Back to website

From Juan Cole Informed Comment

Rumsfeld Plays "M", Gives License to Kill

Sy Hersh's expose of an ultra-secret 00 unit of two hundred inside the Pentagon is probably the nail in the coffin of Rumsfeld's tenure at the Department of Defense, and may well be a factor in the presidential elections.

Disturbingly, Sen. Joe Lieberman endorsed torture as an information extraction mechanism on Wolf Blitzer's show on Sunday. He gave the tired example of whether, if one of the 9/11 hijackers had fallen into US hands, one wouldn't have wanted all means used to extract information about the coming attack? There are several things wrong with this stance. First, torture does not work, and there is no evidence that it worked at Abu Ghuraib. Second, the argument that the ends justify the means always turns human beings into monsters. If something is morally wrong, you don't do it if you hope to remain a moral society. Society would be a lot safer if all known heads of identified criminal organizations were taken out by police snipers. We don't do that. Why? Sen. Lieberman should think about it. That way lies a descent into barbarity before which September 11 would pale.

Third (as a reader reminded me) there were no terrorist suspects at Abu Ghuraib, only persons suspected of knowing something about the insurgency or being involved in it (and apparently from what the Red Cross says, a lot of them were picked up in error anyway).

We Americans either stand for something or we don't. What I always assumed we stood for was the US Constitution. Our State Department annually rates other countries by how well their record stacks up against the US Bill of Rights. That custom seems an implicit admission that we hold these rights and values to be universal, not limited to US soil or only a privilege of citizens. And here is what the founding generation of Americans thought about Abu Ghuraib and torture:

Article 8:
"Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."