Friday, April 24, 2009

Cross-Ideological Common Ground on Torture and Discrimination, Sort of

Former VP Cheney and others (including a commenter on this blog) have criticized the Obama Administration for releasing the Bush OLC memos authorizing harsh interrogation techniques but redacting information about the supposed effectiveness of waterboarding, etc., as a means of obtaining actionable intelligence. On its face, the criticism is odd because the legal prohibition of torture is a prohibition of effective torture as well as ineffective torture, as even the Bush OLC memos themselves acknowledge. The severity or permanence of injury that some technique does not differ at all based on whether or not it leads to truthful and actionable intelligence or simply leads to the person being interrogating saying whatever he thinks the interrogators want to hear. Thus, it appears that what Cheney and others are saying is: "Whether or not waterboarding was illegal, it was the right thing to do."

That's not an inherently implausible claim. Just about everyone who thinks about the question will recognize that there are circumstances in which the right thing to do (judged by whatever moral standards one has for assessing rightness) is to violate the law--even if the law is generally a good law. Jurisprudence scholars debate whether there is even a prima facie moral duty to obey the law, but even if there is one, surely that duty can sometimes be overcome by other moral duties. It takes an awfully strong commitment to the act/omission distinction to say that it's wrong to torture the terrorist who has hidden a doomsday device. Of course, such scenarios are highly unrealistic, but the point of such "ticking bomb" examples is to show that categorical opposition to torture must be rooted in something besides the claim that it is always and in principle wrong (although there are indeed people who think, on Kantian grounds, that torture is indeed always and in principle wrong, even if the consequences of not torturing are catastrophic).

The difficulty with the foregoing analysis may be that it gives too much credit to VP Cheney and others, who really do seem to be saying something like "if it worked, it's legal." But we can make some sense of even that sort of claim. The argument goes along the lines of the OLC memos and is rooted in the impulse to resolve legal ambiguity in favor of permitting conduct that looks a lot like torture. If you think that the legal prohibition on torture gets in the way of doing things that are morally best, then you will want to construe that prohibition as narrowly as possible. Although I disagree with the premises of this set of arguments, I do understand their structure.

Indeed, the structure is broadly similar to the structure of arguments liberals (who tend to be on the other side of the torture debate) make in other contexts. Consider the issue presented by the New Haven firefighter case currently before the Supreme Court, and race-conscious affirmative action more broadly. Conservatives argue that the constitutional guarantee of "equal protection" and (even more clearly) the statutory prohibition on "discrimination on the basis of race," forbid all race-based affirmative action and that liberals who favor such programs favor them despite the fact that they are unequal and discriminatory. From the conservative viewpoint, in other words, liberals think it is more important to advance their vision of society (e.g., racially integrated fire departments) than to follow the legal requirement of equal protection and the legal prohibition on discrimination.

But from the perspective of (us) liberals, that's mistaken. We say that the meaning of terms like "equal protection" and "discrimination" is sufficiently open-ended to permit race-based affirmative action. Indeed, we even understand such programs as designed to implement the equality and anti-discrimination norms. In other words, we make the analogous move to the one made by the Bush OLC memos: We see and resolve ambiguity to render our understanding of the law consistent with our vision of morality.

To be clear, I'm NOT saying that the moves are equivalent in all respects. I think that the interpretation of "equality" to permit some race-based affirmative action is much more legitimate than the interpretation of "torture" to permit waterboarding. John Yoo and Steve Bradbury would probably draw the opposite conclusion. But my larger point is that the interpretive moves have the same structure.

Posted by Mike Dorf


mhp said...

Despite your caveats, I am still troubled by the analogy. Whereas conservatives look to formal "equality" as the touchstone of equal protection, liberals look to a more-functional "equality" as the touchstone of equal protection. The point of disagreement is "what is equality," not where should the principle of equality give way to other social values.

