A little earlier this evening, I happened to catch David Brooks discussing on NewsHour the Senate’s rejection of the Bush Administration’s efforts to seek wide latitude to interrogate terrorism suspects under a “reinterpretation” of the Geneva Conventions. Brooks had this to say about the conflict between the White House and the Senators who refuse to go along:
Did I just hear David Brooks say that torture is an ideological matter? Oh of course not. Surely he knows better. But then he went on to say this:
It's happening, first, because, despite best efforts over months, they haven't been able to come together, in part because the White House has not done a good job over the years of having congressional relations, but in part because both McCain and Bush feel this in their core, McCain, that you don't torture, Bush, that I have to prepare the way for presidents 50 years from now to do what they need to do. [snip]
I think they think, a, it's a matter of national honor, national pride. This goes to the core of a lot of people. And a lot of people may think what I think, is that maybe you do get some information out of torture, but there's an ideological conflict, and it's important to have a little moral clarity in the world, in a little moral standing in the world to fight the broader war.
Now, the White House case, they do have a case. One, as the president said, it's the Geneva Convention is vague. Two, that, you know, when our soldiers are -- our Marines are captured, they're not going to be treated fine. The idea that there's going to be any reciprocity is nonsense. And, third, that we're in a different technological age, that if we capture somebody, they know about some plot that's about to kill millions of people, don't you want us to be able to do whatever we need to do?Mr. Brooks, torture is not an ideological issue. It is the difference between right and wrong. The reason that we regard the terrorists as evil is because they commit evil acts, and because of this we have the moral authority to track them down, bring them to justice, and kill them if need be. But their evil acts do not justify our evil acts. It is not right for Billy to beat up on the kindergarten kids just because Tommy does, and it is not acceptable for us to commit evil because the terrorists do. These are the moral lessons that we teach children, not adults. Adults who do not recognize that torture is evil are morally bankrupt. To even dignify the subject by debating it is a sign of moral bankruptcy. Infanticide is not an ideological issue. Rape is not an ideological issue. Torture is not an ideological issue. There is nothing to debate.
And I will go farther. It is not just that those who seek to justify torture are morally bankrupt; they are also anti-American. The United States is not a set of lines on the map, it is an idea - the idea that a nation founded on the principles of liberty, justice, and freedom can survive and prosper. Those who seek to justify torture stand in opposition to that idea, and thus in opposition to America. They are too lazy and too stupid to understand that there is no conflict between our safety and our ideals, and we can not and must not jettison one to protect the other.
If you believe in what is good, and you believe in America, you can not accept torture. There is nothing to debate.