Adults Can Disagree About Torture | Bleader

Adults Can Disagree About Torture

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Move on, folks, nothing to see here.

Jack Higgins drew an editorial cartoon for the May 4 Sun-Times that spoke for a lot of people. The scene: a crowd whooping it up in the streets of New york. A TV guy asking a hard hat, "What do you think about waterboarding being used to help us get bin Laden?!" The hard hat, big grin on his face, replying, "Surf's up!"

The next day the Sun-Times editorial page carried a long editorial that also spoke for a lot of people. The headline was, "Crediting torturers doesn't hold water," and the editorial began: "Let's be clear, though it will do nothing to dissuade right-wing mythmakers: America's greatest victory in the war on terror, the tracking down and killing of Osama bin Laden, was the culmination of years of painstaking work and shoe-leather sleuthing by the CIA and military intelligence services.

"The torturing of terror suspects, as best we know so far, got us little or nothing. To argue otherwise. . . is to put politics before facts..."

At first glance, the Sun-Times appears to have been calling its editorial cartoonist a "right-wing mythmaker" and repudiating his cartoon at the first opportunity. But not really. Tom McNamee, editor of the editorial page, said Thursday afternoon the editorial was not a response to the cartoon. It simply expressed the paper's editorial position on torture, which Higgins is free not to share. "I give him great leeway," said McNamee.

Besides — if I may add my two cents' worth to McNamee's — the cartoon and the editorial are less opposed than they seem to be at that first glance. The cartoon was visceral. The editorial was reasoned. It was possible to feel the way Higgins's hard hat felt but then get a grip and think as the editorial thought.

The problem is — as I said above — that there's nothing to see here. The paper puts Higgins's cartoons online — but not this one. "It should have been online," said McNamee. "It was just a mistake. That sometimes happens." But to the Sun-Times reader who gave me the head's up on this matter — and surely not to him alone — it looked as if the Sun-Times hoped to flush the cartoon quietly down the memory hole.

Friday morning, several hours after we talked, the cartoon still hadn't been posted.

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