certain situations . . . where the president can decide that it's in the
best interests of the nation or something, and do something illegal.
Nixon: Well, when the president does it
that means that it is not illegal.
Frost: By definition.
Nixon: Exactly. Exactly. If the president, for example,
or in this case because of a threat to internal peace
and order of significant magnitude, then the president's decision
in that instance is one that enables those who carry it out,
to carry it out without violating a law.
David Frost/Nixon interview, (05/19/1977)
A recent Op-Ed piece in The Wall Street Journal called on Americans to "stop their moral posturing" vis-a-vis torture. We weren't aware that such high-handedness existed in this administration (Getting Serious About 'Torture', WSJ, 10/22/07.)
Before tuning out seeing as this speaks to a WSJ piece, consider their large audience, and that you are reading their most eloquent defenders. Then consider perhaps the most remarkable part of the piece -- its authorship.
Quoth the Journal, "Messrs. Rivkin and Casey served in the Justice Department under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and were members of the U.N. Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights from 2004-2006." Casting central for the Twilight Zone could not have chosen the authors better.
"(D)efining torture raises complex legal, policy and moral issues, and cannot be done without taking into account all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the use of any particular interrogation technique."
Interrogation techniques can not, and should not, even be mixed into a sentence with the word torture. If an action is considered torture if done to an American, then it is torture when done by or for Americans.
The authors seek to muddy the waters by claiming U.S. military terrorism resistance training subjects soldiers to behavior commensurate with torture, but this is a bald-faced lie.
Nothing in training, even SERE, approaches real torture, as everybody knows the trainers cannot go beyond a certain point. Actual torture sessions are well beyond the borders of normal fears. Most torturers seek to partially destroy the subject before they ask the first question.
Torture and interrogation are not interchangeable concepts. An interrogation elicits information that will be processed into intelligence. The reliability of the source is a function of the intelligence production cycle. Torture does not produce intel; it produces fantasy. Then again, since the Phony War on Terror is fantasy, statements so gathered probably pass for reality-based intelligence these days.
"(F)orcing a prisoner to maintain an uncomfortable posture for a period of time is not cruel, inhuman or degrading, although forcing him to do so while naked, shackled to the floor in near freezing temperatures might be. It is a matter of degree."
Indeed. 34 degrees might be acceptable; 32 is beyond the pale.
"The law defines torture as the intentional infliction of "severe pain or suffering." But, if it's not intentional. . . Echoes of John Cleese: "Sorry, sooo sorry -- just an accident; we can fix that."
To even utter the term "might be" following that description is indicative of moral and legal bankruptcy. If these are the chimes of freedom, don't play them in my neighborhood.
The purpose of torture is not to gain information, but to dominate, humiliate and suppress any humanity left in the prisoner. If we even consider acts which could be considered torture, then we have negated the stated reasons for fighting Nazi Germany, the Japanese empire and Communism, and the very justification for the Iraq escapade.
"(V)arying degrees of coercion are present in many public institutions, including penitentiaries, boot camps for juvenile and adult offenders, police training academies and many aspects of military life. . . All of this suggests that, at a minimum, stressful interrogations consistent with the U.S. military's basic training should be permissible as a matter of course, with other methods to be considered on a case-by-case basis."
According to our standards of jurisprudence, there is no "case-by-case basis." Laws are written to obviate loose interpretations and applications based upon individual legal interpretations. There is no relativity when it comes to the application of torture techniques. Flatly, they are illegal, immoral and not deserving of American interests.
In those cases mentioned, the coercion is not torture, and is court-ordered and possesses a legitimate social function. The people held as terrorist detainees have not had their day in court before they face their front-loaded punishment. America still adheres to the maxim, "Innocent until proven guilty" -- or does it?
The piece ends with the predictable clap-trap about torture saving lives:
"Americans rightfully expect to be protected from attack. But there is no free lunch. Coercive interrogations have been key in preventing post -9/11 attacks on American soil. To preempt future attacks the intelligence agencies must continue to have information that can often be obtained only from captured terrorists.
Post hoc, ergo propter hoc. That is the most weasely offense (with no offense to actual weasels) committed by these authors, as with most of the designers of and apologists for the Iraq escapade.
Hasn't anyone taken sophomore logic here?
--Jim and Lisa