A Dangerous Precedent? Nope: A Distinctively American One
Over at Dean’s World, poster Kevin D seems to think that the American people knowing what the government did on our behalf, with our borrowed authority, is some sort of dirty political trick.
To answer Kevin seriously: YES. Yes, we do want Presidents have to balance their moral obligations and sense of what is decent and special about America against pragmatic concerns and saving the country. That’s precisely what will keep them honest. Sometimes, when the need to defend America is important enough, they will cross the line regardless, and defend doing so. That’s what we hire them to do. But they shouldn’t do it lightly, and they should never get to do it with the noblesse oblige sense that there will always be utter, eternal secrecy about what they did. At some point, there always needs to be a public debate over whether the things done are really what we want to stand for and the example we want to set for the world.
Of course, that assumes that these pragmatic concerns were anywhere near sensible or even competent in the first place. Given that we not only apparently used torture to try and gin up an ultimately non-existent case for Saddam’s operation connection to 9/11, but we even apparently ran around chasing down phony stories that all came from the ravings of a mentally ill terrorist who made up stories because we kept torturing him long after he apparently told us everything he knew… I’m not sure that’s really the case anyhow.