I really, really dislike Christopher Hitchens most of the time, but in a recent "Hardball" debate on torture with right-wing talk show host Michael Smerconish Hitchens makes a very astute and salient point on the debate over torture:
Christ Matthews: Are you against the ticking bomb torture, where somebody has something to stop a Holocaust type situation of thousands getting killed. Would you torture that person?
Christopher Hitchens: The more seductive the excuse the more I'm opposed to it. The more tempting the alibi the more I think it needs to be examined. Because what people are asking for is one excuse to allow for a general imposition of a policy that would be illegal under any law... [gets cut off].
Watch it here:
Hitchens is right on the ball here. This is why I, personally, lost all respect for Alan Dershowitz when he came up with his idea for torture warrants shortly after the attacks of 9/11. Not only do I believe that torture is immoral under any real circumstances and should remain illegal under any and all laws and treaties, but it is very clear that the people arguing for torture under limited circumstances are doing so only because that's the best they think they could possibly get. And those who argue for limited "enhanced interrogation" techniques do so only because they realize most Americans would regard them as madmen if they argued for beatings, pulled fingernails, burns, acid, and even the kidnapping, torture and execution of family members as inducements to talk. Most policy makers are not as bold and brazen in expressing their contempt for the human rights of foreigners as Smerconsich. Smerconsisch broadcasts to an audience of mouth breathing right-wing fascists, but the elected officials who feel as he does depend upont the votes of a much wider audience and so must couch their language and guard their rhetoric. But rest assured: there are many elected officials who would galdy torture anyone who truly posed a threat to their power. Only public opinion and our laws prevent them from doing so.