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« Anyone Watching ’Castle’? | Main | Thought for the day »

May 14, 2009

Thank you, Mr. President

Art.1700.obama.cnn I was extremely thankful to read that President Obama has reversed course and now opposes releasing any more photos of detainees being interrogated. He has wisely noted that releasing these photos would flame anti-American sentiment and endanger our troops. According to the president, “The publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by small number of individuals."

I wish the ACLU got this. Thank goodness, the president does. 

(Image © Shawna Shepherd for CNN)

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Jason Taylor

Some would argue that this country shows a deplorable lack of seriousness. What does anyone think it is going to look like? To accept something when one is calm and not to when one is saying "Ick" is rather dubious(although I have heard it argued the other way that "Ick" is a defense mechanism for the soul).

In any case, publicly releasing photos of a potential upcoming trial is arguably using the mob as a jury. Though it doesn't seem there's going to be a trial after all. No one wants to make a Lt Calley out of the interrogators(though I suppose if it is to be anyone it should be them). The suggestion of prosecuting the lawyers is a suggestion of prosecuting someones opinion and therefore intolerable.

Other points there are to be mentioned. One is that "Enhanced Interrogation" is worse then full-square torture because it is unlikly to break a hardened terrorist, or intimidate uncaptured ones and is therefore pain without a reason(I think it's odd to say it never "works" but I doubt it works this way). We are effectively being to squeemish to do it "right" and yet not principled enough to refrain. Ends may not justify the means but no ends certainly don't. Another point is that none of the captives has any information left worth the bother: after being out of the loop for so long most of what they knew is obsolete. And while "getting even" is not an unpleasant thought, that implies that it is a punishment. But there has been no trial, corporal punishment when used(like the caning of mr bratty little grafiti artist in Singapore), is traditionally for low-key mayhem and the traditional punishment for being an Enemy of All Mankind is simply death(corporal punishment is not in principle totally odious, it was used by the "founding fathers" and I would rather be flogged then jailed my self).

Another point is to ask why we have so many prisoners anyway? They are an intolerable nuissance; I have heard it said that they even train them to be intolerable nusances. They are essentially forming a base for psychological warfare against the United States. It is not clear, after all that the intelligence guild's desire for information is worth it. I suppose we should encourage harmless "walk-ins" just to show that there is a way out. But there is no reason to make a big deal about "captureing" terrorists. They are Enemies of All Mankind, they don't have a legitimatly constituted authority over them or follow the customs of war. More to the point, we were never so considerate of Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Germans, or even Confederates(many of whom were reasonably honorable enemies) as to regularly think captureing important. Most information, too, from all I have gathered, really comes from locals who know any strangers and are in a state of blood feud with the enemy themselves.

Finally, much of this really shows a distasteful bit of wilful blindness. When one accepts war, one must accept as one of the evils of war that some will be tempted to cross acceptable boundries. One does not have to condone what happened. However, being shocked that such things do happen is like being shocked that gambling goes on at Rick's Bar.

Ben W

I wonder (and hope) that this debacle might eventually lead to provisions (ala Geneva Conventions) for unlawful combatants. Not that they should be granted anything like the rights for lawful combatants, and anyways I'm really more concerned for the mistakenly-grabbed civilians than I am for the actual terrorists.

Jason Taylor

I don't know. Efforts to limit war by treaty seem to be of dubious effect, hard cases make bad laws and war is a bundle of hard cases. But the fate of those mistakenly arrested is also to be considered.

Anne Morse

The fact that Obama had to THINK about this for so long is evidence (as if we needed more) of just how unqualified he is for this job...

Michael Snow

Yes, thank you Mr. President.

But this really highlights the double standard of the media. Just think what the networks would be doing differently if this was Pres. Bush.


Am going on memory of past items read elsewhere, but I thot the Geneva Convention was changed after World War II in order to protect combatants who were not in a country's uniform.

(i.e. the Nazis, for instance, could --back then--apparently lawfully shoot/punish private citizens or partisan groups who fought against them...)

Thus, instead of the enemy in uniform held in prison camps by their enemy (subject to Geneva convention) there is now some kind of expanded status which means we have these supposedly private citizens who, apparently, are resisters.

Am again going on memory, but I think we (the US) dismantled a lot of our spy system after many Communist states fell. While I heard that some military knew that some states thought of the US as a "great satan", apparently these powerful possible trouble makers were not targeted by persons our governmen would employ---persons who would know the language, culture,,, to see what they might be up to...


Thus...maybe we hold some innocents along with the guilty---partly because we do not know enough about their culture, organizations to sort out the innocent from the guilty

Maybe some in the US thought that all evil died with the former Communist regeimes.

Jason Taylor

Actually Vikingmother, the Geneva Convention seems to me to be best read as an institutionalisation of the nineteenth-century warrior-code. It's chief use is probably to allow an element of predictability that will facilitate those minor elements in which belligerants cooperate to keep war from getting out of hand. For instance, the regulation of such things as truces, exchanges, paroles(rare today but I can remember at least one actual story of a parole). The behavior of none of the signatories indicates that they took it quite as literally as many moderns insist. And while that can just mean that humans are human, it also can be interpreted as a claim by recent people to know the law better then the lawmakers did.

The fact that Obama had to think about it for a long time is not necessarily evidence of incompetance. It may just mean that he has recognised that figureing out which ends justify which means is more difficult then some make out.

One side note is that the word "War-crime" is an unfortunate word for two reasons I can think of. One is that it conflates occasional looting(which moderns are rather puritanical about, and yes, yes I know about the slippery slope), with dreadful massacre's. Another reason is that the most famous war-crime ever, the Holocaust, had almost nothing to do with improving Germany's millitary efficiency, and was arguably counterproductive along those lines. If anything, the fact that it was not a normal ends/means shortcut that statesmen have been making for thousands of years is what made it unique.

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