Liar, Liar, Pantsuit On Fire

Charles Krauthammer has a typically great column on the ongoing debate over “torture” after Nancy Pelosi’s denial that she knew anything about waterboarding. Pelosi, assuming that the liberal press would cover for her, has now gotten caught up in a web of her own lies. So much so that the press has the scent of blood in the water:

Rep. Pelosi has ended up making a laughingstock of herself—her desperate attempts to backpedal from her own words are Clintonian in audacity without the skill of Slick Willy. Even the mainstream press has caught on.

Krauthammer puts the political impact of all this succinctly:

The reason Pelosi raised no objection to waterboarding at the time, the reason the American people (who by 2004 knew what was going on) strongly reelected the man who ordered these interrogations, is not because she and the rest of the American people suffered a years-long moral psychosis from which they have just now awoken. It is because at that time they were aware of the existing conditions — our blindness to al-Qaeda’s plans, the urgency of the threat, the magnitude of the suffering that might be caused by a second 9/11, the likelihood that the interrogation would extract intelligence that President Obama’s own director of national intelligence now tells us was indeed “high-value information” — and concluded that on balance it was a reasonable response to a terrible threat.

And they were right.

In the end, that’s correct. The “torture” issue will never have legs because the average American doesn’t share the sense of moral outrage that some have over that issue. In war, bad things happen. People get killed. Killing is a moral wrong, yet it is part of the nature of warfare. In the same vein, a practice like waterboarding may be credibly called torture, and torture is a moral wrong. Yet it is also a part of war. Pelosi doesn’t care about the morality of torture, she wants to score political points for partisan reasons. Some have a legitimate, rational, and moral objection to these practices, but they are a distinct minority.

In the end, Pelosi’s dissembling masks the real issue here. Waterboarding someone who was directly responsible for the inhuman September 11 atrocity is morally and politically different than the mistreatment of detainees. The abuses of Abu Ghraib and others are examples of acts that harm America’s reputation and dishonor our military. Yet the focus is not on those acts, but on the waterboarding issue. Were this a moral rather than a political issue, detainee abuse would be placed in its full context, rather than being used as a truncheon against the Bush Administration.

Pelosi’s lies are political in nature, just like this whole attempt at a partisan witch-hunt. Even for those who legitimately and truly oppose torture, tying their wagons to such a despicably partisan crusade only undercuts the seriousness of their position. If the anti-torture campaign will be spearheaded by outright liars like Rep. Pelosi, it will never be taken seriously.