Monday, April 28, 2008

Andrew Sullivan on Torture

Be sure to read Andrew Sullivan's full post today on the morality of torture. It deserves a full read, but here are some highlights:

The manner in which free societies lose their moral compass is always incremental. Step by step by step, certain core values are whittled away. There is rarely a moment at which a government stands up, and asks its people if they wish to abandon such "quaint" notions as the Geneva Conventions, the rule of law, humane interrogation or habeas corpus. These things are abandoned incrementally or secretly, slice by slice, euphemism by euphemism, the chronology always clearer in retrospect than at the time. And each incremental step is always portrayed as a small but essential temporary sacrifice for the sake of security in a time of great and imminent peril.

And so defenders of torture have long argued that is is essential to make torture legal - but only in the ticking time bomb scenario. And yet, such a scenario has not yet happened and the United States has still indisputably abused and dehumanized thousands of prisoners in its custody, "disappeared" and tortured hundreds, and seen more than a dozen die in "interrogation". We now know, moreover, the following undisputed facts: the president of the United States and his closest advisers devised, orchestrated and monitored interrogation methods banned by the Geneva Conventions at Guantanamo Bay and subsequently in every theater of combat; these techniques were used not only in the extra-legal no-man's land of Guantanamo Bay but also at the prison at Abu Ghraib where photographic evidence of many of the actual techniques explicitly authorized by the president - stress positions, hoods, mock-executions, etc. - was incontrovertible. We now know that those techniques that the president expressed "shock" at were already explicitly authorized for use by other agents by him long before Abu Ghraib was exposed.

Moreover, even after attempts by the Court and the Congress to rein in these methods - which were once prosecuted by the US as war-crimes - the president continued to defend, use and advance violations of Common Article Three in violation of the law and the Constitution.

Read it all here.

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