Wednesday, June 21, 2006

"...we can no longer unequivocally condemn the torture of these two soldiers because we have endorsed and practised torture ourselves."

Andrew Sullivan has been added to my blogroll. He says too much too well not to be there. I realized when Pundit Drome folded its tent a couple of weeks back that by reading there I was scanning a lot of blogs not on my list. Sullivan stuck in my memory, so as I thought about the two missing soldiers in Iraq, now found killed in some savage and as yet unknown manner, I wanted to read what was being said elsewhere about this, the latest opportunity for internecine fighting among our own people.

Internecine may be too strong a word to apply to domestic politics. It implies actual killing, not just thrashing and punching by words and ideas. Killing is not symbolic. It is real. And that is the kind of conflict that is happening in Iraq. It is a serious mistake to confuse the conflict in Iraq with conflicts regarding policies or political questions. If when we project a non-violent model of conflict resolution on what happens in war we are taking a foolish, potentially fatal step.

Sullivan and Bainbridge tussle a bit before they are able to agree that torture is wrong in principle. Emphasis is mine.

Update 2: Sullivan sent along this email, with permisison to reprint it:

My position is identical to yours. My broader point is that in the propaganda war against islamism, it is vital for us to be able to prove to the world that we are clearly morally superior to their barbarism. we have muddied those waters by bush's torture policy. and hence we have lost a key weapon in the war.

He also blogged a response here.
We seem to be on the same page after all. Good.

I'm still looking, but so far I haven't found anyone pointing to the obvious fact that US policies for or against torture become more academic (if they were even that) as this newly-ensconced government in Iraq takes over what passes for peace-keeping.

Last year about this time I noted that the US was already getting in bed with elements in Iraq for whom torture and deadly force were everyday tools in the box. It's tacky to say, but when you lie down with dogs, as Franklin know the rest.

By December the course of withdrawal was coming into focus. It is clear in retrospect that someone in high places finally decided to get unstuck from the mess. But like braking a loaded train it is a process that takes time, even when the decision has been made. In the meantime, I don't think there has been a lot of sensitivity training and cautionary advice about profiling as the new Iraqi security forces ramp up to take over.

As US forces withdraw lets not be too smug about having done a great job in Iraq. The government we leave in charge may be an important ally, an vital part of the oil supply, and a new beginning for a wounded part of the world. But make no mistake about it. These are not nice people. And they are not prissy about torture and killing. This morning's report that yet another of Saddam's lawyers has been hauled off and shot comes as no surprise. Witness claims that the perpetrators wore uniforms and were from the government also requires no stretch of the imagination.

So the torture issue still simmers. With American kids being sacrificed in a savage environment not of their own making, and way out of any control they might have to change it, incidents such as these most recent atrocities have the effect of hardening the opinions of all who reflect on them. Yesterday's Sullivan post has been amended and spun a bit by those linked above, but I very much like it as it stands. He is spot on.
I doubt whether even Donald Rumsfeld will describe what has been done to two young American soldiers as a "coercive interrogation technique." But you never know. Some people wonder why I remain so concerned about torture, and the surrender of our moral standing with respect to this unmitigated evil. Maybe the news of captured, tortured and murdered Americans will jog their conscience. Or maybe it will simply reinforce the logic of torture-reciprocity endorsed by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Gonzales. As usual, complete silence from Instapundit. Almost radio silence from the Corner, except for the torture-advocate, Mark Levin, who is urging reciprocal atrocities. Give him points for consistency. And so the cycle of depravity and defeat deepens ...

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