Andrew Sullivan responds to my latest post, in which, among other things, I ask for evidence of widespread torture by American forces, by referencing 3 investigations/reports and the International Red Cross. The investigations/reports all deal with Abu Ghraib, and since the International Red Cross issues lots of reports and statements, I assume upon reading this post he’ll provide more specifics. If this is the best Sullivan can do, it’s not very good. The contemptible acts committed by a handful of soldiers at Abu Ghraib resulted in their prosecution and punishment. It resulted in career-ending reassignments of senior military personnel. But the prisoners were not unlawful enemy combatants, they were not detainees of the sort we’re debating, they were not interrogated for intelligence information, and the acts were not torture as understood under existing U.S. policy. Sullivan needs to follow the debate, U.S. policy, and U.S. law a little more carefully. Part of his problem is the sloppy use of terms and misdirection.
NRO’s excellent editorial on the subject of torture criticizes John McCain for doing exactly what Sullivan is guilty of — failing to define their terms while baying about how morally and ethically superior they are. Psuedo-moral platitudes play into the hands of the anti-war movement and the enemy. Changing course in a way that weakens our ability to prevent future attacks on our cities is, in my view, the immoral position. And the sophomoric constructs of many who embrace the McCain Amendment, e.g., that those of us who oppose it support the liberal use of torture, that Abu Ghraib is evidence of systemic torture, and so forth, are absurd. Notice, however, how little attention the proponents pay to the national and homeland security consequences of their position — which brings us back to their unwillingness to define terms.