National Review On Torture

The taboo on the word has been broken and a writer, Mike Potemra, has written an anguished and genuinely Christian reflection upon it. Almost a decade after torture was implemented as American policy, the reality of what occurred has finally reached a conservative, Republican magazine. Read it. He responds to readers who say that waterboarding - one of the least grotesque torture techniques of the Cheney era - is not torture. There is, of course, no legitimate debate about this and never has been. But Potemra's response is very effective:

Instead of trying to find a definition, and to get everyone to agree to it, I ask myself the following, about any given interrogation practice: “If agents of Fidel Castro’s regime, or of China’s laogai, engaged in this activity, would I condemn it as torture?” That, I think, is the wisest course, because asking this question prevents me from endorsing acts that might be evil simply because it may be in my own self-protective interest (as an American who doesn’t want to be injured or killed in a terrorist attack) to do so.

And the question answers itself.

If an American merely suspected of being a spy were captured in Iran, if he were then shackled in a stress position for hours on end, if he were tied to a post in a yard in freezing conditions and regularly doused with cold water and beaten (as happened under Stanley McChrystal's Camp Nama in Iraq), if he were slammed against a ply-wood wall repeatedly by a collar around his neck, if he were strapped to a waterboard and nearly drowned 183 times, and then confessed that he was indeed a spy, and was planning to sabotage Iran's nuclear program, would the New York Times say he was subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques" and that his confession proved that those techniques worked? Would National Review? Would Dick Cheney?

Apparently, Ramesh Ponnuru - a Catholic - would. So far as I can tell, neither Thiessen nor Arroyo have responded to the mounting outcry. What I would recommend is emailing Fred Hiatt at the Washington Post and asking why he decided to appoint a man implicated in and defending war crimes, as defined by the Washington Post's editorial board itself, to be a weekly columnist at that paper. This is not a matter of free speech. Fred Hiatt can and should hire and fire whom he wants. And Charles Krauthammer the chief intellectual architect of the torture program, has long written an excellent op-ed column. But Krauthammer was not in the administration and close to the vice-president who authorized war crimes. Thiessen was.

Hiatt's email is here.