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Humane killers

By Michael J. Smith on Monday June 8, 2009 03:03 PM

Had to check the date after reading this one: It's not April 1.

The Obama administration is considering a change in the law for the military commissions at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, that would clear the way for detainees facing the death penalty to plead guilty without a full trial.

The provision could permit military prosecutors to avoid airing the details of brutal interrogation techniques. It could also allow the five detainees who have been charged with the Sept. 11 attacks to achieve their stated goal of pleading guilty to gain what they have called martyrdom....

David Glazier, an associate professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles... said: “This unfortunately strikes me as an effort to get rid of the problem in the easiest way possible, which is to have those people plead guilty and presumably be executed."

Hey, win/win!

I don't often feel at a loss for words, but the demented depravity of this solution absolutely takes my breath away. It's fascinating to think that Obie -- who really looks quite human, and no doubt loves his daughters as much as the rest of us -- nevertheless lives in a cognitive world where Hannibal Lecter thinking like this might strike him as a nice blend of hard-nosed reasonableness and muscular humanitarianism.

The former law professor and current butcher-in-chief is, I believe, an admirer of Judge Posner, who will undoubtedly be delighted to see his influence at work.

Hey, it's a practical problem, it needs to be solved. What's the least-cost solution?

Searching for suitable images -- not that there are any -- I found this nice humanitarian document from a British horse-fancier group, which might be adapted for the press release if the Hope and Change team decide to go ahead with their program of euthanizing political embarrassments:

When may a horse have to be put-down?

Serious injury, terminal illness or chronic conditions. Where, in the opinion of a veterinary surgeon, a horse will not respond to treatment for any serious injury or condition involving significant pain, or where a horse is in such a condition that it would be cruel to keep it alive, the animal must be destroyed humanely, without unreasonable delay.

Permanent unsoundness or progressively degenerative conditions. In a non- emergency situation, where a horse is permanently unsound, or has a recurring or progressively degenerative condition, a rational decision must be made, with due regard for the horse's future and welfare.

End of usefulness or old age. When a horse reaches the end of its active working life, or is elderly, consideration must be given to whether the horse can be provided with a good quality of life in retirement or whether it would be kinder to have the horse painlessly destroyed.

Comments (2)


I see now why the law is often praised for being slow and majesterial. That gives you time to think of ways around it.

Peter Ward:

I think institutional realities help--someone else committed the crime; one's job is simply to make the best of someone else's mess. E.g., a rationalization Obama might use: "Agents of the Bush government did something bad, but if the public become of aware of exactly what it was it will undermine confidence in the political system to endanger to the republic." Or, it could simply be that he accepts the good advice of advisers: "After all, I'm only one man. I can't get into every little detail of every nagging issue. I'm going to have to defer on this one to those who know better. Anyway, what ever happens, there was nothing I could have done to stop it."

Incidentally, whatever the case here, I think it is important to recognize that in general institutions make escaping responsibility much easier--a major part of their function, one presumes. This is true of the Church, corporations, schools, universities and especially, in an imperial context, the Nation State, the institution that enables us all to act like barbarians toward "foreigners" (using various kinds of mercenaries of course) and go on feeling well about ourselves.

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