Tom Friedman’s take on torture report

I liked Tom Friedman’s latest column:

Why do people line up to come to this country? Why do they build boats from milk cartons to sail here? Why do they trust our diplomats and soldiers in ways true of no other country? It’s because we are a beacon of opportunity and freedom, and also because these foreigners know in their bones that we do things differently from other big powers in history.

One of the things we did was elect a black man whose grandfather was a Muslim as our president — after being hit on Sept. 11, 2001, by Muslim extremists. And one of the things we do we did on Tuesday: We published what appears to be an unblinking examination and exposition of how we tortured prisoners and suspected terrorists after 9/11. I’m glad we published it.

It may endanger captured Americans in the future. That is not to be taken lightly. But this act of self-examination is not only what keeps our society as a whole healthy, it’s what keeps us a model that others want to emulate, partner with and immigrate to — which is a different, but vital, source of our security as well….

It’s not a unique point of view. Even The Guardian, in expressing its high dudgeon over “America’s shame and disgrace,” acknowledged in a backhanded way that issuing the report illustrates something special about America, even though they were just using it as a way to beat up on HMG:

In one sense, it is a tribute to the US that it has published such a report. It is certainly a huge contrast to the cosy inadequacy of UK policy, practice and accountability – shortcomings that parliament must address.

But I particularly appreciate Friedman’s approach. His headline was “We’re Always Still Americans,” and it came from this John McCain quote at the end:

… I greatly respect how Senator John McCain put it: “I understand the reasons that governed the decision to resort to these interrogation methods, and I know that those who approved them and those who used them were dedicated to securing justice for the victims of terrorist attacks and to protecting Americans from further harm. … But I dispute wholeheartedly that it was right for them to use these methods, which this report makes clear were neither in the best interests of justice nor our security nor the ideals we have sacrificed so much blood and treasure to defend.” Even in the worst of times, “we are always Americans, and different, stronger, and better than those who would destroy us.”

Whether, of course, we remain Americans, true to our ideals, depends on whether we truly have put this shameful practice behind us.

11 thoughts on “Tom Friedman’s take on torture report

  1. Doug Ross

    “Why do people line up to come to this country? Why do they build boats from milk cartons to sail here? ”


    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      To Doug, money explains everything. To me, it explains almost nothing.

      I mean, he’s entirely skipping over such other, more high-minded, motivations such as blue jeans and rock and roll. 🙂

  2. Bryan Caskey

    “Why do people line up to come to this country? Why do they build boats from milk cartons to sail here? ”


    Sorry Doug! The correct answer is “Freedom”.

      1. Barry

        Agree with Doug.

        Don’t buy the “freedom” argument either.

        Millions of Hispanics come here for money – to make money. Plenty of them send it back to Mexico to their families. Plenty of them come here to live. Plenty Hispanic men come here, work, and go back home.

        Freedom isn’t what they are after. They are after money to feed their family.

  3. Silence

    I’ll agree with freedom to make and keep money. The predictable rule of law helps, as does an equal application of the law.

  4. Barry

    I disagree with Tom Friedman.

    releasing this report may make some folks feel good – but it’s not helpful – and it’s likely people will die specifically because of it.

  5. Barry

    I also find it amusing that John McCain is now the elder statesman again on MSNBC and along the liberal left wing this week.

    At least McCain gets a break from their name-calling for a few weeks.

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