Tuesday, September 19, 2006

McCain's muddled thought process

Rich Lowry weighs in on the McCain Gang's rewrite of the President's proposed legislation to define acceptable tough guidelines for interrogation of suspected terrorists. McCain's own justification for his crusade is that US troops would be tortured upon capture if full Geneva Convention rights, and then some, are not afforded to the terrorists. That's ludicrous on its face as McCain should know based on what he suffered nearly 40 years ago at the hands of the Vietnamese. The North Koreans were no better.

Worse yet, McCain is dodging the issue of when and whether it is proper to resort to harsh interrogation techniques AND concurrently putting Americans who are on the front line in this battle at legal risk by fighting against immunity for the interrogators. As Lowry notes:

The irony is that, for all his preening, McCain supports what he would call “torture” if the conditions are right. He has said of a ticking-time-bomb scenario — a terrorist has information of an imminent attack — “you do what you have to do. But you take responsibility for it” (i.e. get sued or prosecuted). In other words, McCain wants to make it legally problematic for interrogators to undertake the very interrogations that he supports.

What an incredible and preposterous mixed message. And a terrible approach-avoidance conflict: if the interrogator THINKS the prisoner has crucial information, takes the steps he deems necessary to save 100 or more lives and then learns the prisoner has no helpful information, then the interrogator will have risked his own freedom for nothing! That's morally wrong and will only end up in disaster when the interrogator refrains from acting against the prisoner who actually DOES hold crucial information, with the result that US troops or US citizens are killed in large numbers because that information was not discovered.

More Lowry:

In real life, the closest we get to a ticking-time-bomb scenario is the one that prompted the CIA interrogation program — the capture of high-level al Qaeda operatives with knowledge of ongoing plots. McCain can’t bring himself to say that he opposes the program outright, so he professes to support it, but refuses to give the program the legal cover necessary for it to continue. And this is the moral high ground?

No, it's just posturing.

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