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Alan Berlind (SFSO, Ret.)

It was something akin to torture to read David T. Jones’ ringing, almost joyous yet odious ode to the use of torture (“Torturing Ourselves over Torture“, March 11, 2008). The commentary appeared several weeks ago, but I have yet to see a single rejoinder. Were other visitors to the site as shocked and disappointed as I was to find a retired American diplomat in the cheering section for John Yoo, David Addington and their ilk, and as reluctant to soil themselves even by way of protesting? (There are surely Foreign Service Officers other than Jones, active and retired, who share his views, but they too appear to have opted for silence for their own reasons.)

It would serve no purpose to take Jones on word by word; the subject of torture has been explored extensively and publicly by others better qualified than either of us. I would like proudly to identify myself, however, with those so nastily trashed by Jones, those who share Western sensibilities, seek the moral high ground, treasure both human dignity and individual rights, and believe in the sanctity of international conventions — to say nothing of the United States Constitution. If I had the degree, I would gladly serve as the maligned “lawyer humanitarian” (by a more comprehensible title) without worrying that someone might mistake me for Emily Post or Mother Teresa and without feeling obliged to engage in “self-indulgent bombastic posturing.”

“Torture works,” announces Jones, who then notes that it doesn’t always work on everyone, that it is not the “preferred” method of extracting intelligence, and that the latter might turn out to have been inaccurate. But, what the hell! It may work sometimes, more traditional methods also produce duplicity and deceit, and — the clincher — the other guys do it.

We are told that “there is no moral high ground in terrorism.” I could not disagree more, and not because of any particular religious belief or ideology. It is just that I know in my heart and mind that torture, whether more or less effective than other tools, and beyond the sad truth that its use has sullied the reputation of the country I served, is both wrong and illegal.

Does anyone out there agree?

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