n. One who believes in the rule of law.
[Per Kenneth Anderson of American University’s Washington School of Law and the Volokh Conspiracy.]
Anderson writes, of Attorney General Holder’s decision (clearly required by the provisions of the Conventi0n Against Torture, a treaty to which the United States is signatory and whose provisions are therefore the law of the land unless explicitly repudiated) to open an investigation into torture:
I think that, described as Stuart suggests – i.e., purely as a strategic political assessment – it amounts to believing one can throw a few scraps to the Jacobins without igniting the Terror.
“Stuart” is Stuart Taylor, whose column more or less approves of Holder’s decision on the grounds that it’s not likely to lead to prosecutions of officials who carried out what Taylor considers (properly) acts of torture, including threatening to kill a detainee’s children. Taylor points out that those actions are in some ways no more appalling than other actions authorized by the torture memos, which seems to me an excellent reason to prosecute the authors of those memos rather than to abstain from prosecuting people who went even beyond what the memos purported to permit.
Taylor goes on to compare civilian casualties incurred as collateral damage from bombing with deliberate acts of torture, as if you couldn’t possibly endorse the one and not the other. Yes, horrible stuff goes on in battle, but there’s a different level of horror involved in deliberately tormenting someone who is, at the moment, completely at your mercy. In any case, the law makes a distinction, and, in a shocking departure from the past eight years, we now have an Attorney General willing to carry out his plain duty under the law.
Footnote I’m somewhat surprised, and very pleased, to see that even the VC commentariat – which consists generally of War on Terror fans – overwhelmingly disagrees with Anderson’s post.