Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How Far Should We Go?

Matt Yglesias states the obvious:

The orthodox conservative position at this point, it seems to me, is that waterboarding is not torture. Nor is having someone dangle from his shackled arms in a manner so painful as to prevent sleep for a period of days. What’s more, these non-torturous “harsh techniques” are highly effective at gathering intelligence. But if that’s true, and these are legal and effective means of securing reliable information, why are we doing so little of it?

After all, people doing organized crime investigations face a lot of challenges in terms of getting information from people. Maybe cops should do routine undercover drug buys, build a case against low level dealers, and then waterboard the guys they’ve arrested and move further up the food chain. Maybe waterboarding and “stress positions” should become routine treatment for battlefield detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why not?

Indeed, if one makes the argument that waterboarding is not torture, that it provides reliable information, and that authorizing this technique will not lead to abuses down the road, then shouldn't those who defend waterboarding be arguing for its extended application into the criminal justice system?

Digby weighs in:

I hope for their sakes that none of these Americans who think that torture should be "considered" ever find themselves in the grips of the legal system because allowing the government to ignore the constitution and disregard moral taboos against cruelty and barbarity can only logically lead to the same tactics being used at home.

If there is no further investigation of this terrible breach of American values and constitutional principles and this philosophy is allowed to become a mainstream, respectable way of thinking, we will have gone a long way toward making ourselves an elected dictatorship subject to the good intentions of our leaders. Personally, I'm not crazy about that idea. I've lived long enough now to know that even the best cannot be trusted with such power.

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