Thursday, November 8, 2007

Torture: The New Litmus Test

As Sheikh Hamza put it, since when is Torture a "question"?!

Remember that golden, innocent time -- the 1980s and '90s -- when the phrase "political litmus test" was associated with the debate about abortion rights, and torture was associated with the Spanish Inquisition?

Those days are gone. And, as usual in life, there's good news and bad news.

The good news? Abortion isn't nearly as divisive an issue as it used to be. The bad news? For the GOP, torture is the new abortion.

These days, you can forget that old-style GOP rhetoric about "values," "human dignity" and the "culture of life." Because the GOP has a new litmus test for its nominees: Will you or will you not protect U.S. officials who order the torture of prisoners?

Giuliani's main selling point with GOP stalwarts is his toughness on terrorism, symbolized by his "gloves-off" approach to interrogations. In the campaign's first GOP presidential debate, Giuliani told a cheering crowd that if the U.S. captured a suspect believed to be planning a terrorist attack, "I would tell the people who had to do the interrogation to use every method they can think of." Pressed on whether that would include waterboarding, Giuliani repeated, "Every method they could think of, and I would support them in doing that." More recently, Giuliani claimed that whether or not waterboarding is torture "depends on who does it."

Far more than the abortion debate ever did, the debate about torture goes to the very heart of what (if anything) this country stands for. Do we want to be the nation imagined by the signers of the Declaration of Independence, a nation with "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind," committed to a vision of human dignity and unalienable rights, limited government and the rule of law?

Or would we rather bring back the methods of the Spanish Inquisition?

As litmus tests go, that's not such a bad one.

Complete Opine in LA Times

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