At the dinner with Adam Michnik mentioned here last week, talk turned to torture. Michnik, definitely a terrorism “hawk,” expressed puzzlement about why the American public seemed so much more willing than the European public to embrace, or at least tolerate, the use of torture. After all, it’s not as if Europe hasn’t faced long and bloody terror campaigns.
Clare Bakota, a UCLA public policy student who has lived in Chile for several years, offered what seemed to be the best theory: Europeans, like Latin Americans, know people who have been tortured. For them (and for her), it’s a visceral issue, and anyone playing verbal games about whether waterboarding is “torture” is treated with well-merited contempt.
As to the other discussion at dinner – about who has moral authority in America – one group that has great moral authority with me consists of the lawyers who represented the Gitmo detainees, and the lawyers in JAG and the DoD General Counsel’s office who resisted the use of torture. Naturally, the American right, which has utterly lost whatever moral compass it used to have, is now accusing the men and women who upheld the highest standards of their profession and the noblest traditions of our country against Dick Cheney and his vertical barbarians of disloyalty, and of sympathy with terror.
Will any Republican stand up to these thugs – no just Liz Cheney, but the ever-contemptible Chuck Grassley? So far, the answer is “no.” After all, the pro-torture position is a political winner: indeed the only Republican position that voters prefer to the President’s position. (Of course, there was a serious shortage of Republicans standing up to McCarthy, until he went after Eisenhower; his “twenty years of treason” speech was fine with them, until it became “twenty-one years” in 1953.)
Anytime anyone – I’m looking at you, Jonathan – tries to tell you that there’s no morally significant difference between the parties, just consider the contrast between the President who allowed those lawyers to be hired by the Department of Justice, and his opponents who are slandering them.