U.S. handling of detainees captured in the war on terror should be durable – politically, legally, and among our key allies.
We do not adopt legal standards in our behavior as a favor to terrorists. We do it for ourselves, and to be able to exemplify the values that distinguish us from the terrorists.
In practice, we are already adopting de facto standards of conduct that are good and defensible. In some of the most challenging operations we now conduct, by Special Operations forces against the Zarqawi network in Iraq, our forces have found, for example, that they do not need physical coercion in their interrogations. But these practices are not yet reflected in a legal framework to underpin them.
Now many questions still remain, not the least of which is was this kind of dissent going on in the Administration in 2002. Before we can look ahead as President Obama would like us to, we have to look back to see what we are averting our eyes from. Otherwise, whether its waterboarding or some other form of torture, it likely will happen again.