[lit-ideas] Re: lawyers approve torture

  • From: Judy Evans <judithevans001@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: John McCreery <mccreery@xxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 8 Jun 2004 07:12:10 +0100

Tuesday, June 8, 2004, 5:04:46 AM, John McCreery wrote:

JM> moral community, the answer is clearly no. Once we allow, however,
JM> any division between "us," the members of the moral community
JM> whose rules we are bound to follow, and "them," the others who
JM> are, by definition, outside our moral community and may, thus, be
JM> regarded by us as  sub-human, what, if any, limits are imposed
JM> upon us?

JM> One might note, for example, that the torture of captives from other
JM> tribes was the norm for at least some Native American tribes.

This is an illustrative example, it justifies nothing.

JM> One could argue that US citizens, protected by the Constitution, should
JM> never be tortured by US authorities, but not see the same protections
JM> extended to non-citizens.

One could. It would not be a civilized argument, but, one could. And,
one does: the US/UK Extradition Treaty is non-reciprocal.  The US may
gain extradition of a UK subject (or other person living in or
visiting the UK) without presenting proof of the charges it says it
will bring.  But if the UK applies for extradition of a US subject, it
will have to make a case in the usual way.


JM> One could argue, more broadly, that immunity from torture is a right of
JM> citizens of all states that adhere to International Law. But what of
JM> citizens of states that do not adhere to international law.

One treats them as though their states adhered to international law.
(One should.)

JM> The usual military argument for the Geneva Conventions is prudential.
JM> We treat the soldiers of enemy states well in the expectation that our
JM> own soldiers will be treated well if captured.

JM> A similar, if more informal convention, has been said (at least in the
JM> novels of John Le Carre) to govern the interactions of mutually hostile
JM> intelligence agencies, the rule being, in effect, "Do not unto ours
JM> what you don't want done unto yours."

JM> Pursuing this line of thought, one arrives at the question, "How do we
JM> treat international terrorists who are not uniformed soldiers or 
JM> members of other state-authorized organizations, when, in fact, their
JM> behavior seems to put them beyond the human pale?"

We give them the due process of law we trumpet as showing the
superiority of our system over theirs.

JM> I don't claim to have a resolution to these issues, other than a
JM> personal bias in favor of treating every human as a human being
JM> until proved otherwise. But the fact that even I, soft-hearted
JM> liberal that I am, consider the possibility that some examples of
JM> homo sapiens may be, in fact, inhuman and thus fall totally beyond
JM> the human pale suggests that this possibility is very much a part
JM> of American, as well as  other, cultures.

Cannibals seem to be beyond the pale. But we do not eat them, we
convict them of murder.

Best regards,
 Judy                            mailto:judithevans001@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

Other related posts: