The reaction to the Senate report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s torture program has been almost as depressing as the report itself — which is saying something. There’s been impotent outrage from people you’d expect to be outraged; lame excuses from people you’d expect to make excuses; and muddled ambivalence from the vast uncommitted. I’d hoped America would say with one voice: “We’re ashamed. Never again.” That isn’t what I’m hearing. Much of the country still can’t even bring itself to say “torture.” Despite knowing what the report said, reporters are still referring to “enhanced interrogation techniques.” In an earlier post I argued that the program was deplorable, but that it matters to understand exactly why it was deplorable. It was evil, but not because it violated an absolute moral principle that says torture can never be justified. That principle is no help, I said, because it’s false, and everybody (reluctant as they may be to admit it) knows it’s false. An article by Rosa Brooks, a law professor at Georgetown University, unwittingly proved my point, demonstrating the futility of saying, “Torture is always immoral, and that’s that.” The classic ticking-bomb argument to justify torture does not disturb her moral…
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