Here is a fine post by Mr. Boyd at ladypoverty. It reiterates concisely a point I've often made:
This is reflected nicely in the current "national debate" -- a debate over whether to enforce the law! -- with Republicans arguing that torture helps the republic by protecting it, and Democrats arguing that torture hurts the republic for miscellaneous reasons, including the notion that it "hurts our image around the world," thereby making the world less malleable to our interests.This reminds me of a recent conversation in which a liberal acquaintance insisted that if there were every a time to "prosecute Bush-era wrongdoing," meaning torture in particular, and thereby "regain credibility," it was now, because "global leadership," meaning America, was necessary "to craft a unified response to the economic crisis." These sorts of tossed-off stock phrases are now more ubiquitous than ever in our popular language, and their utter banality somewhat obscures the point the young man was making without quite noticing the point he was making, namely that our more medieval practices make our various clients and satellites (former clients and satellites?) less amenable to doing whatever it is we tell them to do.
(Of course, any random Middle Easterner suspected of something by US agencies who is subsequently detained and tortured would probably insist that the "image of America" is not the only thing harmed in the process, but that is not a concern which registers very high in the art of statecraft; as such, "harm to ourselves" -- to our very soul! -- appears to be the argument the Democratic Party prefers best.)
What is remarkable is the way that otherwise disconnected people, subjects out here in the provinces, nonetheless mouth the same official sophistry without even noticing.