THE BLOG
12/19/2005 01:00 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Weekly Standard's Inspiring Call to Human Possibility

"We must all be prepared to torture."
-- Charles Krauthammer, The Weekly Standard, December 5, 2005

The Weekly Standard has issued an inspiring call that speaks to the best in each of us: "we must all be prepared to torture". The respected writer Charles Krauthammer says that although it is true that torture usually does not yield useful information it should be explicit U.S. policy because it can occasionally work to save U.S. lives. He approves of the same near-drowning technique practiced by the Gestapo, waterboarding, but assures us that he would employ only "expert" torturers trained in the art of causing maximum pain, rather than the "sick sadomasochism" practiced by Lynndie England at Abu Ghraib. When distinguished moral philosophers such as Messrs. Krauthammer, William Kristol and Rupert Murdoch, take it upon themselves to move beyond mere moral preening to this stark revelation of their inner souls and psyches, the rest of us must acknowledge that – unlike the Germans – we cannot claim that we do not know. Messrs. Bush and Cheney have already made torturers of us all.

Prosecutor Fitzgerald Prepared To Torture Cheney and Rove
..............TK faux byline, etc. .......................................................................................................

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald announced today that, swayed by the powerful arguments of an article in The Weekly Standard, he is prepared to torture Vice-President Cheney and political counselor Karl Rove for information that is "urgently needed" to save American lives. He stated, "The Weekly Standard has opened my eyes to the fact that my previous unwillingness to torture was deeply immoral, given that I believe American lives can be saved by the urgently needed information that Cheney and Rove have withheld until now."

Fitzgerald stressed that he is not legally required to explain his decision: "As an agent of the Executive branch with delegated Executive powers, I am no more legally required to provide my rationale for torturing these suspects than is President Bush. Basing himself upon the ancient doctrine that `might makes right,' Mr. Bush has taken it upon himself to torture anyone he wishes without explanation, on the simple assertion that he believes it will save American lives. Even the new agreement he has reportedly reached with Senator McCain will provide exceptions allowing him to torture in such cases. I want to assure the public that unlike the president, however, I will not torture the innocent.”

Mr. Fitzgerald said he was strongly influenced by a December 5 article in The Weekly Standard, which made the case for torture. The article was written by Charles Krauthammer, who is widely admired for the sophistication and subtlety of his reasoning. As The New York Times reported on December 11, "in the torture debate, he (Krauthammer) has arguably articulated the administration's stance better than President Bush or his cabinet secretaries."

"I particularly applaud the fact that Mr. Krauthammer did not issue a blanket endorsement of torture, but rather offered such sensitive and subtle moral distinctions as his belief that `the level of inhumanity of the measures used (moral honesty is essential here--we would be using measures that are by definition inhumane) would be proportional to the need and value of the information.'

"Mr. Krauthammer's ‘moral honesty’ in approving the `level of inhumanity' applied to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was particularly instructive. As he wrote, `There is waterboarding, a terrifying and deeply shocking torture technique in which the prisoner has his face exposed to water in a way that gives the feeling of drowning. According to CIA sources cited by ABC News, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed "was able to last between two and 2 1/2 minutes before begging to confess."'

"This particular technique was also used with great efficiency by the Nazi Gestapo in World War II. I salute Mr. Krauthammer's support for this SS practice, which has long been one of the quickest ways to gain information. I am sure that waterboarding Messrs. Cheney and Rove will also have them ‘begging to confess’ within minutes, thus meeting Mr. Krauthammer’s high standard of `inhumane treatment proportional to the need and value of the information.'"

Mr. Fitzgerald also addressed Mr. Krauthammer’s acknowledgement that torture usually does not work. "I also salute Mr. Krauthammer's astute observation that the mere fact that torture usually does not work is no reason to forbid it. As he writes, `Is one to believe that in the entire history of human warfare, no combatant has ever received useful information by the use of pressure, torture, or any other kind of inhuman treatment? It may indeed be true that torture is not a reliable tool. But that is very different from saying that it is never useful.'

Fitzgerald acknowledged the probability that U.S. endorsement of torture will increase the possibility that U.S. citizens will be tortured in the future. "Some may ask why we should support torture if it usually does not work to save American lives, as Mr. Krauthammer acknowledges, but certainly does make it more likely that U.S. citizens will be tortured, as Senator Lindsey Graham recently noted on Meet The Press. I can only agree with Mr. Krauthammer's implication that the increased torture of American citizens is a small price to pay for the slight possibility that torture could save some American lives, somewhere, at some future time."

"I also want to assure Mr. Krauthammer and his employers that I agree with his observation that torture should be `reserved for highly specialized agents who are experts and experienced in interrogation, and who are known not to abuse it for the satisfaction of a kind of sick sadomasochism Lynndie England and her cohorts indulged in at Abu Ghraib.'

Any torture administered by my office will indeed be conducted only by "highly specialized agents" who have perfected the art of causing maximum pain after years of study of Gestapo techniques and experience in South Vietnamese, Central American and CIA torture chambers around the globe. And I will go further than even Mr. Krauthammer. In addition to excluding `sick sadomasochism’, there will be no place for sick sadism or sick masochism in my office - whatever Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Goss or other U.S. government officials may continue to do in their shops."

"I particularly applaud Mr. Krauthammer's making torture personal to each one of us, by stating that `we must all be prepared to torture' when doing so can save American lives. "The typical Weekly Standard `moral honesty' of this statement! Not even Hitler or Stalin urged each of their citizens to be prepared to torture their fellow human beings. We owe a debt to Messrs. Krauthammer, Kristol and Murdoch for moving beyond mere moral preening to this stark revelation of their inner souls and psyches. We are humbled by their call, which sets a new moral `standard' indeed, summoning each of us to our highest human possibilities.

"And may we all reflect on the deeper implications of The Weekly Standard's call to arms. It is not only that `we all must be prepared to torture' in the future. It is that `we all are responsible for torture' right now. Given the daily revelations of U.S. torture around the globe, we cannot like the Germans claim that we do not know. Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have already made torturers of us all. We are all torturers now."