Tuesday, November 18, 2008

War Crimes #2

Boy, I got a few really quick responses on my earlier post on the possibility of trying some of the Bush Administration for War Crimes.

a quick observation and then a story...

the observation is that I don't know enough to know whether anyone is guilty. From what I have read and seen, I strongly suspect, yes, but I don't presume to know.

now a story.

Once upon a time there was a Hindu holy man sitting next to a road during the heavy rains of monsoon, meditating. As the rains poured and the water began to rise, he turned his attention to his surroundings. Almost all of the area was covered in water that was quickly draining away down the road. There was a small high spot near him that had become an island and was soon to disappear under the rising waters. A scorpion had retreated for safety to the high spot. As the holy man watched, he knew that the waters would rise, carry the scorpion away, and it would drown. He reached out to save it and as he did, it struck with its tail. He was quick enough to avoid the sting. He reached out again and again the scorpion tried to sting him. Again, he was able to avoid the sting. This happened a third time.

There was a man watching who decided to advise the holy man, "Don't you know that it is in the nature of the scorpion to sting? If you keep reaching out to save it, you will get stung."

The holy man replied, "Don't you know that it is in my nature to save life? Why should I allow the scorpion to cause me to change my nature?"


John said...

Dumb ass holy man.

Michael Mahoney said...

I like that story, and I use it often myself. I'm just not sure of the point you're trying to make here.

roy said...

the argument often made is that we "have to torture, hold individuals without charges, listen without warrants, etc. because the situation is different and these terrorists must be stopped."

If we allow their behaviors to cause us to abandon the principles of our constitution - rights which are self-evident and not American, the constitution doesn't grant them, it protects them - then we have already lost.

These policies do not represent the United States that I know and love.

Michael Mahoney said...

I think the disctinction needs to be made that the Constitution only protects American citizens and those within the borders of the US.

Let me paint an (albeit) out-there picture. Suppose your wife or daughter were on an airplane. Suppose further that there were terrorists on the plane with the intent to destroy the plane and perhaps more people on the ground. However, government agents had become aware of the plot, prevented the hijacking and arrested the terrorists.

Suppose further, that you found out later that the only reason the government knew about the plot was because they had tortured a captured terrorist at Gitmo.

What would you reaction be? Gratitude that your loved one's life had been spared? Outrage at your government's actions. Would you have them not save her?

Suppose you found out that they could have stopped the attack, but did not get the information because they were protecting a terrorist's rights?

These questions may sound melodramatic, Roy, but they are asked in ernest. These are the kinds of descisions our policy makers have to make every day. Let's cut them a little slack.

BTW, as I write this, I'm getting on a plane in four hours. So I'm thinking about it.

roy said...

I realize the distinction in terms of law, but in terms of morals, somehow that distinction seems a lame argument. If those rights are so self-evident that we revolted against England to secure them, shouldn't we afford them in all circumstances?

As for your out-there picture... My first observation is that virtually all studies that have looked at information obtained via torture have shown that it is completely unreliable, so the likelihood of your scenario is so far out there as to be not worth really considering.

Still, I will answer in earnest. I would rather that the information not be obtained. I would rather lose a loved one than know that my government tortures prisoners who may very well be innocent of anything even if one out of how many may provide useful information.

And the last observation is that a majority of those at Gitmo are not guilty of anything except being the target of a vendetta from a rival clan or the unfortunate victim of a get-rich quick scheme.

fernando said...

In all questions of identity what are you becoming is more significant than what you were.

Paul said...


You would rather lose a loved one? Seriously...WTF? I'm sure your family admires the fact that your high ground morals are willing to throw them under the bus.