Saturday, June 06, 2009

Not all torture is detestable

Some time ago, in an argument with a vocal opponent of torturing detainees in the war on terror, I suggested if he had such a hatred of torture, he might devote some of his energy to a case I knew of where the police had obtained a confession through torture -- at least, torture by his definition. (Maybe not quite torture, but certainly abusive practices by my definition.)
He had no comment about police conduct.
My conclusion:  He only cares about torture when the Bush Administration does it.
By James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal:
Last month the Government Accountability Office issued a shocking report on "selected cases of death and abuse"--not at Guantanamo Bay or other detention facilities for terrorists, but at schools for American children:

When the report came out on May 19, we figured it would be a good opportunity to find common ground with politicians and commentators who've been complaining for years about the "torture" of terrorists. We figured President Obama would issue an executive order banning torture in schools, the New York Times would publish an indignant editorial, Dick Durbin would take to the Senate floor to declare that the teachers unions remind him of the Gestapo, and that nut who writes for The Atlantic would proclaim himself "shocked to the core."

We were going to respond by saying that although we think there are circumstances under which it is justifiable to treat terrorists roughly, all good people can agree that torturing schoolchildren is categorically wrong. But we didn't have anything to respond to. As far as we are aware, the GAO's findings have been greeted with silence by the leading self-proclaimed "torture" opponents--though Education Secretary Arne Duncan did tepidly promise "he will ask state school chiefs around the country about the use of restraints and confinement of pupils in the classroom," according to the Associated Press.

Where's the outrage? Could it be that all the complaining about "torture" was but a pretext for some less noble agenda?

One data point is a curiosity. Two data points start being persuasive.  Or, as Ian Fleming puts it, "Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action."  (Goldfinger)

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