20 May 2009

Tough Questions

I can't believe I just heard something worthwhile from Jesse Ventura appearing on the View:
"If waterboarding's okay, then why don't we let our police do it to suspects so we can learn what they know?"
This hits the gut, and it's one of the tough questions that are customarily avoided by a certain kind of policy advocate.  It's equivalent in abortion debates is, "Do you support prosecuting women who get abortions for murder?"  If abortion is murder, then it is pretty clear that Texas' death row should be getting pretty crowded with fourteen-year-old girls.

Fair questions, but with emotional impact and verve.

3 comments:

  1. Wow, that's actually a really great statement!

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  2. Eh, I think the counter to that is that suspects of the police are typically U.S. citizens, who are afforded a different set of protections than non-citizen enemy combatants.

    I agree with Ventura on the actual issue (I don't think we should be waterboarding either), but drawing a false comparison between prisoners at Gitmo and routine police suspects opens you up to a whole set of counter-arguments -- e.g. why don't we also provide them with a full criminal trial, and full Fourth Amendment protections, and so forth.

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  3. When did "enemy combatants" become a thing? I hate how the creation of this new category somehow has become an accepted notion. They're not prisoners of war, they're not suspects in a police action, they're... some new category that just happens not to be covered under any law? Literally ANY law... they're damn near hostis humanis generis according to the government!

    That's not a false comparison, it's a reasonable one. Why DON'T we do those things? Because they're not citizens being arrested, they're prisoners captured during a war? Then why aren't they covered by the Geneva Conventions? Because instead we're calling them enemy combatants. It's a dialog that can't be won once you get into it, unless the other person is a True Believer and is willing to work their minds around it with feats of Limbaughesque legerdemain.

    The important thing here is to talk about categories and the law. America arrests foreign nationals all the time, and they are given a set of basic rights. Similarly, America has taken prisoners of war in the past, and they also get a set of basic rights. We are capturing people, and either they're being arrested or they're being taken as prisoners. There is no third alternative in law, and to discuss this allows an easy lead to the point that if the government can arbitrarily create new classes of people that have no rights, then those rights are useless.

    I wasn't really trying to come up with an unanswerable question; the abortion question has an answer and justification that's just as easy to be had. These are just designed to make people think in a new way and address their basic assumptions.

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