McCain is Right, Torture is Wrong
May 13, 2009
For eight years, the Bush-Cheney administration repeatedly told us that patriotism meant remaining silent as the administration infringed on individual rights. The rudderless GOP is now following suit by praising Torture Czar Cheney’s continued embrace of torture. The Grand Torture Party, however, ignores the fact that torture is wrong, illegal and counterproductive.
Over a century ago, Republican President Teddy Roosevelt dismissed a general for engaging in waterboarding in the Philippines, explaining that no matter the provocation, “nothing can justify . . . the use of torture or inhuman conduct of any kind on the part of the American Army.” Roosevelt’s decision was widely praised by both parties for “uphold[ing] the national honor.” More recently, John McCain, the GTP’s last presidential nominee and a torture survivor, stressed that waterboarding “should never be condoned [because we] are a better nation than that.”
For those who claim this is naïve in the age of terrorism, it’s worth noting that the Israeli Supreme Court held that even in the face of the “harsh reality” of persistent terrorist attacks, torture or cruel and inhuman treatment have no place in a democratic state. Torture is prohibited by a number of international treaties and under U.S. law.
Generals from Napoleon to Washington to Colin Powell have stated that torture rarely yields anything of value and is often counterproductive. The Bush administration claimed that waterboarding Khalid Shaikh Mohammed 183 times in one month prevented a 9/11 style attack on Los Angeles. Not only has this claim been dismissed by the FBI as “ludicrous” (the plot was discovered before KSM’s capture), but in 2005 the head of Army Intelligence cited “empirical evidence” showing that “[n]o good intelligence comes from abusive practices.”
Even worse, as the Army Field Manual notes, our use of torture could put our soldiers are greater risk if they are captured. A 2006 Army War College report stated that torture is always “a major strategic blunder . . . [especially] in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency warfare [where] the moral component of the fight is strategically decisive.”
It is ironic that the GTP who so often peddle the canard that President Reagan “won” the Cold War against the “evil” Soviet Union now proclaim the use of Soviet methods of torture as patriotic. This only reveals how little faith the GTP has in America. They would sell our soul at the altar of expediency and then criticize the Democrats for having the courage to defend principles dating back to our founding fathers.
Jim Ellis is correct that Torture Czar Cheney offers the party a clear voice—but it is the voice of extremism, intellectual and moral bankruptcy and certain defeat.