Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Re: When the US Government Backs Iraqi Torturers of American POW's

I've got another thought on this. :) Aside from all of the legal arguments raised by the extant cases, I think a normative case can be made on the separation of powers issue that these cases ought to be valid not withstanding whatever impacts they have on foreign relations. In the context of foreign relations these cases represent an effort to internalize costs that were previously externalized. It is unfair to force individuals to suffer grievous harm for the benefit of the nation at large. If the United States places a great value on fostering friendly relations with the nation in question which would be harmed by such judgments, the U.S. can pick up the tab and pay the damages. These costs should be viewed as an investment by government which will yield valuable foreign relations dividends. In doing so they will redistribute the harms from having an intense impact on an unfortunate few to a very small impact on all U.S. citizens. There is a problem with this argument in that, if I recall correctly, the enforcement measure passed by Congress gives teeth to collection on punitive damages, but not to compensatory damages, whereas were my argument valid it should be the other way around. Nonetheless, I like this argument on a generalized basis :).

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