Taking a Stand Against Torture

In asking readers for a donation in whatever amount they can afford, I’d say the Washington Monthly is best known for long-form investigative journalism into the activities that thwart government’s proper strong but accountable role in American life. But on occasion this magazine has been a rallying point on a matter of principle. That was particularly true in early 2008, when WaMo published a collection of essays from 37 distinguished Americans–from Jimmy Carter to Richard Lugar to Nancy Pelosi to Wes Clark to John Kerry to William H. Taft IV and many more–calling for an unconditional end to the use of torture.

Here’s an excerpt from the Editors’ introduction to the essays:

Ideally, the election in November would put an end to this debate, but we fear it won’t. John McCain, who for so long was one of the leading Republican opponents of the White House’s policy on torture, voted in February against making the CIA subject to the ban on “enhanced interrogation.” As for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, while both have come out strongly against torture, they seldom discuss the subject on the campaign trail. We fear that even a Democratic president might, under pressure from elements of the national security bureaucracy, carve out loopholes, possibly in secret, condoning some forms of torture.

Over the past decade, voters have had many legitimate worries: stagnant wages, corruption in Washington, terrorism, and a botched war in Iraq. But we believe that when Americans look back years from now, what will shame us most is that our country abandoned a bedrock principle of civilized nations: that torture is without exception wrong.

Still seems pretty fresh and relevant, I fear.

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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.