Tom G. Palmer, at Cato @ Liberty, has written a moving tribute to Vladimir Bukovsky, who died yesterday at age 76. I had always wondered why the Soviet government didn’t outright murder him. I think I understand a little better after reading Tom’s tribute.

While I respect Bukovsky for all the reasons that Tom gives, I also respect Bukovsky for, in his later years, speaking out against torture by the George W. Bush administration. Doing so might have caused him to risk losing support from some of his traditional allies.

Here are two paragraphs from an article he wrote in 2005. It’s “Torture’s Long Shadow,” Washington Post, December 18, 2005.

The opening two paragraphs:

One nasty morning Comrade Stalin discovered that his favorite pipe was missing. Naturally, he called in his henchman, Lavrenti Beria, and instructed him to find the pipe. A few hours later, Stalin found it in his desk and called off the search. “But, Comrade Stalin,” stammered Beria, “five suspects have already confessed to stealing it.”

This joke, whispered among those who trusted each other when I was a kid in Moscow in the 1950s, is perhaps the best contribution I can make to the current argument in Washington about legislation banning torture and inhumane treatment of suspected terrorists captured abroad. Now that President Bush has made a public show of endorsing Sen. John McCain’s amendment, it would seem that the debate is ending. But that the debate occurred at all, and that prominent figures are willing to entertain the idea, is perplexing and alarming to me. I have seen what happens to a society that becomes enamored of such methods in its quest for greater security; it takes more than words and political compromise to beat back the impulse.

That reminds me of an episode of Sean Hannity’s show on the Fox News Channel when he was trying to make the case for waterboarding. If I recall correctly, he said, “If they did that to me, I’d tell them anything they wanted to hear.” And then Hannity stopped. It was clear that he suddenly realized that he was completely undercutting his own case.

Another good paragraph, in which Bukovsky is critical of Dick Cheney:

So, why would democratically elected leaders of the United States ever want to legalize what a succession of Russian monarchs strove to abolish? Why run the risk of unleashing a fury that even Stalin had problems controlling? Why would anyone try to “improve intelligence-gathering capability” by destroying what was left of it? Frustration? Ineptitude? Ignorance? Or, has their friendship with a certain former KGB lieutenant colonel, V. Putin, rubbed off on the American leaders? I have no answer to these questions, but I do know that if Vice President Cheney is right and that some “cruel, inhumane or degrading” (CID) treatment of captives is a necessary tool for winning the war on terrorism, then the war is lost already.

The whole thing is well worth reading.