Ramesh, I don’t mean to stick my nose in where it doesn’t belong, and Rich can certainly defend himself, but the end of your post really bothers me. It is indicative of everything that is so wrong with the way the pro-McCain side has argued this issue.
In the post to which you referred, Rich says the following (italics are mine, and, for what it’s worth, I happen to disagree with the stuff about re-affirming and tightening):
So all the moral preening might come at the cost of the blood of Americans. I think it was worth re-affirming the illegality of torture and tightening up our practices, but that could have been done without erasing all distinctions and all common-sense, as McCain did. I hope David Igantius and others have the courage of their convictions and are willing, if it comes to that, to write columns telling American families that the loss of their loved ones was worth it, so we could make a very clear statement about our values to the “international community.”
It could not be more clear that this statement demonstrates: opposition to torture; a firm belief that we have strayed into tactics we shouldn’t be using and thus that our interrogation practices needed tightening up; and a belief that there are commonsense distinctions between what we ought to be permitted to do and practices that ought to be absolutely forbidden. It is the very antithesis of the pure utilitarian position. To the extent it challenges Ignatius, it does not come close to suggesting that he and others should one day come to regret the failure to torture if American lives are lost. It plainly says they should come to regret that in the course of shameful moralizing about torture – which was already illegal – they have managed now to deny us the legitimate use of reasonable, non-torturous coercive measures which, if used, might have saved American lives.
Yet, you somehow derive from all this that it is worth asking someone who has unambiguously said he opposes torture whether he “really disagree[s]” with the proposition that we should oppose torture even if it costs some American lives. You suggest that it is worth having someone who has clearly said there are some things we must not do reflect on whether he is lapsing into a “pure utilitarian” position. And where the above excerpt quite clearly suggested that Ignatius and others be prepared to explain why the hyper-vindication of a moral point was worth the deaths of Americans who could have been saved by the use of non-torture, you spin it as if he had said they would come to regret their opposition to torture if Americans were killed.
Torture, torture, torture. Just keep saying that this is what the other side is recommending, no matter how many times they explain that it’s not so. That is what the media have done for two months (longer than that, really), and that’s exactly what is done by the rhetorical questions at the end of your post – which are apropos of nothing they purport to be responding to. With due respect, I wonder how frustrated you might feel if I kept suggesting you were a pie-in-the-sky pacifist, no matter how many times you convincingly explained otherwise and no matter how much I knew it not to be true.