Now, like many or even most Americans, I have a soft spot for John McCain. A war hero, an ex-POW, and a willingness to cross his own party. Still, it's hard to tell when he's grandstanding or following principle.
On his leadership against torture, since he was a victim of it, we shall give him the benefit of the doubt, although not his allies on the other side of the aisle and even on his own.
Torture is wrong, and it doesn't work, anyway.
Sweet. Grabbing the moral high ground, and anyone who disagrees is a sadist interested only in inflicting needless suffering. Cheney and Rumsfeld are Himmler and Heydrich.
But torture does work. Let's get that straight. The case of US Army Col. Allen West is easily as important as the Valerie Plame nonsense, but has disappeared from the public discussion (if it was ever there) because it puts the lie to framing defenders of the "ticking bomb" scenario as immoral sadists.
Briefly, while serving in Iraq, Col. West uncovered a plot to ambush him and his men. He treated rather roughly a man who had knowledge of the plot, fired a few shots from his pistol in the man's close proximity while threatening to kill him, and got the information, saving both himself and his men.
As a coda, administrative action was taken against Col. West under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for what "amounted to torture." His career is over.
So, torture is not only already illegal, it also works. It can save lives. So much for the moral clarity that the current anti-torture argument claims. There's a real-world dilemma here.
But what of the "'wrongness' of torture" argument that remains? It claims a moral absolute, but is in conflict with the first natural right, to survive. Was Col. West obligated to die because of this moral absolute of "wrongness"? Let his men perish?
The "wrongness" argument requires suicide. Let its proponents own it: I would rather die than have someone tortured to save me. Or to save my friends, my lover, my parents, or my children.
Further, I forbid anyone else from saving their own lives or those of friends and family in this way.
Legislating morality, foisting yours upon others? Torture is wrong, why, exactly? Because you say so?
Strangely enough, like capital punishment, I'm personally opposed to torture for reasons that resonate from my religious beliefs. But if I'm to park all that at the door when we as a nation decide important things like this, then my reason admits that the arguments for both torture to save life (and for capital punishment) are the stronger.
And to throw both the moral and practical arguments into a blender, especially when neither can stand on its own, and use the resulting incomprehensible slime to pour on one's opponents as "supporters of torture?" No, that just won't do. John McCain gets a pass. The rest do not. This is the real world, where if like Pilate one washes his hands and walks away, innocents die.