Blogs: Paul Pillar
The Cuba Opening: A Welcome Blow Against the Posturing School of Foreign Policy
Friends, Not Just Enemies, of an Iranian Nuclear Deal are Imperiling It
The National Effort at Self-Exoneration on Torture
Amid all that is misleading in the committee report itself and in reactions to it, some kudos are in order for other reactions. One compliment should go to the Obama White House, which provided in its statement on the subject a principled declaration that torture is wrong along with some recognition of the public emotions and moods that underlay what was done several years ago. A particularly graceful touch was a reference to how “the previous administration faced agonizing choices” in how to secure the United States amid the post-9/11 fears. This fair and correct way of framing the recent history was the opposite of what could have been a partisan “those guys did torture and we didn't” approach.
Also worthy of compliments in the same vein is Senator John McCain, who made an eloquent speech on the floor of the Senate opposing any use of torture. McCain often is as hard-minded a partisan warrior as anyone, but on this matter he spoke on the basis of principle.
Finally, kudos should go to the CIA for not going into a defensive crouch but instead recognizing deficiencies in performance where they did exist and, unlike the Senate committee report, coming up with specific recommendations for improvement. This response, too, represented important American values. As Director of National Intelligence James Clapper noted in his own statement, “I don’t believe that any other nation would go to the lengths the United States does to bare its soul, admit mistakes when they are made and learn from those mistakes.”