Monday, February 22, 2010

Petraeus draws the line on torture (again)

In May 2007, when David Petraeus was the US commander in Iraq, he issued an open letter to American soldiers in Iraq that unambiguously rejected the use of torture. To quote from Tom Ricks's report in the Washington Post:
The top U.S. commander in Iraq admonished his troops regarding the results of an Army survey that found that many U.S military personnel there are willing to tolerate some torture of suspects and unwilling to report abuse by comrades.

"This fight depends on securing the population, which must understand that we -- not our enemies -- occupy the moral high ground," Army Gen. David H. Petraeus wrote in an open letter dated May 10 and posted on a military Web site.

He rejected the argument that torture is sometimes needed to quickly obtain crucial information. "Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary," he stated. [....]
As Norman Geras observed at the time, "this is a statement that should have been made a lot earlier." The fact that it hadn't been, and that a principled condemnation of torture required such a forceful restatement as late as 2007, was one more testimony to the shameful, destructive, and demoralizing effects of the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld era.

Well, Bush is no longer President, but Cheney and too many other Republicans have continued to advocate, defend, or excuse torture. So Petraeus has done us all a service by drawing this line once again.

--Jeff Weintraub

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