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April 13, 2008

Comments

The fact that innocent people were tortured as a result of Yoo's memo does not mean that he intended that outcome to occur.

Possibly. But it's obvious that he didn't care if they did. His reaction during a debate on the subject proved that much:

"I think it depends on why he thinks he needs to do that."

That was a response during a debate about whether the president could order the child of a suspect tortured.

Yoo specifically argued that there is no law and no moral restriction that can constrain the president during wartime. Most first year law students would be kicked to the curb for such ludicrous reasoning.

He knows that his legal arguments have been used to create a system of torture used on hundreds of prisoners. He still supports it. He's undoubtedly bright enough to know that some of those people are innocent. And he doesn't care.

Policies have pro's and con's. Motivations are uncertain.

Torture is very bad for obvious reasons. OTOH we've been told that the water-boarding of 3 top al Qaeda people prevented terrorist attacks against the US. It would be unfair to say that Yoo's critics want innocent Americans to be murdered, just as I think it's unfair to say that Yoo wants innocent people to be tortured.

I'm with David to a large degree. Ascribing ‘motives’ is easy to do but is often pointless and can be a distraction.

*****

But I also know that many people who denounce assigning motives think it's acceptable to "judge character" or to pass a “moral judgment” on another person. The less we do that the better, IMHO.

One reason is there can be a thin or even a non-existent line between the two (assigning motives & assessing moral or personal character), in our minds.

Secondly, it takes on a life of its own. Don’t those on the extremes spend inordinate amounts of time “bashing” their ideological counterparts on those grounds?

Third, we don’t have a chance to look at the real issues – instead the issues are associated with the proponents and the “debate” is all about the motives or moral character of the proponents.

*****

Back to the Yoo issue, I think more will come out over time on these specific events, as it involves the responsibilities of high level Justice Department officials, basic questions about the separation of powers, the legal basis for the memo itself (that is, was it even based on a valid interpretation of constitutional law), as well as domestic and international law (both of which were violated).

*****

BTW, you can argue that torture hasn't saved lives or that it wasn't necessary (that is, that it wasn't the only way to get that specific information or to prevent the loss of innocent lives). Many military and intelligence people with years of experience have said this.

There are a several other reasons to ban "torture" - including humanitarian concern for the individuals subjected to it as well as humanitarian concern for those who are and subjecting others.

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