There really ought to be some sort of remedial civics licensing course for the David Ignatiuses of the world.

A hooded detainee is escorted by two officers.

A Guantanamo detainee is "transported" by two officers. Is torture merely a matter of public policy?

Here’s the pundit’s latest in the Washington Post. It’s about Katheryn Bigelow’s new film Zero Dark Thirty, her “almost journalistic” account of the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

Note that in his entire article, not once does Ignatius offer even a single word about whether torture is legal (hint: it is not). For people like Ignatius, the law is just irrelevant. It doesn’t even enter into his policy calculations. It’s simply not part of his world. Here’s his summation:

Here’s the bottom line, at least for me: We should oppose torture because it’s wrong, not because it doesn’t work. Perhaps the courier’s trail could have been found through other means; we’ll never know. President Obama was right to ban torture, but the public must understand that this decision carries a potential cost in lost information. That’s what makes it a moral choice.

We should oppose torture because it’s wrong, but it’s irrelevant whether it’s illegal? And “President Obama was right to ban torture?” Well then, shouldn’t the president also ban rape, murder, arson, and embezzlement? After all, under the Constitution, laws are made by presidential decree. Some presidents permit such practices; others prohibit them, exactly as the Constitution provides. Right?

It’s hard to imagine anything (beyond Obama’s spurious “ban” itself) that could better cement in the public mind the notion that torture is a policy choice, not a crime. And that America is a nation under the rule of men, not of laws.

There must be something insidiously seductive about torture for it to cause such monumental illogic, willful ignorance, and mis-focused priorities. Next to the baseline fact that torture is illegal, torture’s ability to recruit the minds of people like Ignatius into arguing that in America, the law should have no meaning, is an excellent reason to oppose it.

Public domain photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Billings.