The avalanche of embarrassing CIA leaks in the last couple of weeks is a sign that within the Bush administration, the proponents of torture are finally losing the debate. They are losing the debate because torture is morally wrong, deeply damaging to the United States, terribly dangerous for U.S. servicemembers and counter-productive in the war against Islamist terrorism. Today, we get even more info. From Jane Mayer’s must-read New Yorker piece, we find that the White House Office of Legal Counsel had indeed opined that Iraqi insurgents were originally not covered by Geneva, and that that opinion had lasted until October 2003. Now does it make more sense why abuse and torture migrated so easily from Gitmo to Iraq and Abu Ghraib? And why we lost the hearts and minds of many Iraqis so soon? We also find out more about the critical 3/14/02 memo written by John Yoo, still classified but now being leaked. According to Mayer, the memo

“dismissed virtually all national and international laws regulating the treatment of prisoners, including war-crimes and assault statutes, and it was radical in its view that in wartime the President can fight enemies by whatever means he sees fit. According to the memo, Congress has no constitutional right to interfere with the President in his role as Commander-in-Chief, including making laws that limit the ways in which prisoners may be interrogated.”

Surely the public has a pressing right to know the contents of that memo. Meanwhile, many others in the administration are trying to reverse the hideous Cheney policy. According to Newsweek, Condi Rice, as I would have expected, now opposes this insane policy, along with humane and smart hawks like national-security adviser Stephen Hadley, and Gordon England, Donald Rumsfeld’s new deputy. Even Gonzales and Miers refuse to support torture any longer. The Washington Post also highlights a neoconservative hawk who has not gone over to the dark side:

[I]n a reflection of how many within the administration now favor changing the rules, Elliot Abrams, traditionally one of the most hawkish voices in internal debates, is among the most persistent advocates of changing detainee policy in his role as the deputy national security adviser for democracy, according to officials familiar with his role.

Those of us who recall the Reagan legacy and who believe in America’s vital role in fighting terror while preserving its values of human treatment of detainees and human rights are finally gaining ground. The soul of conservatism is at stake here – and the soul of America as well.


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