instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Ichthyophthirius multifilis is a parasite that often turns up in freshwater aquariums. It forms tiny white cysts on a fish's body; hence its presence in a tank is sometimes called "white spot disease." More commonly, it's called "ich," or even just "ick."

There are ways to treat ich, and of course the best thing is to prevent the parasites from infecting fish to begin with, but once it gets too far out of hand the fish will die.

I was reminded of ich while reading National Review Online's editorial, "Torturing the Evidence." The editorial is an attempt to replace what it calls "the Democrats' torture narrative" with the Bush Administration's torture narrative.

According to the editorial:
Torture is illegal. And because torture is such a serious concern, our law has always defined it in such a way as to cover only truly heinous practices.
See how meaningless this is? Torture is illegal, because we have a law against it, and we are seriously concerned that we don't torture people, because that doesn't sound good, so we will count only truly heinous practices as torture, so if we don't engage in truly heinous practices, we aren't torturing, so we aren't breaking the law, so it's not a serious concern, because we defined the law that way, because the concern is serious if we torture, so we don't want to torture.

There's no premise here. There's barely argument. The United States defines torture such that the United States does not engage in torture.

In related news, the Soviet Union had freedom of the press.

Worse, perhaps, is this:
The Bush administration did not negate the Geneva Conventions' Common Article 3, which requires that captives be "treated humanely." CA3 simply did not apply.... True, U.S. military doctrine recommends the observation of Geneva protections even for non-qualified captives, but that is a policy choice -- it is not, as the Levin committee disingenuously asserts, a legal requirement.
If the U.S. is not legally required to treat our captives humanely, then the problem is not with partisan Democrats in the Senate, it's with our laws that permit us to treat our captives inhumanely.

There are plenty of logical problems with the editorial -- begging the question, equivocation, appeal to authority (ironically, one authority is the European Court of Human Rights, not generally regarded as authoritative by NRO), a through-the-looking-glass chronology -- but it's the brute amorality of the thing that is so striking.

Anyone who knows what the sentence, "Waterboarding is torture," means, and says they don't know it is true, is a liar, a fool, or both.