Punishment and Crime

Reversing the order of Dostoyevsky’s famous title is an appropriate way of looking at the politically motivated efforts to find “war criminals,” or at the very least, prosecutable offenses among the recently publicized internal memos concerning “enhanced interrogation techniques” emanating from the records of the former Bush administration. Factions of President Obama’s political supporters seem to want blood: they want to punish George Bush, Dick Cheney and others connected with the former Republican administration for actions with which they disagree, or which are simply controversial. First priority is punishment, then we’ll find a crime to warrant the sentence.

Virtually all of the reporting I’ve seen on the issue of the Bush administration’s apparently overzealous reaction to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks has ignored the conditions of the day following. In other words the context is dropped. Instead of viewing the struggles of that government in pursuing its only legitimate role philosophically, there are politically inspired attempts to portray them as evil conspirators intent on destroying freedom. I think that some grave errors were committed to be sure, but I would not tar them with the same brush used to describe the likes of those who launched the assault on America.

It took decades before those of high political morals became concerned about the incarceration of Americans of Japanese descent within concentration camps during World War II. Now it only takes a day after Rohm Emanuel seems to reaffirm the Obama administration’s position on not seeking prosecutions in the matter of controversial interrogation techniques (on Sunday news shows) for President Obama to indicate a reversal. He has now suggested that prosecution may not be ruled out. What happened? The political left supporters represented by Moveon.org expressed their displeasure. So the president has now postured in a way that may satisfy them temporarily. I wonder who will be chosen as the scapegoat this time?

Copyright 2009 Edward Podritske

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