He means it, too: Matthews, incredulous, offers him a menu of horribles and Smerc orders everything on it. I can’t remember ever watching a torture debate like this, pitting an absolute opponent like Hitch against an absolute endorser on the other side. And not just an absolute endorser, but one willing to extend the principle beyond unlawful combatants to pretty much anyone who threatens violence against America (or at least any jihadi, uniformed or not). If, like me, you’ve never had much patience for slippery-slope alarmism, good luck watching this without feeling a tinge of strange new respect. Is there any limitation on what he’s suggesting here? It sounds like he’s at least demanding probable cause to believe the prisoner has actionable intelligence, but I can’t tell if he’s restricting this to ticking-bomb scenarios or is willing to drop that requirement, too.
Matthews’s preference is clear but he does, to his credit, press Hitchens a bit more than expected, especially on the dopey point about American POWs being treated worse because of the policy. I can’t think of a single country we’re remotely likely to be at war with that’s known for treating its prisoners humanely now, let alone American prisoners during a state of conflict, but let me know in the comments if I’ve forgotten anyone. Exit question: Hardball’s going to make for riveting viewing after the first report of enhanced interrogation by the Obama CIA trickles out, huh?