Thursday, May 5, 2011

I agree with the New York Times

If you see any flying pigs or get a snowball delivered to you from Hades, it's probably my fault: I agree with the New York Times:
The killing of Osama bin Laden provoked a host of reactions from Americans: celebration, triumph, relief, closure and renewed grief. One reaction, however, was both cynical and disturbing: crowing by the apologists and practitioners of torture that Bin Laden’s death vindicated their immoral and illegal behavior after the Sept. 11 attacks. [...]

There is no final answer to whether any of the prisoners tortured in President George W. Bush’s illegal camps gave up information that eventually proved useful in finding Bin Laden. A detailed account in The Times on Wednesday by Scott Shane and Charlie Savage concluded that torture “played a small role at most” in the years and years of painstaking intelligence and detective work that led a Navy Seals team to Bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan.

That squares with the frequent testimony over the past decade from many other interrogators and officials. They have said repeatedly, and said again this week, that the best information came from prisoners who were not tortured. The Times article said Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times, fed false information to his captors during torture.

Even if it were true that some tidbit was blurted out by a prisoner while being tormented by C.I.A. interrogators, that does not remotely justify Mr. Bush’s decision to violate the law and any acceptable moral standard. [...]

There are many arguments against torture. It is immoral and illegal and counterproductive. The Bush administration’s abuses — and ends justify the means arguments — did huge damage to this country’s standing and gave its enemies succor and comfort. If that isn’t enough, there is also the pragmatic argument that most experienced interrogators think that the same information, or better, can be obtained through legal and humane means.

The only addition I would make to this is that it is not merely the Bush administration which has condoned torture and other dubious practices. In fact, a discussion is underway in the Catholic world as to whether or not the killing of Osama bin Laden meets just war criteria, or was an unjust extra-legal assassination. Like Mark Shea, I don't think there's enough evidence to declare the latter--but I do think it's an important question, though the political realities may mean that it's never definitively answered.

The point here, though, is that it wouldn't matter if torture really did get us the intel that led to the successful operation against Osama bin Laden. Torture is still wrong. And it's wrong even if the New York Times says so, too--however mind-boggling it might be for me to have to agree with them.


Siarlys Jenkins said...

Thank you, Erin. You said this so much better than I ever could have.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Odd... when Erin agrees with the NY Times, suddenly nobody has anything to say.

Patrick said...

@ Siarlys Jenkins:

"Odd...when Erin agrees with the NY Times, suddenly nobody has anything to say."

Perhaps everyone is stunned that Mrs. Manning *reads* the New York Times op-eds.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Why should that be stunning? I read Ms. Manning's column. I also read campaign literature for candidates I KNOW I'm not going to vote for. I have a copy of George Schuyler' autobiography, "Black and Conservative," and he's definitely not my type. Ditto for Clarence Thomas's biography, come to think of it. I've been known to look in the pages of "National Review." Why shouldn't she look at the NY Times now and then?

Patrick said...

It was just a joke. I should've included some "emoticons" or something to make that clear; my mistake.

Geoff G. said...

I noticed that Andrew Sullivan is calling out the Catholic bishops over their silence (so far) concerning supposedly orthodox Catholic Rick Santorum's endorsement of torture in the recent GOP debate.

Does this mean that Santorum is unacceptable as a Presidential candidate (as I'm assuming someone who was pro-abortion would be)? Or is his stance on other social issues sufficient to allow some wiggle room on the torture issue?

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I'm confident Erin wouldn't vote for him.

There are enough Catholic priests, with enough different opinions, in this country, that no doubt they will be indulging in denying each other communion over their respective endorsements or lack thereof.

Patrick, I understood it was a joke, and I was smiling when I wrote my reply. I guess I didn't want your joke to be the last word people would see who might take it seriously. Here, let me contrive an emoticon for both of us:

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I'm sure Erin wouldn't vote for Santorum for anything.

As for the bishops, every Roman Catholic has bishops they like -- the way to say that is "they teach what the church teaches," and bishops they don't like -- the way to say that is "their teaching is not authoritative because it is not what the church teaches."

Apply that sort of free will and free choice to the Papacy, and the result is a kind of Roman Protestantism.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Patrick, I left you a nice smile emoticon at the end of a friendly sort of acknowledgement, but I can't remember how I worded it any more. Hope this will do.