The media is all atwitter with the Jane Harman story, and the issue seems to be that Alberto Gonzales stifled the investigation for political purposes, that the administration needed her support on the illegal wiretapping issue which was about to break. The Bush Administration quashed investigation of a crime in order to use that evidence to blackmail the perpetrator.
How about the fact that she seems to have been willing to support a foreign cause for money? She was, after all, overheard telling agents of a foreign government that she would support their cause in return for money and their return support. That is acceptance of bribery. The media is mentioning this in passing, but pundits are largely ignoring it.
How about the fact that Nancy Pelosi appears to have been covering this crime up? The investigators were required to report the issue to the senior member of Harman’s party and say that they did so; that would be Pelosi. She denied Harman the chairmanship, but went along with Gonzalez in concealing the bribery. This part of the cover-up is accepted as being nothing more than normal politics.
So the media and pundits are coming down in righteous outrage and indignation on those involved who are already out of office but are giving a pass, as they always do, to those who are still members in good standing of the governing elite. Laws regarding bribery and covering up crimes do not apply to them.
In the continuing argument on torture, those who oppose it keep allowing proponents to draw them into the wrong defensive non-sequiturs. The only arguments needed are that it is unlawful and that we are a nation of laws, and the larger argument that it is inhumane and we are a humane people.
When someone says that “it works” it is not necessary to argue that it does nothing of the sort. It does not “work,” of course, but that it not the point. The point is that it does not matter whether it works or not; it is inhumane and illegal. Bank robbery “works,” but that doesn’t mean that people who need money should go out and rob banks. Why not? Because it harms others and is against the law.
When someone justifies torture by arguing that “these are bad guys who killed thousands,” it is true but irrelevant to argue that their guilt has not yet been proven. The correct argument is that it isn’t about them, it’s about us. It doesn’t matter who they are, it matters who we are. We treat all persons in a humane manner because we are humane. We treat all persons in a lawful manner because we are lawful.
By using the wrong argument we corrupt the very fabric of our society because we make the discussion about something else altogether; not that we become what we are talking about, merely that we make the discussion so. In the first instance the issue is no longer about a nation in which laws mean anything; it's now about which party is currently in power and can control the enforcement of those laws. In the second the discussion is no longer about who we are, nor about whether we will or will not torture, but about when and under what circumstances we will torture.
But if we continue a discussion along these lines long enough, we can become these things because we lose sight of the underlying truth; the truth which is lost in the conversation because it is never spoken. I would suggest that, in the first case, that is already happening.