Thursday, May 21, 2009

Middle Ground

Though today, the deposed former Vice President Dick Cheney attempted to justify acts most people would consider torture, he entered a statement into the political sphere of this issue, that:

"The administration seems to pride itself on searching for some kind of middle ground in policies addressing terrorism... But in the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground, and half-measures keep you half exposed," added the former vice president."


There are some folks out there who may harbor interesting opinions regarding the definition of 'torture.' There may be some folks out there who harbor thoughts that even something considered torture is 'justified' in the pursuit of information.

But to hear the architect of our current national dilemma and international embarassment say that it is the Obama administration using 'half-measures' and 'middle-ground' is preposterous. Cheney is a key figure in the Bush administration that gave us the ultimate half-measure: the legally and linguistically challenged term "enemy combatant."

Traditionally, any enemy we fight falls into one of two camps. They are either 'criminals' who are dealt with in courts of law or they are 'prisoners of war' who can be held until the cessation of hostilities. Both distinctions have a long and proven history of use, and have entire legalities built around them, dealing with them, extracting information from them and seeking justice against them. We even have legal mechanisms for dealing with individuals who commit crimes in the commission of war. Those distinctions and definitions are how our society is thought and is supposed to pursue justice and common defense.

Bush and Cheney did not want to deal with these individuals either way, so they created their own half-measure, their own middle ground, and began creating a seperate set of legalities and terminoligies that went with it. That muddying of the water has allowed too much confusion on the questions of terrorism and torture, and that is the 'mess' Obama speaks of cleaning up.

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5 comments:

Dante said...

While "enemy combatant" may be a half measure as far as legal definitions are concerned, it's hardly a half measure from the perspective of prisoner treatment. Enemy combatant is a legal justification to do whatever in the hell the Bush Administration wanted to with those prisoners. Nice try, but you're comparing apples to a dark cola.

Also in the nice try category is your use of the word "justification." I don't think that word means what you think it means. If there is no torture, there can be no justification. Justification implies that there is a ethical condition that allows for violating the usually forbidden action. Cheney's stance has always been that what the Administration allowed to happen to the enemy combatants is not torture. Therefore, there can be no justification for torture. It's just a word you throw in there to attempt to make your argument stronger by implying that Cheney's side of the argument acknowledges a wrongdoing in the first place.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Well, since we are a nation of laws, the legal half measure of the term - and by virtue of that, the treatment - are subject to later judicial review. This has been the case for almost all of our history, as excesses taken in time of crisis are usually taken to court at some later date for redress.

By employing the legal "half-measure/middle ground" in describing our detainees, the Bush/Cheney team ensured that the legal fights (which they began losing in 2006) over this issue would create a huge mess. If they had adhered to the customary spirit of our laws or simply attempted to change them in open politics - instead of making them up as they went along - there would be a far clearer path to justice and prosecution for these detainees.

Their legal middle ground created this mess, on many issues, as we have discussed before.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

"If there is no torture, there can be no justification."Which is why I said: "There are some folks out there who may harbor interesting opinions regarding the definition of 'torture.'"

I'm pretty sure that covers the folks who think that it is only torture when other countries do it.

Dante said...

"By employing the legal "half-measure/middle ground" in describing our detainees, the Bush/Cheney team ensured that the legal fights (which they began losing in 2006) over this issue would create a huge mess."

A mess which has little to do with national security from Cheney's standpoint. The Bush Administration wanted these detainees kept off of American soil and to be detained without putting them on trial or handing them over to another nation. Even if the Bush Administration lost the argument over enemy combatants, that legal battle would accomplish those goals while the legal battle was still going on. Legal mess? The messier, the better as long as they still had a good chance of winning.

As far as justification, I did read your quoted line but I also read this one: "the deposed former Vice President Dick Cheney attempted to justify acts most people would consider torture." Dick Cheney didn't justify or even attempt to justify anything. As far as he's concerned, they didn't torture anyone.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

I'm not the only one who thinks Cheney was justifying torture, and the group of folks who thinks what Cheney calls "enhanced interrogations" were torture constitutes a robust majority. During the last election, both major party candidates believed it to be so, and the major party that won the free and fair election represented the platform the furthest removed from Cheney's beliefs and actions.

I find it totally disingenuous that Cheney will say "we didn't torture" and then say "well, it worked" and "not doing it will cause American deaths."

The "this isn't torture/this is necessary for national security" camp: the way they make their arguments display just how weak their case truly is.

There is no widespread liberal sympathy to see the detainees as peaceful 'victims' of American policies. There is no widespread 'blame/hate America' argument winding through the "close Guantanamo/legally prosecute these detainees" camp. And there is no widespread liberal belief that we should free all the detainees, and drop them off in Miami with a one-way bus ticket, "releasing them into America" as so many talking heads and radio personalities are carping about.

All of those are simple fantasies created by ideolouges on the right to play to the base and politicize this issue. I find it unbelievable that, even as this Administration attempts to move forward without truth commissions or prosecutions (for which they are being widely criticized from the far left), the deposed Administration and their defenders continually bring up the issue.