Immoral and Tortured Legal Justifications to Legally Justify the Immorality of Torture

Brian Zick

Stuart Taylor for The National Journal discusses how the Bush administration disregarded any considerations of elemental morality or lessons of history in choosing to use torture, but instead sought ways to pervert legal meaning to justify the decision. Taylor points to a lecture by Philip Zelikow, former senior adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and executive director of the 9/11 commission: Zelikow… is hardly the first to point out that the administration approved extremely harsh methods even as Bush purported to renounce torture. But he has opened a window into how the Bush policy-making process went wrong -- and how it could go wrong again if it is still driven by expansive legal claims about war powers rather than by morality and policy analysis. Taylor then says: Like the Gestapo's harshest tactics, the Bush methods were to be used only if necessary to extract information unobtainable by gentler inquiries. Like the Gestapo's policy, the Bush policy included darkened cells, sleep deprivation, and stress positions. And the Bush policy included some methods -- such as "waterboarding" (simulated drowning) and hypothermia -- that the Gestapo initially banned.My point is not to liken Bush to Adolf Hitler. It is that the Bush White House should not have approved Gestapo-like interrogation techniques with no better justification than a legal opinion from Justice Department political appointees.This is also part of Zelikow's point. Now a history professor at the University of Virginia, he stressed in his lecture that the high-level Bush administration approval of methods involving prolonged physical torment was unprecedented in American history, even during World War II, which took hundreds of thousands of American lives. Nor did World War II leaders such as Henry Stimson, George Marshall, and Winston Churchill "rely on lawyers to tell them what was right and wrong," Zelikow said. (…) Indeed, it is unclear whether any White House official with a key role in authorizing harsh interrogation methods has ever made a careful study of the literature on what does and does not work in questioning captives or of the historical precedents.

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