In contrast, the point of disagreement between conservatives and liberals in the torture context is not "what is torture," but where should torture give way to other social values (such as general social welfare). This is more analogous to limits we place on equal protection for compelling state interests unrelated to equality, such as segregating prisons to protect prisoners' safety. If constitutional doctrine tells us anything, it is that no norm is absolute, but that is a different issue than understanding the norm itself.

Michael C. Dorf said...

Michael, I agree with you entirely as a matter of substance, but my point is that many conservatives do not take us seriously when we say that departures from color-blindness serve equality. They think we really mean that we are elevating some competing value--such as racial integration--over and against equality. I think the conservatives are wrong, but then they think I'm wrong.

Bryce said...

It seems that detainees are being granted more rights all the time (which I consider a good thing). Do you think that incriminating evidence against them would be excluded from court proceedings if prosecutors/defense officials obtained it through torture? And do you think this might be why the Obama administration is keeping the other memos under wraps?

Sobek said...

Coupla points.

1. My original criticism in the previous post was that Obama -- who pretends to care about transparency -- redacted out critical bits of information, for political purposes. In other words, he's a lying sack of crap, as usual.

2. "It takes an awfully strong commitment to the act/omission distinction to say that it's wrong to torture the terrorist who has hidden a doomsday device."What I've learned from the comments on this blog is that such a commitment is unnecessary when you can simply wish away inconvenient facts.

3. "...too much credit to VP Cheney and others, who really do seem to be saying something like 'if it worked, it's legal.'"I read Cheney's remarks as meaning "if you're going to release part of the memos for political gain, to show how eeeeeevil Bush is, then why not release the parts where Bush saved lives?

4. Concerning comparative, interpretive moves, I think you're off because conservatives don't deny the underlying premises of your arguments, we just think your proposed remedies are naive and counterproductive.

In the waterboarding debate, there are liberals who are unwilling, even in the face of contrary evidence, to even admit that waterboarding might produce actionable intelligence. Because they simply ignore part of the equation, there is no moral calculation to be made. It's pure fantasy.

In the affirmative action debate, conservatives can admit the fundamental premises: (a) there has been past, race-based discrimination, both official and unofficial. (b) That past discrimination has present effects, in terms of poverty and education. Some conservatives may add (c) America has a moral obligation to try to remedy some of the present effects of past discrimination.

But then conservatives point out that decades of race-agitation have not made anything better, and in fact have made things much, much worse. Busing plans have destroyed cities and generations, all in the name of liberal self-congratulation. Constitutionalizing racial classifications crystalizes, rather than alleviates, racial tensions.

Put yourself in the shoes of a Hispanic firefighter in Connecticut, who studies and works hard to excel, who passes a promotion test, and then is told "never mind, no promotion for you, not enough melanin." That's what the Constitution requires? Seriously? That's going to remedy past injustice?

Paul Scott said...

Personally, I am happy to stand against both torture and affirmative action.

Anonymous said...

