A Talent for Torture

With many thanks to commenter Nick, I finally found that Jim Talent quote, and she's a doozy:

But a Republican panel member, Senator Jim Talent of Missouri, signaled that, as far as he is concerned, little if any blame rests on American shoulders.

"If our guys want to poke somebody in the chest to get the name of a bombmaker so they can save the lives of Americans, I'm for it," Talent said, according to The Associated Press. "I don't need an investigation to tell me that there was no comprehensive or systematic use of inhumane tactics by the American military, because those guys and gals just wouldn't do it."

Set aside for a moment the fact that torture is wildly ineffective at procuring information. Set aside that 70-90% of those we tortured were non-combatant civilians. Set aside the fact that Iraqis knew about Abu Ghraib long before we did, and our failure to acknowledge and deal with it seriously only added fuel to the insurgency's fire. And certainly, set aside Talent's gut-wrenching reference to torture as a "poke in the chest," though I bet McCain loved that one.

What absolutely kills me here is this: Of course our military men and women would never institute a systematic program of torture. They wouldn't do it, because they understand that things like the Geneva conventions, and our respect for human rights in general, are what separate us from the enemy by more than a matter of degree. No, Sen. Talent, they'd never do that, but you know who would? The guy who you voted to make our Attorney General! Almost nothing that's gone wrong with this war has been the sole fault of the military. Gen. Shinseki knew we'd need more troops than we did, and we all know how that story goes. The story of our failures in Iraq can be hung on a timeline of civilian war planners putting the actual safety and effectiveness of our troops at Priority M or so. So, Jim, if you really believe in the goodness of our men and women in uniform - as I do - then what say you stop promoting the leaders that slander their good names with their ruthless incompetence? Or would that just be too much darn accountability for you to handle?

Incidentally, during his comments, I remember Talent saying something like, "I think this is what Sen. Lieberman was getting at." Indeed, it was:

A prominent Democrat on the committee, Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, agreed with Church's conclusion that the incidents of abuse, however deplorable, were few, at least in terms of statistics. "Seventy cases out of 50,000 detainees is about one-tenth of 1 percent," the senator said.


- Daniel A. Munz