. . . Tuesday June 8, 2004

Justifying Torture

A Justice Dept memo from 2002 seems to give the greenlight to torturing prisoners in the war on terror (and this wasn’t the first such memo). And President Bush has made it clear that, in his mind, the war on Iraq is the war on terror. The memo explained that torturing prisoners “may be justified” and that international laws and treaties related to the humane treatment of prisoners “may be unconstitutional if applied to interrogations.”

Bottom line, the working theory was that the effort to prevent further attacks (and remember now, the war on terror and the war on Iraq are part of the same effort according to W and Co.) would in essence override international laws and military doctrine related to the treatment of those in custody.

A few things to keep in mind here:

It is more than fair for us to have a national debate on how much is too much when it comes to torturing prisoners who (we are relatively sure) are connected with terror operations. Is torture an effective measure? Are we going down a slippery slope that will ultimately lead to more abuse of prisoners who are innocent or who have no connection to terror? Is it OK to torture a person long enough to answer these questions?

If the answer is yes, torture is an acceptable means to an end, then we must ask ourselves another question. What constitutes being a suspect in the war on terror? If you are caught in round-up that leads you to an Iraqi prison, is that enough of a connection? What if you are a drug dealer in New York who sometimes deals in heroine that may or may not have originated in the fields of Afghanistan?

And if you answer that, yes, torture is acceptable when it relates to the war on terror, but that no, torture is unacceptable as it relates to the war in Iraq, then you’ve got to reconsider how much you trust the words and by extension the deeds of this administration. And if they argue that the prisoners in Iraq are being treated differently than the prisoners in Cuba, then we’ve got, on several levels, what you’d call contradictory testimony.


Concentration is important!