Apr 20, 2009

The Result is Irrelevant

The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be either good or evil.
~Hannah Arendt

It seems to me to be a non-subject as to whether prosecuting CIA officials who called for the torture of any human being, no matter how despicable, is the right thing to do. When you cannot distinguish your methods from your enemies, then you yourself become indistinguishable from your enemy. And, while I am appalled at the conflation of CIA officials with Nazis defending themselves using the now-titled "Nuremberg Defense", I can certainly see no reason why "just following orders" is acceptable.

President Obama deserves harsh criticism on this point, I think. He cannot forgive and forget these indiscretions, especially since the proponents of torture attempted to - nearly successfully - cover them up. Releasing the memos without doing anything substantive about them is both politically and pragmatically dubious. Not only is it helping the fundamentalist recruitment effort - though to prosecute only on that basis would be morally shady - it is also inherently wrong, I think.

And, going a step farther, if it is, in fact, in violation of some international accord to not prosecute, then it is decidedly a stupid move on the part of our president to release the memos and then claim that all past offenses should be forgotten. Now, I am not so shallow as to believe that there is not some political edge to be had from making these documents public. Surely, political democrats wrung their hands at the idea of letting these hot little documents see the light of day. Of that, I am almost positive. It's just I am not so sure that it will not backfire in the long run, which is, in its own right, a very cynical point.


  1. I don't know if I agree with you - but I also don't know if I disagree, either.

    I find it hard to string up the operatives and still allow the higher-ups (bush, cheney, etc.) to go free. Especially since it's the higher-ups who installed the operating system to begin with. You have to be able to operate without the fear of the next administration changing views, depsite the overall hazy pisture. I think going after the agents because it's easier is almost as dishonorable and wrong as the torture was in the first place.

    But. it's a tough decision which can impact our futures. If we don't prosecute, what door are we leaving open for future generations? Black camps, rendition and torture for citizens and political dissenters? This thought almost begs prosecution. We could eventually be goverend by people extremely adverse to me and my ilk and with no precedent set here, we could be rounded up and shipped off to the fingernail factory.

    Either way, it's scary. I guess I'm still trying to figure out where I stand. My main question is: Where's Eric Holder in all this?

  2. Sorry for the long comment - I'm just working it all out.

  3. Yeah, I mean, I agree with you. It's difficult, and I contemplated taking the post down this morning, because it is very tricky to take a strong stance. Like, YEAH, string 'em all up!

    But I would say, prosecute ALL people involved in this, from the CIA operatives running day-to-day torture, to the Vice President, if need be.

    And I don't know that I was critical enough of the president in this post. I want to make it clear: I think torture is a serious issue, and it goes beyond party lines.

    That being said, I am also in favor of transparency, which is being heralded by the president by releasing these memos. And, to his credit, Obama has not passed this issue off to an underling. He's the one on TV taking heat for it, so that's refreshing.

    But, if it turns out to be true that NOT prosecuting those who torture is in violation of international law, what message would it send if we ignored it?