When Is Torture Not Torture?

When Barack Obama is the president.

For two years on the presidential campaign trail, Barack Obama rallied crowds with strongly worded critiques of the Bush administration’s most controversial counterterrorism programs, from hiding terrorism suspects in secret Central Intelligence Agency jails to questioning them with methods he denounced as torture.

Now Mr. Obama must take charge of the C.I.A., in what is already proving to be one of the more treacherous patches of his transition to the White House…

During the presidential campaign, a constant theme for Mr. Obama was the need to restore “American values” to the fight against terrorism. He pledged to banish secret C.I.A. interrogation rules and require all American interrogators to follow military guidelines, set out in the Army Field Manual on interrogation…

But even some senior Democratic lawmakers who are vehement critics of the Bush administration’s interrogation policies seemed reluctant in recent interviews to commit the new administration to following the Army Field Manual in all cases.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who will take over as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee in January, led the fight this year to force the C.I.A. to follow military interrogation rules. Her bill was passed by Congress but vetoed by President Bush.

But in an interview on Tuesday, Mrs. Feinstein indicated that extreme cases might call for flexibility. “I think that you have to use the noncoercive standard to the greatest extent possible,” she said, raising the possibility that an imminent terrorist threat might require special measures.

No, no, no. Don’t they know there are no good reasons for torture? Come on! Where are all the left-wingers on this one? As Orrin Judd notes,

It doesn’t matter what terrorists know, it matters whether W or the UR (Unicorn Rider, i.e., Barack Obama) is the one finding it out. Exquisite.

So much for principle.

UPDATE: Infamous sock puppeteer Glenn Greenwald is also disturbed that certain key Democrats have gone wobbly regarding the “Bush torture regime.” Do we get to start calling it the “Obama torture regime” if Dems don’t pursue their original legislation after January 20?

6 Comments

  1. The Luftwaffe officer responsible for interrogating captured allied airmen avoided violence and torture. He got a lot of information. Yet such military information grows stale rather rapidly.

    The torture practiced by the Stalinists during the purge trial era was intended to obtain false confessions to often non-existent crimes. Some of our Asian adversaries used torture to obtain propaganda sound bite that seemed to be ineffective.

    Terrorists who prey on unarmed victims are not soldiers and are entitled to none of the rights of men and women bearing the uniforms of their nation.

    We need information and not confessions.

  2. I don’t think Feinstein speaks for Obama here.

    Does anyone know if being Commander in Chief allows him to dictate policy on this? Or would it require congress to ban/redefine torture to eliminate it?

  3. Obama can issue an executive order commanding military interrogators to use the Army Field Manual, but this is something that should come up through the legislative branch.

    What this behavior seems to make clear is that the concern by top Democrats on the use of “torture” is only available when the Commander in Chief is a Republican. Under a Democrat, there is flexibility to consider.

  4. Pingback: Common Sense Political Thought » Archives » Dear Obama voters: Were you really expecting him to keep his promises?

  5. Terrorists who prey on unarmed victims are not soldiers and are entitled to none of the rights of men and women bearing the uniforms of their nation.

    Art, I accuse you of being a terrorist.

    It is now alright to torture you until you confess to your crimes.

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