Friday, February 08, 2008

A Torturous Path

First off, I'd like to extend a warm thank-you to CIA Director Michael Hayden, who put an end to years of speculation that the CIA has tortured prisoners by just coming out and saying it. At least that's cleared up - the US government has tortured people. Three people, all al-Qaeda higher-ups, to be exact.

Hayden claimed that waterboarding provided a significant portion of the intelligence on al-Qaeda over the past five years, which of course has been oh-so-useful in capturing bin Laden and other group leaders. (My bullshit meter: beep. beep.) Hayden said it hadn't been used since George Tenet was in office, but Bush's office says they'll use it again whenever they damn well please despite its apparent illegality (according to Hayden: "In my own view, the view of my lawyers and the Department of Justice, it is not certain that that technique would be considered to be lawful under current statute"). Hilariously, Hayden asked Congress to approve the technique, saying that outlawing it or any other specific technique would "substantially increase the danger to America." (beepbeepbeepbeepbeep) And Attorney General Michael Mukasey claims that the DoJ cannot investigate, since apparently in whatever bizarro world the DoJ is living in, waterboarding was perfectly legal when it was used, though of course if it were used against the AG it'd be illegal. (BEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEP)

Torture - or, as our loquacious friends in the White House bureaucracy like to call it, "enhanced interrogation techniques" - is illegal. It has been illegal for some time now. That "some time" dates back to well before 2003. The military thinks it's over the top - and you'd think that if there were people with a hard-on for torture, they'd be in the military.

It's easy to talk yourself into allowing torture, especially if you've watched too much "24" and are convinced that if you don't get information out of every terror suspect RIGHTFRICKIN'NOW then a nuclear bomb will go off in Kansas City or something. When the frantic pace of mythical terror plots is applied to the situation, torture almost seems logical. But the truth is this: 1) that never happens, 2) torture doesn't work, and 3) torture is illegal.

To me, that last part is what it boils down to. Torture "Enhanced interrogation," including waterboarding, is illegal. And last time I checked, we are a nation of laws. All branches of our government, legislative, judicial, and executive, from the CIA and Congress to the local sheriff's office and the town council, need to follow the law. The enduring legacy of the Bush presidency will be a routine willingness to flout the law whenever it was judged to be convenient to the Administration. We have an election coming up - let's make sure that our next president, whether it's McCain, Clinton, or Obama, has ample respect for the law. Or at least enough respect for it to follow the important bits - you know, like the "don't torture people" or "don't spy on people" stuff.

(Funny how so many people who want to blur the legal lines when it comes to torture are the ones berating undocumented migrants for "breaking our laws," even though it seems to me that breaking a law against crossing an imaginary line without authorization is much more benign than breaking a law that prohibits torturing people. How the hell is illegal immigration more morally bankrupt than torture? Imagine the uproar if some undocumented worker waterboarded Lou Dobbs...)

1 comment:

Trish said...

This has nothing to do with this particular post, I just was on Lindi's blog and saw you correct her grammar and spelling. I started laughing my head off. For this is the reason I was scared to start a blog in the first place. Hope you are doing well and ready for baby. Olivia asks when you are coming back to play. Let us know when the great news happens.
Your Cousin Tricia