The Case Against Procedural Arguments

Brian Beutler reports on the newest Republican talking point:

Like so many memes that persist in politics, this one started on the Internet. The morning after President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan, conservatives started crowing that credit should be given to President George W. Bush -- specifically, for having the foresight and courage to torture the people who provided the initial scraps of intel that ultimately led the CIA to a giant compound just north of Islamabad. [...]

"I think the tools that President Bush put into place -- GITMO, rendition, enhanced interrogation, the vast effort to collect and collate this information -- obviously served his successor quite well," former Bush adviser Karl Rove said on Fox News.

Two things. First, it's been said before, but the wholesale embrace of torture by the Republican Party is one of the most depressing political changes in recent memory. Second, this illustrates the limited utility of procedural arguments against torture. To say that you oppose torture because it never produces accurate information is to commit yourself to accepting torture on the chance that it does. Now, as Beutler points out in his story, the truth is that we obtained information on Osama bin Laden's whereabouts from traditional (read: not torture) methods of interrogation. Still, the conversation on torture would have benefited from a liberal willingness to engage conservatives on the morality of torture, instead of lukewarm arguments about its effectiveness.

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