Monday, March 14, 2011

Hittin' the Slopes

The slippery slopes.

Under the last administration, torture was justified because it was only being used on "enemy combatants," those individuals shoehorned in between the legal definitions of "criminals" who would require a trial prior to punishment and "prisoners of war" who could be held until the end of hostilities but only in humane conditions.

And folks let it slide down that slippery slope because they were mostly brown people of a supposedly scary religion who were perceived if not proven to have taken up arms against America. Even if a few of them were citizens of the US or western nations generally considered to be part of the "civilized world."

While critics argued that it would only be a matter of time before more US citizens were subjected to such punishments forbidden by Constitution and treaty, those critics were laughed at and called a bunch of negative nancies, worrying a little too much about the slippery slope we find ourselves on.

I wonder what excuse they will sell us now that we must face the Manning situation. And before you jump up and down about what is and isn't known about the case just yet, tell me just who has credibility in this situation. Then begin to understand the deeper reasons we're supposed to do things better and cleaner than the other guy.

Above reproach is about where I would like our nation to be. It is a shame so many celebrate in our not living up to that standard.

I thought even those individuals accused of treason were afforded due process in this country. I thought even those individuals facing charges which carry the death penalty remain protected from "cruel and unusual" punishment. Especially before a verdict has even been delivered.

Can someone tell me where Constitutional protections end this week? The goalposts seem to be moving.



Dante said...

Slippery slopes are a load of crap. It's just an attempt to talk you out of a position based on a hyperbolic path that position will rarely (if ever) take. We don't fall off that hyperbolic cliff nearly enough for the logic behind slippery slopes to make sense. We just sort of slide back and forth, making it more of a slippery half-pipe.

Besides, a scenario must not be very slippery if we haven't moved on it in nearly a centruy. That's about how old the general framework of out current suicide watch procedures are... and the abuse of current suicide watch procedures.

If you want to argue what is happening is wrong, I'll agree with you. If the military doctors don't think he's suicidal, he shouldn't be on a suicide watch. But don't try to sell me that an abuse that old is somehow the result of recent unrelated actions, because it's very much not.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Usually, I would be inclined to agree with you.

But when the slope actually predicts where we end up, that does lend it some air of credibility.

So now we've gone from muddying the legal waters on the status of detainees, to interrogation techniques we consider torture were they used against us, to indefinite incarceration without charges or trial, to this.

And we've gone from employing these actions against the enemy, to those suspected of being the enemy, to citizens of allied nations suspected of being the enemy, to American citizens charged with crimes.

And while America has a history of prisoner mistreatment we'd like to think we don't have, that doesn't make it OK. We only change the justification, not the slope itself.

Dante said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dante said...

"But when the slope actually predicts where we end up, that does lend it some air of credibility."

Such mistreatment cannot be the direct (or indirect) result of "muddying the legal waters on the status of detainees" since such prisoner mistreatment by far precedes the detainee status debate. Item A cannot predict Item B if Item B happened first. That's like using tomorrow's newspaper to predict today's stock prices.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Maybe you're right. I often wondered over the past decade why we should worry about torture now, as opposed to the history of torture and prisoner mistreatement historically engaged.

It wasn't new when the Bush and Cheney War on Terror really kicked into gear. Torture, as a manifestation of human failing, has been around as long as humans have.

Maybe it was the increasing swagger and widespread acceptance of it that made it different this time. Even if it was happening back in the 80's and 90's, it didn't seem as celebrated as it was post-9/11.

Maybe it was the widespread, universal dismissal that anyone thought to be acting against America should be afforded due process; maybe it was the fear that trying suspected terrorists in our own courts and holding them in our own prisons would somehow be a sign of weakness.

Maybe it was that, when the Bush DOJ was busy filing their legal briefs defending the practice, punditry on television and talk radio defended these vengeful tactics as something that wouldn't happen to American citizens in the future, despite all evidence from the contrary.

Maybe it is just that the veneer of what makes America exceptional is being stripped off, layer by layer, and we find ourselves in our excesses to be no better than the nations we suspect of "evil."

Maybe I'm just revising history, and confusing the rising volume of cognitive dissonance with a slippery slope.

Maybe it was that the Bush administration, and those carrying water for them, felt such a need to "look tough" in the face of an enemy they couldn't understand, that they overstated the newness of these "Post-9/11-World" tactics. I know their defense of the rightness of these tactics has never wavered.

Maybe it was that either prospective new administration was supposed to put an end to these excesses, and that Obama has not yet found a way to do so due to either agreement with them or fear of a political backlash - appearing "weak" on America's enemies.

Maybe I just deluded myself as to what country I grew up in, and I'm just looking at the past through rose-colored-glasses when I think that far more individuals would be appalled by these excesses back in 1996.

That last one's probably the truest of them all.