Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Importance of Torture

As US efforts to reform intelligence-gathering seem for now to satisfy lawmakers, whose recent solution to the endemic problems of terror-suspect interrogation have drawn the official debate to a close, the 'fog of war' reveals this humiliation. The necessary inference can and will be shaped into something like, 'if only the evil of torture had been resisted, we wouldn't now be drawn intractably into the mistake of Iraq regime change.' To say the invasion of Iraq is the result, or evidence, of sadism is risible. But it is now, pervasively, a property of the policy and at least a shadow of this first decision. If this account is accurate, it is our indulgence of hubris - even more so than abject cruelty, which is the definition of torture - that has hurt America most. A piece of legislation - one that proceeded from the Taquba report, the Army inquests, the periodic calls for Rumsfeld's resignation, the Abu Ghraib furor, deluges of press revelations on the CIA's classified purview over these policies - might have been expected to overhaul the policies it affects. I can find almost nothing in the Military Commissions Act to suggest that policymakers know a policy defect when they see it.

(Hat tip: Andrew Sulivan.)

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