Hi, I'm Nick. This is my blog. I'm a life-long unschooler living in New York. You can find more about me here.

I help run the Recurse Center (YC'S10).

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These guys are crazy

May 23, 2007

I only caught the last half-hour of the most recent Republican debate, and boy was it terrifying: Eight of the ten candidates came out in strong favor of "enhanced interrogation techniques," formerly known as torture. Mitt Romney wants to double the size of Guantanamo Bay. Only Rep. Ron Paul and Sen. John McCain argued that torturing people was perhaps not the best way to defend our values.

Rep. Paul pointed out that calling torture enhanced interrogation techniques was akin to Newspeak. Sen. McCain, the only candidate who has experienced the horrific reality of torture, gave an impassioned argument:

It's not about the terrorists, it's about us. It's about what kind of country we are. And a fact: The more physical pain you inflict on someone, the more they're going to tell you what they think you want to know.

It's about us as a nation. We have procedures for interrogation in the Army Field Manual. Those, I think, would be adequate in 999,999 of cases, and I think that if we agree to torture people, we will do ourselves great harm in the world.

The rest of the candidates appear to be morally bankrupt. They seem to think our moral yardstick is Al Qaeda, and as long as we're not as barbaric as they are we're doing okay. They're wrong. Our moral compass should be based upon our nation's founding principles, not the actions of murderous thugs.

Also frightening were the frequent allusions to 24. Rep. Tancredo said that in the (entirely contrived and 24-esque) ticking time-bomb scenario he was "looking for Jack Bauer."[1] I was reminded of a scathing and rather apropos article from the American Conservative magazine. The entire piece is worth a read, but its thrust is summed up in its closing paragraph:

The devotion to 24 and its protagonist demonstrates what few may care to admit: in the war on terror, the conservative movement has become willing to sacrifice principle to passion and difficult moral reasoning to utility. As escapism, 24 is riveting; as a parable for our time, it is revolting.

Rep. Tancredo said that America is Western civilization's last hope and tried to justify the use of torture as a means of defending Western civilization. That's like burning down your home to defend against a prowler on the roof. When we start torturing fellow human beings, even under the assumption they have committed heinous crimes, when we "sacrifice principle to passion," we destroy the very values we purport to defend.

  1. Complete transcript online via the New York Times here. If you don't have an nytimes.com account, try BugMeNot.com