30 January 2008

A cowardly act

It has been argued by many, generally unsuccessfully, that suicide bombing is the act of a coward. I think that one can make a more compelling argument that to torture someone is a cowardly act. After all, it is the imposition of physical and/or psychological suffering on a human being unable to resist or fight back. (It is certainly the act of a sadist.)

What I find truly reprehensible though is for the highest legal officer of the country that flatteringly likes to paint itself as the beacon of freedom and justice for the planet Earth to refuse to address the issue of torture full stop. What US Attorney General Michael Mukasey seems to have said is that water-boarding either is or is not torture, that it is a very hard question that is beyond his limited capacity and that he won't rule it and he won't rule it out.

By taken this craven and unprincipled stance Mr. Mukasey is actually doing is leaving the decision and responsibility up to American officers in the field, thereby exposing them to possible criminal liability. (Whilst the US has refused to sign up to the International Criminal Court unless it promises never to prosecute any American official there would still be exposure to criminal and/or civil liability in the country where the crime allegedly took place or in the country of citizenship of those so abused.) Mr. Mukasey would also seem to be developing a case for the defence of "plausible deniability" for himself, Captain Codpiece and "I'm a Big" Dick Cheney, amongst others, should any truly free country and democratic ever get their mitts on them.

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