Time To Choose on Torture

I had some thoughts under development about the (probable) release of a redacted summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s “torture report” today or later this week. But then at WaPo Paul Waldman wrote the perfect refutation of the crucial argument being made by former CIA officials and Republican members of Congress (and apparently, to some extent, by Secretary of State John Kerry), that there will be “blowback” in the Middle East when the findings go public.

The cynicism necessary to attempt to blame the blowback from their torture program on those who want it exposed is truly a wonder. On one hand, they insist that they did nothing wrong and the program was humane, professional, and legal. On the other they implicitly accept that the truth is so ghastly that if it is released there will be an explosive backlash against America. Then the same officials who said “Freedom isn’t free!” as they sent other people’s children to fight in needless wars claim that the risk of violence against American embassies is too high a price to pay, so the details of what they did must be kept hidden.

But either we’re a free society, or we aren’t. Either Americans have a right to know the full extent of what their government did in those dark days, or they don’t. We have to choose.

Also at WaPo, Daniel Drezner mocks the “blowback” argument pretty effectively; if past U.S. behavior, or at least claims about U.S. behavior, haven’t spurred people to jihadist violence, it’s a bit hard to believe U.S. admission of waterboarding is going to do the trick. Those like Kerry who are making a contingent, not an absolute, argument for delaying the imminent release of the report summary might as well publicly say when and under what circumstances the moment to follow through with this might arrive.

But the reality is that next month Republicans take over the Intelligence Committee. It’s not clear from parsing his words whether likely future chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) would release the report at all, and if so, how much more “redaction” he’d demand. The time for truth, six years after the Bush administration began packing its bags, is now.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.