湖南塑料托盘,塑料栈板 长沙塑料托盘,塑料栈板 株洲塑料托盘,塑料栈板 湘潭塑料托盘,塑料栈板 衡阳塑料托盘,塑料栈板 邵阳塑料托盘,塑料栈板 岳阳塑料托盘,塑料栈板 常德塑料托盘,塑料栈板 张家界塑料托盘,塑料栈板 益阳塑料托盘,塑料栈板 郴州塑料托盘,塑料栈板 永州塑料托盘,塑料栈板 怀化塑料托盘,塑料栈板 娄底塑料托盘,塑料栈板 塑料托盘,塑料栈板 四川塑料托盘,塑料栈板 成都塑料托盘,塑料栈板 自贡塑料托盘,塑料栈板 攀枝花塑料托盘,塑料栈板 泸州塑料托盘,塑料栈板 德阳塑料托盘,塑料栈板 绵阳塑料托盘,塑料栈板 广元塑料托盘,塑料栈板 遂宁塑料托盘,塑料栈板 内江塑料托盘,塑料栈板 乐山塑料托盘,塑料栈板 南充塑料托盘,塑料栈板 宜宾塑料托盘,塑料栈板 广安塑料托盘,塑料栈板 达州塑料托盘,塑料栈板 仓储货架|仓库货架|托盘|仓储笼 仓储货架|仓库货架|托盘|仓储笼 仓储货架|仓库货架|托盘|仓储笼 仓储货架|仓库货架|托盘|仓储笼 轻型仓储货架|轻量型仓库货架|库房货架 货架厂|货架公司|南京货架 中量型仓储货架|中量A型仓库货架|库房货架 货架厂|货架公司|南京货架 中量型仓储货架|中量B型仓库货架|库房货架 货架厂|货架公司|南京货架 横梁式仓库货架|重型仓储货架|货位式库房货架 货架厂|货架公司|南京货架 模具货架|抽屉式仓库货架|仓储货架|库房货架 货架厂|货架公司|南京货架 贯通式仓储货架|通廊式仓库货架|驶入式库房货架 货架厂|货架公司|南京货架 悬臂式仓储货架|仓库货架|库房货架 货架厂|货架公司|南京货架 阁楼式仓储货架|仓库货架|库房货架|钢平台 货架厂|货架公司|南京货架 流利式仓储货架|仓库货架|库房货架|辊轮式货架|自滑式货架 货架厂|货架公司|南京货架 工作台|工作桌 工具柜|工具车 托盘|塑料托盘|钢托盘|铁托盘|钢制托盘 仓储笼|仓库笼|折叠式仓储笼|蝴蝶笼 周转箱|塑料周转箱 静音手推车|铁板手推车|购物手推车|登高车 手动液压托盘搬运车|不锈钢搬运车|电子秤搬运车 高起升搬运车|电动搬运车|平台车 手动液压堆高车|手动液压堆垛车|半电动堆垛车 全电动堆垛车|油桶搬运车|圆桶搬运车|油桶装卸车| 柴油内燃平衡重式叉车|电动平衡重式叉车 液压升降机|剪叉式高空作业平台|固定式蹬车桥 文件柜 不锈钢制品 零件盒|零件柜 折叠式仓储笼|仓库笼 钢托盘 钢制料箱 堆垛架 物流台车 手推车 钢托盘 折叠式仓储笼|仓库笼 折叠式仓储笼|仓库笼 钢托盘|钢制托盘|铁托盘|金属托盘|镀锌托盘 堆垛架|巧固架 钢制料箱 物流台车|载物台车 手推车|静音手推车 手推车|静音手推车 仓储笼|钢托盘|钢制料箱|堆垛架|物流台车|手推车 仓储笼|钢托盘 仓储笼 仓库货架|中量A型货架 仓储货架|中量B型货架 库房货架|横梁式货架 塑料托盘|栈板 钢托盘|钢制托盘 折叠式仓储笼|仓库笼 仓储笼|仓库笼|折叠式仓储笼 托盘|钢托盘 托盘|塑料托盘 周转箱|塑料周转箱 托盘|纸托盘 料箱|钢制料箱 工具柜|工具车|抽屉柜 工作台|工作桌 刀具柜|刀具车|刀具架 手动液压托盘搬运车|电动托盘搬运车 手动液压堆高车|手动叉车 仓储笼 仓库笼 南京仓储笼 常州仓储笼 无锡仓储笼 苏州仓储笼 徐州仓储笼 南通仓储笼 镇江仓储笼 连云港仓储笼 泰州仓储笼 扬州仓储笼 盐城仓储笼 淮安仓储笼 宿迁仓储笼 轻量型货架|角钢货架 中量A型货架 中量B型货架 货位式货架 横梁式货架 阁楼式货架|钢平台 悬臂式货架 贯通式货架|通廊式货架|驶入式货架 辊轮式货架|流利条货架 压入式货架 移动式货架|密集架 模具货架 抽屉式货架 汽车4S店货架 汽配库货架 自动化立体仓库货架 托盘|钢托盘|钢制托盘 托盘|塑料托盘 托盘|塑料托盘 托盘|塑料托盘 仓储笼|仓库笼|折叠式仓储笼 手推车|铁板手推车 手推车|静音手推车 置物架|工业置物架|家用置物架 堆垛架|巧固架 挂板架|物料整理架 登高车 物流台车|载物台车 料箱|钢制料箱 搬运车|手动液压托盘搬运车|电动托盘搬运车 堆高机|堆垛机|手动堆高机|电动堆高机 叉车|电动叉车|内燃叉车|叉车厂 货架 货架 仓储货架 仓储货架 仓库货架 仓库货架 货架厂 货架厂 货架公司 货架公司 托盘 钢托盘 铁托盘 钢制托盘 塑料托盘 仓储笼 仓库笼 折叠式仓储笼 折叠仓储笼 