Wednesday, May 16, 2007

McCain Just Says No To Torture

I missed another debate last night (Republicans in South Carolina) but I did read that, once again, McCain stood alone.

Mr. McCain, who was tortured for years as a Vietnam prisoner of war, reiterated the anti-torture position he prominently took in Senate debate over a detainee-treatment law -- and which, he noted, was supported by senior military officials. By torture, the nation would "never gain as much as we'd lose in world opinion," he said, and "the more physical pain you inflict…the more they're going to tell you what they think you want to hear."

But Mr. McCain was alone, as the other candidates took hardline positions that pleased the conservative crowd. Mr. Giuliani said he would tell interrogators "they should use every method they could think of." Mr. Romney said "we should double Guantanamo" to hold more detainees -- far away from access to U.S. lawyers. Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback retorted, "Is it about U.S. lives, or how you're going to be perceived in the world?" Mr. Tancredo quipped that faced with suspects who might have information about an attack, "I'm looking for Jack Bauer at that time" -- a reference to the star character in the hit Fox TV drama "24" who often tortures suspects for information.

Can you imagine being a Vietnam POW, tortured for years, clinging desperately to the belief that your morality and humanity set you apart from your enemy captors? Now imagine that you've returned to see, some years later, your party's players tripping over each other to be seen as the most pro-torture candidate.

Torture is only effective if you're on an episode of "24" and your name is Jack Bauer. People want to believe it's a real option because it makes them feel less helpless than they really are. That's an emotional response, and not a particularly helpful one. Even our new national hero, General Petraeus, has acknowledged that torture is not a practical solution... especially in the context of nation building.

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