I can argue why ruling out torture and humiliating and degrading treatment is strongly in American interests, how interrogation of this sort rarely works. I can explain how the damage it does to us in the world far outweighs any specific information that we get. Indeed, even if we get information that actually succeeds in stopping a particular attack today, we are breeding legions of new terrorists tomorrow. I can also point out how seriously we endanger our own soldiers when they are captured abroad. I can talk about how fundamentally we degrade ourselves, beginning with the men and women ordered to carry out such treatment and ending with our very identity as a nation. As President Theodore Roosevelt said in his 1906 State of the Union address, “No man can take part in the torture of a human being without having his own moral nature permanently lowered.”
I can make those arguments. I believe them. But what I really want is an America that will simply stand up and say, as President George W. Bush did when he saw the Abu Ghraib photographs, that this is not who we are. It is time for a president who means it.