A Tortured Comparison on Drones

February 7, 2012 Topic: Human Rights Blog Brand: The Buzz

A Tortured Comparison on Drones

Some say where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Andrew Cohen says—perhaps blinded by his own exhaust—where fire was, fire will be.

In a theatrical Atlantic editorial, “The Torture Memos, 10 Years Later,” contributing editor Cohen marks the ten-year anniversary of the Bush administration’s ironic memo on “Humane Treatment of Taliban and al-Qaeda Detainees.” He claims the same obfuscation and legal malfeasance that marked that fiasco is now occurring on Obama’s drone program.

Let’s be clear. There is no question that the U.S. government needs to make greater efforts on transparency. But more information needs to be learned about the drone program before it can be compared to a document that abandoned America’s commitment to crucial provisions of the Geneva Convention and allowed the brutalizing torture of terror-law detainees.

Cohen argues that we remember the detainee memo anniversary “because it may help us muster the courage today to ask the right questions of the Obama White House.” Fair enough, but his undoing is buried later in his very argument, “Yet we cannot even see the legal memos upon which the drone program is based, much less evaluate the documents for their loyalty to the Constitution and to the rule of law.”

And not having seen them, how can we possibly make a prudent judgment, no less compare the drone program to one of the most embarrassing American foreign policy episodes in recent history? This reckless howler shoots first and asks questions later.