Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Undemagoguing Guantanamo

According to the Washington Times (Registration Required):

Two Democratic senators just back from reviewing U.S. detention facilities and interrogations at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said they saw no signs of abuse and said it would actually be worse to close the facility and transfer the detainees elsewhere.

"I strongly prefer the improved practices and conditions at Camp Delta to the outsourcing of interrogation to countries with a far less significant commitment to human rights," said Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, who toured the U.S. facility along with Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat.

The two Democrats were joined on the trip by two Republicans, Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky and Sen. Michael D. Crapo of Idaho.
This is good news on a number of levels. First, I am glad to see that there are members of the Democratic party that are willing to go against party talking points to get at the truth. I am especially impressed with the senator from Oregon, who must be under a considerable amount of pressure to toe the liberal line.

More important, though, is the assertion that there is no evidence of abuse. I have effectively stopped reading Andrew Sullivan because of his increasing hostility to the Religious Right, but I consider his warnings against failing to address the allegations of widespread abuse to be absolutely correct and to date largely unanswered. (Greg Djerejian of Belgravia Dispatch has similar criticisms but without the hostility.) This bipartisan report goes a long way toward reassuring me of the generally moral character of US conduct.

But what of the supposedly credible evidence that such abuse did occur? Well, I have been unsuccessful in finding primary sources on the subject, and the reportage seems to be somewhat contradictory when it isn't based on hearsay. But, supposing for the sake of argument that the reports are valid and the abuse did actually occur. Is it possible that the public pressure and investigation has caused those responsible to clean up their act? If so, I suggest that this is the best result we can reasonably hope for. A democratic and open society does not produce perfect men, but it does restrain their ability to do wrong.

Still, none of this should detract from the necessity to fully investigate such charges. We can't become complacent when dealing with charges of such gravity. But I fully recognize the difficulty of getting the facts straight when dealing with a hostile group that is religiously committed to the idea that infidels are not owed the truth.

Update: In looking over Sullivan's and Djerejian's blogs to see if they had reacted to this news, I noticed that they are both discussing something called a Conscience Caucus:
Greg's sin is to be pro-war and anti-torture, making him a member of the fledgling "conscience caucus" of pro-war, right-of-center writers who oppose the Bush administration policy of allowing abuse of prisoners if "military necessity" demands it.
I guess you can count me in that group, although I am not clear that this abuse is an actual policy. But I am certainly uncomfortable with some of the rhetoric that conservatives have been using to justify these practices. Greg posts that he will be giving more details on the subject when he gets back from vacation. I will be very interested in what he has to say.

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