The Corner

The one and only.

McCain and The Church Effect


Ok, let me throw this out there. I actually believe that John McCain is about to do as much damage to the CIA’s ability to function as Frank Church did in the 1970s.

I was prodded to do a little more research on the subject of the UN Convention Against Torture and the rest, and the Congressional Research Service noted that in his transmittal of the Convention for ratification, President Reagan provided that the definition of torture was to be interpreted in a “relatively limited fashion, corresponding to the common understanding of torture as an extreme practice which is universally condemned.” “… the State Department suggested that rough treatment falling into the category of police brutality, ‘while deplorable, does not amount to ‘torture’ for purposes of the Convention, which is ‘usually reserved for extreme, deliberate, and unusually cruel practices … [such as] sustained systematic beating, application of electric currents to sensitive parts of the body, and tying up or hanging positions that cause extreme pain.’”

McCain’s Amendment flies in the face of the concerns President Reagan himself had with defining torture down–and in McCain’s case, defining it to include “undignified” treatment. Anyone who’s dealt with the DMV has been subjected to “undignified” treatment. I think Reagan was right, and McCain is wrong. There is no compelling reason to change course here. Indeed, the compelling case is to leave well enough alone. Our government is reacting to the false allegations of European bureaucrats, phony human rights groups, and the like. These are the same people who refused to lift a finger to help stop the widespread murder, torture and rape of untold numbers of Iraqis. They are in no position to lecture us–or more accurately, we ought not be taking direction from them.

McCain is putting our military and intelligence interrogators in an impossible position. He seeks to expand the definition of torture without defining it (leaving it first to the interrogator to make a best guess, and then a court to make the final call) and he seeks to apply the law outside U.S. territory–exactly what Reagan rejected. And as I’ve said repeatedly, where is the evidence of widespread “torture” which is presumably the basis for changing course? I remain mystified how we’ve reached this point. But, then again, I was mystified by the great rush to pass unconstitutional limits on political speech, too. McCain was the driving force behind that, and if anything, we should be more skeptical about his “reform” agenda, not less.


Subscribe to National Review

Sign up for free NRO e-mails today: