I watched John McCain on "Face The Nation" yesterday. Patrick Leahy was on, too, and the transcript is here. To his credit, McCain didn't hesitate to use the word torture and to condemn its use by the US. He did, however, resist any idea that there should be investigations or prosecutions, framing the issue strictly in terms of a few lawyers giving bad advice. If that's all there were to it, I guess we'd all agree that investigation is uncalled for. Which, of course, is why McCain and his pals are all over the airwaves framing it exactly in that way, ignoring what are, in fact, the real issues.
In my opinion, there's much more at stake, and I've said so. In particular, I wonder about the extent to which those opinions resulted from directives from the White House to produce arguments to justify torture; ie, the extent to which the lawyers obliged a demand to rationalize an unlawful plan (which, as we now know, was already in place). That, I think, is grounds for disbarment, if nothing else (my dad was a judge, after all, so I know these things). I'm even more concerned about the extent to which torture was used to try to gain "confessions" of falsehoods, namely of that non-existent connection between Iraq and al Queda, in order to justify a war. That ought to outrage EVERYONE. Most amazingly, it doesn't.
But what really struck me about the McCain interview was this exchange, near the end of the interview (emphasis mine):
SCHIEFFER: So you wouldn’t favor even appointing a special prosecutor to look into it?That's unspeakably mind-blowing: having just argued against consequences for any involved in what he acknowledges is a violation of the Geneva Conventions by the US, he says that others will be deterred by fear of retribution.
MCCAIN: The allegations are that they gave the wrong counsel. That’s -- and that bad things were done. And we violated fundamental commitments that the United States of America made when we signed the Geneva Conventions, and we disregarded what might happen to Americans who are held captive in the future. And by the way, those who say our enemies won’t abide by the Geneva Conventions, they will if they know that there’s going to be retribution for their violation of it.
If I flipped my arguments 180º every time my party was in or out of power, I'd be embarrassed. In fact, I don't think I could do it. "Up or down vote" was the Republican mantra when they were in the majority and Bush was nominating judges. "Rule of law," they cried when Clinton was in office. Their political deity, Ronald Reagan, signed the UN Conventions against torture, but now they love it like the air they breathe. (I guess they believe Ronnie was soft on terror, hated America, and made us less safe.)
How can these guys say what they do without turning red or exploding? It's unfathomable.