Tuesday, May 04, 2004

We don't torture people...

'We don't torture people in America and people who say we do simply know nothing about our country.'

George W. Bush
Interview with Australian TV
October 18, 2003

Our standing in the world could hardly be lower. The President has brought great disrepute upon us all by his zeal to win the every battle, no matter the cost. The resulting damage to our values, our moral stature, and our institutions that regulate the use of force, which are supposed to prevent such abuses, is nearly incalculable. Many are calling this torture scandal the 'pictures that lost the war'.

How apt that is. Bush, by his neglect, his evangelical zeal, and his surety that all means were justified by the ends, may have just lost the war on terror. One cannot effectively fight an enemy when you have remade yourself in his image. If nobody wants to be on your team, you can't win the game.

I have feared this would happen. From the very minute Camp X-Ray opened for business as a 'law-free zone', I was concerned about what abuses would grow behind that veil of secrecy. Once born, that culture would surely spread along the vector of personnel transfers between detention facilities. Gitmo, Diego Garcia, Bhagram, and now Abu Ghraib; the infection has spread and now the damage has been done. We have been made no better than the enemy by the Bush Administration's neglect to exercise reasonable oversight over the wide latitude they were granted by public opinion, Congress, and the judiciary. They have betrayed that trust. There is no way to be sure of where the command failures happened, as yet, but clearly the Bush Administration did what they always do; they delgated the task with no guidelines or restrictions and simply demanded results. They got them. And Americans now get a reputation as barbarians.

I didn't mind so much being considered crass and self-involved. It was tolerable to be considered rude, shallow, and arrogant. I could see that, in the main, these traits were honestly present in the American character, especially in our relations with the world. Now, however, Americans will be seen as vicious barbarians, torturing and killing behind prison walls. Turning a blind eye to the liquidation America's enemies in secret concentration camps around the world. Morally, where does that leave American citizens? At best, bearing the stigma of naive ignorance that the WWII generation of Germany bore for their ignorance of a genocide that their government fantasized about publicly and acted openly to further. At worst, moral cowards acquiescing to the vilest sorts of crimes, even against the innocent, in a desparate and futile scramble toward safety in the wake of 9/11.

I now see Americans in the later light. We at least had functioning institutions of democratic control. We are soverign. We cannot dump the responsibility at the feet of some military commanders and have done. We cannot even lay blame on the Bush Administration and feel good about ourselves. We could have prevented this. The warning signs were there. Any idiot could have predicted this, and in fact, this one did. No, the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves.

Of course, I spit on anyone who supports the Bush Adminstration now. Support for Bush is now a character flaw, not a political stand. If you stand with Bush, you stand with the worst sort of moral monster: the kind that thinks he's a savior, and thus the rules don't apply to him. Throughout history it is those convinced of the righteousness of their mission who commit the most heinous crimes. But I also spit on every single one of you, and myself.

I failed those innocents in Falluja and elsewhere in Iraq. I failed those men and women who were tortured, humiliated, beaten, and killed in Abu Gharaib and other detention camps and prisons around the world. We knew, or should have know that these attrocities were happening over a year ago, but I did nothing; nor did you. I stood by as thousands of innocentAfghani civilians died for our revenge; so did you. I accepted it when I learned that 3,000 Afghani POWs were massacred by leave of the U.S. military after the siege of Kunduz; so did you, whether you know about it or not. During the 12 years of the Iraqi sanctions, I was complicit in the genocidal deaths of thousands of Iraqi children; so were you. During the "shock and awe" invasion prelude, I was complicit in the collateral deaths of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians; so were you. As my countrymen were stripped of their rights in the panicked adoption of the PATRIOT act, I did little; neither did you. As my country adopted assassination as a tool of statecraft once again, I did nothing; neither did you.

I am reprehensible. And so are you. What are we going to do about it?

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