Phil Carter on Torture

CPT. Phil Carter, on active duty in Iraq, asks us to celebrate Memorial Day by opposing torture.

Yesterday I posted a link to CPT. Phil Carter’s Memorial day post at Intel Dump. Jonathan Adler of the Volokh Conspiracy also linked to it, with a hat tip to me.

The comments on Adler’s post suggest that Carter’s subtlety as a writer, which I greatly admire, has exceeded the subtlety of some of his readers. In his essay, CPT. Carter says:

Those of us who follow today in their footsteps are all too aware of what this sacrifice means. We revere and admire our forefathers for their sacrifices, and we venerate our comrades who have given their lives in this war. We feel the pain of these contemporary losses, and we mourn the passing of these brave men and women. And yet, we cannot afford to take time away from our mission to hold memorial services, barbecues, or baseball games. The best way for us to honor the dead, while still engaged in war, is to continue the fight.

The last sentence, read out of context, might seem to be a plea for the country to “continue the fight” in Iraq, and that’s exactly how some of Adler’s commenters read it. But in context, all it mans is that soldiers in a war zone, as CPT. Carter is, celebrate Memorial Day by doing their duty.

The even sadder fact is that none of Adler’s commenters seems to have grasped the point of CPT. Carter’s post.

In Carter’s sentence

All we can do is honor that which they stood for, and fulfill in our words and deeds the ideal which they died for.

the phrase “words and deeds” links to this Washington Post op-ed by former Navy General Counsel Alberto J. Mora.

Mora’s piece is a forceful and eloquent attack on the mistreatment of prisoners &#8212 which Mora as Navy GC strongly resisted when it was ordered by his superiors at the Pentagon at the behest of the White House &#8212 as a betrayal of American values.

So Carter’s plea is for us to “imitate the words and deeds” of Mora, the opponent of torture.

As a soldier on active duty, Carter is, properly, limited in the criticism he can offer concerning the civilians who ordered him to the front. All he can do is offer a hint, and hope that (some of) his readers are clever enough to take it.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

3 thoughts on “Phil Carter on Torture”

  1. Mark, this is embarrassingly off the topic, but how do you pronounce "CPT."?

  2. It's pronounced "Captain." Military ranks used as personal titles are abbreviated in writing but pronounced in full, just like "Mr." and "Dr."

  3. Thanks. Wow … my abbreviator would make that Cap. or Capt. Guess I'm not qualified to handle military texts, huh?

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