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Blown Up or Guantanamo?


Those who accuse former Bush administration officials of criminality for having supported enhanced interrogation techniques are nearly silent about the ongoing and vastly increased targeted assassinations ordered by the Obama administration, and I for one am confused by this standard of attack.

If a suspected jihadist on the Afghan Pakistan border were to be asked his choice, he might very well prefer to be apprehended, transported to Guantanamo, and harshly interrogated rather than blown to bits along with any family and friends who happen to be in his vicinity.

To make things simpler, water-boarding the confessed architect of the murder of 3,000 innocents, on a moral scale, seems less atrocious than executing suspected terrorists, as we are now doing. Since the easy denunciations of criminality are moral rather than legal — no one has actually convicted a John Yoo or a Dick Cheney of anything — surely we should hear something about these capital sentences handed down from the sky on those who, quite unlike KSM, are suspected, rather than confessed, killers.

This is not a question of either advocating the use of water-boarding or criticizing the Obama administration for its judge-jury-and-executioner Predator attacks against probably dangerous terrorists. It is simply a matter of curiosity about why in the former case there is loud moral outrage but in the latter, far harsher instance, relative silence.

Since we have transformed this War on Terror into a criminal-justice matter rather than a traditional conflict in which uniformed combat soldiers are pitted against non-uninformed combat soldiers on a global battlefield, it is not persuasive to say that in one case non-uniformed suspects are in our custody while, in the other, they are only in our cross-hairs. It is time critics made the case that targeted assassinations fall within the legitimate bounds of a war in which we are properly engaged, while the water-boarding of three confessed terrorists was morally unacceptable torture of no utility and contrary to any of our own past protocols concerning apprehended and non-uniformed belligerents. Otherwise, their exercise in moral outrage is blatantly selective and reduced to a partisan belief that the evil Bush and Cheney are guilty of crimes, while the contemplative Obama is simply struggling with a moral crux.


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