The Corner

Not Pro-Torture, Just Pro-Facts

Andrew Sullivan cites Anonymous Liberal saying I argued that waterboarding as practiced by the CIA is more “civilized” than as it was practiced by a Japanese war criminal in World War II. I said no such thing.  I did point out that one Japanese method of waterboarding, which involved pouring water directly into the nose and mouth is “considerably more harsh and dangerous” than the CIA method of covering the nose and mouth before waterboarding, as one is much less likely to kill someone than the other. Anonymous Liberal responded thusly:

Yeah, U.S. style waterboarding is way more civilized. We use cellophane or cloth, so it’s completely unfair to compare the two techniques. If Asano had just used cellophane, like a civilized person, those charges definitely would have been dropped.

But in discussing my post, Anonymous Liberal stopped short of citing the sentence that immediately followed the excerpt highlighted: “I don’t think that any of this settles the debate over whether waterboarding as it was practiced by the CIA is or is not torture, but Begala certainly doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” That sentence makes it explicitly clear the point of the post was not about what consitutes torture, but about Begala’s command of the truth.

However, something tells me Anonymous Liberal’s sarcasm would have lost a great deal of zing had I been quoted me in full. Curiously, the normally reasonable Alex Massie of the Spectator piles on with a nearly identical critique that I was justifying the CIA as being more “civilised,” writing, “By their own words may they be damned.” Given the similar wording of Massie’s critique to Anonymous Liberal, I wonder if Massie read my post. If you’re going to damn me with my own words, I’d much prefer you understood them first.

I am not pro-torture — what I am is pro-facts. The entire point of my post was to note that in an appearance on national television Paul Begala repeatedly asserted that Americans executed Japansese war criminals for using the same interrogation techniques the CIA used on terrorists. As far as I can tell, that statement is not true on multiple levels. The supposed righteousness of one’s position does not justify spreading blatant falsehoods. Making distinctions is not the same as making excuses, because at the end of the day truth matters. Those who are convinced torture is wrong should have no problem acknowledging that arguing in bad faith and marshaling untruths to demagogue the issue will only hurt their cause in the end.


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