Monday, November 5, 2007

Moral Compass

In the days since Judge Michael Mukasey was nominated for Attorney General of the United States, there has been some common sense lost in all the lawyer-y jargon coming from Capitol Hill. Judge Mukasey hasn't answered questions from his Senate panel as to whether he believes waterboarding is torture, and thus illegal. (Thus putting himself in a rather delicate position vis-a-vis the guy who nominated him and thinks the practice is A-OK.)

I don't think the Judge is much of a blog reader, but if he is I'd strongly recommend Jim Marcinkowski's post over at No Quarter:

The debate about whether “waterboarding” constitutes torture misses the point.

Imagine for a moment that you are the chief law enforcement officer investigating the kidnapping of an infant. You have a suspect in custody who is believed to be the only person who knows where the child is being kept. Without food and water, it will be just a matter of time before the child dies. Should you be allowed to break out the waterboard?
What compels an affirmative answer? Is it the certainty of innocent death, or the number of deaths? What should the number be? One, ten, or perhaps one thousand? If ten thousand sounds about right, and it can be shown to work, why not use it when one hundred victims are at risk? Why not use it to save one innocent, helpless infant?

The point is, if you believe waterboarding is an acceptable practice, say so. Let’s do it! Let’s encourage the Congress of the United States to pass a crime bill to train our law enforcement officers in these “enhanced” interrogation techniques. After all, we could probably save thousands of lives in just a few years.
As Americans, we do not sacrifice our humanity for the expedient, nor do we believe that true justice can be achieved without the temperament of legal and moral process. Honor does not derive from winning at all costs, but in winning (or at times, even losing) without shame. While America has on countless occasions sacrificed its blood for honor around the world, we have never sacrificed our honor out of fear of losing more blood.
From the time of its founding, this country has been described as a “shining city on a hill,” a beacon and an example of not only freedom and democracy, but of an unwavering moral commitment to what is good, what is human and what is right. As the Senate decides on this confirmation, they should keep in mind the words of U.S. Justice Robert Jackson in his opening statement at the Nuremberg trials: “The real complaining party at your bar is Civilization.”

Call the vote.

This is a thoughtful, timely essay from Jim, a Navy veteran and former CIA officer who also served as a prosecutor. Jim and a number of fellow intelligence professionals, diplomats and law enforcement officers have sent a letter to Senators Leahy and Specter, chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, respectively.

Let's hope that Judge Mukasey, a distinguished Federal judge for almost two decades, will put principle over politics in his confirmation hearings.

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