The Non-Issue of Torture in the Bush Administration

I’ve about had enough of the blather (especially from my Christian colleagues) about the whole business of torture during the last administration.

There are two reasons for this.

The first is that the Obama Administration’s reasons for shying away from prosecution are entirely practical.  They are as follows:

  1. Prosecuting one’s predecessors makes it easier to prosecute you and your officials when the political winds change.  (Those in Congress calling for prosecutions don’t have that problem.)
  2. Punishing those who commit torture makes it harder for you to torture your opponents.

And that leads to the second point: any country which has the conditions we have in our prisons and will not deal with that has no business focusing on this kind of activity.

A couple of years ago, I quoted the following from Lord Rees-Mogg of the Times:

British businessmen do not trust American criminal law because of plea bargaining, in which the horrors of some American prisons are used as a threat to impel people to plead guilty in return for an agreed sentence.  The difference between a possible fifty years in a violent prison and two years in a country camp can be a very compelling argument.

The U.S. is put at a disadvantage, since this makes businessmen reluctant to trade with the United States when there is the faintest chance of any party to a negotiation – such as Enron was in the Natwest case – being accused of illegal conduct, under the very wide U.S. laws which cover conspiracy.  Counter terrorist laws, and laws against organised crime can apply to ordinary businessmen, and frame the judgment of business transactions.

One British businessman committed suicide on this very point.

Message: the Bush Administration could have evaded the whole torture discussion if it could have found a way to threaten dumping these prisoners into the general prison population of, say, Huntsville or Brushy Mountain.

We spent too much time in this country straining the gnat and swallowing the camel.

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