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September 2019
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Aerden [userpic]
The Politics of Prosecution

I just heard on the news that President Obama is considering prosecuting Bush administration lawyers who advised the Bush administration that certain types of torture were legal under certain circumstances.

That's how I understood the news report, anyway. I think this is a bad idea. It could tie the hands of the wiser members of President Obama's administration and could give the less wise members of it the illusion that they may act with impunity against their predecessrs because they are in power, without realizing that this could have serious repercussions on their own careers when the next administration--whether it be Republican or Democrat--comes along.

President Obama is a lawyer, so I can only conclude that he wants to set legal precedent here and that he is fully aware that this course would set legal precedent. But no one can predict what will be considered legal, four or eight years from now, so I am baffled as to why the President would want to effectively paralyze his own staff. Once you begin prosecuting for gray-area things, every staff member has to start looking over his shoulder and second-guessing his own advice. It kills honesty and forces everyone to think first about protecting themselves from future legal action rather than getting the current job done.

I don't condone gratuitous torture any more than the next sane person. If I believed members of our military or intelligence services were carrying out gratuitous torture, then, yes, I would agree that those sick puppies should be put away and the key thrown into Mount Doom.

But I don't think that's the case, here. I think President Obama believes that any torture at all is gratuitous or at least unconscionable. I don't believe he understands that someone like Idi Amin won't pay attention to you until you stomp on his toes--hard. Then he might listen--if he thinks he can't overpower you.

I believe this is a bad, bad idea.

Current Mood: worriedconcerned
Torture, etc

Do the ends ever justify the means? As a physician, I have to say unequivocally that I cannot condone torture either as punishment or interogation. On the other hand, as a parent...I would condone or even encourage torture if a child was missing and in danger, and I had good probable cause that someone knew where they were. Double standard? Of course. They'll never seat me on a jury if children are involved...because I believe that it is worth sending ten innocent adults to jail to prevent one child from being victimized.

To muddle this more...if someone had my child hidden away, and I had the power to do it, I would be willing and able to torture them to get the information i needed to save my child. And then, once my child was safe, I would accept that I should go to jail for my actions.

We are not above the law. If we choose to go outside of it, it had better be for a d**m good reason, and we better be willing to live with the consequences.

Re: Torture, etc

We are not above the law. If we choose to go outside of it, it had better be for a d**m good reason, and we better be willing to live with the consequences.

Yep, I agree with that, completely.

And, with regard to military techniques--the most successful ones don't even involve physical pain. Just messing with a person's time sense and not allowing them to sleep for long enough will induce a person to talk. But if you're in a time crunch, you sometimes don't have the option of getting information the physically gentler way. And yes, I know sleep deprivation is not 'gentle'--but it is, compared to what the Viet Cong used to do.

My friend Terry, who is ex-Navy, tells me that military interrogators must work under very strict rules regarding what they may and may not do to prisoners during an interrogation. I suspect a lot of their techniques are similar to what is seen in Burn Notice--as much or more mind-games than physical abuse.