Exhortation--On Torture and the Bush Administration

Well here is the post I never wanted to have to write.  I have noted before that I am in the odd position of being a conservative writer with a mostly liberal audience.  I’m usually ok with that, but sometimes I want to direct my writing to a conservative or Republican audience.  There has been a drip, drip, drip that we have mostly ignored.  It does us no credit to continue.  There are many sources for this information, but the New Yorker has an excellent overview.

The Bush administration has engaged in a very troubling pattern of legtimizing torture by dramatically expanding the practice of "extraordinary rendition".  This practice essentially amounts to sending people to other countries to be tortured.  An excellent blog source for information on this practice is available on a section of ObsidianWings.  It has gotten to the point where it is obvious that this is more than a bad agent or two and it has expanded to far beyond just a few of the most hardened and obvious Al Qaeda operatives. 

I wish I could just mention the program and assume that I didn't have to argue against it.  Unfortunately I'm not entirely sure that is true.  So before I get to what Republicans should do to stop it, I'm going to briefly outline why we should act to stop it:

Torture is wrong.  The practice of extraordinary rendition began as a classic Clintonian hairsplitting exercise in the mid 1990s to avoid the clear letter of the laws which prohibit America from using torture.  This is the kind of avoidance of the law and ridiculous semantics that we decried when employed by the Clinton adminstration.  It has gotten no more attractive just because Bush has decided to continue the program. 

We are torturing non-terrorists.  Perhaps some people would be willing to torture Al Qaeda members.  I'm not one of them, but perhaps some are.  The problem with that mindset is that we aren't just torturing Al Qaeda members.  It is becoming completely obvious that some of the people being tortured are innocent.  See especially the ObsidianWings link above.  That is crazy.  There isn't any information we are getting that could possibly justify the torture of innocent people. 

Torture is ineffective.  Torture isn't ineffective at getting information per se. It is ineffective at geting useful information.  That is because the victim either snaps completely, or starts trying to mold his story to fit what the torturer wants to hear.  There is evidence that we have relied on information obtained through torture, only to find that it was very wrong. 

Torture also opens us up to the legitmate criticism that we are acting out the very barbarism that we want to fight.  I think as Republicans we have heard that charge so many times employed against practices where the analogy was completely inappropriate, that we have become inured to the charge when properly employed.  This is a case where the charge has force.   Go watch the Nick Berg Beheading Video and then imagine the blood pouring from his neck being just like the blood oozing from the fingers of an innocent torture victim sent to his fate by the CIA.  That is the barbarism we are fighting, and that is the barbarism we must not become a part of.  I know we have heard the charge that we are acting "just like them" thrown at us over trivial concerns like suggesting that we pay a bit more attention to visa-holders from other countries.  This is NOT THAT CASE.  This is the case of saying we are acting just like them because we are torturing people--acting just like them. 

Therefore extraordinary rendition is a moral sinkhole, which is being employed on people we are not sure are guilty, and which doesn't even get good information.  It cannot be continued.

The Republican Party has spent so many years in the minority that sometimes I think we have not adjusted to the fact that we are in power.  We are in power now.  We control both Houses of Congress and we have our people throughout the administration.  We don't need to wait for the Democrats to raise this issue.  We can't hide behind the worry that exploring our practices is going to get a President elected who is going to retreat from Iraq.  We are the party which leads the most powerful country in the world.  And lead it we must.  President Bush must be shown that the Republican Party is not willing to stand for the perversion of our moral standards.  The Republican-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House can close the loophole which allows for extraordinary rendition and can loudly reaffirm that torture is not something we do.  We are the majority party, and we claim to be a party that cares about the moral health of the nation.  We are damning ourselves if we sit back and let it continue.  This practice is foolish in the proverbial sense of the word--it perverts our moral core and gains us nothing but the illusion of doing something important.  The mid-term elections are two years away.  If we can't make a principled stand now, we never can. 

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at February 9, 2005 3:12 AM