Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Michael Ignatieff: In his own words

Posted by Christian  |  at  9.12.08

I have seen this claim made repeatedly by some 'progressive bloggers' and still haven't seen any evidence. I have read that indeed, Ignatieff's own words are proof that he condones torture. All I have to do is look around at previous links. I am new to blogging however, I understand that if one makes such a claim, it should at least be backed with a link, no? Well my claim is that Michael Ignatieff does not support torture. And here is my link

And these are his words

My own work on "lesser evils" brings me close to the Elshtain position. I agree with her that necessity may require the commission of bad acts, which necessity, nevertheless, cannot absolve of their morally problematic character—but I still have a problem. If one enumerates the forms of coercive interrogation that have been judged to be inhuman and degrading by the Israeli and the European courts—hooding, holding subjects in painful positions, exposing them to cold or heat or ear-splitting noise—these techniques also seem unacceptable, though at a lower threshold of awfulness, than torture.

Like Elshtain, I am willing to get my hands dirty, but unlike her, I have practical difficulty enumerating a list of coercive techniques that I would be willing to have a democratic society inflict in my name. I accept, for example, that a slap is not the same thing as a beating, but I still don't want interrogators to slap detainees because I cannot see how to prevent the occasional slap deteriorating into a regular practice of beating.

The issue is not, as Elshtain implies, that I care overmuch about my own moral purity but rather that I cannot see any clear way to manage coercive interrogation institutionally so that it does not degenerate into torture.

Seems pretty clear to me. In my reading of this essay, he is simply presenting opposite sides on the issue. Not favouring it. He goes on.

It seems clear from the dire experience of Abu Ghraib that outright prohibition of both torture and coercive interrogation is the only way to proceed. Rules for interrogations, with penalties in the uniform code of military justice, should be mandatory.

It should be mandatory that every single detainee held by the US, whether a citizen or not, be publicly known. If operational necessity—keeping the enemy from knowing who is in custody—requires secrecy, disclosure of their names to congress and the courts can be undertaken in camera. It should also be mandatory that every detainee of the US, whether citizen or not, whether held onshore or offshore, should have habeas corpus access to a federal court, together with the legal capacity to make representations to that court about treatment and detention.

So I end up supporting an absolute and unconditional ban on both torture and those forms of coercive interrogation that involve stress and duress, and I believe that enforcement of such a ban should be up to the military justice system plus the federal courts. I also believe that the training of interrogators can be improved by executive order and that the training must rigorously exclude stress and duress methods.

In between all this, again from my reading of the essay, Ignatieff looks at both sides of the torture debate and states his conclusion. That he opposes torture. In his own words.


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