仓储货架|仓库货架|库房货架 南京货架|横梁式货架|中型货架 钢托盘|塑料托盘|纸托盘 仓储笼|仓库笼|折叠式仓储笼 钢制料箱|工具柜|工作台 手动液压托盘搬运车|手动液压堆高车 仓库货架|中量A型货架> 仓储货架|横梁式货架|货位式货架 托盘|塑料托盘|钢制托盘|纸托盘 仓储笼|仓库笼|折叠式仓储笼|蝴蝶笼|储物笼 手动液压托盘搬运车|手动液压堆高车 仓库货架|中量A型货架 仓储货架|横梁式货架|货位式货架 托盘|塑料托盘|钢制托盘|纸托盘 仓储笼|折叠式仓储笼|仓库笼|蝴蝶笼|储物笼 手动液压托盘搬运车|手动液压堆高车 仓储货架|仓库货架|库房货架 南京货架|中型货架|横梁式货架 钢托盘|钢制托盘|塑料托盘|纸托盘 仓储笼|仓库笼|折叠式仓储笼 钢制料箱|工具柜|工作台 手动液压托盘搬运车|手动液压堆高车 仓库货架|中量A型货架 仓储货架|中量B型货架 库房货架|横梁式货架|货位式货架 钢托盘|钢制托盘|铁托盘|栈板 托盘|塑料托盘|栈板 纸托盘|栈板 仓储笼|仓库笼|折叠式仓储笼|蝴蝶笼|储物笼 钢制料箱|钢制周转箱|网格式料箱 搬运车|手动液压托盘搬运车|电动托盘搬运车 仓库货架|中量A型货架 仓储货架|中量B型货架 库房货架|横梁式货架|货位式货架 钢托盘|钢制托盘|铁托盘|栈板 塑料托盘|塑料栈板 纸托盘|栈板 仓储笼|仓库笼|折叠式仓储笼|蝴蝶笼|储物笼 钢制料箱|钢质周转箱|网格式料箱 手动液压托盘搬运车|液压搬运车 仓储货架|>仓库货架|库房货架 南京货架|中型货架|横梁式货架 钢托盘|钢制托盘|塑料托盘|纸托盘 仓储笼|仓库笼|折叠式仓储笼 钢制料箱|工具柜|工作台 手动液压托盘搬运车|手动液压堆高车 仓库货架|中量A型货架 仓储货架|中量B型货架 库房货架|横梁式货架|货位式货架 钢托盘|钢制托盘|铁托盘|栈板 塑料托盘|塑料栈板 纸托盘|栈板 仓储笼|仓库笼|折叠式仓储笼|蝴蝶笼|储物笼 钢制料箱|钢质周转箱|网格式料箱 手动液压托盘搬运车|托盘搬运车 货架|仓储货架|仓库货架|库房货架 南京货架|上海货架|北京货架 轻型货架|中型货架|搁板式货架 重型货架|横梁式货架|托盘式货架 托盘|木托盘|纸托盘|木塑托盘 托盘|钢托盘|塑料托盘|钢制托盘 仓储笼|仓库笼|折叠式仓储笼 手推车|静音手推车|铁板手推车 物料架|整理架|挂板架 料箱|钢制料箱|钢制周转箱|网格式料箱 手动液压托盘搬运车|电动托盘搬运车 手动液压堆高车|半电动堆高车|手动叉车 塑料周转箱|物流箱|塑料化工桶|塑料卡板箱 工具柜|上海工具柜|南京工具柜|抽屉柜 工作台|工作桌|南京工作台|上海工作台 刀具车|刀具柜|刀具架|刀具座 货架 货架厂 货架公司 仓储货架 仓库货架 库房货架 南京货架 上海货架 托盘 钢托盘 钢制托盘 货架|轻量型货架|角钢货架 货架|中量型货架|次重型货架 货位式货架|横梁式货架|重量型货架 仓储货架|阁楼式货架|钢平台 仓储货架|悬臂式货架 仓储货架|贯通式货架|通廊式货架|驶入式货架 仓库货架|库房货架|抽屉式货架|模具货架 仓库货架|库房货架|汽车4S店货架|汽配库货架 货架厂|货架公司|南京货架|上海货架|无锡货架|苏州货架 货架厂|货架公司|北京货架|天津货架|沈阳货架|大连货架 货架厂|货架公司|广州货架|深圳货架|杭州货架 托盘|钢托盘|钢制托盘 托盘|塑料托盘 仓储笼|仓库笼|折叠式仓储笼 置物架|多功能置物架|卫浴置物架 料箱|钢制料箱|钢制周转箱 手动液压托盘搬运车|不锈钢托盘搬运车|电动托盘搬运车 手动液压堆高车|半电动堆高车|电动堆高车|堆垛车 货架 仓储货架 仓库货架 货架厂 货架公司 托盘 钢托盘 铁托盘 钢制托盘 塑料托盘 仓储笼 仓库笼 折叠式仓储笼 折叠仓储笼 货架 货架 货架 仓储货架 仓储货架 仓储货架 仓库货架 仓库货架 货架厂 货架厂 货架公司 货架公司 托盘 钢托盘 铁托盘 钢制托盘 塑料托盘 仓储笼 仓库笼 折叠式仓储笼 货架 货架 货架 仓储货架 仓储货架 仓储货架 仓库货架 仓库货架 仓库货架 货架厂 货架厂 货架厂 货架公司 货架公司 货架公司 托盘 钢托盘 铁托盘 钢制托盘 塑料托盘 仓储笼 仓库笼 折叠式仓储笼 折叠仓储笼 托盘 塑料托盘 钢托盘 钢制托盘 铁托盘 货架厂 仓储笼 仓库笼 折叠式仓储笼 折叠仓储笼 货架

