Thursday, April 18, 2013

Glenn Greenwald is an Idiot; Torture Edition

It's too bad that he's right a fair bit, because he basically just makes reasonable positions seem nauseating. If there's a more self-righteous twit knocking about the interwebs, I haven't encountered him.

The torture issue is extremely serious. It needs to be treated seriously. Sadly, Greenwald is so concerned to advertise his own putative moral superiority, and so eager to castigate Obama at every opporunity, that he apparently has no energy left to consider the actual situation faced by the President.

There is simply, so far as I can see, no way to prosecute Bush, Cheney et al. for torture. It just cannot happen. The GOP has made the country virtually ungovernalbe as it is. We continue to face an economic near-crisis, Afghanistan drags on, and it's not as if the problem of terrorism has evaporated. Do people deserve to be prosecuted? That seems extremely difficult to deny. What would happen to the country if they were? I shudder to think... A large part of the population is already fanatically anti-Obama--hell, way more than one in ten people apparently believe him to be the Antichrist...

Look, I am never happy about subordinating principle to utility. But I honestly don't see any alternative here. Trying to prosecute those who approved torture would produce a veritable civil war. It would be likely to hand the White House over to a deranged GOP in 2016--turn it over, that is, to the very people who used 9/11 as a pretext for invading Iraq, and who approved the torturing in the first place.

Some people seem to live in a fantasy world in which Obama is sitting in the Oval Office making context-free decisions. He could close Guantanamo Bay, he just chooses not to. He has no good reasons for conducting targeted killings, he just likes it. He whimsically decides not to prosecute the fomer President of the United States for torture, when it would be the easiest thing in the world...

It makes me sick that we cannot prosecute the torturers. Hell, I'm happy to have my mind changed about this. Allowing torturers to walk free is, in my opinion, no better than allowing rapists to do so.
But I simply don't see how anyone can believe that prosecution is a serious option in this case. Even if that is wrong, and it is a serious option, that hardly means that it is an open-and-shut case. Even if we could pull it off, the cost might simply be prohibitively high. And, let me stress, I am not a consequentialist...

Condemn Obama for making an error here if you will; hell, you're likely to be right. Condemn him, even, for making a serious one. But to pretend that his decision is clearly despicable, that defending Bush, Cheney et al. from justice is some malicious pet project of his...that is lunacy.

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