Democrats & Liberals Archives

One Core Value We Should All Agree On...

Before it gets completely lost in the debates about the debates, I’d like to congratulate Sebastian for his post We Must Not Support Torture. It’s nice to know that there are still people on both side of the aisle (ok, page) that are ready to “police” our elected representatives and call out them when they get things wrong, and it’s nice to see an issue where Democrats and Republicans actually seem to agree.

I think Sebastian did a good job with the arguments against the current version of H.R. 10, but I can't help but put in my $0.02.

First, it's never been easier to send a letter to your representative, if you agree. Just go to If you don't have a way with words, you could do a heck of a lot worse than cutting and pasting from Sebastian's quote.

Second, one of the most groups to speak out most ardently after Abu Ghraib was the professional military, and their opposition was both personal and practical: what does around, comes around. US soldiers become POWs also, and if we are not following the Geneva Conventions ourselves, it becomes much harder for us to pressure others to do so. Weakening the Geneva Convention is not supporting our troops.

Third, Sebastian's comment "it is politically stupid...this plays into all the left-wing fears..." understates the problem. Yeah, maybe you Republicans might lose some debating points to guys like me, but much as I despise your party's fiscal and environmental irresponsibility, regressive tax plans, and pig-headed support of a obviously incompetent commander-in-chief ... (wait, where was I? nice we all agree, good job with arguments, left-wing fears...oh, right, now I got it) ... much as I disagree with your views, I'm not gonna actually blow anyone up. But those photos from Abu Ghraib were probably the best recruiting tool we could have given Al Qaeda, and any appearance of supporting torture just makes that worse. (BushCo also lost a huge opportunity for damage control by not aggressively investigating and prosecuting. Someone tell me, why, why didn't Bush immediately insist on a bipartisan Congressional investigation, with someone like John McCain in charge?)

Fourth, and finally, something we can disagree about. Sebastian's statement "regularization of torture causes an explosion of torture cases" is supported not only by the experience of the French in Algeria, but arguably by our own experiences as well. The US started shortly after 9/11 with a few top-secret centers, outside the normal legal system (in Thailand and who knows where else) to wring information, by any means necessary, out of "high value" captives. The system was then expanded, by fits and starts and with some hand-wringing and backtracking, first to Gitmo and then (almost certainly) to Iraq, finally spinning out of control and into the public eye with Abu Ghraib. (Link: Seymour Hersh's original New Yorker piece turned out to be a pretty accurate version of this story.)

In my mind, this is clearly due to a lack of moral clarity at the top. I don't mean evil: I mean failure to realize that men have the capacity for evil, and that once you start ignoring long-standing rules of behavior for the sake of expediency, you need to be crystal clear and firm as iron about where the new lines will be drawn, and how they will be enforced. Bush and/or his appointeees clearly failed to do this.

Posted by William Cohen at October 2, 2004 1:10 PM