Monday, March 10, 2008

In Case You Missed It

Just in case you missed it over the weekend, President Bush vetoed the bill that would limit CIA interrogation tactics to those that are allowed to military and law enforcement officials. Senator Ted Kennedy is quoted saying that this is one of the most shameful acts of Bush's presidency. And that's saying something.

The point of the bill is that it would say that U.S. officials aren't allowed to torture people. In other words, it's just reaffirming the Constitution and the international Geneva Accords. But sometimes you need to remind this president of things like that.

The lead in the New York Times story about the veto said that Bush "further cemented his legacy of fighting for strong executive powers" through his actions. That's one way of putting it. Another way might be that he further cemented his legacy of wrong-headed, unconstitutional, arrogance. But I guess the Times wanted to go with a more positive approach to keep all those media-are-liberal accusations to a minimum.

Bush and his allies on this issue (I'm assuming there are some) say that CIA interrogators need to have every tool available to them in order to combat terrorism. While I agree that we need to work to be kept safe, this is crossing the line. It's simply ridiculous.

In the first place, torture like waterboarding is of dubious effectiveness. Even Gen. David Petraeus (patron saint of surges) says that it's a bad idea because it doesn't work and increases the risk for our soldiers. Experts say that torture increases the likelihood that suspects will say what they think their interrogators want to hear, not necessarily what the actual truth is. So with torture the tactics don't work, you aren't getting the truth, and you're putting our soldiers at greater risk. Tell me again how this is helping us?

Oh yeah, and there's the Constitution. Surely Bush has heard of it at least. The eighth amendment bans cruel and unusual punishment. That's even for after someone has been convicted and found guilty. For torturing suspects there's not even a guarantee that the victim has done anything wrong.

Don't get me wrong. I think that the War on Terror is incredibly serious and needs to be fought in a focused, intense way. But this is not focus. Nor was the War in Iraq. Both of these endeavors have been wrong from the start. They require a dangerous ends justify the means philosophy just to start with. Even if we assume that this is a valid philosophy, let's look at exactly what we've accomplished to make us safer and to win the War on Terror. Osama bin Laden is still at large. Al Queda is still out there. Iraq is destablized and apparently totally dependent on us. If we were to leave there's a chance that the whole region would be destabilized.

So far, I'm not convinced that the ends are doing much justifying at all.

The bottom line on all this is that what makes America a great country is that we don't go around doing things like torturing people. At least for me, I'd like to win the War on Terror, not become a part of it.

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