April 15, 2008

McCain and torture

A very fair-minded piece here by Michael Scherer of Time asking whether McCain has flip-flopped on torture, given his recent vote against a bill that would have required the CIA to observe the rules on interrogation tactics set out in the Army Field Manual. Here's the short version:

"A review of the record shows that McCain has neither changed his position on torture nor taken sides with President Bush on the substance of the issue."

It's true that McCain explicitly said that he wasn't in favor of allowing the CIA to use water boarding or other abusive tactics, but that there were non-abusive tactics which aren't in the field manual and which he believes are appropriate for intelligence services to use.

But... a) McCain knows that the current occupant of the White House has fostered a culture in which the wording of the law is twisted far beyond its original meaning to sanction abusive interrogation tactics and b) Bush has dealt with every previous attempt to define acceptable interrogation practices with bad faith.

I'd like to see a reporter ask McCain whether, given his own abhorrence of torture, the better course of action might have been to vote for the bill, to try to prevent the current president from allowing further abuses. Then, if McCain is elected, he could ask Congress to approve the additional, non-abusive techniques he'd like the CIA to use. And if he loses, he could lead a similar effort from the Senate and ask a Democratic president to sign it into law.