June 1st, 2009
03:50 PM ET

Andrew Sullivan: Torture And "Specific Intent"

Program Note: Tune in tonight to hear more from Andrew Sullivan on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

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Andrew Sullivan
The Atlantic

I'm not a lawyer so I will leave the legal parsings to others. But I do want to note something quite odd in Andy McCarthy's latest defense of torture as national policy for the US. He wants to argue that those who waterboarded terror suspects were not torturing per se because they were intending to procure intelligence, and not torturing purely for the hell of it.

I don't believe there's much evidence that the intent of the torture program was sadism, although obviously once you condone torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners in any war, the sadism will emerge. And I see no evidence that those who waterboarded Zubaydah were doing it for the evil joy of it (although we don't know who the torturers were exactly in that case, or most others). But this is all irrelevant. The crime of torture is not about sadism. It is specifically about getting intelligence. The UN Convention's definition couldn't be clearer on this:

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