For the past couple of weeks the news has been full of demands from the left that Bush administration legal advisors be tried and jailed for their opinions on enhanced interrogation techniques. Our country was in an apparently novel position.
If we capture a soldier fighting our nation while wearing a uniform, we have rules about how that Prisoner of War is treated. All that the soldier has to provide is his name, rank and serial number. It is our obligation to provide the prisoner with a clean, dry place to stay, and adequate food and medical care.
If we catch a
But suppose some of our soldiers are in
What rules apply to this guy? He clearly isn’t automatically entitled to POW protection. He was not a soldier in uniform performing a military role. He doesn’t seem to be entitled to a trial in US courts. Heck, there isn’t any evidence you could use in a court of law to convict him. He was just leaving a house that happened to have bombs in it. No actual proof that he was involved in any way.
This is a military operation. It’s part of an act of war in a war zone. So the troops go up through their chain of command and ask for guidance. The prez goes to his legal staff and asks for opinions. His legal staff says – you can question them aggressively, but you can’t torture them. OK, so what is torture? The answer comes back, you can cause them pain. You can make them afraid. You can lie to them. You can’t do any physical damage. Put them in a cold room and let them shiver? OK. No pulling out fingernails. Let them think they are going to drown, but don’t actually deprive them of enough air that they actually pass out. Make ‘em cry, but don’t let ‘em bleed. After all, it is reasoned, these are the things we do to our own troops when we are training them.
The left disagreed with this assessment. Some on the left probably opposed the practice solely because the Bush administration was in favor of it. Doubtless there were many reasons for this. Some believe that this treatment can be defined as torture. Seems to me that this devalues the term. It’s kind of like the bumper sticker “War is terrorism.” For most the difference is obvious. Terror is the deliberate attack of civilian targets. War, at least these days, is an attempt to compel by force, but done in a way to minimize civilian damage and casualties. All civilian death is not ethically equivalent. But that is a side issue. I really don’t want to get into a discussion of the definition of torture. This is going in a different direction.
It seems to me that that this exemplifies one of the more interesting differences between left wing brains and right wing brains. People on the left care less about law and order, are more likely to engage in “ends justify the means” thinking, disobey the law, and even cheat on their taxes. There are lots of studies out there that support this. About a year ago I saw a couple of studies that tracked kids who cheated on tests and adults who stole from work or cheated on taxes. The scofflaws and cheaters were much more likely to come from the left side of the political aisle.
But it’s not just the anti-social acts, it is the attitude toward authority. This was unusually well documented earlier a few months ago when a study was done on the case of Scott v. Harris. I commented on this phenomenon in an earlier post Create a Crisis.
In this case the police were chasing a drunk driver (Harris). The high speed chase was caught by the dash cameras of the police cars. Eventually the police considered this chase too dangerous, and one officer (Scott) attempted to run the drunk off the road. The drunk’s car rolled, and he was paralyzed in the crash. He sued the police officer for using unnecessary force. The Supreme Court watched the dash video and, except for the most liberal member of the bench, found that the police acted lawfully. The drunk could not collect medical expenses, and pain and suffering damages, from the police.
As a generally conservative person, I thought “Right On!” It seemed absolutely obvious to any reasonable, thinking person. But my opinion was not universally shared. A research group asked 1,350 people what they thought of the police actions. The original study can be found here:
A good summary and analysis of the study can be found here:
To my dismay and amazement lots of people think that the cops were wrong - That they should have just let the dunk keep driving. And the people who felt that way were more likely to be politically on the left and members of racial minorities. They apparently just don’t think breaking the law and running from the police is all that bad. That the criminal’s life should not be put at risk, even when they are putting the lives of others at risk.
Now we get to the tricky bit.
These very same leftists – the ones who oppose three strikes laws, who want felons to be allowed to vote, who think that immigration raids should not be allowed, who think Harris should have gotten big bucks for being run off the road while running from police, who think the bro should NOT have been tazed - want mere THOUGHT with which they disagree criminalized.
And THAT is the hypocrisy of the left that I find so troubling.
I was listening to the Medved show the other day (a conservative radio talk show), and he was talking about how MUCH the left wants to put Bush’s legal advisors in jail. The gave their opinion that aggressive interrogation was legal, but in the eyes of the left, because they believe torture resulted, that the legal scholars are apparently guilty of torture. They were never in the same room as the prisoners. They didn’t pour a teaspoon of water on the face of a terrorist. They didn’t watch it. They didn’t order it. They just said they thought it would be legal. And for this the left wants them tried and jailed.
One caller to the Medved show was just sputtering with outrage. He sounded like a white, gay male. And he was so utterly convinced that the enhanced interrogation techniques were torture, that he believed the legal advisors were deliberately lying about their belief that the interrogation techniques were OK. It was just not possible to him that anyone could have an honest opinion that disagreed with his. So they MUST have been deliberately committing the crime of torture.
And this was almost certainly a guy who fits my liberal “weak-on-law-and-order” profile. Let the criminals go, take power away from the police, but jail those damn right wing Bush administration conservatives for THINKING that waterboarding was not torture.
Ya know, I might find it difficult to fathom how he could possibly be so foolish as to hold his opinions, but I don't want him slammed into prison for having them. Apparently another difference between the left and right. The right is generally more tolerant of alternate opinions.
Diversity on everything except thought. The battle cry of the left.