Saturday, May 2, 2009

We Will Waterboard You 183 Times Until You Talk

Charles Krauthammer has a bizarre column in today's paper in which he tries to justify the use of torture.

Torture is an impermissible evil. Except under two circumstances. The first is the ticking time bomb. An innocent’s life is at stake. The bad guy you have captured possesses information that could save this life.


The second exception to the no-torture rule is the extraction of information from a high-value enemy in possession of high-value information likely to save lives. This case lacks the black-and-white clarity of the ticking time bomb scenario. We know less about the length of the fuse or the nature of the next attack. But we do know the danger is great. We know we must act but have no idea where or how – and we can’t know that until we have information. Catch-22.

What's missing are the references to the laws on torture that permit such exceptions and a list of occurrences where these exceptions were successfully used. Perhaps if his testicles were being crushed he would provide that information so we could save innocent victims from being unlawfully and unnecessarily tortured. And then on June 26 we could raise our glasses and toast all the innocent victims torture has saved.

Here's a different perspective.

A conscience is not the only thing that separates us from the animals. When our moral compass fails us, when we are blinded by rage and a thirst for justice, law brings us back, or merely holds us back, from doing what our basest human instincts tell us is right and proper.

Since 9/11, many people have framed these laws as a mark of our weakness. Our enemies are not bound by any code, so why should we be? Lincoln suspended habeus corpus believing it necessary to save the Union. FDR approved the internment of Japanese-Americans on similar grounds. It doesn’t matter that neither measure was actually instrumental to saving the Republic from destruction; indeed, the evidence shows that they had no such effect. All that matters is that these men acted in good faith.

Looking at this closely, I find the ticking time bomb is not the hypothetical terrorist situation.

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