Torture: Thinking About the Unthinkable
Torture: Thinking About the Unthinkable Andrew C. McCarthy The mortification of Iraqi prisoners byAmerican military personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad has been discomfiting far beyond the impact of the now-infamous images. Coupled with other reports about harsh post-9/11 tactics to garner information from captured terrorists, and with ongoing investigations into deaths alleged to have occurred in connection with interrogations, Abu Ghraib and the reaction to it have forced front and center a profound national evasion: the propriety of torture.
As one would expect, the scandal has produced no small amount of righteous indignation. The civil-libertarian lobby, operating in overdrive, has issued ringing declarations that torture is unacceptable under any circumstances; accused the Bush administration of giving a green light to the humiliation of captives; and demanded the jettisoning of established international norms in favor of protocols codifying new rights for mass murderers. The financier George Soros, who has thrown millions of his billions behind various left-wing causes, recently proclaimed that Abu Ghraib was the functional equivalent of the 9/11 attack, only committed this time by the United States. On the other side, deep disapproval of the abuse has been joined to brave talk about how we must make allowances for a “new kind of war,” and to reminders that Abu Ghraib under American malefactors was a day at the beach compared with Abu Ghraib under Saddam and his ghouls and that our terrorist enemies, instead of stripping their captives naked and leashing them like dogs, tend to behead them instead. This is all true, as far as it goes, but it has been largely unaccompanied by any examination of the key question—namely, what are, and what are not, appropriate methods of interrogation? Appropriate, that is, according to American values and not the values of humanity’s basest elements. Finally, there are the centrists, who well understand that our enemies are covert operatives bent on killing us in sneak attacks, and that the only way to foil them is to get information about who they are and when and where they will strike next
About the Author
Andrew C. McCarthy directs the center for law and counterterrorism at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. In somewhat different form, this article will appear in his book, Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad, soon to be released by Encounter Books. Copyright 2008 by Andrew C. McCarthy.