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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

From a legal and constitutional standpoint, torture is never ok, and I do think anyone who advocated otherwise were simply in the wrong. It's also blatantly ridiculous to argue, as some previous administration officials did, that something like waterboarding isn't torture -- I don't really see how ANYONE can argue it isn't after a little research. In any case, there is an abundance of evidence that it simply doesn't work, that it turns up bad information, that people will say anything after a certain point. So I think it's not only illegal and immoral, it's pointless as well.

As for what kind of precedent it sets to sue officials from a previous government. Well. I have to say I can see both sides of the argument. One the one hand we want our decision makers to be able to make decisions honestly, even when they are tough decisions. But on the other hand, if a decision is made for political gain rather than because it is a wise decision, should the people who made it be untouchable? There's a fine line in there somewhere and I'm not sure where exactly it is.