We have a few causal (non-casual) issues to think about. They are all related, but my order of presentation will be rather skewed. First of all, I recently heard (MSBC 11-5-15: 7:45 pm) Mark Sanford who is the former governor of South Carolina and is now a representative in Congress for the 1st Congressional District discussing what to with the Guantanamo Jail in Cuba. Roughly 112 of the original 780 prisoners are still left in custody. None have been charged with a civil or a war crime. What should we do with them? Mark Sanford suggested that we take them “out back” in the Southern tradition (according to Sanford) and “put a bullet in their heads.”
Now maybe it’s because I’m working on a BIG book on Southern justice in the United States between 1870-1930 that this response is so troublesome to me.
This is no joke or light hearted matter.
But it causes me to pivot to other non-jokes. What comes to mind is the fate of Richard A. Clarke and the anti-terrorism team that he assembled for the Clinton Administration in scare of the turning of the millennium, 2000. This was a very competent, dream team. Clarke had cabinet level status, but he came from the other side. George W. Bush dismantled the team and demoted Clarke (who warned about terrorism threats and whose efforts generated the August 2000 memo that there would be a terrorism attempt in September, 2001 originating from a northeast airport).
This constitutes a policy decision by George W. Bush for which he is responsible.
George W. Bush had empowered Condoleezza Rice, an expert on the Soviet Union (pre-Russian Federation politics, 1990 and before). Unfortunately, this skill set was not current to 2001—even though she fit the preferred political profile more than Mr. Clarke. With respect to Mid-East terrorism, she was not knowledgeable. This constitutes a policy decision by George W. Bush for which he is responsible.
Thus, when there was a terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 the George W. Bush administration was content with reading with children a book, “My Pet Goat.” His mea culpa was, “How could anyone know this might happen?” “Why do they hate us?” And then he launched two wars. The first: Afghanistan was unnecessary. The reason for this assessment comes from a briefing I was privy to when I was a fellow at the Center for American Progress. After the 9-11 attack the leader of Afghanistan, Mullah Omar, offered to bring Osama bin Laden to trial according to Islamic law (with the hint that Osama might be beheaded by Muslims in front of an international audience). This information, to my understanding was not released generally to the American public. If we had accepted the offer, the role of the United States would be far different today.
The second: to topple Sadam Hussein because he had weapons of mass destruction that he would use against the United States. This was a spurious claim. It was being disproven by Hans Glick in his incomplete U.N. report that detailed his search which had found nothing of the sort. The reason the report was incomplete was because Bush did not let him complete it. Bush was told by God to invade Iraq and dispose its dictator. Okay. Back to the beginning and Afghanistan and their offer to bring Ossama bin Laden to justice.
But what might this offer mean?
On one level, we could have had Osama bin Laden “tried and convicted” by his cohort group. If he had been killed as the result it would have been Muslim justice in the international sphere. If that had happened, then the colonial intervention that ensued would not have happened. There would be no abiding anger against the United States. So why didn’t we go that route? Because we wanted to be the big dog on the block so that we might get respect for our power. But we philosophers generally accept from Republic I of Plato the five arguments that reject the “might makes right” claim by Thrasymachus (cf. Gorgias).
So does causation theory have anything to say on this? Thomas sets out a theory of public causation that says whoever alters the normal (natural) course of affairs is responsible for the consequences. Others have suggested the trigger theory in which the proximate agent in the event chant is responsible. Donald Davidson liked this approach, though it has serious counter-examples. Finally, there is the theory set out by Hart and Honoré in Causation and the Law that creates a joint and several causation theory. I believe all three are correct within certain restricted contexts.
So how are we to get beyond this philosophical baggage and judge how we might close Guantanamo Bay prison? How long must a mistake endure? George Herbert Walker Bush in his forthcoming book (as told to his ghost writer) suggested that since his son’s freewill was compromised by Cheney and Rumsfeld that he should be seen as a neutral actor in the scene. Well, since these folks are walking on the Appalachian Trail with others keen on re-writing history in their own favor (sometimes known as “spinning”), we should beg off and take out our inflatable life raft and go down another route towards the port of truth.
Is it better than becoming a “sell-out” for partial truths, partial lies which constitutes much of what we call current political discourse? Here I side with William Kingdom Clifford and my friend the late Roderick M. Chisholm who held there was a moral responsibility to exercise due diligence in the pursuit of truth. To do otherwise is to deny out rational nature. This is unethical.