Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Sullivan misses the point: Or maybe just avoids it purposefully, but why make it so obvious. In his Email of the Day post yesterday he cites a correspondant who says:

I can't believe you would put the interrogation policies of the Bush administration and the barbaric beheading of another human being on the same moral plane. You wrote today:

"My point is that we can no longer unequivocally condemn the torture of these two soldiers because we have endorsed and practised torture ourselves."

Until you can show me evidence that a U.S. Government interrogator has taken a dull knife, cut into the throat of another man or woman, and sawn through skin, muscle, tendon, and bone until the head of that persons detaches from their neck, please don't make such an intellectually dishonest comparison between these barbarians and our own government.
Our enemies are fundamentalist nihilists. We may have to fight a harder, dirtier war against such a disgraceful enemy. But we still must do what is necessary to win.

Sully replies thus:

This is an honest argument: to fight barbarians, we must become more like them. I disagree; I believe torture is always wrong, and profoundly corrupts the torturing nation that endorses it. I also think that in the short and, even more, in the long run, it will prove our undoing in this war. This is a battle between barbarism and civilization. We cannot destroy our moral compass in order to save it.
At the very end of the email the writer does indicate some vague support for getting a little down and dirty with those who don't fight by Marquis of Queensbury rules, but the overall thrust of his argument is that we don't engage in behavior that in any way resembles the atrocities committed by our foes. We don't cut off heads or otherwise murder our victims, we don't torture enemies, at least not in the same sense of the word. He's basically saying, "We may have to get a little rough from time to time, but this (ed. those who beheaded american soldiers) is torture. And if you can't see the difference maybe you're not so qualified to say who holds the moral high ground."

Andrew totally ignores that accusation and makes a nice attempt to distract the reader with a little rhetorical dodge, offering to legitimize, if not accept, an argument that isn't there ("This is an honest argument."). But it's a cheap trick and is the kind of thing that has pissed off much of his readership.

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