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July 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
As things heat up...

Wow, what a great discussion this is turning into!

I think that, despite the heatedness of some of our arguments here, we probably all agree with each other more than not. I think that we all agree that a rule of law is something that should be respected; that there are consequences to actions; and that there are some things that none of us would condone in any situation.

I suspect that words, more than anything, seperate us. What I mean when I use the word torture is very concrete to me--something innately evil, meant to literally unmake a human being. This is not, however, a universal interpretation. I've heard people claim that spanking is torture; the real nuts claim that correcting a child's grammer or withholding dessert if they don't finish their peas is torture. With this dilution of meaning, the word is not going to have the same impact to anyone who doesn't have a concrete, gut-level association.

When we hear "psychological duress", it doesn't have nearly the same impact. The people calling this torture are doing so intentionally--not that I necessarily disagree with them. (I personally do not believe that GWB was the antichrist, but I can't off-hand think of any policy of his that I fully agreed with.)

So...where is the line, and how do we draw it?