Saturday, December 10, 2005

Law and Expediency

I have been following the debate about so-called Rendition and Extraordinary Rendition that appears to refer to the practice of removing suspected undesirables from the USA proper to countries that take a less squeamish view of prisoners' rights than those stuffy old American judges so that they may be robustly interrogated.

George Orwell got it right, as so often, in the Thirties, with his essay on 'Politics and the English Language'. In essence he points out that when your behaviour is corrupted, so too will be your language. "Liquidation of Subversive Elements" as practised by the NKVD came down in the end to shooting people in the back of the head. The Nazis were experts at euphemisms - the Final Solution needs no explaining, but "Sonderbehandlung", or Special Treatment, came down to murder, with a different name.

Of course there are those who argue that a bit of rough treatment is justified if it saves another atrocity from taking place, but I am with Sir Thomas More in ‘A Man For All Seasons’:-

Roper: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you - where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast - man's laws, not God's - and if you cut them down - and you're just the man to do it - d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.

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