Friday, April 17, 2009

Who Is Responsible

This long post from Andrew Sullivan on torture is important and worth reading. I have yet to read the memos or any of the most recent news reporting on this but I'm interested that Sullivan agrees with Obama about whom and when to prosecute, because we are at war. And yet, I can't help but wonder at not prosecuting the "professionals" in the room- the medical professionals and those performing the torture. They were following orders and read memos convincing them of the legality and ethics of the acts they were performing. Sure. But, putting aside from the whole "following orders" thing, Jane Mayer makes clear in her excellent book The Dark Side that performing these acts can create some kind of sadist-power thrill. It feeds on itself. I guess from a legal perspective, just because someone likes their job of torturing doesn't mean they are any more responsible for it -- or does it? If they didn't like it so much, would they have balked? Even with the memos? Would they have drawn the line and walked out? Told someone? I read The Dark Side last summer, so I'd have to brush up on details to write any more specifically, and of course those in charge, those with the most power and those who reshaped the law according to their own ideas are the most culpable, but I can't help but think that the culpability of those in the highest offices doesn't mean that the guy in the "rank and file" who actually poured water on someone's mouth and nose is free of responsibility. If that guy didn't want to be prosecuted for a crime against humanity, that guy should have walked out of the room.

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