May 15, 2009

Last night Bill O'Reilly unleashed one of his patented Falafel Jihads against the ole-time liberal-hater's favorite, the ACLU, for having had the audacity not only to sue to have those photos of detainee abuse released, but to have actually won in court.

For that, O'Reilly last night flatly accused the ACLU of setting out to harm the nation, and in fact being solely motivated by the desire to hold the country up to humiliation and expose our soldiers to harm. Seriously. Of course, he produces nary a scintilla of evidence to buttress his claims, but then, he's Bill O'Reilly. He doesn't have to.

What's clearly never occurred to O'Reilly is the reality that what he's looking at is one of the very pragmatic and practical reasons American forces have historically eschewed torture: Indulging it not only gives our enemies a rationale to employ it on our own soldiers when captured, but in fact motivates them to capture our soldiers solely for the purpose of retaliatory torture.

That has been one of the little-observed but longstanding and overwhelming ethical reasons to oppose any kind of torture for these prisoners, and has been all along, ever since it was outlawed internationally and nationally: that condoning any kind of abuse provides a pretext for our enemies to do the same, or worse, to American prisoners held abroad.

Moreover, the inevitable Arab anger over the photos further demonstrates know that torturing prisoners makes us less safe -- because, as the 2006 National Intelligence Estimate indicated, these actions provide a profound motivation for radicalizing young Muslims. Another study, as Fox recently reported, found a concrete connection between the Abu Ghraib torture photos and the recruitment of suicide bombers in Iraq.

No one wants to put American soldiers deeper in harm's way. But Bill O'Reilly needs to be confronted with the cold fact that it wasn't the actions of the ACLU that put them in that position -- it was the profoundly unwise policy choices of the Bush administration, and its many, many apologists for instituting a torture regime.

Bill O'Reilly, of course, being among the foremost cheerleaders.

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