2005/11/07

Moral authority and torture

Bump in the Beltway reprints an article from the LA Times that discusses the torture camps in Eastern Europe. Among it's very persuasive arguments is the following:

The argument that the U.S. should not heed the Geneva Convention because its enemies do not sets the stage for a race to the barbaric bottom.

Also, the MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Database demonstrates that there has been a steep rise in terrorist incidents over all of the years that Bush has been our president, i.e. the statistics demonstrate that torture has done little or nothing to head off terrorist incidents or to prevent them from happening. What clearly does happen when torture is used is that America's moral authority disappears down the drain.

In Argentina, Hugo Chavez has been severely criticizing the US. In response:

Bush argued for the American model, instead of the neo-socialist approach being taken and advocated by the wildly popular Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

That latter approach, the president said, "seeks to roll back the democratic progress of the past two decades by playing to fear, pitting neighbor against neighbor, and blaming others for their own failures to provide for their people."

Now at the moment, it would be hard to find any failures in Venezuela, where Chavez has been using his country’s windfall revenues from oil to fund schools, to help displaced and unemployed workers take over shuttered factories and run them as co-ops, and to bring in doctors from Cuba to bring health care to the country’s poor.

Instead of being able to forthrightly respond that the US has a better government than Chavez does, Bush first used this "straw man" approach of describing his opponent in a way that nobody else in the world recognizes but that his right-wing base back home applauds. Finally however, Bush felt obliged to reply to the reports of torture camps in Eastern Europe:

`We do not torture,'' he declared.

``There's an enemy that lurks and plots and plans and wants to hurt America again,'' Bush said. ``So you bet we will aggressively pursue them but we will do so under the law.''
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``Our country is at war and our government has the obligation to protect the American people,'' Bush said. ``Any activity we conduct is within the law. We do not torture.''

Of course, it's clear by "law" that Bush is not referring to the Geneva Conventions. Those were the laws that our current Attorney General referred to as "quaint" and "obsolete". What law is Bush referring to? The law perhaps that Vice-President Cheney is trying to get the Senate to adopt, the law that makes it okay for CIA agents to torture, but not regular soldiers?

Sorry, but the US record on torture leaves the US with absolutely ZERO moral authority to argue that Chavez is anything other than a marvelous and upright and respectable leader.

UPDATE: BuzzFlash comes up with the most sensible reason yet for the Bush Administration to engage in torture.

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