Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Which Values Are Those, Eric?

OK, so I've said (see here) that the Bill of Rights in particular and the Constitution in general express our values as a people and that we reveal important truths about ourselves when we do (or don't) apply those values and principles across the board.  Even when a strict reading of the Constitution doesn't mandate it.  Even when the Five Who Decide would say they don't apply.
Those values?
They involve due process, public trials with rights to counsel and confrontation.  They involve adherence to rules of evidence, demands that the government prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.  They involve prohibitions against warrantless searches and seizures and respect for free speech.
Or maybe they just involve shooting first and asking questions later.
Attorney General Eric Holder, last week, before the House Judiciary Committee according to Nedra Pickler of the AP.
"It was a kill-or-capture mission," Holder said. "He made no attempt to surrender. And I tend to agree with you that even if he had, there would be a good basis on the part of those very brave Navy SEAL team members to do what they did in order to protect themselves and the other people who were in that building."
Holder said the SEALs minimized the loss of life as much as possible. "I'm proud of what they did," Holder added. "And I really want to emphasize that what they did was entirely lawful and consistent with our values."
I really do understand that Holder couldn't have said that the plan and its, er, execution was illegal and violated our values.  And as I understand it (I'm not even close to an expert on international law or the law of targeted assassination [is there such a thing?] or the laws of combat), there's at least a case to be made that it was perfectly legal to do what the SEALs did.
But "consistent with our values"?  Kill him in self-defense even if he tried to surrender?
Because the order was to kill?  (And look, see, afterwards we turned up evidence that he was still being an evil mastermind even though we pretty much thought he had become just a figurehead by the time we actually did the killing.)
I get it, really, I do, that he was a bad guy who bore major responsibility for much death and destruction.  And who wished to accomplish still more.  I understand, even if I don't share or particularly approve, the schadenfreude.
His values aren't mine, aren't those we proclaim as ours.
All the more reason, then, to treat him in a manner consistent with ours.  Even if it wasn't necessary.  Even if it wasn't required.  Even if they could be lawfully ignored.
To show him. 
To show the world.  
To show, most of all, ourselves.
Of course, Eric Holder says we did.
Except he didn't say just what those values were.  
Inquiring minds want to know.
Somehow, I don't think it's me.

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