Sen. John McCain said several things last night on CNN's Larry King Live that bear repeating:
… if we, somehow, excuse this behavior on the grounds that they were bad people, they killed Americans, all that kind of stuff, then we put ourselves on the same moral … plane that they are. We cannot do that. The reason why we are there is to give them a different life from the kind of treatment that they got from Saddam Hussein. That's another argument, by the way, for taking down the prison.
… I think we need to do things concretely, and also take symbolic actions as well. One of those would be to take down this prison. It was a notorious Saddam Hussein torture chamber, and it really has significance to the Iraqi people. And now in light of these abuses, I think it would be best to take it down.
And finally, I asked the generals [Tuesday] in this hearing, do you believe we should be — we should have the Geneva Conventions for the treatment of prisoners of war? They said absolutely yes. Because of the kind of nation we are … But then the key to it is, is to point out that the United States of America, we punish people who transgress. Most of these nations who are criticizing us today from the Middle East don't punish transgressions. In fact, in some of these countries, it's routine to mistreat prisoners and do a lot worse to them than we did to our prisoners. And that's — that's the difference between a great nation that corrects its mistakes, and other nations who not only condone but encourage this kind of treatment. …
CALLER: Hello. Senator McCain, do you believe that the Muslim teachings regarding their culture has any understanding of the Geneva Convention and our American soldiers?
McCAIN: I believe that people who are in the Iraqi army who are many of these prisoners fully understand that we abide by the Geneva Conventions. We expect governments to abide by them. I don't remember whether the Iraqi government was a signatory or not. And it doesn't matter too much to me whether some Muslims understand them. What does matter to me is that we understand them. If I can leave you with one point, we distinguish ourselves by the way we treat our enemies. And that means we are a nation that doesn't employ those same kinds of torture and mistreatment because we're better than that.
Josh Marshall quotes Sen. Lindsey Graham making a similar point. "When you are the good guys, you've got to act like the good guys," Graham said. To which Marshall adds:
Another way to put this might be to say that being the good guys is about what you do, not who you are. That's a truth that the architects of this war, in subtler but I suspect more damaging ways, frequently failed to understand.
Which reminds me of somethin' James used to say:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? … Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.