Raising the Standard.

MAILBOX: The ‘Torture’ Report

Sifting through the post. (Photo: Richard Croft)

Dear Editorial Staff:

Your response to the “Torture Report” (title borrowed from James Fallows’s piece in The Atlantic, “The More Americans Who Read the Torture Report, the Better”) seemed to consist entirely of this dismissive statement:

“The SSCI Report is nothing more than a throwback to the Dems’ good old days, when they didn’t have to deal with the thorny issues of governance and could fritter away the hours calling President Bush a fascist. It is certainly not a document by which the EIT program should be judged, due in part to the fact that its partisan authors saw no need to interview anyone at Langley.”

It is disheartening to me that a forum which places such pride in its authors’ intellectual prowess, chooses to so obtusely handle a report of this magnitude and paint it as a partisan hack-job. The reason given in the Torture Report for the lack of in-person interviews was a general denial of said interviews by the management at Langley. That seems like a very plausible explanation given the rebuffs the Agency had given State, the FBI, and its own internal investigative division: the Office of the Inspector General (all detailed in conclusions 6-9 in the opening pages of the Torture Report).

The realities that this Report brings to light should horrify liberals and conservatives alike. Doctors and psychologists overseeing horrendous acts of violence and keeping detainees just well enough to undergo more suffering seems like a betrayal of the medical profession. Our own public officers dragging detainees nude and hooded through hallways as they were punched and slapped and jeered should be intolerable to us and is indefensible even in the name of national security. Lying to and misleading Congress, and by extension the American public, is just as angering and unacceptable.

This is indeed a “thorny issue” of governance, one that reflects a compromise of moral integrity at the highest levels across two administrations. This is no mere partisan gimmick, but documentation of something that should give all Americans pause. Not only do prisoners of our country deserve more than this, but so do we as Americans deserve more than the excuses and lame justifications given for these horrible acts.

Sincere regards,

Zach Jones
UGA Class of 2013
UGA School of Law Class of 2016
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The Editor-in-Chief Responds:

Zach,

Thanks for sending along your concerns regarding our coverage of the SSCI (“Torture”) Report.

To begin with, I’d like to address a possible misunderstanding. Our “Week in Review” is not intended to set forth a summary of The Arch Conservative’s editorial stances on the week’s news. The brief and often irreverent comments we leave beneath the articles we share in the “Week in Review” feature are meant only as a snapshot of the editors’ reaction to the particular news item we link to. As such, I’d recommend that letters such as your own be saved for full blog posts or print pieces, as these offer a more substantial illustration of the author’s opinion. In simple terms, your letter is overkill.

Still, it’s a fine letter, so I’ll offer a quick response. In doing so, I speak for myself, as the other editors may differ somewhat in their judgment of the report. Yes, I largely dismissed the SSCI report. Democrats on the committee made up their minds about the program and compiled evidence, devoid of context, that served their preconceived notions. Part of this context-free campaign was the committee’s failure to interview CIA officials who led the program. Your claim that the fault for this omission lies at the feet of the CIA is false. CIA leaders have stated that they were ready and willing to communicate with oversight investigators. The SSCI report’s claim that Langley couldn’t be reached because of a concurrent Department of Justice investigation holds no water. The DOJ investigation had concluded years before the SSCI investigation concluded, and DOJ’s probe hadn’t even covered the most important CIA leaders who authorized the EIT program. These men and women were available for interview, but Dianne Feinstein’s minions chose not to do so.

I will not re-litigate the entire torture debate here. Suffice it to say, I disagree with the notion that torture is always and everywhere unjustifiable. Torture is undeniably ugly and violent, but so is war — and so are drone strikes, which this Democratic administration has embraced wholeheartedly. The United States has committed acts in the course of war that can be considered far more morally objectionable than waterboarding (see: Hiroshima). But we don’t evaluate such decisions in a vacuum. We use context. And context, because it helps to justify extreme measures, was the one thing Senate Democrats couldn’t allow in their heralded report.

Thanks again for your letter, and I wish you a blessed Christmas season.

Best regards,

John Henry Thompson
Editor-in-Chief
The Arch Conservative