On 24 March, Congressman Matt Gaetz told a Shark Tank interviewer “I agree with the President we ought to have every option on the table when it comes to advanced interrogation techniques.” In plain English, advanced interrogation means torture. He thinks torture should be a legal tool of the United States used by the President. That is a self-destructive mistake for the country.
I’m sure Matt doesn’t see it that way. With the war on terror, torture has gained some undeserved popularity. He knows this topic hits an emotional hot button with a lot of folks. Every radical Islamic terrorist attack somewhere stokes a common desire to fight fire with fire. TV shows have gritty public servants thrashing bad guys to within an inch of their lives to find the kidnapped girl. The scariest story line of all is the maniac with an atom bomb who won’t tell people where it is, and it has to be beaten out of him. People want simple solutions, and Matt Gaetz gives it to them. Of course, he doesn’t mention the horrendous price we pay for doing so.
Legalized torture is dangerous to that precious thing known as the American way of life. With the word out that we will use torture, our enemies will be less likely to give themselves up. That will lead to the unnecessary death of our soldiers. It sets the stage for revenge attacks in a never ending cycle of retaliation. It removes any semblance of moral superiority from our legal or military actions. It turns its back on hundreds of years of the progress of civilization starting with the Crucifixion, and violates reams of existing law. It doesn’t recognize individual rights, only the force of the State over a person. It caters to mob rule. The innocent can suffer as readily as the guilty. In addition, it doesn’t work. When Secretary of Defense Mattis stated that “beer and cigarettes” were better than enhanced interrogation techniques, he wasn’t just speaking morally. The Air Force taught me a person under torture will say anything, do anything, to stop it. John McCain himself made all sorts of bogus admissions to crimes on North Vietnamese Radio under torture. These kinds of limitations make the whole idea unreliable in the extreme.
Legalized torture would be like introducing cancer into our Republic. It causes physical and mental lasting harm, with no remedy, to people who could be innocent. It trashes due process. It won’t even work, but it is popular. And to think Matt wants to give such power to the President, a separate and supposedly equal branch of the government. You have to ask yourself, what do we become if we do embrace torture and its threat to liberty? H.L. Mencken wrote to every problem there is a solution that is clear, simple, and wrong. Legalized torture is that kind of solution.
Matt Gaetz is an educated man, lawyer, and officer of the court, but he chose political expediency over representation, tough words over a clear vision, and dangerously advocating an ever increasing Federal power to impose its might over the individual. His cynicism in supporting such a policy is both overwhelming and heartbreaking at the same time. The First District is chock full of people who are at the tip of the military spear. It makes me wonder if he ever bothered talking to them at all.
The lawyers I’ve known say it used to be considered better to let a guilty man go free than let an innocent man suffer under the law.
As a Congressman, Matt Gaetz has chosen a new path, and it ain’t pretty.
Pete Blome is Chair of the Northwest Florida Libertarian Party and a retired military officer