Luban on torture

My friend and former colleague David Luban effectively summarized the torture issue and achieved a blogger’s trifecta. First, he posted a strong piece–bitterly funny yet substantive–on Balkinization. Then Slate reprinted it virtually verbatim. And finally, Senator Dodd cited it on the floor of the US Senate. Dodd said, “There was an article written recently by Professor Luban, a professor at Georgetown University, titled ‘Forget Nuremberg–How Bush’s new torture bill eviscerates the promise of Nuremberg.’ I ask unanimous consent that the entire article be printed in the RECORD.” (There being no objection, the blog post was printed; but Dodd lost the vote.)

Luban begins:

The burning question is: What did the Bush administration do to break John McCain when a North Vietnamese prison camp couldn’t do it?

Could it have been “ego up”? I’m told ego up is not possible with a U.S. senator. That probably also rules out ego down. Fear up harsh? McCain doesn’t have the reputation of someone who scares easily. False flag? Did he think they were sending him to the vice president’s office? No, he already knew he was in the vice president’s office. Wait, I think I know the answer: futility?which the Army’s old field manual on interrogation defined as explaining rationally to the prisoner why holding out is hopeless. Yes, the explanation must be that the Bush lawyers would have successfully loopholed any law McCain might write, so why bother? Futility might have done the trick.