Best Defense

Torture protest fatigue? I know Dick Cheney needs help, but I am sick of this

Tom Ricks questions the justification of torture by American officials.


It’s the same old scam. In 2002, the Bush Administration listened to non-experts who concluded that Saddam Hussein had amassed an arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, while minimizing the views of experts who disagreed.

Now non-specialists like Cheney and Hayden are saying that they were right to okay the use of torture, while neglecting the interrogation specialists who strongly disagree.

Where do we go next with this? I worry.

Here is the equation I fear: People who tortured while employed or paid by the U.S. government have much, much more to fear than do people who object to their criminal behavior.

What that means is that people like me continue to argue against what they did. But we tire of it, we move on, we have families, we have souls, we are busy. But those who broke the law, violated American ideals, and undermined our way of life—they have nothing to lose and all to gain by continuing to fight, to deny it all, to flatly say that black is white and flat is round. Especially if they are still on the government payroll, many years later.

As Ta-Nehisi Coates, an editor at the Atlantic, put it, “Torture always justifies itself. If there’s a terror attack–torture. If there’s no terror attack–torture works. Answer always torture.”

So what to do? I don’t know. But I fear that my country, I think for the first time ever, has said that it will embrace torture as necessary, and that those who inflict it will not be held accountable. It makes me want to vomit.

(By the way, if you see me committing a crime, no worries. I didn’t rob a bank. I just used enhanced borrowing techniques!)


Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at Twitter: @tomricks1

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