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Dershowitz advocates making torture an option

By Jeremy Reynalds
web posted January 28, 2002

Arriving home Sunday night my wife asked me if I knew who Alan Dershowitz was. She told me that she had just seen him on the CBS show "60 Minutes" advocating torture. To say I was surprised would be an understatement. I thought initially that somehow she had gotten his name confused with someone else. Dershowitz as an advocate for torture? It just didn't seem to be very likely. All I knew about the man was that he was a part of O.J. Simpson's legal defense team and a professor at the Harvard Law School. Why would he be advocating torture?

Alan DershowitzBut a little bit of research quickly showed me that Dershowitz is not your run-of-the-mill lawyer. In his review of Dershowitz' book "Letters to a Young Lawyer," Fred Kovey wrote that people may also know Dershowitz from his blockbuster book, "Chutzpah," or more likely, (just like I did) from his involvement in the O. J. Simpson case, for which he signed on to be the appellate counsel, if one became necessary. They may also know that Dershowitz is a respected professor at Harvard Law School, an opponent of anti-pornography feminism and a patron of nude beaches. Clearly there are a lot of levels to this (man)."

Describing Dershowitz, someone has written (on the web site of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law Kansas and available at http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/Simpson/Dershowitz.htm) that as "An acclaimed Harvard Law School professor, Alan Dershowitz (has) an enviable life filled with book deals, speeches, and wealthy clients. He frequently (appears) as a guest on network and cable television shows, often staking out controversial positions on issues relating to the criminal justice system. His appetite for publicity (seems) insatiable."

Writer Nathan Porter calls Dershowitz "The Nutty Law Professor" and a "Nefarious Imbecile." Porter charges Dershowitz with being a publicity hound and comments, "I think he is addicted to the spotlight and this addiction, like so many addictions, causes him to behave in a downright nutty manner. In Dershowitz's mind, the more outrageous his behavior the more media coverage he is afforded and the more self-esteem he acquires."

Not surprisingly, Dershowitz' lecture agency has a different take on what he's all about. Some of his accomplishments are chronicled on the agency's web site. "In 1983, the Anti-Defamation League of the B'nai B'rith presented him with the William O. Douglas First Amendment Award for his ‘compassionate eloquent leadership and persistent advocacy in the struggle for civil and human rights.' In presenting the award, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel said: ‘If there had been a few people like Alan Dershowitz during the 1930s and 1940s, the history of European Jewry might have been different" ... The New York Criminal Bar Association honored Professor Dershowitz for his ‘outstanding contribution as a scholar and dedicated defender of human rights.'"
But listen to some "scholarly pearls of wisdom" from Mr. Dershowitz.

Discussing the impeachment proceedings of former President Clinton, Dershowitz said "A vote against impeachment is not a vote for Bill Clinton. It is a vote against bigotry. It's a vote against fundamentalism. It's a vote against anti-environmentalism. It's a vote against the right-to-life movement. It's a vote against the radical right. This is truly the first battle in a great culture war. And if this President is impeached, it will be a great victory for the forces of evil, evil--genuine evil."

And as commentator Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries so succinctly wrote, "Professor Dershowitz lists who he believes are the good guys and the bad guys. The good guys are pro-choice and pro-environmentalism. The bad guys are fundamentalists, right-to-life advocates, and the radical right. If you support Bill Clinton, you are supporting the good guys. If you vote to impeach Bill Clinton you are supporting the forces of evil. Which leads to the third point: we are in a culture war and the forces of evil (read: you and me) are winning."

So how does a pro-choice liberal like Dershowitz rationalize advocating torture for certain cases, such as terrorist acts? Dershowitz told "60 Minutes" Correspondent Mike Wallace that he sees torture as inevitable. "We just can't close our eyes and pretend we live in a pure world," he said.

Happily, torture is prohibited by the U.S. Constitution and even in these trying times and in the aftermath of the terrible events of September 11, I can't see an amendment being passed any time soon that would sanction torture.

So why would Dershowitz come up with such an outlandish statement which doesn't exactly go along with his stated position as a "dedicated defender of human rights?" Well, he really is either a morally relativistic nutty professor or he is totally addicted to being in the spotlight and will do whatever it takes to stay there. You decide!

Jeremy Reynalds is a freelance writer and the founder and director of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter. He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico and is pursuing his PhD in intercultural education at Biola University in Los Angeles. He is married with five children and lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His work can be viewed here and weekly at www.americasvoices.org. He may be contacted by e-mail at reynalds@joyjunction.org.

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