Thursday, July 01, 2004

Max Boot's anger is really pain

I don't understand why Michael Kinsley, now the editorial and opinion editor for the Los Angeles Times, prints columns like today's by Max Boot. The subtitle is: "Why isn't Michael Moore making a movie about that?" referring to the execution of an American soldier by Iraqi insurgents. Boot goes on to complain that "Army Pfc. Keith M. Maupin, 20, did not get an opportunity to file a petition with a judge asking that his captors provide good reasons for holding him." Yet our courts issue rulings requiring that we treat prisoners with some humanity.

Boot is not suggesting
"that the Supreme Court decisions were necessarily wrong, or that we should treat our captives the way Maupin was treated. The high court rulings probably were an inevitable response to the Bush administration's highhanded unilateralism.

By promulgating one-sided detainee rules on his own, without seeking Congress' consent, President Bush practically invited the justices to step in and create a more balanced process."
But he thinks we are naive, that our reason for choosing to treat prisoners with humanity is that we believe that if we treat prisoners with respect, our enemies will also. He argues that the only enemies who have treated our prisoners with respect since 1941 are the Italians and the Germans. Our other enemies, the Japanese, the North Koreans, North Vietnamese, and the Iraqis have been far more brutal. Is he saying that we are making a tactical mistake by worrying about humane treatment of prisoners?

Fortunately he is not. Boot's final paragraph is,
"By all means, let's retain the moral high ground by treating our captives humanely. Give them the right of judicial appeal. Allow them to complain to the Red Cross. Hand them cozy slippers and fluffy robes. Just don't expect our enemies to reciprocate our kindness."
He does not disavow humane treatment of prisoners -- although even in affirming it he can't resist some cozy-slipper sarcasm. I also doubt that he himself is so naive as to believe that everyone else is naive about the horrors committed in the world.

I give Boot credit for feeling the suffering of our soldiers. But Boot's column would be much more effective if instead of writing it from a position of anger, he could find the pain he feels and express that more directly. Kinsley should have helped.

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