Michael: McCain against torture for the wrong reasonArizona's Senator McCain says prisoner abuse must be repudiated because it hurts America's image abroad. This is undoubtedly true, but it is not the proper, or even sufficient reason for opposing the torture of people in American custody, whatever legal status assigned them. McCain and everyone in a position of authority in the American government ought to oppose torture because it is immoral, illegal, and inherently wrong - not because it makes us look bad.
Torture is counter-productive, fails to produce accurate intel, corrodes military discipline, and exposes our own troops to mistreatment. But more than any of this, it treats the victims as less than fully human, and sanctions the basest impulses in its perpetrators. Torture is a cruel, vicious, and inhuman practice antithetical to the premise underlying America's sole claim to moral authority: our recognition that every human is worthy of dignity, deserves eqality before the law, and has inherent and inalienable rights.
Rejecting torture means rejecting situational ethics. Not every action can be justified by the ends intended by taking it. Some actions are inherently wrong, whatever their aim. That is the reason we abhor terrorism; it is the ultimate political expression of situational ethics. Terrorists justify murder with the exigencies of their political struggles. Ethically, it is no different than situationally justified torture. Unless we reject torture, we cannot condemn terrorism with a straight face.
Torture is wrong and must be repudiated. The legal regime against its use must be reiterated and strengthened, and those who have engaged in it must be punished surely and severely. Rejecting torture must be done, not because tolerating torture makes us look bad, but because it is undeniably the right thing to do. If McCain's morally-bankrupt message is the only one capable of resonating with McCain's intended autdience, we are perilously far down the path to open fascism and much closer to laying aside core American values than I have yet suspected or feared.
If America's leaders cannot summon the will to purge this evil from our own breast, we are truly lost. We will have lost the struggle with terrorists the only way we truly ever could: by becoming like them.