15 Dec 2005

White House Caves on McCain Amendment

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An announcement is expected later today.

It would be unrealistic for the Bush Administration to continue to try to oppose this unstoppable piece of feel-good legislation.

The United States has an ancient, and very deep, cultural tradition of hypocrisy, dating back to the settlement of Massachusetts Bay by Puritans from England early in the 17th century. This tradition commonly expresses itself in intellectually dishonest, impractical, and counter-productive public policies, which are nonetheless nearly invariably successfuly rammed through by the contemporary elect on the basis of simplistic slogans and a chorus of pieties.

Are we Americans really so humane and idealistic that we would prefer to avoid the coercive interrogation of captured terrorists, even at the potential cost of mass American civilian casualties, even at the cost –perhaps– of our own precious and unique lives? You’ve got to be kidding! Of course, we’re not. We all know perfectly well that we have every intention of being safe and protected by the rough men charged with our defense. But we are a self-indulgent and intellectually dishonest people. We want to have it both ways. We insist on striking public postures demonstrating to the world, and to ourselves, that we are too fine and noble to condone brutality and force, and we still want those entrusted with the responsibility for our defense to break the rules, to sacrifice themselves if necessary, to protect us. Of course we intend to be safe, but we feel a need to indulge in a public ceremony of innocence, to assure ourselves that, come whatever may, our own hands are clean. Feeling better about ourselves for a fleeting instant may have a terrible cost for someone else someday, but what do we care?

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And 24 hours later, Gregory Djerejian confirms:

No. McCain is right. Torture can never be legally preordained as an acceptable tactic, even against the monsters we face. It must remain a crime to engage in it, without exceptions, and interrogators must be held accountable for their actions. They may, under the totality of the circumstances, be pardoned or otherwise excused when the full facts come to light. But ex post, not ex ante.

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