Republicans against tortureIt's not often that I praise Republicans in this blog but I have to tip my cap to Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Warner. While President Bush wants to arbitrarily re-define the Geneva Convention so as to allow torture, degradation and other 'alternative' interrogation methods, these Republican senators have demanded the administration not betray America's fundamental values in its war on terror (or whatever the euphemism of the day is). Bush's former secretary of state Colin Powell, another Republican, has also come out against the president's plan.
McCain was a victim of torture by people who didn't respect Geneva Convention. Powell was a former joint chiefs of staff chairman whose job it was to look out for the well-being of American soldiers. Both have far more credibility than the president on this issue. They also realize that information obtained under torture is notoriously unreliable. It's quite logical: if someone's torturing you, you're far more likely to tell them what you think they want to hear, whether it's the truth or not. That's precisely why evidence gained under torture is inadmissible in the courts of most civilized countries.
Even Gen. Jacques Massu, whose French forces in Algeria committed widespread torture in the late 1950s, recently expressed regret for the atrocities. "Torture is not indispensible in wartime; you could easily do without it... we could've done things differently." Before adding, "If France recognized and condemned these practices, I would take this for progress."
France quit Algeria in 1962 despite the torture, indefinite detention and other widespread human rights abuses,. Or more likely, because of them. The abuses undermined France's moral authority. This made it easier for the Algerian nationalists to portray the French as degenerate thugs and galvanize support for the independence movement. The same thing harmed the British cause in Kenya.
The president's plan would also deny the right of suspected terrorists to see the evidence against them. If another country put an American in some kangaroo court where they were essentially refused the opportunity to defend themselves, any administration in Washington would rightly condemn this travesty against justice.
"They hate us because we're free," the president's apologists constantly intone. Not allowed to see the evidence against them? This farce is more reminiscent of Stalinist show trials than anything in America's long judicial tradition.
These Republicans are right to refuse to legalize the president's desire for lawlessness and to authorize his refusal to be accountable to anyone. They realize that the war against fanaticism will never be won on the battlefield, any more than the Cold War was won via a NATO 'liberation' of Eastern Europe. The US must instead win the battle of ideas against the illiberal forces of belligerent theocracy. These senators realize what the president refuses to acknowledge: the battle of ideas can only be won if America holds itself to a much higher moral standard than the Evil Doers.
Update: Perhaps my praise was premature.