Wednesday, January 12, 2005

A Must-Read Review by Andrew Sullivan on Torture

Marty Lederman

This new, extended book review by Andrew Sullivan in the New York Times is, along with some Mark Danner essays in the New York Review of Books, among the most moving and indispensible things yet written about the torture scandal. Sullivan closes with the following sobering passage:

[I]n a democracy, the responsibility is also wider. Did those of us who fought so passionately for a ruthless war against terrorists give an unwitting green light to these abuses? Were we naïve in believing that characterizing complex conflicts from Afghanistan to Iraq as a single simple war against ''evil'' might not filter down and lead to decisions that could dehumanize the enemy and lead to abuse? Did our conviction of our own rightness in this struggle make it hard for us to acknowledge when that good cause had become endangered? I fear the answer to each of these questions is yes. . . . Advocates of the war, especially those allied with the administration, kept relatively quiet, or attempted to belittle what had gone on, or made facile arguments that such things always occur in wartime. But it seems to me that those of us who are most committed to the Iraq intervention should be the most vociferous in highlighting these excrescences. . . . I'm not saying that those who unwittingly made this torture possible are as guilty as those who inflicted it. I am saying that when the results are this horrifying, it's worth a thorough reassessment of rhetoric and war methods. Perhaps the saddest evidence of our communal denial in this respect was the election campaign. The fact that American soldiers were guilty of torturing inmates to death barely came up. It went unmentioned in every one of the three presidential debates. John F. Kerry, the ''heroic'' protester of Vietnam, ducked the issue out of what? Fear? Ignorance? Or a belief that the American public ultimately did not care, that the consequences of seeming to criticize the conduct of troops would be more of an electoral liability than holding a president accountable for enabling the torture of innocents? I fear it was the last of these. Worse, I fear he may have been right.

The only important piece missing from Sullivan's review is the central role of the CIA in the current legally sanctioned regime of highly coercive interrogation--interrogation that borders on torture, even if it does not quite satisfy the extremely narrow definition of torture contained in the U.S. criminal torture statute. I discuss that role further in a series of posts beginning here; and it is at the heart of a front-page story in tomorrow's Times that I'll post about presently.


Anyone can perform good deeds for an audience; the best among us do their greatest work when no one is present to bear witness.
Agen Judi Online Terpercaya

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