Trump endorses torture: Principle or pragmatism?

It was announced yesterday that Taoiseach Enda Kenny will visit the White House for the by-now annual St Patrick’s Day expression of fealty.

Trump endorses torture: Principle or pragmatism?

This affords Ireland access to the epicentre of Western power and, in the normal scheme of things, it should be cherished as an opportunity to strengthen the ties between America and this country even if it is hardly representative of a partnership of equals.

A second announcement was made yesterday. President Donald Trump said he “absolutely” believes torture works and would consider reinstating waterboarding as an interrogating method because “we have to fight fire with fire”.

The president said he would consult defence secretary James Mattis and CIA director Mike Pompeo on whether to consider using the technique against Islamic State.

Even if you factor in the possibility that Mr Trump was just waving a big stick and even if you factor in that America’s human rights record is not beyond question, this seems an affront of a different sort to the idea of a civilised society.

It would be helpful to pretend those announcements were unrelated but that would be dishonest.

Despite all the arguments around the advantage of engagement over dis- engagement, it does seem likely we, and many others, will reach a difficult moment with Mr Trump’s administration. We will have to choose between principle or realpolitik pragmatism — but will we have the courage to do the right thing?

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