Obama on torture
The factsObama released the Torture Memo and said that those who designed the rules for torture may face criminal charges.
It was reported most recently here, here, and here. Watch Obama talk about it here.
CounterargumentsHis opponents (Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Really) argue that:
- This is a politically motivated which hunt.
- Obama flipped-flopped on that decision in 24 hours.
- Torture was supported by the congressional Democrats.
- Torture was supported by the majority of Americans.
- Torture produced the results and saved American lives.
- It wasn’t torture.
- It was perfectly legal.
- Our enemies will use the Torture Memo as a recruiting and educational tool against America for years to come.
- In the future, people will be afraid to give advice to the President because of the risk of criminal charges brought by the next administration.
- So what if it is politically motivated? Why don’t we judge an argument on its face regardless of the motivation of the messengers? Very often the discussions of issues in the media and the blogosphere deteriorates into the pissing match on motivations of people making arguments. I’d rather listen to a true message by a bad person than to a false message by a good person.
- I don’t care. For the topic we are discussing, it doesn’t matter.
- Yes, and they are immune from the prosecution by our laws. They might have been wrong also, so what? If the torture is wrong, we shouldn’t prosecute the responsible officials because the people who are calling for prosecution supported the torture when it was enabled? If the torture is wrong, we should go ahead with the prosecution, regardless of how inconsistent the politicians are.
- This is completely irrelevant. We are a republic, not a democrathy. If anything, it’s good to punish once in a while politicians who blindly follow the majority of population instead of following the law. Next time, it’ll help them to keep their heads cool when the mob insists on doing something illegal.
- This is probably the main argument. Cheney wants Obama to release other memos proving that the torture saved lives. I don’t mind releasing all the relevant information, but the argument itself is bogus. Here’s the question to see this in the proper light: If by cutting the terrorist’s genitals, poking his eyes with a screwdriver, and breaking his knees with a hummer, we could save lives, should we do it?
My answer is no. If your answer is yes, then we should have a completely different discussion on a completely different topic whether the end always justifies the means. And even if you are right and I am wrong, and the end does justifies the means at least on the question of torture, and if you win and I lose, than you should run the risk that I would be allowed to make my case in court against you.
- I can hear the response to my previous point: It wasn’t a torture and it saved lives. If it wasn’t a torture then it’s ok and enough by itself even if it didn’t save a single life. If it was a torture, then it is bad even if it saved lives. So saving the life is irrelevant for our discussion.
Now, maybe it wasn’t a torture. I think it was, and I have no doubt that from the common sense point of view it was a torture. It might have been a relatively soft kind of torture in the entire range of possible tortures developed by the people through centuries, but it is up there (cont.)
- On the other hand, I understand that from the legal point of view, it might not be a torture. Based on the legal arguments of both sides, one thing is clear: it’s not absolutely accepted that it wasn’t a torture. So let this legal question be tested in courts where the defense and the prosecution are able to prepare and advance their best arguments. We’ll all benefit by getting better legal understanding on where the robust interrogation ends and the torture begins.
- We can’t make our decisions based on what our enemies will say about it. It’s safe to assume that they’ll hate us regardless of what we do. I could make a point that releasing a memo like this shows American resolve in adherence to the Rule of Law to many potential terrorist recruits and may prevent them from participating in illegal activities against America, but it’s as irrelevant as the other argument.
- I will be happy if the politicians are afraid to do something illegal regardless of how supportive for their ideas the current President or the Congress is. For example, I’ll be happy if the future administration will sue Obama's administration for financially ruining the USA with extreme borrowing and taxing, and for the war in Afghanistan. I think it’s healthy to instill fear in the politicians for their actions. It’s healthy for the nation to know that when the politicians swear to uphold the Constitution and then act against it, their greatest risk is not just they may not be reelected. They might end up in prison.