Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
--C.S. Lewis--

Monday, February 2, 2009

Obama Keeps Rendition Intact

So apparently all that stuff about not torturing really just meant, "I won't let Americans torture, but I'll sure as heck aid others in doing it."

Despite my posts of the last few days, I'm really not a fan of waterboarding, secret prisons, etc. I just feel that trying to weigh the lives of Americans versus one's moral obligations is a difficult, nasty position to be in. Therefore, it can really only be made by the person sitting in the big chair, once he has all the information we don't have access to, and once he has felt the weight of his obligation to protect the nation's safety resting on his shoulders. Perhaps now that president Obama feels that weight, he's thinking twice about his campaign rhetoric. If so, good for him. It's just too bad it has to come with a certain amount of moral preening and deceptiveness.

First of all, for a counter-point to the LA Times piece, go here. This author seems to think that the writer of the Times piece is conflating "rendition" and "extraordinary rendition". It seems to me that he might be right, or the rules outlined in the piece might be the administration's way of covering itself. After all, "substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture" is a subjective call. What if a state like Egypt, with a less-than-sterling human rights record crossed their fingers and promised very hard NOT to torture someone? Does that provide enough cover to hand them off? We won't really know for sure until we see how the rules are actually applied.

My other thought was this. Assuming the LA Times article is the more accurate view, for someone who is on the anti-torture side of the argument, isn't this the worse scenario? If you have a choice between the US working it's coercive magic on people or Egypt/Pakistan/Iraq doing so, and if your main concern is the dignity and safety of the individual in question, isn't it better to have the US working the bad guy over? After all, the worst reports seem to limited to techniques like stress positions, extreme temperatures, and waterboarding. I'm relatively sure that Pakistani officials are willing to go much further than that in pursuit of their interests.