January 23, 2005


Torture Becomes a Matter of Definition: Bush nominees refuse to say what's prohibited. U.S. dilemma is that it wants to disavow abuse but retain leeway in pressuring suspects. (Sonni Efron, January 23, 2005, LA Times)

In the months since the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, the administration has insisted that America does not and will not use torture. At the same time, the government has tried to preserve maximum leeway in the interrogation of terrorism suspects by not drawing a clear line between where rough treatment ends and torture begins.

"What the administration is saying is we're not going to torture people," said John C. Yoo, a UC Berkeley law professor who, as a deputy assistant attorney general during Bush's first term, worked on torture policies.

"What the administration does not want to say, and I think for good reasons too, is what methods the United States might or might not use short of torture."

Opponents say it is a moral, political and tactical mistake for the United States to blur that line. They charge that the administration, while condemning outright torture, deliberately has sought loopholes in laws and treaties that would allow U.S. intelligence officers to use extreme interrogation methods on terrorism suspects held abroad.

To protest the administration's Iraq and anti-terrorism policies — and what they charged was the evasiveness of Rice and Gonzales under questioning — Democratic senators have delayed both confirmation votes until this week.

As a result, the full Senate likely will debate the definition of torture in a session that could embarrass the administration and provide fodder for its international critics.

Whatever the ethical questions surrounding torture, it is always a matter of difinition and there is no political hay to be made in arguing we're being mean to Islamicists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 23, 2005 9:46 AM

Yes, but if we torture then liberals ask the question "what makes us better than them?" And we know how important it is for liberals to have constant public affirmation of how they're better than other people.

Posted by: Brandon at January 23, 2005 2:29 PM