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This Is What Passes For A Law Professor at Harvard

Alan Dershowitz, in his Op-Ed for the LA Times (Oct. 17) offers us a disingenuous, almost tortuous defense of his previous advocation for the use of torture using Bill Clinton as his vindicator.
Some choice quotations:
Although I personally oppose the use of torture, I recognize the reality that some forms of torture have been, are being and will continue to be used by democracies in extreme situations, regardless of what we say or what the law provides. In an effort to limit the use of torture to genuinely extreme "ticking bomb" situations, rather than allowing it to become as routine as it obviously became at Abu Ghraib, I proposed that the president or a federal judge would have to take personal responsibility for ordering its use in extraordinary situations.

The ultimate pragmatist, he would have us believe. Since torture is going to happen anyway lets try to control it, try to hold someone responsible, thereby limiting it's use. But actually he is capitulating to authority. He is acknowledging the right of his masters to take him away and torture him if his 'situation' was deemed 'extraordinary'. That's OK with him as long as the President takes responsibility for it. Indeed, a flippant word to the press by Bush or his successor, which is the likely form any sort of responsibility would take, would make everything all peachy with me too.
For suggesting this approach to the terrible choice of evils between torture and terrorism, I was condemned as a moral monster, labeled an advocate of torture and called a Torquemada.

Why are the choices exclusively torture or terrorism? It's not clear. Perhaps there are other choices which aren't so monstrously immoral. It is clear however that he is advocating the use of torture. To work towards integrating the use of torture into law is advocacy. Geez, almost by definition. The Torquemada reference seems a little harsh, although that was a society which had codified the use of torture into it's laws, which most likely required advocates to bring about, so perhaps Mr. Dershowitz would've found a role for himself in 15th century Spain.
Now I see that former President Clinton has offered a similar proposal. In a recent interview on National Public Radio, Clinton was asked, as someone "who's been there," whether the president needs "the option of authorizing torture in an extreme case."

See? It's cool cuz Bill thinks so too! My colorblind friend ernestly believes that blue is red, and his colordblind friend agrees with him, but I'm not colorblind. Red is red. Blue is blue. Torture is torture. Violations of fundamental human rights aren't supported or made more legitimate by someone agreeing with them. They are still the same crimes. What's made more legitimate is the thought of them being legitimate, which reduces the citizenry - indeed humanity - to the status of objects who can be abused by the state at will.
Quoting Clinton in the article:
"We have a system of laws here where nobody should be above the law, and you don't need blanket advance approval for blanket torture. They can draw a statute much more narrowly, which would permit the president to make a finding in a case like I just outlined, and then that finding could be submitted even if after the fact to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court."

Or to paraphrase: 'Nobody is above the law, except in cases of torture where we'd like to write into law that some people are'. What he's absurdly suggesting is a process like the FISA courts, where the Executive can obtain a warrant to wiretap or spy on someone after the fact, after the spying was done. Clinton is completely ignoring the fact that the Bush administration has disdained the FISA courts openly and without apology or responsibility taken for years , which sets a clear precedent on how they would view a similar court for torture. He also fails to consider the new Military Commissions Act of 2006 about to be signed in by Bush, which gives the President the powers of a tyrant, allowing him to deem you an "unlawful combatant" arbitrarily and then deny you any right of due process and finally give the thumbs up to torture you. Arbitrarily because he answers only to himself. Read it and be afraid. How this defends Dershowitz's views on Presidential responsibility isn't clear.
Clinton quickly added that he doesn't know whether this ticking bomb scenario "is likely or not," but he did know that "we have erred in who was a real suspect or not."

I'm surprised he included this in the article, because he completely ignores it and it's implications for his entire position. The high probability that innocent people will be tortured should be enough to negate his entire argument. I suspect it's in there just for effect, to give us the impression that he's duly considered this possibility and found it wanting, in his eminent professional opinion of course.
Quoting Clinton again:
"But I think if you go around passing laws that legitimize a violation of the Geneva Convention and institutionalize what happened at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo, we're gonna be in real trouble."

But that's exactly what you are doing. Are you mentally deficient? Basic concepts like this are easily understood by children.
I offered my controversial proposal as a way to stimulate debate about a difficult choice of evils. I hope that the silence following the Clinton interview does not mean the debate has ended. The problem persists. Torture will continue. Let's not stop thinking and talking about whether the evil of torture is ever a necessary evil.

Again with the two evil choices. Why frame the debate this way Mr. Dershowitz? Do you really believe that the only choice is to let terrorists run amok or to torture people? Do you discount evidence that definitively say torture does not work? Do you discount evidence that definitively says that torture breeds more of the very same people who are likely to be targeted for torture? Can you not see the endless loop that is being created? Can you not understand that torture breeds hatred among the tortured and psychosis among the torturers? Your position (and Clinton's for that matter) is absurd and misinformed with rationalizations that don't withstand scrutiny.

Heres to the day when we do stop thinking about whether torture is a necessary evil. The day we all agree that it's not.

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