Monday, March 05, 2007

Disturbing and yet not surprising

NYT - Basra Raid Finds Dozens Detained by Iraq Spy Unit
Iraqi special forces and British troops stormed the offices of an Iraqi government intelligence agency in the southern city of Basra on Sunday, and British officials said they discovered about 30 prisoners, some showing signs of torture.

The raid appeared to catch Iraq’s central government by surprise and raised new questions about the rule of law in the Shiite-dominated south, where less than two weeks ago Britain announced plans for a significant reduction in its forces because of improved stability.

[. . .]

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a conservative Shiite, condemned the raid in Basra. He publicly said nothing about the evidence of torture.
It is, without a doubt, disturbing to find out that a government intelligence agency in Iraq is detaining and torturing people. I'm not sure how anyone can be surprised to hear the news, however. If one thinks about it, our own Central Intelligence Agency has been caught doing the exact same thing. This does not in any way justify the actions of the Iraqis, but it certainly reduces our ability to be indignant about the whole matter.

What I find interesting about the article is that it invokes the word torture, but gives no actual examples of what was done to those who were detained. Obviously one man's "torture" is another man's "'tough' but 'lawful and necessary'." Let us speak in terms that we all understand, instead of using politically charged terms that are designed to evoke particular emotions.

I am not for one minute trying to justify what the Iraqis are doing. I would never try to justify the use of torture. (I think it is morally wrong, but I also think it is unreliable just in practical terms as well.) What I am trying to suggest is that we should get the log out our own eye before we spend too much time trying to get the speck out of someone else's (to use a Biblical reference). We cannot take the moral high ground, while we are playing around with semantics trying to justify our own behavior.

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