Tortured Logic

Our quasi-elected government, the one that ran successfully in 2004 on the stirring “protecting the institution of marriage from sodomites and dykes” platform, the one that upholds “family values,” the one that consults divine “higher powers” before making tough human decisions — that same government, the one populated by “compassionate conservatives,” advocates the use of torture to extract information from “high value” prisoners.

Of simulated drowning, the CIA director has said one thing, the White House Press Secretary has said another, and Dick Cheney, our charming Gilbert & Sullivan villain plucked from theatrical Wyoming, has made the definitive pronouncement: “Would I support those same decisions [to waterboard Al Qaeda members] today? You’re damn right I would.” The Vice President was addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference, the kind of scary reactionaries that view the Republican Party’s putative nominee, John McCain, as a commie traitor.

McCain himself endured torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese, while a prisoner of war during Iraq War I, conducted in Southeast Asia. Now even he is backpedaling from the Detainee Treatment Act, which he ushered through the Senate in 2005, clearly outlawing waterboarding. Lately, under pressure to unify his party’s conservative base, he’s felt compelled to move ever more rightward, into the Confederate Flag flying wing of the GOP. Now the qualifiers come out: “in certain circumstances,” “to avoid a national catastrophe,” “if it will get Rush Limbaugh’s listeners to vote for me.”

Depending on who you listen to, simulated drowning is, isn’t, might be, or might not be torture. If, however, our nation elects a Democrat in November, the whole issue will be rendered moot. Both Obama and Clinton have eschewed mealy-mouthed equivocations. They say waterboarding is torture and they won’t have America’s long-expired moral authority further tainted by practices best left to regimes that specialize in human rights violations.

In the meantime, a startlingly large proportion of Americans still support and identify with the failed Bush presidency and Republican “principles.” Should these folks somehow muster enough votes to send McCain to the White House and keep our troops in Iraq, our economy in shambles, and our “values” pegged to the price of gasoline, Islamic lunatics won’t be the only ones enduring torture.

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