Yesterday John McCain published an op-ed in the Washington Post opposing the use of torture in terrorist interrogations, on both practical and moral grounds. In a Senate floor speech today, he expanded on his argument, concluding:
There are many arguments to be made against torture on practical grounds. As I have said, I believe torture produces unreliable information, hinders our fight against global terrorism, and harms our national interest and reputation. But ultimately, this debate is about far more than technical or practical issues. It is about far more than whether torture works or does not work. It is about far more than utilitarian matters. Ultimately, this is about morality. What is at stake here is the very idea of America – the America whose values have inspired the world and instilled in the hearts of its citizens the certainty that, no matter how hard we fight, no matter how dangerous our adversary, in the course of vanquishing our enemies we do not comprise our deepest values. We are America, and we hold ourselves to a higher standard. That is what is really at stake.
“Though Osama bin Laden is dead, America remains at war, and to prevail in this war we need more than victories on the battlefield. This is a war of ideas as well, a struggle to advance freedom in the face of terror in places where oppressive rule has bred the malevolence that feeds an ideology of violent extremism. Prisoner abuses exact a terrible toll on us in this war of ideas. They inevitably become public, and when they do they threaten our moral standing, and expose us to false but widely disseminated charges that democracies are no more inherently idealistic and moral than other regimes. I understand that Islamic extremists who resort to terror would destroy us utterly if they could obtain the weapons to do so. But to defeat them utterly we must also prevail in our defense of the universal values that ultimately have the greatest power to eradicate this evil ideology.
On this issue McCain has special credibility, because he was tortured at the hands of his North Vietnamese captors, to the point that he attempted suicide and made a false confession.
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