As far as a general
policy is concerned, there is no torture to ban. Isolated individuals
here and there may abuse their authority and violate existing
laws and policies by their treatment of prisoners but the point
is that these are in fact violations.
When some individuals
violate laws against murder, no one thinks that requires Congressional
legislation to add to the existing laws against murder. What it
calls for is enforcement of existing laws.
Banning torture categorically
by federal legislation takes on a new dimension in an era of international
terrorist networks that may, within the lifetime of this generation,
have nuclear weapons.
If a captured terrorist
knows where a nuclear bomb has been planted in some American city,
and when it is timed to go off, are millions of Americans to be
allowed to be incinerated because we have become too squeamish
to get that information out of him by whatever means are necessary?
What a price to pay
for moral exhibitionism or political grandstanding!
Even in less extreme
circumstances, and even if we don't intend to torture the captured
terrorist, does that mean that we need to reduce our leverage
by informing all terrorists around the world in advance that they
can stonewall indefinitely when captured, without fear of that
This is not only
an era of international terrorist networks but also an era of
runaway litigation and runaway judges. Do we really want a federal
law that will enable captured terrorists to be able to take their
cases to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals?
Regardless of what
the free-wheeling judges in that unpredictable body may end up
deciding, they are not likely to decide it soon. Anybody can call
anything "torture" at virtually no cost to themselves
but at huge costs in money and delay to the efforts to protect
Americans from terrorism.
There is no penalty
for false claims but potentially deadly consequences for letting
international terrorists tie up our legal system by exercising
rights granted to American citizens and now thoughtlessly extended
to people who are not American citizens and who are bent on killing
American citizens and destroying American society.
After decades of
ignoring the fact that rights and responsibilities go together,
it was perhaps inevitable that an under-educated and easily confused
generation should include some who do not understand that the
rights granted to captured troops by the Geneva Convention apply
to those who have accepted the terms of the Geneva Convention.
It does not apply to people who are not troops and who have blatantly
violated the whole framework of that convention.
For more than two
centuries there has been a tendency on the political left, here
and overseas, to make wrong-doers look like victims rather than
people who are victimizing others. So it was perhaps inevitable
that some would extend this attitude from criminals to terrorists.
But it was not inevitable
that most would carry things this far or that so many others would
be taken in by the rhetoric of moral superiority -- or be oblivious
to the implications of an international network of cut-throats
bent on destroying us even at the cost of their own lives.
Think of those implications.
During the last election, Osama bin Laden warned Americans that
those places that voted for President Bush would be targeted for
We could ignore him
then. But will our children and grandchildren be able to ignore
similar threats after the terrorists are given nuclear weapons
by Iran or sold nuclear weapons by North Korea?
This is a chilling
prospect under the best circumstances. It is madness to tie our
hands in any way in trying to forestall or counter the catastrophic
potential of international terrorism.