TO FIRE, OR...

TO FIRE, OR NOT TO FIRE? It looks, rather surprisingly, like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and John Warner are readying to take substantive stands against the Bush administration�s attempt to torture by another name. The nut of the disagreement is over Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." The Bushies, through some complicated legal footwork, are trying to invalidate that prohibition. McCain, Graham, and Warner appear unwilling to allow it, and are crafting their own compromise that actually follows the Geneva Convention.

Right now, we basically have two tiers of interrogation: The Army, which fully abides by the Geneva Conventions, and the CIA, which tortures. That may make sense, save for the total lack of evidence that the CIA�s program is either more effective or a useful compliment to the traditional methods of interrogation. Lt. General John Kimmons, the Army's deputy chief of staff for intelligence, explained to reporters last week that:

No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. I think history tells us that. I think the empirical evidence of the last five years, hard years, tells us that. And, moreover, any piece of intelligence which is obtained under duress, through the use of abusive techniques, would be of questionable credibility, and additionally it would do more harm than good when it inevitably became known that abusive practices were used. And we can�t afford to go there. Some of our most significant successes on the battlefield have been�in fact, I would say all of them, almost categorically all of them, have accrued from expert interrogators using mixtures of authorized humane interrogation practices, in clever ways that you would hope Americans would use them, to push the envelope within the bookends of legal, moral, and ethical, now as further refined by this field manual. So we don�t need abusive practices in there.

Now, either the Bush administration believes Kimmons is dangerously uninformed on the outcomes of various interrogation methods and should be fired, or they agree with him and should listen to his advice. If, however, you think the War on Terror is The Most Important Thing Ever and no mistakes can be made nor weaknesses allowed, retaining a deputy chief of intelligence who doesn't understand the art of gathering intelligence from prisoners is a pretty massive oversight.

--Ezra Klein

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