[lit-ideas] Re: Hersh and the Devil's Advocate

  • From: John Wager <johnwager@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 18 May 2004 05:06:19 -0500

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Re: [lit-ideas] Hersh and the Devil's Advocate
John Wager <johnwager@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Sun, 16 May 2004 15:03:53 -0500


Scribe1865@xxxxxxx wrote:

> . . . . If the US wins it can always improve its standards and 
> practices; if the US loses, you better brush up on your [insert 
> current enemy here].
> To insist on legal niceties in an unprecedented situation is like 
> driving your car off a cliff because the map you have says a road 
> should be there.

The problem isn't "legal niceties."  It NEVER was about legal niceties. 
The whole point of international treaties AND international conventions 
(like the "Geneva Conventions") is enlightened self-interest. WE agree 
to not mistreat THEIR prisoners so that THEY will not mistreat OUR 
prisoners.  "Legal niceties" are the way this is put into practice.

War has ALWAYS seemed "extraordinary" enough that it has ALWAYS been 
tempting to bend the niceties a bit. But THEIR side also sees war the 
same way: THEY are always just as tempted as we are. So we got wise 
enough to come to some international agreements that we would agree to 
be bound by regardless of how tempting it is to bend them. The reason 
for this is that it has, so far, been better for US to follow the 
conventions.  Slitting the throats of "detainees" is not the norm at 
present BECAUSE of these kinds of treaties, despite their occasional 
horrible breaches.

The other problem in the current war is more specific: We are not in a 
war to destroy a country's war-making abilities; we are in a war to 
"bring freedom" to Iraq. This strikes me as an impossibility on the face 
of it, but that's the way the U.S. president has put it. So in THIS war, 
we have to be ESPECIALLY careful not to alienate those we are seeking to 
liberate. The photos of the detainees have done more strategic harm to 
U.S. interests than the loss of a major battle, and supplied more 
"reinforcements" to the enemy than they could have gotten from a whole 
division of new troops.

It is not in the U.S. national interest to resupply the enemy's forces; 
THAT is why the actions in the prisons were so harmful.

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