Friday, July 20, 2007

Nope, we don't torture. Not anymore. But we still won't define it.

A breakthrough for decency, or just fear of a war-crimes trial in his future?

US President George W Bush has signed an executive order on how terrorist suspects should be treated.

It bans cruel and inhuman treatment of any suspects detained and interrogated by the US authorities, and describes acts of torture as intolerable.

Which can only be applauded, of course. We gain nothing by resorting to the same thuggish tactics as the enemy. And saying "We're not as barbaric as they are" is hardly a winning argument. Of course, we still have to leave ourselves an out:
However, the White House would not reveal if all controversial interrogation procedures would be barred under the new guidelines.
Meaning what, waterboarding is still okay?

Look, this really isn't difficult: Torture doesn't work. It's an affront to everything America has ever stood for. When Germany did it in WWII (and called it 'enhanced interrogation,' the same thing President Doofus and Vice-President Vader call it), we (quite rightly) condemned it. We don't do that. That's what makes us different from them.

So when we announce that we're not going to be doing more of what we shouldn't have been doing in the first place, do we also expect a medal? Is this going to be spun as some great concession? And why are we still playing games with the definition?

Update: The Times has a more complete article. Cautious optimism here. Of course, this is all assuming that any of this will actually be followed and isn't just management-by-press-release.

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