Fred Thompson’s detailed description of the abuse John McCain suffered in the Hanoi Hilton sounded familiar. In fact, it was the exact playbook from Guantánamo, Bagram Air Base and the other secret dungeons and drop sites around the world where similar treatment is meted out to ‘The Enemy’. I suspect that the irony was lost on that crowd.
The Republicans listening with rapt attention to the torture chronicle probably would argue that because terrorists attacked civilians and killed innocent Americans, rough stuff is both justified and necessary when tracking down their confederates—especially given the ever-popular ‘ticking time-bomb’ scenario in which torture extracts useful information and prevents new attacks.
But John McCain’s job was to drop bombs on North Vietnamese civilians from an airplane. To use the Cheney-Bush-Thompson argument, the Vietnamese legitimately decided to torture McCain because he might have known military information that could have helped them respond to the next round of deadly attacks—in fact, Thompson just finished saying that he did.
So we can’t have it both ways: if it is okay to torture suspects in Guantánamo, it must have been okay to beat up John McCain. Unless the conventioneers choose to claim that Americans are a special class of human being with a special set of rules—rather an odd position for the righteous defenders of the human fetus.