Torture's Long Shadow

    A reader reminds me of an excellent piece by Vladimir Bukovsky I once linked to. I know that some conservatives don't want to be reminded by former victims of Soviet Communism why torture is wrong and self-defeating, but others haven't forgotten what conservatism used to stand for. As Bukovsky put it,

    "if Vice President Cheney is right and that some "cruel, inhumane or degrading" (CID) treatment of captives is a necessary tool for winning the war on terrorism, then the war is lost already."

    Indeed, as someone might say. But here's the real money quote from Bukovsky's piece, describing the effects of bureaucratized torture on an intelligence service:

    "When torture is condoned, these rare talented people leave the service, having been outstripped by less gifted colleagues with their quick-fix methods, and the service itself degenerates into a playground for sadists. Thus, in its heyday, Joseph Stalin's notorious NKVD (the Soviet secret police) became nothing more than an army of butchers terrorizing the whole country but incapable of solving the simplest of crimes."

    My reader comments:

    His article reminded me of a joke told to me by an Egyptian friend working for the UN. The Intelligence services of the US, UK and Egypt decided to have a competition.  The contest was to capture a fox released into the forest, in the shortest time possible. The CIA returned with their fox in 2 hours. MI6 returned in 4 hours.

    After 12 hours a search was organized to locate the Egyptian team.  They were found with a rabbit tied to a tree, beating it and yelling: "You're a fox!"

    Let's not discover what people in countries like Egypt already know - a regime that tortures will break its intelligence service, and lose itself in its own terror.

    I fear we may have discovered this already. But it is never too late to change. McCain tried but Cheney over-ruled the Congress and the constitution. So we must try again.