I haven’t commented on the so-called torture memos, the exposure by the Obama Administration of documents from the Bush Administration that revealed that officials of the U. S. government had tortured Al Qaeda members under the assurance that what they were doing was legal, for a number of reasons. I find the subject extremely distasteful, I’ve already expressed myself on the subject of torture, and I’ve received a certain amount of harassment for my position.
There continue to be arguments through the blogosphere over what is or isn’t torture. Releasing a non-poisonous caterpillar into a prisoner’s cell is harassment but it isn’t torture. Waterboarding and prolonged sleep deprivation are torture.
My position is the same as it has been all along. I believe that torture is wrong and that it is never justified, whatever the circumstances. I support investigating the matter and, if enough evidence is found, prosecuting the perpetrators to the full extent of the law whoever they might be and whatever the political fallout is.
Unlike my friend Joe Gandelman, I’m not dismayed that members of the Bush Administration broke the law. Members of every administration break the law. Believing otherwise is simply to deny the manifest evidence. What dismays me is that these offenses were committed despite the fact that they were wrong.
The law is the minimum code of ethics not the maximum code of ethics. There are all sorts of things that we shouldn’t do because they are wrong, because they are dishonorable, whether they’re legal or illegal. Our system of government and our economic system require it. The amount of police power that we’d need in order to enforce the law in the absence of the barriers of conscience and honor is inconsistent with a free or prosperous society.