ArtSilen said...

Do we really want another "Nixon Pardon" fiasco? Pardons should be reserved for people who are convicted of a crime, whether at trial or by entering a guilty plea. Nothing I've seen or heard remotely suggest that the former Bush Administration officials who formulated their torture policy have the slightest intention to admit to have done anything wrong. Shame on you for even suggesting a pardon before we've seen any contrition on their part.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...








jimmychooshoes said...

Christian Louboutin Flannel Over-The-Knee Boots RedChristian Louboutin Flannel Over-The-Knee Boots Red
Christian Louboutin For Ever Tina 140 bootsChristian Louboutin For Ever Tina 140 boots
Christian Louboutin Gazolina Over-The-Knee BootsChristian Louboutin Gazolina Over-The-Knee Boots
Christian Louboutin Ginevra Babel Tall Leather BootsChristian Louboutin Ginevra Babel Tall Leather Boots
Christian Louboutin Globe 100 suede bootsChristian Louboutin Globe 100 suede boots
Christian Louboutin Globe 100 suede boots blackChristian Louboutin Globe 100 suede boots black
Christian Louboutin Lace BootieChristian Louboutin Lace Bootie
Christian Louboutin Lace Bootie LeopardChristian Louboutin Lace Bootie Leopard
Christian Louboutin Lace Bootie SilverChristian Louboutin Lace Bootie Silver
Christian Louboutin Lace Suede Ankle BootsChristian Louboutin Lace Suede Ankle Boots
Christian Louboutin Lace up Oxford BootieChristian Louboutin Lace up Oxford Bootie