Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Torture(d) Logic: Defending the Indefensible

It's beginning to look as though one of the highest ideals of democracy, the rule of law, will win the day. The tide is turning in the battle over what to do about allegations that the Bush administration gave not tacit, but explicit approval for interrogation techniques widely described as torture.

Now that President Obama's first 100 days have elapsed, perhaps he will dispossess himself of the need to continue carrying on in "honeymoon mode." For some time now, he has been in the embarrassing position of honeymooning alone anyway. Staking out the moral high ground over the issue of torture and how a responsible democracy deals with it could give the president the annulment his shaky marriage to the congressional minority needs right now.

Another ideal of democracy - transparent self policing - is attempting a comeback. It's not clear yet president Obama sees the situation for what it is: an international, prime-time reality check. Whether he understands it or not, the whole of the civilized world is waiting with bated breath to see if there will indeed be a new kind of America under the leadership of a new kind of president. And rather than attempting to steer events for political gain, Mr. Obama should simply present himself as duty-bound to proceed with investigations because the aforementioned ideals - not to mention a few treaty obligations - demand nothing less.

A certain unrepentant former vice-president may also turn out to be an unwitting ally of president Obama's. The more Dick Cheney asserts the utility of "enhanced interrogation techniques," the deeper the mess he finds himself in. Publicly criticizing a sitting president by stating that his policies have "weakened" the nation serve only to arm the president with fuel for any potential fire fight down the road. Say what you want about George W, at least he has had the sense to keep his mouth shut since leaving office. As for Mr. Cheney, the best he can hope for is to go the way of a sacrificial lamb. To be revered as a political martyr is probably too much to ask.

What the Republicans need right now is a Lowell P. Weicker for the times, he of Watergate notoriety for his willingness to go after President Nixon. Today's GOP, however, might be too busy "luxuriating in loathing" the new president (to steal a phrase from George Will). But, like the sinking Titanic Watergate turned out to be, it probably won't be long before a few Republican rats see the light and scurry for cover. (Condoleeza Rice: I didn't authorize anything; I merely conveyed the authorization...) Eventually, Republicans more concerned with the long view of their political careers will demand justice for the principals in Torturegate and disavow the utility of standing behind those who defend torture.

The problem with defending the indefensible is that it takes on a kind of mission creep which eventually exposes the cavernous flaws in its 'tortured' logic. The Republican minority will make certain any investigations or hearings become politicized and take on the aura of a circus. President Obama, nonetheless, must not shrink from any unpleasantness doing the right thing will bring. The world is watching.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post! Torture should not be swept under the rug, & shrugged off as a bygone of the past. So many laws were broken & these are human rights crimes- the most insidious.