Crook revisited

Crooked Timber (no pun intended harhar) get stuck into Clive Crook as well on the subject of torture, but is I think slightly unfair to the argument he makes. I don’t think Crook is defending waterboarding, or saying it is unimportant. “Waterboarding is shameful,” Crook says, “and one may leave it at that”. We should take him at his word.

No, Crook’s key idea is similar to Tyler Cowen’s, that there are potential costs of investigating torture that we should be aware of, and such are the depths, presumably, to which the US body politic has sunk, actual prosecutions in the US may result in the de facto legalisation of future torture undoing the progress that has been made in ending it. Special allowances must be made. Baruch’s response is: don’t worry, we know. The costs to the republic of inaction are worse, the risk is worth taking. Let’s investigate, if need be prosecute, and do it with open eyes.

Henry at Crooked Timber suggests in the comments to his post that Crook will be responding to his critics on this. Let’s hope so. I am intrigued whether he would still maintain investigations are a bad idea, were it somehow proven that waterboarding is torture and illegal? His argument seems to depend on the waterboarding of prisoners not being a crime. I think this is somewhat shaky ground.

One person who does seem to understand what is at stake is Spinozist Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon, who is going ahead with his own investigation of US torture. As Augusto Pinochet can attest, this guy is no joker. I think we can anoint him a Fellow Collegiant, Bento, don’t you?

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