"I don't see it as a dark chapter in our history at all," – Charles Krauthammer, yesterday.
"The pictures are shocking and the practices appalling," – Charles Krauthammer, on Abu Ghraib, May 14, 2004.
As we now know, Bush and Cheney authorized torture techniques much worse than what we saw at Abu Ghraib, and as we now know, the techniques revealed at Abu Ghraib were garbled copies of practices already endorsed and authorized by the Bush White House. So what can possibly account for Krauthammer's shock at Abu Ghraib and pride in the torture program? That one was poorly organized and leaked? Or that Krauthammer's friends are now to be held responsible rather than reservists thrown into the deep end of the Rumsfeld gulag?
Or put it another way: imagine if an American operative out of uniform were captured by the Iranians tomorrow. Imagine he were put into a coffin for hours with no light and barely enough air to breathe, imagine if he were then removed and smashed against a plywood wall by a towel tied around his neck thirty times, imagine if he were then kept awake for eleven days in a row, then kept in a cell frozen to hypothermia levels, and then waterboarded multiple times, after which he confessed to being a spy trying to sabotage Iran's nuclear program. Would you believe that intelligence? Would Krauthammer? Would you believe both that he wasn't tortured and that the information he gave was reliable? That is what an otherwise intelligent human being is asking us to do not just in one case but in hundreds, in many of which the prisoner actually died under interrogation.
Would he also insist that what was done to the prisoner, however awful, could not be called torture under American law and the Geneva Conventions? Now imagine that the International Red Cross eventually got access to the prisoner and judged his treatment unequivocally torture; and that the Iranians claimed that since they merely applied "an alternative set of procedures" in order to gain critical intelligence that might have prevented a nuclear accident or sabotage, and remain in compliance with international treaties.
Can you imagine Krauthammer agreeing with Iran? And siding against the Red Cross? These are, of course, rhetorical questions. On every point, Krauthammer's moral and ethical standards are entirely dependent on who is torturing whom. If we do it, it's moral and it works. If they do it, it's evil and misleading.
It is important to note that this is underlying moral position of the leading conservative intellectual in Washington. And they say power doesn't corrupt.