Friday, September 22, 2006

Torquemada redivivus

The bad news is that Mr. Bush, as he made clear yesterday, intends to continue using the CIA to secretly detain and abuse certain terrorist suspects. He will do so by issuing his own interpretation of the Geneva Conventions in an executive order and by relying on questionable Justice Department opinions that authorize such practices as exposing prisoners to hypothermia and prolonged sleep deprivation.
Under the compromise agreed to yesterday, Congress would recognize his authority to take these steps and prevent prisoners from appealing them to U.S. courts. The bill would also immunize CIA personnel from prosecution for all but the most serious abuses and protect those who in the past violated U.S. law against war crimes.
--Washington Post, 9/22/06

It seems the Good Germans have decided to go along with torture after all. Unless some miracle occurs and enough real Americans, as opposed to the Good Germans, are unexpectedly found in the Senate to thwart this unfortunate scheme, our so-called President will be given authority to continue what he seems to have a desperate psychological need for, torturing those he determines to be enemies. I should insert here the standard "first they come for the Jews, then they come for the queers, etc...then they come for you" warning, which of course mutatis mutandis is relevant here, but the eventuality of Democrats eventually being the victim of Disappearances and the thumbscrew is less the issue than the absolute depravity of torture as official government policy, which, regardless of the Orwellian doubletalk the Republicans choose to clothe the decaying corpse of America's honor in, the stench of the indecency cannot be obscured with any words, even those coming from Clever Karl's propaganda mill, regardless of who the designated-to-be-tortured are, or will be.

The enthusiasm of the right-wing in this country for torture as policy seems to me to spring not just from the Bush Administration hysteria-mongering, but from the more fundamental pathology of right-wing extremists--upon which the hysteria-mongering builds--which is a limited-good view of the world. People who think you must struggle against others to have anything, whether it be happiness or money or political power, that there must always be absolute winners and losers, tend to have a harsh and punitive take on the world in general, and are more than ready to embrace policies that assuage their fears by bringing misfortune to others (thereby, given the magical thinking prevailing in such minds, removing or reducing the likelihood of it for themselves.) Torturing their enemies makes them feel safer, regardless of its inherent immorality or its provable ineffectiveness as a means of extracting information.

All the ticking bomb scenarios advanced by torture apologists are stupid, and conceal--not very well--a profound bad faith. The real historical use of torture has always been to intimidate and terrify, not to extract the location of little Nell, kidnapped and tied to the train tracks, before the train comes. Successful interrogation, according to those who have experience in such matters, plays on the values and hopes and fears of the person interrogated as the most useful, and perhaps the only, tools to extract information. Anybody capable of a millisecond of self-reflection, which seems to exclude much of the Republican Base, can see that if you were being tortured you would say whatever it would take to get it to stop. The likelihood of that being the truth depends entirely on the remorse or second-thoughts or sense of guilt of the interrogated, which is far less likely to be operative in the soul of someone who has just been tortured than in the heart of someone who has been treated more intelligently, not to mention decently.

And the dishonor this obscene and duplicitous policy brings to America (which at this point in the Bush Administration a cynic would pronounce as more coals to Newcastle) is a cause of sorrow, if not dispair, for any person who loves what this country has, at its best, stood for, and ought to stand for now. I still hope that the better elements in the American character, which I suspect are still found, however residually, even among the Republican Base, will ultimately move us away from Bush's Holy War, and Bush's Inquisition.

Let us hope.

No comments: