Enforce the law

October 05, 2007

What is it about torture that the Bush administration finds so attractive? Consider the lengths to which the president's men have gone in order to preserve their right to inflict physical pain upon their enemies:

In 2002, John Yoo, then a deputy assistant attorney general, wrote a Justice Department opinion validating the use of torture within broad limits, despite laws and treaties forbidding it. In 2004, his successor, a conservative who believes in conservative principles, withdrew that opinion. A few months later, the White House installed a new attorney general, Alberto R. Gonzales, who oversaw what amounted to a reissuing of the Yoo opinion - in secret, until its existence was revealed yesterday in The New York Times. Within a year, when Congress was preparing to outlaw "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" of prisoners, the Justice Department issued yet another secret opinion, declaring that torture isn't torture, at least the way U.S. interrogators practice it.

This way, President Bush can be against torture, even when he's for it.

As we've said before, torture is illegal, and it's also wrong, and it's also a bad way to gather reliable information, and it's also a stupid practice that puts American troops who might be captured by enemies at great risk. It destroys America's credibility.

Two important points need to be made:

This fall, Michael B. Mukasey comes before the Senate for confirmation as attorney general. He must not be permitted to take that office unless he promises to withdraw the secret torture opinions and renounce the underhanded way in which the administration went about exempting itself from the law in the first place. He must promise to report to Congress on the existence of any other secret opinions that materially affect the observance of the law by the current administration.

Every candidate for president, from both parties, should repudiate the torture opinions and the warped reasoning behind them. And every candidate should commit the United States to a return to a lawful and moral course in world affairs.

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