Sunday, April 19, 2009

Extreme Anguish of Body or Mind

President Obama released four memos regarding alleged "torture" during the Bush administration. Cue outrage from all corners:
  • The New York Times editorial page condemns the memos for being "written to provide legal immunity for acts that are clearly illegal, immoral and a violation of this country's most basic values." They contend that "as far as Mr. Bush’s lawyers were concerned, it was not really torture unless it involved breaking bones, burning flesh or pulling teeth." They may be right in this regard. This type of thinking falls way short of the American ideal. But the Times's sin is in omission. The regimes we've been fighting might not even consider those acts "really torture." "They torture, we torture, we're no different" has been a rallying cry of the raving left. It's worth pointing out that it's nonsense.

  • More...
  • "The Memos Prove We Didn't Torture" victoriously screams the Wall Street Journal headline of a David Rivkin and Lee Casey opinion piece. Thank you, WSJ, for saying what the Times wouldn't. Thank you even more for going into even more detail of decidedly un-American activities supported by the Bush Administration. The authors justify these techniques by noting that they've all been tested on US servicemen. They almost have a point. It seems clear — at least from what we know — that the CIA did not engage in any activity that inflicted serious pain. This is not the "torture" of Saddam Hussein's Abu Ghraib. But discovering a captive's worst fear and making him think it's about to be realized is something straight out of 1984. To claim these memos are an acquittal means you haven't read your Orwell.

  • Former head of the CIA Michael Hayden condemns the release of the memos on the ground that it has made us less safe, without making any convincing argument as to why this is true.

  • Meanwhile, the frothing Left is outraged that Obama won't prosecute CIA agents.

  • Some say Obama is obliged to prosecute under the UN Convention against Torture. But we'd have to have a working definition of torture, now, wouldn't we? The CIA techniques may have been un-American and long-term harmful to our cause (we have to take the interrogators' word for it that they conferred tangible short-term gains), but is it really "torture" comparable to what the UN convention was designed to combat? Either way, the Bush Administration's actions and these type of responses will no doubt take the pressure off those engaged in "torture" of a far worse variety.

  • At least one Feigned Outrage author thinks this a victory for transparency in government. Let the critics rant all they want, but find me another country where an organization like the ACLU openly sues for the release of top secret documents and the President agrees to release them. We're back on track to leading the way in democratic government. Keep this up and those who admired us before Bush will start to admire us again. And we'll be safer for it. So a shout-out to Obama for enraging the Right (and his own CIA director) by shedding some light on our past sins. Another shout-out for stating emphatically that the US will not engage in such activities any more. And a final shout-out for enraging the Left by refusing to undermine the CIA completely by prosecuting agents walking a fine line between defending their country and obeying the laws of human decency.

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