Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Torture, cont.

Andrew McCarthy makes a good point about shutting down all kinds of coercion:

Understand: If we were to learn where one of those men was, we would attack that target and kill him, and we'd make no apologies for it. By the McCain logic, the killing is fine but the infliction on a terrorist of non-lethal discomfort to obtain the intelligence necessary to do the killing should subject the inflictor to prosecution. That's absurd.

This is not a recommendation that we license torture -- although that is a debate adults ought to be able to have without the hysteria and hyperbole that now comes with the territory. This is, instead, a humble appreciation of our limitations. We live in a world of deranged murderers, highly imperfect intelligence, and weapons capable of unimaginable carnage. We are only human beings. We do not have the foresight to predict every peril -- in fact, our track record in such prognostication is, at best, checkered. We can certainly hope that we'll never need to use coercive interrogation methods. But we cannot responsibly remove them as an option and claim to be protecting the nation.

We should be asking this question of each and every member of Congress who claims to support the McCain Amendment: If we had credible information regarding an ongoing al Qaeda plot to detonate a nuclear weapon in the continental United States, and we had just taken into custody an al Qaeda militant who was in a position to know where and when the attack was to occur but who was refusing to cooperate, are you saying we would need to let thousands of Americans die rather than harm a hair on the terrorist's head in an effort to extract the information that might save them?

If the answer to that question is "no"; you have no business voting for the McCain Amendment. If the answer is "yes"; you have no business serving in a government whose first obligation is the security of the governed.

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