solidify the opposition. How to assemble a respected group of investigators however, is another question. I wonder if anyone would be credible to those who believe the only way to keep us safe is to take on the tactics of those we fight against.

[More posts daily at The Detroit News]

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share


Blogger Dirk Gently said...

Here's the thing: if we give spend time investigating and analyzing "the controversial and persistent assertions that torture averted attacks," then we implicitely accept the argument that torture was OK if it "worked."

It is a specious argument. There is no need to lend it credence. It should be rejected out of hand as immaterial.

On a lighter note, the Word Verification for this comment is "suckfria."

10:54:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

I keep going back and forth. I think Danner does have a point but then again, I'm not sure there's any way to get through to the people who think torture is okay if...

Love the WV.

Interestingly, my word verify for this is reckless.

11:52:00 AM  
Blogger rockync said...

I'm with Dirk on this one; if we contend that we are a civilized nation committed to protecting the human rights of all the world's citizens then we must reject the use of torture out of hand. There should NEVER be a time when it is OK to torture and suspend the rights of another human being under US juristiction.
The lame argument that waterboarding is not torture because no one is actually hurt is a ridiculous argument - waterboarding is used to give the sensation of drowning. Imagine doing that to someone with a heart condition. If they die of a heart attack, then it can be claimed that he did not die from waterboarding?!?
Disgusting! Makes me sick to think that any one of my fellow citizens actually think this is acceptable.
:( I didn't get a cool verification word.

12:32:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

I agree too Rocky. It's horrible that we're even having this national discussion. I'm just trying to look at what practical outcomes are possible.

1:32:00 PM  
Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

"the only way to keep us safe is to take on the tactics of those we fight against."

Nietzsche said it famously:

"Wer mit Ungeheuern kämpft, mag zusehn,daß er nicht dabei zum Ungeheuer wird."

Who fights with monsters needs to see that he doesn't become a monster in the process -- and we have done that over and again, from Joe McCarthy to George Bush. We tortured people to death in Vietnam, in Korea and treated our citizens like suspects at home and we defended it with scary stories about our "enemies."

Nothing changes

10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Sad but true Fogg.

1:35:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home