Torture Is Legal

Dahlia Lithwick gets it:


It's currently fashionable to believe that political and ideological battles are "real," and it is the law that is empty symbolism. But Cheney stands as an illustration of the real-life, practical value of the law. Torture really did become legal after 9/11, and even after it was repudiated -- again and again -- it will always be legal with regard to Dick Cheney and the others who perpetrated it without consequence. The law wasn't a hollow symbol after 9/11. It was the only fixed system we had. We can go on pretending that torture is no longer permissible in this country or under international law, but until there are legal consequences for those who order or engage in torture, we will only be pretending.

Precisely. If there are no actual legal ramifications for torturing, or if those ramifications depend rather obviously on power (KSM fine, Abu Ghraib, not so much) then torture is effectively legal. It's that simple. The best you can say about the current White House is that they are refraining from using certain legal methods in prosecuting the War on Terror. Torture is one of those methods.

It's been pointed out that Obama did not have the political muscle to do anything more than take a "look forward" approach. But that's why you have an attorney general who -- theoretically -- is supposed to operate independently. That this is merely "theoretical" isn't comforting. It's a problem.

MORE: Fixed Dahlia Lithwick's name. My apologies for mangling. Ugh.
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

The Blacksmith: A Short Film About Art Forged From Metal

"I'm exploiting the maximum of what you can ask a piece of metal to do."

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

An Ingenious 360-Degree Time-Lapse

Watch the world become a cartoonishly small playground

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

Video

The Rise of the Cat Tattoo

How a Brooklyn tattoo artist popularized the "cattoo"

More in National

From This Author

Just In