It amazes me how many phony and irrelevant arguments about torture hold sway in the talk radio world. Dennis Miller and Dave Rye both had some yesterday, and Hannity has been a veritable fount of them. Just to keep our minds clear, let's once more shoot down a few of the more obvious errors.
1. Torture is OK if it works. The Convention Against Torture, which was signed and publicly promoted by President Reagan, who some conservatives seem to think was a pretty good president, specifically says that torture for any reason is banned. Of course, it has to say that. Everybody who tortures can think of a good reason to do it. The torture convention simply takes that argument off the table. As somebody said on "Says You," that argument is like saying, "Maybe robbery is a crime, but look at all the nice stuff I got."
2. Waterboarding is OK because other forms of torture are worse. So the next time a cop pulls you over for speeding, try to talk him out of a ticket by saying, "Hey, maybe I was driving too fast, but at least I didn't shoot anybody." Let me know how that works for you.
3. Waterboarding isn't torture because it doesn't seem like torture to me. Dennis Miller was making this point yesterday, apparently unaware that binding international legal precedents are not set by comedians. Unfortunately for his legal theories, it's pretty clear that waterboarding violates U.S. law, the convention on torture and the Geneva Conventions. The U.S. remedy for that problem is to either abide by the law or change the law and to either renegotiate or repudiate the treaties. We can't just let talk show hosts make up their own laws.
What these confused pundits probably do know but don't like to mention is that we are bound by treaty not only to refrain from torture but also to punish those who fail to refrain. So when the former president and vice president of the United States openly admit to practices that almost surely violate our treaty obligations, then Obama risks committing a war crime himself if he fails to pursue an investigation.
Personally, I think that pursuing torture charges against Bush administration officials is bad politics. It may even be bad for the country. But I don't think that we have an honorable alternative.