Friday, November 30, 2007

Romney's Stance on Torture Wanting

Mitt Romney's comments to John McCain last night during the CNN/YouTube Republican Debates were illuminating. As the author shrewdly observes, here is yet another politician who decries violence in the media (particularly electronic games) as desensitizing and immoral, and yet declines to make a strong statement against real violence and torture, by a typical political tool of omission (transcript from GamePolitics).

When asked by John McCain, who was himself a victim of torture during the Vietnam War, his opinion on the torture practice of waterboarding:

"Romney: Senator McCain, I appreciate your strong response, and you have the credentials upon which to make that response. I did not say and I do not say that I’m in favor of torture. I am not. I’m not going to specify the specific means of what is and what is not torture so that the people that we capture will know what things we’re able to do and what things we’re not able to do." [emphasis added]

Though Romney did condemn torture in his comments (in a general way), he was very, very vague on which practices he considers torture.

The belief that we have the right to conduct torture upon our prisoners is a narrow-minded, selfish belief. When debating this topic I frequently hear: "You're saying that it's not worth torturing prisoners in order to save many lives!?" This angry, knee-jerk reaction is not based on logic but emotion and blinded nationalism.'

When a foreign operative captures a U.S. soldier with possible knowledge on an upcoming attack on their forces, do they have the right to conduct so-called intensive interrogation techniques in order to save the lives of their men? (Don't ask this question to people who feel strongly in favor of torture. You'll get their spittle all over the front of your shirt and possibly get punched.) Torture is a form of pre-emptive punishment. It is a gigantic blow to due process. Worse still, it sets a dangerous trend for captors of our citizens (presuming that the reader lives in the U.S.).

I don't believe that these political prisoners should be represented in the public legal system, due to the sensitive nature of the charges against them, but torture is unconscionable. If you'd like to find an activity to erode our national moral authority and desensitize us to violence, there's your issue, Mr. Romney - the video game issue circulates well in fundamental Christian circles but is hardly honest politics.


  1. Yeah, torture is bad. Romney believes torture is bad. However, on suggestion of military leaders, he doesn't feel he should define to the world what torture is, so that those who are captured by the united states don't know what to expect. If we were to describe to the world in detail every interrogation technique that we can or can't do, then we in essence "innoculate" our soon to be captives against what is going to happen, even if there is no torture involved. That is all Romeny is worried about, if you listen to his whole response. He is against cruel techniques, but he doesn't want those we capture to think they are safe during interrogation, even if they are, because then NO interrogation technique will work, torture or otherwise. He wants to maintain the power to threaten, so to speak.

  2. My point is that it's a sin of omission. Yes, there is a difference between torture and acceptable interrogation, and "enemy combatants" don't necessarily deserve perfect treatment. I will even acknowledge that the effect of not knowing "what to expect" may be a factor to our advantage.
    But what I hear from Romney's statement is a solid example of "business as usual". Of course he's not going to come out in favor of torture in a speech, but by his lack of action he may faciliate further torture.
    I respect the right of electd officials to determine what is best for the country, but the overwhelming trend in human history has been to rationalize the barbaric as a necessity, demonize the opposition and further degrade our nation in the eyes of those who already despise us.

  3. Huh. That sentence changed midway from "overwhelming trend in human history" to a statement on the recent past. Ignore that little faux pas.

  4. I am not sure that Romney's policy is one of non-action. Maybe he plans to eradicate torture, but "let's just not advertize that fact" so that the enemy doesn't feel safe. I don't know, but we can't assume that because he doesn't want to define and describe proper interrogation techniques on national tv for the enemny to take notes that he doesn't plan to do anything about torture.


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