Sunday, April 27, 2008
(10:15 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Torture and Collateral DamageIn an apparent effort to lock in the title of "most brazenly lawless administration ever," the Bush administration has provided Congress with the legal reasoning behind its violation of the Geneva conventions:
The Justice letters allow that certain acts by interrogators -- sexual mutilation, for example -- would be unlawful under any circumstance. But when judging whether a specific interrogation practice would violate the conventions' ban on degrading treatment, the government can weigh "the identity and information possessed by a detainee," Benczkowski wrote.This reasoning seems to turn the "outrage of human dignity" into a kind of collateral damage. Yes, it happens, but the intent of the torture is to gain information to stop a terrorist attack -- if the point of the torture was just to torture, then that would outrage the conscience. In the same way, killing civilians in the course of a legitimate war is lamentable but blameless, while the terrorist act that directly targets civilians outrages the conscience.
He suggested that a suspect with information about a future attack could be subjected to harsher treatment, noting that a violation would occur only if the interrogator's conduct "shocks the conscience" because it is out of proportion to "the government interest involved."
Thus, even though the consequences of American action in the "war on terror" have been far more destructive than anything a terrorist could dream of doing, it's okay because we've instrumentalized the destruction, because we needed to do it in order to achieve some other goal -- in other words, it's justified because it was expedient.