Thursday, May 12, 2011

Prosecuting military, and other, torturers

In today's WaPo Senator John McCain condemns torture. His remarkable achievement is to have become simultaneously the most and least credible politician to have taken that position.

Perhaps the main reason I opposed Senator McCain becoming President is that he is so steeped in military tradition that he is hardy a civilian anymore and is not able to adequately relate to the requirements of the broader civilian citizenry. His understanding of economics, for example, is very shallow and he relies upon poorly chosen economic advisers.

I believe his opposition to torture derives in large part from his perception that it is a blot on military honor. His legislative initiative to ensure that the military complied with the torture ban in the Army Field Manual left the loop hole open of not covering the CIA. The "spooks", were without honor anyhow, no doubt, so leave it to them to do the dirty work. Perhaps he has now come to realize the necessity of protecting the national honor as well.

Even now, however, he makes the common mistake of supposing that honor is preserved by sweeping dishonor under the rug. If prosecutions where warranted continue to be neglected it can only increase our national shame. The military failed in its duty to disobey illegal orders. Refusal to face up to that, Senator, can't change it. Politicized advice from DOJ lawyers, contradicting the military's own lawyers, should have been ignored but may be considered as extenuating circumstances. I do not favor harsh punishment of those in the military found guilty but in the names of rule of law and the national honor I demand honest war crime prosecutions.

It isn't happening not so much because
prosecuting the actual torturers may be technically difficult but because not prosecuting them is what protects the politicians and lawyers responsible for issuing the orders.

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