Monday, April 27, 2009

Argument that Torture Prosecutions would be ‘Backward Looking’ is Uninstructive

In the wake of the release of the so-called 'torture memos' (1), those opposing the prosecution of officials behind the interrogation program have repeatedly decried the 'backwards looking' nature of such prosecutions (2) (3). However, as individuals are only prosecuted for the crimes that they have committed, it follows that it is a necessary condition of a prosecution that it be 'backward looking.' Quibbling about this requisite quality of a prosecution is (charitably) merely a place holder for an argument about the prudence of such prosecutions.

However, if such an argument is pursued, the advocates of “moving on” will have to show that alleged crimes ought to be only selectively investigated and prosecuted—a difficult task considering the heinous nature of these particular allegations.

Regardless of the course chosen, complaints that a prosecution is 'backward looking' are uninstructive as they

merely restate one of the concept’s necessary conditions.

(1) Mazzetti, Mark and Scott Shane. “Interrogation Memos Detail Harsh Tactics by the C.I.A.” The New York Times. April 16, 2009.

(2) “Statement by Senators McCain, Lieberman, and Graham.” April 22, 2009.

(3) Montopolli, Brian. “McCain: Don’t Investigate Torture Memos.” CBS News Political Hotsheet. April 26, 2009.

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