How can be be debating torture?

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The U.S. Senate is locking horns with the CIA over records concerning “enhanced interrogation” techniques practiced at Gitmo Bay. Senator Diane Feinstein accuses the CIA of removing from Senate computers documents concerning interrogation practices. The CIA denies any wrong doing.

The Senate had been investigating whether meaningful information was gained through what most of us—but not the CIA and former Vice President Dick Chaney—would consider to be torture. The CIA is adamant it produced valuable information. Others, like Senator John McCain, who was tortured as a POW in North Vietnam, believe that whatever information is gained through torture is generally unreliable. McCain is also concerned about America giving up the moral high ground when it engages in torture. When we commit torture, we make it easier for the rest of the world to justify torture.

Engaging in this argument shows just how quickly we forget. During the Vietnam War, when our downed aviators were tortured by their North Vietnamese captors, we were outraged. Now, some 40 years later, when we’re the captors, our government forgot what we had so loudly decried. Suddenly, torture was justified. Of course, the men in charge didn’t call it torture, and they convinced themselves that what they were doing wasn’t torture.

I wrote about this in an op-ed piece in 2009.  Torture leads us back to Vietnam It’s troubling that our government failed to remember how America felt about torture some 40 years ago.

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