Republicans Still Playing Politics With Torture

June 05, 2009 3:28 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

The United States was built upon the rule of law. Yet, Republicans like Pete Hoekstra and John Kline are willing to abandon a fundamental part of who we are as Americans just to score a few cheap political points.

The Hill reports that two Republicans in Congress went on the record yesterday about what was allegedly said in a closed-door Intelligence Committee hearing on torture. Both Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), who didn't actually attend the hearing, and Rep. John Kline (R-MN) had the same claim to report: torture worked and -- perhaps more importantly -- Democrats were wrong:

"Democrats weren't sure what they were going to get," said Rep. Pete Hoekstra (Mich.), ranking Republican on the Intelligence panel, referring to information on the merits of enhanced interrogation techniques. "Now that they know what they've got, they don't want to talk about it." [...]
 
"Based on what I heard...I came away with a very clear impression that we did gather information that did disrupt terrorist plots," Kline said.

There is significant evidence that torture is ineffective, has damaged our image around the world, and serves as a powerful recruiting tool for terrorists. Moreover, many of the intelligence officials and military officers who say torture has yielded valuable intelligence also maintain that the same information could have been attained through other, legal methods.

But arguing about the efficacy of torture only clouds the debate where there should be none.  Even if you accept the premise that torture resulted in valuable intelligence that couldn't have been produced in any other way, there is still no justification for it.

Fox News anchor Shep Smith got it right when he shouted on live television, "I don't give a rat's ass if it helps. We are America. We do not f*cking torture!"

It's easy for Republicans to advocate for torture in the name of safety. It's much harder to say, as The Daily Show's Jon Stewart did, "There is no safe. No matter what we do, there is no guarantee of our safety. That is the price of a free society." It is unfortunate that Reps. Hoekstra and Kline seem unable to grasp what a comedian, in a sketch with a puppet dressed as a terrorist, made so clear.

The United States was built upon the rule of law. Yet, Republicans like Hoekstra and Kline are willing to abandon a fundamental part of who we are as Americans just to score a few cheap political points.  

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