Let's have a hand for John Warner, John McCain, Susan Collins, and Lindsey Graham. They voted with the Senate Armed Services Committee's eleven Democrats to endorse a bill (sponsored by the aforementioned Johnny Mac) restricting the CIA's ability to use - ahem - over-the-top interrogation methods against terror suspects (or anyone for that matter). The vote was seen as a slap in the face of President Bush, who had lobbied for an alternate bill that would protect CIA interrogators from being prosecuted for torture.
Even more heartening was the rationale given by Johnny Mac for supporting his bill: that enemies would be more likely to torture our guys if we look like we're torturing theirs.
And this is the part of the war on terror that I fear the Bush administration doesn't quite get. There is a military and an intelligence portion of it, yes, but these aspects ought to take a back seat to the most important part of the struggle: the PR battle. In a world filled with mass media and instant information, stories like this get latched onto and distorted to fit widely-held stereotypes about America - namely, that we're out to get Muslims. Certainly we all know that Bush doesn't want to make a point of torturing every detainee that comes through the CIA's secret prisons. Nor does he want to take away the right of a fair trial to all accused criminals of Arab or Central Asian descent. We know that he's doing what he thinks is best to protect America from an attack. But it sure looks bad to Arabs and Central Asians, doesn't it? The existence of secret prisons and the appearance of sanctioning torture can be extremely hurtful to our reputation in the hands of al-Jazeera, and even more hurtful in the hands of terrorist recruiters.
Conversely, if we reject torture, abide by the Geneva Conventions, maintain our justice system for those accused of terrorist acts, and keep all our detentions above-board (and most importantly, make a major point out of all these things), terrorist recruiters will be deprived of one of their weapons. The argument that America is out to get Muslims rings that much more hollow. And al-Jazeera might report some good news about us for once.
Of course, the West seems to suck at PR. Ask a certain Danish cartoonist. Or Ehud Olmert. Or the Pope. Not that the Muslim world is any better - ask Ahmadinejad, Haniyeh, Nasrallah... Seriously, if a group of people is convinced that you are out to get them, is the best way to deal with this to act belligerently? What, exactly, will that accomplish?