John McCain on Torture

Before I get to where McCain fits into all of this, I wanted to go in a slightly different, though parallel direction. My friend, colleague, and part-time conscience, Matt, posted two incredibly important pieces on torture, on top of that, two blogs that I’m a fan of, the Booman Tribune, and America Street, are both trying to help push Dan Froonkin’s piece on Bush’s admission of complicity with regards to authorizing torture. They’re asking everyone to send this link to everyone they know, and I’m joining this chorus of voices (whether they want me or not).

The bottom line, folks, is that we as a nation are better than this.

Aren’t we better than this? That’s essentially the same question that a reporter asked John McCain, and the presidential candidate’s answer really bothers me. As Think Progress reports, McCain really gets himself lost in a gray area and only speaks with conviction when he discusses not torturing Americans. Well, yes, thanks for that bit of moral clarity, but that’s not what is at stake here.

I understand that there are some folks that just will never fully get the torture argument. I’ve discussed until I was blue in the face (and numb of the fingertips) that torture doesn’t work, that it hinders our reputation and ability to deal amicably with foreign entities. I’ve argued the topic from a moral standpoint as well, and there is just this general disconnect among some that if someone is bad enough, they deserve it and we’re well within our rights to deliver.

But, for me anyway, the act of torture is not relative to the target, but instead reflects solely upon the entity conducting torture. It is the act itself that is immoral, and nothing justifies that. If we were to look upon any entity outside of our own nation, we would not see who is torturing who, we would simply see that a country does or does not torture, and condemn them thusly. And those countries that are not the United States do deserve to be condemned.

But so do we, should we cross that terrible threshold. And we have.

What eats away at me is that for a time torture was one of those things that I used to respect John McCain for. Call me naive, call me uninformed, I personally don’t care. For a time, this was a man who spoke against the herd of his party and declared that torture was wrong. Now he simply looks like someone who is trying to maintain the guise of that once noble and correct stance while repositioning himself to be more appealing to a base that does not view torture through the same moral lens.

That alone speaks very ill of McCain and his adherence to principle.

Meanwhile, the administration he seeks to replace appears without scruple regarding what it has authorized. It is a shame that the only member of this cabal that seems to have the slightest glimmer of moral rectitude is John Ashcroft.

Ah yes, John Ashcroft. After all the ire directed towards him, I find it sadly funny that within this administration the midnight hospital bedside refusal to authorize warrantless wiretaps, and his doubt filled questioning of whether the principals should be discussing torture in the White House actually appear to be instances of morality in an organization that seems to have none.

So spread all of these links along, email them to your friends and family. If the discussion is uncomfortable, have the discussion anyway, because this is how evil persists, not through the angry mobs and fantastical villains, but through the willful ignorance of decent people. The only weapon we have to combat that ignorance is knowledge. The media seems too lazy or frightened to spread that knowledge, so we, as citizen journalists, must take their place.

And while you’re at it, I would suggest you bookmark my friend Mike Otterman’s blog American Torture, and possibly even buy his book. I’m not one to typically plug someone else’s product, but the books is an invaluable resource, and the blog is a great place to go to find depth and context on developing torture stories of the day.

As for John McCain, we need to start pressing him on torture. We’ve all heard it, and we’ve seen it in action, the press is in love with McCain. Indeed, the press’s open access to McCain has in many ways disarmed them, but in the coming months, we can not let this country fall victim to a love struck press corps. We need to press them on why they aren’t challenging some of the things that McCain is getting away with and this is one of them.

Where does he stand on torture? Why, after making a show of being anti-torture, did he vote against the recent torture ban and support Bush’s veto? Is all of his principled talk just grandstanding? Why isn’t the media pressing him on these issues? We’ll spend a whole week on whether or not Pennsylvanians are bitter, but we can’t get the media to pin John McCain, a prospective president, down on torture? That’s absolutely ridiculous.

More at Memeorandum: Emptywheel (shows how Bush’s twisted logic on this issue has possibly shielded him thus far), Agitprop, Hullabaloo (Notes that McCain’s “additional techniques” indicates that he may be willing to work with the same gray areas that Bush has had so much success with), Daily Kos, Democrats.com (You thought the Nanny state was bad? Check out the Daddy state), The Carpetbagger Report (Steve focuses on the media blackout on this story), Salon, Blue Girl, Red State (Wow, I don’t know of a lot of people that would call McCain THAT) and VetVoice

(edited by DrGail)

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