Thursday, January 13, 2005

My Ulcers are Legion

I'm actually starting to feel sorry for Bush supporters. They're doing their damnedest to convince us that the prisoner abuse and torture scandals have absolutely nothing to do with the administration. And the administration? Keeps connecting those dots for us. For example, I am sure that there is a way to mentally arm-wrestle this humdinger, but when the White House explicitly opposes legislative measures that would limit "extreme interrogation techniques," well, what am I supposed to think?

Look, I understand that there are people that think this is not a bad thing. But let's be honest with what we're talking about. Empowering our intelligence personnel to use "extreme tactics" (hi, euphemism, how's it going?) may strike people as a valid, tough-minded way to get some information. People may think that not to play x-treme hard-ball with detainees is appeasement. Fine. But be prepared, then, to accept the ramifications of being a nation that condones this sort of thing, with the weighty symbolic backing of the White House no less. Realize what this makes us. Accept that we sacrifice our ability to advocate on behalf of our own imprisoned soldiers. Accept that we sacrifice our effectiveness in condemning regimes that do far, far worse. If you're willing to shoot craps with our long-term interests in order to justify a tactic prone to abuse and of uncertain utility, then let's be up front about it. The country I know and love is not a country that suffers such things lightly, but maybe yours is.

But you think I'm piping mad? Check out Andrew Sullivan:
It's hard to find clearer evidence that Condi Rice wants to keep torturing detainees than the fact that the administration refused to acquiecse in a legislative ban on CIA torture last December. The techniques include Algerian-style water-boarding. Does Alberto Gonzales find that "abhorrent"? Will some reporter now do his job and ask Rumsfeld whether he endorses this CIA technique? The trouble with this president is - how do I put it? - he's lying. He publicly says he finds torture abhorrent, and yet he ensures that the CIA's expansion of torture techniques is retained. Remember that these relaxed CIA rules were widely disseminated throughout the military, where they are clearly illegal; and helped form the atmosphere and misunderstandings (or were they actually correct understandings?) of what was permitted and what was not.

I need to stop reading Havel once and for all. The cognitive dissonance between the vision and moral authority of a real leader and the cravenness of our current crop is just too painful. Is it too much to just want a leader who slams his fist down and says "No. We do not do this. We have no part of this. We're America, and we're better than that."

Well, it looks like if the leaders won't say it, at least Americans are. 60% of respondents to this USA Today poll reported that they were unwilling to support torture of known terrorists even if they had knowledge of a future attack inside the U.S. Depending on the question 70-80% think it is wrong to hold prisoners chained to the floor in uncomfortable positions, threatened by dogs, and other "frat boy antics" we've seen employed. Good for us. Faith in humanity marginally restored! Hoorah!


Post a Comment

<< Home