Mystery of the Decade

Here’s something I’m not sure we’ll ever really understand, but I wonder in a nagging way why it is that the Bush administration decided to take the line that all its illegally interrogation techniques weren’t really torture, or weren’t really illegal. Why not do the reverse? Why not admit, straight up, that past laws and treaties adopted by the United States of America sharply constrained the nation’s ability to deploy brutal interrogations and demand that congress change the rules? All evidence is that torture remained fairly popular long past the point when George W Bush himself had become unpopular. And that was even without any prominent political figures actually saying the words “torturing suspects should be legal.”

If Bush had said in the winter of 2001-2002 that he wanted congress to repudiate the Geneva Conventions as outdated in an era of terrorism, does anyone seriously think that the Senate Democrats would have stood in his way? Back then you had highbrow magazines like The Atlantic arguing that “what’s needed is a little smacky-face.” It would have been a great wedge issue for Bush, reflected a policy course that they intended to pursue anyway, and would have spared them a lot of problems down the road.

Did they just prefer the idea of breaking the law to changing it? Did they know on some level that they were in the wrong and didn’t want to own their own actions? It’s weird.