With a little application of logic, we find that under the praxis Deadeye and the Torture 13 applied to justify it, torture is universally available.
In appellate arguments, you will often hear a judge ask an attorney: “what’s the limiting principle your rule would be subject to?” or something similar. A “limiting principle” is, for lack of a better term, a statement principle which, when the application of a particular rule comes up against it, stops the rule from going forward.
To give you an example: The one time I saw an argument in the Supreme Court, the case involved a man prosecuted as having produced kiddie p*rn, when the photo clerk at the local Fotomat saw naked pictures of kids coming out of the processing machine. Scalia, as I recall it, was hammering one of the attorneys for the government on the limiting principle of how far a depiction of a naked kid would be considered p*rn, and seemed to find agreement that a bare bottom on a rug would be not prosecutable – as there was no prurience involved. A limiting principle.
So, there you have the concept.
The other day, TPM put up a link to an article detailing how one particular captive of the United States had been taken to Gitmo and harshly interrogated, if not tortured, not because he was alleged to be a terrorist at all. Rather, the reason he was in captivity was because he was believed to know about the structure of the Iraqi Army, and the US wanted him to spill what he knew, in advance of the coming Iraq war.
It is pretty well-established in the reporting these last couple weeks that a, if not the, primary objective of the US torturing its captives – at least prior to March 2003 – was to find someone who would spill out a story of a deep, abiding linkage between al-Qaeda and the Saddam Hussein government in Iraq, so as to assist in making the case for the Iraq war.
Setting aside the deeply problematic issue of torture and its ramifications for a second, the thing people seem to be missing – the next dirty question for Cheney and the Torture 13 – is this:
if you can take people from one place to another and torture them to gain "information"* for the political purpose of, say, proving an al-Qaeda-Iraq link to justify a war against Iraq, you can also substitute any other political purpose into the equation.
Do you, as a politician, need proof that Nancy Pelosi or Newt Gingrich is in league with Satan so as to effect a political purpose? Grab an aide – or someone who’s been at a rally of theirs once – and waterboard them until they give up a word picture of her or him and Satan … um, you know. True, false? Doesn’t matter. You have your answer.
Once one crosses the boundary of allowing torture to effect (supporting) a political purpose, there is no limiting principle which precludes its application anywhere. Because there is nothing that cannot be recast as a valid political purpose.
So, when I said "universally available" above, I meant it – as many posited a while ago, Cheney had a lot more he wanted to do, but didn’t think he could get away with politically.
Something to ponder.
* Broadly defined as "a human mouth spouting words which seem to have coherence, though any relation to reality or truth is optional".