Friday, September 15, 2006

Dmitri Simes on Bush's Torture Lobbying

From The National Interest:
So, here we are now in the United States, after a victory in the Cold War, where the President of the United States—and not just any President, but one who has made moralism his trademark—is asking Congress to approve legislation that would allow finding people guilty of serious crimes without revealing key evidence against them. Joseph Stalin used to say that “the [security] organs don’t make mistakes.” Do we really want to have a legal system making the same assumption about the CIA?

...It’s troubling that Mr. Bush does not accept as self-evident truth that torture is wrong and un-American. The argument that it may save innocent lives misses the point. Through the history of combat, most torture was not inflicted by pathological sadists, but rather by interrogators who wanted to get information that could save the lives of their troops and civilians. If the United States makes it acceptable to use “alternative techniques” against enemy combatants, it is a no-brainer that American soldiers and even ordinary Americans living abroad would be in great peril.

More broadly, in taking the positions he does on torture, President Bush should forget about the ideological struggle he has proclaimed to win the hearts and minds of Muslims. Since as a practical matter that the vast majority of those subjected to “alternative techniques” are likely to be Muslims—and in the age of the internet, their stories are bound to be quickly known all throughout the Islamic world—all Mr. Bush’s claims about his noble desires to make the world safe for democracy would sound hollow. Senator John McCain, Senator John Warner, Senator Lindsey Graham, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and retired Army General John Vessey are exactly right to insist on modifying the President’s military tribunal plans on the grounds of both security and morality. No improved homeland security procedures, no tighter screening of airline passengers, or even better examination of containers at American ports, can compensate for turning millions of Muslims into America’s enemies. Yet President Bush is proposing another step in that direction.