The Common Good

At Least You Know Where He Stands--on Torture

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Uncertainty about the consistency of conservative convictions was part of what killed the campaign of Mitt "Double Guantanamo" Romney, and it was coverage of the "suspension" of his campaign that nearly drowned out another important story yesterday.

Contrast that criticism of Romney with a familiar defense of George W. Bush: "Well, you might disagree with him, but at least you know where he stands." Though this faint praise could be applied to any number of universally condemned leaders throughout history, I keep running into people that sincerely mean it as a compliment, as if sincerity made up for bad choices--something I would think most conservatives would disagree with.

Well, if you want to torture this logic any further, know that waterboarding--or as the Spanish Inquisition called it, water torture--is legal according to the Bush White House. Under certain circumstances. Such as, whenever the president says so. The L.A. Times reports:

... in remarks that were greeted with disbelief by some members of Congress and human rights groups, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said that waterboarding was a legal technique that could be employed again "under certain circumstances."

Fratto said the nation's top intelligence officials "didn't rule anything out" during congressional testimony Tuesday on CIA interrogation methods, and he indicated that Bush might consider reauthorizing waterboarding or other harsh techniques in extreme cases ....

I've always assumed that our clandestine forces used torture either directly or by proxy--because of history that's well documented in places like Guatemala, Colombia, Vietnam, and elsewhere. What I don't usually expect is official admissions of torture. Perhaps a wink and a nod as plausible deniability is established. Perhaps official consternation when the underlings get caught operating outside of conventions that high officials themselves have called "quaint." What's especially troubling is that history demonstrates that with official sanction or not, whatever these forces are actually doing is often several degrees worse than official admissions--and viciously specific in contrast to the vague official pronouncements about "harsh techniques." So if they're legalizing actual torture techniques now, I'm even more concerned about what's actually going on in the cells and chambers that we're never meant to know about. For national security. Because our enemies hate our freedom.

And if you think it's only "bad people" who get tortured, listen to the testimony of survivors.

Ryan Rodrick Beiler is Web editor for Sojourners.

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