Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Why Support the Torture Amendments?

Andrew C. McCarthy argues that we shouldn't. As he puts it, the amendment "is two parts grandstanding and one part suicide." The affirmations against torture are meaningless because torture is already illegal under US law. It is also useless because even though the US has signed and ratified the Convention Against Torture, it did so with the express reservation that the convention not conflict with the fifth, eighth, and fourteenth amendments of the Constitution. Since those amendments have been consistently interpreted to only apply to criminal prosecutions, the CAT, as accepted by our government, does not apply to enemy combatants. The McCain amendment does not change the status quo, though, as it reaffirms our commitment to CAT.

But the change that is relevant is that interrogation techniques "shall be subject to any treatment or technique of interrogation not authorized by and listed in the United States Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation." As it stands, the manual forbids any force during interrogation. McCarthy is right that it is foolish to create a broad rule forbidding force (even well short of torture) in all circumstances.

A McCarthy article last year argued that forms of torture should be used in certain circumstances. McCarthy continues to support the idea that the taboo against torture should be reevaluated to fit the reality of the modern day terrorist war, where intelligence is the number one protection against the slaughter of thousands. We must balance our commitment to the protection of human dignity with the need to protect our citizens. Can we just pay lip service to security to ensure no terrorist has to face indignity? I would think not.

I'm not advocating widespread torture and agree with the idea of a torture warrant first proposed by Alan Dershowitz. But anyone who believes that certain methods of physical and psychological coercion should not be used even when the probability of obtaining life saving intelligence is high, should not be running our government.

No comments: