Day By Day

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wretchard on the Torture Debate

Richard ["Wretchard"] Fernandez, over at Pajamas Media, has an excellent article on the current "Torture" debate. I haven't been paying it much attention because I don't consider the Bush administrations' critics on this matter to be intellectually or morally serious on the matter. They simply stake out an extreme position ["We are America, we don't torture"] and then go on the attack. I have equal contempt for the Republican mouthpieces who defend the Bush administration on technical grounds. Torture is a serious matter deserving some serious thought and we are getting none of that from the beltway bloggers.

Fernandez, one of the most serious and perceptive writers in the blogosphere, has actual first-hand experience with torture and its uses. He has thought long and hard about it and he knows how useless absolute moral posturing of the kind now beeing used as a political weapon is when the chips are down. He knows that there are no easy answers. He writes:

It is one thing to swear that you will not divulge secrets to the Marcos police under any circumstances, while sitting safe in a bolthole, with a .38 in your lap. It’s quite another to say nothing when your interrogator is prying your eyeball out with a penknife. It is one thing to say I won’t use coercive methods even as “a last and desperate option” in the War on Terror, but entirely another matter to maintain that stance when your child is gasping for breath through his anthrax ridden lungs. Anybody who tells you different is probably a liar or fooling himself. Some will go further — much further — under duress than they think. Others will break right away. But nobody can predict it in advance.

There is one sense in which I unreservedly sympathize with Cheney’s request to reveal the “successes” of the coercive interrogation program: we ought to know all the facts before making up our minds about moral stances. We ought to look everything in the face. I find it curious that a society which thinks that the CIA’s destruction of the video record of the water boarding sessions is immoral can simultaneously maintain that showing the video of Daniel Pearl being beheaded is inflammatory or inappropriate. Let’s see it all. They are two sides of the same coin.

Read it here.

That is the kind of debate we need, but it is one we will not have.