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Joe Scarborough Abandons Basic Humanity, Says Anything is Justified in the Name of Preventing Terror

As noted here earlier today, the Obama administration isn’t exactly making it clear that they intend to hold lawbreakers responsible for specific instances of torture revealed by the recently released CIA Inspector General report.  And why should they when media blowhards like Joe Scarborough signal that the only price Obama will pay is if he punishes torturers?

On today’s Morning Joe, Scarborough was in full Jack Bauer tough guy mode.  Given that Scarborough has defended torture in the past, I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise.   Still, my sense of outrage isn’t so squelched that I didn’t marvel in disgust when I heard Scarborough this morning.

Tough guy Joe told his viewers that, if "grownups" were running things, the only question they’d ask about torture is: does it work?   That’s a breathtaking approach.  I can’t say whether Scarborough thought this through, but consider what that means.  If someone proposes burning a detainee’s family member alive, impaling a detainee’s family member on a stake, throwing a detainee’s family member in a shark tank, executing residents of a detainee’s hometown one by one, the only question Scarborough would ask is: does it work?

I was in New York City on September 11 and I was scared as hell.  I was looking over my shoulder for a long time (due, in part, to phony terror reports the Bush admin put out–thanks for that!).  But I don’t understand how we can call ourselves human beings if we accept Scarborough’s standard. He subordinates everything to one purpose, preventing terror attacks, without even offering an explanation of how we know if torture "works" (an important question to ask before we start going all Jack Bauer). 

For Scarborough, there is no law, there is no morality–other than the one moral imperative: prevent terrorism, at any cost (again, I don’t know how we can ever guarantee that any horrific method of torture will even accomplish this).  That may sound good and, sadly, there may be people who are afraid and find Scarborough’s approach comforting.  The question I have is: how do we continue to be human beings if we are prepared to impale young chidren, burn human beings alive, or do any of a thousand other horrific things I don’t even want to imagine–as long as it "works"?

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Chris Edelson

Chris Edelson

Chris is a lawyer and professor at American University who writes frequently about current political and media issues. His writing has also been published in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Metroland (Albany, NY), and at