A Reply to Michael Ramirez's Pro-Torture Cartoon

The victims of 9/11 would have plenty of disagreements about counterterrorism policy.

Political cartoonist Michael Ramirez has waded into the torture debate with his latest at Investor's Business Daily. See it at full size here. We can make due with a smaller version:

Notice that the man being asked the question doesn't reply, as if the answer is obvious. But given how many New Yorkers were murdered on 9/11, as well as the diversity of opinion among survivors of the attack, it's clear to me that if all the dead were given the chance to respond some of them would say something like this:

I'd be horrified if someone used my death to justify torturing prisoners–my country is better than the people who did this to us, and we shouldn't let  their values change ours.

Or imagine that the falling man was a religious Catholic. He might say:

I hope whoever did this faces justice before humankind and God–but an American asked to torture would be risking his eternal soul, which I'd never countenance.

Generally speaking, political arguments that draw on powerful emotional imagery for their resonance are suspect. But even setting that rule-of-thumb aside and judging Ramirez's cartoon on its own terms, the takeaway is not nearly as clear as its creator seems to imagine, particularly now that we know the "enhanced interrogations" perpetrated by the CIA included the torture of innocents.

How would the falling men feel about that?

One more thought on Ramirez's cartoon and the weakness of its implied logic. Let us imagine a different cartoon. A Pakistani woman is covered in blood and dust outside her home, which was just reduced to rubble with her now-crushed infant daughter inside. A U.S. drone is overhead. A radical cleric asks her, "How do you feel about the attack on Fort Hood?" I presume that Ramirez would reject the logic implied in that cartoon, and yet it is exactly the sort he has drawn on in his cartoon.