The politics of torture

Opposing torture is a losing issue. Democrats should oppose it anyway.

Karl Rove is no fool.

The belief that we should respect our own laws, international treaties, and fundamental human rights, even when dealing with those accused of terrorism, is very much a minority view, and every time liberals speak out against torture they cost themselves votes.

Winning in politics is important, of course, and rarely more so than now, when the ruling party’s contempt for the law, for fair play, and for the national interest create a profound threat to the Constitutional order.

But Vince Lombardi was wrong: there are more important things than winning, and maintaining human decency and national self-respect is one of them. I’m sorry to be on the losing side, but I’m not sorry to be on the side that doesn’t want to win at the price of going along with torture, rather than the side that not only orders torture but uses its willingness to do so to gain political advantage.

Query for those opponents of torture who still support the GOP: Which side do you want to be on?

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: