Torture Update

Gregory Djerejian has an extensive roundup of the torture debate, which has been renewed with the confirmation hearings for Alberto Gonzalez to succeed John Ashcroft as Attorney General. From Guantanimo to Abu Ghraib to Pakistan, this is an interesting story. I covered it extensively months ago when Abu Ghraib broke but eventually lost interest in it as it became primarily a political football in the 2004 campaign. Djerejian finds an interesting middle ground, both much harder on the Administration than most of us on the Right have been and less rabid than some on the Left:

But this torture story is so much bigger than Alberto Gonzalez. Trust me. Let’s not make his (non)confirmation a referendum on whether organ failure has to occur for something to be called torture. Gonzalez should never have lent the White House Counsel’s office to such morally defunct and, too boot, poor legal advice. But there aren’t any Dean Achesons around, alas. And trying to Bork Gonzalez in some Washington firestorm simply isn’t the best way to get to the bottom of the torture scandals that look to grow and grow. Put differently, and if you were really looking to go for the jugular, this just ain’t the right time for an attempted TKO. Keep (at least some) of the powder dry–or risk a setback in getting to the real bottom of how widespread torture has been during the post 9/11 era through Cuba, Iraq, Afghanistan and likely points beyond.

That sounds about right. We need to come to sober conclusions about what constitutes torture and how far we’re willing to go as a society to gain information that might protect us. And we need the legislative and judicial branches to participate in that process. But we don’t need to do it in a partisan-charged, circus atmosphere.

Update: Wretchard and Alex Knapp weigh in as well.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. anjin-san says:

    When I was a kid, we played army a lot. Mostly WW2 games. How did we know Americans were the good guys? Simple, the enemy did not follow the Geneva convention. We did. That made them the lowest of the low in our eyes.

    In Bush’s America, kids have to grow up without the benifit of this certainty.

  2. Bithead says:

    Shuold I point out that discussion’s already been had… and that the memo that Alberto Gonzalez wrote, which the left is now (falsely) trying to tie to Abu Grirabe abuses, was based on laws already passed by Congress during the Clinton administration in, I think, 1992?