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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tortured Logic

I am appalled by the public support for the officially sanctioned torture of al Qaeda operatives held at Guantanimo. The logic seems to be that the radical Islamists would show no mercy if they had an American in similar circumstances. This was the sort of thinking during the Cold War made it popular to violate the rights of American citizens. After all, the Soviets would have no such compunction.

Supporters of torture are always pushing the "24" scenario: There is a ticking time bomb hidden in a city and the hero tortures a villain to obtain the location of the device. It's a fiction we see over and over again in action/adventure movies and programs. That doesn't make torture logical, ethical or legal. I'm just a liberal wuss, and ACLU simp, but let's conceder this scenario. Your child is kidnapped, and the abductors have demanded an amount of cash that you have no hope of obtaining by the kidnapper's deadline. You, with your child's life on the line, rob a bank, pay off the kidnappers and rescue your child. Should you be arrested for bank robbery? After all you were acting in a good cause and in extreme panic. Now what if it were not your daughter, but you under threat from Mafiosi demanding the money for your own life. Not quite so sympathetic a scenario, but still you are robbing the bank for a greater good. Tell it to the FBI. I'm sure they will give you a pass. Raise the violation from a simple felony to the abrogation of our constitution, the backbone of our nation. We Americans are not a plot of land or colorful flag. We are an Idea, and any assault on that idea is an assault on our country as bad as any atrocity al Qaeda could hope to devise.

Prosecuting the torturers and their enablers is not only a good idea, it is mandatory, if painful. The Bush administration tore our legal system down to the level of a corrupt central Asian republics better known for authoritarian repression than respect for any inalienable rights.

I have no burning desire to see good Americans persecuted for doing what they saw as their duty, but such positions also attract some of our less savory personalities. The ability to abuse people without retribution attract some to positions in law enforcement, corrections, and the military. They are a minute percentage of the people in those positions, but they can do the most damage, especially when sought out by superiors looking to use them as willing tools.

Some names are public, and others will have to be ferreted out in the coming investigation. The perpetrators are the sort of cowards who can be deterred by the threat of punishment. Their bosses are another case entirely. They were so determined to prove that Iraq and al Qaeda were linked and that Iraq had WMD that they were willing to do anything, and did. We don't have a deep enough hole for these corrupt thugs to spend the rest of their festering lives, but we should use the best one we have.