McCain and Conscience

I have liked John McCain for a long time, and now he has taken a stand on torture and interrogation. Chip Read on MSNBC’s first read comments on this as a matter of conscience. I’m amazed, despite everything that has already happend in the war on terror, that this is entirely an issue. I’m deeply disturbed that leaders in the administration have taken the stand that they have.

From the moral point of view this should be a no brainer. From the point of view of international politics, it should be a no brainer. I served as aircrew in the Air Force. Aircrew always face the possibility that they will be shot down and captured by the enemy. Don’t imagine me being wondrously heroic or anything. I didn’t feel threatened. But when your job is one in which you could get into that position you do give it a little thought.

One of the few bright spots in that horror we call war is the Geneva Convention. It’s more honored in the breach than otherwise, but it’s still a bright spot. We shouldn’t play with that. It’s wrong morally, and it’s dangerous politically. This is a place we need to listen to the international community and play good citizen on the world scene. When Christians support this sort of thing I truly have to wonder whether they’ve even passed the idea somewhere near their Christian principles.

There are times when we need to challenge the international community. When other countries supply money to terrorists, or make it easy for them to transfer it, that is a reason to take some sort of action. They’re aiding and abetting criminals.

But when they ask us not to torture, that’s a request for us to live up to our principles. True, many of these same countries will engage in torture. But if we don’t live up to a higher standard ourselves, we may come to the next stage–or the next–of this war on terror and find out that we have come more and more to resemble our opponents.

That’s too high a price to pay.

Similar Posts


  1. Unfortunately, McCain’s actions are at odds with his words, especially his vote to confirm Alberto Gonzales as US Attorney General. That said louder than words that an official policy of torture did not concern him much.

    I have difficulty imagining why anyone would lend support to, much less be enthusiastic about, an administration that adopts torture as a means to any end.

    It seems to me that any judge hearing a defense of the supposedly non-torture techniques used in our investigations should pause proceedings for 48 to 72 hours or so, so as to allow the attorneys who advocate those techniques to have a round of such applied to them, and then appear in court to argue for their inoffensiveness, which would give them a platform of personal experience otherwise absent in these proceedings.

  2. Unfortunately, McCain

  3. John says:

    The Geneva Conventions do not apply in the current war. There may be a moral argument against coercive interrogations, but there is no legal one.

  4. The Geneva Conventions do not apply in the current war. There may be a moral argument against coercive interrogations, but there is no legal one.

    Obviously I disagree on both points. I also oppose the use of the phrase “coercive interrogations” when what we are talking about is torture. Let’s go ahead and call it that.

    I find it interesting that we use the phrase “may be a moral argument” in this case. May be? There is a moral point, and Christian conservatives who wink at this, or even worse support this style of interrogation are on the wrong side of that moral argument.

  5. John says:

    Sure, there is a moral point against coercive interrogation. But what I am presently objecting to is the false, but endlessly-repeated statement that the Gitmo detainees are protected by the Geneva Convetions when even a cursory reading of actual texts of the Conventions reveals that they are not.

  6. Well, I am no expert, but it appears that the courts disagree with you, see for example this analysis of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld:

    Hamdan v. Rumsfeld: The Supreme Court Affirms International Law.

  7. John says:

    It doesn’t take an expert. All you have to do is read the text. The Hamdan decision was a pure fabrication.

Comments are closed.