Monday, May 10, 2004

Today's column by Bill Safire is one of the first I have seen to baldfacedly introduce -- although tangentially -- the realist/conservative case for torture.
Torture is both unlawful and morally abhorrent. But what about gathering intelligence from suspected or proven terrorists by codified, regulated, manipulative interrogation? Information thus acquired can save thousands of lives. Will we now allow the pendulum to swing back to "name, rank, serial number," as if suspected terrorists planning the bombing of civilians were uniformed prisoners of war obeying the rules of war?
Safire embeds this paragraph within the larger argument of both [1] the immorality of punishing a "good man" (read: Rumsfeld) for the acts of the "depraved acts of others" (read: bad man); and [2] the strategic error of firing Rumsfeld which would only give comfort to "cut and run" Democrats and endanger the entire war on terror. He is also clearly stating that torture is "abhorrent" -- when it is 'uncodified' and 'unregulated'. As far as we can yet tell, however, the depravity at Abu Ghraib was indeed codified and regulated by military intelligence. This was not the work of depraved loose cannons; it was a well considered (even if poorly executed) strategy to extract information based techniques developed by the British.

Rumsfeld gave not one bit of suggestion in his prepared testimony before the Senate that he was interested in picking up this line of argument. However, a few others have been, and Safire is the most prominent yet to do so. Is this evidence of Cheney's success in rallying the troops? Is Safire sending up a trial balloon which, if successfully launced, Rumsfeld will be riding into November?

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