Moral failure

Great, great essay in The Washington Post today from Ariel Dorfman, Duke University professor, author, and playright on how torture corrupts the whole society resposible.

I will leave others to claim that torture, in fact, does not work,
that confessions obtained under duress — such as that extracted from
the heaving body of that poor Argentine braggart in some Santiago
cesspool in 1973 — are useless. Or to contend that the United States
had better not do that to anyone in our custody lest someday another
nation or entity or group decides to treat our prisoners the same way.

find these arguments — and there are many more — to be irrefutable.
But I cannot bring myself to use them, for fear of honoring the debate
by participating in it.

Can't the United States see that when we
allow someone to be tortured by our agents, it is not only the victim
and the perpetrator who are corrupted, not only the “intelligence” that
is contaminated, but also everyone who looked away and said they did
not know, everyone who consented tacitly to that outrage so they could
sleep a little safer at night, all the citizens who did not march in
the streets by the millions to demand the resignation of whoever
suggested, even whispered, that torture is inevitable in our day and
age, that we must embrace its darkness?

Are we so morally sick,
so deaf and dumb and blind, that we do not understand this? Are we so
fearful, so in love with our own security and steeped in our own pain,
that we are really willing to let people be tortured in the name of
America? Have we so lost our bearings that we do not realize that each
of us could be that hapless Argentine who sat under the Santiago sun,
so possessed by the evil done to him that he could not stop shivering?

What could I possibly add to that incredibly eloquent entreaty against torture.  Think about reading the whole thing (it is not very long). 

The torture compromise

So, much I could say about the torture compromise, but I'll try and keep it limited, so I don't spend half my day typing away.  A few key points.  This compromise only limits egregious violations of the Geneva Conventions.  As to what sorts of “intense interrogation” i.e., torture, still goes, that's all up to President Bush.  As Andrew Sullivan puts it:

I should add that it is essential to the integrity of language and law
that the word torture not be defined out of existence. Waterboarding,
hypothermia, long-time-standing, and various forms of stress positions
are torture, have always been torture and always will be torture. What
we must do is what Orwell demanded: speak plain English before it
evaporates from our discourse, refuse to acquiesce to the corruption of
language and decency.

Here's today's News & Observer on the compromise:

But the agreement does specify that it would prohibit “grave
breaches” of the Geneva Conventions, including torture, rape,
biological experiments and cruel and unusual treatment. It's troubling,
frankly, that these clearly unacceptable abuses even have to be
specified by the United States, which has long set an example in humane
treatment of prisoners.

And as to breaches that are not “grave.”  The compromise gives President Bush the freedom to torture all he wants (as Sullivan's quote suggests).  The editorial continues:

And what about the part of the agreement
that permits use against suspects of testimony that was coerced? That
would apply if the coercion had occurred before a 2005 ban on cruel and
unusual punishment went into effect, and if a judge deemed the
testimony reliable. But in other words, some suspects will be subject
to having evidence used against them that would be illegal except for
an arbitrary deadline.

In addition, individuals, under this
agreement, could not protest violations of the Geneva Conventions in
court. How is that rule fair?

I'll have plenty more to say on the topic.  But for now, I just wanted to make it clear that the “principled” Republicans basically caved in to the “torturer-in-chief.”