Sullivan on Torture
Andrew Sullivan has been doing yeoman's work recently on the torture issue. Examples here, here, here and here.
I supported the invasion of Iraq, voted to reelect President Bush, and believe that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to captured al-Qaeda or Iraqi terrorists (as they do not fight in uniform as members of the military of a signatory nation). That being said, torture should not be a technique practiced by Americans. Whether intended as revenge or justified as a means to obtain information, torture is immoral, and its use degrades the whole country. While one can debate exactly the boundary between torture and effective interrogation technique, I feel confident in saying that water boarding crosses that line. And there are allegations of worse offenses.
My belief at the time of its first revelation was that Abu Ghraib was an isolated incident. Sullivan has linked to enough other cases that such a belief is no longer defensible. While it is unlikely that torture is centrally coordinated, the fact that it is not vocally and widely condemned make it more likely to continue to be practiced. At a minimum, the following must be done:
- Supporters of the Iraq War and the wider global war on terrorism should get off Sullivan's back. He is doing us all a favor by holding us to appropriately high standards in our conduct of war. This isn't coddling terrorists or Kerry-like wimpitude -- it is honoring the military traditions of our ancestors, the citizen-soldiers who preferred to risk their bodies than their souls. Watching blog-pundits spin justifications for torture is like watching aging leftists spin justification for terror attacks.
- From the top down, the Administration must make it clear that torturing is not acceptable behavior by any agent of the United States, military or civilian. This should include eliminating the "military necessity" exception. A clear line should be drawn between proper and improper behavior.
- Congressional Republicans should make this point independently. Especially effective would be visiting bases in their states and districts to take the opportunity to remind troops of the honorable history of our armed forces. The vast majority do not need to be reminded, but those few that do will realize how small a minority they are when confronted by the reaction of their comrades.
The US needs to win the war on terror, and we can best do that by rising to the call the president made in his second inaugural address, by fostering freedom and democracy across the globe. Torture has no place in that mission.
Posted by awm at January 27, 2005 05:57 PM