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Jus In Bello

Tom Ricks shares a note that a lieutenant colonel sent to Charles Krauthammer following his "torture is an impermissible evil--except under circumstances so vague as to render it widely permissible" column. The soldier never heard back:

[A]s a Lieutenant Colonel and Combat Arms Battalion Commander in the Army I am responsible for the welfare, training, good order, and discipline of my soldiers. I am responsible for everything they do or fail to do. I am also responsible to follow and issue only those orders that are legal, ethical and moral. Torture of another human being is illegal, unethical and immoral, and I would be duty bound to disobey any such order...just as PFC Lynndie England and SPC Charles Graner (and their many counterparts, senior officers and NCOs at Abu Ghraib) should have done...just as any of my soldiers should disobey should I give such an order....

I told [my troops] the most important thing they needed to take away from all their preparations was that while it would be terrible to lose one of them or have one of them seriously physically injured, it would be worse to have them come home physically well and mentally broken because they had somehow lost their humanity. Torture destroys our humanity, and any equivocation (feel free to exercise the Kantian absolutist vs utilitarian argument to your heart's content) on the matter is just bullshit....

If captured I would honor our Armed Forces Code of Conduct to the best of my ability and go to whatever my fate, resolute in the knowledge that our nation remains a last bastion of what is right (or ought to be right) in the world. Torture has no place in America, and Americans have no reason to employ it. War ain't fair, but we have to fight it while maintaining a level of dignity and humanity, jus in bello. This is rough work for people bound to a code of Duty, Honor, Country. Proselytizers, who say but do not act, need not apply. 

 The entire note is well worth reading.

Update: For any who missed it, Dan Froomkin's response to Krauthammer, which the Post ran online but not in the paper, is also excellent.

I would also note one of the characteristic lawyerly sophistries that Krauthammer tries to sneak past readers: Wrapping himself around John McCain, "the most admirable and estimable torture opponent," he notes than in a ticking-time-bomb scenario even McCain "says openly that in such circumstances, 'You do what you have to do.' And then take the responsibility." Expanding this exception to any instance of "a high-value enemy in possession of high-value information likely to save lives," Krauthammer repeats, "Under those circumstances, you do what you have to do. And that includes waterboarding." 

Note the five-word recognition of potential legal consequences that has mysteriously slipped away.

--Christopher Orr