Two Cheneys are worse than one

TWO CHENEYS ARE WORSE THAN ONE…. It’s not enough to have Dick Cheney all over the airwaves, defending torture, we also apparently need Liz Cheney to do the same thing.

In the midst of an argument with the Washington Post‘s Eugene Robinson on MSNBC this morning, the younger Cheney kept agreeing that torture is illegal, but also kept arguing that torture isn’t torture. At one point she posed the inevitable Jack-Bauer-like hypothetical to Robinson directly.

“If you knew that Khalid Sheikh Muhammad had information about an imminent threat on the United States, information that would result in the death of your family members, the death of people you care about and love, and that if he were waterboarded, you would be able to get that information and prevent the attack, you wouldn’t do it?” Liz Cheney asked. “You would let him go ahead and launch the attack? Eugene, that’s exactly the situation these folks were in.”

That’s total nonsense, for all the reasons sensible people already know. We can rattle them off in our sleep: we’ve always prosecuted waterboarding as torture; these hypothetical “24” fantasies aren’t realistic; if waterboarding were such an effective torture technique, it wouldn’t have been necessary to use it on Khalid Sheikh Muhammad 183 times in March 2003; KSM did not have information about an imminent terrorist attack; valuable information is accessible through legal interrogation techniques; etc.

By any reasonable measure, Liz Cheney’s argument is morally, legally, and strategically bankrupt. Her entire question is based on unsupported assumptions — a terrorist might have information that he might share about an attack that might happen, unless we use a technique that might be torture. And if you disagree, you’re willing to let al Qaeda slaughter innocent Americans. What a pathetic display.

I don’t blame Eugene Robinson for not having all of the possible responses right on the tip of his tongue; dealing with Cheney’s absurdities can be disorienting. But I wouldn’t mind hearing Cheney (either of them, actually) respond to the question Steve Chapman recently posed: “[I]f effectiveness is the only gauge, why even debate whether these techniques fit the definition of torture? The problem with using “it worked” as an argument is that it justifies too much. By that rationale, we can justify subjecting enemy captives to every form of torture ever devised. We can even justify torturing and killing their spouses, siblings, parents and children, right in front of them.”

If Cheney were to argue that this is a bridge too far, we end up right where she left us: If she knew that Khalid Sheikh Muhammad had information about an imminent threat on the United States, information that would result in the death of her family members, the death of people she cares about and loves, and that if we were to shoot KSM’s children in front of him, we would be able to get that information and prevent the attack, she wouldn’t do it? She would let him go ahead and launch the attack?

It’s a ridiculous game.